The construction of new infrastructure facilities is energy-intensive and causes increased CO2 emissions – alone through the production of common building materials such as steel and concrete. The service life of infrastructures is limited to a greater or lesser extent depending on the type of construction: for example, bridges in Switzerland have a service life of 50 to 100 years. They are then taken out of operation as standard – whether the building structure would have lasted longer is often unknown. Researchers at ETH Zurich and the EPF Lausanne have therefore tested the use of a monitoring system on Swiss building structures. This approach is forward-looking and environmentally friendly because it prevents demolition, premature new construction and the disposal of building rubble.
The decisive factor, however, is that buildings and bridges can be reinforced on a more targeted basis if they are equipped with sensors that collect information about forces, deformations and vibrations. This is referred to as structural condition monitoring.
Sensors measure the response and performance of structures during operation with the aim of diagnosing their condition and automatically predicting faults. Time series analyses and machine learning are used for this purpose. The installation of sensors thus makes it possible to make the infrastructure perceptible.
During their investigations, the researchers have, in particular, examined the properties and manageability of ultra-high-performance fibre reinforced concrete (UHPFRC). Compared to normal concrete, it is easy to use, very resilient and durable. It is therefore also particularly suitable for selectively reinforcing specific points in a building structure. In order to test the monitoring and use of UHPFRC, the researchers examined three building structures.