The University of Bristol has received £12m for a state-of-the-art facility that will improve construction by reducing the environmental costs of high-value infrastructure projects.
The funding is for the new UKCRIC Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction (SoFSI) large-scale laboratory, which pledges to deliver major cost savings of projects such as High Speed 2 (HS2), offshore wind farms and bridges.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) gave the funding to the university for the construction of the lab at its Langford campus to enable large, close-to-prototype-scale experiments for academics and industry alike.
The test lab will house a large soil pit to enable the testing of foundations, a 50-ton capacity shaking table for dynamic testing of structures and a smaller, high-performance shaking table. All will look at how infrastructure and buildings interact with the grounds when faced with dynamic loads.
Researchers and industry will utilise the facility to investigate how foundations, dynamic loading and soil interact in order to develop more efficient building methods, reduce carbon costs and improve the safety of infrastructure moving forward.
This research will form the basis of smart solution designs to strengthen infrastructure and make construction more cost-efficient. The lab will enable research to be conducted in five core areas: nuclear power plant soil-structure interaction, high speed rail, offshore wind turbines, monopiles and pile groups, and integral bridges.
Anastasios Sexos, Professor of Earthquake Engineering, said: “Ensuring the long-term safety of critical infrastructure is paramount, particularly when it comes to building nuclear power stations or high-speed rail.
“The aim of this testing facility is to inform design that is not only safer but also cost-efficient. Investigating how buildings and infrastructure interact with the ground under natural and man-made hazards allows us to improve the smartness and resiliency of our infrastructure while at a lower financial cost and a reduced environmental footprint."
Dr Flavia De Luca, Senior Lecturer in Structural and Earthquake Engineering, said: “At the University of Bristol, we’re investing in state-of-the-art testing facilities that will help cut the cost of building the infrastructure of the future. For example, high speed rail will require many new bridges to cross waterways, roads and other rail lines.
“SoFSI has been designed to help us understand, among other issues, how the span of lower cost, minimal maintenance integral bridges can be extended so that new high speed railway lines would be faster to construct, cheaper to maintain, more resilient to climate change, and enable us to minimise resource requirements.”
Professor Ian Bond, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering said: “Investing in our state-of-the-art research facilities within the Faculty of Engineering keeps us at the forefront of global research across a wide range of fields and positions our researchers to support the delivery of carbon net zero."
Greg Walker, Senior Consultant, Sustainable Business - Construction and Infrastructure, at Acre said: "At a time where there are major infrastructure projects such as HS2 and a genuine appetite to ensure we are working towards a shared goal of carbon net-zero, it is inspiring to hear of the significant funding Bristol University has received for a state-of-the-art facility. The new facility will play an exciting role in understanding the effect that infrastructure and buildings have on the ground and environment, creating opportunities to be more resourceful as well as saving on costs. This will hopefully have a great impact on the infrastructure sector in the coming years and the overall goal to be more sustainable."
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