Our research mission is to make a significant contribution to the development of a new generation of innovative high-performance infrastructure systems. Research interests focus on composite or hybrid solutions on the material, component and structural system levels with an emphasis on advanced composite materials and lightweight structures.

Current research areas include sandwich structures, adhesive joints, fire endurance and fatigue and fracture of advanced composite materials, joints and structural components. Together with basic research, collaboration with industry and the resulting technology transfer and product development are of key importance.

Recent earthquakes in Chile (2010) and New Zealand (2011) revealed the risk related to out-of plane failures of reinforced concrete walls. While the walls in Chile and New Zealand had all thicknesses of more than 15 cm, there are regions in the world where—due to material costs—walls as thin as 8 cm are used for the construction of buildings of several stories.

Concrete is one of the most consumed materials in earth and cement production is currently responsible for a significant fraction of human’s carbon footprint. Fundamental challenges need still to be addressed in the domain of structural concrete to lead to a sustainable and rational use of the material.
Amongst these challenges, the Structural Concrete Laboratory is focusing research efforts on fundamental topics such as:
  • Developing concrete structures with a reduced ecological footprint using new materials and new design approaches
  • Models for the design of new structures and the assessment of existing ones based on more mechanical and fundamental approaches: mechanical models replacing empirical ones, a step forward in fundamental and structural testing, multi-scale material approach, long-term behaviour of concrete structures, reliability and robustness of design.

Practical and material orientated academic research has become increasingly important for architectural practice. This is due to several reasons. First of all, it contributes to contemporary concepts in architecture and improves their implementation. Today’s architects are looking for a deeper understanding of technical and technological questions related to architecture: technology, construction methods as well as structural considerations are no longer seen as bothersome necessities, as it was often the case in the past. The importance of those aspects and the potential of including them in the architectural design process as active stimulus are largely recognized. It’s the limitations in time and capacities that more often than not confound the realisation of such ambitions. Academic research can fill this gap and provide architectural practices with the necessary resources.

Our is to take advantage of multi-disciplinary synergies in order to study the real behavior civil-engineering structures. We maintain competence in structural mechanics, dynamics, measurement of full-scale structures, materials science and information technology. Comparison of data obtained from measurement systems with simulations improves development of appropriate predictive models. Finally, application of information technology has been shown to facilitate data management, collaboration between partners, structural control and decision support.

Current structural engineering is still predominately driven by a spirit to design and build new structures. The structural engineer’s vocation is to design and build, even when dealing with existing structures. For many structural engineers, the opinion still prevails that an existing structure has a finite service life of 80 to 100 years and then needs to be replaced by a new structure. While this spirit was perhaps rational 50 years ago, it is nowadays far away from modern society’s demands calling for a focused approach on the built infrastructure. Existing structures are an asset and wealth of a society, and structural engineers are more and more often called upon to maintain and enhance existing structures and infrastructure effectively, within the availability of limited (public) funds, instead of replacing existing structures by new construction.

The central focus of the laboratory is how to develop new approaches, metrics and tools to enhance resilient-based design of steel and composite-steel structures under multiple hazards. This is achieved through integrated experimental and computational research that utilizes the latest advancements in material science with high-fidelity nonlinear finite element analysis validated with multi-scale experimental testing. Our research advances from active collaboration with leading academic institutions and steel industry partners from around the world.

Research topics span across steel buildings and bridges, performance-based earthquake engineering, seismic risk and loss assessment, computational modeling of ultimate limit states such as geometric and material instabilities, multi-scale experimental testing of conventional and high-performance systems.