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Sinking caisson

serves as excavation and

permanent support structure

The sinking caisson concrete walls are

the permanent support structure in
addition to having been the excavation
support system for this mill scale pit.
Using this method saved 9 weeks of
construction time.

struction time and 18 percent of the

originally estimated construction
The sinking caisson works by us-
ing the drag force of the soil that acts
against the exterior and interior
caisson walls. Excavating the soil re-
duces the drag force along the inte-
rior walls, allowing the caisson to
sink under its own dead weight. As
the caisson slowly sinks, increasing
its embedded length, the drag force
increases because of more wall con-
tact area. The caisson stops sinking
when the drag force has increased
to equal the caisson weight. The
next concrete lift can be placed and
interior excavation begun to start
the sinking process again.
Using the sinking caisson proce-
dure, the structural walls were con-
structed at ground level in three
lifts. A cutting shoe displaced the
soil into the excavation below the
walls of the caisson. Internal brac-
ing ensured stability during excava-
tion of the center of the scale pit and
n 1985, a casting plant in Dear- alternative method had to be found

p re vented wall cracking during the
born, Michigan, needed to build to excavate the site. sinking process (Figure 2). The sink-
a 122x46-foot holding pit for its One alternative involved building ing caisson also provided for unob-
mill scale. Un f o rt u n a t e l y, the a cofferdam with internally braced structed excavation and wall con-
soil at the site was found to be ex- steel sheet piles, but it would have struction because of the minimal
tremely soft and silty clay. Since the been expensive and time consum- internal bracing as compared to a
soil wasnt stable, an unbraced ex- ing. Using a sinking caisson (Figure heavily braced cofferdam.
cavation would be dangerous. An 1), howe ve r, saved 9 weeks of con- The soil within the center of the
Figure 1.
A) Excavating in soft soils is dangerous because of the possibility of a slope failure or a floor heave.
B) Use sheet piles to prevent soil failures that occur in unbraced excavations. Drive the sheet piles, excavate, and brace in
increments until reaching the desired depth. The structure can now be placed within the confines of the braced
C) The sinking caisson method avoids the difficulty of construction inside a braced excavation by acting as both temporary
bracing and final structure. Controlled excavation reduces the drag force on the interior walls, allowing the caisson to
sink under its own weight. After each sinking operation, a new wall is poured. Excavation, sinking and concrete pouring
continue until the caisson reaches the desired depth.

Figure 2. Internal bracing prevented

wall cracking during the sinking
process and ensured stability while
the center of the scale pit was

Figure 3. The final positioning of the

caisson was accomplished by using
eight landing haunches that settled to
rest on 200-ton piles driven to the
required elevation.
s t ru c t u re was excavated in lifts to the sides of the caisson were de- Credits
p re vent floor heave and control signed to bear on the piles (Figure Owner: Rouge Steel Continuous Slab
caisson settlement. The consulting 3). Once the caisson landed, ce- Casting Plant, Dearborn,
engineer recommended leaving at ment-stabilized fly ash was placed Michigan
least 8 feet of soil above the base of up to the level of the interior base
Construction manager: Walbridge
the caisson at all times. Co n c re t e slab. This greatly improved base sta- Aldinger, Livonia, Michigan
caisson walls were built 6 feet thick, bility and allowed the floor slab to
providing sufficient weight to coun- be placed in a single pour. Soil investigation: Neyer, Tiseo & Hin-
teract the drag forces. In addition, a The caisson served as both the do, Ltd., Farmington Hills, Michigan
water jet system built into the cais- temporary and permanent excava-
son walls lubricated the outside of tion support system, allowing the
the caisson during sinking. actual scale pit structure to be built
To stop the caisson at the desired without the use of a separate tem-
depth, eight 200-ton-capacity piles p o ra ry earth support system. The PUBLICATION#C880107
were driven around the perimeter of caisson eventually became part of Copyright 1988, The Aberdeen Group
the caisson. Landing haunches on the permanent scale pit walls. All rights reserved