A foundation investigation is useful for buildings when it is suspected that the foundations are not functioning properly. In other cases, a foundation investigation may be necessary to determine whether structural changes can be made to a construction / structure.
For such an investigation, excavation is carried out in various places to expose the foundations and additional measurements are carried out to determine the current condition of the construction / structure.
SOCOTEC is the expert party for examining the state of the foundations of your home or building whether based on wooden piles or shallow foundations on steel piles. Foundation investigations are carried out when damage has already occurred (misalignment / cracks) or to gain insight into the state of foundations without there being any damage. For example prior to a (new) construction project to determine what kind of foundations there are.
Damage to piled foundations is usually caused by pole rot / wood rot if the piles are wooden or by negative skin friction. Damage to concrete piles occurs less frequently. However even then damage can occur, for example as a result of the pile tip level in a soil layer that is less load-bearing.
Damage can occur in foundations on steel if the foundations have been built on an insufficiently load-bearing soil layer or due to groundwater table lowering following local extractions or a low groundwater level due to drought.
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Where damage has already occurred, an investigation is carried out to determine the possible cause and more importantly give advice on the possible repair of the foundations.
Investigations where no damage has occurred yet usually concern determining the quality of the existing foundations, for example to gain insight into the risk of damage occurring in the future or the possibility of placing additional load on the foundations.
We carry out foundation investigations in accordance with the F30 SBRCURnet guidelines ‘Investigation and assessment of wooden pile foundations under buildings’ and ‘Investigation and assessment of foundations on steel’.
Due to its years of experience and proven quality, SOCOTEC is one of the few engineering firms accredited by the KCAF.
In addition, SOCOTEC has been selected to repeatedly carry out investigations within the framework of damage to foundations following gas extraction in Groningen. The investigations carried out by SOCOTEC are to contribute to finding a solution for the long-lasting conflict between the local residents and the Dutch government.
Investigation of foundation issues
Research carried out in 2012 by engineering firm Deltares estimated that 400,000 homes on wooden piles in the Netherlands could face foundation problems. In addition, there are another 150,000 homes with foundations on steel that may have to be repaired. The cause is not only the ageing foundations. Climate impact such as drying out is also affecting the piles, the drought last summer being the latest example. The research results have been in for some time now, but an integrated approach to the problem was still lacking. And that whilst around 555,000 homes in the Netherlands might not be future proof. Housing associations, such Woonstad Rotterdam, and private owners bear the brunt of these problems. In the past 3 years this has led to around 1000 complaints from around 70 municipalities being lodged with the KCAF.
The foundations are investigated on the basis of these complaints. The result of this (condition) assessment is that the houses are declared safe (‘code green’) or that action is required in the short term (‘code red’). Between the two, ‘code orange’ has an enforcement period of 5 to 20 years. Since it is difficult to predict the lifespan and the investment required for the repairs (sometimes as much as 50,000-100,000 euros per home, an enormous burden for the housing associations), an integrated approach is needed for the “Code Orange” homes.
Unique collaboration between the government, knowledge institutions and companies has determined a strategy to monitor these homes using sensors. KCAF, the housing associations, owners and the Hanselman Group are collaborating to install the sensors. However, the involvement of many different players who all want to see and use the data in real time means that a new way had to be found to offer access to the data. That is why it was necessary to join forces with Oudeman.io and Packhunt.io for the hardware and software respectively. Together, the infrastructure has been set up that is required to send the data from the field to the cloud and then communicate it to the parties involved via an interactive portal. The portal not only shows the data, but also warns if problems are expected. To make it possible for decisions to be taken with regard to the data collected such as ‘When should intervention occur?’, a research council has been established in cooperation with TU Delft that will examine the data and issue advice with regard to the homes monitored.
This makes it possible to assess the condition of the structures and trends and also issue a warning if intervention is required. Investment decisions are thus clearer, the lifespan is extended and occupants are relieved of their worries. Each construction (both homes and infrastructure) can be fitted with sensors so that these “Code Orange” structures can become futureproof again.