HEURISTICS IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION. A CASE STUDY APPLICATION TO SUSTAINABLE BRIDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
This paper deals with the postgraduate course ‘Predictive and optimisation models for concrete structures’, offered at the Masters in Concrete Engineering of the Universitat Politècnica de València. Within this course, engineering students are introduced into different optimization algorithms, such as simulated annealing, neural networks, genetic algorithms, etc. of application in the automated design of concrete structures of any type. In recent times, such heuristic methods have turned out to be of great interest in the resolution of complex and actual engineering problems, such as the sustainable design and management of structures.
This communication presents a case study where the ongoing research of the teaching body is applied so as to find the most sustainable management strategy for a particular bridge system consisting of 7 bridges whose lengths vary between 380 m and 1980 m. The optimization problem here aims to minimize both the economic and environmental life cycle impacts derived from the maintenance of the concrete decks of a bridge network by selecting the adecuate maintenance intervals for every deck considering annual budgetary restrictions. A multi-objective simulated annealing algorithm is applied to find the set of Pareto optimal solutions for the presented engineering problem. The environmentally preferable maintenance strategy results in life cycle costs 4.9% greater than those related to the cost-optimal strategy, which in turn results in environmental impacts 5.6% greater than those from the environmentally optimized management option. Results are then compared to the optimal strategies considering a single bridge deck, showing that the optimality at the bridge level does not necesarily lead to a sustainable optimum at the network level. From this it follows that, when optimizing maintenance under budgetary restrictions, the network shall be analysed as a whole, and not as an aggregation of optimal strategies for each individual bridge. The case study presented here shows in a nutshell the close connection between the course curricula of the MSc course and the ongoing research of the teaching and research group.