Structural Health Monitoring Systems

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Structural Health Monitoring Systems

Structural Monitoring is basically an activity where actual data related to civil structures is observed / measured and registered. This has been performed through all times by responsible designers, contractors and owners with almost identical objectives - to check that the structures behave as intended. Historically the activity has required specialists, has been time consuming and hence costly and as a result hereof only a limited number of performance indicators - typically geometry - have been measured aperiodically and supplemented by regular visual observations.

This situation has been dramatically changed by the enormous development within information technology in the last two decades. High performance sensors, precision signal conditioning units, broad band analogue-to-digital converters, optical or wireless networks, global positioning systems etc. have all paved the way for a far more accurate, fast and cost efficient acquisition of data. Very sophisticated and powerful software for structural analysis has become available and increases the beneficial use of the large amounts of data that can be acquired. Finally, significant developments have been made regarding deterioration mechanisms and environmental loads on civil structures. These developments open the way for a wide range of applications related to efficient operation and maintenance of structures.

Structural monitoring has thus emerged as a distinct technical discipline as the new technologies have been introduced in the field of civil engineering. Numerous and rather sophisticated systems have been established. The development of many of these systems seems to have been driven more by the technological possibilities than by well defined objectives for application areas of design verification, trouble shooting, user safety and maintenance planning formulated by the “traditional key players”: the designers, contractors, operators and owners. Most likely this is due to the complexity of the new methodologies and systems and the vendors dedicated efforts to market new products, but scientific curiosity and enthusiasm may also have played a role. As a consequence of weakly defined objectives it seems as if the owners have not achieved the optimal benefit from the – often rather significant – investment in the structural monitoring systems and their occasionally extensive operation.

It is the experience of the authors that an early and thorough discussion with the future stakeholder(s) in the structural monitoring programme paves the way for an efficient and direct path to design, procurement, installation and operation of an adequate and cost effective monitoring system.

With the hope that future plans and designs of structural monitoring systems will be straightforward and that cost efficient systems are developed that are fully compliant with the stakeholders' clear objectives.

Dr. Jacob Egede Andersen





Objectives »

The general objectives of structural monitoring, defining the framework for the planning of monitoring systems.

Framework »

A possible framework within which the stakeholders objectives can be defined in order to pursue the discussions with the same common understanding

System Layout »

A range of issues of strategic importance for systems layout and economy in order to clarify crucial matters as early as possible in the process.

Critical Points »

A general introduction to critical points of main options for structural monitoring systems for the stakeholders information and consideration.

Examples »

A representative selection of existing structural monitoring systems exemplifying some of the general principles touched upon in the preceding sections.

Guideline »

A guide for the main issues to consider in procuring a structural monitoring system. © 2010 •  Terms Of Use