Foundation (engineering)

In engineering, a foundation is the element of a structure which connects it to the ground, and transfers loads from the structure to the ground. Foundations are generally considered either shallow or deep.[1] Foundation engineering is the application of soil mechanics and rock mechanics (Geotechnical engineering) in the design of foundation elements of structures.

Mock foundations for House and Apartment
Shallow foundations of a house versus the deep foundations of a skyscraper.


Foundations provide the structure's stability from the ground.

  • To distribute the weight of the structure over large area so as to avoid over-loading of the soil beneath.
  • To anchor the structures against the changing natural forces like Earthquakes, floods, frost-heave, tornado or wind.
  • To load the sub-stratum evenly and thus prevent unequal settlement.
  • To provide a level surface for building operations.
  • To take the structure deep into the ground and thus increase its stability, preventing overloading.
  • Specially designed foundation helps in avoiding the lateral movements of the supporting material.

Requirements of a Good Foundation

The design and the construction of a well-performing foundation must possess some basic requirements that must not be ignored. They are:

  • The design and the construction of the foundation is done such that it can sustain as well as transmit the dead and the imposed loads to the soil. This transfer has to be carried out without resulting in any form of settlement that can result in any form of stability issues for the structure.
  • Differential settlements can be avoided by having a rigid base for the foundation. These issues are more pronounced in areas where the superimposed loads are not uniform in nature.
  • Based on the soil and area it is recommended to have a deeper foundation so that it can guard any form of damage or distress. These are mainly caused due to the problem of shrinkage and swelling because of temperature changes.
  • The location of the foundation chosen must be an area that is not affected or influenced by future works or factors.

Historic foundation types

Lotyšské etnografické muzeum v přírodě (91)
The simplest foundation, a padstone. The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia

Earthfast or post in ground construction

Buildings and structures have a long history of being built with wood in contact with the ground.[2][3] Post in ground construction may technically have no foundation. Timber pilings were used on soft or wet ground even below stone or masonry walls.[4] In marine construction and bridge building a crisscross of timbers or steel beams in concrete is called grillage.[5]


Perhaps the simplest foundation is the padstone, a single stone which both spreads the weight on the ground and raises the timber off the ground.[6] Staddle stones are a specific type of padstones.

Stone foundations

Dry stone and stones laid in mortar to build foundations are common in many parts of the world. Dry laid stone foundations may have been painted with mortar after construction. Sometimes the top, visible course of stone is hewn, quarried stones.[7] Besides using mortar, stones can also be put in a gabion.[8] One disadvantage is that if using regular steel rebars, the gabion would last much less long than when using mortar (due to rusting). Using weathering steel rebars could reduce this disadvantage somewhat.

Rubble trench foundations

Rubble trench foundations are a shallow trench filled with rubble or stones. These foundations extend below the frost line and may have a drain pipe which helps groundwater drain away. They are suitable for soils with a capacity of more than 10 tonnes/m2 (2,000 pounds per square foot).

Gallery of shallow foundation types

Drawing of Poteaux-en-Terre in the Beauvais House in Ste Genevieve MO

Drawing of Poteaux-en-Terre post in ground type of wall construction (this example technically called pallisade construction) in the Beauvais House in Ste Genevieve, Missouri, U.S.A.

PSM V24 D321 A primitive lake dwelling in switzerland

PSM V24 D321 A primitive stilt house in Switzerland on wood pilings.

Hórreo tipo asturiano, O Piornedo, Cervantes

A granary on staddle stones, a type of padstone

Black Eagle Dam - cross-section of construction plans for 1892 structure

Black Eagle Dam - cross-section of construction plans for 1892 structure

Davis House stone foundation ruin, Gardiner, NY

Davis House dry-laid stone foundation ruin, Gardiner, NY

Random rubble masonry1

A basic type of rubble trench foundation

Concrete cellar 10007

Typical residential poured concrete foundation, except for the lack of anchor bolts. The concrete walls are supported on continuous footings. There is also a concrete slab floor. Note the standing water in the perimeter French drain trenches.

Modern foundation types

Shallow foundations

Shallow foundation construction example

Shallow foundations, often called footings, are usually embedded about a metre 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 structure 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.

Deep foundations

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, geo-piers 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.

Monopile foundation

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.

Many monopile foundations[9] have been utilized in recent years for economically constructing fixed-bottom offshore wind farms in shallow-water subsea locations.[10] For example, a single wind farm off the coast of England went online in 2008 with over 100 turbines, each mounted on a 4.74-meter-diameter monopile footing in ocean depths up to 16 metres of water.[11]


Stompwijkseweg 68-70, Stompwijk, Netherlands
Inadequate foundations in muddy soils below sea level caused these houses in the Netherlands to subside.

