Structural Testing Facilities

The Structural Testing Facilities (STF) in the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering at the University of Toronto is among the top few testing facilities in North America and has received numerous awards for the quality of research performed. The main laboratory facility spans the basements of the Sandford Fleming and the Galbraith building and includes numerous ancillary facilities such as a concrete mixing laboratory, machine shop, welding bay and woodworking area.

Historically, the STF at U of T was divided into two separate laboratories, the Mark Huggins Structures Laboratory in the Galbraith building and the Sandford Fleming Laboratory. These two testing facilities were joined in 2009 as part of a large renovation and equipment upgrade sponsored by CFI and ORF and worth more than 8 Million Dollars.

The original Mark Huggins Structures Laboratory, constructed in 1960, provided the Department with one of the best such facilities in North America at that time. Experiments conducted in the laboratory have contributed significantly to the development of Canadian structural engineering codes and practice. The Mark Huggins Structures Laboratory was basically designed and equipped to test individual structural elements, (primarily individual beams and columns - i.e. bar-like specimens), under simple loading conditions.

The Sandford Fleming Structures Laboratory, which has approximately 700 m2 of floor area and an 18 m x 12 m strong floor as well as a 5 m high by 5 m wide reaction wall, was constructed following a fire in 1977 and was officially opened in 1982. With the aid of an NSERC Major Installation Grant, this laboratory was then outfitted with world-class, "state-of-the-art" testing equipment for research on large scale structural specimens.





Specialty Equipment



Test Frames


Ancillary Equipment



Academic Director, Structural Testing Facility

Prof. Constantin Christopoulos
Phone: 416-978-6238


Manager, Structural Testing Facilities

Dr. Armin Nassirnia
Phone: (416) 946-3788

2000 kN Static and Dynamic Actuator

The 2000 kN static and dynamic actuator can apply realistic forces at low and high velocities to large-scale experiments. The actuator has a maximum stroke length of 500 mm with a peak velocity of 1,000 mm/s. Possible swivel angles of +90 ° and -30 ° and tilt angles of +/- 8 ° allow for a wide range of test set-ups.

1000 kN Static and Dynamic Actuators

The two 1000 kN actuators can develop a peak velocity of 1,200 mm/s at full force under a pulse-like triangular excitation over the maximum stroke of the actuator (750 mm). They can also develop a peak velocity of 1000 mm/s under a single sinusoidal wave at +/- 300 mm and a peak velocity of 700 mm/s within a frequency range of 0.5 to 10 Hz under sustained sinusoidal loading.

Small MTS Portable Actuators

Two 350 kN capacity and two, 250 kN capacity portable actuators can be used in either of the two laboratories for a variety of specialized applications. They are normally used in conjunction with the Meccano loading frames and/or the Strong Wall and Strong Floor in the Sandford Fleming Structures Laboratory. The 1,000 kN actuator from the Column Test Frame can also be dismounted and used in this manner.


Small-Scale Dynamic Actuators

The small-scale dynamic actuators are used to develop control algorithms for real-time hybrid simulations.

Six-DOF Shaking Table

The six-DOF shaking table is equipped with three 2 kip actuators in horizontal direction and three 3 kip actuators in vertical direction. The equipment is used to understand the effect of multi-axial vibration on dynamic response of structures. In addition, the equipment also can be used as a static multi-axial loading equipment. equip_6dof_and_Small_Dynamic_Actuators

Shell Element Tester

The Shell Element Tester, utilized for studying the behaviour of very large reinforced concrete elements subjected to in-plane and out-of-plane forces, was initially designed in 1984 under the direction of Professor M. P. Collins and Professor P. Marti.

The testing facility is unique in various aspects. It is the only facility of its kind capable of testing full scale shell elements subjected to all 8 possible force components.

This piece of equipment houses 60 hydraulic jacks, 40 in-plane, which have a capacity of 1000 kN, and 20 out-of-plane, which have a capacity of 500 kN. Specimens up to 1.5 m square by 0.4 m thick can be accommodated. The SET can be used to apply bending, shear and torsional loading to regular and high-strength reinforced concrete elements, and has been used to test components of nuclear power plants and concrete offshore structures.

In 2009 this piece of equipment was dramatically upgraded by equipping each of the 60 jacks with servovalves, string pots and a high-end digital controller. This upgrade now makes it possible to apply precisely controlled dynamic forces to the test panels and allows for higher strain rates than was previously possible. The Shell Element Tester achieves strain rate levels representative of what the majority of a structure that resists an extreme event is subjected to. These strain rates have never been achieved in a Shell Element Tester. There exists no similar testing device in the world that is able to apply the forces and displacements that is achievable with this new tester.

