New Purdue civil engineering lab among nation's best
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University is building an $11 million civil engineering laboratory that will be among the best in the nation for studying large structures such as bridges and buildings.
Groundbreaking for the new Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research was at 9 a.m. today (Friday, 9/27), and construction is expected to be completed in July.
"The large-scale civil engineering laboratory puts Purdue in an elite class of universities, only a handful of which have comparable facilities," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke. "The credit goes to our alumni and their vision, dedication and support."
The lab's namesake, Robert Bowen, is a Purdue alumnus who earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering in 1962 and later founded Bowen Engineering Corp., located in Fishers, Ind., which specializes in municipal, utility, industrial and environmental construction. Bowen and his wife, Terry, who live in Indianapolis, provided a gift of $3.25 million to the Purdue Research Foundation toward the new lab, which will be built with private funding from about 50 donors. Bowen's father, Thomas A. Bowen, earned a civil engineering degree from Purdue in 1932.
"We are so excited about being a part of this new lab," Bowen said. "My dad was a civil engineer. I wish he were here to see it. You spend all your life building an organization, and this is such a great way to put your estate to great use. Some of the nation's best engineers and students can be found at Purdue. They deserve to work in a facility that matches their talents."
Bowen carried his Purdue connections into his company.
"I have 25 Purdue civil engineers working for me. They're the best investment I've ever made."
Research in the lab will have direct applications in designing structures and materials that are safer and last longer.
"It is going to be the premier civil engineering laboratory in the nation," said Mete Sozen, the Kettelhut Distinguished Professor of Structural Engineering at Purdue and an expert in the design of earthquake-resistant structures. "It's also going to provide a superb facility for the training of graduate students and, with respect to faculty, it's going to help us attract and retain the best.
"In short, it will revolutionize civil engineering at Purdue."
Large-scale testing currently is performed in the Karl H. Kettelhut Structural Engineering Laboratory, located in the civil engineering building, which will be used primarily for undergraduate education after the new lab is completed. The new lab will contain powerful hydraulic presses, cranes and other equipment to test parts and materials for buildings, bridges and other structures. With more than 50,000 square feet, it will provide up to six times more space than is currently available at Purdue for large-scale testing, said Julio Ramirez, a professor of civil engineering who chaired the planning committee for the lab.
The lab will enable engineers to use sophisticated environmental chambers to test and develop superior construction materials and designs work that not only promises global benefits but is relevant for contractors in Indiana, as well, said Linda P.B. Katehi, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering.
"Work in the Bowen Lab will universally translate into better structures," Katehi said. "For example, research to design more corrosion-resistant bridges will benefit Hoosiers directly, and work to safeguard buildings against earthquakes can also be applied to the design of structures that better withstand an explosion, which is important for homeland security."
The facility will be large enough to test beams, structural members and sub-assemblies of bridges and buildings that weigh thousands of pounds. It also will be used to study a wide variety of materials that are used in the construction of buildings, highways and other large-scale projects.
"One of the factors making the building so effective is its sheer size," said Fred Mannering, head of the School of Civil Engineering.
The two-floor building will house a special testing area 60 feet high and the length of a football field. The testing gallery will be equipped with two overhead cranes that will be used to position large parts for testing. The heart of the testing area will be an L-shaped corner of the lab a special "strong floor" and "reaction wall" made up of 10-foot-thick concrete blocks containing numerous holes in which to anchor large structures being tested.
Structures will be bolted to the surfaces of the blocks, and then powerful hydraulic equipment will be used to exert forces on them.
"We will be able to actually simulate earthquakes and the effects of high winds on structures, " said Robert Frosch, an associate professor of civil engineering who was involved in the facility's planning.
The new lab will be located on a 10-acre site bounded by South River Road on the east and U.S. 231 on the south. It will be a multidisciplinary facility, involving researchers specializing in:
the construction of bridges, highways, tunnels, water and sewage treatment systems;
the creation of superior pavements and use of new materials such as reinforcing fibers;
the design of earthquake-resistant structures;
"trenchless technology" modern techniques that minimize the number and length of trenches needed for the construction, repair and maintenance of underground pipes; and
geotechnical engineering, a field that analyzes how buildings and other structures interact with surrounding soils during seismic activity. Such knowledge is important for general construction purposes and to learn precisely how a building will react during earthquakes.
Projects will be funded by public and private sources, generating an additional revenue stream to support the lab, Mannering said.
The two-story building will house 16 offices and four conference rooms. A committee of eight Purdue faculty members settled on the laboratory's design after two years of research.
Purdue's civil engineering graduate and undergraduate programs already rank among the best in the nation, according to the most recent surveys by U.S. News & World Report magazine. The graduate program was ranked seventh, and the undergraduate program was sixth. The magazine also ranked six of Purdue's graduate-level engineering programs among the top 10 in the nation, and the university's undergraduate engineering programs were ranked 10th overall.
The groundbreaking will be part of a Discover Purdue Week, during which the university will unveil its fund-raising campaign. Events and festivities will include homecoming, groundbreakings, Bill Cosby's campus show and Boilermaker football. Purdue also will break ground this fall on a more than $20 million renovation and addition to its chemical engineering building part of a campuswide master plan to renovate and expand engineering teaching and research space by 60 percent.
Purdue has more than 6,000 undergraduate students in its engineering programs.
The engineering schools' master plan, unveiled more than a year ago, calls for $250 million in new construction, $100 million in new equipment and $60 million in renovations to meet anticipated needs for the next 15 to 20 years.
Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708
Fred Mannering, (765) 494-2159, email@example.com
Julio Ramirez, (765) 494-2716, firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Frosch, (765) 494-5904, email@example.com
Mete Sozen, (765) 494-2187, firstname.lastname@example.org
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IMAGE 2 CAPTION:
A publication-quality image is available at ftp://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/mannering.civillab2.jpeg.
A publication-quality image is available at ftp://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/bowens.jpeg.
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