Posts Tagged ‘modular floating bridge

1        Conclusion

In this assessment, the team felt that they effectively incorporated into the EWB Project various modern civil engineering techniques, as well as careful environmental consideration.  The team also felt a level of passion for ethical action and social responsibility more than ever because of the project.

Furthermore, it was rather interesting to consider the different constraints on the engineering team because of the Tonle Sap context.  Although the team was initially non-skeptical about an American perspective to a Cambodia solution, they soon understood what really was required was a multicultural, multitalented, and multi-technological solution.

As the Cambodian economy grows, so will the specifications of the MFB.  As outlined previously, there is already some discussion on improvements of a possible second-generation MFB that uses even more lightweight material to increase buoyancy (thus load), as well as strength of material (thus product lifetime).

The MFB truly believes one person (or team) can change the world, and we hope the one which changes Cambodia, is the Modular Floating Bridge.

Posted on: June 6, 2009

1        Design Analysis

1.1    Alternative Analysis

1.1.1   Pontoon Alternatives  Pontoon Structure

Because the MFB would be subject to both physical forces and corrosion from both the atmosphere and the solution the bridge will float on, selection of the correct pontoon design and material was important.  Furthermore, the pontoons would have to provide the buoyancy force and stability that a MFB requires.  The materials available for the pontoon in the market are both vast and differ predominantly depending on environmental and social environments (as discussed in 2).      Barrel Design

4.1: Poly Drum
(ADCO Services, 2003)


Sealed short cylindrical drums, like that in Figure 4.1 and Figure 4.2, also known as barrels are regularly used in the construction of small rafts and pontoons (, 2009).  These drums are readily available as many industries utilize these containers for the transportation and storage of liquids (Newcastle City Council, 2006).  Barrels are available in different sizes and but the more common sizes are the 20L, 120L, 205L and 220L volume drums (Schutz DSL, 2009).

The physical size of a barrels provide little buoyancy and stability but do provide a streamline shape if orientated end into wind and water currents.

Using the Barrel Design for the MFB would mean using a product that had gone through the “test of time”, previously used for small rafts and pontoons, and was a readily available resource in Cambodia.

4.2: Steel Drum
(Global Industrial, 2009)      Cigar Design

Cigar-shaped pontoons are physically similar to barrels but have rounded ends and an elongated shape as seen in Figure 3.3.  The elongated shape provides superior levels of stability if orientated perpendicular to a bridge span (Fidler, 2008).  The increased displacement of this design over barrel design offer larger buoyancy forces, which can be utilized to support heavier bridge designs with fewer pontoons.  The streamline shape of this design limits the effects of water and wind turbulence if orientated end onto the current flows and thus reduces the load on the anchoring system

4.3: Canary North Quay Bridge, West India (Darkwaters, 2009)

Although the superior levels of stability that the Cigar Design could provide, because the shape was unavailable in Cambodia, unless it was manufactured out of synthetic (and costly materials), this structure was left for reconsideration for second-generation MFB’s.      Box Design

Box design pontoons are commonly used in calm water environments (Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 2006) and are frequently installed in boat mariners.  The design consist of a square or rectangular box section which provides the vessel for displacement on top of which is attached a flat surface used as the deck.  The large area of displacement of this design provides large load bearing capacity with the trade off to large susceptibility to surface currents and wind loading.  The stability of this design is poor due to the narrow displacement surface and so is generally installed between steel piles, which are used to locate and brace the bridge section.

Unfortunately, both the poor stability, and uncommon shape meant it was incompatible with both the environmental climate, as well as the environmental resources of Cambodia.      Displacement Design

The displacement design bridge is not regularly used in practice but does overcome the need to suspend a carry way, as seen in Figure 3.4.

4.4: Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade and Floating Bridge
(Bridge Stories, 2009)

Unfortunately, this design is unsuitable for Cambodia due to the large effects water and wind currents would have on this structure due to its large longitudinal area.      Selection

Although the Cigar Design does provide increased superiority in terms of both stability as well as load, because of the unusual shape, considerations for this design will only be made for the 2nd generation MFB.  Thus, because both the Box and Displacement Design are inappropriate for the Cambodian environment, the classic Barrel Design is selected by default.  Pontoon Material

The materials used in the construction of floats available on the market internationally are vast and vary greatly in their cost and availability.  Not all materials listed in the conceptual analysis are appropriate for the use in the Tonle Sap, and is eliminated as necessary.      Concrete

Concrete is used in the construction of pontoons and offers good resilience to the effects of ultraviolet radiation (Hota, 2006).  Concrete is a versatile material, which can be cast into complex shapes (, 2009) but is reliant on reinforcement steel to provide enough toughness in an environment such as the Tonle Sap.

