Category Archives: Driven Piles

NCHRP Synthesis 478 – Design and Load Testing of Large Diameter Open-Ended Driven Piles

nchrp_syn_478_Design and Load Testing of Large Diameter Open-Ended Driven Piles_2015

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has released a synthesis report prepared by Dan and Robert on large diameter piles: NCHRP Synthesis 478, Design and Load Testing of Large Diameter Open-Ended Driven Piles.  The report is a summary of the state of practice with regard to Large Diameter Open-Ended Piles (LDOEPs) in the transportation industry.  We conducted a survey of state DOTs as well as interviews with private practitioners to summarize current practices as well as recommend best practices with regard to the selection, design, installation, and testing of LDOEPs.   Several state DOTs are using LDOEPs more regularly where large foundation loads may exist and/or the piles are subject to significant unsupported length due to scour, liquefaction, or very weak surficial soils. Marine construction conditions also favor the use of these piles, particularly where pile bents might be employed to eliminate footings.

You can download a PDF of the report or purchase a hard copy at the link below.

Brown, D.A. and Thompson, W.R. (2015). NCHRP Synthesis 478, Design and Load Testing of Large Diameter Open-Ended Driven Piles, Transportation Research Board, National Academies, Washington, D.C.

Bubble Curtain for Driving Piles at Tappan Zee

TZ curtain_lohud

Image source:

The design-build team Tappan Zee Constructors that is building the Tappan Zee Bridge is installing the over 200-ft long steel pipe piles using a relatively simple concept to mitigate vibration impacts on fish – a bubble curtain.  Such curtains have become more common as an approach to mitigate potential impacts (pardon the pun) on aquatic life when large piles are driven over water.  The vibrations from the hammer impact on the pile during driving are reduced or dampened by a curtain of bubbles generated around the pile by compressed air.  An item in the December 26th ASCE Smart Brief linked an article in The Journal News (White Plains, NY) highlighting the use of the curtain on the Tappan Zee project.


A rubber-looking sleeve covered the hammer where it met the pile, dampening some of the noise in the air. Underwater, however, it was a curtain of bubbles serving as the aquatic equivalent of earplugs for fish and other creatures in the Hudson River.

Aluminum rings are slid over the pilings like the rings on a shower curtain rod before any banging starts. Air pumped into the rings produces a sheath of bubbles in the water around the pile. The froth generated in the water is called a bubble curtain.

“Bubble curtains are designed to protect the fish in the area from the noise generated by the hammer impact below the water level,” said Walter Reichert, project manager for Tappan Zee Constructors. “This divides the water into basically two sections. It greatly reduces the sound waves.”

Check out the article for some neat pictures and a cool video about the process (with hammer sounds!).  Here is a small picture gallery from

Deep Foundations Events Update–October 2013

As involved as we are in the deep foundations industry (and just returning from the DFI annual conference), it seemed appropriate to take time to highlight several upcoming events in the industry.  All of these are great opportunities to get PDH credits, do some networking, and build relationships in the deep foundations industry.  Most are cooperative efforts of one or more of the G-I, DFI, PDCA, and ADSC.  All of them have a line-up of great speakers that are leaders in the industry.  Click on the links below to learn more about each one. 


14th Annual Design and Installation of Cost-Efficient Piles Conference
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Sheraton North Houston, Houston, TX

The DICEP conference will present modern approaches to maximize Efficiency, Effectiveness and Economy (E3) of driven piles through a series of presentations including driven pile design, testing, evaluation and case studies.  Steel sheet pile design and corrosion protection are also addressed.



Drilled Shaft Foundations Seminar – Reliability in Drilled Shaft Foundations
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Hilton Midtown, New York, NY

The program will feature presentations by leading industry design engineers and civil engineering contractors on some problems encountered with drilled shaft foundations and how those problems were solved.



