Eugène Freyssinet: an inspirational founder

Freyssinet’s particularly rich history tells the story of a strong and resilient company, founded on the fundamental values of its founder and developed over time to meet the challenges of its time.

Société Technique pour l’Utilisation de la Précontrainte (STUP), now known as Freyssinet, was born in February 1943 out of engineer Eugène Freyssinet’s inventions and his determination, together with Edme Campenon (founder of Campenon Bernard), to develop these inventions.

Exceptional inventiveness

Following the initial inventions, prestressing in 1928, flat jack in 1938 and anchor cones in 1939a large number of patents were filed by STUP and then Freyssinet International, some of which are groundbreaking: neoprene bearings (1957), reinforcement tensioning and anchoring process and system (1967), cable stay system (1974)Isotension system (1989)In 1981, the number of patents totalled 231. These inventions were to revolutionize the building industry. Today, they still account for Freyssinet’s technological superiority. 

Export of know-how and fast internationalization

Freyssinet’s know how in prestressingthe numerous innovations and the strong determination to export these innovations and use them on various types of structures, all this paved the way for Freyssinet unparalleled development on the five continents. This growth enables Freyssinet to be present in nearly 70 countries in the mid-1970s and develop a true culture of proximity to its clients and local partners. 

Continuous search for diversification

Until the 1960s, most contracts were secured in developed countries and were mainly for engineering structures (about 90% of turnover)During the 1970s, the proportion of engineering structures fell to 60%, while services were developed in the fields of building, industryenergy (mainly nuclear) and offshore works for oil extraction. 

In the same way as the sectors of activity have expanded, the range of services, which originally consisted exclusively of prestressing, has gradually been enriched by other specialties:

  • Launching beams and incremental launch systems,
  • Cantilever construction of bridge decks with mobile equipment,
  • Heavy lifting and handling by means of flat jacks or cables,
  • Repair of structures using injection techniques,
  • Ground anchors with pre-stressed bars or cables injected with special mortar or grout,
  • Stay and suspension cables, using anchors,
  • Metal or neoprene bearings made earthquake resistant,
  • Expansion joints.
  • 1928
    First prestressing system
  • 1938
    First flat jack
  • 1974
    First stay cable system
  • 231
    Number of patents filed in 1981

Inventiveness, international footprint, vertical integration and diversification – all these features are the Freyssinet DNA.

Jean-Philippe RICARD -  
CEO, Freyssinet

The 1940’s: the wartime experience and the beginnings

1943
Creation of STUP 

The STUP (Société Technique pour l’Utilisation de la Précontrainte) purpose is to exploit and expand the use of the Freyssinet processes. Building on a well-equipped design office and an energetic sales and marketing department, it embarks on a wide promotion campaign, distributing a large number of technical brochures and participating in virtually each exhibition organized by the Ministry of Industrial Production. 

NAME OF THE PRESIDENT – Eugène Freyssinet

1946
First prestressed concrete bridge

The Luzancy bridge, designed by Eugène Freyssinet, is the first prestressed concrete bridge build in France. It is built over the Marne River during the Second World War in order to replace a bridge destroyed in June 1940.  

Designed as a girder bridge with a span of 55 metres and a characteristic very low arch, it is very lightweight (thickness in the centre of only 1.22 metres). Most importantly, it is made of self-centring pre-cast segments. 

1947
First use of prestressing in an airport runway construction

Orly airport (France): STUP is the first to think of using prestressing for airport runways. In 1947, it builds a 420m-long and 16cm-thick prestressed concrete runway, able to support the weight of 135-tonne aircraft. 

Creation of branches in Brazil and Denmark 

1948
Granted license for the commercial use of Freyssinet systems

Hull testing gallery in Toulouse (France): STUP uses a battery of flat jacks to ensure the longitudinal prestressing of the structure.

PSC Equipment Ltd is founded in UK

1949
First bridges using prestressed concrete beams

Galion bridge in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) is one of the first bridges favouring prestressed concrete beams.

Also, a prefabrication plant set up by Eugène Freyssinet at Esbly, east of Paris, supports the construction by Entreprises Campenon Bernard of five large bridges over the Marne, including the Esbly bridge in 1949. All structured in the same way with a 74m span, they are designed using the same construction method as for Luzancy bridge.

