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BrIM and Scanning LiDAR – Tools for Bridge Long Term Management in the Very Near Future



2017-11-16
BRIDGE Magazine

BrIM and Scanning LiDAR – Tools for Bridge Long Term Management in the Very Near Future
Shen-En Chen1 (陈圣恩), Haitao Bian2(卞海涛) and Yonghong Tong3 (仝永红)
1Deparment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, United States
2College of Safety Science and Engineering, Nanjing Tech University, China
3Department of Computer and Information Sciences, Niagara University, United States
 
Imagine a software that would allow users to share construction plans, CAD (computer aided design) drawings, detailed analysis and all associated operations including design and schedule changes for a site project – this integrated business practice between all project stakeholders would mean enhanced project experiences and improved product delivery to the customers and ultimately leading to significant cost saving and better quality products.  For bridge construction projects, this is the intent of the BrIM (Bridge Information Modeling) system. BrIM is an Information Technology (IT)-based software platform that helps in the generation and management of the digital information associated with a physical structure.  It integrates digital documents that can be shared, modified via Internet connectivity and user interactivities.  Currently, there are four or five BrIM systems under development in the US.
Because most bridges are publicly owned and critically related to public safety, BrIM systems have very different system design requirements(operational requirements, data format requirements, project delivery formats and public security requirements, etc.) than its closely-related cousin, the BIM (Building Information Modeling) systems.  Plus the fact that the owners of most bridges may be of different entities, such as federal, state or municipal governments, the economic and cost structures for BrIM and BIM are also different and are functions of the level of government and stakeholder participations.  These considerations make it an important issue to determine the future direction for BrIM development.
Remote sensing, the utilization of LiDAR scanning in particular, has gained rapid popularities in applications within the civic construction and land development industries.  The digital survey and graphic representation capabilities of scanning LiDAR make it an attractive and logical technology for addressing the geometric representations of large, massive structures such as buildings, bridges and tunnels. Hand-held and terrestrial scanning lasers have been integrated with CAD (computer aided design) drawings for product design-conformation and validation. Hence, several CAD and LiDAR pointcloud coordinate integration software are readily available (Bisio, 2017).  The use of Scanning LiDAR for constructed structure delivery validation is a natural evolution of the construction industry in the digital age.  However, unlike manufacturing, LiDAR scans of buildings and bridges are often faced with scale effects (target distance, dimensions) and environmental effects (air quality, lighting conditions). Nonetheless, the potential of extensive scanning LiDAR applications in the construction industry is perceptible and highly anticipated.  There have been reports of integrating LiDAR data into BIM for building construction and design improvements (Schefcik, 2017).
During a recent meeting (August 8th, 2017) at the CCCC Highway Consulting Co. regarding BrIM and scanning laser technologies, several critical topics associated with both technologies have been discussed.  The discussion helped realized yet another potential application of the BrIM: The system can be integrated into bridge long term maintenance strategy and repair planning (the operation, maintenance and repair stage of a bridge’s life)with life cycle cost analysis (Yen 2017).  This integration not only transition BrIM to value-based engineering, but it also allows bridge management to enter into the digital age.  Software tools for bridge management have been utilized for many years- currently, there are several bridge management systems (BMS) available worldwide.  However, BMSs are mostly for post-construction use and not integrated into the bridge life-cycle that started from the design and development phase.  The development of BrIM systems would allow early entry of the bridge maintenance concepts into design phase and ensure a more comprehensive life cycle management. In this paper, we intent to summarize the central ideas from the discussion at the meeting and provide some background information associated with the subject matter.
A Brief History of Bridge Management and BMS in the US
Below is a brief history of US bridge management policies and is presented to illustrate the concerns and drives for bridge condition inspection.  Like the US, China has very similar requirements and policies toward bridge management (Dai et al. 2014).  Bridges are public access structures and hence, are government regulated.  In the US, there was no nation-wide bridge safety inspection and maintenance regulations before the 1960s.  In 1967, bridge safety issues first attracted a broad public interest after the collapse of the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant, West Virginia (46 people were killed).As a result, a national bridge inspection standard was demanded by the U.S. Congress and the bridge inspection authorization was added to the “Federal Highway Act of 1968”. In 1970, the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) system was reauthorized in the “Federal Highway Act” and formed the basis for funding for the Special Bridge Replacement Program (SBRP). In 1971, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Bridge Inspector’s Training Manual, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) Manual for Maintenance Inspection of Bridges, and the FHWA Recording and Coding Guide for the Structure Inventory and Appraisal of the Nation’s Bridges were developed to form the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS).
 
