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HomeCivil Products & ServicesGround EngineeringGeoscience Systems Approach For Controlling Temperatures in Foundation Design

Geoscience Systems Approach For Controlling Temperatures in Foundation Design

Ar. R.Vikramvijz, Policy Consultant-Inheritable Earth
Er.Sanna.Ratnavel, Professional Engineer (Senior), Sceba Consultancy Services, India

Temperature variations are important for foundation design as they can create substantial structural challenges. These structural challenges include temperature-induced soil shifts, expansion, and contraction, which can result in issues such as cracks, differential settling, and frost-related damage. To counteract these challenges, it is imperative to use proper material selection, insulation, and depth adjustments. In response to these

challenges, this scientific article provides comprehensive insights into mitigating temperature effects in foundation engineering. 

Temperature fluctuations have the capacity to trigger soil movement, settlement, and differential expansion and contraction in both soils and foundation components. To effectively address these issues, the article discusses a range of practical strategies. Among these, the placement of foundations at shallow depths emerges as a compelling approach to minimize temperature differentials. Moreover, emphasis is placed on enhancing the density of the foundation level through meticulous soil reclamation techniques, thus improving bearing capacity parameters and maintaining non-reactive zones.

Equally vital is the pursuit of a stable subsurface temperature, which the article tackles through the exploration of methods such as insulation, thermal barriers, ventilation, and climate control. The article also underscores the significance of moisture control and its interconnectedness with temperature management.

The article delves deeply into the intricacies of design considerations for shallow foundations, reinforcement methods, and insulation techniques. Furthermore, it accentuates the pivotal roles of geotechnical and structural engineers in customizing solutions tailored to local soil conditions and climatic variables.

This paper seeks to empower engineers, architects, and construction professionals with the knowledge and strategies required to effectively address temperature effects in foundation design. Implementing these practices can enhance the stability and durability of structures in the face of fluctuating temperature conditions.


Temperature fluctuations in different climate zones can result in soil expansion, contraction, and foundation movement, posing substantial challenges to building construction and  infrastructure projects like bridges, roads and industrial floors. To address these challenges, engineers and geotechnical experts must consider a range of precautions and design  strategies.

Temperature Variation: 

Temperature fluctuations, both daily and seasonal, can indeed lead to significant soil  movement. As the soil absorbs heat, it expands, and as it cools, it contracts. These cycles of expansion and contraction can cause several issues, including settlement and heaving, which can have a direct impact on the stability and performance of foundations and structures. 

Reactive soils are those that undergo significant volume changes with changes in moisture  content and temperature. These soils can pose unique challenges for foundation design and construction, and it’s essential to take their behaviour into account to prevent issues related to soil movement and foundation performance. 

This explanation provides a clear and concise overview of the temperature-related challenges that can affect foundations and structures, and it emphasizes the need for careful consideration of these factors in geotechnical engineering and foundation design. The importance of considering temperature dynamism, especially in reactive zones, provides sensible designs in foundation. 

Temperature variation

Thermal Conductance: 

The thermal conductivity of soils, which is their ability to conduct heat, can vary widely  depending on the soil type. There is no concept of “good” or “bad” heat conduction; what is more important is that there is a change in temperature within the soil mass, irrespective of its constituent parts and depth. This dynamic temperature variation exposes the founding soil mass and foundation elements to critical conditions. Over time, these temperature changes  can lead to the development of unnecessary micro cracks, profoundly affecting the stability of  the soil mass and foundation materials such as Reinforced Concrete (RC) footings. Thermal conductivity can lead to temperature-induced movements, particularly in soils below and surrounding foundation structures, as it penetrates various depths below and above ground level, encountering uniform or stratified soil masses.  

To mitigate the effects of temperature on soil movement, especially around foundations, consider the following steps: 

It’s important to recognize that soil movement due to temperature effects is a complex  phenomenon influenced by various factors, including soil type, moisture content, temperature variations, and more. Engineering solutions should be tailored to the specific conditions of the site to minimize the risks associated with temperature-induced soil movement. A comprehensive geotechnical and structural analysis is typically required to address these issues effectively. 

Placing foundations at a shallow depth can be a practical approach to minimize the impact of temperature-induced soil movement and to provide stability to structures. Shallow  foundations are generally less susceptible to extreme temperature differentials compared to deep foundations, which are more influenced by subsurface temperature changes.

Soil reclamation or soil improvement processes can be highly beneficial when dealing with  problematic soils, especially in the context of foundation design and construction. These  processes aim to enhance soil properties and behaviours to make them more suitable for  construction and to prevent issues associated with shallow-depth foundations. 

