The new UKCRIC Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction (SoFSI) facility is one-of-a-kind, promising to deliver major cost savings and reduce the carbon cost of high-value infrastructure projects.
The University of Bristol has opened its new UKCRIC Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction (SoFSI) facility. It is a one-of-a-kind facility that promises to deliver major cost savings and reduce the carbon cost of high-value infrastructure projects such as nuclear power plants, High Speed 2 (HS2), bridges and offshore wind farms.
One of the major applications for this laboratory will be nuclear power plant soil-structure interaction. Incorporating seismic safety into the design of a nuclear plant can be very costly, and is often still done in isolation to other safety calculations, making safety margins overly conservative. Likewise, failure to model issues like the soil-structure interface will increase design and construction costs of plant if they are not integrated into the planning process from the start.
The University of Bristol has significant expertise in seismic qualification for nuclear plant; the PLEX (Plant Life Extension) project was initiated in 2008 with EDF, which provided vital evidence to underpin the seismic safety assessment of EDF's ageing Advanced Gas‐cooled Reactor (AGR) nuclear power station fleet.
The University of Bristol received £12m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for the construction of the SoFSI Laboratory at its Langford Campus to enable large, close to prototype scale experiments for use by both academics and industry.
The SoFSI facility looks at how buildings and infrastructure interact with the ground when subjected to dynamic loads. The laboratory houses a four-metre (6m x 5m x 4m) deep soil pit for testing foundations, a 50-ton capacity biaxial shaking table for dynamic testing of structures and a smaller, high-performance, six-axis shaking table.
The large-scale test lab will allow researchers and industry to investigate how foundations, dynamic loading and soil interact so they can identify more efficient building methods and significantly improve the safety of future infrastructure. This research will inform the design of smart solutions to improve the resilience of such infrastructure and crucially, the cost-efficiency of construction.
The lab has been designed for research into five core areas: nuclear power plant soil-structure interaction, high speed rail, offshore wind turbines, monopiles and pile groups, and integral bridges.
“Ensuring the long-term safety of critical infrastructure is paramount, particularly when it comes to building nuclear power stations or high-speed rail. The aim of this testing facility is to inform design that is not only safer but also cost-efficient. Investigating how buildings and infrastructure interact with the ground under natural and man-made hazards allows us to improve the smartness and resiliency of our infrastructure while at a lower financial cost and a reduced environmental footprint."
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Further information on UKCRIC
The UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction (SoFSI) Laboratory is a state-of-the-art facility designed to enable research into the structural-geotechnical boundary, supporting the UKCRIC mission to underpin the renewal, sustainment and improvement of infrastructure and cities in the UK and elsewhere.
This laboratory forms part of the first phase of the UKCRIC network of 13 universities delivering 10 national laboratories seeking to underpin the renewal, sustainment and improvement of infrastructure and cities in the UK and elsewhere. The total investment has been in excess of £150m over five years from 2016.