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Architecture/construction in desert


Hello Richard
I'm an architecture student. I just wanted to know that what will be the construction techniques and which type of foundation should be used in sand dunes


The first step would be to read the words of Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew Chapter 7 versus 24 through 26:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.  Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell -and great was its fall."  When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

The second step would be to get the building owner to sign a liability waiver before building an unconventional foundation.

Building any foundation in the sand is going to require that you think about how you would build something in the sea or river because you can not rely on the sand to provide any stability.  As an architecture student, I am certain that you already know these fundamental truths but I want to make it clear for anyone else who might be reading this.

After drilling down approximately 100 to 200 meters deep, then you will have a better idea where there might be a water table and solid rock.  Ideally you want the bottom of your drilled caissons to rest on solid rock.  And you want the bottom of your drilled caissons to be above the water table.  A soils test must be completed before the structural engineer can design the size of the drilled caissons.

Although we do not have many sand dunes where I live, we do have a few areas near the rivers and lakes where the soil consists of sand and silt.  While building ten story buildings, it is especially important to drill several holes down through this sandy soil until we reach bedrock.  There are typically several groups of four holes measuring 60 centimeters in diameter.  Each group of four holes is then capped together with a square pad that is approximately 60 centimeters thick by 3 meters by 3 meters square.
These concrete pads are spaced approximately 6 meters on center each way.
Again, the size and spacing of the foundation design is calculated based on the soils testing.
If bedrock is not found anywhere close to the surface, then the structural engineer must rely on pure friction value created around the vertical surface of the concrete pier in the sand.

The concrete is reinforced with steel rebar.

For smaller structures, I would consider steel helical piles.  For years, this system has been used to repair faulty foundations.  Recently, there has been a little more consideration for use as the primary foundation system.  These are simple metal augers that are twisted into the ground until a specified torque (resistance) is reached.  Personally I have only used these for residential decks and the repair of existing foundations.  After these pass the test of time, I expect this type of foundation system to become more popular.  It is very easy to install.

I hope that helps give you some idea regarding how to build a foundation in the sand dunes.

Richard Burton, AIA
Registered Architect
ICC Certified Plan Reviewer
NFPA Certified Fire Plan Examiner


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Richard Burton AIA


A combined total of 25 years experience with construction, architecture, and building code enforcement. Ask me about residential and commercial design. Ask me about design aesthetics, structural methods, and building something that will withstand severe weather conditions. Ask me my opinion about YOUR design ideas and I will tell you the merits of good design and challenge your thinking about practical issues. Ask me how to best find and work with your local architect and approach general contractors to get the most value for the least amount of headaches. You can ask me about improving your energy efficiency and things that are both green and practical. But don't ask me about solar panels and wind turbines unless you are currently paying your utility company 35 cents per Kilowatt. Otherwise the math does not justify the initial cost and return on investment. Ask me any building code question and how to get a building permit from the most difficult enforcement agencies.


Here in the midwest, we design and build "green" in ways that make sense. My construction methods prioritize weather resistance, ease of maintenance and durability. While a graduate student in San Diego, I taught drafting and history of architecture. After working ten years for other architecture firms, I have started my firm Arrow Architecture in 2008. More than half of my work involves commercial office buildings. But my portfolio of work also includes custom homes, residential additions, home remodels, and second story additions.

President-Elect of American Institute of Architects - Lincoln, NE

B.S. Architecture - (Interior Design) University of Nebraska Lincoln 1997 Master of Architecture - (Urban Design and Professional Practice) NewSchool of Architecture - San Diego 2004 Graduated Summa Cum Laude ICC Certified Building Plans Examiner

Awards and Honors
AIA Henry Adams Medal and Certificate

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