New Zealand’s biggest bridge testing at UC
August 14, 2013
New Zealand’s biggest testing of a concrete bridge will take place at the University of Canterbury (UC) over the next
The bridge part is a fully prefabricated half-scale multi-column bridge support for a typical 30 metre long New Zealand
Dr Alessandro Palermo says building of bridges since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes have changed significantly. The
rebuild of Christchurch will involve huge labour and big construction companies like Fletcher and Fulton Hogan who are
starting embrace new methods based on accelerating bridge construction (ABC).
Prefabrication of bridge elements are now being made in an off-site factory. The bridge parts are transported to the
construction site for the assembly.
This allows the bridge to be constructed within a few weeks or even days, compared to the traditional cast-in-place
construction which can take several months.
``Prefabrication also provides advantages such as minimised traffic disruption, rapid construction, improved safety on
the work site, higher quality control of the materials, higher durability, lower life-cycle costs and a reduced
``Prefabricated bridges have been used in areas of low seismicity since the 1990s, in countries such as the USA and
Taiwan. In the USA, prefabrication of bridges has become common and in some states, such as Texas, prefabrication is now
the preferred construction method for highway bridges.
``Prefabricated bridges are not yet in use extensively in areas of high seismicity due to uncertainty of the seismic
``The specimen to be tested at Canterbury weighs more than 22 tonnes. It will be loaded with an additional 60 tonnes to
simulate the weight of the bridge deck it will support.
``The specimen will then be pushed to failure point in order to assess its seismic performance for extreme earthquake
events. The test will be a world-first at an international level as the concept was only proposed in 2011 by the
National Co-operative Highway Research Programme in the USA but has not been tested at this scale with multiple
The testing today is part of the ABC research project funded by the Natural Hazards Research Platform and supervised by
Dr Palermo. A UC engineering student, Mustafa Mashal, is doing his PhD on the project and is in charge of testing.
Left to right Dr Alessandro Palermo, Sam White and Mustafa Mashal at the UC bridge testing site