Unfortunately, the density of concrete is approximately 2300 kg/m3 (Jackson, 1996) and thus limits both the size of a pontoon, and the load bearing capacity.      Steel Drums

205L steel drums are generally the standard in the petroleum industry (Perth Petroleum, 2009).  It is appropriate for the buoyancy device used for the MFB, but is disadvantaged to the plastic barrel because plastic is generally less reactive to seawater than steel.  However, the advantage of steel does not have the disadvantage of degeneration if exposed to ultra-violet light for prolonged periods (Askeland, 2008).

Despite the Tonle Sap is a freshwater lake (World Wildlife Fund, 2009), because of the reactivity of steel with salt water (Hall, 1997); the metallurgic process of converting steel into inox would increase the price above that which is accessible to Cambodians.      Non-Recycled Plastic Drums

Like steel drums, polyethylene (plastic) drums are often used in the construction of floats.  Plastic barrels are generally used in the chemical industry, which require a corrosion resistant storage container (IndiaMart, 2009).

The selection of polyethylene drums, which have been treated with UV stabilizers, would extend the lifespan of the product (ASM, 1995) and provide a more sustainable design. Compared with other materials, plastic drums are one of the lightest (yet cheapest) materials (Hansma, 2007) and therefore can be transported easily, thus reducing cost of freight.

Since the price of treating polyethylene drums with UV stabilizers (ASM, 1995) would be far cheaper than that of treating steel in metallurgic process (Hall, 1997), plastic drums would be preferred over steel drums.      Recycled Plastic Drums

Among the more environmentally sustainable materials, which could be considered suitable for the construction of pontoons, are recycled plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate, high-density polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride (Lenau, 2003).  These plastics are currently recycled and used to produce wheelie bins, which are comely, used in Europe for rubbish collection (Wheelie Bin Skins, 2009).

The production of recycled plastics relies on the collection of plastics currently thrown in waste deposits such as landfills (Waste Online, 2006).  The plastic is then subjected to various chemical and mechanical processes in specialized facilities.  Although this process has high initiation costs and logistics (Hinkley Center, 2002), increasingly complex and interlocked environmental regulations (, 2005) will mean increased demand in the long-term, thus good Return-On-Investment.

Fortunately, recycled plastic drums are readily available in Cambodia (EWB Australia, 2009).      Fiberglass Drums

A common composite material used in the marine environment for the construction of buoyancy devices such as boat hull design is fiberglass (Wiley, 1988).  Fiberglass is a matrix of thermosetting resin in which a reinforcement mat of glass fibers is laid (Techstreet, 2004).  Composites such as this require a mould in which the composite is laid into which determines the dimensions of the final product, as shown in Figure 3.5.  Fiberglass has the advantage of being super-lightweight and can be filled with low-density foam, which strengthens the product as well as providing buoyancy.

4.5: Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade and Floating Bridge
(Bridge Stories, 2009)

Unfortunately, the expense of fiberglass (Taunton Press, 1997) restricts access to such material.  Nevertheless, consideration was given for second-generation MFB to include such materials.      Selection

Concrete was inappropriate as a floating device because of its restrictive density.  Steel drums proved to be less potent (and readily available) than Plastic drums in the Cambodian economic and environmental climate.  Fiberglass was another effective option, but was expensive.

Thus, recycled plastic drums were chosen by default.

1.1.2   Bridge Alternatives

A number of constraints limit the design of the bridge structure, which is supported by the pontoons.  The most influential component on the bridge structure design is the pontoons as these provide both the buoyancy and stability to a non-pile tethered bridge designs.

