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  寒旱区科学  2018, Vol. 10 Issue (1): 1-11  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2018.00001


Liu JK, Wang TF, Wen Z. 2018. Research on pile performance and state-of-the-art practice in cold regions. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 10(1): 1-11. DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2018.00001.

Correspondence to

JianKun Liu, Research Institute of Subgrade and Foundation Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, Beijing Jiaotong University. 3 Shangyuancun Haidian District, Beijing 100044, China. E-mail: jkliu@bjtu.edu.cn

Article History

Received: December 14, 2017
Accepted: January 18, 2018
Research on pile performance and state-of-the-art practice in cold regions
JianKun Liu 1,3, TengFei Wang 1,2, Zhi Wen 4    
1. Research Institute of Subgrade and Foundation Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, Beijing Jiaotong University, Beijing 100044, China;
2. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison WI 53706, United States;
3. Key Laboratory of Highway Construction and Maintenance Technology in Permafrost Region, Qinghai Research Institute of Transportation, Xining, Qinghai 810000, China;
4. State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
Abstract: A pile foundation is commonly adopted in geotechnical engineering to support structures, and its application has been extended to cold-regions engineering. In past decades, a host of scholars investigated pile behaviors and proposed design guidelines for seasonally frozen ground or permafrost. This paper reviews the research with respect to pile performance and engineering practice in cold regions, organized as follows: (1) creep tests and bearing capacity, (2) frost-jacking hazards, (3) laterally loaded piles, (4) dynamic responses, (5) refreezing due to concrete-hydration heat, and (6) improved countermeasures and design methods. We first summarize previous research and recent progress; then, predict the development trend of pile foundations in cold regions and recommend further research.
Key words: pile foundation    bearing capacity    creep test    pile design    frost jacking    permafrost    

1 Introduction

Pile foundations, as the most common type of deep foundation, have been applied in geotechnical engineering for ages. Piles are suitable to be used as structural support in frost-susceptible soils in deep seasonally frozen ground or in ice-rich permafrost. Pile foundations can be installed with minimum disturbance to permafrost and can isolate the structure from seasonal frost, subsidence movements of the active layer, and permafrost degradation. It was found that the installation of a pile foundation leads to a reduction in the heaving of frozen soil adjacent to the pile (Shulyat'ev et al., 1991 ). Structural loads are transferred via the pile shaft to the deep layer, where the soil's supporting strength remains stable through the design life of superstructures.

Discussions regarding pile design and standard test procedures in cold regions have been in the forefront since the last century (Nixon and McRoberts, 1976; Nixon and Neukirchner, 1984; Bro, 1985; Crory, 1985; Biggar and Sego, 1989; Thomas and Phukan, 1992). In general, two criteria must be satisfied for pile design in permafrost terrain. First, an adequate margin of safety is required against gross failure. Second, the settlement must be held within a tolerable limit over the design life of the structure. It was recognized that appropriate design parameters can be determined either from a large number of pile-loading tests or from theoretical solutions if the creep and physical properties of the frozen ground are known. Such factors as temperature profile, external loading, salinity and grain size of soil, etc., can affect a pile–frozen soil system. At the same time, as some facets of frozen soil remain elusive, deeper insights accounting for a combination of various factors are encouraged to quantify pile behaviors. Principles of pile design and engineering practice in cold regions have been summarized, and key parameters clarified (Phukan and Ladanyi, 1992; Cao and Wei, 2004; Scarr and Mokwa, 2008).

