Major cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and many Hanseatic have kilometres of quay walls in ports and along canals. Those quay walls are essential to maintain the functioning of the cities and the quality of life there. Nevertheless, quay maintenance and replacement are costly and they have a major impact. For example, Amsterdam is assessing whether the 200 kilometres of quay walls in the city will still be adequate in the longer term, or whether reinforcement or replacement is needed. A practical, but accurate, approach is therefore required for the assessment and maintenance of these old quay walls. Timber pile foundations have proven to be crucial bottlenecks for safety and residual service life, not only of the quay walls but also for the historical bridges.

Lifespan extension and effective measures

Drawing on earlier research into the bearing capacity of timber piles and probabilistic approaches, Deltares co-developed and reviewed the latest assessment guidelines for Amsterdam (TAK – Assessment guideline for Quay walls and TAB – for Bridges). From 2023 onwards, these guidelines will be the standard used to assess a large number of quay wall sections.

Amsterdam quay wall replacement, source: Deltares, Mandy Korff

Furthermore, knowledge about structural and geotechnical reliability, and the development of an advanced assessment software tool, mean that it is now possible to use reliability requirements and assessment methods that are specifically tailored to the quay walls and bridges of Amsterdam That prevents unnecessary work and extends the residual service life of these structures, contributing significantly to achieving Amsterdam’s sustainability and emission reduction goals. The same can be achieved for other cities and asset owners.

Amsterdam quay wall replacement, source: Deltares, Mandy Korff

'By investing in the development of a more accurate assessment method, we can analyse more and more bridges to see whether they can be used safely for another thirty years without large-scale and expensive interventions'

Amsterdam alderwoman Melanie Van der Horst. (quote from progress report April 2023)

Integrated assessment of the safety and condition of bridges and quay walls

In order to make the large replacement agenda manageable and achieve results efficiently, we are developing an interactive decision-support platform. In the NWA research project with nineteen project partners, LiveQuay, we aim to provide an integrated assessment of the safety and condition of bridges using that platform and values from all stakeholders. Deltares is contributing the probabilistic models that will be combined with monitoring data and physical models in a platform, and guidelines, to determine more accurately and more quickly than whether infrastructure reinforcement measures are needed or not.

From research to revision of Eurocodes

The developments in Amsterdam tie into broader developments in guidelines and codes of practice to which Deltares contributes, most notably the revision of the Eurocodes. Specifically, the work on reliability assessment relates to the revision of Eurocode 0 (EN 1990 – Basis of design), and the accompanying guideline document on ‘Reliability-based verification of limit states for geotechnical structures’.

External references

Mandy Korff

Timo Schweckendiek