Home » BIM and Facility Management » Structural Health Monitoring (Structural Monitoring): everything you need to know

Structural Health Monitoring: everything you need to know

Structural Health Monitoring (Structural Monitoring): everything you need to know

Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) is a process involving a series of techniques designed to assess different structures types conditions. Find out more

Structural Monitoring (Structural Health Monitoring) is essential to prevent any problems that may undermine public safety.Let’s see in this article what it is and how these activities are developing. Particularly in relation to new and innovative application of digital systems technologies for structures monitoring and maintenance. You’ll need a bridge management software to facilitate your work, so you can collect all necessary information, ensuring integrity and safety of buildings, bridges, roads and all other infrastructure types.

Structural Health Monitoring

Structural Health Monitoring

Introduction to Structural Monitoring

Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) is a process that involves a series of techniques designed to assess structures conditions of, for example, bridges, buildings and infrastructure, in order to ensure their safety and operational efficiency.

This field is evolving rapidly with the advent of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are leading to new possibilities and challenges. Gathering information through structural monitoring can help determining potential problems thus predicting future difficulties. This could guide decisions about how to manage and maintain existing infrastructure.

In summary, structural monitoring is a fundamental discipline for the safety and efficiency of our infrastructures. Hence the structural monitoring data-driven approach. Together with the use of advanced techniques, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, it offers enormous potential for infrastructure management’s improvement all around the world.

Elements of a Structural Health Monitoring System

A structural monitoring system is a set of tools and procedures designed to monitor and evaluate a facility condition, such as a building, bridge, dam, or other infrastructure. It includes sensors, data acquisition hardware, BIM IoT Platform for data analysis and interpretation. Hence for decision-making strategies based on the data acquired.

These are fundamental systems to ensure safety, identify any structural problems, therefore planing maintenance activities:

  1. sensors: Sensors are the most fundamental elements of a structural monitoring system. They can include accelerometers, inclinometers, strain sensors, temperature sensors, humidity sensors and many more. These sensors convert and record in digital values various physical parameters that may indicate changes in the structure condition.
  2. data acquisition hardware: This component collects information from sensors and transmits to the data processing system. This may include data acquisition modules, data transmission systems, and other devices.
  3. Structural Health Monitoring software (SHM): The heart of the structural monitoring system. This software receives information from the data acquisition hardware thus processing it in search of useful results. These results can include charts, diagrams, tables, and other visualizations that make data easily understandable.
  4. data interpretation models: these are algorithms or procedures helpful to understand the collected data. These models can help identify trends, detect anomalies, and predict possible future problems.
  5. response protocols: These are action plans to implement when the structural monitoring system detects a problem. These may include maintenance procedures, evacuation, or other interventions.

In conclusion, a structural monitoring system is a complex set of components working together to maintain and monitor a structure integrity. The success of these systems depends on the sensors quality, the hardware effectiveness and the data acquisition software processing. As well as the ability to interpret and respond appropriately to collected data.

Structural Monitoring in Civil Engineering

Structural monitoring in civil engineering is a key part of the infrastructure design. As well as the construction and maintenance process. This critical component ensures that the structures have adequate responses during their useful life, providing optimal safety. Thus contributing to the work’s economic sustainability.

Structural Health Monitoring in the civil field consists of the observation and tracking of structure conditions over time, through the use of sensors and measuring instruments, with the aim of identifying possible problems before they become critical. This allows to carry preventive maintenance interventions, avoiding structural failures that could result in much higher costs and safety risks.

Civil engineers use a variety of techniques and tools to monitor structures. These include, but are not limited to, strain sensors, accelerometers, humidity sensors, temperature sensors, displacement sensors, etc. Such instruments detect variations in structural conditions (movements, deformations, changes in temperature or humidity) sending information to a data acquisition system.

Collected data is then analyzed using data processing software. These programs can interpret large amounts of data and identify patterns and trends. Thanks to the analysis carried out, engineers can determine if the structure is suffering stress or damage, hence if it is necessary to intervene.

Another critical aspect of structural monitoring in civil engineering is the planning and implementation of response protocols. When the monitoring system detects a problem, these protocols provide a roadmap for actions to be taken, which may include further inspections, repairs, structural reinforcements or, in the most severe cases, evacuation and demolition.

So, thanks to the use of advanced technologies and the ability to analyze and interpret large amounts of data, civil engineers can prevent structural problems, minimize maintenance costs ensuring property and people’s safety.

Structural Health Monitoring in civil engineering

Structural Health Monitoring in civil engineering

Monitoring of bridges

Structural Health Monitoring of bridges is a fundamental discipline in civil engineering. This process involves using advanced methodologies and technologies to observe a bridge physical condition during its life cycle, in order to identify and manage any potential risks to its structural integrity.

This system is not only limited to the post-construction period, but starts at the design phase. During this phase, engineers use a number of scenarios and tools for the structure’s predictive behavior calculation. Hence under different environmental conditions as well as load scenarios. These models, however, are based on a number of assumptions that may not exactly correspond to reality. Therefore, once the bridge is built, constant monitoring is necessary. For example to verify whether the actual behavior of the structure matches the forecasts.

The main objective of structural monitoring of bridges is to ensure the safety of the infrastructure and those who use it. To do this, engineers must detect any anomalies in the behavior of the structure, such as excessive movement, unexpected deformations, or damage caused by environmental events or traffic loads. This is done through the use of a series of sensors installed on the deck (accelerometers, strain sensors, gyroscopes, thermocouples, etc.).

The data collected by the sensors are then analyzed using specialized software. This allows to identify and interpret any variation with respect to the expected behavior patterns. If the data indicate a potential problem, engineers can intervene promptly to carry out structural repairs or reinforcements. Thus avoiding more serious accidents or damage.

