Necessary for all load-bearing structures, the foundation of a building or a piece of equipment is critical for providing support and helping distribute load. Foundations allow the soil around them to take the pressure of a structure’s weight, rather than the building or equipment itself. An even load distribution plays an important role in stabilizing final structures and managing settlement since the ground below buildings naturally shifts over time.
Understanding the importance of foundation work in construction and the different factors involved in structural integrity can ensure that engineers select the correct structure foundation type and size when beginning a new project to safeguard against foundation system failure and, in turn, structural collapse.
Types of Building Foundations
There are two building foundation types: shallow and deep. When choosing the best foundation type for a construction project, the common considerations include soil type and current and future building loads.
Shallow foundations, or spread footings, are the most affordable and common of the two foundation types. They are ideal for lighter buildings and are referred to as shallow because engineers will lay these foundations near the ground’s surface, where the surrounding soil has optimal bearing capacity. When choosing shallow foundations for a building, it is essential that the structural engineer designs the foundation to account for any additional environmental loads to reduce the risk of undesired structural movement. Some common types of shallow foundations include strip footings, spread footings, and mat foundations.
The soil near the surface is not always optimal for bearing structural loads, however, and it is necessary for engineers to go deeper to find more solid soil. There might be groundwater near the surface, or the construction site may have to meet certain excavation depth requirements. In these cases, and when a structure will be particularly heavy or sizable and so the foundation loads would exceed the soil’s load capacity, deep foundations are the best option. Piles of steel, concrete, or wood construction are among the most common deep foundation varieties.
Equipment & Machine Foundations
While foundations are necessary for constructing buildings, they are also important for heavy equipment and machinery. The design of the equipment’s foundation should allow it to withstand the shocks and vibrations of the supported machine or tool. Four types of equipment foundations are:
- Block type. This foundation type has a solid pedestal construction on a footing, giving block-type foundations greater mass but a smaller natural frequency, or the frequency at which the equipment will vibrate.
- Box type. These hollow blocks of concrete have less mass than block-type foundations but an increased natural frequency.
- Framed type. Larger equipment can utilize framed-type foundations. Made from varying materials, they consist of vertical columns with horizontal frames on top.
- Wall type. Wall-type foundations are useful for small machinery, featuring two walls with a slab overtop as the base for the equipment.
Structural Engineering of Building Foundations
The integrity of structures depends on quality structural engineering before and during construction. As part of a subsection of civil engineering, structural engineers analyze gravitational and other forces that will act on a structure, material usage, and all of the load-bearing requirements of a project. These engineers will make precise calculations as well as structural drawings to carefully plan the load distribution and help construct safe, sturdy buildings that will be structurally sound.
In addition to the load weight of the structure or equipment, structural engineers prepare the foundation for other loads that may impact structural integrity to determine the ideal foundation size and type for the project. When designing a foundation, structural engineers consider factors such as:
- Structure height
- Construction materials
- Environmental conditions in the region, such as rain or snow
- Soil type and conditions
- Intended use
- Plans for the structure to accommodate additional loads in the future
Engineering, Design, & Construction Management Services From EDC Management Corp.
Structural engineering helps achieve sound foundations for safe, strong buildings and equipment. At EDC, we provide clients with a wide range of structural and mechanical engineering and design services, along with construction site management. We’ve been providing successful solutions to the commercial, industrial, and architectural sectors since 2013, and our knowledgeable team offers over 130 years of combined experience in engineering and design. Contact us to learn more about our services, or request a quote today to begin your project with EDC.
Structural engineers need to factor in many aspects when determining an ideal building design. Stability is an essential factor in making sure that structures are secure and durable. Beams and columns are primary structural elements that support the entire weight of the building, along with environmental loads. They facilitate a firm load path between the structure’s weight and its foundation. While beams are horizontal load-bearing structures, columns are vertical support members.
Learn more about these components and how each one contributes to a sound structural design.
What Are Construction Beams?
Beams are, in general, horizontal structural elements that carry the building’s weight perpendicular to its longitudinal orientation. They support the load of a building’s ceilings, floors, and roofs. They stabilize the structure, resisting the bending and shear forces imposed by vertical loads. Ultimately, beams transfer these forces to the foundation, which releases them into the ground. Beams can be:
- Simply supported
Types of Structural Beams
When selecting a beam, structural engineers should consider beam size, shape, material, and type of load, which may include roof snow or other forms of environmental load. The following are the main types of beams, differentiated by their material and capabilities:
- Steel beams. Steel beams are durable, strong relative to their weight, recyclable, corrosion-resistant, and have high tensile strength. Standard sizes are available with the main cons being that they are less resistant to fire and can incur high maintenance costs.
- Reinforced concrete beams. The pros of reinforced concrete beams are that they are highly resistant to fire, durable, recyclable, and have high compressive strength. Potential downsides include high installation costs and design limits.
- Wood beams. Wood beams are more affordable and readily available. However, they have structural limitations, pose a fire risk, and can rot over time.
What Are Construction Columns?
Structural support columns are vertical structural elements whose primary role is to resist compressive, bending, and shear forces. Like beams, columns are mainly used to reinforce structures, supporting floors, roofs, and ceilings, and resist environmental forces. The supporting columns on the bottom floor of a multi-story building should bear the weight of all other floors. This is why it is important for the location of the building columns to be consistent on all floors.
Prior to selecting the design of the columns, construction engineers must first know the weight supported by the column. Other considerations include column size, shape, material, and the type of load it is expected to withstand, such as earthquake forces.
Types of Structural Columns
Three main types of columns on a building are:
- Steel columns. Steel columns are C-section, I-section, or hollow section. The main advantage of steel columns is that they are durable and recyclable.
- Reinforced concrete columns. Concrete columns can be rectangular, circular, or, depending on the application, be formed and poured into a variety of shapes. They are recyclable, fire-resistant, durable, and have high compressive strength. Disadvantages include a high initial investment and limits to design.
- Wood columns. Wood columns are widely available and low-cost compared to other column types. Cons of wood columns include structural limitations, the chance of wood rot, and fire risks.
Structural engineers can use composite structural members made of concrete and steel in high-story buildings where columns need to bear very heavy loads.
Structural Engineering, Design & Construction Management Services From EDC Management Corp.
Columns and beams are essential structural elements for buildings of all sizes. EDC Management Corp. is a one-stop solution for all your engineering, design, and project management needs. We provide customizable, cost-effective solutions to ensure ultimate customer satisfaction. Learn more about our engineering services or contact us today to learn more about our capabilities. If you have a project in mind, please request a quote.