The George Winter High Bay

The ability to test both structures and soil at full-scale adds a special dimension to the Cornell experience by showing dramatically how systems respond to external loads and ground failure. States one student, “Being able to physically see the same ideas we had learned conceptually in class was very beneficial. It really helped me learn the material better. I have gained more practical and technical/theoretical knowledge from this lab than in any lecture course I have taken thus far.”

Aerial view of lab with people waiting for test to begin

The Cornell NEES site is designed for testing lifelines and includes a custom-fabricated "strong wall" for large-scale civil infrastructure research, special hydraulic systems for large displacement testing, several specialized load frames, and a variety of data acquisition and electronic control systems.

A series of large-scale experiments sponsored by NSF and Tokyo Gas, Ltd. provide an excellent example of the kind of testing that is possible in this facility. These tests were designed to evaluate the effects of earthquake-induced ground rupture on polyethylene and welded steel pipelines and are the largest full-scale replication of ground deformation effects on pipelines ever performed in a laboratory. Experimental split test basins with a capacity of over 100 tons of soil were displaced over 1 meter relative to each other to simulate the type of abrupt displacement generated by lateral spread landslides and surface faulting. Various graduate, undergraduate, and high school students were involved in the design and construction of the experiment. The test results provide data for designing sophisticated software programs that model soil-pipeline interaction.

Students near test site.

The model permits greater reliability and sophistication in the evaluation of pipeline response to ground failure and have direct relevance for installing underground gas, water, petroleum, and electrical conduits in earthquake prone areas. Undergraduates have been involved in several phases of the experimental design and subsequent use of the computational simulations.