As the supporting force of a MFB is solely supplied by the pontoons, the bridge structure and the load intended for the structure cannot exceed the buoyancy force (, 2006).  Therefore, a practical bridge structure needs to be lightweight to ensure an efficient safe working load is achieved.  The bridge structure is used both as a load-carrying frame, but also to locate the pontoons.  The secure locating of the pontoons to the bridge structure is paramount to ensure a safe design.

In designing the structure of the MFB, the design had to incorporate a centre of gravity in proportion to the stability provided by the pontoons.  Without properly addressing this issue, a bridge when loaded can become unstable and unsafe due to an increase in the height of the center of gravity (Gaudron, 1999).  The designs of floating bridges are generally of low modular type construction but can be as extravagant as the rolling bridge designed by Heatherwick Studio, which utilizes hydraulic rams to curl the structure (Figure 3.6).

4.6: Rolling Bridge designed by Heatherwick Studio
Geekologie (2007)

Furthermore, handrails were carefully considered for the purpose of safety.  The handrails of the MFB had to supply adequate support for users in the event the structure is hit by waves or wind (Bennett, 1999).  Furthermore, the handrails needed to be designed in such a way that they do not inhibit the flexibility of the structure.

1.1.3   Component Fixing Alternatives  Component Fixing Structure

After establishing all the various componentry, the next important consideration was the structure of the adjoining module.  In particular, because of the cyclic and fluctuating stresses caused by the constantly changing water levels (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001), special consideration had to be made for the flexibility factor to ensure brittle fracture does not occur.  This consideration of environmental conditions, as well as of the loading capacities, led to the “modular design” of the MFB.

The modular design commonly seen in boat marinas (MarineTek, 2009) ensures the bridge structure has a moderate level of flexibility both in its structure and application sense.  A modular design consists of a long bridge span being constructed from many smaller individual modules, which allow for flexibility at the point where they connect to one another.  The modular design also has the additional benefit of its USB-like “plug-and-play” nature, which allows individual short spanning modules to be used where a long span would be impractical.

4.7: “Hot-Swap” Super-Fast Connectivity
(Scarlet Skunk Marine Services, 2009)

Furthermore, the connection of a modular design can also utilize “hot-swap” super-fast connectivity as seen in Figure 3.7, appropriate for a bridge that may need to be moved frequently, disassembled/reassembled quickly as seen in Figure 3.8.

4.8: Lacy V Murrow Bridge
(Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, 2009)  Component Fixing Material

Note that the material used in the bridge structure would generally dictate the method of fixing components together in the bridge. For example:

1)      In relation to concrete structures, methods include bracketing or bolting

2)      In relation to plastic structures, methods include clipping, bracketing, or bolting

3)      In relation to wooden structures, methods include dowelling, bolting, roping, or bracketing

4)      In relation to metal structures, methods include welding, riveting, or bolting

Since 3.1 established the use of plastic drums, and 3.2 established the use of a wooden bridge, both (2) and (3) would be relevant.  Furthermore, in order to adjoin the plastic drum and the wooden bridge, steel brackets were introduced, thus the relevance of (4) too.

1.1.4   Anchoring Alternatives

Because the bridge was likely to “float” in the middle of a vast flood of water, consideration for anchoring was required.

Traditionally, the methods used to hold bridges in place were to either:

1)      Fix the bridge to a solid structure at either end as seen in Canary North Quay Bridge, West India (Figure 3.3) or;

2)      To tether the bridge to pylons which are driven into the sea floor (Figure 3.4)

Unfortunately, these methods are only useful if, for (1) either there is a solid structure at the termination points of the bridge; or for (2) the bridge is not required to be removable in the case of pylon-tethered designs.  Otherwise, as with the MFB, an alternative anchoring system would have to be employed.

As a result, the MFB uses “heavy weights” (conventional marine anchors), which are attached to the bridge, locked on to an area of the seabed.  Furthermore, because the MFB needs to accommodate to changing water levels driven by wind and tides in large bodies of water, a special method is devised (see 5.6) to adjust for changing water levels accordingly.

