WG 9: Construction History

April 22, 2016 - IABSE Working Group 'Construction History' met on April 15 to 17 in Wiesbaden, Germany. The main work consisted in reviewing 20 draft articles submitted for a SED (Structural Engineering Document) on how knowledge on construction history and awareness of cultural values influence structural engineering when dealing with existing structures when rehabilitating, strengthening or modifying them. Publication of the SED is planned for 2017. IABSE WG9 is pleased by the quality and variety of contributions to the SED. Traditionally, WG9 always visits and discusses significant engineering structures at the WG meeting venues. This time, WG9 Chairman Eberhard Pelke introduced seven bridges, some of them of very high cultural value, over the rivers Rhine and Main in the region of Wiesbaden and Mainz.


The three main objectives of the Working Group on Construction History are to:
  1. increase awareness amongst structural engineers of historical and cultural aspects of structures and structural engineering,
  2. illustrate and propagate the social and technical achievements of civil engineering,
  3. improve methods and practice in structural engineering by showing ways for systematic and targeted integration of historical and cultural aspects in intervention projects to adapt or modify structures of cultural value for future demands.

Ethnographic Museum, an early 19th century brick and stone masonry building in Vidin, Bulgaria, as an example for the improvement of masonry structures (example selected by Marina Doncheva Traykova)

Field of Activity
Construction history as a relatively new discipline is dedicated to studying the history and evolution of all aspects of the built environment. This includes the entire design and construction process, but also management, maintenance and even economic aspects.

With its Working Group Construction History (WG CH) IABSE now has a panel through which to advocate this new discipline to its members. As with IABSE the main focus of the working group will be on construction history as it relates to structural engineering, construction technology and other related subjects that IABSE deals with.

Through e.g. the presentation of historically significant buildings and structures, as well as prominent engineers, the working group intends to show the necessity and usefulness for structural engineers to know the history of how construction processes and design methods have evolved over time. Special attention shall be paid to the international spread of engineering ideas such as the application of prestressing to concrete or the deformation method, or how such ideas may have developed under different conditions in more than one location simultaneously.

Also, the knowledge of historical circumstances in which buildings, structures and ensembles where created better enables engineers today to assess their usability for future uses, to maintain and to strengthen them while respecting their historicity wherever possible.

The working group’s goal is to inspire understanding and respect for existing buildings and structures and present examples and practical approaches for maintaining them, through improvement, not just out of respect for their historic significance but also to adapt them for future demands and requirements and for the general public to enjoy. This approach follows the principles of sustainability.

Finally, the working group sees the illustration and propagation of social and technological achievements of civil and structural engineering as part of this mission and will aim to publish the results of the group’s work within the IABSE framework for continued professional education both in print, at conferences as well as through the e-learning programme.

Nibelungen Bridge across the Rhine in Worms, Germany, built in 1953 as an example for the preservation and strengthening of prestressed concrete bridges (example chosen by Eberhard Pelke)

To the Technical Committee

Activity Programme
The working group intends to
  1. chair special sessions on construction history at IABSE Symposia
  2. organize tours and technical visit to existing and historic structures at IABSE conferences
  3. edit an SED spreading the idea and concepts of construction history by providing information about activities in several countries and organizations, explaining and illustrating the importance of the discipline to engineers, and to present approaches for maintenance and strengthening of old and historical building structures.
  4. launch an IABSE Award for historic structures to be organized by the WG whose members may also serve in the jury
Schwarzwasser Bridges (1862/1974) in Berne, and Robert Maillart’s Schwandbach Bridge (1933), all in Switzerland, as examples of existing bridges with soft interventions for adaptation and strengthening for modern traffic loads (examples selected by Eugen Brühwiler)
1 - 2 per year, contact Chair


NameCountryPositionTerm StartTerm End
Dr. Stephen Hicks, Heavy Engineering Research AssociationNew ZealandMember20152019
Prof. Mahesh Tandon, Tandon Consultants Pvt LtdIndiaMember20152019