Funded PHD opportunity: Pedestrian-structure dynamic interaction on wobbly bridges

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence on 23 September 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. The studentship will cover tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 per annum for 3.5 years full-time (at overseas student rate or UK/EU student rate, as appropriate). The student would be based in the College at the Streatham Campus, and some experimental work will be at Exeter Science Park.

For more details, please read the information here

Research collaboration on asset management of bridges with Vibration Engineering Section and University of Cape Town

Professor James Brownjohn visited Prof. Pilate Moyo, Head of the Department of Civil Engineering and Director of Concrete Materials and Structural Integrity Research Unit (CoMSIRU) at the University of Cape Town.

Prof Brownjohn was visiting UCT to learn about Prof Moyo’s recent research, and to develop further collaboration in the asset management of bridges, which helps to prolong their lifespan. During the visit, they also explored the possibility of using the wobbly ‘Boomslang’ tree walk at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in a research project studying human structure interaction.

Prof Pilate Moyo March 2019 003 LR

Prof Moyo is an expert in structural health monitoring of civil infrastructure and works closely with Transnet, South Africa’s heavy haul rail freight operator, and water resources agencies in Southern Africa. He is a leading authority in Southern Africa on and practitioner of structural condition assessment and structural health monitoring of rail bridges and dams.


His applied research has used instrumentation such as accelerometers and strain gauges to assess fatigue life of steel rail bridges, advising low-cost retrofit strategies for life extension. For arch dams he has combined sophisticated fluid-structure dynamic modelling and modal testing with long term tracking of deformation trends against temperature and water level in order to assess safety and diagnose performance anomalies.


VES and UCT have long term links including visiting positions in both directions and delivery of continuing professional development (CPD) to engineers around South Africa. 


Cutting the Turf for Exeter VSimulators State of the Art Research Facility

A turf-cutting ceremony took place at Exeter Science Park on Monday 4th March 2019 to mark the start of construction on the University of Exeter’s pioneering VSimulators experimental facility. Funded by a £4.8 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, VSimulators is a multi-disciplinary research platform which will be housed in a new, purpose-built engineering building. Guests at the event included representatives from Exeter Science Park, the University of Exeter, University of Bath and contractors Morgan Sindall Construction.

Turf cutting 1
VSimulators offers a state-of-the-art, world class facility, combining virtual reality (VR) technology capable of immersing up to nine occupants simultaneously in headset projected VR scenarios. A 4×4 metre, custom designed motion platform, linked to the VR scenarios, enables users to perceive realistic motion as they move around in a virtual world while optical and inertial motion capture systems and an array of force plates will record their experiences.

Due to open at the end of 2019, VSimulators will be used by academics and industry to support multi-disciplinary human factors research and innovation. It offers research, commercial and training opportunities within a range of disciplines including civil and structural engineering, architecture, psychology, healthcare, human movement science, creative industries, data analytics, entertainment and sports science.

Bridge with Users

James Brownjohn, from University of Exeter, and Principal Investigator for VSimulators, said: “VSimulators offers opportunities for collaborative international and multi-disciplinary research and innovation, linking academic and commercial communities.
“Our initial focus will be on factors including vibrations that compromise user experience in the built environment such as wobbly footbridges and bouncy office floors, but we will also study user-centred design of building environments, biomechanics of human balance on moving surfaces and rehabilitation physiotherapy.”

Julie Lewis-Thompson, Commercial Manager for VSimulators added :
“The VSimulators facilities at the Universities of Exeter and Bath will provide unique simulation capabilities far beyond anything available worldwide. This will help address critical issues of human engagement with the surrounding environment. The range of applications is almost endless and we are excited about collaboration opportunities exploring sectors such as audiences of the future, commercial innovation using VR and advances in the management of conditions such as Parkinson’s and dementia.”

Image of Exeter Science Park

Dr Sally Basker, CEO of Exeter Science Park, said: “We’re excited that the University of Exeter is developing its new VSimulators Facility at Exeter Science Park. This world-class, multi-use technology facility will encourage collaboration, foster innovative products and services, strengthen STEMM in the south-west and stimulate further economic growth.”

Nigel Whelan, area director for Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “We’re delighted to be breaking ground and marking the start of work on this important project which will create a world-leading facility and position Exeter as a centre of excellence in VR technologies.

“We have a long-standing relationship with the University of Exeter and have delivered a number of key schemes for the University, we look forward to continuing to build on this positive partnership as we embark on the construction of this landmark development.”

Stadium With Users

A leading physiotherapist at the University of Exeter Medical School Professor Vicki Goodwin MBE, has been a driving force in the design and accessibility features of the VSimulator facilities, ensuring ease of access for users with mobility issues. She commented :
“The VSimulators facility is an exciting new development that will help us better understand how people move and interact within the physical environment. For example, it will allow us to investigate how older people maintain balance when they are out and about, such as when using public transport, so we can look at ways to keep them steadier and help prevent falls and injuries.”

