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'Taking The Strain' In The 21st Century

15 October 2013

Costain is promoting the implementation of a new technology that aims to provide a step-change in the way strain is measured in structures, delivering better data and therefore improvements in structural designs.  

The Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC), an Innovation and Knowledge Centre at the University of Cambridge, has partnered with Costain to support an initiative to transfer knowledge and embed this technology in current Costain construction projects.

The UK’s ageing infrastructure requires monitoring and remedial interventions to extend life and prevent catastrophic failures. The high level of maintenance required to preserve these assets and run them at full capacity has created a demand for structural health monitoring and performance-based maintenance of legacy infrastructure.

‘Smart monitoring’ is an important assessment tool for delivering more efficient design and reducing over-specification.

Distributed Optical Fibre Strain Sensing is a technology that allows continuous strain measurement over an extended distance, with signals being sent along optical fibres attached to or embedded in structures. This technology can replace the use of large numbers of point sensors, such as vibrating wire strain gauges (VWSG).

This form of strain measurement helps improve understanding of the performance of tunnels and foundations during and after construction, and gives insight into the complex soil-structure interaction mechanisms involved, helping to identify localised problem areas, such as failure points.

Costain has taken a lead in partnering with CSIC to incorporate this novel technology into current Costain projects.  A trial of the fibre-optic strain sensing technology is underway at the London Bridge Station project.

Fifteen Costain engineers and managers have attended training at CSIC, participating in lectures and workshops to understand the application of the technology and to use this knowledge to scope market opportunities for the technology. The first training session was held on 9 October.

Aalok Sonawala, Business Improvement Manager, said: “This is a great initiative to bring technology from Cambridge’s CSIC to our projects, delivering technological innovations to meet and better our client expectations. The training will help us better manage the assets we build throughout their life cycle.”

Costain involves CSIC at the project outset, facilitating project planning meetings with the Client to ensure objectives and deliverables are defined and agreeing on implementation plans.

Philip Keenan, CSIC’s Business Development Manager, added: “This training forms part of the first phase of the Centre's aim to increase the UK construction industry's knowledge and understanding of the benefits of distributed strain sensing, using fibre optic strain sensing technology. The course delivered on 9th October included several case studies where we have delivered knowledge and new insights to construction projects using distributed fibre optic strain sensing.”