Fiberglass Bridges the Gap: Composites at Work
It’s not a new concept: structural engineers have been using fiberglass composites for bridge construction and repair for almost 20 years now. But the popularity of this practice has grown exponentially worldwide for a number of reasons.
Prefab. These bridge components are extremely lightweight compared to other materials, like concrete. They can be prefabricated, then transported to the installation site. They can be erected on prepared foundations in a matter of hours, causing minimal disruption to traffic.
Low Weight and High Strength. Composites deliver strength to support the job, with low weight that translates to low transportation and erection costs, smaller foundations, and easier handling.
Low Maintenance and Long Life. Fiberglass composites are corrosion and weather resistant, standing up to the elements, like sunlight, rain, and extreme temperatures. Thus, maintenance costs are much lower over time.
These factors are especially relevant when it comes to remote or challenging locations. Take the case of a small bridge in rural West Virginia, linking State Route 37 to a popular recreation site. Inspection revealed corrosion had weakened the structure and compromised its safety. With cost and access to the job site in mind, John Clarkson, an engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Huntington District, suggested composites science for the fix.
“This project afforded USACE the opportunity to fix the bridge at one third the cost of traditional methods,” said Clarkson, who worked alongside a team from the university, as well as Rich Lampo, another engineer from the USACE Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, to complete the project. Lampo also cited shorter construction schedules, longer-lasting repairs, and low maintenance as factors.
CTS Bridges of the United Kingdom also used composites as a unique solution when they installed two service bridges at Earlsburn Reservoir in Scotland last summer. With the reservoir located miles from the closest main road, they were unable to get materials or even a crane to the job site. Flying bridges into position with a helicopter became an economically viable solution. Skeptical? See this impressive video.
“The most important attribute of these bridges was their light weight, which enabled use of this unusual method of transport and installation. But the durability of the construction material was also an important factor. The bridges are located in a damp and wet environment. The pre-existing steel bridges had suffered with corrosion and the client wanted the replacements to be constructed from a material that could withstand harsh weather conditions without rusting or ongoing paintwork maintenance,” said Simon Newby, CTS director.
Most of our customers aren’t building bridges, but the same principles of fiberglass employed for constructing bridges apply equally to workshop applications. It’s a great all-purpose choice for these long-valued characteristics. Check out updated videos for our entire selection of fiberglass reinforcements at the Fibre Glast YouTube channel, or on our website.