Bridge infrastructure monitoring: a systematic and risk-based framework on safety and maintenance according to guidelines
Structural safety is one of the most critical issues during the life cycle of constructions, especially in bridges, and it can be a time-consuming and expensive task for either public entities or when infrastructures are privately-managed.
To perform such activities, it is necessary to follow the general procedures, criteria, and minimum requirements specified in the “Guidelines for the classification and management of risk, safety assessment, and monitoring of existing bridges”. The use of Bridge Management tools can also be of considerable support in simplifying bridge maintenance and ensuring the highest standards of safety and efficiency.
The importance of a surveillance system for bridges
The surveillance system, in essence, represents the set of activities for the control, inspection, and monitoring of infrastructural works of art, with the primary aim of ensuring the availability, functionality, and maintenance of the infrastructure’s safety conditions. These activities include organizational aspects and operational tools with their respective procedures that cover the methods by which data regarding the condition and functionality of bridges are collected, analyzed, and interpreted.
The “risk-based” strategy
The surveillance and monitoring activities of a bridge are structured according to a so-called “risk-based” strategy, which depends on the characteristic Attention Class of the bridge in its current state. The surveillance activities include:
- routine inspections;
- special inspections;
- occasional static and dynamic tests;
- installation of periodic or permanent instrumental monitoring systems.
Instrumental monitoring and risk reduction
Implementing a permanent instrumental monitoring system can be considered as a risk reduction strategy. Although it does not directly affect the Attribution of Attention Class, it can contribute to reducing the effort for inspections, potentially reducing their frequency. However, this choice can only be made after a sufficient period of experimentation and refinement of the instrumental monitoring systems.
Evidence of proper infrastructure management
The surveillance system provides evidence of proper infrastructure management in accordance with the Guidelines and supports the planning of maintenance investments to be adopted for both individual structures (project level) and the entire network (network level).
The system for identifying bridges and construction elements
The operational basis for conducting monitoring activities, synthesis, and analysis of data is represented by the system for identifying bridges and construction elements. This system is formalized and documented in a series of manuals and/or operational procedures that address various aspects of bridge safety management.
The role of software in data storage
A crucial component of the surveillance system is the software for data storage, which is necessary to store and process data and support decision-making. This type of software is also known as a BMS (Bridge Management System) and provides essential support for the interpretation of data from inspections and instrumental monitoring.
In practice, with a BMS tool, you can effectively manage and organize all the information related to bridges in a single database.
You can centralize any information (location, age, type, material, etc.) in a single cloud repository, making the data accessible to all stakeholders involved in bridge management and easily update the documentation from anywhere and with any device.
You always have a complete overview of all the information for bridge maintenance, with the possibility to:
- identify any issues in advance;
- schedule timely interventions;
- plan inspections;
- store inspection data;
- evaluate the effectiveness of implemented actions over time;
- plan preventive maintenance interventions.
Traffic management and maintenance: Decisions guided by the surveillance system
The surveillance system defines the decisions that the operator (public entities or private managers) must make based on the monitoring results and the current and projected attention classes. This includes safety verifications and the consequent decisions, such as planning medium-term maintenance activities. Thanks to this systematic risk-based strategy, it is possible to ensure the safety and functionality of crucial infrastructures like bridges.