Driven Pile – A Foundation for the 21st Century
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, Nashville, TN

  • A one-day specialty seminar on driven piles
  • Featuring 11 presentations by key industry professionals
  • Provides 6 PDH credits for all participants, including 1 PDH on Ethics  



Here are few open Calls for Abstracts (by order of due date):

IFCEE 2015 – March 17-21, 2015 – San Antoniio, TX – Due October 28, 2013

DFI 39th Annual Conference on Deep Foundations – October 21-24, 2014 – Atlanta, GA – Due January 10, 2014

DFI Superpile 2014 – June 19-20, 2014 – Cambridge, MA – Due February 3, 2014

DBA Engineers Coauthor Cover Story of Latest DFI Magazine

Cover Image of the Hastings Mississippi River Arch Bridge

The featured article in the July/August 2013 issue of Deep Foundations, the magazine of the Deep Foundations Institute, is coauthored by Dan, Paul, and Rich Lamb, P.E., of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).  The article summarizes how load testing has been used successfully as part of the foundation design process by DBA and MnDOT on five major bridge projects along the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers during the last 10 years and the lessons learned from these successive projects.   The featured bridge projects include two major design-build projects, the emergency replacement of the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge (2007) and the Hastings Mississippi River Arch Bridge (2011).  The other traditional design-bid-build projects include the I-494 Wakota Mississippi River Bridge, the U.S. Hwy 52 Lafayette Mississippi River Bridge, and the St Croix River Bridge.  As is often the case, each of these projects presented unique geological and hydrogeological challenges to foundation design – despite the projects all being within 30 miles of each other – including thick layers of highly organic compressible soils overlying bedrock, layers of cobbles and boulders, artesian groundwater conditions, and bedrock ranging from weak weathered sandstone to very hard dolostone.  These varying conditions resulted in the use and testing of a variety of foundations.  Load testing “with a purpose” has proven to be an integral part of the design and construction process on these projects, as the load tests were not simply for verification of a design but provided valuable information used to optimize the designs and provide quality assurance of the construction practices.

Please read the full article here or in a copy of Deep Foundations, a bi-monthly magazine published by the Deep Foundations Institute.   DFI is an international technical association of firms and individuals involved in the deep foundations and related industry.  More information about DFI and how to become a member can be found at

Also see our Projects Page for more about some of these projects and our other major projects.

Deep Foundations Research

image      image

In the course of digging throughout the internet for data and information for a couple of projects, I came across some (relatively) recent research reports geared toward improving design of driven piles based on field testing.  A report from The Illinois Center for Transportation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is focused on improving pile design through increased resistance factors and nominal bearing values.  A project by the Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University focuses on developing LRFD design procedures for steel piles in Iowa. It was published in two volumes, with Volume I covering the development of LRFD calibrations and a load test database, and Volume II covering field load tests performed for the project.

I have not had time to dig into them yet, so I just offer the links and abstracts to pique your curiosity.  Perhaps you may find something interesting in them, or maybe something applicable to a project.  There is a lot of research going on out there for TRB and NHI, so I figure sharing interesting tidbits helps get things circulated.

Click on the name of each of the research centers above to find out what other things they are doing, available reports, etc.


Improved Design for Driven Piles on a Load Test Program in Illinois, Research Report FHWA-ICT-12-011, Illinois Center for Transportation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, July 2012 (Authors: Jim Long and Andrew Anderson, )


Dynamic pile testing and one static load test was performed in accordance with ICT project R27-69, “Improved Design for Driven Piles Based on a Pile Load Test Program in Illinois.” The objectives of this project are to (1) increase the maximum nominal required bearing that designers can specify to reduce the number and/or weight of piles, (2) decrease the difference between estimated and driven pile lengths to reduce cutoffs and splice lengths by development of local bias factors for predictive methods used in design, (3) increase reliance of pile setup to increase the factored resistance available to designers, (4) reduce the risk of pile driving damage during construction, and (5) increase the resistance factor (decrease in factor of safety) based on increased data and confidence from load tests in and near Illinois. Project deliverables can be categorized as (1) better prediction methods for stresses during driving, (2) better prediction methods for pile capacities using resistance factors for driven piling based on local calibrations that consider the effects of pile setups, and (3) collections of static and dynamic load test data focused on Illinois soils and geology.



