Historical Wooden Pile Foundations in Amsterdam

An Integrated Approach for the Estimation of Structural Performance and Residual Service Life

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Timber pile foundations are widespread in many areas around Europe and North-America. Especially in areas with weak soils, timber pile foundations have been a very good and economic solution. That foundations can be up to 500 years in service in cities like Venice, Amsterdam, Boston and many others. Degradation of the piles may occur over time which may influence considerably the residual service life. Residual service life is depending both on the time-to-failure behavior of wood, as well as the dead and live loads on the piles below buildings, quay walls and bridges. A good assessment method is required, as closing down infrastructure (bridges, quays) or buildings because of failing foundations causes considerable economical damage. In recent years in the cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam failures occurs on such foundations. A comprehensive research program has been set up, that includes the development of underwater microdrilling equipment, so that an indication of the wood quality can be done in situ, without the need of bringing samples to the laboratory. The development of this microdrilling has been paired with a large scale campaign to determine the strength of new and recovered piles. In a next step, by applying a non-linear damage accumulation model, the remaining service life is estimated as a function of the decay level and decay rate, as well as the expected mechanical loads.