Getting more out of existing structures: Steel bridge strengthening via UHPFRC

Henar Martín-Sanz*, Konstantinos Tatsis, Domagoj Damjanovic, Irina Stipanovic, Aljosa Sajna, Ivan Duvnjak, Uros Bohinc, Eugen Brühwiler, Eleni Chatzi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
103 Downloads (Pure)


Ultra-high-performance fiber-reinforced cement-based composite (UHPFRC) has been increasingly adopted for rehabilitation projects over the past two decades, proving itself as a reliable, cost-efficient and sustainable alternative against conventional methods. High compressive strength, low permeability and high ductility are some of the characteristics that render UHPFRC an excellent material for repairing existing aged infrastructure. UHPFRC is most commonly applied as a surface layer for strengthening and rehabilitating concrete structures such as bridge decks or building slabs. However, its implementation with steel structures has so far been limited. In this work, the UHPFRC strengthening of a steel bridge is investigated both in simulation as well as in the laboratory, by exploiting a real-world case study: the Buna Bridge. This Croatian riveted steel bridge, constructed in 1893, repaired in 1953, and decommissioned since 2010, was removed from its original location and transported to laboratory facilities for testing prior to and after rehabilitation via addition of UHPFRC slab. The testing campaign includes static and dynamic experiments featuring state-of-the-art monitoring systems such as embedded fiber optics, acoustic emission sensors and digital image correlation. The information obtained prior to rehabilitation serves for characterization of the actual condition of the structure and allows the design of the rehabilitation solution. The UHPFRC slab thickness was optimized to deliver optimal fatigue and ultimate capacity improvement at reasonable cost. Once the design was implemented, a second round of experiments was conducted in order to confirm the validity of the solution, with particular attention allocated to the interface between the steel substrate and the UHPFRC overlay, as the connection between both materials may result in a weak contact point. A detailed fatigue analysis, based on updated FEM models prior to and after strengthening, combined with the results of a reliability analysis prove the benefits of adoption of such a solution via the significant extension of the structural lifespan.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26
JournalFrontiers in Built Environment
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Fatigue
  • Modal analysis
  • Performance indicators
  • Reliability
  • Strengthening
  • System identification


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