Development of LRFD Procedures for Bridge Piles in Iowa, Volume I: An Electronic Database for PIle LOad Tests (PILOT) (Volume I), Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University, January 2011 (Authors: Matthew Roling, Sri Sritharan, Muhannad T. Suleiman)


For well over 100 years, the Working Stress Design (WSD) approach has been the traditional basis for geotechnical design with regard to settlements or failure conditions. However, considerable effort has been put forth over the past couple of decades in relation to the adoption of the Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) approach into geotechnical design. With the goal of producing engineered designs with consistent levels of reliability, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a policy memorandum on June 28, 2000, requiring all new bridges initiated after October 1, 2007, to be designed according to the LRFD approach. Likewise, regionally calibrated LRFD resistance factors were permitted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to improve the economy of bridge foundation elements. Thus, projects TR-573, TR-583 and TR-584 were undertaken by a research team at Iowa State University’s Bridge Engineering Center with the goal of developing resistance factors for pile design using available pile static load test data. To accomplish this goal, the available data were first analyzed for reliability and then placed in a newly designed relational database management system termed PIle LOad Tests (PILOT), to which this first volume of the final report for project TR-573 is dedicated. PILOT is an amalgamated, electronic source of information consisting of both static and dynamic data for pile load tests conducted in the State of Iowa. The database, which includes historical data on pile load tests dating back to 1966, is intended for use in the establishment of LRFD resistance factors for design and construction control of driven pile foundations in Iowa. Although a considerable amount of geotechnical and pile load test data is available in literature as well as in various State Department of Transportation files, PILOT is one of the first regional databases to be exclusively used in the development of LRFD resistance factors for the design and construction control of driven pile foundations. Currently providing an electronically organized assimilation of geotechnical and pile load test data for 274 piles of various types (e.g., steel H-shaped, timber, pipe, Monotube, and concrete), PILOT ( is on par with such familiar national databases used in the calibration of LRFD resistance factors for pile foundations as the FHWA’s Deep Foundation Load Test Database. By narrowing geographical boundaries while maintaining a high number of pile load tests, PILOT exemplifies a model for effective regional LRFD calibration procedures.



Development of LRFD Procedures for Bridge Piles in Iowa, Field Testing of Steel H-Piles in Clay, Sand, and Mixed Soils and Data Analysis (Volume II), Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University, September 2011 (Authors: Kam Weng Ng, Muhannad T. Suleiman, Matthew Roling, Sherif S. AbdelSalam, and Sri Sritharan)


In response to the mandate on Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) implementations by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on all new bridge projects initiated after October 1, 2007, the Iowa Highway Research Board (IHRB) sponsored these research projects to develop regional LRFD recommendations. The LRFD development was performed using the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) Pile Load Test database (PILOT). To increase the data points for LRFD development, develop LRFD recommendations for dynamic methods, and validate the results of LRFD calibration, 10 full-scale field tests on the most commonly used steel H-piles (e.g., HP 10 x 42) were conducted throughout Iowa. Detailed in situ soil investigations were carried out, push-in pressure cells were installed, and laboratory soil tests were performed. Pile responses during driving, at the end of driving (EOD), and at re-strikes were monitored using the Pile Driving Analyzer (PDA), following with the CAse Pile Wave Analysis Program (CAPWAP) analysis. The hammer blow counts were recorded for Wave Equation Analysis Program (WEAP) and dynamic formulas. Static load tests (SLTs) were performed and the pile capacities were determined based on the Davisson’s criteria. The extensive experimental research studies generated important data for analytical and computational investigations. The SLT measured loaddisplacements were compared with the simulated results obtained using a model of the TZPILE program and using the modified borehole shear test method. Two analytical pile setup quantification methods, in terms of soil properties, were developed and validated. A new calibration procedure was developed to incorporate pile setup into LRFD

