Future timber bridges in focus

Timber bridges can in the future begin to be built on a larger scale in Germany. That was one of the news from the international conference on timber bridges, held last week in Skellefteå.

Skellefteå was the place for the third international conference on timber bridges. Luleå University of Technology stood as an organizer together with RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden. For four days, about 90 timber bridge experts could exchange experiences and link new contacts.

– Timber bridges have low weight and can be mounted quickly, minimizing traffic interference. They are also beautiful to look at and appreciated by architects, but not as much by designers – so far. Another advantage of timber bridges compared with conventional bridges is less environmental impact due to reduced CO2 emissions. The biggest challenge with timber bridges is to increase the technical life span, says Anders Gustafsson, researcher at RISE.

Important forum

After Lillehammer 2010 and Las Vegas 2013, it was Skellefteå that was the place for the third international conference on timber bridges.

– An interesting thing that was discussed at the conference is that the Germans are now thinking about starting to build wooden bridges on a larger scale. That was almost impossible before due to regulations, says Mats Ekevad, Professor of Wood Science and Engineering at Luleå University of Technology.

Olle Hagman, Professor of Wood Science and Engineering at Luleå University of Technology, was very pleased with the conference.

– I have received very positive comments, an international forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences of timber bridges is important. Promoting the international development of wooden bridges creates the conditions for authorities to allow the construction of these bridges in road networks. Together we can remove problems surrounding wooden bridges that arise due to lack of competence in design, construction, assembly and maintenance.

Visited timber bridges

The conference began with the guests seeing different timber bridges in Skellefteå, including Lejonströmsbron from 1737, Sweden's oldest timber bridge and Älvsbackabron from 2011, which is located near Campus Skellefteå, where the conference was held. The presentations during the following days included the design of timber bridges, case studies, as well as testing and monitoring, such as moisture measurement, of bridges.

Historically, timber bridges have been common, but after the Second World War, steel and concrete bridges have dominated. The hope is now that timber bridges will once again become more common.

– The Swedish Transport Administration is interested. They want both competition and the opportunity to choose the best material for every project. Then it is up to the manufacturers how much they invest, says Anna Pousette, researcher at RISE, to the newspaper Norran. She was also one of the project leaders for the conference together with Anders Gustafsson, Mats Ekevad and Olle Hagman.

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