The main objective of this paper is to review previous research regarding the behavior and associated engineering practice of pile foundations in cold regions. This paper addresses six facets: (1) bearing capacity and creep, (2) frost jacking, (3) piles under horizontal loads, (4) dynamic properties, (5) hydration heat and refreezing, and (6) countermoves and optimal design. Further studies and applications with respect to piling in cold regions are thus recommended, based upon current practice and issues. Cold regions shall be divided into two fundamental types, namely seasonally frozen regions and permafrost terrain, in terms of the existence of permanently frozen soil beneath the active layer. Such disparity would have critical effects on the serviceability and performance of deep foundations. The physical properties of frozen soil, e.g., modulus, shearing strength, and creep rate, are quite different from those of thawed soil. The stress state at the pile–soil interface is changed when the lower part of a pile is embedded in the frozen layer, and the behavior of the entire pile–soil system is further permanently altered. In the following parts of the paper, sections 2 and 6 mainly deal with practice in permafrost; and section 3 generally describes the engineering hazards that piles suffer from in seasonally frozen regions, while sections 4, 5, and 7 involve both scenarios.

2 Bearing capacity and creep

The bearing capacity of piles embedded in frozen soil is dependent on the long-term adfreeze bond strength at the pile–frozen soil interface and the end-bearing capacity. Hence, it can be calculated by suitably combining contributions of these two mechanisms, as determined from short- or long-term creep tests. Researchers generally calculate a pile's bearing capacity by semi-empirical, empirical, numerical, and analytical methods. Several factors such as the configuration and roughness of the pile, negative temperature, ice and mineral volume fractions, and load geometry can affect adfreeze bond strength. Three components contributing to adfreeze bond strength were manifested in a loading test, namely friction, ice cohesion, and mechanical interaction forces arising from surface roughness (Andersland and Alwahhab, 1984).

Loading tests are generally applied to reveal the factors related to bearing capacity of a pile in cold regions. Parameswaran (1979) evaluated the influence of pile materials by a creep loading test, in which model piles made of wood, concrete, and steel were embedded in artificially frozen sand at a temperature of −6 or −10 °C; pile responses and behaviors were monitored and appraised under sustained loads. Moreover, model piles rooted in various types of frozen soils were tested under a constant rate of displacement and load; and an empirical formula was proposed to calculate the ultimate bearing capacity of piles in permafrost (Parameswaran, 1986). Nixon (1988) found that significant saline concentration in the frozen soil, generally exceeding 10–20 ppt, can reduce the bearing capacity and strength of saline permafrost significantly, which was further verified through pile-loading cases. To clarify the influence of pile spacing on bearing capacity, formulae for a single pile and a pile group were proposed separately, based on theoretical investigation (Vyalov et al., 1991 ). A long-term compression test in saline permafrost was carried out on bored-pipe piles backfilled with diverse materials (Biggar et al., 1996 ), and the results were compared with those of model pile tests (Biggar and Sego, 1994). Titi and Wathugala (1999) thought that pile setup in cold regions was significant for bearing capacity, which was increased due to soil consolidation for piles driven in saturated clays or silts. Furthermore, a numerical procedure was proposed to predict a pile's bearing capacity during different life stages.

Diversified testing techniques were implemented to clarify bearing capacity and creep behaviors of pile foundations. Isaev et al. (1987) examined by the static-penetration method the bearing capacity of piles embedded in plastic-frozen soil. Similarly, Holubec and Noel (1992) performed load testing on grouted piles, located at ten sites that encompassed various permafrost conditions across the western Canadian Arctic. The results revealed the impact of different test procedures on the assessment of creep rate. In contrast, Vyalov and Mirenburg (1990) suggested an improved testing method that avoids the unpredictably long duration of conventional tests for the determination of bearing capacity of piles in frozen soil. This approach followed the premise that the development of settlement has a certain relation with the decrease in loading, which can be established during the investigation process. A pile load test was conducted to determine the driving depth and bearing capacity of open-ended steel piles in the context of the Kharyaga pipeline terminal (Thompson and Tart, 1996). Given that the oil field was overlain by warm permafrost, piles were adopted to address settlement issues. Similar investigations have also been performed by Merrill et al. (1999) , using some advanced measuring techniques known as the pile-driving analyzer (PDA) and the Case Pile Wave Analysis Program (CAPWAP).

