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Integrity of load-bearing structures

The monitoring of load-bearing structures is one of the most modern and effective techniques used to inspect the behaviour of load-bearing structures and for the accurate evaluation of all functional parameters characterising the load-bearing structure. The term monitoring system is taken to mean the combination of all devices used to capture, handle and transmit as required the data for the examination of a load-bearing structure during its useful life.

The performance of a load-bearing structure decreases year on year throughout its lifetime and the residual degree of safety no longer corresponds to that in the construction plan. To guarantee the safety of the load-bearing structure and its users, the integrity of the load-bearing structure must be guaranteed in terms of its safety in relation to the limit states of the load-bearing capacity and fitness for purpose. 

The development of suitable strategies for the renovation and extension of its useful life requires devising and resolving aspects such as how to monitor the life cycle, the lowest degree of safety and the maintenance strategies from the point of view of reliability over the years and the administration costs.

The main problem consists of identifying the development of any potential faults and advanced degree of wear in good time, and preventing such phenomenon, effectively assessing their causes and severity, and enabling a suitable plan of action.  Any process organised in this manner enables the effective prioritisation of planning and above all allows the effectiveness of any actions implemented to be inspected in due time. An optimum strategy will meet the criteria of the minimum life cycle.

The aim is to minimise the expected total cost by always complying with the conditions for the safety and reliability of the load-bearing structure. The motorway bridge at Gossensass, for example, is fitted with sensors to allow the 24 hour monitoring of electrochemical and mechanical parameters (corrosion potential, concentration of chloride ions, temperature and moisture, deformation and flexural behaviour of the load-bearing structure, etc.). From time to time measurement campaigns will also be carried out to examine the dynamic properties of the load-bearing structure.

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