The 1950’s: the contribution to reconstruction

1950
Invention of elastomeric bearings
1951
A single arch makes it possible to build the three viaducts in sequence

STUP designs three viaducs with a maximum span of 150 metres for the Caracas-La Guaira motorway in Venezuela.

 

1952
Watertightness through prestressing

For the Kunu water pipeline (India) 1800 m length and internal diameter 6m, STUP used prestressing to ensure that it could support a 5 bars pressure.

1953
About 110 road bridges (re)built in France using Freyssinet processes

In 1945, a total of 7550 highway engineering structures in France have been destroyed during the war. Seven years later, two-third of them are back in service. STUP played a leading role in this reconstruction, particularly for road bridges. The low cost of Freyssinet processes reflects a major advantage of prestressing – the fact that it saves substantial amounts of steel and concrete and allows much shorter timeframes, by streamlining the entire cross-section of the bridges.

1954
More than 1,000 structures built worldwide using prestressing

Europe 1 radio transmitter in Felsberg (Germany): this futuristic hall is an architectural masterpiece and is affectionately called “The cathedral of waves”. The first roof broke and was restored and strengthened by STUP.

Bridge over the Wouri river in Douala, Cameroon: first major bridge built in prestressed concrete in Africa. Length of 1700 m, deck made of 210 sections.

1956
Eugène Freyssinet's most masterful work

Underground basilica of Saint Pius X (France): a 200m long prestressed concrete nave is designed and built for the basilica, which is one of the most famous religious monuments in the world. This construction is considered to be Eugène Freyssinet’s most masterful work.

Lake Ponchartrain Causeway in Louisiana (United States): STUP wins the contract to serve as engineering consultant of this bridge, the world longest (38 km) for which the span elements are precast on the lake shore.

1957
Invention of neoprene bearings

Motorway bridge at Orly (France): Design and construction of a 130m-long prestressed concrete motorway bridge.

1959
Invention of steel anchor cone 12T13

The Tancarville access viaduct (France) consists of pre-stressed concrete beams manufactured in series, each beam being 50m long and weighing 120 tons.

THE 1960’s: the international breakthrough

1960
Invention of prefabricated prestressed segments with match cast joints

Road system in Brasilia (Brazil)

Kobe bridge (Japan)

1961
Creation of an office dedicated to structural design services

Creation of “Europe Etudes” based in France, an office dedicated to structural design services.

Erraguene multi-vault dam on the Wadi Djen Djen (Algeria)

 

1962
Death of Eugène Freyssinet and Edme Campenon
1963
Single-span arch world record set in Australia

STUP designs and carries out the load transfer of the Gladesville bridge (Australia) using flat jacks. The 305m single-span arch sets a world record at the time of its construction.

Creation of “Asie Etudes” – based in France

Creation of branches in Switzerland and Spain

1965
Creation of Freyssinet branch in Australia

Design of the 13-km monorail linking Tokyo and Haneda Airport

 

1966
First precast arch segment construction method

Built using the precast arch segment construction method for the first time, the Oleron bridge is the longest bridge in France at the time of its inauguration.

Creation of a branch in Mexico

1967
Invention of prestressing and reinforcement anchors

Patent filed for mono-group anchorages: primarily used in nuclear systems

Abu Simbel temple lifting: STUP lifts by 63 metres the temple of Abu Simbel in order to preserve the temple from the rising waters of the Aswan dam. Freyssinet flat jacks are used to support the new pillars.

1969
Chillon viaduct (Switzerland)

STUP builds the motorway bridge’s prestressed concrete deck using the precast segmental method, where segments are picked up using a launching gantry and lowered into place.

THE 1970’s: the expansion in the energy industry

1970
Cooperation agreement with Soletanche

Partnership: A general cooperation agreement is agreed with the company Soletanche, specialized in foundation work and ground anchors.

