May: Soils Support Buildings

It may come as no surprise to many of you that my morning commute is filled with twists and turns on several of Bureau County’s finest backroads. While I thoroughly enjoy having most of the road to myself, except for the occasional tractor, sprayer, combine pending the season, it usually is a lovely drive. Over time, my morning commute has turned into a bumpy one as I’ve witnessed the road freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, until finally it just splits. As a result, the potholes are incredible. Now I find myself dodging said potholes, which is largely due to the shrinking and swelling of the soil.

Soils play an important role in construction. Join us this month as we explore just how critical soil’s role is in construction of buildings and roads. Engineers and soil scientists measure soil strength to determine how easily it changes shape or shifts to decipher if it will bear the weight of structures. We build on soil, as well as in it and with it. It provides the support for the physical foundations of houses, factories, roads, railways, and other buildings. Just as soil scientists use tests to analyze which nutrients the soil is lacking, engineers also require a special knowledge for soil used on building sites. Because soils vary in their texture, properties, and behavior from place to place, it is essential to have a good understanding of the soils where buildings are to be constructed. When not constructed properly, here a few examples of what has happened in the past and what could happen again if we do not fully understand soil’s role in construction.

The Laguna Beach Landslide of June 2005 was due to extremely heavy winter rainfall that had soaked the soil and raised groundwater, destabilizing the slope of Bluebird Canyon. This home was undermined and eleven homes were destroyed. Photo credit: Pamela Irvine/California Geological Survey.

The Laguna Beach Landslide of June 2005 was due to extremely heavy winter rainfall that had soaked the soil and raised groundwater, destabilizing the slope of Bluebird Canyon. This home was undermined and eleven homes were destroyed. Photo credit: Pamela Irvine/California Geological Survey.

The Teton Dam Failure of June 1976 resulted when the dam burst when the water was 270 feet deep during the first filling of the reservoir. It drained in less than 6 hours, setting off more than 200 landslides in the canyon below, taking eleven lives, and causing millions of dollars of property damage. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The Teton Dam Failure of June 1976 resulted when the dam burst when the water was 270 feet deep during the first filling of the reservoir. It drained in less than 6 hours, setting off more than 200 landslides in the canyon below, taking eleven lives, and causing millions of dollars of property damage. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty scary stuff, huh? As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.”

Be sure to follow along this month as we dig deeper into what soil means in construction.

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Categories: Soil Wednesday | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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