1.2    Selection Analysis

1.2.1   Benefits

There are a number of benefits to the MFB bridge design, as finalized above, which makes it ideal for the communities living on and around the Tonle Sap.  Generic Parts

The componentry material is undemanding with generic parts for the construction of each section.  This allows for standardized construction techniques (Berhow, 2005) to be used, which increase the economical benefits of this design by shortening the construction time needed.  Local Materials

The bridge uses materials that are easily sourced in Cambodia, including:

v  Plastic drums (EWB Australia, 2009)

v  Wooden decking (American University Washington D.C., 1996)

v  Bamboo railings (Biodiversity International, 2009)

As discussed in 2.1.1, locally sourced materials aid in reducing the material costs due to eliminating freight and tariff charges while providing the benefits of supporting the Cambodian economy.  Entrepreneurial Design

A key feature that differentiates the MFB from its competitors is its modular sections, which are joined together to form a long structure.  This allows for the easy extension or reduction in length and shape as the needs of the user change during the year.  As the engineers described it, the MFB allows for “plug-and-play” and “hot-swapping” (3.3.1).  Increased Safety

The use of short bridge sections in this modular design provides additional levels of safety and flexibility when compared to a longer more rigid structure.  The many joints between short sections allow for the flexibility of the structure when adverse weather conditions are experienced.  In the event of a wave affecting the bridge the multiple joints allow the bridge to flex and rotate in a variety of directions increases the stability of the structure when compared to a more rigid structure.

The placement of the drums on the ends of the cross section timbers allow for an increase in stability due to the wide footprint of the bridge structure.  The location of the drums helps to lower the center of gravity of the bridge, which is vital to ensuring a safe and sustainable design.

The location of the anchoring system onto the midpoint between the drums on the cross section timbers was a safety conscious decision.  The location of this ensures that the structure will not heel over when subject to a disturbed water state and decreases the swaying action of the bridge much like a keel on a boat.

1.2.2   Detriments

The MFB was designed in such a way as to be superior in every manner; nevertheless, because of the restrictive financial constraints on the project, several materials were chosen for the “first-generation MFB” that could be upgraded in the likelihood of a “second-generation MFB”.

This includes:

Cigar Design, rather than Barrel Design, which allows for increased stability and load; and

Fiberglass Drums; rather than Recycled Plastic Drums, which allows for increased strength and buoyancy (thus load)

Nevertheless, the engineering team intends that the second-generation MFB will have full “back-compatibility”, meaning it will integrated perfectly with first-generation MFB’s, thus reducing operational redundancy.

1.3    Budget Analysis

For a project of the immense size that the MFB aimed to be, and the suitability of the project on a far smaller scale, meant that cost estimations were made based on two criteria (Taylor, 1999):

1)      Precision: High level of repeatability, because if the MFB cost estimations were not precise, despite the project may be financially sustainable in the production of mass quantities, it would lack the consistency required for the production of smaller quantities of MFB’s; and

2)      Accuracy: Degree of closeness to the true quantitative value, because if the MFB cost estimates were inaccurate, the project may not have the funding to properly expand, if not implemented at all

In coming up with a budget proposal, we kept in mind the following qualitative characteristics in drawing up one:

Reliability: Synonymous with “Accuracy”, as described above; thus has representational faithfulness, and not biased;

Consistency: Synonymous with “Precision”, as described above;


  • To provide a forecast of revenue and expenses, as well as assets and liabilities
  • To provide a forecast of how the business may respond from certain strategies, and events (expected and unexpected)
  • Have both predicative and feedback value

Comparability: To enable actual financial operations of the business to be measured against the forecast;

Understandability: Stakeholders, without prior accounting and engineering knowledge, can understand and apply the budget in a systematic manner.  Obviously, this criterion assumes its users have a reasonable knowledge of business and economic activities and are willing to study the information with due diligence; and

Decision Usefulness: The budget must be provided in a timely manner as so not to inhibit decision usefulness.  This characteristic must be weighed up against the reliability criterion; since increased time would mean increased reliability, but may mean reduced decision usefulness. 

For each independent (that is, separately funded) implementation of the MFB, there are three stages of product development:

1)      Business start-up: In this period, working capital and labor service must be established.  Since the bridge is Do-It-Yourself, assuming no labor costs (other than those of training staff at EWB), working capital is the predominant levy.

2)      Business establishment: Once a community has established various MFB, it becomes established, and has a cash flow.  Because of the franchise-nature of the MFB system, the franchisor would receive a fee, which would go towards a marketing budget.  Note that economies of scale (with the exception of the steel bracket) is unlikely to be achieved because of the independent and autonomous nature of the MFB production system.

