Smart Circular Bridge for a circular built environment

Project Summary


Today’s material use in construction industry

The construction industry needs to make a shift in material use. However, reliable alternative solutions for improving material efficiency and natural resource use are lacking. Dutch municipalities maintain over 12.000 pedestrian and cyclist bridges. 41% are in a poor to very bad shape. Germany shows similar figures. Within the NWE territory 0.5 % replacement per year of just these bridges, equals to 95.000 tons per year of primary raw material use.

The EU strategy towards sustainable materials

The EU's action plan Bio-Economy Strategy [EC. 2018] stresses the need for a shift towards natural materials. Despite an increasing market demand, construction industry remains hesitant to implement new natural material applications, because their material properties, especially time-related degradation properties, are insufficiently known to fully guarantee safe use, for a sufficient long time.

Modern research offers new opportunities

Sensor technology combined with smart computer algorithms make it feasible to equip structural components with sensors and follow their behaviour. This is known as Structural Health Monitoring. Material behaviour is evaluated in real time. A smart sensor system evaluates sensor input and generates early warnings, before critical levels of material degradation are reached. It enables real time maintenance or replacement of components. In Smart Circular Bridge the unknown aspects of material-ageing are counterbalanced by the Structural Health Monitoring system. Structural safety can thus be guaranteed. This approach will significantly accelerate resource efficiency in infrastructure.


Our contribution to a sustainable construction industry

Smart Circular Bridge will build and equip two demo-bridges in the Netherlands and Germany and one final bridge in the Netherlands.This can reduce up to 677.000 tons of raw fossil material every year in the EU. Using the “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” principles, Smart Circular Bridge will actively promote the role-out in industry thus accelerating resource efficiency throughout the EU.

Project Partners

Lead partner

Organisation Address Email Website
TU/e Technische Universiteit Eindhoven 2 De Rondom
Name Contact Name Email Country
KU Leuven Aart Willem van Vuure Belgium
FiberCore Europe BV Jan Kroon Netherlands
24SEA BVBA Gert de Sitter Belgium
Com&Sens Geert Luyckx Belgium
VolkerInfra BV Menno van Oeveren Netherlands
Lineo - groupe NatUp fibres (Before Ecotechnilin) Floran Pierre France
Universität Stuttgart Hanaa Dahy Germany
Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy (Stichting Avans) Alwin Hoogendoorn Netherlands
Vrije Universiteit Brussel Christof Devriendt Belgium
Gemeente Bergen Op Zoom Dietmar Lemmens Netherlands
Gemeente Almere Daria Abolina Netherlands
Stadt Ulm Tobias Knöpfle Germany
Proesler Kommunikation Martin Prösler Germany

Climate protection and circular economy are becoming increasingly important in the construction industry. As part of an EU project, three pedestrian and bicycle bridges in Germany and the Netherlands are currently being planned. The so-called "Smart Circular Bridges" (SCB) are made of bio-composites.
A sophisticated monitoring system continuously monitors the stability and material condition. The data are automatically analyzed by the system and shared in real time. This ensures not only the highest level of safety for use, but also provides extensive information for planning further bridges. The project uses renewable resources in an innovative way. Beyond bridge construction, it demonstrates the potential of a climate-friendly bio-economy in the construction industry.

Meeting the challenges – a contribution to circular economy

Construction industry needs to make a shift away from its extensive fossil materials use in order to achieve a circular economy. To meet the ambitions resulting from the Paris Climate agreement, it is essential to significantly increase the use of circular materials. By using fast growing plants, like flax and hemp, CO2 is bound in one year of growth and only given back to the atmosphere after its years of use, thus reducing the effect on Global Warming. Bio-based materials are not per definition bio-degradable. Smart Circular Bridge implements research and innovations aiming at closing all material cycles.

Circular economy in practice

Bio-composites provide the basis for three bridges realised and built within the next three years.
The project leaders Prof. Rijk Blok and Prof. Dr. Patrick Teuffel explain the basic principles of the future-oriented Interreg NWE project.

from flaxflower to biocomposite


Bio-composite material

Just like conventional composites, a bio-composite is a combination of fibres and resin. In a bio-composite the natural fibres, mainly provide the strength, the bio-resin glues these fibres together. By creating this new material the bio-composite offers a lot of form freedom.  It becomes possible to design structurally optimised as well as resource-efficient designs. The material and its fibres can be optimized and used exactly in the places where they are most effective.



