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Expert Interviews

Caroline Villiard Shares Crucial Perspectives on Infrastructure Inspections for Long-term Resilience

Headshot of Caroline Villiard
Caroline Villiard is a senior engineer, a master of applied structural science, and co-director of the bridges and structures Montréal team at Tetra Tech.

She specializes in the design, planning and inspection of structures in aerial, aquatic, terrestrial, and underground environments. She applies the special techniques of rope access, ensuring an increased level of efficiency during assessments of bearing capacity and structural integrity. As project manager and inspection campaign manager, Caroline analyzes inspection data, documents decision-making arguments, proposes and prioritizes interventions to repair and maintain structures over the long term, and determines their resilience to climate change.

For the past 15 years, Caroline has been providing services to clients including Public Services and Procurement Canada, Saint-Lawrence Seaway Administration, ministère des Transports et Mobilité durable du Québec, Montreal Port Authority, Charlevoix Airport, Hydro-Québec, municipalities, and organizations such as Environnement Faucon. Caroline holds a master’s degree in structural engineering from the University of British Columbia and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Université Laval. She also completed international studies at ECAM Brussels Engineering School.


Why has the inspection of structures intensified in recent years?

Several factors have contributed to the increase in inspection activity that we see today. First, a significant number of structures were built during The Glorious Thirty—1945 to 1975—and many have reached the end of their useful lives. During this period, new methods of prestressed concrete construction, reinforced with steel cables under tension, were put to the test. The limits of these methods became apparent in the presence of the de-icing salt that was newly introduced at the same time. Since then, research into the development of new materials has intensified and tolerance and construction standards have been improved. The regulatory framework for earthquake resistance of infrastructure has also been tightened.

Weather-related disasters have increased in the past 50 years as well, creating major changes in code regulations. In fact, the load applied to structures under wind and ice effect has increased the number of critical parts of these structures. The condition of infrastructure has been reviewed subject to new design criteria and climate change conditions. Therefore, new and more regular inspections are necessary.

Today, inspection activities to monitor infrastructure are conducted both in a corrective and preventative maintenance. At Tetra Tech, inspection is one of the proactive management tools aimed at infrastructure sustainability and long-term resilience.


What are the infrastructure components to watch out for now?

Currently, several types of infrastructure require attention. These include steel components of older structures, concrete structures built in the 1960s that are vulnerable due to the use of de-icing salts, bridges, wharves, and structures affected by flooding and climate change. Certain components, such as expansion joints and steel cables, must be monitored, especially the suspension lines of cable-stayed bridges.

Tetra Tech responds to a wide variety of inspection requests. Our technical expertise in rope access allows us to reach the most difficult locations to perform regulatory hands-on inspections. Our teams are also approached by owners in the energy sector, to monitor dams, for example.


How do new technologies contribute to inspections and to the quality of the data managed?

New technologies are diversifying our inspection methods. Among these, remote-controlled and drone inspections have the advantage of giving us efficient, rapid, and safe access to hard-to-reach areas. In addition, geolocation and real-time monitoring increase the accuracy of the data collected and deepen the precision of modeling tools.

The use of new technologies increases the efficiency of all our services. The time we spend on inspection activities on the sites is reduced. The data collected and managed is also compatible with BIM applications and software for bridge and tunnel design. The transversal integration of data to various programs facilitates inspection results evaluation, work planning, and asset condition monitoring.

In recent years, infrastructure monitoring activities have increased, as has the accuracy of the resulting data. New technologies have also increased the amount of information to be managed. This is the case when databases are continuously fed with data collected in real-time. The databases are also enriched by the results of structural condition assessments and analyses.

Our IT systems and interfaces are continuously tested and provide robust management of inspection data to ensure access, use, and sharing with relevant decision makers and teams.


How do Tetra Tech's inspection solutions protect the sustainability of infrastructure?

At Tetra Tech, we consider inspection to be a powerful tool for ensuring the sustainability of infrastructure. The data collected and their analyses allow us to identify key indicators of the condition of structures and to predict their evolution, then to anticipate and prioritize interventions. Our innovative and environmentally conscious approach includes unconventional methods such as rope access inspection. The latter has virtually no environmental footprint and reduces traffic impacts for the benefit of users.

Our experts contribute to the application and development of the technology, standards and design criteria through rigorous inspection programs and quality control procedures and by introducing innovative methods to reduce the costs and risks inherent in infrastructure management. We recommend inspection solutions adapted to each situation for the maintenance, repair, and longevity of structures.

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