Engineering contract for the repair of the 19.6-km Chesapeake Bay Bridge (United States)

Creation of a branch in Malaysia

1971
Innovation: Moving of structures

Main projects:

  • Parc des Princes Stadium (France)
  • Noirmoutier bridge (France)
1972
First oil platform built in prestressed concrete

Ekofisk offshore oil platform (Norway) is the first oil platform built in prestressed concrete and the first designed by Freyssinet. The construction required a total of 150,000 m3 of concrete. Towing took place in Stavanger’s Fjord, 320 km from the site.

Bridge of Saint Cloud (France): Curved bridge built by successive cantilevers, using prefabricated segments weighing 73 to 130 tons

Creation of a branch in Hong Kong

1973
Civil engineering structures on Paris Ring Road (France)

Most of the viaducts, overpasses and covered sections of this 36 km long motorway have been prestressed using Freyssinet processes (approximately 320,000 m2 of deck). The design is done by Europe Etudes (STUP) and the execution by Européenne d’Entreprises and Fougerolle.

Concorde Lafayette hotel in Porte Maillot, Paris (France): 50 000 m² pre-stressed floors with greased monostrands.

1974
Invention of Freyssinet stay cables

Freyssinet is the first company to use strands as a resistant element of the stay. The technology used is logically derived from that of prestressing. Fatigue resistance is obtained by filtering out overload stresses by means of an epoxy resin injection in the anchoring area. The free part of the stays is protected against corrosion by injecting a cement grout inside the duct surrounding the bundle of strands.

Main project: Rio-Niteroi bridge (Brazil)

1975
Invention of greased sheathed strand

French nuclear programme (France): the construction of the Dampierre, Gravelines and Tricastin power plants marks the start of the French nuclear programme. Freyssinet signs large prestressing contracts, which cover the nuclear containments (900 MW programme from 1974 to 1984, 1300 MW programme from 1976 to 1986)
It is estimated today that Freyssinet has achieved the prestressing of two third of the world’s current nuclear power plants.

Creation of a branch in New Zealand

 

1976
STUP is renamed Freyssinet on 9 January 1976

Velodrome of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal (Canada): Freyssinet is involved in its construction, using a specific method of load transfer by placing flat jacks at the four abutments.

1977
Cables made of single strands

Brotonne bridge (France): With a span of 320 metres, the bridge equipped with the first Freyssinet stay cables features the longest cable-stayed span in the world at the time of its construction.

1978
Second-longest cable-stayed bridge in the world

Ed Hendler bridge in Washington (United States) is the first major cable-stayed bridge to be built in the United States, and second-longest of its kind in the world at the time. It is constructed almost entirely of prestressed concrete, including the towers and the bridge deck.

Saint-Jacques Cathedral (Guatemala): Complete restoration after the 1976 earthquake

1979
Freyssinet International Award Winner of the Export Oscars

Freyssinet wins the export Oscar in recognition of having increased its sales by a factor of more than five over a five-year period. At that point, the company is operating in 70 countries outside France, which accounts for 57% of its revenue.

Main project: Sathorn bridge in Bangkok (Thailand)

THE 1980’s: from crisis and transformation to recovery

1980
Invention of cable lifting

Muna project (Saudi Arabia): Freyssinet Saudi Arabia and Freyssinet International are carrying out the entire covering, including foundations and ground anchors, of a structure intended to serve as a reservoir for the water supply to Mecca.

Long Key bridge in Florida (United States): Deck consisting of a single box girder 12m wide and 2.10m high. The girder is constructed of prefabricated segments laid, span by span, on a steel beam fixed to the piers.

 

1982
Houston Ship Channel bridge, Texas (United States)

Prestressing and construction methods of this 3km-long and 18m-large bridge.

Creation of a branch in the Netherlands

1983
Invention of slab connector

Patent filed jointly with LCPC -Laboratoire des Ponts et Chaussées

Main projects:

  • Gas storage tanks on Das Island (UAE): Prestressing works on three 80,000m3 LNG tanks and four 50,000m3 LPG tanks.
  • Gerland stadium in Lyon (France): Renovation works. Installation and lifting – using 2 12T15 cables – of the prefabricated beams supporting the new 8400 m2 roof

Creation of a branch in Indonesia

1984
Freyssinet starts using shotcrete

Coatzacoalcos II Bridge (Mexico): First stay cable bridge built by Freyssinet in Mexico. 1170m prestressed concrete deck with inclined sections built by cantilever, segments cast in place

Acquisition of Torkret, shotcrete specialist.

