Irish team develops record-breaking ‘flat pack’ arch
A team from Queen’s University Belfast and precast specialist Macrete Ireland has developed what is claimed to be the world’s longest ‘flat pack’ arch bridge.
The bridge is based on the FlexiArch – which has been used for some 50 bridges in the UK and Ireland over the last 10 years - and will be transported to site in flat-pack form. When lifted, it will transform under gravity into an arch.
It is due to be installed in the coming months and will span 16m over the Wallington River in Waterlooville, Hampshire. It is made up of 17 precast concrete units, each 1m wide and weighing 16t. It should take less than a day to install using a 200t-300t crane in association with a lifting beam also designed and built in Northern Ireland.
If the alternative of a conventional arch had been used it would have taken months to construct and would have cost much more, according to the university.
Macrete project manager Abhey Gupta said: “This innovative system is exceptional as it is easily transported in flat pack form and then rapidly installed on site. It is also unique as its strength does not depend on corrodible reinforcement, thus it should have a lifetime of at least 300 years whereas conventional bridges seldom achieve their design life of 120 years.”
Professor Adrian Long, from the School of Planning, Architecture & Civil Engineering at Queen’s University, who patented the FlexiArch concept in 2004, said: “This is a real milestone which has been reached as a result of the hard work, effective collaboration and the combined expertise of the Queen’s and Macrete team. We are delighted with this latest development and of how successful the FlexiArch system has become. Over 50 FlexiArch bridges have now been installed in the UK and Ireland where it has been found to be even more versatile than anticipated.” Long added that the FlexiArch system is also attracting international interest.
The FlexiArch system has seen continuous investment by Macrete since the company was granted exclusive licensing rights for the UK and Ireland in 2006. This, plus additional investment by Invest Northern Ireland, has allowed Macrete to provide 70-person-years of employment at the company’s headquarters in Toomebridge.