EARTHWORKS ~~ the first step in any type of Construction and basic key factors associated with it

At first instance thinking about this very topic, a reader may think what so important could be there in such a simple topic. After all, earthwork is as basic as the most common of aspects of Civil Engineering.

Yes, it could be tedious as well as tricky while dealing with earthworks (which includes all earth related activities, viz., excavation, backfilling, disposal of extra and/or waste soil, and the likes) in special conditions like while handling extra soft or extra hard strata; or even may be when earthworks are required to be done in high water table conditions where pumping out of water could become a headache for the team of engineers. There could be endless of demanding situations in this field, but here we will focus on the basic principles that an engineer, or even a simple worker needs to remember.

Analyzing the Type of Material : The First Basic Step

It can be a fruitful exercise for any working team to first analyze what kind of soil and/or strata they are going to work upon. Selecting the best possible technique to go about follows thereafter.

In brief, the type of materials to be handled or used for the diverse needs of earthworks, viz., excavation, filling, compacting, making embankments, etc. should primarily conform to the qualities and requirements for each work respectively. It often is a good idea to investigate the possible areas for winning such materials, as well as the possibility of reusing materials arising from excavations on the site, keeping in mind that the source and the quality of materials being subject to requisite quality control.

Things/Methods to Start With

Subsequent to the basic planning, earmarking and completing the layout, etc. of the respective areas of work, it needs a planned methodology to carry out the works most economically and time saving. The few of these activities are:

  • Clearing and Grubbing: The work of clearing and grubbing consists of the removal of all obstructions such as undergrowth, bushes, trees, stumps, roots, rubbish and other objectionable organic or inorganic matter before undertaking any major earthwork.
  • Excavation: This consists of the necessary excavations for the works such as foundations of structures and buildings, machine foundations, pits, tunnels, cable trenches, etc. It generally also includes the stacking and/or disposal of the surplus excavated materials that is extra of what has to be backfilled back after casting the sub-structure. The whole of the excavations for the several parts of a particular Work should be carried out to suit the foundations for which they are required. The important thing to remember is that the excavations should be done in such a manner, which gives sufficient safe working space all around the foundations; and also economized to the fullest at the same time.
  • Earthworks for Embankments: Where an embankment is to be made, the in-grade preparation of the basement soils should be well planned before actual execution. All sod and organic matter as well as any unsuitable material should be removed from the surface, if encountered. The key to remember is that the final cleared surface should be completely broken up by ploughing, scarifying or stepping to a certain minimum depth, preferably by at least 15 cm.
  • Earthwork in Rocky Conditions: As a thumb rule, the rock strata can be divided into two categories, viz., soft rock, which constitutes material such as limestone, sandstone, hard conglomerate, plain cement concrete, etc.; and hard rock, which constitutes material like quartzite stone, granite, basalt, reinforced cement concrete and the likes that cannot be easily quarried or split with crow bars or picks or even with jackhammers. Even harder strata like that comprising of thick solid beds of corals, etc. may even require special blasting techniques, which require detailed planning on an engineer’s behalf.

Concluding remarks

Earthworks mark the beginning of the construction process for any building or structure. It may seem to be a done thing from an overview, but it must be remembered that some key basic points should always be in place before as well as during the execution of the works. Planning the key issues beforehand can save enormous precious time and the finances.


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