1985
Prestressed bridge to connect Brazil to Argentina

Tancredo Neves bridge, also known as “Fraternity Bridge” (Brazil): Freyssinet builds the prestressed structure of the bridge located over the Iguaçu River, which connects Brazil to Argentina.

Saint-Paul’s Cathedral, Abidjan (Ivory Coast) is entirely built with reinforced and prestressed concrete.

Creation of a branch in New Zealand

1986
Invention of individually protected strand

The new design allows a stay that is both more durable and easier to assemble and disassemble.

Main projects:

  • Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plan (China): First nuclear plan in China
  • Grande Arche of La Défense (France): Design, supply and installation of 48 elastomeric bearings to support the 300 000 tons of the arch. The Freyssinet system is also chosen for the prestressing of the mega-beams.
1987
Lifting of EKOFISK offshore oil platforms (North Sea)

The technical feat consists of lifting by 6.5 metres seven platform decks, which are sinking into the seabed due to the decompression of the limestone layers resulting from oil and gas extraction.

1988
SGE becomes the parent company of Freyssinet

Acquisition of Cipec (bearings and pavement joints)

Creation of the Freysas branch in Turkey

Tampico bridge (Mexico): The 1,543m-long bridge located on the Panuco River is fitted with Freyssinet stay cables, using the new technology of individually protected strands. A specific construction method also allows the rapid lifting of 150-tonne metal segments in 2 hours.

 

 

1989
Invention of Isotension® system (tensioning of multi-strand cables) and Freyssinet Dampers (to manage the vibration of stay cables)

Wandre cable-stayed bridge (Belgium): First use of Freyssinet new dampers and individually protected strands

Creation of a branch in Korea

THE 1990’s: the intensification of repair activities

1991
Development of C prestressing system for civil engineering applications

The C-anchor is still the most compact system on the market today.

Main projects: 

  • Construction of 5 LNG tanks (South Korea)
  • Cathodic protection of the Noirmoutier bridge (France)

Creation of a branch in Hungary

1993
Freyssinet celebrates its 50th anniversary

Baldwin bridge (United States): Large bridge between Boston and New York, built by incremental launching with a specially designed launching gantry.

Hibernia offshore oil platform (Canada): Prestressing of the platform off the coast of Newfoundland. 6600 tons of cables installed between 1993 and 1996.

 

1994
Invention of carbon fiber fabric reinforcement for structures

Reinforcement of the CNIT in La Défense (France) wins the Innovation award in 1999 by French Federation for Public Works

Iroise bridge (France)

1995
Invention of a very high performance expansion joint (Eole) and a new compact flat anchor (4F15)

Normandy bridge (France): Equipped with Freyssinet stay cables and specific cross-ties to prevent deck vibration, this 1,966m-long cable-stayed bridge is the largest built in the world.

Rehabilitation of Bubiyan bridge (Kuwait): In 1991 during the Gulf war, four of the spans are destroyed. Freyssinet works in 1995 to make the structure safe. From 1999 onwards, it strengthens the structure and rebuilds the destroyed spans.

1996
Longest bridge in southern Europe

Vasco de Gama bridge, Lisbon (Portugal): Longest bridge in southern Europe (18 km). Freyssinet is involved for the design, supply and installation of 192 stay cables and of very high performance expansion joints (Eole joint) and seismic devices.

Second bridge on the River Severn (United Kingdom)

Kuala Lumpur’s Light Rail Transit System (Malaysia): Cantilever construction of the aerial section, prefabricated segments put in place using the incremental launching method.

1997
Heavy repair works in the Channel Tunnel

Channel Tunnel (France/UK): Heavy repair works are carried out in the tunnel after an intense fire broke out. 5700 m2 of surface area to be reconstituted in 60 days.

Construction of the European Parliament, Strasbourg (France): 200,000 m2 of prestressed slabs to limit the height, provide stability and better resistance to earthquakes.

