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Geotechnical Health Monitoring

As new materials are discovered and technologies improved, buildings get
taller, bridges get longer spans and the designs of structures become
more ambitious, but more complex. Even with the advent of new
technologies, which helps in faster execution and cost reduction,
engineers are hesitant in implementing these methods due to lack of
confidence in their performance. While the conventional methods have
proven their effectiveness by withstanding the test of time, latest
technology requires a constant monitoring system to analyze its
Apart from high rise buildings and sky scrapers, critical building like
hospitals, schools, power plants etc. and buildings with public gathering
such as stadiums and commercial buildings, could cause harm to large
amount of people if collapsed. They should be taken care on a regular
basis, to avoid any damage due to any calamity, either natural or
While damage in a structure is well defined, the health of a
structure is much more of an abstract term. It can be referred to as
absence of damage. Damage is usually defined in terms of critical loads
and critical deflections. For a structure to be called healthy, the value of
stresses and deflections developed in the structure should be less than
the critical values during its serviceability period.
The following characteristics of a geotechnical structure makes it
necessary to have an instrumentation to evaluate its behaviour:

The structure is buried under the ground and visual inspections of

the health condition is not possible in most cases

Due to complex geological and hydrological conditions, there are
few uncertainties in the design and construction of the geotechnical

Department of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Branch,

NIT Durgapur

Geotechnical Health Monitoring

Since some geotechnical structures such as tunnels are very long,

large and complex, less experience is available for predicting the
behaviour and factor of safety for these structures

Structural health monitoring is the solution to all the problems

addressed above. Structural health monitoring (SHM) is a process aimed
at providing accurate and in-time information concerning structural
condition and performance on a proactive basis. It consists of (i)
permanent continuous,

(ii) periodic



periodically continuous

recording of representative parameters, over short or long terms. The

process of carrying out the monitoring of parameters in the substructure is
called geotechnical health monitoring.

The information obtained from

monitoring is generally used to plan and design maintenance, increase the

safety, verify hypotheses, reduce uncertainty and to widen the knowledge
concerning the structure being monitored.

Fig.1: Functioning of Geotechnical health monitoring

Department of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Branch,

NIT Durgapur

Geotechnical Health Monitoring

Department of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Branch,

NIT Durgapur

Geotechnical Health Monitoring


Though the concept of geotechnical and structural monitoring has picked
up pace in the last few years, the use of GE Monitoring can be traced back
as early as 1900s. The first generation of software can be dated back to
the early 1990s and in some cases even earlier. At this time, there were
typically small scale projects with tens of sensors. DOS based, custombuilt graphical representations were developed for each project. Some
examples include Arley Tunnel, London Bridge Bassett convergence









Expressway, Tamar Bridge, Brooklyn Pepsi Bottling Plant, New York, and
Gil-Hodge's Bridge.
The second generation of software was prevalent through the early
2000s. Software tended to be used for medium size projects with








graphical interfaces were developed with user configurable alarms

notification. Example software packages from that time include MultiMon,
BCSWin and I-Site. Example projects include: the New Parliament Building,
Jubilee Line Extension, Harrods, and the Channel Tunnel Railway Link.
The third generation of geotechnical and structural monitoring
software is being used in the present day of large scale infrastructure
projects, with thousands of sensors. Today's software tends to be webbased, without the need to install any software on the user's computer.
These systems were developed using back-end SQL databases and
provide significant functionality, including alarm messages, automated
PDF reports, and more. They are often purchased as software services
rather than stand-alone software.

Department of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Branch,

NIT Durgapur

Geotechnical Health Monitoring


Health Assessment process in monitoring is addressed in context of
pattern recognition paradigm which consists of four parts
1. Operational Evaluation.
2. Data Acquisition, Normalization and Cleansing.
3. Feature extraction and Data compression.
4. Statistical Model Development.