Some common soil improvement techniques include: 

  • Compaction: Proper compaction can increase the soil density, reducing its susceptibility to  settlement. This is particularly important in loose or compacted soils. 
  • Soil Stabilization: Stabilization methods involve adding stabilizing agents to the soil to  improve its strength and reduce swelling or shrinkage. 
  • Grouting: Injection of grout materials into the soil can improve its strength, reduce  permeability, and lessen settlement issues. 
  • Chemical Treatment: Chemical treatments can alter the properties of expansive or reactive  soils, reducing their susceptibility to moisture and temperature-induced changes. 
  • Vibro Compaction: Vibro Compaction uses vibrations to densify loose soils, increasing their  strength and reducing settlement potential. 

By employing these techniques, soil engineers and geotechnical experts can modify the  properties of the soil to make it more stable and predictable non- reactive zone. This, in turn, allows for safer and more reliable shallow-depth founding levels for structures. 

Soil reclamation and improvement processes are valuable tools in geotechnical engineering  and can significantly contribute to the success of construction projects, particularly in areas with challenging soil conditions. 

Maintaining a stable subsurface temperature at the foundation depth is a practical strategy to moderate temperature-related issues. The following are some ways to achieve: 

  • Insulation: As mentioned earlier, insulating the foundation can help safeguard temperature variations between the foundation and the surrounding soil. This insulation can be installed on the exterior or interior of the foundation walls and beneath the foundation slab.  
  • Thermal Barriers: Consider using thermal barriers or thermal breaks between the  foundation and the superstructure to reduce the transfer of heat or cold from the exterior to the interior. 
  • Proper Ventilation: In areas where the climate allows, proper ventilation of the foundation space can help maintain a more stable temperature. Ventilation can help prevent extreme temperature fluctuations beneath the structure. 
  • Moisture Control: Moisture management is closely tied to temperature control. Proper  drainage and waterproofing around the foundation can help prevent moisture-related issues that can exacerbate temperature-induced soil movement.
  • Climate Control: In some cases, it may be practical to condition the space beneath the  structure to maintain a more stable temperature. For example, in crawl spaces or basements, climate control systems can be installed to regulate temperature and humidity. 

Importance of Engineering Sciences: 

It’s essential to collaborate with experts in soil chemistry, thermodynamics, and solid  mechanics who are knowledgeable about local soil and climate conditions. They can help  design and implement the most effective strategies to ensure the stability and performance of foundations while considering the effects of temperature on both the soil and foundation elements. 

The design of both shallow and deep foundations presents a complex challenge when  considering temperature effects, regardless of any geological constraints or advantages.  Foundations extend to various depths, exposing foundation structures to a diverse range of  soils and air gaps beneath grade beams. This exposure can give rise to unforeseen  complications within the concrete and steel structures, often posing a formidable challenge  for designers. Therefore, placing foundations, grade beams, and pedestal columns at shallow  depths can be a prudent strategy to mitigate the potential complexities arising from temperature-induced effects. 

In this regard, the following guidelines are provided to assist designers in ensuring the safety  and resilience of foundations on-site, mitigating the unpredictable temperature effects on both  soils and structures.  

Shallow Foundations: 

  • Proper Design: Design considerations for shallow foundations should meticulously factor in  temperature-related movements. Ensuring the foundations are appropriately sized and  reinforced can bolster their ability to withstand expansion and contraction forces associated  with temperature variations. 
  • Expansion Joints: The installation of expansion joints in shallow foundations plays a  pivotal role in accommodating thermal movement. These joints enable foundations to  naturally expand and contract without incurring structural damage. 
  • Reinforcement and Insulation: Employing reinforced concrete for shallow foundations is  highly recommended to effectively manage and control cracking caused by temperature induced stresses. Additionally, insulating foundation walls and slabs serves to minimize  temperature differentials between the interior and exterior of structures, contributing to  enhanced stability. 
Shallow Foundation

Deep Foundations: 

  • Geotechnical Investigation: The cornerstone of deep foundation design is a comprehensive  geotechnical investigation. This critical step aids in developing a profound understanding of  soil conditions and the potential impact of temperature variations at depth. The insights  gained from this investigation guide the selection of appropriate foundation types and  lengths.
  • Thermal Grouting: In regions characterized by extreme temperature fluctuations, the  application of thermal grouting to piles or piers can be an effective solution to counter  temperature-induced movements. This technique helps stabilize foundations and minimize  the adverse effects of temperature fluctuations. 
  • Deep Embedment and Monitoring: Enhancing the depth of pile or pier embedment to  reach stable, temperature-insensitive soil layers offers a strong strategy for reducing the  influence of surface temperature fluctuations. Implementing a comprehensive monitoring  system to track foundation movements and temperature differentials provides an early  warning mechanism, allowing for timely intervention in the event of potential issues. 
Deep Foundation

The Impact of Temperature Changes in Infrastructures 

Temperature changes in soil can indeed have a substantial impact on various types of  infrastructures like roads, bridges, and industrial flooring. 

