News - South Africa’s CSIR elected as 32nd FEHRL national institute

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Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories

South Africa’s CSIR elected as 32nd FEHRL national institute

Meeting in Brno, Czech Republic, the General Assembly of FEHRL this week elected the CSIR as an Associate of FEHRL.  This important step in FEHRL’s cooperation with CSIR builds on the long-established links with both FEHRL and its members.  These links were demonstrated through strong support of an associate status with the application sponsored by DVS Rijkswaterstaat, VTI, IBDiM and NPRA.  The active participation will be ensured through the Transport Infrastructure Research Group of CSIR Built Environment.


The Transport Infrastructure Engineering Research Group (RG) provides innovative engineering solutions for the design, construction and maintenance of transport infrastructure assets (e.g. roads, streets, airports, railways) based on basic and applied research supporting the provision of a sustainable and cost-effective transport network. Its current competences are in the areas of: (a) materials, including traditional, waste and novel materials, also supporting environmental engineering and climate change mitigation; (b) engineering design, analysis and modelling supporting sustainable construction; (c) vehicle-pavement and infrastructure-environment interaction; (d) geotechnical engineering and rock mechanics. The RG works in close unison with national, provincial and municipal road authorities and agencies, with universities as well as with private sector associations, consultants, manufacturers, producers and contractors, in support of their goals and objectives. The RG acknowledges the critical shortages of skills and capacity in the sector, and is actively involved in transferring knowledge and building capacity. The RG has strong international linkages which facilitates the transfer of cost-effective technologies to South Africa.
Closely associated with the Transport Infrastructure Engineering Research Group, is the Accelerated Pavement Testing Research Group, which not only provides the necessary data on the behavioural characteristics and performance of pavement materials and structures when tested under accelerated loading, but also fosters international collaboration in accelerated pavement testing. It is also involved in the advancement of performance data capturing techniques and instrumentation. The Research Group supports the technology development agendas of organisations such as the Gauteng Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport, the South African National Roads Agency and the Western Cape Department of Transport, amongst others.
The above two Research Groups are complemented by Laboratories and Workshops, which provide specialised testing services and develop specific equipment in support of the science, engineering and technology needs of the infrastructure engineering sector. The facilities include: (a) a rock mechanics laboratory; (b) a soils and materials laboratory; (c) an asphalt laboratory; (d) a dynamic testing laboratory; (e) a bituminous binders laboratory; (f) a chemical laboratory, and (g) mechanical workshops.
The above research groups are key to the development and/or refinement of science, engineering and technology (SET) solutions that will enable owners of transport infrastructure assets to design, construct, maintain and rehabilitate/upgrade their assets optimally taking user requirements and long-term sustainability into consideration.
More specifically:

  • Materials being the basic building blocks, the transport infrastructure sector relies on these research groups (in partnership with others) to improve understanding and appreciation of the complexities associated with construction materials to optimise the appropriate usage of traditional materials, to seek viable opportunities for the reuse of materials so as reduce the waste stream, and to identify innovative materials with improved structural and/or functional characteristics;
  • The transport infrastructure sector also relies on these research groups (in partnership with others) to use its material knowledge coupled with its understanding of structural design and vehicle-pavement interaction to develop better solutions for determining and predicting the performance of the system. This includes the use of long-term pavement performance studies and accelerated pavement testing as well as instrumentation and measurement technologies and observations to improve and calibrate performance models, and hence to improve design reliability.
  • Dwindling material resources, ageing infrastructure, lack of funding for maintenance (hence requiring optimisation of resources), the need for quantum leaps in innovation (e.g. nano-technology, particulate media, agriculture-based binders, observational techniques), increases in loading, both in terms of axle loads and numbers, all necessitate a greater need and focus on pavement engineering research.
  • The research groups also have an important role to play in building capacity and improving the skills base of the industry.


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