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Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) leverage battery-powered embedded devices to sense from and act on the environment. Their characteristics are at odds with the lifetime requirements in monitoring of civil structures. In this paper, we briefly describe the challenges at stake and how to address them, drawing from recent literature and our own real-world experience. Hardware solutions include MEMS sensors and power-efficient memories. Duty-cycled and batch operation, as well as forms of distributed processing are software techniques to reduce the energy invested in radio communication-the major energy drain in WSNs. We then conclude with an outlook on an ongoing Indo-Swedish project on monitoring the integrity of railway bridges using WSNs.