Foundations are designed to have an adequate load capacity depending on the type of subsoil/rock supporting the foundation by a geotechnical engineer, and the footing itself may be designed structurally by a structural engineer. 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 which the foundation is supporting. Expansive clay soils can also cause problems.

See also


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ Crabtree, Pam J.. Medieval archaeology: an encyclopedia. New York: Garland Pub., 2001. 113.
  3. ^ Edwards, Jay Dearborn, and Nicolas Verton. A Creole lexicon architecture, landscape, people. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004. 92.
  4. ^ Nicholson, Peter. Practical Masonry, Bricklaying and Plastering, Both Plain and Ornamental. Thomas Kelly: London. 1838. 30–31.
  5. ^ Beohar, Rakesh Ranjan. Basic Civil Engineering. 2005. 90. ISBN 8170087937
  6. ^ Darvill, Timothy. The concise Oxford dictionary of archaeology. 6th ed. [i.e. 2nd ed. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2008. Padstone. ISBN 0199534047
  7. ^ Garvin, James L.. A building history of northern New England. Hanover: University Press of New England, 2001. 10. Print.
  8. ^ Stones in gabion for foundation, done in Diez Casas Para Diez Familias (10x10)'s Casa Rosenda; see Design Like You Give a Damn 2 book by Kate Stohr
  9. ^ Offshore Wind Turbine Foundations, 2009-09-09, accessed 2010-04-12.
  10. ^ Constructing a turbine foundation Archived 2011-05-21 at the Wayback Machine Horns Rev project, Elsam monopile foundation construction process, accessed 2010-04-12
  11. ^ "Lynn & Inner Dowsing Offshore Wind Farms". MT Højgaard. Retrieved 15 September 2016.

External links


Archirodon Group NV is a Greek company with headquarters in Dordrecht, Netherlands and Athens, Greece, that provides services relating to the construction and maintenance of maritime infrastructure and other construction works on an international basis. The main fields of construction work are marine, dredging and land reclamation contractors; heavy contractors for the oil and gas, power and water industries; electromechanical and infrastructure contractors; geotechnical and foundation engineering services.

Arthur Casagrande

Arthur Casagrande (August 28, 1902 – September 6, 1981) was an Austrian-born American civil engineer who made important contributions to the fields of engineering geology and geotechnical engineering during its infancy. Renowned for his ingenious designs of soil testing apparatus and fundamental research on seepage and soil liquefaction, he is also credited for developing the soil mechanics teaching programme at Harvard University during the early 1930s that has since been modelled in many universities around the world.

Bauer AG

BAUER Aktiengesellschaft is a stock-market-listed construction and machinery manufacturing concern based in Schrobenhausen in Upper Bavaria, Germany.

Bauer is a leader in the execution of complex excavation pits, foundations and vertical seals, as well as in the development and manufacture of related machinery for this dynamic market. The Group also uses its expertise in the exploration, mining and safeguarding of valuable natural resources. In 2018, the companies of the BAUER Group employed some 12,000 people in around 70 countries and achieved total Group revenues of EUR 1.7 billion.

College of Engineering Bhubaneswar

College of Engineering Bhubaneswar (COEB) is a private institute located at Patia, Bhubaneswar in Odisha. The college was established in the year 1999 under the aegis of the Nabadigant Educational Trust and is a part of the Koustuv Group of Institutions. CEB is approved by the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) New Delhi, Govt. of India and affiliated to Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT), Rourkela, Government of Odisha. College of Engineering Bhubaneswar is accredited by National Board of Accreditation (NBA) New Delhi, Govt. of India.

Effective stress

Effective stress is a force that keeps a collection of particles rigid. Usually this applies to sand, soil, or gravel.

Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere

The Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) is a National Science Foundation Engineering Center. The Center brings together a multidisciplinary group of engineers, computer scientists, meteorologists, sociologists, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as industry and government partners to conduct fundamental research, develop enabling technology, and deploy prototype engineering systems based on a new paradigm: Distributed Collaborative Adaptive Sensing (DCAS) networks.

HSA Foundation

The HSA Foundation is a not-for-profit engineering organization of industry and academia that works on the development of the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA), a set of royalty-free computer hardware specifications, as well as open source software development tools needed to use HSA features in application software.

