Concrete and Masonry: A New Dimension in Structure Underpinning

Our built environment has been based on concrete and masonry for centuries. From ancient Roman waterways to modern skyscrapers these materials have proved their value time and time again. As with anything, these materials need to be maintained from time to time. That’s when underpinning alternatives comes into the picture.

Underpinning is the process of strengthening an existing structure’s foundation. Like giving your house a brand new pair of shoes, they must be sturdy to handle the heavy weight and maintain balance. In the last few years, there have been some impressive advancements made in this area.

Let’s begin by talking about concrete. The concrete we use today is a vast improvement over the original mix of sand, water, cement and gravel. Today’s concrete has never been stronger or more durable. The High-performance Concrete (HPC) innovation is just one of many. It has higher strength and durability, thanks to additives and advanced mix designs like silica or fly ash.

This futuristic material can repair itself over time with the help of bacteria embedded within it. This futuristic material is able to heal its own cracks with the aid of embedded bacteria. As soon as water enters a gap, the bacteria begin to produce calcium. It’s as if you have a team of tiny masons at work inside your walls.

Let’s move to masonry. Brick-and -mortar construction, while beautiful, has limitations. Engineered masonry (EMUs). These blocks are designed to perform better than bricks and stone. Due to their optimized form and composition, they are stronger yet lighter.

But what’s the point of fancy materials, if you can’t use the right technique? We can also look at the foundational methods, which have changed significantly over time.

The mass concrete underpinning method is popular. Think of it as pouring a layer-by-layer new foundation underneath your existing one, until stability has been achieved. Simple yet effective in many cases especially where access may be restricted or soil conditions difficult.

A technique gaining popularity is the use of mini pilings that are driven deep below ground level into stable strata. These piles provide additional support and do not disturb surrounding areas. This is ideal in urban environments where space constraints can be a problem.

The use of jet grouting is another way to improve the stability of structures. By injecting cementitious fluid directly into weak foundations, solid columns are created.

Micropiles offer versatility in many different scenarios. They can be used for residential or commercial projects, even infrastructure. Their compact size makes them easy to install and cause minimal disruption.

It is important to note that underpinning, regardless of whether it’s an older heritage property or a newer construction requiring extra reinforcement in the face of rapidly changing technologies and increasing expectations for safety and longevity. Remember the next time you hear someone say “underpin”, there are a number of innovative ways to ensure that tomorrow’s landmarks can stand the test of time just like those majestic monuments from centuries past which still stand proudly as a testament to human ingenuity, perseverance and against odds.