Soil Compaction: The Foundation of Our Modern Marvels

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view of mountains, trees, farmland and a long soil road

Modern construction continues to push the limits of what we thought we could build, with structures rising higher and roads stretching for longer. Given these increases, it is thus important to ensure that our structures can remain standing for many more years to come. This is why the ground upon which the structures are built has to be prepared to ensure that it can withstand the weight of these large structures. One of the processes used to strengthen the soil is called tamping.

In construction, tamping is defined as the process by which a substance is packed together in order to increase its density and make it resistant to any further pressure or compaction. This is used particularly in relation to soil compaction, which is an important step in the construction of various structures like buildings and roads. The tamping process is usually carried out by a tamping compactor or rammer, which use force and vibrations to compress the soil together; rammers are typically used when working with cohesive soils that are high in clay content and thus hold firmly, while compactors are used when compacting granular soils, which are loose are have little to no cohesive strength.

Here are some reasons soil compaction is a must in modern construction projects:

1. Build a solid foundation.

empty land with just soil

During the soil compaction process, the empty space in between particles that would normally be occupied by air is removed by forcing other soil particles into that empty space. Thus, the layer of soil that is formed occupies less space but is much flatter and denser. This flat surface increased density allows the soil to function as a solid foundation for roads, buildings, and any kind of human-made structure to be built on top. Compaction also gives soil greater resistance and better stability, which are important in building foundations.

2. Decrease permeability.

When there is space between soil particles, this space will want to be filled one way or another. If there is no force that will fill the space with more soil particles, the most common element that will permeate these spaces is water. When water seeps into the soil, this can make the soil swell or cause movement in the soil particles, especially with relation to granular soils that are commonly fine and dry. When this happens, the integrity of the soil is compromised, meaning that any structures built on top will now be resting on shaky foundations that could easily give way. Soil compaction prevents this from happening by ensuring that there will be no space for air, water, or moisture to permeate the layers of soil and soften it.

3. Prevent building damage and deformation.

Any spaces left in between soil particles, whether it is occupied by air or water, make the soil unstable and prone to movement. Thus, it cannot support a large amount of weight, and therefore, cannot be a suitable foundation for structures. Should any building be constructed on uncompacted soil, cracks may appear on its walls, and the building is put at greater risk of collapse. Pipes under roads may also be prone to cracking and leaking, while holes may appear on the roads themselves. This results in a crumbling infrastructure that would create multiple major inconveniences for society as a whole.

Soil compaction is one of the processes behind our modern marvels. Though it may seem like a minor step, it allows major problems to be avoided when it comes to large-scale construction. Without it, there is little chance that the world as we know it today would exist.


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