Designing infrastructure in mountainous permafrost environments is challenging and demanding. However, by acknowledging the special circumstances and working conditions encountered during construction in the mountains, as well as systematically managing uncertainties, in particular due to climate change, successful designs can be achieved. Monitoring plays a key role in this process because a solid data basis helps in establishing current ground conditions and properties to be determined, and further allows for more realistic future predictions to be made. Ongoing monitoring during the life span of a structure helps to design and implement adaptations in timely manner.
A systematic approach is presented that helps in determining the climate sensitivity and failure consequences. Based on the approach the necessary level of investigations and design details can be established. Due to the sensitive nature of some foundation in mountain permafrost, flexible structures that can be adjusted with time are required or elements have to be included that might later be used as the condition of the foundation change. By incorporating elements for structure adaptation at the beginning future rehabilitation costs can be minimised.
Geothermal modelling must be part of any infrastructure design process because it helps in evaluating the sensitivity of the foundation and the structure to changes in the ground thermal condition. In situ ground temperatures measurements are to be used for model calibration and therefore it is important that data are available over a period as long as possible. During the life-time of a structure, these simulations are to be revisited using data from ongoing monitoring programmes.
Designing and building infrastructure in mountain permafrost remains challenging. Complex, heterogeneous foundation conditions, unknown future climate conditions, difficult access for equipment and short construction periods add to the costs of the infrastructure and have to be considered in the design. Technologies and tools are available to engineers to successfully build in demanding environments.
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