In the last years an increasing interest has been devoted to all the topics related to the security and safety of people. Particular attention has been paid to health monitoring of large civil structures hosting many people, such as high-rise buildings and stadiums. Some extraordinary events, such as the Millennium Bridge oscillations in London, excited by pedestrians, or the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Ullevi Stadium in which coordinated jumps from the crowd caused serious damage to the structure, and drew attention toward a deeper and more careful study of all those problems related to the dynamic behavior of civil structures and their interaction with crowds. Research on these topics is also aimed, among others, at developing techniques allowing for a continuous monitoring of the structure, starting from a set of measurements that can be performed continuously, 24 h a day, without the need to stop the structure’s functionality. The vast scientific literature confirms the possibility of relating structural health to the evolution of modal parameters, often reaching the aim of localizing any eventual damage, a task otherwise impossible with different techniques. This paper shows part of a long lasting project involving Politecnico di Milano in the setting up of a permanent health monitoring system at the G. Meazza Stadium in Milan. The aim of this project was the evaluation of the actual health state of the structures constituting the stands of the stadium and the deployment of a permanent monitoring system to record the vibration levels reached in all substructures during each event. Evaluation of the actual structure condition was performed by the use of ambient vibration, which was also checked against traditional experimental modal analysis, performed by using an inertial force given by a hydraulic actuator and a detailed measurement mesh. This offered the chance to exploit all possible information concerning natural frequencies, modal shapes, and damping factors. This task is extremely time consuming and expensive, therefore, it cannot be repeated very often. The possibility of using the data coming from the permanent monitoring system, which is about to be installed, is then an attractive perspective to improve structural diagnosis. It is expected that using operational modal analysis techniques will mean knowledge of the excitation applied to the structure will not be required. The parameter estimation obtained by this technique is usually affected by a spread, given both by the uncertainty of the adopted identification techniques and the influence of external parameters, such as crowd loading or temperature. As damage identification is related to changes of the modal parameters, the evaluation of their normal spread is fundamental to fix a threshold in order to identify possible worrysome situations. This paper deals with the identification of the spread in the modal parameter estimation of one of the grandstands of the so-called 3° ring of the G. Meazza Stadium in Milan, performed analyzing data collected over more than one year. Vibration data have been recorded during different events, such as soccer matches and concerts. The considered data came from a set of sensors similar to that which is to be installed for the permanent monitoring system, to check about the possibility to use the monitoring system as a diagnostic tool for the structure. A study was also carried out to identify critical aspects in the sensors’ choice and their placement, in order to provide useful information about the design of the permanent monitoring system. The presented results can be used to determine confidence intervals out of which changes in the modal properties can be considered anomalous, and so, worthy of being deeply investigated to assess structural integrity.
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