Steel by design

Building a more sustainable Europe

Australian and Spanish teamwork is improving the ways steel buildings and bridges are designed, making them safer and greener.

Civil engineer Dr Itsaso Arrayago is the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellow at Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya and the University of Sydney. She is collaborating with bridge engineering consultancy Pedlelta who designed the first vehicular stainless steel bridge.

Dr Arrayago studied for two years with University of Sydney’s Professor Kim Rasmussen, whose pioneering work is changing engineering. His techniques take advantage of sophisticated design modelling and analysis.

“Traditionally, in the first step in the design process, a structural engineer will create a computer model of the building applying loads on the structure and running an analysis,” says Professor Rasmussen. “That analysis provides the engineer with the forces in all of the different structural members.”

The second step in the process is to check the capacity of each structural member against local construction standards. But the methods of analysis now available to structural engineers have become so sophisticated that they can predict the behaviour and the strength of the entire frame with unprecedented accuracy.

“We know from countless experiments in our structures laboratory that we can get agreement between our predictions and the experimental observations,” says Professor Rasmussen.

“So rather than using a simplified analysis and then having to resort to a step two of checking the capacity according to the code, we can do this in one step.”

The streamlined process is safer, faster and produces leaner structures.

Professor Rasmussen and Dr Arrayago are now applying these ideas with Pedelta under the Horizon 2020 New Generation Design Methods for Stainless Steel Structures project.