History of Piling Materials and Design

Piling is essential when undergoing the construction of a large building. Piles act as the supports for a building, providing structure and strength by transferring the weight to a stronger layer of earth. Piling started in the ancient times, when people used piling for constructing foundations on weak soil near the rivers. Many villages and towns were located near lakes and rivers at that time, so it was crucial they found a way to rebuild the damaged parts around the rivers. They reinforced the lakes and rivers using timber piles that were either manually or they were inserted into holes that were filled with stones and sand. There are many examples in England of the Romans making the most of timber piles in their bridge work. As well, in the medieval times, piles of oak and alder were used in the foundations of huge monasteries constructed in the fenlands of East Anglia.

Materials Used for Piling and How They Have Changed

The most commonly used material for piling is timber, which has been used for millennia! Timber was popular for constructing piles mainly due to its strength combined with its lightness, durability, and ease of cutting and handling, which left wood as the only material to be used in piling until recent times. It was replaced by steel and concrete when these became available, because these materials are easy to manufacture in large quantities and capable of sustaining huge weights well beyond what timber is able to withstand.

Pile Design

Piling foundations should be carefully designed by considering the soil and load conditions. Piles should be designed to carry axial, shear and bending stresses that may develop by the horizontal movement of the piles between the layers in soil.

Sometimes piles may also be required to carry uplift loads when supporting tall structures subjected to overturning forces from wind or waves. Piles used in marine structures can face lateral loads from the impact of berthing ships as well as waves.

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