Simpson Strong-Tie Research: The Tye Gilb Lab

I often get asked about Simpson Strong-Tie R&D projects. Since I can’t always talk about what new products we are working on, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek into where the magic happens. The Tye Gilb Research Laboratory is our R&D hub. Built in 2003 in Stockton, CA, the lab is named in memory of Tyrell (Tye) Gilb, a former professor of architecture and a wonderful man, who led our company’s research and development efforts for 35 years.

Tye Gilb Lab

The 25,000 sq. ft. facility is built around 10,000 sq. ft. of reinforced “Strong-Floor,” to which all test equipment is secured. The Strong-Floor is three feet thick and designed to withstand concentrated loads of up to 300,000 pounds at any location. The Strong-Floor, basement walls and mat slab below are comprised of 10 million lbs. of concrete.

Why so much concrete? Two reasons. Providing the flexibility to apply large concentrated loads anywhere required a thick, heavily reinforced slab for design strength. In addition, when you accelerate a heavy test specimen through an earthquake simulation, the actuators need a large reaction mass to push against. If the reaction mass of the lab floor was not so large, cyclic tests could transmit vibrations through the rest of the building.

Tye Gilb Lab Shake Table

The centerpiece of the Tye Gilb lab is our one-of-a-kind uniaxial shake table, capable of testing full-scale wall assemblies up to three stories tall. The shake table enables us to test portions of a building rather than an entire structure.

Shake Table Demo

Using ground motion recordings from actual seismic events, the shake table, with stroke of 32 inches and an actuator speed of up to 70 inches/second, can test specimens with an inertial weight of up to 60,000 lbs. using some of the largest ground motions recorded to date.

Cyclic/Static Testing

Located in the center of the lab and also capable of testing full-scale wall assemblies is a multi-story cyclic/static rig designed to test two-story wall assemblies up to 50 ft. long. The rig has vertical actuators and independently controlled lateral actuators at the top of each wall level. With this setup we can simulate both seismic and wind lateral loads as well as wind uplift pressures or gravity-induced down force. The rig allows us to test to current Code Acceptance Criteria for prefabricated wall and moment frame assemblies. Our newest edition is a vertical cyclic/static test rig with 200,000 lbs. of force capacity and +/- 5 inches of stroke. This rig is more suited for smaller test assemblies or testing individual components such as joist hangers, holdowns, or similar devices.

3D Portal Testing

A general purpose test area is at the south end, serviced by a single lateral actuator similar to those in the two-story cyclic/static rig. This versatile area is capable of accommodating full-scale 3D test specimens or horizontally oriented wall assemblies of up to five stories high.

As you can see, the Tye Gilb Lab offers versatility and a unique set of abilities that enable us to develop and test an expanding variety of proprietary designs, as well as the opportunity to assist or participate in research projects pertaining to new and existing building practices around the globe. Check out some testing done at the lab here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into our lab. If you’ve had the chance to attend one of our events, I’d love to hear your impressions of the lab in the comments.

– Paul

Paul McEntee

Author: Paul McEntee

A couple of years back we hosted a “Take your daughter or son to work day,” which was a great opportunity for our children to find out what their parents did. We had different activities for the kids to learn about careers and the importance of education in opening up career opportunities. People often ask me what I do for Simpson Strong-Tie and I sometimes laugh about how my son Ryan responded to a questionnaire he filled out that day:

Q.   What is your mom/dad's job?
A.   Goes and gets coffee and sits at his desk

Q.   What does your mom/dad actually do at work?
A.   Walks in the test lab and checks things

When I am not checking things in the lab or sitting at my desk drinking coffee, I manage Engineering Research and Development for Simpson Strong-Tie, focusing on new product development for connectors and lateral systems.

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in California. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie, I worked for 10 years as a consulting structural engineer designing commercial, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects. I was fortunate in those years to work at a great engineering firm that did a lot of everything. This allowed me to gain experience designing with wood, structural steel, concrete, concrete block and cold-formed steel as well as working on many seismic retrofits of historic unreinforced masonry buildings.