Malaysia Telekom Tower in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia): 76 floors, 230 000 m2, innovative prestressed slabs.

1998
Invention of Transpec SHA Dampers

Main projects:

  • Ting Kau bridge (Hong Kong): 3,000 tonnes of cables for 384 stay cables, 64 stays for stabilizing pylons and 8 longitudinal stabilization 500 m long stays.
  • Prince Edward bridge (Canada): Innovative construction methods for this 13,000 m prestressed bridge.
  • Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport 2F Terminal (France)

Acquisition of Terre Armée International, world leader in Reinforced Earth® structures

1999
Invention of Cohestrand (Innovation award by FNTP in 2001 and VINCI in 2002)

Chartrouse bridge (France): First implementation of Cohestrand to replacing the existing suspension cables.

Cardiff Millennium Stadium (UK): The roof is supported by four 80m cables masts and 18 cable stays, the longest with a length of 60 metres. Implementation in only four weeks.

Acquisition of Menard Soltraitement, specialised in ground impovement

Creation of branches in Romania and Poland

THE 2000’s: The world leader in stay cable systems

2000
A truly international leader

At the beginning of the 21st century, the group generates over 80% of its revenue outside France. It employs 2,800 people worldwide, including 16% engineers and managers, 39% technicians and 45% workers and administrative personnel.

Main projects:

  • Inauguration of Seohae bridge (South Korea)
  • Renovation of Penang bridge (Malaysia)
  • Oresund bridge (Sweden)
  • Charles River bridge (United States)

Creation of a branch in the United Arab Emirates

Acquisition of MTS in France (Asbestos removal)

2001
World record for a prestressing and incremental launching bridge

Construction of the SART canal bridge (Belgium): Prestressing and incremental launching of the 65,000 tons of the final structure, a world record.

San Juan’s underground railway (Puerto Rico)

 

2002
Repair and renovation of the Mont Blanc Tunnel (France)
2003
First use of the multi-tube saddle

Sungar Muai bridge (Malaysia):First use of the multi-tube saddle, which simplifies the design of the pylons. The strands are individually deviated, which eliminates the problems of strand-to-strand friction.

2004
New range of Freyssinet prestressing bars and Para-seismic deviators for stay cables

Main projects:

  • Rion-Antirion bridge (Greece): Freyssinet installs 368 stay cables.
  • Millau viaduct (France): Freyssinet is responsible for nailing the deck and providing and installing the stay cables required for this 340m-high structure.
  • Cape Girardeau bridge (United States)
  • Chiapas launched bridge (Mexico)
  • Plock bridge (Poland)

Acquisition of Hebetec (Heavy lifting and handling services)

2005
Invention of new seismic isolators (PSD) on structures exposed to earthquakes

Main projects:

  • Kanne suspension bridge (Belgium): the Cohestrand strand is being used for the first time on an industrial scale on this bridge.
  • Bai Chai bridge, Bay of Along (Vietnam)

Acquisitions:

  • JMB méthodes (including a method for the skidding of decks under railway tracks)
  • Salvarem (services for the nuclear industry)
2006
Gerede viaduct (Turkey)

Damaged by an earthquake in 1999 while still under construction, this viaduct on the Anatolia motorway is repaired using innovative methods developed and implemented by Freyssinet.

2007
Invention of cable-stayed roofs

Second bridge on the Orinoco River (Venezuela)

Acquisition of Nukem (services for the nuclear industry)

2008
First cable structure in Belarus

Minsk sport arena (Belarus):  first cable structure in Belarus made of stay cables supporting the stadium’s roof.

Freyssinet Inc. is created in the United States (the brand is previously promoted via a licensee)

Creation of Nuvia (services for the nuclear industry)

2009
Freyssinet Group merges with Soletanche Bachy to form Soletanche Freyssinet

Dubai metro (United Arab Emirates): Freyssinet builds the overground branches of Dubai metro, with the construction and installation of 16,469 prestressed segments.

Golden Ears bridge (Canada)

THE 2010’s

2010
Invention of a free-sliding elastomeric bearing with anti-lifting system
2011
Hammersmith flyover in London (United Kinkdom)

Renovation works and full replacement of the existing post-tensioning system.

