- In recent years, multiple historic and contemporary timber buildings have been instrumented with sensors to monitor the performance of wood products and novel engineering systems. While literature states the potential of structural health monitoring (SHM) data to inform decision-making process of key stakeholders in the architects, engineers, contractors and manufacturers (AEC) industry, there is little evidence that the information embedded in SHM data is fully exploited. The objectives of this research are to better investigate the current use of SHM data by the wood construction industry to understand how the industry uses information from this data to make decisions. This research also aimed to understand which features of the currently available SHM platforms and data visualization tools were considered useful by AEC users for a range of different monitoring applications.
In order to achieve these objectives, this study included two main phases: 1) a literature review of timber SHM projects with the scope of identifying the main fields of application of SHM in timber buildings, the types of data produced and their use; 2) a survey among mass timber stakeholders in the U.S. Pacific Northwest to understand their perceptions on the value of SHM data, and preferences for ways to access and visualize monitoring data.
In the first phase, a systematic literature review was conducted by defining review scopes, literature search, practical screening, quality appraisal, data extraction, analysis of studies, and writing the review. This synthesis of the literature covers peer-reviewed research articles and grey literature investigating timber SHM projects. The literature survey focusing on projects examined in detail seventy-one (71) papers documenting monitoring of 193 timber structures from 1980 to 2019.
In the second phase, a web base survey was developed. The questionnaire included a total of 15 questions focused on three sections: 1) demographic information, perceptions on: 2) the applicability and usefulness of monitoring data, and 3) the accessibility and communication of monitoring data. The target population of this study was designers (architects, engineers), contractors and manufacturers in the U.S. Pacific Northwest mass timber industry. In this phase, forty responses were further analyzed. As a limitation of the method, partial responses were not possible to record, so an exact response rate could not be calculated.
Results of the literature review show that building owners mostly used SHM to assess structural safety/serviceability and damage of existing and historical buildings. The data-informed actions were mostly taken in buildings monitored for safety/serviceability assessment purposes. The results also show that most of the documented projects were research-driven. These projects reflect activities conducted by researchers. Research-driven projects provided useful information to evaluate a building performance and/or to validate/calibrate numerical models.
Results of the survey show that comparing designed with measured performance of a building was considered the most useful SHM application by the respondent group of wood construction stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest. Given the interest of academia and industry in similar applications of SHM data, interaction, between those who produce and analyze the data (mainly researchers) and decision-makers, is considered critical to assure that SHM systems are fully utilized after serving the purpose of a specific study. Survey results on industry’s preferences on visual data representations and interest on novel visualization formats (e.g., holographic data projections) may suggest to SHM technology experts strategies to improve typical graphic formats and implement new approaches for data communication.