Photo: Twentse Weg- en Waterbouw BV

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UT Research leads to Better Asphalt Roads Successful use of technology during asphalt paving on more than 50 road sections in the Netherlands

In cooperation with eleven road construction companies, the University of Twente is working on improving asphalt roads in the Netherlands. By using new technology during the asphalt paving process, the resulting road quality is 10 to 30 per cent higher. The improved life span of the road in turn naturally means less maintenance and, therefore, less nuisance. What's more, it becomes easier to plan road maintenance work, leading to decreased traffic congestion. The UT findings have by now been put to use during more than 50 asphalt paving projects in the Netherlands.

Up till now, very little was known about the asphalt paving process, as it was never systematically and routinely put to writing. The knowledge and experience of the asphalt paving workers formed the prime source of information. The adoption of new technology in the construction sector is a slow and laborious process. Moreover, there was little relation between lab design and actual on-site implementation.

Road rolling: high-tech skill and expertise

"Road rolling requires much more than just driving your roller up and down a stretch of road," UT doctoral candidate Frank Bijleveld says. He conducts research on the professional development of the asphalt paving process.
"Driving a road roller is rather easy, but proper asphalt paving requires professional skill and expertise. On arrival to the construction site, the asphalt has a temperature of some 150 degrees Celsius. Asphalt compaction is to take place within a specific range of temperatures, but in practice determining whether the asphalt is at the right temperature is often based on the workers' own gut feelings. Things get more complicated when considering there are many types of asphalt. And, naturally, the asphalt cools down more quickly in winter than in summer. So, road rolling requires a great deal of professional skill and experience. What's the ideal driving speed? What's the asphalt's current temperature? What has my colleague driver done already? Should I have the roller start vibrating now? One error of judgement, and you would immediately damage the new road."

New technology

The University of Twente and the eleven road construction companies have deployed new technologies providing the roller driver with more information about the process, allowing them to better make use of their expertise. Such technologies include the use of GPS, laser and infrared for monitoring the installation process at the construction site. Furthermore, asphalt crew feedback sessions have been organized, allowing the workers to become aware of, and make use of, the experience and expertise of their colleagues, thereby improving the process. During lab experiments, the strategies as monitored on the construction site were simulated so as to determine their effects on the quality of the asphalt layer.

More than 50 asphalt paving projects in the Netherlands

More than 50 asphalt paving projects were systematically monitored and recorded for the purpose of this research. New technologies allowed for the monitoring of all material movements on the construction site, including asphalt temperature during laydown, asphalt compaction and the weather conditions.
Measurements were recorded 24/7 for two weeks during work on the A50. A learning model was tested at the A15 work site between Maasvlakte and Vaanplein. Feedback could be provided to an asphalt crew working on the A4 within a single day. And low temperature asphalt was monitored at a Rotterdam location.

More information

On 21 January 2015, Frank Bijleveld will receive his doctoral degree from Professor André Doree of the department of Construction Management and Engineering of the University of Twente (Faculty of Engineering Technology and IGS Institute for Innovation and Governance Studies). Sergei Miller served as his direct supervisor. The digital version of his doctoral thesis, Professionalising the asphalt construction process, Aligning information technologies, operators' knowledge  and laboratory practices, is available on request.

Bijleveld's research was conducted within the context of the ASPARi network. ASPARi is short for ASphalt PAving Research & innovation. In the near future, ASPARi will effect the further professional development of the process by implementing real-time information provision to the on-site asphalt crews. The establishment of a stronger link between laboratory and implementation processes is a focal point of its work. In addition, a broad educational programme covering the asphalt paving process, encompassing both secondary and tertiary professional and university education, is currently being developed within ASPARi. Taken together, all this will result in the further professional development of road construction and improved asphalt roads.
Upon obtaining his doctoral degree, Bijleveld will join a road construction company to fulfil an R&D position.