Durable fire and corrosion protection of steel bridges

Joachim Pflugfelder – SHERWIN-WILLIAMS

Bridges have been part of our infrastructure and of cultural importance for centuries, and they will continue to be important for a mobile society in the future. However, with an average life of 100 years, bridges require considerable investment – not only in construction, but also in their life cycle costs. The latter usually exceeds the cost for the original construction of the structure by a factor of one and a half. The life cycle cost of bridges also includes the maintenance of the coating systems that protect the steel from external influences. For economic reasons, it is advisable to use technologically high-performance systems for this, in order to ensure long-term functionality. This applies particularly to steel bridges, as compared to concrete as a construction material, the lighter steel can be used to build slender bridges that can span larger distances. Corrosion protection of steel bridges has been used for decades to ensure durability and for economic efficiency, and this technology has been continuously developed based on the experience gained. Fire protection coating systems, on the other hand, are not usually required for steel bridges. However, due to the design, or possible fire hazards in the immediate vicinity, some of these structures also need to be protected against in addition to corrosion protection. Coating systems that provide corrosion protection and at the same time protect the steel from rapid heating in the event of a fire, are an economical solution. This saves valuable time until the critical temperature is reached and the load-bearing capacity is lost.