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Top bridge engineers unite to bring design back down to earth

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THE WORLD'S top bridge engineers are writing a set of guidelines to prevent clients picking 'iconic' but expensive or unbuildable winners in bridge design competitions.

The group includes designer of France's Millau Viaduct Michel Virlogeux, Flint & Neill partner Ian Firth and Arup's Naeem Hussein.

The engineers will meet in Cambridge next month for the International Association for Bridge & Structural Engineering's Henderson Colloquium with the guidelines heading the agenda.

Arup director and chairman of the colloquium Angus Low said: 'Lessons from design competitions will be turned into a guidance document for competition organisers. There has been a significant increase in the use of design competitions for the procurement of bridges.' Low said that clients often have little technical grasp of what they are looking at when assessing competition entries. Nor do they have the necessary construction experience.

Last year NCE reported that clients, seduced by dazzling presentations, were selecting complex, high maintenance designs (NCE, 9 March 2006).

Spiralling costs made the Atkins designed Broomielaw/Tradeston bridge over the River Clyde in Glasgow unbuildable while at the same time it emerged that the Calatrava-designed Trinity Bridge at Salford was ageing badly.

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