Construction research body CIRIA is about to take a long hard look at concrete. Literally.
In a 30 month contract with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), CIRIA has struck up a partnership with Imperial College to research the intelligent monitoring of concrete structures.
'We will be looking at how technology assists in predicting the service life of concrete structures, ' says CIRIA's Alan Gilbertson.
'The analysis will also examine the impact of these technologies on managing maintenance of the structure throughout its life.' Objectives for the project are driven by data requirements set forward by the National Measurement System Directorate (NMSD), the DTI department that provides UK measurement standards and calibration facilities to UK business. These objectives include assessing existing intelligent corrosion and damage monitoring technologies and life prediction models for concrete structures.
The project will define critical measurement parameters and look at the most suitable technologies to use, design protocols for data collection to be fed into prediction models to enable effective intervention and repairs. Metrology-related developments needed to improve the design and operation of concrete structures can also be identified.
Input is being managed by Imperial College's Professor Nick Buenfeld. An industry advisory group of interested parties including representatives from rail, transport and contractors has already met and a workshop scheduled for 8 March.
'The focus will be on improving understanding of the possibilities, practicalities and limitations surrounding the use of monitoring, ' says Gilbertson.
Sceptics might argue that the research money might be better spent investigating how to design out the problems that occur, so that measurement for failure is not needed.
'This research is looking to the future, ' Gilbert counters.
'We can do better when it comes to monitoring particularly aggressive environments like tunnels, or structures in the sea.
Buenfeld's team will benchmark available concrete monitoring techniques against those used in other industries to assess whether they could have an application within concrete construction. Dialogue with UK practitioners will ensure industry involvement.
The team would welcome the input of any historical data engineers in the field may have already recorded. Life prediction models for concrete structures will be assessed, comparing predictions against laboratory data and historical materials/ structure performance.
This will, in turn, lead to defining critical measurement parameters and the most suitable technologies. Protocols for data collection and/or interpretation can then feed into prediction models to enable effective interaction and repairs, while metrologically related developments can be identified that could improve the design and operation of concrete structures.
Findings will eventually be released in the form of two CIRIA guides - Intelligent monitoring of the deterioration of concrete structures, and Models for predicting the life of concrete structures.