“Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.” ? Scott Adams
Just a little humor to get us started. Here at ORB we do like to solve problems. Fortunately, we have enough chances to innovate just with our existing projects so we do not have to create new ones! Below are a few of our recent projects that had problems. We discuss the issues and how we solved them using creative engineering.
Bonnet Springs Park is a 168 acre park in Lakeland, FL that includes five steel framed buildings supported on a deep foundation of timber piles, pile caps, and a concrete slab. Why is this foundation detail so important? Because the soil in this particular area of FL was tricky to build large, heavy buildings on. According to the geotechnical engineer who tested the soil, the seasonal high water table was estimated at 9 inches below land surface. That’s a pretty high water line to trust to hold all that weight! Other areas of this huge park were like a lagoon. Soil testing in this area revealed sandy soil types that transition to mucky soils at the lower elevations. Surface muck was found in various areas and reported to be about 6 inches thick. Building massive steel framed buildings is limited at these locations due to the lower elevation and shallow groundwater table.
So how did ORB overcome these soil conditions to build five steel-framed buildings? Pilings! ORB designed timber piles, pile caps, and a concrete slab to support the weight and ensure the buildings had a firm foundation that will last far into the future. Pilings are used to transfer the heavy loads from these buildings away from the weak, compressible soil and onto stronger, more compact, soil or rock at a much greater depth. This method means we can increase the size of the foundation. This solution did require quite a bit of engineering design, from calculating the capacity of the piers, to analyzing the pressure from the structural members and wind loads. ORB was able to ascertain how many piles were needed and where to place them in order to ensure a safe foundation.
Another project we were able to solve was a decorative wall that was built to be a retaining wall. Unfortunately, the conditions of this cosmetic wall were not strong enough to withstand the soil pressures in order to act sufficiently like a retention wall. As such, it was getting pushed out and coming apart. ORB was able to design a secondary “hidden” retention wall behind the cosmetic wall. This way, the existing façade of the house still had the great look the owner was going for, but it also was strong enough to prevent any future soil erosion.
Another way ORB problem-solves is with our tools. All too often a client calls to say that they already covered up their structural components with drywall or concrete. Sometimes this even happens without a permit. As such, ORB uses the tools available to us to verify the conditions of the structural components without having to tear down walls or break up foundations. For example, ORB recently did an inspection to verify that the lintels installed at the roof level were adequate. We performed a metal detection test to confirm the existence of the rebar and we were able to ensure that the masonry rebar was installed in accordance with the design drawings.
We love to solve problems here at ORB Engineering, and as a company, we have been doing it for over 20 years! Give us a call to discuss your next project and how we can help today.
More to come soon.