ECS Engineering Services is delivering a new technology to the UK for cycle and foot bridges, built around fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) technology to provide a durable, lightweight, modern alternative to traditional construction materials.
Prefabricated to any size, FRP pedestrian and cycle bridges offer a highly cost effective, innovative and maintenance-free solution, riding the curve of the composite revolution.
The FRP process for bridges was developed by Dutch company FiberCore Europe, the world’s leading manufacturer of fibre reinforced load-bearing structures for architecture and infrastructure. Although a relatively new technology to the UK, their patented InfraCore FRP bridge solution is proven in over 450 structures in Holland, including more than 200 cycle bridges – perhaps reflecting the Dutch love of cycling.
With a growing emphasis in the UK on cycling as part of a healthier lifestyle, as well as being an environmentally friendly mode of transport, there is a groundswell of interest in affordable and sustainable technologies for cycle paths generally and bridges in particular. FRP meets that requirement: up to three times lighter than traditional concrete or steel structures, while also being stronger and easier to maintain, the products are highly affordable and come with a 50 year guarantee as a testament to their quality. They have a design life in excess of 100 years.
ECS business development manager Steve Crapper comments; “Cycle and foot bridges made from traditional materials require regular maintenance to keep them in good condition, especially those of wooden construction. Even with regular maintenance, the lifespan of a timber bridge is limited. Steel bridges last longer, but the regular recoating needed to achieve the design life is an involved and expensive process that introduces many H&S and environmental risks. A maintenance free InfraCore FRP bridge solves these shortcomings, and more and more of these structures are now being replaced with composite bridges that are much more durable and have a significantly lower whole life cost.”
A particular benefit of the FRP construction process is that even complex shapes can be manufactured far more easily than with traditional materials. The shape, curvature and style of the bridge can all be decided at the design stage of the project, and the flexibility of composite manufacture enables many different designs of railings, lights and other fittings to be accommodated so that the appearance of the bridge blends in with the surrounding environment. Bridges up to 40 metres in length can be built using a single span, in a variety of clear widths and despite being moulded in a single piece, ECS has the experience to ensure that these structures can be transported to site and installed with the minimum of disruption.
The low weight of the structure also has cost advantages in creating suitable foundations and when it comes to installation, the crane used to erect the bridge, is smaller, and more cost effective, and installation times are reduced.
Despite their light weight, the cycle and foot bridges are constructed to allow loads up to 5kN/sqm as standard. They can even withstand occasional vehicular movements, thus allowing for emergency vehicles or maintenance operations.
Live loads in excess of this can be accommodated with an enhanced design, and the bridges can comfortably take a specified traffic load if required.
While FRP is well established for numerous uses in the UK, it was previously unknown as a viable option for bridges, so when ECS saw the work that FiberCore Europe was doing in Holland, the company spotted an opportunity to bring that innovation to its own clients.
Serving the construction and infrastructure markets with FRP solutions FiberCore was built on a foundation of experience and expertise in the aviation and aerospace sectors with the founders now applying their knowledge of sustainable and cutting edge technology to civil engineering under the InfraCore brand name.
Noting FiberCore’s innovation and the synergy with ECS’s business, Steve Crapper comments: “We saw that FiberCore had built an established business in Holland for products that were analogous to the type of work that ECS does in the UK.”
At the same time, FiberCore had been looking for a British partner to build structures for a UK client base, and liked what it found in ECS.
As a turnkey provider, ECS is well placed to go beyond a supply only package for the bridges, and provides a full design, supply and installation package that can include the civil engineering works where a client prefers to work with a single contractor.