The HSA Foundation aims to develop and define features and interfaces for various types of computer processors, including CPUs, graphics processors, DSPs; as well as the memory systems that connect these. The resulting architecture, HSA, aims to make it easier to program parallel systems built from heterogeneous combinations of these devices.The HSA Foundation was founded by AMD, ARM Holdings, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung and Texas Instruments. Further members include licensors and licensees of semiconductor intellectual property, developers of CPUs, GPUs, DSPs and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) based upon own and/or licensed technology, academic partners such as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of Bologna, and the not-for-profit engineering organization Linaro. The HSA Foundation has itself joined the Linux Foundation.HSA Foundation engineering works with upstream projects on a set of requirements that are determined by the Technical Steering Committee.

High Performance Computing Collaboratory

The High Performance Computing Collaboratory (HPC²) at Mississippi State University, an evolution of the MSU/National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Computational Field Simulation, is a coalition of member centers and groups that share a common core objective of advancing the state-of-the-art in computational science and engineering using high performance computing; a common approach to research that embraces a multi-disciplinary, team-oriented concept; and a commitment to a full partnership between education, research, and service. The mission of the HPC² is to serve the University, State, and Nation through excellence in computational science and engineering.

The HPC² comprises seven independent research centers/institutes with the common characteristics of a multi-disciplinary, team-oriented effort that is strategically involved in the application and advancement of computational science and engineering using high performance computing.

Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE)

Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS)

Center for Cyber Innovation (CCI)

Center for Computational Sciences (CCS)

Geosystems Research Institute (GRI)

Institute for Genomics, Biocomputing and Biotechnology (IGBB)

Northern Gulf Institute (NGI)

Indian Geotechnical Society

The Indian Geotechnical Society (IGS) aims at promoting co-operation amongst engineers and scientists for the advancement and dissemination of knowledge in the fields of Soil Mechanics, Foundation Engineering, Soil Dynamics, Engineering Geology, Rock Mechanics, Snow and Ice Mechanics and allied fields and their practical applications. It provides a common forum for academicians, research workers, designers, construction engineers, equipment manufacturers and others interested in geotechnical activity.

Interceptor ditch

In geotechnical engineering, an interceptor ditch is a small ditch or channel constructed to intercept and drain water to an area where it can be safely discharged. These are used for excavation purposes of limited depth made in a coarse-grained soils. These are constructed around an area to be dewatered. Sump pits are also placed at suitable intervals for installation of centrifugal pumps to remove the water collected in an efficient manner. In fine sands and silts, there may be sloughing, erosion or quick conditions. For such type of soils the method is confined to a depth of 1 to 2 m. Interceptor ditches are most economical for carrying away water which emerge on the slopes and near the bottom of the foundation pit. Its size depends on the original ground slope, runoff area, type of soil and vegetation, and other factors related to runoff volume.

International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering

The International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE) is an international professional association, presently based in London, representing engineers, academics and contractors involved in geotechnical engineering. It is a federation of 89 member societies representing 90 countries around the world, which together give it a total of some 19,000 individual members. There are also 38 corporate associates from industry. The current ISSMGE President is Professor Charles W.W. Ng of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Japanese Geotechnical Society

The Japanese Geotechnical Society was established in 1949 and had a total of 122 members. Its purpose was to promote technical advances and research activities in the field of geotechnical engineering. From the very outset, its role has been expanding as modern society has placed ever greater demands on it to provide a wide range of services. Since June 2004, The Society has had about 13,000 members, making it one of the largest and most active societies among the more than 100 such societies in existence in Japan. The year 1999 marked its 50th anniversary. The Society has become known by its official abbreviation as the JGS.

The Society joined the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in 1950 and has played a significant role on the international stage since then. It had the honor of hosting the Second Asian Regional Conference in 1964, the 9th International Conference in 1977 and the 8th Asian Regional Conference in 1988.

Japanese geotechnicians have also been extremely involved at an international level. Prof. Masami Fukuoka served as the President of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering from 1977 to 1981. Prof. Kenji Ishihara also served as the President of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering for the period 1997–2001. In addition, Prof. Ishihara gave the 33rd Rankine Lecture of the British Geotechnical Society at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine on 24 March 1993.

Middle-third rule

In civil engineering, the middle-third rule states that no tension is developed in a wall or foundation if the resultant force lies within the middle third of the structure.

The rule is covered by various standard texts in the field of civil engineering, for instance Principles of Foundation Engineering by B.M. Das. The application of this rule is limited to foundations that are square or rectangular in plan. (For circular foundations a different rule, known as the Middle Quarter Rule applies).

Pietro Perona

Pietro Perona is the Allan E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computation and Neural Systems at the California Institute of Technology and director of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center in Neuromorphic Systems Engineering.

He is known for his research in computer vision and is the director of the Caltech Computational Vision Group.

