What are Piling Foundations?


Piling foundations are a strong form of building foundations that are often used to provide support for structures that are built near water. The piling allows the weight of the structure to be transferred over different layers of rock and soil to provide the required bearing capacity for the respective building. The foundations can be used in many different scenarios such as areas with sensitivity to vibrations, proximity to other structures, and areas of low accessibility.


The foundations can be split into two groups: Shallow and deep foundations. Shallow foundations are normally used when there loading is relatively low or if the bearing capacity of the soil is high. Deep foundations are more likely to be used when either the bearing capacity of the soil is low or if the loading weight is high.  Pile foundations are used for these deeper foundations. They are long, thin columns that are typically reinforced by either steel or concrete. They are used as they provide additional strength and offer a high weight bearing capacity. Piles are usually three times as deep as the breadth of the structure. The piles are used to move the loads of the high weight structure through the weaker top layer of soils onto the stronger deeper layer of soil and rock.

Piles are generally known as driven piles. They are prefabricated at warehouses and then transported to the building site. If piles are poured at the construction site of the structure then they are known as bored piles. Interestingly if the boring and pouring occurs at the same time then the piles are known as continuous flight augured piles. Deciding which pile to use is determined by assessing the location of the potential building, the condition of the underlying land, and the durability of the materials used for the construction. The qualities of piles can also vary depending on the budget that is available.

Pile foundations can be connected to underground sourced heat pumps to create geothermal energy. These types of pile is known as geothermal piles and are useful as they not only provide the required strength and support for the building but also act as a heat source that can be used for under floor heating amongst other things. The piles can be used both ways. They can be used to provide heat to buildings in winter though the release of heat generated beneath the ground. Conversely in summer they can be used to absorb unwanted heat and then store it within the piles under the earth. The majority of the time the piles are used to extract heat from the ground through the use of vertically laid pipe loops that have a high surface area to maximise the heat they can absorb.