A one-of-a-kind laboratory featuring a heavy timber brace frame, poly carbonate sheathing and a space for interdisciplinary projects will open its doors at a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday.
The Simpson Strong-Tie Materials Demonstration Laboratory is now adjacent to the Construction Innovation Center. At 5,000 square feet, it is the largest element of the construction management building. Architecture and environmental design students will use the lab to design, build and test structural components.
Construction management department head Allan Hauck is credited for being the “real hero” and doing the “lion’s share of the work” by colleague and architectural engineering department head Allen Estes.
There is a need for increased collaboration in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED), Hauck said. The Materials Demonstration Laboratory will merge aspects of architecture design, construction and architectural engineering.
“The lab is intended to show students how all three areas work closely together and communicate,” Hauck said. “The goal is to keep the lab as flexible as possible for different classes.”
To ensure this, the building has something for everyone. The space is fairly open but there are plenty of hidden accommodations.
Underneath the 6 inch-thick floor slabs are tie-downs students can use to brace large models to the ground. The design purposefully left everything exposed so students can see different portions of a building not typically seen in a classroom.
The permanent steel frame in the front of the building will be used to show how the components connect.
The pavement blocks in the front of the laboratory can be removed to demonstrate to landscape architects different methods of switching out pavement and stones.
Even the building process has been a hands-on learning experience for students with all design documents electronically available to the college. Construction management senior Rickie Bowers participated in a mock trial where he was a general contractor along with fellow classmates.
“I’m excited for the lab,” Bowers said. “It’ll be a great hands-on approach to construction as opposed to the management side of things.”
Dean of the CAED Thomas Jones asked faculty to come together to give input on the programmatic design of the building. Architectural engineering associate professor Ed Saliklis was one of the faculty members who decided how the building would be used.
“We started by discussing what the building is not,” Saliklis said. “The building is not a machine shop because the college already has one, (it) is not a testing facility where we would do multiple research or classroom tests because we have a facility in the department where we have a 200,000 pound testing machine and things like that.”
There were several things the faculty did agree upon, one of them being an interdisciplinary project space.
“If we have students from architecture and architectural engineering working together on a project and need a little space to work on prototypes, this building would be a great space to do it,” Saliklis said.
The building will also be a space for vendor-driven demonstrations.
“Vendors will come in, not to sell us stuff, but to get us excited about the beauty and the utility of their products,” Saliklis said. “For instance, we can have vendors bring different windows and install them. The students can see the interface between what surrounds the window and the actual walls and how it all goes together. We can also imagine water penetration tests. If we have a window installed in that wall, we can spray water on it and measure the amount of liquid that passes through.”
The lab is a college facility that provides a more hands-on learning experience, Estes said.
“We are trying to reinvent a course currently taught by the architecture department called Materials of Construction,” he said. “Right now, it is being taught in a large lecture hall using power point presentations. With the new Materials Demonstration building, we can turn it into a lab class where students can see all the different materials and demonstrate the strength and the application of those materials in a real building.”
Some of these materials include timber, concrete and engineer lumber — chip fiber, after heated together, becomes stronger than most wood — and the poly carbonate sheathing.
Andy Barker is the construction inspector for Facilities Services and Capital Projects and has been working for facilities services for six years. He has worked on the Simpson Strong-Tie Lab since the beginning of construction. The lab is the first building he has seen to use the poly carbonate material, he said.
“I’ve never seen the poly siding used before. It’s a neat system how it snapped together,” Barker said. “At night it looks nice from the outside when it’s lit from the inside.”
The Simpson Strong-Tie Lab was originally going to be a butler building — a utilitarian, closed shed-like work space — but it changed into a show piece. It is the only building in California to have a timber-brace frame for lateral support.
Former President of Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC) and architectural engineering senior Brian Planas said the challenges of using timber wood as the frame is its inability to move with the building in the event of an earthquake.
“With timber there is no ductile action,” Planas said. “So in the wake of an earthquake, instead of moving with the building, the wood snaps. They had to prove it could work. Under Californian seismic code, this building is not allowed but they proved it could be done.”
One reason this was accomplished is because Simpson Strong-Tie Co., Inc. makes connections for timber. In order to allow for the building to move without the timber breaking, they developed strong enough connections to withstand earthquakes.
Not only is the Materials Demonstration Lab a showcase of Simpson Strong-Tie’s products, the company donated $500,000 to the construction. This makes them the biggest donor of money and materials.
Simpson-Strong Tie has a strong relationship with the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, especially the architectural engineering department. Alan Hanson is the southern California sales manager of Simpson Strong-Tie Co., Inc. as well as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the college.
In 1996, he initiated the first Simpson Strong-Tie symposium — workshops giving students the opportunity to use the company’s products.
“They are everywhere,” Planas said. “They have sponsored one of our other labs, put on career fairs, sponsor our t-shirts and many other things.”
According to the Simpson Strong-Tie press release, the company made the donation because “Cal Poly is the premier institution for engineering … We have the opportunity to become part of the students’ education, which is truly priceless.”
All the money was privately raised and Hauck obtained the donations. Another company that made the building possible was WoodWorks.
WoodWorks Technical Director Michelle Kam-Biron graduated from Cal Poly as an architectural engineer.
WoodWorks provided Hauck with contacts for manufacturers that could supply the structural members and provided the design team with technical support, such as fire protection information, to use as resources for their design of the building, Kam-Biron said.
For students of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, the past has been about small-scale models. Now with the Simpson Strong-Tie Materials Demonstration Lab, students will have the opportunity to work with large scale models and materials.
“The lab will show how things come together — a demonstration space on a real-life scale,” Planas said. “It’s a free space to use that can go with our imagination.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony starts at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Cal Poly Interim President Robert Glidden, Founder of Simspon Strong-Tie Co., Inc. Barclay Simpson and Dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design Thomas Jones will speak.