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From Timber Engineering (via Reliability) to Structural Sensing

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Maria Marques de Carvalho.

You may be thinking, “this sounds like it will be a vague and rambling research presentation.” In the event, you may be right, but I would argue that there is a strong thread that joins these fields. After spending any time studying timber engineering, and hearing what an unpredictable and variable material wood is (although perhaps it’s only as unpredictable and variable a structural material as concrete), you can’t help but be drawn to the field of structural reliability to think about how we deal with that variability. Then, after a while looking at structural reliability and considering how we deal with uncertainty in structural design, it’s hard to resist thinking about ways that we can try to reduce that uncertainty, and it might seem like a good idea to put sensors on buildings and other structures to try to find out what’s really happening to structures in-situ.

My research over the last few years has followed that path, and this talk will introduce: some of the strange behaviour of timber connections that I investigated in the Natural Material Innovation group in Cambridge; a study of structural reliability of traditional structures in Madagascar; and attempts to get useful information from sensor data on timber buildings, road bridges and the MX3D footbridge in Amsterdam. In all this work, I’m interested in how we can use the measured behaviour of structures to allow engineers (or self builders in Madagascar) to design and build with more confidence with a wider range of materials.

This talk is part of the Engineering Department Structures Research Seminars series.

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