In addition, structural monitoring of bridges also contributes to their long-term maintenance and management. By analyzing historical data, engineers can better understand how the facility responds over time to different factors, such as traffic load, weather conditions, aging materials, etc. Planning maintenance more effectively thus preventing problems before they occur.

Finally, only through careful and continuous monitoring is it possible to guarantee the safety and efficiency of bridges. Safeguarding people’s lives and contributing to infrastructure sustainability.

Structural monitoring of buildings

Similar to bridges, buildings require constant monitoring to ensure their safety and integrity, revealing signs of degradation, damages from events such as earthquakes or floods, or simply the natural wear and tear of time.

To provide an accurate assessment of the structural health status of a building it is important to consider a number of fundamental phases and components that combine with each other:

  1. monitoring planning: involves the definition of monitoring objectives, the parameters selection as well as the monitoring system design. The objectives may vary according to the type of structure, its current state, the building’s use and other factors. The monitoring parameters may include structural movements, deformations, stresses, temperatures, humidity, vibrations and others.
  2. sensors installation: depending on the parameters, various sensor types are installed in the building. These may include accelerometers to measure vibrations, strain gauges to monitor deformations, thermocouples for temperature, hydrometers for humidity, and so on. The position and configuration of the sensors are chosen according to building structure as well as for the critical points.
  3. data collection: Sensors collect data in real time or at set intervals and send it to a data acquisition system. This system runs on a local computer or on a cloud platform. Thus allowing to record, store and process sensor data.
  4. data analysis: Data is then analyzed using specific software. These tools allow to identify any variations with respect to the reference values, reporting possible structural problems or anomalies. The analysis may also include modeling and simulation techniques to predict the structure’s future behavior.
  5. intervention: based on the analysis results, engineers can decide to carry out structural maintenance or corrective interventions. These may include structural reinforcements, repairs, modifications to the building load or use, and other measures.
  6. report and communication: finally, the results of the monitoring and the actions taken are documentation and communication to interested parties. This can include building owners, regulators, insurers, and others.

Structural monitoring of buildings is a continuous process that requires constant monitoring and periodic updating over monitoring system. Therefore adapting to changes in the building condition and its environment. In this way, it is possible to guarantee the safety and durability of structures, protecting people lives and preserving the value of the buildings.

Structural durability and health monitoring

Structural durability and health monitoring go hand in hand and, for this reason, it is good to identify the definitions of both:

  • durability refers to the ability of a structure to withstand over time, withstanding environmental conditions. Hence is a fundamental feature in structures. It is influenced by a number of factors, including the material, construction techniques, environmental conditions, facility usage-time and maintenance practices. To ensure structural durability, it is necessary to foresee and manage a number of potential problems and risks. Such as material deterioration due to adverse environmental conditions, excessive loads, vibrations, construction defects and others.
  • health monitoring, on the other hand, helps ensure that the structure maintains this durability. Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) is a discipline that uses a range of techniques and technologies to detect and analyze changes in structural properties and structure behavior. This may include using sensors to measure various parameters (such as deformations, vibrations, temperature, humidity, and others), processing data, analyzing and interpreting results, and planning and implementing corrective or maintenance interventions. Structural health monitoring makes it possible to identify any problems or anomalies earlier. Thus preventing structural deterioration, optimizing maintenance and repair operations, hence extending the structures useful life. Monitoring can be done continuously or at predetermined intervals. Thus may be based on a reactive (in response to specific events or signals). Or proactive (based on a predetermined monitoring plan) approach.

Through an integrated approach that combines quality design and construction with an effective monitoring and maintenance planning, it is possible to ensure the safety, functionality and durability of structures over time.

Maintenance scheduling

Maintenance scheduling


Artificial Intelligence in Structural Monitoring: A Machine Learning Perspective

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are revolutionizing the field of Structural Health Monitoring. Machine learning algorithms can analyze huge amounts of data collected by sensors. Hence identifying patterns and trends, predicting potential structural problems with unprecedented accuracy. This opens up new possibilities for structural monitoring, making our infrastructures even safer and more efficient.

The application of artificial intelligence (AI) in structural monitoring is based on AI ability to process and understand large amounts of information. Thus being able to learn from this data. AI can therefore help identifying and predicting structural problems. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of monitoring and maintenance.

Here are some applications of AI in structural monitoring:

  1. detection and diagnosis of anomalies: Training Machine learning algorithms to recognize patterns in structural monitoring data is now possible. Identifying therefore, anomalies or variations from these patterns, hence diagnosing potential problems. For example, training an algorithm to detect variations on a bridge vibrations that could indicate structural damage;
  2. structural deterioration prediction: Using AI to develop prediction models that estimate when and where structural problems might occur based on various factors, such as historical monitoring data, environmental conditions, and structure characteristics is more common these days. For example, you could predict corrosion occurrences in a steel building based on factors such as humidity and temperature;
  3. maintenance optimization: AI algorithms may be useful in optimizing maintenance operations. Such as determining the optimal time to perform repairs, minimizing its impact and operation costs. This is predictive maintenance in its basic form.
  4. image analysis: Ai currently helps analyzing infrastructure images and videos made available through drones or other technologies. Machine learning algorithms can help identify certain characteristics, such as cracks or deformations. Which could indicate structural damage.

For example, some engineering firms have recently begun using drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and AI algorithms. Using these to inspect bridge structures and buildings. The algorithms analyzed the images to detect potential problems, such as cracks or corrosion, difficult to detect with the naked eye. This allows for faster, safer and more effective inspections than traditional methods.

Structural monitoring is a rapidly evolving field that plays a critical role in the safety and efficiency of our infrastructure. With the advent of technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, the possibilities are truly limitless.