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Technical paper: Foundation engineering in practice Part 1

S. Rodin, manager special projects, Central Laboratory, George Wimpey and Co. Ltd. This paper was first published in GE’s May 1969 edition.


It is stating the obvious to say that all structures are built on a foundation of soil or rock. But, unlike other building materials, such as steel, timber and concrete, soils cannot be made specially to suit a particular job. However, nowadays we can take samples of the soil and study its properties, both in the field and in the laboratory, and in this way guard against possible difficulties and avoid trouble in building operations. 

The need for some form of site investigation is now widely accepted, whether you are going to build houses, multi-storey blocks, factories, roads or sewers. The objects of a site investigation are two-fold: (a) To enable an adequate and economic design to be prepared for the foundations; (b) To foresee and provide against difficulties that may arise during construction due to ground and other local conditions.

To illustrate some of the problems met in practice and to show the importance of an adequate site investigation for the design of building foundations, the writer has taken a number of actual cases from his Company’s files. But, first, a few words about the extent of a proper site investigation. 

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