STORMLAMP - STructural behaviour Of Rock Mounted Lighthouses At the Mercy of imPulsive waves

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Engineering Computer Science and Maths


Historic rock-mounted lighthouses play a vital role in the safe navigation around perilous reefs. However their longevity is threatened by the battering of waves which may be set to increase with climate change. Virtual navigational aids such as GPS are fallible, and reliance on them can be disastrous. Mariners will therefore continue to need the physical visual aids of these strategic structures. The loss of any reef lighthouse will be incalculable in terms of safety, trade and heritage.

Plymouth University has trialled the use of recording instruments to capture limited information on the loading and response of Eddystone Lighthouse, with the support of the General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) having legal responsibility to safeguard aids to marine navigation around the British Isles. The study evaluated the extreme logistical constraints of lighthouse operations and the feasibility of using instrumentation to understand the response of the lighthouse to wave loads, with results strongly encouraging a comprehensive study of the load and response environment.

Hence a full-scale project is proposed whereby field, laboratory and mathematical/computer modelling methods, novel both individually and collectively, will be used to assess six of the most vulnerable rock lighthouses in the UK and Ireland. Depending on the findings the investigation will then focus on extended full-scale evaluation of one lighthouse for the following two winters.

The field instrumentation run by University of Exeter, and which will include modal testing and long term instrumentation will require novel procedures and technologies to be created to deal with the challenging environmental and logistical constraints e.g. of access, timing power.

The modal test data will be used to guide the creation, by UCL, of sophisticated multi-scale numerical simulations of lighthouses that can be used with the data to diagnose observed performance in the long-term monitoring.

The numerical structural model will also be linked with advanced physical modelling at Plymouth University's COAST Laboratory, and numerical (computational fluid dynamic) simulations.

Finally, based on the structural and wave loading models, the long term monitoring will be used to characterize the wave loading in-situ at full scale.

Outcomes of the project will be used to inform the comprehensive structural health monitoring of other lighthouses both in the British Isles and further afield through the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities. This will lead to the identification of structural distress and reduction in the risk of failure through preventative measures. Methods developed will also be of relevance to other masonry structures under wave loads so the project team includes a number of industrial partners: AECOM, Atkins, HR Wallingford and the Environment Agency who have interests in this area. As the UK has a large number of ageing coastal defences whose vulnerability to wave load was demonstrated in the winter 2013/14 storms, the applicability of the STORMLAMP findings to these structures is an important additional benefit of the project.


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