University of Waterloo Field House

 In Projects

The University of Waterloo and Department of Athletics and Recreation proudly unveiled the new Columbia Icefield Field House (CIF Field House) in September of 2019. This $1.5 million project included the design and construction of a 30,000 square foot Field House expansion to the existing Columbia Icefields facility, which features a multi-activity turf surface open to both the student and local communities. The CIF Field House project is part of the University’s long-term development plan for the Columbia Ice Fields facility. This potential future facility could see an indoor running track, ice rink, swimming pool, and associated support spaces such as open-air stadium, retail, concessions, and sports medicine facilities.

The CIF Field House required a stable foundation to ensure the success of the project. The majority of the site was blessed with suitable soil conditions that would allow for standard strip/spread footings. However, zones of undocumented fill up to 3.8 m in depth underlain by very loose native silt/sand soils extending beyond 6 m in depth were identified by the Geotechnical Engineer, Chung and Vander Doelen. These uncontrolled fill soils and very loose sand/silts would certainly have created risk for future building settlements if not properly managed.

To determine the most cost-effective foundation system for this project, the Structural Engineering team at WalterFedy worked closely with GeoSolv to assess their foundation options. It was determined that the zones of poor soil were well suited for the Geopier Rammed Aggregate Pier® system, installed through the Impact® method. The Impact installation method allowed for the construction of Geopier elements within the saturated/caving soils and generated no excess soil for the contractor to have to manage.

The project team at WalterFedy identified that the poor soil conditions extended well beyond the scope of the CIF Field House project into a proposed future development area. Access to this future expansion would be very challenging once the Field House was erected, which would, in turn, limit their foundation support options and drive up costs.

GeoSolv’s soil improvement experts designed a “matched support” solution where the scope was limited to the poor soil zones, and the Geopier system was designed to match the bearing capacity and settlement performance of the foundations placed on the native soils. This approach has been successful in numerous projects across Ontario and provides significant cost and schedule advantages. Furthermore, the fill/very loose soils were reinforced at and around the location of the proposed future expansion footings to provide flexibility for future construction.

The Geopier system was tendered head-to-head with traditional over-excavation and replacement (engineered fill) methods and was proven to provide significant cost and schedule advantages. Additional advantages included:

  1. Avoiding over-excavation to reduce soil handling
  2. Eliminated the need for shoring/protection systems against the existing structure
  3. Reduced dewatering requirements by limiting excavation depths
  4. Controlled costs through lump-sum pricing avoiding cost overruns due to unknown soil volumes
  5. Improved schedule control avoided weather delays often associated with excavations
  6. Schedule savings realized by installing the Geopier system in the winter months prior to obtaining any foundation permits
  7. Innovative low vibration installation was less disruptive of existing site operations

GeoSolv’s experienced construction team successfully completed the installation during the winter of 2018. Full-scale modulus load testing was conducted on-site to verify the Geopier design. The modulus test showed excellent results with less than 12 mm of deflection at 100% of the maximum top of pier stress – over 725 kPa!

It was a pleasure to work with the project team of WalterFedy, Chung and Vander Doelen, and Ira McDonald on this very important and exciting project.

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