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Pile foundations

Foundations provide support for structures, transferring their load to layers of soil or rock that have sufficient
bearing capacity and suitable settlement characteristics. There are a very wide range of foundation types
suitable for different applications, depending on considerations such as:
The nature of the load requiring support.
Ground conditions.
The presence of water.
Accessibility.
Sensitivity to noise and vibration.
Proximity to other structures.
Project timeframes.
Very broadly, foundations can be categorised as shallow foundations or deep foundations.
Shallow foundations are typically used where the loads imposed by a structure are low relative to the bearing
capacity of the surface soils. Deep foundations are necessary where the bearing capacity of the surface soils is
insufficient to support loads imposed and so they are transferred to deeper layers with higher bearing capacity.
Pile foundations are deep foundations. They are formed by long, slender, columnar elements typically made
from steel or reinforced concrete and sometimes timber. A foundation is described as piled when its depth is
more than three times its breadth (Atkinson, 2007).
Pile foundations are principally used to transfer the loads from a superstructure, through weak, compressible
strata or water onto stronger, more compact, less compressible and stiffer soil or rock at depth, increasing the
effective size of a foundation and resisting horizontal loads (Tomlinson & Woodward, 2008). They are used
for large structures, and in situations where the soil under is not suitable to prevent excessive settlement.
Generally piles are classified as; end-bearing piles (where most of the friction is developed at the toe of the
pile, bearing on a hard layer) or friction piles (where most of the pile-bearing capacity is developed by shear
stresses along the sides of the pile, suitable when harder layers are too deep). Most piles use some end-bearing
and some friction, in order to resist the action of loads.
Piles are most commonly driven piles, prefabricated off site and then driven into the ground, or bored piles that
are poured in situ. If the boring and pouring takes place simultaneously, the pilesare called continuous flight
augured (CFA) piles.
The choice of pile depends on the location and type of structure, the ground conditions, durability of the
materials and cost. Driven piles are useful in offshore applications, are stable in soft squeezing soils and can
densify loose soil. However, bored piles are more popular in urban areas as there is minimal vibration, they can
be used where headroom is limited, there is no risk of heave and it is easy to vary their length (OSullivan,
2010).
Mini piles (or micro piles) are used where access is restricted, for example underpinning structures affected by
settlement. They can be driven or screw piles
Pile walls can be used to create permanent or temporary retaining walls. They are formed by
placing piles directly adjacent to one another. These can be; closely-spaced contiguous pile walls, or
interlocking secant walls, which depending on the composition of the secondary intermediate piles can be
hard/soft, hard/firm or hard/hard secant walls.
Geothermal piles combine pile foundations with closed-loop ground source heat pump systems. They provide
support to a structure, as well as acting as a heat source and a heat sink. In effect, the thermal mass of the
ground enables the building to store unwanted heat from coolingsystems and allows heat pumps to warm the

building in winter (Boennec, 2008). Generally,ground source heat pumps extract heat from the ground by way
of underground pipes which are laid either horizontally or vertically in the ground (Boennec, 2008).
In geothermal piles, the pipe loops are laid vertically, within the piles themselves. See Geothermal pile
foundations for more information.

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