In rapidly developing markets, a need to better manage infrastructure such as roads, tunnels, and bridges is changing the way they are managed. And one tool that is increasingly delivering seamless and integrated asset management is a Bridge Management System or BMS.
A bridge management system is a collection of data that assists users in making decisions. Having access to recent, relevant and contextual data for a structure’s condition helps users make the correct decision and select the most beneficial intervention. It will also help us develop truly intelligent infrastructure.
As technology advances, systems improve, and costs reduce, BMS is playing a greater role in safely and effectively managing transport infrastructure. Bridges designed using Building Information Modelling (BIM) already utilise this in many of today’s BMS. The modern BMS also integrate other technologies such as high resolution imagery, mobile data capture and virtual reality/augmented reality.
Other emerging technologies suggest further efficiencies in BMS of the future. For example, using Internet of Things (IoT) technology, the tension of steel suspension cables or a corrosion ‘hotspot’ may be recorded via an inbuilt sensor. The data from these sensors can be collected and subsequently modelled in a graphical BIM display. This will eventually lead to real-time monitoring of structures, and further reduce the time it takes to discover and solve problems.
The rise in the number of bridges in the Gulf area serves as a useful indicator for the rapid development that has taken place in the region since 2006. Up until 1999, there were only about 40 operational bridges in Dubai. Since then, more than 400 new bridges have been constructed. In general, Abu Dhabi and Qatar have followed the same trend, with the latter undergoing a rapid expansion.
However, until as recently as 2009, many Transport Authorities in the GCC struggled to cope with the maintenance and inspection of their structures, largely because their management systems were paper-based. These traditional systems are time-consuming and make it difficult to prioritise repair work or predict future maintenance budgets.
Fortunately, thanks to technological advances, a modern BMS allows easier management of assets in a systematic and customised way, over the complete life cycle of a structure. The most important benefit of a modern BMS is its ability to optimise the limited budgets of road authorities.
The system allows for more efficient planning of maintenance, repair and rehabilitation activities. By analysing the data tracked in a BMS, government offices can set spending limits; allocate work to a specific period; generate reports; or analyse repair costs for a specific component, whole bridge, or even network of bridges. On top of this, a BMS can be extended to other assets, such as tunnels, pedestrian bridges, culverts, camel underpasses and more.
Over the past few years, Aurecon has applied its experience as a leading global engineering and infrastructure advisory firm to develop highly advanced BMS for clients, enhancing existing software to create bespoke systems.
Implementing a BMS can transform how asset management is conducted. For instance, in one case, a government road authority was able to adjust its Principle Inspections (up-close visual inspections with use of traffic management and access equipment as necessary) timing so these were required only every 5 years. From there, 5-year maintenance budgets were generated, allowing the authority better oversight of its budget.
An effective BMS allows field staff to use mobile devices for inventory and inspection data collection. Allowing field data to be downloaded and uploaded via mobile devices minimises inspectors’ time in the office, reduces error, and allows faster identification of any potential safety concern.
Aurecon’s extensive experience in customising and implementing BMS in the GCC has allowed our engineers and asset managers to develop a suite of key understandings:
As our smart cities take shape across the globe and for the betterment of society it is essential that our infrastructure not only keep pace – but lead. BMS will be an influential part of our future infrastructure world that will deliver better performance and reliability for owners, operators and users.