DFI Journal - The Journal of the Deep Foundations Institute

Volume 13, Issue 2, January 2019

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Foundation Design and Construction Challenges with Marsh Deposits in a High Seismic Risk Zone

T. Ted Miyake, M. Reza Saberi


Driven piles are ideal for supporting structures over very soft ground, especially in high seismic risk zones. Challenges include achieving sufficient vertical and lateral load capacities within the constraints of pile spacing and geologic conditions. Through a unique case study, the authors will describe the process of site exploration, foundation selection, pile design, and installation of over 3,000 concrete piles in a small 4.5-acre (1.8 hectare) site (average of one pile per 65 square feet). A state-of-the-art, $180 million plant for biosolids processing, biogas management and energy recovery was sited in marshland next to an existing sewage treatment plant. The new construction included a 70-foot (21 m) tall building and three closely spaced, 90-foot (27 m) high, 65-foot (20 m) diameter, egg-shaped steel digester tanks. The site, classified as class “F”, was underlain by up to 45 feet (14 m) of highly compressible peat and organic clays, below which was a dense sand and gravel layer. The groundwater was very shallow and site-specific seismic hazard analyses were required. Particularly challenging was achieving the needed lateral resistance to seismic loads in the very weak clay and peat deposits. The project was instructive of the importance of adequate characterization of geologic conditions even in small sites; the necessary iterative collaboration process between geotechnical and structural engineers; and the value of a well-designed indicator pile program. The test pile program allowed for refining (shortening) the design pile lengths for considerable cost savings and reduced installation time. Of interest to the reader will be the surprising depth to refusal for some areas of the site, despite the test pile program.

site class F, pile design, driven piles, peat, seismic time history analyses, indicator piles