Roads: Fluctuations in soil temperature can lead to differential expansion and contraction  beneath road surfaces. This can result in pavement distress, including cracking and  deformation. Potholes may develop as the soil freezes and thaws, causing shifts in the road  structure. Properly designed and constructed roadways consider these temperature effects to  minimize damage and ensure durability. 

Bridges: Bridge foundations are vulnerable to settlement caused by temperature-induced soil  movement. Corrosion in exposed areas, such as bridge necks or support structures, can be  aggravated by temperature changes, impacting the structural integrity of the bridge. On-going  monitoring and maintenance are crucial to address these issues and ensure the safety of the  bridge. 

Industrial Flooring: Industrial facilities with concrete or asphalt flooring may experience  cracking and deformation due to soil temperature fluctuations. This can affect the flatness and  durability of the flooring. Proper design, reinforcement, and insulation of industrial flooring  can help mitigate temperature-related distress. 

In every instance, it is imperative that engineers and infrastructure designers give careful  consideration to the unique interplay of local soil conditions and temperature fluctuations.. It  is through this careful examination of the soil-temperature dynamic that the foundation for  durability and stability is laid. In this commitment to durability and enthusiasm, we find the  core of infrastructure engineering and built environment. 


In the jurisdiction of soil and foundation interaction, where the determination of structures of  buildings and infrastructures are precisely created, the impact of temperature effects on soils  and foundations is a matter of supreme concern. As we traverse the ever-evolving landscape  

of construction, it becomes increasingly evident that a paradigm shift in foundation design  and geotechnical investigations is essential to reinforce the durability of our built  environment. 

The journey through this report has articulated the complex challenges presented by  temperature fluctuations, a silent force that can stimulate unforeseen complexities within the 

very core of our constructions. It is evident that the prevailing foundation design approaches  and geotechnical investigation methodologies amend a change in light of the profound  implications of temperature effects. 

In our search of robust foundations, we have exhumed strategies to combat the changeable impact of temperature-induced soil movement, expansion, and contraction. The deployment  of careful soil modifying techniques, cautious moisture management, and strategic insulation  methods stands as an evidence to our collective skill in moderating the temperature-related  ambiguities that affected us. 

We shall acknowledge that the path to durable foundations is a multidisciplinary journey,  interlacing together the threads of geotechnical, solid mechanics, thermodynamics, soil  chemistry and environmental expertise. As we peer into the future of construction, it is  profusely clear that collaboration with achievers experienced in the particulars of local soil  compositions and the changeable nature of regional climates shall be essential. 

The bottom of our discussions rests in the understanding that addressing temperature-related  challenges is not merely a requisite; it is evidence of our commitment to erect structures that  endure the test of time. It is a clarion call for the reengineering of our present foundation design paradigms, a clarion call for a future where foundations not only support structures but  also strengthen the aspirations of generations to come. 


1. Foundations on Expansive Soils by Fu Hua Chen  

2. Geotechnical Engineering by Sashi Gulati & Manoj Dutta 

3. Expansive Soils –Problems and Practice in Foundation and Pavement Engineering  By John D.Nelson & Debora J.Miller  

4. Structural Foundations by M.F.Atkinson.  

5. Soil Temperature Variations with Time and Depth  

(Hillel, 1982; Marshall and Holmes, 1988; Wu and Nofziger, 1999). 

6. An Experimental Investigation of Subsurface Ground Temperature in Texas:  A Complete Study, International Journal of Ambient Energy. G. B. Reddy (2000) 

7. Comparisons of Borehole Temperature–Depth Profiles and Surface Air Temperatures in  the Northern Plains of the USA by Robert N. Harris and William D. Gosnold  

8. Development of a Shallow-Depth Soil Temperature Estimation Model Based on Air  Temperatures and Soil Water Contents in a Permafrost Area  by Keunbo Park, Yongwon Kim Kichoel Lee, and Dongwook Kim


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