Shallow foundations, often called footings, are usually embedded about a meter or so into soil. One common type is the spread footing which consists of strips or pads of concrete (or other materials) which extend below the frost line and transfer the weight from walls and columns to the soil or bedrock.
Another common type of shallow foundation is the slab-on-grade foundation where the weight of the building is transferred to the soil through a concrete slab placed at the surface. Slab-on-grade foundations can be reinforced mat slabs, which range from 25 cm to several meters thick, depending on the size of the building, or post-tensioned slabs, which are typically at least 20 cm for houses, and thicker for heavier structures.
A deep foundation is used to transfer the load of a structure down through the upper weak layer of topsoil to the stronger layer of subsoil below. There are different types of deep footings including impact driven piles, drilled shafts, caissons, helical piles, and earth stabilized columns. The naming conventions for different types of footings vary between different engineers. Historically, piles were wood, later steel, reinforced concrete, and pre-tensioned concrete.
A monopile foundation is a type of deep foundation which uses a single, generally large-diameter, structural element embedded into the earth to support all the loads (weight, wind, etc.) of a large above-surface structure.
A large number of monopile foundations have been utilized in recent years for economically constructing fixed-bottom offshore wind farms in shallow-water subsea locations. For example, a single wind farm off the coast of England went online in 2008 with over 100 turbines, each mounted on a 4.7-meter-diameter monopile footing in ocean depths up to 18 meters of water.
The primary design concerns are settlement and bearing capacity. When considering settlement, total settlement and differential settlement is normally considered. Differential settlement is when one part of a foundation settles more than another part. This can cause problems to the structure the foundation is supporting. It is necessary that a foundation not be loaded beyond its bearing capacity or the foundation will "fail".
Other design considerations include scour and frost heave. Scour is when flowing water removes supporting soil from around a footing (like a pier supporting a bridge over a river). Frost heave occurs when water in the ground freezes to form ice lenses.
Changes in soil moisture can cause expansive clay to swell and shrink. This swelling can vary across the footing due to seasonal changes or the effects of vegetation removing moisture. The variation in swell can cause the soil to distort, cracking the structure over it. This is a particular problem for house footings in semi-arid climates such as South Australia, Southwestern US, Turkey, Israel, Iran and South Africa where wet winters are followed by hot dry summers. Raft slabs with inherent stiffness have been developed in Australia with capabilities to resist this movement.
When structures are built in areas of permafrost, special consideration must be given to the thermal effect the structure will have on the permafrost. Generally, the structure is designed in a way that tries to prevent the permafrost from melting.
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- Terzaghi, Karl; Peck, Ralph Brazelton; Mesri, Gholamreza (1996), Soil mechanics in engineering practice (3rd ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, p. 386, ISBN 0-471-08658-4, http://books.google.it/books?id=bAwVvO71FXoC&printsec=frontcover&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Offshore Wind Turbine Foundations, 2009-09-09, accessed 2010-04-12.
- Constructing a turbine foundation Horns Rev project, Elsam monopile foundation construction process, accessed 2010-04-12]
- Lynn and Inner Dowsing description
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