Juan Sobrino

  • Less And Better. Good Design Practices For Sustainable Bridges

    C.E.O., Pedelta, Canada

    Bridges and transportation infrastructures have a huge social and economic impact on our lives. Consequently, design engineers and the construction industry have developed cost-efficient bridges. Unfortunately, this construction cost-driven approach often results in bridges with a poor appearance or poorly suited to the context. Although one can understand that the bridges are typically paid with public resources and therefore should be economical, we should not use cost as synonymous with value.

    Often, cost-effective structures in developed countries tend to minimize labour costs at the expense of utilizing more materials and more embodied energy. Although the design process entails many complexities not easy to integrate, there is room to improve our bridge design practice.

    Less and better's key focus is to fully recognize our planet's limited resources and maximize the design quality under these specific circumstances: to do more with less. Less and better is about appreciating the many dimensions and complexities of the project, including the technical aspects, historical and social context relations, visual qualities, and environmental and economic development constraints.

    The "less and better" design approach is aligned with the ethical engineer's duty to observe the collective welfare as paramount: to build better bridges sympathetic to the intellect's pleasures and sustainability principles. The benefits of design excellence while minimizing the bridge's carbon footprint are consequential with sustainable and meaningful progress.

    The lecture will focus on good design practices to achieve sustainable bridges by efficiently using materials and detailing to extend the structure's lifespan, including the author's experience using advanced materials such as duplex stainless steel and GFRP.