Q&A: How do ground improvement techniques affect infrastructure in areas with highly-compressible soils?

Earthwork diagram illustrating the amount of fill and adjustments for compaction and settlement.

Earthwork diagram illustrating the volumes of fill needed for a project.

As major cities in Latin America grow and evolve, land developers are looking to complex and challenging sites to meet their development needs. In general, existing conditions such as low-quality soil present various development challenges. For example, sites in low-lying areas with highly-compressible, saturated clays complicate the development process. In these cases, ground improvement solutions such as wick drains combined with temporary surcharge facilitate development by significantly accelerating the time frame in which total and differential settlement would otherwise occur gradually over an extended period of time before reaching the required clay consolidation suitable for development. These accelerated ground improvement time periods are critical to developer schedules.

Prefabricated vertical wick drains

Prefabricated vertical wick drains

Depending on the wick drain spacing and the thickness of the clay stratum, ground improvements in these areas become necessary to properly support low-rise buildings and infrastructure. Storm drainage, sanitary sewer, potable water, and roadway systems constructed in improved soils minimize the risk of critical infrastructure failure by addressing and resolving issues related to differential settlement that could affect the overall performance of the infrastructure system.

About Ing. Aurelio Escalona 
Aurelio has over 20 years of diversified experience in land development engineering projects involving utility improvements, permitting, earthwork, hydraulics and hydrology, roadways, storm drainage, potable water systems, and sanitary sewer systems. As an associate at Langan he manages the firm’s regional office in Panama City, Panama and serves as the practice leader for hospitality, residential, and mixed-use projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.