GMC’s age-defying bridges project an award finalist

September 9, 2021

Geelong’s age-defying bridges project has been named as one of three finalists in a prestigious national award for economic development excellence.

The “Procurement for Innovation – age-defying bridges project” is in the running to be crowned winner in the National Economic Development Awards for Excellence, “Economic Development – Sustainable Initiatives” category.

Winners will be announced at an event to be held October 13-15.

The Procurement for Innovation method has meant Geelong’s pedestrians are enjoying first of a kind, sustainable pedestrian footbridges. Using advanced fibre reinforced geopolymer concrete – stronger and more durable than steel-reinforced concrete – the geopolymer uses 43 % less carbon than Portland cement. Traditional concrete accounts for eight per cent of global Co2 emissions.

In the Geelong footbridges project, the principles of construction used for the Roman Colosseum were applied, and the project made global headlines when The Economist magazine featured the novel, world-leading bridges, which are designed to last more than 100 years maintenance-free.

The project would not have happened without the “Procurement for Innovation” method, which harnesses the substantial buying power of the public sector, helping to influence markets to provide more sustainable options.

The City of Greater Geelong tendered for a 100-year maintenance-free pedestrian bridge in 2017, inviting companies to solve the costly maintenance problem associated with traditional bridges – usually made of timber, steel or concrete – which has historically cost the City around $500,000 to inspect, repair, maintain and replace each year.

The innovative procurement method was developed in the United Kingdom where large public sector customers and SME providers work in close partnership to develop innovative solutions. A similar program, the Small Business for Innovation and Research (SBIR) program, runs in the United States.

Geelong’s Procurement for Innovation project aims to share learnings with other major procuring organisations, including local authorities in health and infrastructure, in its next phase of development. A Procurement for Innovation e-learning training course has been developed and will be released in 2022.

Design and construction of the bridges was the result of a unique partnership between Geelong engineering company, Austeng, and Rocla, with assistance provided by Deakin University engineering design and testing experts.

The bridge looks like a regular concrete pedestrian bridge but the geopolymer innovation meets sustainability ambitions.

This year’s excellence award winners will be showcased in a special edition of the Economic Development Australia Journal and invited to share details of their award winning program at an EDA webinar next year.

“Congratulations on your achievement in a record breaking, competitive field,” said EDA Membership Coordinator Mel Adams.