Pile driver

A pile driver is a device used to drive piles into soil to provide foundation support for buildings or other structures. The term is also used in reference to members of the construction crew that work with pile-driving rigs.

One type of pile driver uses a weight placed between guides so that it can slide vertically. It is placed above a pile. The weight is raised, which may involve the use of hydraulics, steam, diesel, or manual labour. When the weight reaches its highest point it is released, and hits the pile, driving it into the ground.

Ralph Brazelton Peck

Dr. Ralph Brazelton Peck (June 23, 1912 – February 18, 2008) was an eminent civil engineer specializing in soil mechanics. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1975 "for his development of the science and art of subsurface engineering, combining the contributions of the sciences of geology and soil mechanics with the practical art of foundation design".

Peck was born in Winnipeg to O.K. and Ethel Peck, and moved to the United States at age six. In 1934, he received his civil engineer degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was given a three-year fellowship for graduate work in structures. On June 14, 1937, he married Marjorie Truby and obtained a Doctor of Civil Engineering degree.

After receiving his degree, he worked briefly for the American Bridge Company, then on the Chicago Subway, but Peck spent the majority of his teaching career (32 years) at the University of Illinois, initially in structures but later focused on geotechnical engineering under the influence of Karl Terzaghi, ultimately retiring in 1974. He continued to work until 2005 and was highly influential as a consulting engineer, with some 1,045 consulting projects in foundations, ore storage facilities, tunnel projects, dams, and dikes, including the Cannelton and Uniontown lock and dam construction failures on the Ohio River, the dams in the James Bay project, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, the Dead Sea dikes and the Rion-Antirion Bridge in Greece.

On May 8, 2008, the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute in Oslo, Norway, opened the Ralph B. Peck Library. This Library is next to the Karl Terzaghi Library, also at NGI. Correspondence between these two men are part of the two working libraries. The Karl Terzaghi Library tells about the birth and growth of soil mechanics. The Ralph B. Peck Library tells about the practice of foundation engineering, and how one engineer exercised his art and science for more than sixty years. Diaries from between 1939 and 1941 containing Peck's work with the Chicago Subway are included along with papers and reports on many of his subsequent jobs.During his career Peck authored over 200 publications, and served as president of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering from 1969 to 1973. He received many awards, including:

1944 The Norman Medal of the American Society of Civil Engineers

1965 The Wellington prize of the ASCE

1969 The Karl Terzaghi Award

1975 The National Medal of Science, presented by President Gerald Ford

1988 The John Fritz MedalIn 1999, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) created the Ralph B. Peck Award to honor outstanding contributions to geotechnical engineering profession through the publication of a thoughtful, carefully researched case history or histories, or the publication of recommended practices or design methodologies based on the evaluation of case histories.

He died on February 18, 2008, from congestive heart failure.

Safdar Butt

Ghulam Safdar Butt (13 March 1928 – 1 May 2006) was the first three star general in the Corps of engineers of Pakistan Army. He also held the honour of being the first PhD of Pakistan army. Commissioned in 1950 after graduating from the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) he was part of the 1st PMA long course which was the first course to graduate from the PMA that was selected trained and graduated in Pakistan after its partition from India in 14 August 947. He had an illustrious career starting from professorship at the military college of engineering, professor of highways, airfields, soil and foundation engineering, integral work on the Karakorum Highway KKH, platoon commander at PMA, Director General Frontier Works Organization (FWO), Director General Lowari Tunnel Organization (LTO), Managing Director Pak Arab Refinery Co (PARCO), Chairman Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA), Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Chairman National Highway Authority (NHA) and finally Chairman Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL)] were some of the prestigious posts held by him in his career.

Lt Gen. Ghulam Safdar Butt (1928-2006) was a president of the Pakistan Cricket Board, serving in that position from February 1984 to February 1988. He was a founding member, Secretary General and President of the Alpine Club of Pakistan. A passionate mountaineer, he died on May 1, 2006, after an aggressive bout with a brain tumor at the age of 78, and was buried the same day.


Sheltech (Pvt.) Ltd. is a real estate company based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which was founded in 1988. It is a multi-disciplinary firm engaged in various activities, including real estate development, consultancy (Sheltech Holdings Ltd.), Foundation Engineering and Construction (Sheltech Engineering Ltd.), Protection and Management Services (Sheltech Protection Services Ltd.), Stock Brokerage (Sheltech Brokerage Ltd.), Production of Concrete Poles (Sheltech Technology Ltd.), Production of Ceramic Tiles (Sheltech Ceramics Ltd.). It has three chain of boutique hotels named Platinum Suites, Platinum Residence and Platinum Grand.

Retaining walls
Numerical analysis


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