NCHRP Report 461–Static and Dynamic Lateral Loading of Pile Groups

nchrp_rpt_461-Static and Dynamic Loading of Pile Groups

Here is a blast from the past on pile groups: NCHRP Report 461 – Static and Dynamic Lateral Loading of Pile Groups.  I had a request for this report recently, so I found it and figured we needed to post the links to it.  Dan was the lead researcher on this report during his time at Auburn University, and had an all-star line up that included Dr. Mike O’Neill and Dr. Mike McVay, two of the heavy hitters in foundation engineering.  The report introduction gives a good summary of the contents:

A key concern of bridge engineers is the design and performance of pile group foundations under lateral loading events,
such as ship or ice impacts and earthquakes. This report documents a research program in which the following were developed:
(1) a numerical model to simulate static and dynamic lateral loading of pile groups, including structural and soil hysteresis and energy dissipation through radiation; (2) an analytical soil model for nonlinear unit soil response against piles (i.e., p-y curves) for dynamic loading and simple factors (i.e., p-multipliers) to permit their use in modeling groups of piles; (3) experimental data obtained through static and dynamic testing of large-scale pile groups in various soil profiles; and (4) preliminary recommendations for expressions for p-y curves, damping factors, and p-multipliers for analysis of laterally loaded pile groups for design purposes. The report also describes experimental equipment for performing site-specific, static, and dynamic lateral load tests on pile groups.

Several full-scale field tests were conducted on pile groups of 6 to 12 piles, both bored and driven, in relatively soft cohesive and cohesionless soils. All of the groups were loaded laterally statically to relatively large deflections, and groups of instrumented pipe piles were also loaded dynamically to large deflections, equivalent to deflections that might be suffered in major ship impact and seismic events. Dynamic loading was provided by a series of impulses of increasing magnitude using a horizontally mounted Statnamic device.

For a relatively short (50 pages) report, there is a lot of information packed into it gleaned from a lot of full-scale field work.

DBA Wraps Up Load Test Program and Proceeds with Design on St. Croix Bridge

Project rendering courtesy of HDR 

Lateral Statnamic test, picture by David Graham of DBA, click here for a YouTube video

DBA has been selected by MnDOT as a geotechnical and load testing consultant for the design phase load test program and foundation design of a new bridge crossing the the St. Croix River near Oak Park Heights and Stillwater, Minnesota. The new bridge will carry State Highway 36 across the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Currently, Highway 36 is carried on an 80-year old two-lane vertical lift bridge in downtown Stillwater.  The new bridge will divert the heavy through traffic away from the historic downtown center and reduce travel time for commuters.  The iconic lift bridge will be converted to a pedestrian and bicycle only structure.

Work began this summer on the load test program which consisted of one 8-foot test shaft, two 24-inch driven steel pipe piles, and two 42-inch driven steel pipe piles, all installed in the St. Croix River along the alignment of the new bridge.  Local contractor Carl Bolander & Sons Co. was selected as the general contractor for the load testing program.  Bolander self-performed the installation of the test piles and sub-contracted the construction of the test shaft to Case Foundation Company, of Chicago, Illinois.  Axial load testing of the test shaft was performed by Loadtest, Inc., of Gainesville, Florida, using Osterberg Cells (O-cells).  Dynamic testing of the driven piles using the pile driving analyzer (PDA) was performed by local geotechnical consultant Braun Intertec.  Axial testing of the driven piles and lateral testing of the shaft and one of each size pile was performed using the Statnamic Device by Applied Foundation Testing, Inc. (AFT), of Jacksonville, Florida.  DBA provided pre-test recommendations, assisted MnDOT in construction oversight, provided analysis and review of the test results, and made design recommendations based on the test results.

