Driven Piles: Advantages and Disadvantages.

Piles may be of timber, steel or concrete. When the piles are of concrete, they are to be precast.

They may be driven either vertically or at an angle to the vertical. Piles are driven using a pile hammer. When a pile is driven into granular soil, the soil so displaced, equal to the volume of the driven pile, compacts the soil around the sides since the displaced soil particles enter the soil spaces of the adjacent mass which leads to densification of the mass. The pile that compacts the soil adjacent to it is sometimes called a compaction pile. The compaction of the soil mass around a pile increases its bearing capacity.

If a pile is driven into saturated silty or cohesive soil, the soil around the pile cannot be densified because of its poor drainage qualities. The displaced soil particles cannot enter the void space unless the water in the pores is pushed out. The stresses developed in the soil mass adjacent to the pile due to the driving of the pile have to be borne by the pore water only. This results in the development of pore water pressure and a consequent decrease in the bearing capacity of the soil.

The soil adjacent to the piles is remolded and loses to a certain extent its structural strength. The immediate effect of driving a pile in a soil with poor drainage qualities is, therefore, to decrease its bearing strength. However, with the passage of time, the remolded soil regains part of its lost strength due to the reorientation of the disturbed particles (which is termed thixotrophy} and due to consolidation of the mass. The advantages and disadvantages of driven piles are:

Advantages
1. Piles can be precast to the required specifications.
2. Piles of any size, length and shape can be made in advance and used at the site. As a result, the progress of the work will be rapid.
3. A pile driven into granular soil compacts the adjacent soil mass and as a result the bearing capacity of the pile is increased.
4. The work is neat and clean. The supervision of work at the site can be reduced to a minimum. The storage space required is very much less.
5. Driven piles may conveniently be used in places where it is advisable not to drill holes for fear of meeting ground water under pressure.
6. Drivens pile are the most favored for works over water such as piles in wharf structures or jetties.

Disadvantages
1. Precast or prestressed concrete piles must be properly reinforced to withstand handling stresses during transportation and driving.
2. Advance planning is required for handling and driving.
3. Requires heavy equipment for handling and driving.
4. Since the exact length required at the site cannot be determined in advance, the method involves cutting off extra lengths or adding more lengths. This increases the cost of the project.
5. Driven piles are not suitable in soils of poor drainage qualities. If the driving of piles is not properly phased and arranged, there is every possibility of heaving of the soil or the lifting of the driven piles during the driving of a new pile.
6. Where the foundations of adjacent structures are likely to be affected due to the vibrations generated by the driving of piles, driven piles should not be used.

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