A foundation in civil construction refers to the lowest part of a building’s structure that comes in direct contact with the ground. It safely transfers the gravity load from the buildings’ walls, upper stories, and columns to the soil. Civil engineers direct the contractors to instruct workers to dig a trench in the ground to construct a building’s foundation. The trench should be deep enough to reach the subsoil level, where workers fill it with hard building materials like gravel. In many cases, the workers first place a series of long crisscrossing steel beams into the trench over which they pour concrete. This is known as reinforced concrete.
Reddy Kancharla is a civil engineer and geotechnical consultant from Briarcliff Manor in New York. He has over 25 years of valuable industry-based experience in the construction sector. He specializes in construction quality control, civil construction, and geotechnical consultation. Throughout his long career, he has held important senior executive positions in some of the top construction QA/QC companies in New York. These posts include Project Manager, Chief Engineer, Vice-President, and President. He even has the privilege of working on some of New York’s prominent landmark building projects. These are the USTA National Tennis Center, Goldman Sachs building, the terminals of JFK Airport, and Yankee Stadium.
A building’s foundation performs three critical functions which most people are not aware of. These are as follows:
The foundation of a building bears the entire weight of the superstructure built on top of it. This is known in civil construction as ‘dead load’ Engineers need to ensure the foundation is rigid enough to re-distribute this load into the ground without compromising the building’s structure. Only then will it be able to support and ensure the stability of the building.
- Acts as an anchor against natural calamities
Engineers build the foundation of a new building firmly into the ground for a reason. It acts as an anchor to resist any sudden violent vibrations in the subsoil resulting from natural calamities. These natural disasters can be in the form of tornados, floods, cyclones, earthquakes, frost-heave, gale-force winds, or tsunamis. This ensures the building’s superstructure is not swept away during disasters.
- Ensures no groundwater penetration
The foundation made from reinforced concrete prevents groundwater from penetrating the building’s superstructure, especially during the rainy seasons. If the groundwater happens to corrode the building’s stone masonry, bricks, and concrete, the dampness will cause their surfaces to crumble. This phenomenon is called ‘spalling’ and result in serious structural damage to the building over time.
Civil engineers take a great deal of time and trouble to construct a building’s foundation. It is one solid base that supports, bears the weight, and ensures the stability of the building’s superstructure. The foundation also protects the building from natural calamities and prevents the groundwater from rising up to the superstructure. If the foundation is not built properly according to relevant industry-based standards, the building can suffer serious structural damage and even collapse.