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Last edited 15 Sep 2021
Structural Health Monitoring SHM
Structural health monitoring (SHM - sometimes referred to as structural health and environmental monitoring) is an emerging technology used to document the viability and integrity of engineering projects such as bridges.
Christopher Beckett, lecturer in geotechnical engineering, University of Edinburgh, recognises the potential of SHM and sees it as "a burgeoning discipline" that could be "a possible solution to maintaining safety" using technology.
Beckett explains how sensors placed throughout a structure can be used to "monitor the condition of embedded reinforcement, accelerations within the structure (e.g. under wind loads) and the formation and propagation of cracks, amongst many other indicators of damage. Timely intervention, targeting the worst-affected areas, may provide the Holy Grail of a cost effective, safe solution for construction without needing to abandon coastal areas."
 Types of SHM
 Expanding role of SHM
SHM can now be used to record changes - or the absence of changes - in the characteristics of materials and structures. It can also be used to estimate the degradation of infrastructure, either due to age or extreme events such as floods, earthquakes, explosions and so on.
When applied to bridges, SHM can produce valuable data sets that can aid key decisions about current performance, margins of safety, actual loading, stress history, extent of deterioration and residual life.
Long span bridges in particular can benefit from the sensing technology that is incorporated into SHM. The Queensferry Crossing (originally known as the Forth Replacement Crossing) across the Firth of Forth is one of the largest infrastructure projects of its kind. The 2.7 km structure is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world, as well as by far the largest to feature cables which cross mid-span. It was constructed with thousands of sensors as part of its SHM monitoring system. Since it opened in 2017, SHM professionals have been able to use a web-based system to access the data that has been collected by the sensors.
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