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There’s so much choice these days when planning summer holidays; abroad or UK, beach or countryside, with family or friends. Considering the benefits of getting away from it all, versus the stress of packing, the journey, the expense. We’re all made aware of the therapeutic benefits that the clean sea air has on our physical and mental health; even stormy weather at the coast can be exhilarating.

The elements we find so invigorating by the sea, can be quite destructive to the land and the buildings around coastal areas and much of this is documented when storms destroy infrastructure, coastal erosion undermines structures and we notice paint dropping off facades, making our pretty holiday destinations look scruffy.

The local authorities and building owners in these areas are constantly battling with the elements, to maintain and preserve their properties. It’s a continual, arduous task and only considered by the passers-by when flaws and dilapidation become an eyesore. Construction and maintenance considerations for whole life costing in specifying marine grade paints and materials would provide them with longevity and maintenance-free solutions.

Streetlighting columns and sign posts are not exempt from these considerations and local authorities are working hard to ensure that the public are kept safe from the corroded structures by employing testing methods to detect visible and hidden defects. They have an obligation to perform these checks at recommended intervals.

A few weeks ago, I noticed several articles in the media about the art installation of a 75 metre wind turbine blade, which is now sited (until 18 March 2017) in Queen Victoria Square in the City of Hull, the UK City of Culture 2017 - a must-see spectacle that provides close-up perspective of the vast size of the wind turbines due to be installed in the seas around our shores. These huge structures are made of Glassfibre Reinforced Polyester (GRP), which will not be adversely affected by the severe conditions of the high seas.

Glassfibre Reinforced Polyester

Many products are made of, or incorporate GRP materials including car bodies, sailboats, surf boards and airplane fuselages. Advancements and innovations in Glassfibre Reinforced Polymers and process technologies have resulted in lightweight high-strength GRP materials that are more cost-competitive than traditional construction materials such as wood, steel and pre-stressed concrete.

Many of our coastal locations have already installed street lighting columns made entirely of GRP.  This material is not new to the lighting industry; in the mid-1980s, GRP lighting columns were installed along the Spanish coastal area where they have withstood, with outstanding results, a highly corrosive environment, strong winds, high humidity, salinity and UV radiation.

Why a local authority should consider GRP

GRP materials are used widely in many applications because they can be engineered to offer important advantages over traditional materials. Such advantages include low weight, low maintenance cost, dimensional stability, recyclability (nontoxicity), resistance to rot, corrosion, chemical safety, quality finish, a longer lifespan of lamps, etc. GRP materials also offer product engineers extraordinary design latitude because they can choose from a wide range of material systems and processing techniques (centrifugal casting, filament winding, pultrusion, resin infusion).  This degree of flexibility, distinguishes GRP materials from “traditional” materials.  Unlike columns made from traditional materials, GRP columns are available in a wide range of geometric shapes, colours and surface textures.

Their low weight, permits ease of handling, transport and minimum need of cranes for unloading, installation and benefit from a high strength-to-weight ratio. If the GRP pole is removed from its place, it can be entirely recycled, ground and used as fibre for the concrete industry. Its capacity to absorb vibrations makes GRP the best ally for lamps. Vibrations generated by wind, cars and street works are transmitted in the pole towards the top of the lamp with much less intensity than in metallic poles protecting the lamp of shortcuts and mechanical stress that shortens their life significantly.

Standing up to the elements

GRP columns are unaffected by ice and snow, they are moisture resistant and can be subjected to most extreme climatic conditions ranging from very wet (marshes, rivers, coastal areas) to very dry, desert locations without degradation and remain almost unaltered if attacked by UV-radiation. In the temperature range between -20ºC and 70ºC the material proves its resistance in accelerated aging tests without significant loss of mechanical properties for equivalent periods of a 50 year life span.

GRP columns are very fatigue-resistant and unlike some other materials, holes and notches in GRP columns do not generate fatigue cracks when subjected to cyclic loading of the structure. They are not susceptible to termite, woodpecker, or other biological attack. This inert, fire retardant material is an insulator Class II that avoids any risk of electrocution making earthing unnecessary and thereby provides further cost saving.

How YPO can help

YPO established the 711 Streetlighting Products and Services Framework Agreement in 2016.This provides an OJEU complaint method of procurement for the supply of Luminaires, Columns, Structural and Electrical Testing of Assets via Further Competitions, which can be managed by the YPO Highways team on behalf of a Contracting Authority or by the Authority themselves with as much or as little guidance as required.

Please contact [email protected] 01924 834 962 for more information.

GRP column information provided by SA Elecnor, Adhorna Grupo

Find out more about YPO’s Streetlighting Products and Services framework


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Author

Kath Johnson

Category Manager for Buildings, Highways and Construction
YPO