Arup Community Engagement


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Arup Community Engagement

Project overview

Project overview

  • A 50m pedestrian suspension bridge enables local people to cross the dangerous River Muregeya.
  • The new bridge will benefit 10,000 people and save lives.
  • Arup volunteers used the project to validate their design and learning resource BridgeTOOL.

Eight Arup volunteers worked with charity Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) to build a pedestrian suspension bridge across the Muregeya River in Rwanda that gives local communities access to vital infrastructure and facilities.

People living in the districts of Karongi and Rutsiro were cut off from one another for the three months each year when the river swells. This prevented them accessing facilities such as the local market, hospital and technical school – unless they risked their lives attempting to cross the river.

Our team joined other B2P volunteers and local workers to construct a 50m suspension bridge across the Muregeya River. The Arup volunteers used the project to validate BridgeTOOL, a design and learning resource that enables the rapid design of pedestrian suspension bridges in developing countries.

The whole project took place over a six-week period, with substructure excavations and concrete pours taking four weeks and the entire superstructure built in just ten days. With a tight programme and just basic tools, the physically demanding work was a challenge that required close collaboration.

Despite the language barriers, our volunteers found they were able to build a rapport with the local community. People-power enabled them to carry the different elements of the bridge into place – including a half-tonne steel section that had to be transported across the river.

The volunteers built the towers horizontally before raising them into place and hoisting the cable over the bridge. In the process, they learnt lessons that will improve future projects. For example, BridgeTOOL now includes a new A-frame system to lift the towers into place – which is much safer than using scaffolding.

The finished bridge serves a local population of 10,000, with B2P estimating that the local market day alone attracts 1,500 people. With an easy and safe river crossing in place, people no longer have to make a dangerous journey to access this and other facilities.
This is an excellent example of structural engineers providing their expertise in order to truly contribute and transform people’s lives. It supports an aspiration to eliminate extreme poverty caused by rural isolation and it was clear to the judges that the work of the team was exemplar in its execution and dedication.
Institution of Structural Engineers – Structural Awards 2014 Judges

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