Rough Crossing: Ahead of Its Time

Sometimes it can be lonely on the cutting edge. A School of Engineering project to design a pedestrian bridge in Vestavia Hills hit a snag recently when the contractor refused to build the structure using the materials called for in UAB’s plans.

Faculty and students designed the bridge using the latest composite materials technology in hopes of introducing a more efficient, but equally safe, alternative to traditional construction methods. Since the technology is new, however, there are no government codes or regulations covering the use of those materials. “That’s something that often slows technological developments,” says Fouad H. Fouad, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering. “An engineer is not going to put his name on something he has never used and that is not in the codes. With the legal environment here, it’s difficult to get something built if the materials haven’t been approved and used before.”

Instead, Fouad says, UAB engineers are looking to use more standard materials, such as prestressed concrete, to complete the project. “We may still use some composites in portions of the bridge, and we would still like to use accelerated construction,” says Fouad. “But it may be some time before we see our designs for composite construction actually put to use.”

— Grant Martin