Engineering Unit A

Research Labs and Facilities

Bioaerosols Laboratory

Building Components and Envelope Research Laboratory (BCERL)

The Building Components & Envelopes Research Laboratory (BCERL) houses multiple research facilities for the testing of building components at various scales, up to and including sections of full walls, beams, or roofs.  Facilities available include:
  • Two custom-built, hydraulically actuated dynamic racking frames capable of simulating in-plane shear seismic loading on wall system mockups up to 12 ft high and 16 ft long, including curtain wall sections, SIP panels, and other wall framing.
  • A concrete strong floor and steel vertical reaction frame for configurable lateral load testing of building components.
  • Variable wind loading facility that can be used to simulate both positive (pressure) and negative (vacuum) wind loading on wall and roof section mockups.
  • Uniform load testing facility, utilizing large air-filled bladders to apply out-of-plane uniform loading to wall or roof systems until failure.  This facility is used to simulate the effects of strong wind, high pressure, and blast loading.
  • Windborne debris impact testing capabilities, with a compressed air cannon capable of propelling steel ball bearings of varying diameters to test windows and other building components at metered velocities.
  • Two hydraulic beam testing facilities capable of performing flexural bend loading on building beams up to 9 ft in length.

These facilities are supported by a variety of sensors, signal conditioning electronics, and data acquisition equipment in addition to a broad collection of hydraulic pumps and actuators.

Building Structures and Materials Laboratory

The Building Structures Laboratory is equipped with the facilities to manufacture, produce, and test a variety of novel building materials, including concrete, mortar, and other building-related materials science research. Capabilities include material component measuring through precision weighing capabilities, mixing including the ability to use ultra-sonication, material mix assessment, and standards compliant casting molds. Past and present research has included studying concrete and mortar mixture design that includes additives such as nano-particles and geopolymers, among others. There is also the capability to hold samples for indefinite periods at both moderate elevated and reduced temperatures as the test protocol requires.

In-house testing capabilities include material compression and tension strength testing on three universal testing machines: a 22 kip Instron 1350 electrohydraulic machine, a 120 kip Tinius Olsen Super L manual hydraulic machine, and a 110 kip MTS electrohydraulic machine with fully computerized MTS FlexTest controls and an actuator travel of 6 inches.  Fixtures also exist to perform small-scale 3-point bending testing.

Other evaluation capabilities include the performance of simultaneous strain gauge measurements during testing, high-speed data acquisition and signal conditioning, and nondestructive evaluation of low-density materials using a portable digital x-ray system. 

Advanced materials property testing is available through the university’s Materials Characterization Lab, which offers a wide range of techniques, including high-power optical, scanning electron, and atomic force microscopy, various optical, electron, and x-ray spectroscopic measurements, and thermogravimetric and porosity analyses, among others.

This laboratory is also utilized for teaching demonstrations and academic projects in a number of architectural engineering courses.

Immersive Construction Laboratory (ICon Lab)

The ICon Lab is an immersive workspace with advanced visualization systems built to provide an optimal interactive experience for integrated, team-based workshops. Through virtual reality and ample space for collaboration, the workspace pushes interdisciplinary teams together for design, review, or training. The ICon Lab can hold between 30 and 40 people which enables it to be used for a variety of AEC/FM related meeting and activities. 

Environmental Chamber

Illumination Laboratory

Intelligent Systems Laboratory

Lighting Laboratory

MorningStar Solar Home

The MorningStar Solar Home is a 100% renewable-energy powered home on Penn State’s campus that produces all the energy needed for its operation (plus some extra for electric vehicles). The MorningStar is currently used by teachers and faculty across Penn State as an immersive learning destination for teaching and learning about sustainability. It is also used for research in the topics of energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart grid systems.



Widely acknowledged as one of the top Architectural Engineering programs in the world, the Penn State AE Department is dedicated to providing outstanding academic excellence to all of our students. The AE program is focused on preparing students and conducting research in the design, engineering, and construction of building projects.

Department of Architectural Engineering

104 Engineering Unit A

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-6394