Perceptions of Recreational Bridge Decking Materials by U.S. Architectural and Engineering Firms


  • Daniel F. McGraw
  • Paul M. Smith


Recreational bridges, material perceptions, product/market development, specifiers, woodplastic composites


This paper examines recreational bridge decking material specifiers to better understand substitution opportunities for wood/natural fiber-plastic composites (WPCs). The WPC industry in the United States has enjoyed success in several residential construction applications including decking/railing, doors, and windows. As new WPC technologies and advancements evolve, potential exists to expand into an array of new products, including structural components for housing, marine, and transportation infrastructure applications. Specifically, this research investigates the perceptions of U.S. architectural and engineering (A&E) firms regarding the industrial infrastructure materials used in recreational bridge decking.

Through various exploratory methods, private U.S. A&Es were identified as key decision-makers in the recreational bridge construction industry and were subsequently examined via email/Internet surveys. A&Es indicated their highest level of influence in the recreational bridge decking process was in Project Design (4.14) followed by Material Selection (3.53) (5-point scale). Architects and engineers average self-rated Knowledge Of and Experience With WPCs were 2.10 and 1.48, respectively, well below the neutral point (3.0) on the 5-point scale. The two most important and most appealing recreational bridge decking material/service attributes were Low Maintenance and Decay Resistance. A&Es identified Decking and Marine Applications as the top two applications where WPCs could be used as a wood substitute. The Internet, Trade/Industry Journals, Conferences/Seminars, and Word of Mouth were the most important methods used by A&Es to learn about new industrial infrastructure materials.


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