Minimising the embodied carbon of concrete pile foundations

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A recent UN report has shown that the construction industry is one of the seven major sectors that contribute significantly to environmental pollution and was responsible for around 20% of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020 and this is expected to increase during the upcoming years unless preventive actions are taken. Many studies have addressed the carbon footprint of superstructures and proposed innovative conceptual designs with a lower carbon footprint. However, the carbon footprint of substructures has only been investigated to a limited extent, this is believed to be due to a lack of certainty in the mechanical behaviour of soil and its interaction with structures as well as the construction complexity for deep foundations. This project aims to establish a robust algorithm for optimising the environmental impact of concrete piles bored or driven in different soil types. This will be achieved through varying different design parameters (concrete grade, steel-to-concrete ratio, and pile slenderness ratio) across a multi-level optimisation algorithm tested for different pile-design cases.

The change of these parameters will in turn lead to innovative conceptual designs for deep foundations corresponding to a better environmental impact while achieving the required load-bearing capacity. The analysis results show that piles with low capacities favor concrete with low compressive strength and high slenderness ratios. However, for piles with larger capacities, there exist critical threshold values for concrete compressive strength, steel reinforcement ratio, and slenderness ratio corresponding to designs with the lowest environmental impact, these values are case-dependent and vary with the properties of soil and concrete used. The algorithm is tested on an existing case study of deep foundations for a mono-rail train bridge and a potential carbon saving of 72.4% is achieved. The findings also highlight the potential for future carbon reduction through a novel conceptual pile design utilising the lowest possible amount of concrete while achieving higher load-bearing capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2023
EventEngineering and design symposium 2023 - University of Bath, Bath, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Jun 202328 Jun 2023


ConferenceEngineering and design symposium 2023
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom


  • Embodied carbon
  • Deep foundations
  • Concrete

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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