Sustainable bridge design has become increasingly popular over the past several decades. As with many civil engineering projects, bridges are being built with green design technology, which has numerous environmental benefits for current and future generations. Several green bridges are using solar technology, for example, while being carefully placed so as not to disturb the surrounding natural environment. By using fewer resources and making an effort to conserve the natural area, civil engineers are finding numerous financial and sociological benefits of sustainable bridge design.
What makes a bridge sustainable?
The following issues must be addressed when designing a sustainable bridge:
- Will the use of natural materials, energy consumption, and environmental resources be kept at a minimum during construction?
- Is the bridge designed to be aesthetically pleasing while adding to the local scenery and historic surroundings?
- Will the bridge create a more connected community?
- How will the bridge integrate cycling and other means of non-motorized transportation?
- Does the bridge serve its purpose by properly connecting two different areas?
- Is the bridge designed to minimize traffic congestion?
- Does the bridge have an economical or sociological impact?
- Bridges have caused problems with erosion and sedimentation in the past. Will the new sustainable bridge be designed to avoid these issues?
These questions can be attributed to the three main points of assessment for building sustainable bridges:
- The environmental impact, such as the overall use of resources, the cost of materials, and the bridge’s life-cycle.
- The social ramifications, including how the bridge affects the surrounding population, the connection between social and human capital, and how many individuals will use the bridge on a daily basis.
- The economic considerations, such as the cost of modeling, the effects of cost-benefit, and other financial issues.
Materials for building a sustainable bridge
In order to build bridges in a more cost-effective manner without depleting resources, many engineers turn to re-purposing steel beams and other types of material from closed and unused bridges.
While selecting steel beams from closed bridges, it is important to make sure that the used beams are still durable enough for constructing a new bridge, which is done by determining the age of the beam and conducting lab tests. In addition to recycling material for the project, it is also important to note whether the material is locally sourced, since obtaining material from long distances can be more costly and less sustainable.
Solar-Powered Kurilpa Bridge, Brisbane
One of the greatest examples of a sustainable bridge contributing to the surrounding environment and culture in a positive fashion is the Krilpa Bridge in Brisbane, Australia. Built with a sophisticated LED lighting system running on the solar energy supplied by 84 solar panels, the bridge is capable of producing numerous lighting effects. The bridge is connected from the Central Business District to the South Bank arts district, which hosts various festivals and other celebrations throughout the year. The lighting effects can be used to celebrate these occasions and bring more attention to the city’s local art and culture.
Copenhagen Harbor LM Project
The Copenhagen Harbor LM Project was built after taking first prize in a contest to design a new bridge for Copenhagen. The bridge is connected by two towers on either side of the harbor and also provides a pedestrian walkway in addition to automotive traffic.
Not only does the Copenhagen Bridge serve as a cultural connection between the old harbor and modern city, but it is also a significant achievement in sustainable energy by incorporating several green solutions. The skyscrapers on either end of the bridge use a seawater cooling and heating system, are able to use enough natural light reflecting from solar screens, and are built with windows that allow for natural ventilation.
Telok Blangah Hill Park’s Flying Infrastructure in the Sky
How can visitors get up close to nature without disturbing it? One such way is the Telok Blangah Hill Park’s Flying Infrastructure in the Sky in Singapore, which is a series of interconnected pedestrian bridges built above and around the natural environment. While parks will often clear out trees and other natural landscapes to make room for visitors, this bridge was built around the existing area so as not to disturb the natural ecosystem. The Telok Blangah Hill Park’s Flying Infrastructure in the Sky is a great example of sustainable bridge design, as it promotes environmental preservation while allowing for pedestrian traffic.
The Benefits of Sustainable Bridge Design
While each of the above bridges was built in very different areas by civil engineers, they all share the same sustainability goals. By using renewable materials, creating a sense of cultural connection, and preserving the surrounding environment, current and future generations can experience the many benefits of sustainable bridge design.
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