Maintaining Structural Integrity

Keeping a structure healthy is of paramount importance. But it’s not always immediately obvious when a building or bridge is in need of maintenance, repair, or upkeep. If engineers can’t see potential red flags, then they can’t correct them. This can lead to disaster.

But Resensys, www.resensys.com, Burnaby, B.C., is helping to illuminate signs of disaster with its new realtime, wireless structural health detection system. Mehdi Kalantari, the company’s president and CTO, says before a bridge or building collapses, measurable and meaningful changes occur in its structure. Resensys’ system helps identify those changes via a series of small, networked sensors strategically installed on a structure.

“Whether some portion of the structure is overstrained or deformed, irreversible shifts or transformations can be detected with our technology way ahead of an actual failure so that repairs, and/or adjustments, can be made,” Kalantari says.

The sensors gather data on a structure’s strain, acceleration, vibration, displacement, deformation, tilt, temperature, and humidity. Once gathered, the information is aggregated and sent wirelessly to a data center for continuous analysis. When a problem is detected, alerts are sent to maintenance or repair engineers.

Resensys’ sensors are also fairly low maintenance, and can draw power from ambient light and radio waves. A battery-operated option is also available. In any event, the sensors can be used without repair for decades.

“We believe Resensys sensors provide very useful information about the structures where they have been deployed,” says Marcus Schmieder, industrial engineer, lean consultant and NDT (non-destructive testing) specialist at Metro Testing Laboratories, www.metrotesting.ca, Vancouver, B.C., which makes use of Resensys sensors. “The ease of installation, long life cycle and low cost of these systems convinced us to use Resensys sensors for all of our structural health monitoring projects.”

Though it’s not necessarily on the mind of the average American, the United States does have its share of infrastructure issues. Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers, www.asce.org, Reston, Va., gave the U.S. infrastructure a disappointing D+. The report noted America isn’t making the necessary investments to maintain its current infrastructure or invest for the future.

But construction technology can play an important role in revitalizing American infrastructure. Mike DeLacey, president of Microdesk, www.microdesk.com, Nashua, N.H., a company which provides consulting to construction companies, has specifically cited BIM (building information modeling). DeLacey says the technology would allow for a reduction of waste and improved efficiency. Also, FEA (finite-element analysis) systems can help analyze the structural data of bridges, and predict future performance based on realtime data.

Whether it’s sensors, BIM, FEA systems, or something else entirely, the end result is what’s really important. So long as engineers and construction companies do their due diligence, buildings and bridges can stay vertical, and do no harm.