The ISIS Canada Research Network (ISIS) was established in 1995 to advance the civil engineering profession in Canada to a world leadership position through the use of advance composite materials and the application of structural health monitoring (SHM) to civil infrastructure, such as bridges. The Network —headquartered at the University of Manitoba— comprises 14 Canadian universities (five of them western), 30 principal investigators (engineering professors), 185 researchers and 50 to 75 government and industry partners.
ISIS has revolutionized the design of bridges and structures through the use of new materials and design concepts. After 14 years of research and field demonstration projects, ISIS has created an awareness among owners of infrastructure that the benefits of using fibrereinforced polymers (FRPs) and SHM are enormous. ISIS has done this by:
- developing unique design manuals that were used as a basis for updating the bridge design
- codes; and
- developing complementary materials;
- education modules;
- durability monographs;
- guidelines for certification of FRP products; and
- life cycle engineering and costing models.
As a result of these innovations, design engineers are now increasingly receptive to corrosionfree bridge decks and the use of SHM to safely extend the life of structures. The Structural Health Monitoring Support Centre (SHMSC) For the past decade, ISIS has been helping owners of infrastructure, consulting engineers, contractors and manufacturers reap the benefits of using FRPs to strengthen structures and SHM to determine the safety and lifespan of bridges, structures and buildings, including heritage facilities. As the use of ISIS design concepts and technologies became more commonplace, the need for guidance and advice accelerated and expanded.
ISIS used a two‐fold approach to meet this need, providing assistance on:
- design regarding the use of FRPs on a regional basis through ISIS’s eminent civil engineering research professors; and
- the application of SHM to civil infrastructure.
Because SHM required a centralized approach (to manage the pool of specialized equipment and technology) from the outset, ISIS formally established the Structural Health Monitoring Support Centre (SHMSC) at the University of Manitoba in 2002. Since then, the SHMSC has advanced the technology and served ISIS clientele by:
- assembling a team of expertise that has developed specifications and guidelines for the application of SHM;
- sending trained personnel to project sites throughout Canada to facilitate the monitoring of new and aging structures;
- training local ISIS personnel in SHM application technologies and the interpretation of readout data; and
- providing monitoring equipment on a commercial basis to clients trained in applying SHM to civil infrastructure.
These services have been well used and appreciated. Clients have expressed a clear desire and need for ISIS to continue the services. The need for collaborative development has also emerged with wireless technology for SHM.
The Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) Support Centre, based in the structures laboratory at the University of Manitoba, now provides guidance and technical advice on all aspects of ISIS technologies—from the use of FRPs, life cycle engineering and costing considerations to the application of SHM. It is now the “go‐to centre” for the Canadian engineering design, construction and manufacturing community.
ISIS has made great strides in increasing use of FRPs and SHM for civil structures. Hundreds of projects have benefited, notably the Winnipeg floodway expansion. However, widespread use of these technologies is still not a reality for several reasons. One is that few design engineers have sufficient experience in applying the new materials and concepts. To take full advantage of their benefits, engineers need guidance and a source of reference in using the updated code.
Another reason is the reality that most structures have unique design considerations. Innovative rehabilitation and repair techniques using FRPs present design challenges that often require consultation with experienced ISIS personnel—creating, as a byproduct, the need for new product development, such as the ice bridge initiative (see section 3 below).
FRPs and SHM are no longer experimental. They are now an integral part of meeting civil infrastructure needs. However, until design practice using ISIS technologies matures, clients will need an “ISIS go‐to centre” for technical consultation and advice. The objective of the ISIS Canada Resource Centre is to fulfill this need so that Canadians can reap the full benefit of 14 years of ISIS research and the $100 billion potential savings gained from the longer service lifespan of infrastructure and easier maintenance and repair.
Transition As ISIS neared the end of its Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE) mandate, it became clear that the Network would need longer‐term support to bring about the full benefits of the technologies it had developed. Starting in 2007, a plan was formulated to transform the Structural Health Monitoring Support Centre into an independent, full service organization— the ISIS Canada Resource Centre. A key aspect of the plan was the recognition of further effort needed to commercialize FRP and SHM. Neither Canada’s small and medium‐sized FRP and SHM businesses nor the government user sector has the capacity to close the gap between existing research and economically viable commercial products and services.
“There is no doubt ISIS is world‐leading in this field now,” Urs Meier (Deputy Director General of the United Swiss Federal Laboratories, 2009) said.
“I would say they have been leaders for eight or ten years. And you know, it’s frustrating for me to say that because we were once number one.”
The ISIS Canada Resource Centre, 2011 Forward
The centre’s activities are funded through provincial government grants, research contracts, fee for service contracts and University support.
The Resource Centre Provides:
- SHM system design
- System construction
- Sensor installation
- Live data site maintenance
- Data management and processing
- Field testing
- Web-based monitoring
- Design Manuals (Civionics Specifications)
- Assistance of demonstration projects
- System performance assessment
- Structural performance assessment
- Technical support
- Independent testing facilities
- Field training and workshops
- Materials testing