Understanding the Role of Piling in Civil Construction

August 29, 2015

Piles are an essential component of many construction projects because they can provide a strong, sturdy foundation for a structure regardless of soil quality or harsh environment. There are numerous geographic locations throughout the US where buildings would ordinarily not be able to be constructed due to the soil. Dams and bridges also benefit greatly from the use of piles since soil in water typically has a low bearing capacity. There are many different types of pilings available, which must be selected based on the particular demands of the project and environment. Let’s review the function of pilings, their importance, and the various types of pilings.

Function of Pilings

Each and every day, more construction projects are being undertaken, and sometimes, a site investigation report will reveal that the ground is not suitable to support the load of the structure being erected. In these scenarios, the installation of pilings comes highly recommended in order to increase the safety of the building, especially if the building is particularly heavy. Pilings are also used to control the settlements and to transmit the load of the building onto the foundation regardless if the load is inclined or vertical.

Importance of Piling

Many different facilities, especially those in the industrial industry, must be built in locations that are not necessarily ideal for freestanding buildings. For example terminals and refineries are often located near rivers, gulfs, and other bodies of water because their proximity to waterways allows for convenient transport of the industrial product. However, such locations often have very soft, unstable soil that would not be able to bear the massive weight of the facilities without a strong foundation of pilings. Likewise, many such locations face environmental threats such as heavy winds and major storms that could compromise the safety and integrity of buildings not supported by high quality pilings.

The Various Types of Piling

Given the importance of pilings and the diverse needs of the locations and facilities where pilings are used it is no surprise that there are many various different types of pilings. Let’s take a look at four broad major categories of piling.

Steel Piling

Steel piles are used in a number of construction projects due to their excellent strength and ability to carry a large amount of weight. Generally speaking, fewer steel piles are required for a given project compared to piling constructed out of alternative materials because of the load bearing potential of steel piles. This often provides economic advantages to the project since fewer total piles are needed, thus reducing materials use and the time and labor involved in driving the piles.

Wood or Timber Piling

Wood piles are another popular and excellent option. This type of piling is traditionally treated with a coating in order to prevent insects from boring into the structure, thus increasing durability. Wood or timber pilings have the advantage of being relatively lightweight to transport compared to steel piling. Wood is also a renewable resource and thus offers ecological advantages that may appeal to some companies and consumers. The wood can also be treated to make it suitable for a number of different environments even if it is going underwater.

Composite Piling

This type of piling is made from different types of materials that are put together to form a single, more resilient pile. This style is particularly beneficial for marine applications since it is durable enough to withstand tough aquatic conditions. It is also completely customizable, and can be specifically designed to fit the needs of the particular project.

Concrete Piling

Concrete is incredibly sturdy, and comes in various different types. Reinforced concrete has rebar running through the pile in order to increase its strength. Prestressed concrete piles are great for having a material that is resistant against tension. Concrete piles can be created and installed at the job site, which is referred to as a “cast in situ” piling. This avoids the need to transport the piling, often resulting in cost savings. However, concrete piling can also be created off-site and then piledrived into place to allow for greater control of the finished product.

Selecting the Best Piling for the Project

STI Group carefully considers the piling needs of each and every civil construction project we work on. Piles, regardless of the material being used, are an essential aspect of the construction process and it is important to consider all of the ramifications of selecting different types of pilings and piling designs. We select the specified piling for all applications per client design, engineering codes and standards. Laying a strong foundation allows the construction project as a whole to operate more safely and efficiently, ultimately helping the facility to reach its full potential of long term success.