In order to increase perceived (as well as actual) professionalism, annual reports should be drawn up yearly, outlining the financial position, performance, and cash flow of each autonomous MFB system, and a consolidated report for the entire network of MFB’s (including the corporate head).

Because of the varying prices of componentry in Cambodia, the use of its own natural resources, and volatile economy, cost estimations could not be accurately provided in the design brief.  Nevertheless, price minimization was the objective at every stage of analyses.


We would like to thank Donald Duck for inspiring us of this idea to “Walk on Water”.

Furthermore, we would like to thank BHP Billiton for sponsoring the competition we find ourselves in.

  “Paddle, Paddle, Quack, Quack. Let’s float on water!”

            (Donald Duck, who didn’t really make the quote, but nevertheless inspired us in our Modular Floating Bridge design)

  “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.”

            (Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States)

  “Speak out … for the rights of the destitute. Speak out … defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

            (Proverbs 31:8-9, King Solomon, son of King David)

  “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

            (Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States)

  “You can find Calcutta anywhere in the world. You only need two eyes to see. Everywhere in the world there are people that are not loved, people that are not wanted nor desired, and people that no one will help, people that are pushed away or forgotten. And this is the greatest poverty.”

            (Mother Teresa, Roman Catholic nun)

  “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.

             (Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States)

  “… Let us love, not just in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

            (I John 3:18, John the Evangelist)

  “To do more for the world than the world does for you – that is success.”

             (Henry Ford, Founder of the Ford Motor Company)

  “You get the Best of Both Worlds.”

            (Hannah Montana; we thought, if a tween like her can, why can’t the people of the Tonle Sap, Cambodia?)


Executive Summary

This design brief is for the construction of a Modular Floating Bridge (herein referred to as the “MFB”) for the region of Tonle Sap, Cambodia.  We have used the Product Development Lifecycle (PDLC) model to detail the complete process of bringing the MFB to the Cambodian market.

An attempt has been made to combine the most up-to-date Civil Engineering techniques, with the latest Harvard Business School analysis, to come up with a solution that is both innovative as well as achievable.  With superior knowledge of Cambodia, we structured a solution to bring a bridge that would be easily understood, as well as manufactured by the people of the Tonle Sap.

Our engineering solution is best summarized by the Chinese proverb:

Economical; Exquisite; Excellent

The MFB is supreme from the perspectives of price, exterior design, and interior design (manufacturing quality).

Brief Overview

The MFB Design Brief features the following:

v  Outlines alternative options during the design process, and justification for the selected technology

v  Provides detail of conceptual design, analysis, and final design

v  Considerations for budget (design, construction, and maintenance costs)

v  PESTLE Analysis (political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental) of the Tonle Sap in Cambodia

v  Ethics, long-term sustainability, and maintenance considerations

v  Implementation strategy describing construction and operation advice to cast members

In short, the Modular Floating Bridge (referred to as the “MFB”) is an independent floating/bridging system that “plug-and-play’s” with existing Cambodian infrastructure, with “hot-swap” speeds, taking into account possible boats that may need to cross through the MFB.  The design uses materials that are 100% native to Cambodia, with the exclusion of the steel brackets, which can nonetheless be manufactured in Cambodia.

I guess you can call this a bit of an ‘Internet leak’, maybe more so a ‘news leak’ (Dictionary definition- disclosure of embargoed information in advance of its official release, or the unsanctioned release of confidential information).

Anyway, this seems to have not been an officially authorized disclosure, but somehow it may be in public interest due to need for speedy publication, which is the excuse I’m going to use today my good friends!!

Disclaimer: I’m not facilitating this leak by doing any journalists a personal favor (for any exchange of cooperation etc) but if any lawyers start coming to me screaming for why confidential intellectual property was released on to the Internet, you agree by looking at this page not to talk about it or pursue further charges!

I’ve attached the PDF, but since it’s 2.7MB it’s a bit big so for those who don’t mind not having the pictures, I’ll upload everything in Word format, etc, etc.

Be back very soon my good friends… You are doing a good deed helping the very very veeeeeeeeeeeery poor people of Cambodia!

Link: Modular Floating Bridge Design Brief (2009) [PDF]