Building Blocks for the Future

by John W. Fisher, (M.ASCE), Director; Center for Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS), Lehigh Univ., Bethlehem, PA,
William D. Michalerya, Manager; Industry Liaison and Technology Transfer, Center for Advanced Tech. for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS), Lehigh Univ., Bethlehem, PA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 10, Pg. 82-84

Document Type: Feature article


In the near term, advanced, conventional materials�namely higher-strength steel and concrete�will dominate infrastructure rehab. New steels of higher strengths and toughness are increasingly being developed by the steel industry for structural applications, but their use will only be justified when the total life cycle and extended service life are considered together. In addition, concrete strengths continue to climb from the conventional strength of 3,000-6,000 psi. The tower at 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, for instance, used 11,000 psi. The combined use of steel and concrete may create one of the most attractive material alternatives of the 1990s. Hybrid structures would boast major advantages over single-material structures; a high-strength steel/concrete composite can provide economies unattainable by using either of the traditional materials alone, resulting in structures with increased strength, stiffness and ductility. As for new materials, barriers still exist to the widespread application of fiber composites and plastics simply because the knowledge base is very limited and the proof of long-term durability and performance is lacking. Before any new material can be widely implemented, extensive R&D is needed. History painfully illustrates that problems occur when new technologies are applied prematurely. All too often, costly retrofit or reconstruction follows.

Subject Headings: Strength of materials | High-strength steel | Structural strength | Composite materials | Structural steel | Steel structures | Rehabilitation

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