This process attempt to answer four main questions regarding the
implementation of damage identification capability.
1. What are the life safety and/or economic justification for performing
2. How is the damage defined for the system being investigated, and
for multiple damage possibilities which causes are of most concern?
3. What are the conditions, both operational and environmental, under
which system functions?
4. What are the limitations in acquiring data under the operating
Operational evaluation sets limits on what parameters are to be
monitored and how the monitoring will be acquired. This evaluation
narrows the damage identification process to features that are unique to
system and take advantage of these features of damage to be detected.


Department of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Branch,
NIT Durgapur

Geotechnical Health Monitoring

Data acquisition portion of SHM process involves selecting excitation


type of

sensors, number




and data

acquisition/storage hardware. The process is application specific and

mainly governed by economic considerations. The intervals at which data
should be collected is also considered here.
Normalization is the process of separating changes in sensor
readings caused by seasonal variations of environmental and operational
conditions. It is important to normalize the data as it is recorded over an
integral period of time under varying conditions. To normalize the data,
usual practice is to first run the system under different varying conditions.
The data thus obtained is saved, and during the actual monitoring
process, the data series is compared with test data and appropriately
evaluated. Of course, all source of variability cannot be eliminated.
Data cleansing is process of selectively choosing data to pass on, or reject
from feature selection process. As an example, an inspection of the test
setup may reveal that a sensor was loosely mounted and, hence, based
on the judgment of the individuals performing the measurement, this set
of data or the data from that particular sensor may be selectively deleted
from the feature selection process. It may also be done using signal
processing techniques such as filtering and re-sampling.


This is the process of identification of data features which allows one to
distinguish between damaged and undamaged structures. This is followed
through two approaches:
One is to collect data such as vibration and strain increase of the
structure, and compare this data with data obtained in the past for the
same structure. That is, the method analyses whether the structure is
behaving as it used to?
The second method is to analyze the structure using various analysis
softwares, to obtain the permissible values for features monitored, and
Department of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Branch,
NIT Durgapur

Geotechnical Health Monitoring

compare it with the present values. Thus it analyses if the structure is

behaving as it is supposed to be?
Data compression is an essential feature of SHM process. Since the
process extends over a period of time, it is necessary to compress data so
as to retain the sensitivity of the system.


The process is concerned with the implementation of algorithms that
operate on the extracted features to quantify the damage of structure.
The algorithms used for damage quantification mainly falls under two
categories, supervised and unsupervised.
When data are available from both the undamaged and damaged








classification and regression analysis are categories of supervised learning

algorithms. A supervised learning mode analysis not only helps in
detecting damage, but also in quantifying it.
The unsupervised learning mode refers to algorithms that are
applied to data not containing examples from damaged structures. Outlier
or novelty detection is the primary class of algorithms applied in
unsupervised learning applications. Depending on the purpose, weather
simply selection, or also quantification, the algorithms are appropriately

Department of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Branch,

NIT Durgapur

Geotechnical Health Monitoring


During the construction and operational phase of a structure, the
measured data, especially the displacement data is an important
parameter for evaluation of the structure. This is because most of the
failure criteria is based on deformation in the soil mass. Thus, the
measurement corrections should be strictly ensured.
Secondly, since it is difficult to identify the key cross section or
location of failure of a geotechnical structure, a large influence area
should be brought under monitoring, to predict potential failure. This leads
to increase in the number of measurement points and subsequently, the
cost of construction.
Thirdly, most of the geotechnical instruments are buried in soil or
rock masses. Replacement of these instruments are not possible in case of
damage or poor data recordings. Hence, instruments chosen must be
those which has a long life.
And last, most of the geotechnical instruments are subjected to very
harsh climates, pressures and humidity. Sites are often far from urban
locations. Instruments should be so chosen that they have high durability
and has automatic and remote data acquisition methods.
Department of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Branch,
NIT Durgapur

Geotechnical Health Monitoring

Department of Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Branch,

NIT Durgapur