IABSE TG 1.7 - Sustainability-driven Bridge Engineering for Early Design Phases
Research Project , 2019 – 2023

Mission Statement/Objectives
The construction industry is responsible for a third of the environmental impact globally. In parallel, the competition in the sector is increasing, driven by poor efficiency and increased demands from society. The need for dealing with ecological and economical sustainability in combination with increased productivity has created a need for innovative structural design methods – we need to design and build smarter. To do this, the bridge engineer and the construction engineer need to come closer.

The purpose of the task group is to review and internationally define ongoing research on the structural design process. A special attention will be given to buildability and sustainability as well as the structural engineer’s role in the building process. The aim of the task group is to transfer new methods and processes from research to the structural engineering profession. A desirable profile for the TG is to be a platform for discussions that is attractive for young engineers. Novel methodologies such as set-based design and performance-based engineering as well as integrated design will be studied and discussed.

To reach the aim, the TG will use international (WC) and regional activities as drivers. Example of activities are interactive workshops and seminars. TG members are also encouraged to actively seek internships between young engineers such as PhD candidates. In parallel, ongoing research projects will contribute and give input to the TG process. In this way, state-of-the-art research will inspire a discussion on new ideas and innovations for structural design and construction planning.

Scope & Limitation
The scope of this TG is the early stage (often referred to as the conceptual stage) and the processes and tools applied in this stage.

In contrast to the infrastructure sector, the building sector has elaborated this stage within the associations AIA and RIBA. The work done has resulted in guidelines for integrating structural and construction engineering (integrated design). Recent research shows that these guidelines are well prepared for implementation in the building sector, but require adaptation to the infrastructure sector. The TG will therefore, with regard to process, focus on the adaptation of these guidelines to early stage bridge design. The structure of the guidelines is built on a general overview of the process and the interrelation between the phases. Thereafter, each phase is described by addressing main outcomes and partner reasonability. This structure will be used as a way to organize and implement the work of the TG.

One main responsibility for the construction industry is to find ways how to deal with the challenge of sustainability and productivity. Recent advances within digitalisation, such as artificial intelligence, makes it possible to include and act on information in a way that the industry has not seen before. Performance-based engineering, parametric design and set-based design introduce novel conceptual tools that have the potential to help the structural engineering community to take the responsibility. The TG will focus on set-based parametric design as a mean to include sustainability and buildability in the work of the structural engineer. With set-based design, numerous alternatives are designed according to building standards and put into a dataset. The dataset and related information of climate impact and cost of materials and construction methods make it possible to search for technical solutions that are optimised for their task. The method has traditionally required extensive computer power, but with the advancements of artificial intelligence, such as machine learning, design evaluations that commonly takes days to perform becomes instant.

It is common to address large structures and landmark bridges in research studies. However, the large impact on society comes from the numerous bridges built. Therefore, bridges such as short-span frame bridges and culverts as well as medium-span bridges will be assessed and discussed in case studies.


Rasmus Rempling (contact)

Senior Researcher at Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering


Swedish Transport Administration

Funding Chalmers participation during 2019–2023

Related Areas of Advance and Infrastructure


Areas of Advance


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