Following the successful load test program, DBA is working with MnDOT’s structural design consultants for the project, HDR, Inc. and Buckland & Taylor Ltd.  to optimize the bridge design.  Already, the design team has been able to lengthen the bridge spans and eliminate a river pier as a result of the load test results, as was recently reported by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR).  Also, because the total number of drilled shafts required to support the main pier towers has been reduced, construction on the foundations will been moved up to 2013 rather than the original estimated start date in 2014, also reported by MPR.

For more information, please see:

The MnDOT Project Page

The DBA Project Summary Sheet

Hastings Bridge Takes Shape with Newly Installed Main Span

photo by Chad Richardson of the Hastings Star Gazette

A major construction feat was recently completed at the Highway 61 bridge project in Hastings, Minnesota when the 545-foot, 6.5 million-pound main bridge span was hoisted into place, 50 feet above the Mississippi river.  The main span, the longest free-standing tied-arch in North America, was constructed on the shore of the Mississippi River, about a mile upstream of the river crossing.  Placed on massive dollies, the span was rolled onto a set of six barges and floated downstream.  Once positioned under the piers, hydraulic jacks on top of the piers slowly lifted the span into place.  Around midnight on Sunday, September 23rd, 2012, the lift was complete.  By noon of the following day the span was secured in place and the existing bridge was reopened to traffic. A time lapse video of the entire process can be viewed below or on YouTube.

Links to news stories published about the main span lift:

Mn/DOT News Release

Minneapolis Star Tribune, “New Hastings bridge reaches into the future”

Hastings Star Gazette, “A massive lift, massive relief – Bridge crews worked long hours, drank 50 gallons of coffee and ate 10 gallons of chili”

Links to project information:

MnDOT Project Page

DBA Project Page

Previous Hastings Blog Posts

Two New Technical Manuals From DFI

The Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) has announced the publication of two new deep foundation reference manuals.   Excerpts from the announcement for both manuals are below.  Both manuals are available for order using this form or on-line at this link.

Guideline for Interpretation of Nondestructive Integrity Testing of Augered Cast-in-Place and Drilled Displacement Piles
DFI Augered Cast-In-Place Pile Committee (2011-2012) Chaired by Michael Moran
Tracy Brettmann, Principal Author; Bernard Hertlein, Matthew Meyer, Bria Whitmire, Co-Authors

(Image from DFI)

This guideline provides practical guidance for the interpretation of nondestructive testing (NDT) of the integrity of augered cast-in-place (ACIP) and drilled displacement (DD) piles.  …  This guideline supplements DFI’s two primary publications on ACIP piles: Augered Cast-in-Place Pile Manual (2003) and the Inspector’s Guide for Augered Cast-in-Place Piles (2010). This guideline was developed to provide 1) more detailed explanations of the various test methods available, 2) guidance on interpretation of the results, and 3) some typical examples of the data and interpretation.

Seismic and Lateral Load Design and Testing Guidelines
DFI Seismic and Lateral Loads Committee (2011-2012)
Chaired by Mark Petersen and Zia Zafir (2003-2009)
Robert Kruger, Guideline Editor


(DBA Photo)

This guidance document is intended to assist geotechnical engineers, pile designers, and contractors in analysis, design, and testing of piles and drilled shafts for lateral loads. … … This document discusses the background of different analytical and testing procedures and presents the recommended methods for analysis, design and testing of piles for lateral loads.

New Pictures of Hastings Bridge Added to Our Picasa Web Album

Some new pictures of the Hastings bridge project in Hastings, Minnesota have been added to our Picasa Web Album: Hastings Bridge Construction.  The  pictures were taken by myself, David Graham, who has been in the area working on a load test program for a new bridge crossing the St. Croix River near Stillwater, Minnesota, and Griff Wigley, our blog coach who lives nearby in Northfield, Minnesota.  The pictures show some of the recently poured deck sections, the completed piers, and the main span arch construction.  Once completed, the main span arch will be moved onto barges, floated downstream, and lifted into place in one piece.  We have chronicled this interesting and successful project in several previous blog posts that can be found here.