The authors believe one of the first comprehensive computational methods was achieved by Wu et al. (2005) . In their studies, long-term performance of a reinforced-concrete pile was simulated under prevailing permafrost scenarios, through hydro-thermo-mechanical (HTM) coupling strategies. A viscoelastic constitutive model was introduced to the frozen volume, and the Goodman element was utilized to describe the interface-shearing behaviors within a pile–soil system. However, this model was simplified based on a partial hypothesis, including insufficiently complete accounting of the frost-heave model and interface theory. It cannot be denied that this work is still a promising step toward dissecting the behavior of a pile subjected to a freezing climate. A preliminary numerical attempt by Wang (2005) and Xu (2006) revealed the stress state of loading a pile embedded in frozen ground. Though a relatively advanced constitutive model for frozen soil was involved, these works lack adaptability, as neither water transport nor thermal effect was considered. A finite-element (FE) program code was developed by Xu et al. (2007) , and the results fitted well with field load-displacement curves. Nonlinear relations were introduced to interface elements derived from laboratory adfreeze testing. Jia et al. (2007) outlined similar work using FE software, employing a built-in interface model. By simulations, Jiang and Guo (2016) predicted the long-term bearing capacity of a cast-in-place pile on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau; countermeasures are recommended where piles suffer from slumping induced by global warming.

In recent years, some novel investigations were implemented. Shishov (2010) examined the deformation of a compression-bent pile, of which the lower end was rigidly fixed in permanently frozen ground, with the upper end-hinge connected to the rafter of a building; and he presented an analytic solution of the pile's bearing capacity for a given stiffness and strength reserve. Mi et al. (2010) conducted experiments on elastic modulus and strength of materials taken from pile foundations in the field; then, the results were employed to aid static-load testing at an outdoor site. Based on in-situ data of high-speed railway (HSR) bridge piles in permafrost, postconstruction settlement was predicted by analyzing settlement data via statistical methods (Leng et al., 2011 ). Wu et al. (2016) developed a thermal device that can produce heat inside the soil volume. With the device installed beneath the pile toe of a model pile-testing system, the negative impact of thawing soil on bearing capacity of the pile was interpreted under artificial freezing conditions.

In addition to compression, piles loaded in tension showed similar responses, except that toe resistance was not included during this process. Poorooshasb and Parameswaran (1982) appraised the uplift behavior of a rigid pile in frozen sandy soil via theoretical investigation of the displacement field. Accounting for the creep of frozen soil, Sun et al. (2007) presented a nonlinear analysis of uplift piles in permafrost terrain.

Essentially, interface models are crucial to computational approaches to pile foundations. Puswewala and Rajapakse (1990) developed an FE computer code to analyze the interaction between embedded cylindrical foundations and frozen media. The foundation was static-loaded, and displacement–time relationships showed the significant effects of creep parameters on settlement behaviors. Biggar and Kong (2001) presented the results of long-term load tests during the installation of short-range radar facilities across the Canadian Arctic, and the results were then compared to design guidelines for ice-rich, saline permafrost. A multitude of scholars (Jian et al., 2002 ; Lu et al., 2007 ; Yue et al., 2015 ) employed various methods to examine shearing and sliding over the pile surface, though few could be associated with freezing scenarios.

To dissect the bearing capacity of piles embedded in frozen ground, reliable data collected from in-situ monitoring or laboratory testing are required, which can also help quantify parameters adopted in numerical approaches. The frozen soil–pile interface is not fully understood, and the inherent mechanism calls for a more sophisticated theoretical explanation. For the interface theory, physicochemical processes can be involved at freezing.

