Professor Sujeeva Setunge delivered her Inaugural Professorial Lecture at RMIT University.
Professor Sujeeva Setunge
The presentation, “Doing more with less in managing civil infrastructure: current challenges and knowledge required for optimised and sustainable decisions“, covered four major infrastructure sectors - buildings, bridges, sewers and seaports.
It also included outcomes from a number of research projects and outlined a diverse range of approaches used to derive deterioration models and optimised management strategies for civil infrastructure assets.
The lecture celebrated her appointment to Professor and provided an an opportunity to present her research to staff, students and the external community.
Professor Setunge is the Deputy Head of School, Civil Engineering within the School of Civil, Environmental and Chemical Engineering. She currently supervises 14 HDR students and has supervised 22 HDR students to completion since joining the University in 2001.
With a strong interest in mathematics and applications of mathematics to solve problems, Professor Setunge’s interest in engineering commenced at a young age.
“In year 11, I made a conscious decision to select subjects which led me to engineering.
“With an appreciation of the benefits of this discipline to mankind, I completed my first degree in civil engineering at the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka, and was only the third female to obtain Hons 1 at the time.“
Professor Setunge’s PhD was on structural properties of high strength concrete. Here she developed a constitutive model for design of structures with a new type of concrete.
“The work I did in this area contributed to the design of high strength concrete columns in lower stories of high rise buildings, including the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia.
“I have continued to work in this field, expanding to sustainable materials such as high volume fly ash concrete, geopolymer concrete and wood based composites, where I developed an understanding of material and structural properties.“
In 2003, she started a new project examining the use of fibre reinforced polymer composites in strengthening of structures which led to her current research area of deterioration forecasting and whole of life care of structures and infrastructure.
“I have developed significant expertise in the area of durability of materials; deterioration forecasting using discrete condition data; and risk based optimised decision making in infrastructure management.
“The work has covered buildings, bridges, sewers, seaports and stormwater pipes and the first outcomes in the area have led to an innovative software tool CAMS currently deployed at a number of local councils including the City of Melbourne,“ Professor Setunge said.
“The software enables asset owners to move from reactive to proactive decision making.“
Professor Setunge said the current challenges in managing infrastructure are significant.
“One of the challenges in implementing innovative materials in construction is the lack of appropriate design standards which can delay the design acceptance process.
“Secondly, when the infrastructure stock of the society matures, ensuring safety of the structures will be a major issue in civil engineering.
“Assessment of structures requires consideration of variability of design loading, change in strength of materials after deterioration, impact of climate change and increase in frequency of extreme events.
Professor Setunge is currently engaged in five major research projects which involve bridges, buildings, seaports, water mains and storm water pipe lines.
She is leading a $1.4m project funded by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC to enhance resilience of bridge structures conducted in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and the University of Southern Queensland.
Professor Setunge believes RMIT is at the forefront of sustainability of the construction industry and management of aging infrastructure
“With our work on development of many innovative construction materials with low embodied energy and our research on whole of life care of infrastructure, RMIT offers programs that really prepare students for addressing these challenges.“