People attending laboratory tour

Building Components & Envelopes Research Laboratory (BCERL)

Dynamic Racking Facility

The BCERL Lab includes a dynamic racking facility used to simulate in-plane seismic loads on different wall systems and building components. Appropriate connection details are used to attach the system under test to the upper and lower sliding steel tubes of the facility. The lower sliding steel tube is connected to a hydraulic actuator capable of +/- 3 in. of displacement. A bottom sliding steel tube is connected to a top sliding steel tube by a pinned fulcrum, which doubles the actuator displacement so that up to +/- 6 in. is experienced by the system under test. Cyclic loadings simulating seismic-induced, interstory drifts are achieved with the facility.

Light Shear Wall Loading Facility

The Light Shear Wall Loading Facility in the BCERL Lab is equipped with a lateral loading frame capable of applying in-plane monotonic, static and cyclic loading up to a capacity of 100 kips to light shear walls. The main use of this facility is to test shear wall systems and building components under in-plane shear loading, based on different protocols or standards including ASTM E 72, ASTM E 560, and ASTM E 2126. This facility consists of a large steel reaction frame and a 100 kip electrohydraulic actuator mounted on the facility. The facility is capable of testing wall mockups up to 12 ft in height and 16 ft in length.

Strong Reaction Frame Facility

The BCERL Lab is also equipped with a strong floor and reaction frame capable of applying over 400 kips of cyclic lateral load to various wall, frame, and slab assemblies. The facility primarily is used to perform in-plane and out-of-plane shear loading tests of wall and frame systems and building components. This facility can also be configured to perform gravity load testing on different types of framing systems and prism tests on masonry systems. The facility concrete pad and steel reaction frame can accommodate systems up to 12 ft. in length, 6 ft. in width and 8 ft. in height for testing.

Wind Load Testing Facility

The BCERL Lab includes a wind load testing facility that can simulate the effects of variable wind loading on envelope systems and building components. The facility consists of a steel frame for specimen support and pressure/vacuum accumulators coupled to the facility with computer-controlled valving. This allows for different types of loading sequences to be applied including monotonic positive or negative and cyclic pressure loading profiles. The facility can also be rotated up to 90 degrees to accommodate sloped wall or roof systems. A wide variety of sensors are used with the facility to monitor all aspects of a system under test to detect damage and aid in the development of predictive models of system behavior.

Uniform Load Testing Facility

The BCERL Lab includes a uniform load testing facility that utilizes air bladders to apply load to building components. This facility can aid in research on the effects of extreme wind, high pressure, and blast loading on envelope systems and building components. The facility consists of a steel frame for support and various-sized large air bladders that can be customized to meet the needs of different tests. Computer-control of pressure within the air bladder allows for uniform high pressure loading to be applied to the system under test. Loading profiles can include ramping or stepwise static pressure sequences until out-of-plane failure of envelope components is observed.

Air and Moisture Infiltration Testing Facilities

The BCERL also includes facilities for evaluation of air leakage and air infiltration in accordance with ASTM and NFRC standards and their effects on thermal performance and for the evaluation of water infiltration, penetration and leakage in masonry and curtain wall systems in accordance with ASTM and AAMA standards. The PHRC can help apply the results of air and moisture transport testing to building energy analysis. This type of testing is sometimes required after simulated seismic testing in order to determine air/water-leakage rates after a seismic event, which would indicate the degree of serviceability damage sustained as a result of racking. Facilities are also available for field determinations of envelope leakage. Air/water-leakage and air/water-infiltration tests can be conducted on window joints, construction joints, and other types of building components using custom chamber shrouds.

Windborne Debris Impact Facilities

BCERL Lab windborne debris impact facilities can be used to test the performance of building envelope components under debris impacts by simulating windborne debris impacts during severe windstorms. Projectiles are propelled using compressed air cannons at the system being tested at various speeds. Varying types of projectiles can be used such as different sizes of steel balls and 2 x 4 studs. Testing can be done in accordance with ASTM standards or custom testing can be done to aid in the development of windborne debris resistant building envelope systems and predictive models of system performance.

Thermal Performance Testing Facilities

The BCERL now also features a guarded hot box facility. The purpose of the guarded hot box is to test steady state thermal performance of building components and building systems according to ASTM standards such as ASTM C 1199, C 1363 and E 1424. The Guarded Hot Box consists of three chambers: a metering chamber, a guard chamber and a climatic chamber.

Beam and Beam Column Testing Facilities

The BCERL lab is also equipped with facilities to test beams and beam-columns. These facilities can be used to test the flexure, shear, and axial load capacity of structural members made of wood, concrete and steel. The facilities are capable of applying over 100 kips in axial load, bending load, or a combination of axial and bending load at various points or in a distributed fashion. The facilities are capable of applying push-only bending load, pull-only bending load, or push/pull bending loads for cyclical load or displacement profiles with or without additional off-axis loadings.

Nondestructive & Other Testing Facilities

The PHRC and the BCERL have capabilities in addition to the purpose-built facilities described. There are a number of nondestructive testing systems for evaluation of wood, plastics, concrete and masonry materials using x-rays, wave propagation techniques and photoelastic methods. A real-time x-ray analysis system has been developed for x-ray video and still imaging of low density building materials.



The Pennsylvania Housing Research Center serves the home building industry and the residents of Pennsylvania by improving the quality and affordability of housing.

We conduct applied research, foster the development and commercialization of innovative technologies, and transfer appropriate technologies to the housing community.

Pennsylvania Housing Research Center

219 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2341

Fax: 814-863-7304