Engineers keep Lego bridge in record-breaking suspense

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The bridge is split into two connected side spans of 16.46 m (54 ft)(Credit: Institution of Civil Engineers)

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We've seen world records awarded for a caravan and a Millennium Falcon built out of Lego, but this latest construction makes them both look small fry. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has been awarded a Guinness World Record for a Lego replica of the UK's Severn Bridge measuring 31-m (102-ft) long and 3-m (10-ft) tall.

The replica was designed by bridge engineer and ICE Gold Medalist Dr Robin Sham, with input from a project design team and consultancy from WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff. It was constructed by 10 Bright Bricks Lego professionals, with the help of five bridge engineers from WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff. It took 650 person-hours to build and comprises more than 200,000 pieces.

The 31-m (102 ft) length of the bridge is split into two connected side spans of 16.46 m (54 ft) and it is these spans that have set a new world record. The previous record for a single span constructed out of Lego, set in 2014, was 14 m (46 ft).

Weighing in at 0.75 tons (0.68 tonnes), the completed bridge stands freely without the use of glue or structural supports. Its cables act in tension to support both the decking and the overall structure, with the gravity anchors at each holding the structure in place.

Working with Lego presented a different set of challenges than usual for the engineers. Whereas they are familiar with the properties and behaviors of steel and concrete, less is known about the properties of Lego, making it less predictable. At one point, it was found that some of the suspension cable lengths needed adjusting, for example. On another occasion, a tilt was spotted in the gravity anchors due to the strain being placed on the cables, meaning additional ballast had to be added.

The aim of the Lego Bridge was to demonstrate the engineering challenge involved in building a bridge to the public. It was first constructed on September 5 in the gymnasium at Weydon School in Surrey, where the record was verified by Guinness World Records.

It has since been moved and reconstructed at One Great George Street, the home of the ICE in London's Westminster, where it is on display as part of an exhibition that celebrates some of the world's greatest bridges and the engineers who built them.

"The ICE's visionary Lego Bridge project connects civil engineers with the public, demonstrating the monumental accomplishments of civil engineering," says Sham in a press release. "Using familiar Lego bricks to demystify and showcase the extraordinary feats of engineers, I hope the next generation will be inspired to consider engineering as a career."

The Bridge Engineering exhibition opened on Monday and runs through until April next year. The video below provides an overview of the Lego Bridge project.

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