Life-cycle analyses methods are used for the assessment of new and existing bridges, as well as for the evaluation of maintenance strategies. Management systems, capturing different degradation processes, are very often used in relation to such life-cycle analyses methods. Such systems, developed for a structural condition assessment, are usually based on deterministic performance prediction models which describe the future condition by a functional correlation between structural condition attributes, such as the structural age, and the mechanical, chemical and thermal loading processes.
The practical implementation of such models requires detailed information about its variables, but due to the non-consideration of uncertainties in input variables (scattering values), it does not allow any statement about the quality of the prediction. However, probabilistic performance prediction models, which can be considered as a relevant goal, presume the incorporation of uncertainties in the descriptive variables by probability distribution functions and support conclusions about the quality of the performance prediction.
Deterioration could lead to a decrease of performance to such an extent that a structure could not be able to satisfy the basic serviceability and safety requirements before the design life has expired. In order to prevent the premature failure of a construction, structural codes provide several practical principles and application rules such as the use of protective systems for material exposed in aggressive environment, the construction detailing aimed at avoiding the initiation of degradation, the maintenance actions to be regularly performed, etc.
Each construction, during its life cycle, will face with deterioration depending on several factors such as the environmental condition, the natural aging, the quality of the material, the execution of works and the planned maintenance. Therefore, several design procedures based on the prediction of the deterioration that will likely act on the structure will be developed in the framework of the international research. In addition, performance indicators for the present and future structural conditions on deterministic and probabilistic level will be defined and determined.
Technical indicators: the goal in the first step is to explore those performance indicators of bridge structures, in the course of international research cooperation, which capture the mechanical and technical properties and its degradation behaviour. These properties are already partly covered by norm specifications but not their complex time variable performance. Moreover, environmental condition, natural aging, and the quality of the material regarding to determined indicators will be investigated and evaluated in their meaningfulness. These considerations, however, also include service life design methods, aimed at estimating the period of time during which a structure or any component is able to achieve the performance requirements defined at the design stage with an adequate degree of reliability. On the basis of the quality of input information (mainly concerning with the available degradation models), as sketched in the above description, it is possible to distinguish among deterministic methods, usually based on building science principles, expert judgment and past experience, which provide a simple estimation of the service life, and probabilistic methods;
Sustainable indicators: in addition to technical performance indicators, which characterize the ultimate capacity as well as serviceability conditions, sustainability indicators, environmental based, will be also formulated. These variables characterize the environmental impact of a structure in the course of its total life cycle, expressed in terms of total energy consumption, carbon footprint (CO2 emission), balance of raw materials, etc. These indicators can be separated into direct and indirect indicators, where the former are related to the construction/maintenance itself and the latter are caused e.g. as a consequence of limited functionality;
Other indicators: other sustainable indicators, economic and social based, may be used to evaluate a bridge performance. These indicators capture, based on the technical performance of a structure, additional aspects that may influence the decision process and typically represent the discounted (accumulated) direct or indirect costs associated with construction and maintenance. Summed up over the full life-time, they represent part of or the full life-cycle costs. They can, in the context of multi-objective optimization, be understood as a weighting scheme to arrive to a single objective function that is to be minimized.
The milestone for this task is the publication of a report on these performance indicators until the end of year 1. Such report will address a general description of these indicators, how they are assessed (e.g. visual inspection, non-destructive tests and monitoring systems), with what frequency, what values are generally obtained and, finally, some general recommendations. This outcome will be one of the main inputs of WG5, being also used by WG3. The main achievements will be published in refereed scientific journal papers and in international conferences. A summary of obtained results will be also available at both website and web 2.0 (e.g. facebook). A joint workshop on this field will be organized at the end of this task.