Saiid Saiidi pioneered and revolutionized bridge construction – notably through the use of innovative materials – not only to make bridges safer, but also to make them usable after a major earthquake. For this, the College of Engineering civil engineering professor was honored by the American Society of Civil for his work with the Washington State Department of Transportation in the design, preparation of specifications and implementation of its technology as part of their State Route 99 exit ramp. Bridge in Seattle, Washington.
The technology, using nickel-titanium shape memory alloy materials and custom composite concrete, allows the bridge’s columns to bend during an earthquake and then return to their original position. This is the first time that this technology has been applied anywhere in the world.
Saiidi’s project is one of five finalists recognized as the Best Outstanding Achievements in Civil Engineering for 2018. He attended the annual OPAL (Outstanding Projects and Leaders) ceremony on March 14, during which the project was highlighted forward and the team received their trophy. The OPAL Awards Gala is civil engineering’s premier event, bringing together for one night the profession’s most esteemed leaders to honor remarkable projects and individuals who have made monumental contributions to the profession and the mission of ASCE sustainable infrastructure around the world.
“Having this project selected among the top applicants is indeed a great honor as the competitors are usually mega civil engineering projects of extraordinary scale and design from around the world,” Saiidi said. “The SR-99 Off-Ramp Bridge looks ordinary. What sets it apart are the SMAs (shape memory alloys) and another innovative concrete we used in the bridge.”
His previous research on shape memory alloys, including a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, led to a grant from the Federal Highway Administration and Washington State to conduct new research specific to a three-span bridge in downtown Seattle in order to implement the technology he developed. This was done and the bridge was built and is now in use.
“This is a major competitive recognition based on innovation, one of the fundamental principles of the College’s research,” said Manos Maragakis, dean of College of Engineering said. “This is clear evidence of the quality, impact and competitiveness of Saiid’s research and earthquake engineering program. I am very proud of this achievement.”
During his 40-year career, Saiidi worked on this technology for 20 years, building and destroying as many as a dozen large-scale bridges and columns at the University of Nevada, Reno’s world-renowned university . Seismic Engineering Laboratory. In the experiments, the 50-ton, 110-foot-long bridges are built atop several of the lab’s hydraulically driven vibrating tables that measure 14 feet by 14 feet and can simulate any recorded earthquake.
Scale models of bridges allow him to test different innovative materials, compare them to standard construction and show the success of the innovations.
The technical focus of his studies is on several quarter-to-third scale test models of a series of two- to four-span bridge frames supported by three biaxial vibrating tables at the University. Models tested include a conventional bridge in February 2007, a bridge with advanced materials in December 2008, a fiber-reinforced polymer composite bridge from April to June 2010 and accelerated bridge construction models including specialized columns in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
“It has been fascinating to observe Saiid’s work over the years, building, then bending and breaking concrete bridges and support columns – making them stronger along the way,” said Marc Johnson, president from the University of Nevada, Reno. “It exemplifies the dedication and drive of our faculty that recently helped us achieve a very high R-1 research classification by the Carnegie Foundation.”
Saiidi has received multimillion-dollar research grants from the National Science Foundation, Federal Highway Administration, California Department of Transportation, Nevada Department of Transportation, Washington Department of Transportation, National Cooperative Highway Research Programs and the industry.
The projects focused on structural seismic engineering, including large-scale model studies, development of renovation and repair methods, development of design methods, and advanced adaptation of materials in structural engineering.
He has published more than 400 articles and reports and presented research in 30 countries, including several as a keynote speaker – countries such as: Greece, Iran, South Africa, China, Italy, United Arab emigrants, Costa Rica, Slovenia, Taiwan, Tokyo, Singapore, Switzerland, Macedonia, South Korea, Colombia and Puerto Rico.
“Education is one of the most rewarding careers one can choose, and I am very happy to have educated others and myself for over 40 years,” Saiidi said. “Research is an important component of higher education.”
Earlier this year, the innovative columns project was selected by the Seattle Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers for the Outstanding Achievement in Civil Engineering Award and Saiidi and his team published a journal article earlier this year on the bridge, which was shortlisted for the Lyman Prize. delivered at the Precast Concrete Institute ceremony in October 2018.
The 2018 OCEA finalists were:
- 150 North Riverside, Chicago, IL
- New United States Courthouse, Los Angeles, California
- OARS-OSIS Sewer Augmentation and Relief, Columbus, Ohio
- Olympia Odos Highway, North Peloponnese Coast, Greece
- SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program – Northbound Exit Bridge, Seattle, Washington
The top award went to the 150 North Riverside project, a multi-story building on the Chicago River with a very complex footprint.