National Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction (SoFSI) Laboratory

The University of Bristol has received capital investment of £12M for the construction of a National Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction (SoFSI) Laboratory to enable large prototype scale experiments for use by both academics and industry.

This laboratory forms part of the first phase of the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) network of 13 national laboratories seeking to underpin the renewal, sustainment and improvement of infrastructure and cities in the UK and elsewhere.

The ways in which real structures, such as offshore wind turbines, large span bridges, rail tracks, nuclear power plants and buildings, actually interact with their foundations and the surrounding soil are inadequately understood, resulting in conservatisms in design, construction and operation, that drives up costs and inhibits innovation.

This laboratory will integrate structural and geotechnical engineering for soil structure testing and will fill key gaps in our understanding which cannot be resolved using conventional, smaller scale, laboratory tests or prototype observations. The SoFSI Facility will enable us to deliver a unique, high value, capability for de-risking investments in innovation and development, for example in life-extension techniques for existing infrastructure or the application of new materials and devices.

The laboratory has been under development for a number of years, and we are pleased to announce that this will be sited on the University of Bristol’s Langford Campus. This site will provide a space suitable for the scale of the facility with good transport links locally, nationally and internationally.

The SoFSI facility will comprise:

  • a 6mx4m biaxial shaking table with a 50t capacity, capable of meeting BELLCORE test standards with a peak acceleration at 2g and maximum frequency of 50Hz.
  • a 6mx5m test pit with a depth of 4m with adjacent strong floors for mounting 2 no. 1MN pseudostatic actuators (1000mm stroke) and 1 no. 1MN dynamic actuator (500mm stroke).
  • a high g multi-axis simulation table with a 500kg capacity, capable of a peak acceleration of 8g.
  • a 30t gantry crane with a maximum lift height of 8m above floor level.
  • internal and external working and storage areas.

Planning permission has now been granted for the facility and site clearance works have been completed. Construction is due to begin in early 2019, with full operation by early 2021. Research funding is being established so that the laboratory will be fully active from mid 2021.

We hope to engage with a wide variety of academic and industrial stakeholders to make the most of this new facility.

For more information please contact Professor Anastasio Sextos.

This is a unique opportunity to promote innovation and improve our understanding of how infrastructure actually works at full-scale in the laboratory and in the field.

Professor Anastasios Sextos, Head of Research Group
High g multi-axis simulation table
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