Expertise»Geotechnical»Ground Improvement

Gain a stronger foundation through ground improvement

SME’s geotechnical engineers use ground improvement technologies and construction methods to alter or improve poor ground conditions when other options are infeasible or too costly.

Ground improvement uses various innovative techniques to change the basic engineering properties of soils to allow for more efficient and cost-effective design. They are an essential component of many construction projects that involve major underground work, unsuitable soil conditions, and/or unstable existing structures. SME’s geotechnical engineers have over 50 years of experience in the planning, design, construction, implementation and performance verification of ground improvement measures on marginal land or for redevelopment of brownfield sites.

Selecting the appropriate ground improvement technique for a project requires knowledge, hands-on experience and skills in a variety of ground improvement approaches. Subsurface conditions can vary greatly within a single site and the characteristics of the in-situ soil play a crucial role in determining which ground improvement method to use.

SME’s Geotechnical engineers have experience with numerous ground improvement project types including:

  • Increasing bearing capacity, shear or frictional strength
  • Increasing density
  • Controlling deformations
  • Accelerating consolidation
  • Decreasing imposed loads
  • Providing lateral stability
  • Filling voids
Grouting is a ground improvement process that consists of filling pores or cavities in soil or rock with a liquid form material to decrease the permeability and improve shear strength by increasing cohesion when it is set. Depending on the soil type, SME has used multiple grouting methods including micro-fine cement grouting, chemical grouting, compaction grouting, fracture grouting, jet grouting and polyurethane grouting.
Deep Dynamic Compaction
Deep dynamic compaction densifies soils and fills by using the kinetic energy from the dropping of heavy weight. A large piece of concrete or steel with flat bottom is lifted by a crane and dropped repeatedly on the ground surface. The energy from the drop collapses the voids in the soils and increases its density and strength properties. SME has used this method to increase bearing capacity, and decrease settlement and liquefaction potential for planned structure foundations.
Vibro-compaction uses a special vibrating probe inserted below the ground surface using a combination of weight, vibration and water. The vibration from the probe stabilizes granular soils such as loose sands and gravels and moves them into a denser configuration. A coarse aggregate (stone) can be added during the process to create compacted stone columns within the densified soil mass. SME has used this method to increase bearing capacity and reduce total and differential settlement.
Aggregate Piers/Rigid Inclusions
These drilling technologies create aggregate or low modulus grout columns within the ground below foundation or floor slabs. SME has used this method as an alternative to more costly deep foundations and structural floor slabs for commercial, retail and manufacturing buildings.
Wick Drains
Wick drains provide drainage paths for excess pore water in soft compressible soil using prefabricated geotextile filter-wrapped plastic strips with molder channels. SME has used this method to accelerate the consolidation process of the compressible soil to reduce the long term settlements and meet the required construction schedule.