Structural Health Monitoring – smart and safe

With conventional materials, like for example concrete, there is a long history of trial and error, giving us experience on what design is needed for long life and safe use. For these new materials Smart Circular Bridge introduces a new approach to structural safety, by using a “self-sensing” system. This so-called Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) system constantly monitors the structure and its material behaviour, but it also evaluates its level of structural safety. It uses innovative and sensitive fiber optic sensors (FBGs). Real-time data is constantly collected and evaluated. This makes it possible to give off early warnings in case preset material-limits should be reached. To ensure a full safe structure, the in situ data of the Smart Circular Bridge is compared with results of accelerated material degradation tests in the project. The material limits are set sufficiently low and safe, in close collaboration with approving authorities.

sketch of different design options for the SCB


Structural design and load bearing properties

The specific mechanical properties of different bio-composites can vary greatly. Design and material selection is calibrated and carried out in accordance with specific material test results on strength and stiffness. The resins are bio-polymers that in combination with the natural fibres provide great strength. The used bio-composite materials in the Smart Circular bridges have a strength of about half the strength of aluminium, but the combination of this strength with its lightweight properties give bio-composites great potential for application in building and civil structures.


another sketch for design


 Options for efficient and elegant designs

Design options are characterised by architectural design and structural efficiency. Key elements are structural safety, aesthetical quality, functionality as well as feasibility, production and cost effectiveness. Our Smart Circular Bridge project aims to integrate all these requirements in its optimized designs. It will show its potential by realising three demo-projects of Smart Circular Bridges in Germany and the Netherlands and by sharing its results over the NWE Interreg region and beyond.


Production Process

For fiber reinforcement plastic (polymer) composites, the general fabrication process follows three main steps:

  1. Arrangement (orientation and configuration) of the reinforcement using an internal or external shape or mold.
  2. Combining or infusing the reinforcement with the resin to a composite system
  3. Curing of the composite material.

Smart Circular Bridge will use a vacuum-infusion method combined with internal foam shapes and external moulds. In the previous experimental bridge at the TU/e campus, a bio-degradable foam PLA was used in the core, acting as a lost mould thus realising the changing shape over the length of the bridge.


For circular building and infrastructure in NWE countries, it is essential to optimise the (re)use of material and natural resources in construction industry. Within Smart Circular Bridge project, the aim is to achieve complete insight over the environmental impact of the bridge by using a LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) methodology. This will focus on the material selection, production phase, use phase and end of life scenarios in which the recovery of the mateials is studied. By using the Smart Monitoring tools, the goals is to further elongate the service life of Smart Circular Bridge, which will result in lower environmental impacts per year.

The innovative bridges are created in the context of the Bio-Economy Strategy of the European Union and are supported by the Interreg North-West Europe Programme. The project is led by the Eindhoven University of Technology, which is working with a total of 14 partners from science, industry and local authorities to complete three bridges at the locations Almere (NL), Ilsfeld (DE) and Bergen Op Zoom (NL) by 2023.


TU/e Eindhoven, University of Technology

TU/e is a prominent University in the Netherlands, with high ranked national and international research and education and a strong commitment to connecting and bringing research and technology innovations to market with a strong network. The Chair Innovative Structural Design has achieved advances in research and design regarding resource efficient structures. It was leader in the 4TU project Biobased Bidge, realized in 2016 and since then followed up with ongoing research in this field.
Link to the website:

KU Leuven

The Composite Materials Group of the Department of Materials Engineering of KU Leuven has about 35 years of experience in research on many aspects of composites technology, from processing to testing and analysing composite materials. Since the late nineties one of the focal points has been natural fibre composites, with the aim to develop more sustainable, environmentally friendly composites. Research on natural fibre composites target the weaker or less developed aspects regarding durability.
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FiberCore Europe

For the past 10 years FiberCore Europe has put FRP as a construction material on the map. With the construction of more than 1000 bridges worldwide, many of them in the Netherlands, the prefab FRP bridge has become a common sight in everyday scenery. Using the unique InfraCore® technology, FiberCore Europe builds bridges and locks gates with an eye to the future: lightweight, robust, sturdy and durable. With our own factory in Rotterdam and our team of skilled engineers and constructors, we build bridges that require hardly any maintenance and will last for more than 100 years. And that does not have to be in one location; the bridges can easily be removed and replaced.
Link to the website:



24SEA is the leading independent structural monitoring partner on the Belgium market of Offshore Wind and Marine Renewables. 24SEA offers testing services and develops dedicated short and long-term structural health monitoring systems for offshore structures. Their in-house developed data analysis tools provide the operator with the insights that are crucial to minimize construction and installation costs and reduce their operation, maintenance and inspection costs.
Link to the website:



Com&Sens has a long track record of embedding optical fibre sensors in composite structures. In this project, Com&Sens will focus in close cooperation with 24Sea on developing and further improving a method to robustly embed the sensors into the bio-bridge. For the project it is essential to capture the strains and temperature with high accuracy. The optical fibre brag sensors can do so, provided the embedding is of high quality.
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The core business of VolkerInfra is to design, construct and maintain infrastructure and civil projects (e.g. bridges, viaducts, quay walls, locks, water treatment plants etc.) in the Netherlands, since 1831. The main focus of VolkerInfra lies on project management and design. It has a clear focus on sustainability and innovation. It has recently constructed a circular viaduct in 2018. VolkerInfra (and Van Hattum & Blankevoort) are operating companies of Royal VolkerWessels Stevin NV.
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Lineo - groupe NatUp fibres

Lineo - groupe NatUp fibres is a leading provider of natural fibre solutions. It has production sites in France and the United Kingdom. It is a French Norman company specialized in the manufacture of reinforcements based on natural fibres. It manufactures non-woven felts, devoted to the automotive industry, as well as a range of woven fabrics (Lineo range) and non-woven dry or pre-impregnated for composite applications, dedicated to many different fields from sports to furniture or transport.
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University of Stuttgart

The University of Stuttgart is a leading technically oriented university with global significance. They progress interdisciplinary integration of engineering. The ITKE BIOMAT institute: is famous for investigating and realizing cutting edge structures, i.g. the 2018 experimental biobased pavilion. One of its main goals is to raise and translate ecological concerns in newly developed sustainable smart materials and integrating the architectural and user perspective.
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Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy (Avans University of Applied Sciences)

Centre of Expertise Bio Based Economy CoEBBE of (Avans University of Applied Science with circa 28.000 students) is a research center that stimulates research and knowledge valorization through public-private collaboration stimulating biobased material applications. For this the CoEBBE researchers work alongside entrepreneurs in research projects with direct spin-off to education.
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Vrije Universiteit Brussels

Vrije Universiteit Brussel has a strong commitment to valorization and successful innovations by well-established relations to industry as well as international research networks. The department of mechanical engineering and acoustics and vibration research group has key expertise in Structural Health Monitoring and data handling, for example on reliability analysis of fatigue damage extrapolations of wind turbines using offshore strain measurements. This expertise will be directed to SCB.
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City of Bergen op Zoom

Bergen op Zoom is a Dutch municipality. Besides all its other tasks and responsibilities, the city owns and maintains many bridges in different sizes and materials. Bergen op Zoom is part of the Biobased Delta in which it co-organizes initiatives on improving sustainability and circularity through the use of bio-based materials. It has already realized bio-based public stairs within its city and it also has collaborated in the realization of a bio-based cladding of an ecoduct: Zoomland viaduct.
Link to the website:


City of Almere

Almere is a municipality with many activities and initiatives around circular and sustainable economy, clean energy and transportation, circular urban developments and with many cradle to cradle approaches in material use and waste treatment. Together with the province of Flevoland it organizes the Floriade 2022, the 7 th world Horticulture Expo with the theme "Growing Green Cities". This Floriade is a living lab which provides an excellent platform for the first SCB investments.
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City of Ulm

Link to the website:


Proesler Kommunikation

Proesler Kommunikation is a PR agency with conceptual strength and specialist expertise. They have a sound knowledge of the construction industry, future technologies and sustainable management. As an external press office or supplier for individual projects, tailored PR strategies and communication concepts are created. Strength is the provision of strategic advice to companies/projects and the implementation of successful PR concepts in their relevant target groups and markets.
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Additional or more detailed information to
"The Smart Circular Bridge":

Bio-Based Composite Footbridge Design, Production and In Situ Monitoring

Bio-Composieten: Ontwerpen et vezels en ‘bio’ polymeren (dutch)

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