Over 90% of the world’s building stock in the next 30 years is expected to be already in existence today, creating a challenge for future generations to assess the suitability of use and overall safety of buildings. The FET Theme is providing TRIF (Themes Research and Innovation Funding) 2022-23 to help the development of innovative structural health sensors for monitoring the stability of such ageing building stock. Dr Nikos Nanos and colleagues have developed a sensor infrastructure that can be implemented at a city scale with at a fraction of the cost of traditional structural health monitoring. The TRIF funding will enable field testing under seismic conditions, as part of an international collaboration.

Traditional forms of structural health monitoring rely on expensive instrumentation and prior knowledge of the system under consideration, e.g., state of repair and alterations, which might be warranted for high value structures but would have prohibitive resource and cost implications if applied on a city-scale format. The innovative aspect of this work is that instead of relying on a well-defined understanding of the structure in question as is traditionally the case, the system can identify the building’s “structural signature”. It can distinguish this signature from background noise and check for changes in the stiffness matrix during its operational life through changes in fundamental structural response.

More recently, advances in timber construction and the introduction of innovative structural features, e.g., rocking structures, are gaining pace as potentially more sustainable paradigms of future construction. In that regard, extensive research is taking place into characterising such high-rise timber structures and their dynamic response. The team is collaborating on the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) TallWood project, which aims to carry out shake-table testing of a full-scale resilient 10-storey mass-timber building in early 2023. The work involves the field deployment of innovative low-cost structural monitoring systems to measure the structural response.