Subsidence Control of Construction on Soft Soils with “Akar Foundation”

  •  Chee-Ming Chan    
  •  Pik-Yen Wong    
  •  Chai-Chin Lee    


Good quality soils are always preferred in development projects, where the bearing capacity of the grounds is sufficiently high and the resulting subsidence is non-excessive. However these sites may not be as readily available with increased population and land use, making it inevitable to construct on less favourable soils, like soft organic materials. To ensure long term stability of structures erected on such soft soils, elaborate and extensive foundation systems are generally required. Alternatively, pre-treatment with ground improvement techniques is necessary. Both these methods tend to incur high costs and labour as well as require prolonged construction period, while making a rather negative impact on the environment in terms of raw material sourcing, heavy machinery mobilization and exposure to the risk of groundwater contamination. This paper describes an exploratory study on a simple shallow foundation system for construction on soft soils, which can be a potentially cheaper and more sustainable approach. The foundation system, termed the “Akar Foundation”, literally translates as “Root Foundation”, is essentially a lightweight platform supported by a group of hollow stumps (i.e. PVC pipes). The ‘root’ base served dual functions: 1. to collectively assert a stronger grip of the soft soils, hence giving higher bearing capacity; 2. to spread the imposed structural load evenly into the subsoil, thus avoiding excessive and non-uniform settlements. The effects of the end condition of the pipes (i.e. open or close) as well as the spacing between the pipes on the foundation settlement mechanism were examined, with static load tests conducted using a lab-scale simulation chamber. The findings showed that the effectiveness of the “Akar Foundation” depends on the compatibility of the pipe spacing and individual pipe lengths, highlighting the inter-relationship between the mobilisation of end resistance, skin friction and formation of soil plug in the open-end system. In a promising light, the reduced subsidence suggest the potential of the “Akar Foundation” as an economical yet effective foundation system in economically challenged soft soil areas.

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