In practice one has to make a choice between the use of vertical piles used singly or in groups to carry such loads or of groups incorporating at least some piles installed to an angle of rake. The capacity of a pile as a structural unit to carry shear loads at its head depends on the strength of the section, and when the forces become high, one is impelled to find some structurally acceptable solution which keeps stresses within reasonable limits.

However, in choosing the possible option of raking piles one should be aware of the problems and limitations that may be involved. Some of the factors involved are as follows:

1 Raking piles are usually more expensive than vertical piles. This is partly involved with extra time taken to set up and maintain the equipment in position, the less efficient use of hammers in the case of driven piles, and the difficulties of concrete placing in bored piles.

2 The standards of tolerance that can be maintained in the installation of raking piles are not as good as for vertical piles. Most analyses of pile groups of this kind ignore the effect of tolerances, but if tolerances are properly taken into account they can have a significant effect on calculated pile loads, depending on pile grouping and numbers, with small groups being usually most sensitive.

3 Where the upper part of a raking pile is embedded in a soil that is likely to suffer time-dependent settlement, the pile will in due course be subject to bending stresses unrelated to the structural design load conditions. This may require increase of strength of the section, which is in turn reflected in costs.

4 Many machines used for pile installation carry the pile driving or forming equipment on a long mast, so that they become intrinsically less stable, particularly as the line of the pile gets further from the vertical position. In certain cases, when working close to river banks or railway lines, for example, there is a major limitation on how machinery can be positioned to produce the desired end result.

5 Design of groups involving raking and vertical piles and with loads that are both vertical and horizontal should have regard to the constancy of the relationship between these. If, for example, the vertical load is near constant, but the horizontal force varies greatly, then it is better to employ groupings with rakers balanced in two opposed directions rather than to have an arrangement of vertical piles plus piles raking in one direction only. This is simply to minimize the shears in the
heads of the piles when horizontal load falls to a minimum value.

6 The use of raking piles to ‘spread’ load under vertically loaded foundations, where the piles are fully embedded in the soil mass and where the whole foundation is expected to undergo significant consolidation/creep settlement, must lead to large bending stresses being developed in the piles. In certain cases this can lead to such stress levels in the piles that the section will suffer damage, which may in turn lead to severe problems in the supported structure.

It should, however, be said that where groups of raking piles derive their axial capacity from strata that are hard and relatively non-deformable, they provide a stiffness in terms of laterally applied forces which can be very desirable. The main issue in design is to avoid large and unquantifiable secondary stresses, and provided this can be achieved all will be well.

Where there are very heavy lateral loads to be carried and neither raking piles nor single piles other than perhaps those of very large diameter are suitable, then diaphragm piers or ‘barrettes’ have a useful potential application. They can be given high stiffness in the direction of applied horizontal loading without fear of the problem of major secondary stresses.

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