UT10 Simulator has been developed to test up to ten uni-axial specimens, such as braces and friction/yielding dampers in a hybrid manner. The UT10 Simulator consists of a loading frame, servo controlled hydraulic jacks, and control programs. The UT10 Simulator can test up to ten specimens with ±800 kN force capacity, or up to five specimens with ±1,600 kN capacity. Interface program, NICON, is used to interface the controller program with an integration software. equip_SET1

Shell Element Tester testing a reinforced concrete shell element

UT10 in Shell Element Tester

UT10 in Shell Element Tester

Shear Panel Tester

The Shear Panel Tester which is used to apply arbitrary in-plane stresses to thin reinforced (or prestressed) concrete panels in order to determine realistic constitutive models which can later be used by nonlinear finite element programs. This tester which includes 38 – 10,000 psi hydraulic jacks and its own control apparatus was the first of its kind in the world (first used in 1979) and has since been emulated by various research laboratories in the United States, Japan and England.equip_pet

Shear Panel Tester

Blast Generator

The Blast Generator actuator has a 4-inch diameter bore and a 36-inch stroke. The geometric envelope with piston extended is 130 inches by 20 inches by 24 inches. The actuator can reach a peak velocity of 34 m/s. An impact spring called a programmer is mounted at the face of the impacting mass to better control the characteristics of the applied impulse. The system is capable of producing impulses of 0.5 ms to 5 ms of duration and reaches a contact pressure of 5000 psi to emulate blast pressures.

Baldwin Universal Testing Machine (retired 2022)

This large-scale universal testing machine can apply tension / compression loads up to 5,400 kN (1.2 million lbs.), on specimens up to 6.5 meters (22 ft.) high, and 18.3 meters (60 ft.) long. This testing machine can be used to carry out a variety of tests on materials and assemblies such as wire ropes, concrete beams and steel trusses. equip_baldwin

Baldwin Universal Testing Machine

MTS Stiff Frame Testing Machine

This high stiffness testing machine has a capacity of 4,500 kN in compression. It can used for tests on specimens such as high strength concrete and rock samples requiring a machine with high stiffness capable of capturing post peak behaviour.

MTS 2700 kN Mobile Testing Machine

This large-scale universal testing machine can apply tension / compression loads up to 2,650 kN (0.6 million lbs.), on specimens up to 3 meters (10 ft.) high. It is capable of being moved around the Sandford Fleming Structures Laboratory using a series of air pads and can be bolted to the strong floor at any location. When coupled with the Strong Wall and various portable actuators, large, “three-dimensional”, structural sub-assemblies can be tested.

MTS 1000 kN Testing Machine

This universal testing machine can apply tension / compression loads up to 1,000 kN (220,000 lbs.), on specimens up to 1.8 meters (6 ft.) high. It is capable of being moved around the Mark Huggins Structures Laboratory using the 10 ton overhead crane.


Smaller Test Frames

MTS 245kN Testing Machine

This universal testing machine can be used for smaller experiments and is also ideally suited for materials testing such as ASTM tensile coupons.

Riehle 60kip (45kN) Testing Machine

This is a general purpose screw driven universal testing machine with a capacity of 267 kN (60,000 pounds) which can test specimens up to 1.9 m (6.2 feet) long.

Instron 10kip (45kN) Testing Machine

This is a general purpose screw driven universal testing machine with a capacity of 45 kN (10,000 pounds) which can test specimens up to 0.6 m (2 feet) long.


Column Testing Frame

This specially constructed frame, on extended loan from the University of Houston, houses a 4500 kN hydraulic jack for the application of axial loads and a 1000 kN servo-controlled actuator for the application of transverse loads. This frame is capable of testing specimens that are up to 4 m long while the transverse dimensions are limited by laboratory space and the strength of the materials used in the specimen. A major upgrade of this frame is currently underway which will increase the axial load capacity to 9,000 kN. equip_column_frame

Column Testing Frame

Charpy Impact Test Machine

The pendulum impact tester can be easily changed from a Charpy configuration to an Izod configuration. The tester determines the impact resistance of metals and is compliant with the specifications outlined in ASTM E23, BS EN ISO 148-3 and BS EN ISO 148-2. equip_charpy2

Charpy Impact Testing Machine

Strong Floor / Reaction Wall

The Civil Engineering Structural Testing Laboratories house two strong floors, one with an associated reaction wall (Sandford Fleming Structures Laboratory). These items when combined with a diverse range of moveable steel reaction frames, beams, columns and various hydraulic jacks (up to 2 million pound capacity) and actuators, provide for systems capable of loading large two- and three-dimensional structural sub-assemblies in infinitely variable formats. Examples of test capabilities include full scale steel trusses (40 ft. long), two-storey reinforced concrete frames, precast concrete slabs, hollow structural steel (HSS) connections, and transmission pole tests.

Full-Scale Meccano Set

The Meccano system is a set of moveable steel reaction frames, beams, columns, braces etc. that can be assembled in almost limitless configurations and used in conjunction with other testing apparatus to apply loads to almost any structural component or subassembly.