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Industrial PhD to improve quality of pavements in port and industrial areas

Photo: Jan Edvardsen

Fewer damages, longer durability and lower costs – those are the target outcomes of an industrial PhD project on pavements in port and industrial areas that COWI is carrying out in cooperation with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

Heavy vehicles and containers place large, continual loads on pavements in port and industrial areas. Lack of knowledge of the impact of such heavy loads means that pavement designers often need to wear belt and braces when designing, and therefore are not always able to fully meet the customer's expectations for inexpensive materials.

Even though port and industrial areas come with a completely different set of conditions than ordinary roads, pavements in those areas are mostly designed based on technology for ordinary roads. The reason is that there exist no national or international standards on design of this type of pavements. A number of guidelines are available, but because they are based on experience, they are linked to the specific material and the climate and loads that were applied during their development.

You can calculate anything

"What I wanted was to develop a general theoretic model that provides pavement designers with far better insight into how pavements in areas subjected to high loads act and when they break," explains PhD student Asmus Skar from COWI, letting us in on his reasons for embarking on the project.

A year remains of the project and if all goes according to Skar's expectations, the project will produce a model that lets you calculate the impact of anything – from how cranes and machines move around the area, to different materials and climate aspects.

Fewer damages and longer durability

Gregers Hildebrand, Head of Section in COWI's department of Roads and Airports, expects the new model to benefit a wide range of groups in the port and industry segment.

"Ultimately, increasing our knowledge of pavement behaviour will translate into longer durability and fewer damages, such as potholes and rutting in surfacing. In turn, we will most likely also be able to optimise construction and life-cycle costs, saving owners, operators and investors money."

Because the model will be able to calculate practically any scenario, designers will be able to approach the limit of material durability, allowing them to, e.g., design thinner pavements. That will afford far greater flexibility on every single project.

"In other words, we will be able to offer our customers the reliable solutions they need, at the lowest possible price," Hildebrand adds.

Stepping stone for innovative and sustainable solutions

From a long-term perspective, the model will pave the way for more cost-effective, innovative and sustainable pavements. It will be easier to test materials such as recycled materials and industrial waste products.
When asked why COWI chose to invest in that type of PhD project, Hildebrand says:

"We gain unique technical knowledge which we believe will be of interest to owners and operators in the port and container terminal industries. Not to mention, COWI generally invests in development and innovation, giving our employees the possibility of professional development at the highest level."

The PhD project ends in August 2016.

By Molise Windfeld-Tolsøe mowt@cowi.com

Published: 09.11.15

LAST UPDATED: 29.09.2017