TRR paper by andy boeckmann and erik loehr on Thermal requirements for drilled shafts

Andy Boeckmann, Ph.D., P.E. (DBA Senior Engineer) and Erik Loehr, Ph.D., P.E. (DBA Senior Principal Engineer) have published a paper on the topic of thermal testing of drilled shafts in the Transportation Research Board (TRB) journal Transportation Research Record.  Their co-author was  Zakaria El-tayash of Burns & McDonnell. 

As the drilled shaft diameters have increased in size over the years, designers and owners have had questions or concerns about the issues of temperature impacts to concrete durability similar to the issues with mass concrete placement for large structural elements.   Some transportation agencies have recently applied mass concrete provisions to drilled shafts, such as limits on maximum temperatures and maximum temperature differentials.  The temperatures commonly observed in large diameter drilled shafts have been observed to cause delayed ettringite formation (DEF) and thermal cracking in above-ground concrete elements.  This has led to the practice of applying to drilled shafts the control provisions that are based on dated practices for above-ground concrete. However, the reinforcement and confinement (embedded in soil and/or rock below grade) unique to drilled shafts should provide resistance to thermal cracking and possibly other effects of mass concrete temperatures.

Conceptual illustration of crack development in early age concrete with time from internal restraint. Adapted from Bamforth (2018) with permission from CIRIA


The paper reviews current requirements of several state DOTs  for addressing DEF and thermal cracking, then establishes a rational procedure for design of drilled shafts for durability requirements in response to hydration temperatures.  DEF is addressed through maximum temperature differential limitations while thermal cracking is addressed through calculations that explicitly consider the thermo-mechanical response of concrete for predicted temperatures.  The recommended procedure includes a detailed five step evaluation process.   Additional alternate steps for mitigation techniques and/or monitoring temperature are detailed as well.   The procedures allow for explicit account of project-specific characteristics, including ground conditions, concrete mix design characteristics, drilled shaft geometry, and the quantity of steel reinforcement.


Temperature differential between center and edge of shaft versus time from thermal model and from temperature measurements


The methodology was developed from guidance established by ACI and CIRIA and provides a rational means for designing drilled shafts for durability without imposing unnecessary constraints that may exacerbate challenges with effective construction of drilled shafts.  Results from application of the procedure indicate consideration of DEF and thermal cracking potential for drilled shafts is prudent, but provisions that have been applied to date are overly restrictive in many circumstances, particularly the commonly adopted 35 ?F maximum temperature differential provision.

You can get the paper from The Transportation Research Record at the link below.

Boeckmann, A.Z., El-tayash, Z., and Loehr, J.E. (2021). “Establishing and Satsifying Thermal Requirements for Drilled Shaft Concrete Based on Durability Considerations”, Transportation Research Record, March 2021.