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Sharing critical to beneficial use of monitoring data

Infrastructure and major civil engineering projects must speed up sharing of geotechnical instrumentation and monitoring data in order to improve design on future schemes.

During a panel debate session at yesterday’s GE Instrumentation and Monitoring Conference in London it emerged that it can take up to five years for lessons learnt from data gathered during the work to be shared.

Laing O’Rourke geo-environmental engineering leader Peter Hewitt said that he had not seen much application of the observational method in the UK. “Vast sums are being spent on monitoring and the data is not being used effectively,” he said.

Hewitt added that overdesign means that the sector is often monitoring structures that are never going to move and the monitoring is just for insurance purposes and he called for a shift in the way monitoring is used in the future to improve geotechnical design. “There is a desperate need to openly share data to avoid massive overdesign in structures,” he said.

The need to assurance of stakeholders was also cited as the main reason why it is difficult for new technology to be used on major schemes. “We are open to using new technology but it’s a struggle as stakeholders want to see a comparable use of the system before accepting it for the scheme that affects them,” added Hewitt. “Developers of emerging technology do not help themselves as the request to sign non-disclosure agreements to retain their competitive edge makes it hard to explore the benefits with stakeholders and clients.”

A poll of delegates at the end of the session suggests that this issue will not change significantly in the next five years with 58% expecting to still be using the same technology as today by 2021

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