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Making bridges last 100 years

View of an ancient and medieval bridge and viaduct that last 100 years


Bridges can reach legendary ages – many viaducts and bridges from ancient and medieval times are still in use today. I wonder if the master builders back then ever imagined that their structure would last for thousands of years?


With modern bridges, things are a little different. All over the world, civil engineers are struggling with the increasing decay of bridge structures, which often don’t survive 50 years.


Most countries now require that bridges should be designed and built to survive for 100 years. But how is that possible? How can you plan for the next 100 years?


According to Hallie Busta of ‘Construction Inside Magazine’, there are three major trends for making the bridges of the future as durable as possible:


  • A return to more robust construction;
  • Improving the design processes;
  • In-depth research and development in bridge technology.

Bridge innovation lies in maintenance

This sounds logical at first glance – but it also shows that when we talk about the bridges of the future, we probably don’t need to expect a revolutionary new technology or construction methods. The innovation of the future is finding new ways of managing and maintaining the bridge stock – this is also the assessment of the Spanish researcher Joan Ramon Casas in his article: The bridges of the future or the future of bridges?


And this is where we can quickly make the link to measurement and monitoring technology. After all, intelligent monitoring of bridges, for example, with the help of structural health monitoring applications, is playing an increasingly important role.


The trend is toward ‘intelligent bridges’ –  intelligent, networked  and even interwoven with the Internet of Things. Read How IoT Is Enhancing Structural Health Monitoring (SHM).

The difference between static and dynamic testing

Of course, there are also many suitable metrological answers to the various questions and tasks in bridge monitoring. At HBK, with our specialist knowledge of many domains, we also cover many of these disciplines. For example, we have a wide range of products for structural dynamics measurements, which, for example, can easily be done using accelerometers, among others. Read about HBK Structural Dynamics.


HBK products, which are more specialized in mechanical measurement quantities, are also used for numerous bridge monitoring applications. Optical Fiber Bragg (FBG) sensors are particularly popular due to their low signal losses over long distances. Read some exciting case studies on bridge monitoring.


And finally,  Prenscia, an HBK brand, has software that offers the possibility to use both dynamic and static measurement data perfectly.


When it comes to the difference between dynamic and static tests on bridges, this scientific paper from Piotr Olaszek and the already cited Joan Ramon Casas provide you with in-depth and comprehensible information on the subject.


This all shows that building bridges to last 100 years is not impossible. Sure, we will still make great progress in construction technology to make bridges generally more sustainable, but the progress made in monitoring and maintenance will give us much more confidence in the structural integrity of our existing bridges.


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