Mat Foundation Design: An Historical Perspective

by Edward J. Ulrich, (M.ASCE), Ulrich Engineers, Inc, Houston, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Vertical and Horizontal Deformations of Foundations and Embankments


Nearly a half century ago, Karl Terzaghi rationalized the analysis and design of mat foundations with the conclusion that subgrade reaction was the most important variable. Soon after the Terzaghi conclusions, Teng emphasized the importance of subgrade reaction in connection with mat properties and the variations in subgrade response (Teng 1962), yet the unfortunate use of a single value of subgrade reaction was seen to be specious to most structural engineers throughout the decades. Nearly a half century later, experience has shown the conclusions are still consistent with those of the eminent pioneers in that the subgrade response is the most important parameter in the analysis and design of mat foundations. The subgrade reaction concept declared by Terzaghi and clarified by Teng is indeed valid and may be properly used with the Discrete Area Method (Ulrich 1991) for the required loading conditions. The subgrade reaction beneath a mat foundation will vary and the use of a single subgrade reaction value for an entire mat foundation may lead to wrong designs. Construction procedures and actual site conditions are vital to successful mat performance. Prudent analysis and design of mat foundations can be achieved only by a team approach consisting of the geotechnical engineer, structural engineer, and architect.

Subject Headings: Foundation design | Subgrades | Materials engineering | Mat foundations | Soil analysis | Dynamic loads | Structural analysis

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