VR 2

The £4.8 million grant awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will also fund a complementary VSimulators facility at the University of Bath. Due to open in Autumn 2019 and using an environmentally controlled room with projected virtual reality mounted on a motion platform, this will be mainly used to study human factors in the built environment – particularly tall buildings.

For more details, please visit

Check out the EPSRC blog about STORMLAMP

Dr Alison Raby from the University of Plymouth has written a piece for the EPSRC’s blog about her offshore adventures as part of the collaborative STORMLAMP lighthouse project with University College London and the Vibration Engineering Section.

To read the blog, please visit

Test team on Fastnet Rock. From left: Athanasios, Alessandro, Karen, Ian, James


New paper published: Review of Pedestrian Load Models for Vibration Serviceability Assessment of Floor Structures

Review of Pedestrian Load Models for Vibration Serviceability Assessment of Floor Structures is now published in the MDPI journal Vibration.

Innovative design and technological advancements in the construction industry have resulted in an increased use of large, slender and lightweight floors in contemporary office buildings. Compounded by an ever-increasing use of open-plan layouts with few internal partitions and thus lower damping, floor vibration is becoming a governing limit state in the modern structural design originating from dynamic footfall excitations.

This could cause annoyance and discomfort to building occupants as well as knock-on management and financial consequences for facility owners. This article presents a comprehensive review pertinent to walking-induced dynamic loading of low-frequency floor structures. It is intended to introduce and explain key walking parameters in the field as well as summarise the development of previous walking models and methods for vibration serviceability assessment.

Although a number of walking models and design procedures have been proposed, the literature survey highlights that further work is required in the following areas; (1) the development of a probabilistic multi-person loading model which accounts for inter- and intra-subject variabilities, (2) the identification of walking paths (routes accounting for the effect of occupancy patterns on office floors) coupled with spatial distribution of pedestrians and (3) the production of a statistical spatial response approach for vibration serviceability assessment.

A stochastic approach, capable of taking into account uncertainties in loading model and vibration responses, appears to be a more reliable way forward compared to the deterministic approaches of the past and there is a clear need for further research in this area.

Vibration Engineering Section ensures biosciences lab meets stringent vibration control requirements

VES collaborated with PCE Ltd to ensure the Capella biosciences laboratory for the University of Cambridge could be constructed off-site while still meeting stringent vibration control requirements.

PCE Ltd,  design and build specialist contractor of offsite engineered Hybrid structures, collaborated with Kier Construction on the laboratory and engaged VES to assist in the design process by ensuring vibration control requirements were met.

Capella 2

The original design was an on-site in situ concrete structure by Consultant Engineer Arup, but due to limited construction site space, PCE wanted to ensure their offsite construction philosophy would mean the finished structure complied with stringent vibration control requirements. This vibration control was essential due to the extremely vibration-sensitive laboratory equipment to be installed on completion of the facility.

While initial calculations by PCE inferred the specification could be achieved, they required specialist knowledge to assist with design concepts and prove by post-construction physical site testing that the design met vibration specification requirements. They therefore contacted Professor Paul Reynolds of VES to provide this assistance.

Capella 7

Developing the building design

VES worked with PCE, the main contractor and the client’s design team, to develop the initial PCE design concept of precast concrete prestressed solid floor units, supported on composite steel beams, with an in situ concrete topping that had a reduced floor thickness compared to the original client’s concept of an in situ concrete structure.

Full-scale testing

Following the construction of a floor level, VES conducted a full scale test to determine the actual vibration response. Test results showed the offsite engineered theoretical design approach met the requirements of the original specification.

The collaboration between PCE and VES demonstrated that offsite construction methods can be adopted for buildings that require stringent vibration control, in line with the growing trend and Governmental drive for more construction to be based on offsite construction methods.

Garry Langston, Pre-Construction Director for PCE, said: “Without the involvement of VES, it may not have been possible to provide the offsite construction solution that provided the client with a reduced construction programme, a significant reduction in the number of site operatives and vehicle deliveries required that was so advantageous for such a project on the busy and congested Addenbrookes Hospital campus.

“Engaging the specialist services of VES at an early stage of the design process to give certainty in the resolution of the low vibration specification reduced the design and approval process that might otherwise occurred, and ensured an offsite construction solution, whilst the post-construction testing gave the reassurance the client required.”

Concrete Magazine ran a piece in May 2018 entitled Hybrid techniques provide “shining example of modern concrete construction.”


Protecting our lighthouses for the safety of mariners – Stormlamp – full length film

STORMLAMP – STructural behaviour Of Rock Mounted Lighthouses At the Mercy of imPulsive waves – is an EPSRC funded collaborative research project between the Universities of Plymouth, Exeter and University College London and a number of industry partners. 

The project characterises wave loading and structural performance of rock lighthouses, using combined field measurements, laboratory studies and analytical and numerical investigations, with the aim of supporting management of lighthouse structural conditions.

To find out more, check out the video below, created by Filmbright

For more information about STORMLAMP, visit