There are numerous studies about the possibility of structural health monitoring (SHM) of tall structures, like bridges, skyscrapers, water towers, wind turbines, where, for example, inclination or displacement is measured under the impact of strong winds or earthquake vibrations.

While such studies are carried out in the academic context, I wonder to what extent SHM is actually practiced nowadays, especially in structures that have been built more than 20 years ago, which have higher risk of structural weaknesses developed over time.

And finally, what kind of organisations usually take care of such monitoring? Are these the ones who did the construction of the object, or are there companies specialising solely on monitoring, without any connection to the actual designers or constructors of the object under consideration?

  • $\begingroup$ Which country? Or countries? And there are some older structures that survive better than new ones: pyramids for example,.. $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 1, 2021 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ Well, pyramid is quite a special case of a tall structure. Countries - for example US, Canada, Japan, South Korea. Does it differ a lot from country to country? $\endgroup$
    – BartoNaz
    Dec 1, 2021 at 21:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ When it comes to bridges, the structural health monitoring will fall in the realm of government normally. There are very few private bridges compared to government owned bridges. Not only that but government will set any legislation for building or bridge codes, and associated monitoring requirments. $\endgroup$
    – Forward Ed
    Dec 1, 2021 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ In Canada there are many engineering companies and some specialty companies that will do structural monitoring. I believe it would be similar with the US. $\endgroup$
    – Forward Ed
    Dec 1, 2021 at 21:37

2 Answers 2


In the US, I am aware of at least three types of structures that are closely monitored:

  1. Highway Structures - through periodic inventory surveys and structural condition assessment by government highway agencies. This is a mandatory duty usually carried out by the local DOT (Department of Transportation).

  2. Dams & Public Waterway Structures - monitored by several government agencies, such as BOR (Bureau of Reclamation), Department of Interior - Dam Safety Division, and the Army Corp of Engineers, and EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency). Privately owned dams and levees require inspection and are subject to relicensing within a certain period as well.

  3. Other Marine Structures, Infractures over/on the Public Waterways, and Facilities that Utilizing the Public Waterways - monitored by the Coastal Guard and EPA. Depending on activities, the requirement on safety inspection and relicensing is similar to 2) above.

A structure can be subject to scrutiny from multiple agencies due to overlapping in interests, responsibilities, and authorities, most often, a central authoritative agency will be designated to streamline the process, however, it's not necessarily always the case.

I believe I have left out some segments that also are under tight regulatory control. PLease feel free to chime in.

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    $\begingroup$ Rail bridges and culverts. Inspection requirements are given through A.R.E.M.A. $\endgroup$
    – Forward Ed
    Dec 3, 2021 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Good one. How could I forget that :) $\endgroup$
    – r13
    Dec 3, 2021 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ and on a side note, A.R.E.M.A. is used in both Canada and the US. No clue about Mexico, but a good possibility. $\endgroup$
    – Forward Ed
    Dec 3, 2021 at 16:46

In the United States, there is a mix of government and state and municipalities that are tsked to do this.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), for example, is responsible for checking and advising on the safety of the roads, bridges, and airports.

Many systems overlap the inspection and maintenance. Caltrans in the state of California does that for freeways and superstructures here.

Schools and universities have their own in-house or hired consultants.

Municipalities inspect and issue orders to comply, or new minimum standards for old buildings rehab for earthquakes or to eliminate and remove certain dangerous building materials like lead and asbestos.

Private properties are liable for any substandard part of their business or residential multi-unit buildings.

In the US there are many independent engineering inspection companies that are tasked to check and report on the well-being of a building at certain times, such as when the zoning or use of the building or ownership changes.

Any concerned private party can report a building they deem is not safe and trigger an investigation and possible repairs.

Many law firms exclusively do forensic or negligent construction litigation.


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