Smarter Concrete

June 2013: Canada Foundation for Innovation (Part of an in-depth online report on Canada’s Infrastructure Gap.)

University of British Columbia research is making bridges stronger — and smarter.

All urban infrastructure is essential for properly functioning communities, but there’s something about a bridge that really puts the issue into perspective — perhaps because all that separates you from a likely fatal splash below are impossibly huge concrete structures built on towering stilts. Keeping these structures in good working order demands ongoing maintenance of old bridges and, maybe more important, effective monitoring systems to catch deterioration before it’s too late.

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Minding the Infrastructure Gap

June 2013: Canada Foundation for Innovation (online)

Innovative research is a crucial part of the plan to make Canada’s roads, bridges and water systems stronger, safer and more durable.

We often take public infrastructure for granted. We assume that the bridges we cross on the way to work will remain stable, that our taps will always run with clean water, that our buildings will stand straight. But nothing lasts forever. Everything breaks down eventually.

We live in unprecedented times. Along with the rest of the world, Canada is experiencing a massive migration to our urban centres — roughly 80 percent of Canadians now live in cities, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. This increases our need for new infrastructure, and it further strains and stresses our aging infrastructure, much of which was built during the post-Second World War development boom. All those roads and bridges, water pipes and sewer systems were built to last. But in those days, that meant about 50 years.

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