The 1978 Surface Transportation Assistance Act changed the basis for eligibility of bridges for federal funding and the National Bridge Inventory Program (NBIP) was expanded to include bridges on all public roads. The SBRP was replaced by the Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (HBRRP), in which funding for bridge rehabilitation was added to replacement projects. Finally, in 1995, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) legislation required each state implement a comprehensive Bridge Management System (BMS).Figure 1 shows a schematic history of the development of the U.S. bridge inspection and management practice that is accomplished by various federal-state-local partnerships.  Two of the key technology advances associated with bridge management is inspection technologies and bridge scanning technologies – both closely associated with the evidential data aspect of bridge management – the temporal recording of the existing conditions of the bridge structure for the life cycle evaluation of a structure.  Bridge scanning technologies resulted in several imaging techniques.
 

Figure 1 US Bridge Management History and the Critical Elements Associated with Bridge Management(Bridge Inspection and Bridge Scanning)
 
In the United States, several BMSs have been developed for bridge management, such as the Pontis and Bridgit. Pontis is a BMS developed by the FHWA in conjunction with state DOTs and a joint venture consulting firm.  More than 40 states use Pontis to manage their bridges or bridge database. Bridgit is an initiative carried out by the American National Research Council as a research project jointly sponsored by AASHTO and the FHWA under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP).
 
GIS-Based BMS Developments and Possible BrIM Integration
BMS requires accurate bridge condition data input - existing bridge inspection and bridge condition data collection process is a multi-step process that may take months to accomplish. The entire process, which includes preparing for inspection, conducting on-site inspection, completing the inspection forms, inputting the inspection data, and storing the data in state DOT (department of transportation) bridge inventory, may last several days (This is where digital technology can best help improve the process). Figure 2 summarizes the bridge inspection and data collection process, which shows the complexity of bridge condition data which may include visual inspection results, various (destructive or non-destructive) testing sensor and transducer data, terrestrial and aerial photographic imageries, load test or other stress test results, and other utility data (deck drainage, traffic, channel flow, scouring and sign and luminaire conditions).
The dawn of digital era sees several changes to the design of BMS: Saito (1988) developed a network level bridge management system for the Indiana Department of Highway to manage state-owned bridges with applications including the development of methods to set priority for bridge maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement alternatives. Chase et al. (1999) suggested several different relational database management approaches and data warehousing techniques to efficiently utilize the NBI (national bridge inventory) bridge information and GIS (geographical information system) database. She et al. (1999) developed a model to support the development of a GIS-based bridge management system by using a hybrid business and information modeling approach. This may be the earliest model of GIS-based BMS. Karlaftis et al. (2005) developed a Web-supported national bridge inventory management tool to aid bridge engineer in accessing, retrieving, manipulating, or obtaining information from NBI database.
 

Figure 2 Bridge Inspection and Data Collection Process Encompassing Various Elements Including Visual Inspection, Condition Sensing, Load Testing, Scans and Load Rating and Posting.
 
BMS can benefit from recent developments in Internet technologies, which make it possible for data communication among the Web servers and end users (Web 2.0) - The information can be shared and transferred from one place to another around the globe with users making choices for access to the geography related information. The integration of GIS and Internet further provides users the flexible accessibility to geospatial information at any time and any place. GIS has special features for the storage, retrieval, manipulation, analysis, and display of geographically referenced data and the system offers a high degree of flexibility to upload relevant information throughout the user participation process.  Most current Web-GIS applications are focused on environmental studies with fewer applications on infrastructure monitoring and management. Shi et al. (2005) presented the development of a bridge structural health monitoring and information management system by employing GIS, database and other related technologies.  Wang et al. (2010) developed an Integrated Remote Sensing and Visualization (IRSV) bridge management system which is proposed to help bridge managers to comprehend voluminous, heterogeneous bridge data from four essential perspectives: geospatial, temporal, relational and per-bridge attributes. An interactive data exploration environment is implemented to help bridge manager evaluate the bridge based on internal factors and/or external factors.

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