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The traditional Observational Method is a model, established in the construction industry, which facilitates optimal design and construction. Through the feedback of real-time data related to the performance of complex, uncertain ground engineering systems OM delivers value to industry by reducing conservatism and over design leading to: Improving margins, Reducing costs, Improving sustainability by eliminating waste of resources.
Observational Engineering is based on applying the principles of the Observational Method at various levels - at the traditional level to manage uncertainties in the ground and at the organisational level to manage human uncertainties. When analysing risk, engineers have a responsibility to consider the whole system. The most sophisticated analysis of one part of a system is of little value if other areas of significant risks are left unattended and it should be recognised that, generally, the more complex the technical risks, the more complex are the related human systems used to manage them. Robustness is achieved by designing the process as well as the product with contingency plans for all project risks in place from the start.
Contemporary developments in real-time monitoring of structures and infrastructure systems could represent the next stage in the evolution of an OM-type design approach in the built environment. In the management of the broad range of interacting uncertainties associated with the whole life of a constructed asset, the generic ‘PERCEPTION-REFLECTION-ACTION’ loop inherent to the OM is not confined solely to the construction stage. Some early work looked at condition monitoring and asset management of hydroelectric infrastructure
Conventional structural design practice usually involves ensuring that the strength and deformation of the structure meet the required limits to cope with the worst load cases. However, most of the time such structures experience loading much lower than the design load meaning that they are effectively over designed for most of their working life. Rather than relying only on passive load-bearing capacity. adaptive structures are structures capable of counteracting loads actively by means of sensors, control intelligence and actuators (Senatore, 2016)
Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring systems, data are collected from citizens and devices (PERCEPTION)– then processed and analysed (REFLECTION) and (ACTION) to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve contact between citizens and government