Other main projects:

  • Térénez bridge (France)
  • British Columbia Place Stadium (Canada)
  • Olkiluoto EPR (Finland)
2012
New world record in span length for cable-stayed bridges

The Russki Island bridge (Russia) sets a new world record in span length for cable-stayed bridges.

Other main projects:

  • Geo Geum bridge (South Korea)
  • Retrofit of Illigan cement plant (Philippines)
2013
Complex and innovative system for casting, assembling and post-tensioning tree-shaped concrete columns

MUCEM Museum in Marseille (France): The complex and innovative system for casting, assembling and post-tensioning tree-shaped concrete columns is the key to bringing to life the architect’s vision for a new national museum in Marseille.

Other main projects:

  • Haliç extradosed bridge (Turkey)
  • MLC Tower (Australia)
  • Agigea bridge (Romania)

 

2014
Biggest replica cave in the world

Pont d’Arc cavern (France): Works of art in the Chauvet cave are reproduced to create the biggest replica cave in the world. Freyssinet is responsible for building the metal structure to recreate the space inside the cave, for spraying landscaping mortar onto the structure and for building technical and visitor walkways.

Other main projects:

  • Constantine Trans-Rhumel viaduct (Algeria)
  • Dong Siri oil platform (Denmark)
2015
Invention of Eolift® system

Eolift® system aimed at building high wind towers from the ground up by assembling and lifting precast concrete sections.

Main projects:

  • ElevArch Masonry bridge jacking (UK)
  • Railway line from Birtouta to Zeralda (Algeria)
  • La Pepa bridge (Spain)
2016
New world record for a stay cable bridge

Yavuz Sultan Selim bridge in Istanbul (Turkey): The third bridge on the Bosphorus sets a new world record in stay cable bridges with a span of 1,408 metres.

Vodaphone Arena Stadium cable roof (Turkey)

Acquisition of CARPI, world specialist in waterproofing geomembranes for dams and canals

2017
The ElevArch® method wins the VINCI Innovation Award

Cable-stayed roof of the Volgograd Stadium (Russia)

Viaduct from Tuen Mun to Chek Lap Kok – TMCLK (Hong Kong): Freyssinet installs the precast segmental deck, the prestressing by post-tensioning, the expansion joints and the bearings.

Lian Tang 3 cross-boundary bridge (Hong Kong): complex highway motorway interchange for which Freyssinet is responsible for installing the deck (precast segments) and prestressing by post-tensioning (over 1,500 tons in total).

2018
Freyssinet celebrate its 75th anniversary

Atlantic bridge (Panama): The Atlantic bridge is a cable-stayed bridge with the world’s longest concrete central span (530 metres). Freyssinet installs cable stays on the main structure and prestressing on the approach ramps and the main structure.

New Coastal Road Viaduct (Reunion Island, France)

Rande bridge (Spain): Widening of a heavily trafficked bridge, supplying 80 stay cables to support the addition of two decks connected to the existing structure.

Mesches dam (France): repair works, notably repointing the stonework to seal the upper part and applying a 1,800 m2 shotcrete facing on the lower part of the dam.

Kpémé wharf  (Togo)

2019
Inauguration of a concrete 3D printing manufacturing unit (UAE)

Add-on options for stay cables : lightning protection option, de-icing systems, LED lighting

Renovation of Larona Canal by CARPI (Indonesia): In just 8 weeks, Freyssinet’s subsidiary specializing in waterproofing, lines the sinuous 7 km-long canal

Widening and strengthening of the Y bridge (Vietnam): Freyssinet is contracted to widen the deck by 1.9 metres and increase the truck weight limit from 13 to 18 tons.

Koschiusko bridge, New York (United States)

2020
Innovative digitized tensioning operations

Other innovations:

  • New injection grout: controlled injection of cable ducts for long-term corrosion protection
  • High density carbon fiber fabric

Main projects: 

  • Canakkale viaducts (Turkey)
  • Viaduct of Sahasinaka (La Réunion Island – France)
  • Cua Dai extradosed bridge (Vietnam)
  • Mankyong bridge (South Korea)
  • Cable-stayed roof of the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas (United States)