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What's that thing in front of the Mechanical Engineering Building?

Test section for the new Engineering Centers Building

Test section for the new Engineering Centers Building, front view, from Campus Drive. (large image)

Perhaps it is art. Could it conceivably be a monument to an unfinished building? Perchance it's a new bus stop.

Tens of thousands of commuters pass and wonder at the Engineering Centers Building test section each day. The single story collection of concrete, glass and steel taunts passers-by with its odd placement and seeming permanence. But few correctly guess its true purpose as a mock-up.

The mock-up was called for in the Engineering Centers Building (ECB) project documents according to the state Division of Facilities Development (DFD). Its purpose is to serve as a test of the exterior building materials and systems applied to the ECB; such as the various kinds of window glass, the window framing system, and the unique brick and precast-concrete building wall panels.

In addition to revealing the technical details of each piece and how it is assembled, the mock-up also served to confirm material color selections and as an example of the quality of workmanship.

Test section for the new Engineering Centers Building

Back view of the test section (large image)

"As with most mock-ups, the primary intention is to solve problems before the actual components go into production," says DFD Project Manager Russ Van Gilder. "For example, by approving the brick and precast panels early, the state can avoid the potentially huge expense of dealing with problems that might otherwise not appear until the first production panels arrived on the site." Likewise, Van Gilder says seeing actual full-size detailing in the mock-up allows the project architects and engineers to make design changes that save the project money and create a better building envelope.

Building the ECB mock-up revealed a number of issues regarding sealants between precast-concrete sections and window glass. A new sealant was specified as a result. Inspectors also ordered changes to the limestone-like color of concrete.

"The test section saves us many, many times more than its cost," says Van Gilder. "The notion of large-scale mock-ups is not new, but we'll be seeing more and more of it on projects of this scale."

Crews are already assembling elements of the building's exterior. The building should be completely enclosed by January 2002.