Existing experimental investigations of the interface's shearing characteristics (Wen et al., 2013 ; Sun et al., 2014 ; Lü and Liu, 2015; Chen et al., 2016 ; Shi et al., 2016 ; Ji et al., 2017 ) were centered on the direct-shearing test having a shear rate greater than 0.02 mm/min, which cannot reflect the real state the pile surface undergoes in engineering practice. The creep behaviors of piles subjected to sustained loads cannot be linked to direct-shear tests on frozen soil–pile interface under a constant strain rate (He et al., 2016 ). As a result, the time factor should be considered in the experiments and interface model before adopting it for further determination of the bearing capacity of piles in frozen soil. It is also suggested that the role of ice in the adfreeze bond should be evaluated separately. The effects of temperature and time on ice-bonding need to be precisely quantified, apart from the mechanical interlocking and cohesion on the shearing surface.

3 Frost-jacking phenomenon

During winter, when cooling temperature penetrates into frost-susceptible soil, significant frost heave can be anticipated if sufficient water is available. Consequentially, a deep foundation can be ejected from the frozen ground due to upward movement of the surrounding soil. This phenomenon is generally referred as frost jacking, which can be attributed to the basal freezing pressure applied at the bottom of the foundation, or to the tangential frost-heave force acting on the side of a foundation. As the temperature decreases, a strong adfreeze bond develops between frozen soil and the pile, giving rise to a dramatic increase in the pile's bearing capacity, as well as frost-jacking hazards, which should not be negligible.

To address the abovementioned challenges frequently encountered in seasonally frozen regions, many investigations have been made, including experimental field studies and positing of potential mechanisms (Dalmatov et al., 1973 ; Domaschuk, 1982; Fukuda and Kinosita, 1985). Their findings demonstrated that the main factors affecting adfreeze shear stress within the freezing zone were (1) soil temperature; (2) displacement rate at the pile–soil interface; (3) interface characteristics; and (4) slip or nonslip conditions, depending on the amount of displacement. Recent research on shear strength of the structure–frozen ground interface found that it is also strongly influenced by the temperature and moisture content of frozen soil. Variations in the shear strength with temperature and moisture content mainly resulted from the variation in the cohesive component of the ice (Wen et al., 2016 ). Field observations deduced that the maximum values of the mobilized adfreeze shear stress occurred at the initial stage, with a high heaving rate; the peak uplift forces were reached when frost penetration was close to the maximum, having a low heaving rate.

In essence, frost uplift responds in a strong, though hysteretic, relation to ground temperature variations (Crory and Reed, 1965); heave force continues to grow even after the frost penetration has attained the permafrost table. Accounting for the size effect, the mobilized adfreeze-strength magnitude is inversely proportional to the pile diameter (Penner, 1974). Some valuable attempts have been made by several scholars (Penner and Gold, 1971; Fukuda and Kinosita, 1985; Johnson and Esch, 1985) to simulate the development of frost-heave forces on piles. Ladanyi and Foriero (1998) proposed a closed-formed solution to calculate the development of adfreeze frost-heaving force operating on a fixed pile, accounting for the effects of heave rate, frost-penetration rate, and soil temperature at any depth along the shaft. Ashkinadze (2011) investigated the performance of a friction pile in clayey soil under the combined action of frost jacking and transient loads, by introducing an analytical model named the "three-column model". Three limit states were considered for pile-design procedure and risk assessment. To assess the risk of frost jacking and provide reasonable suggestions for design and construction, a safety-coefficient calculation that involves frost penetration, frost-heave force, and freezing strength, as well as loads, was proposed (Wen et al., 2012 ). Countermeasures to mitigate the uplift of piles subjected to frost jacking include applications of belled piles (Sego et al., 2003 ) and screw piles (Wang et al., 2016a ) instead of conventional straight-shafted piles. In seasonally frozen regions, these piles having specific configurations can be anchored into unfrozen layers beneath the maximum depth of frost penetration, providing substantial resistance against the uplift force induced by frost heave.

Shearing behavior at the interface when a pile is jacked up due to frost heave is elusive for two scenarios, either where the uplift displacement is small or where it is too large. In the latter case, the determination of the limit value of shear strain, when the corresponding stress attains the peak value, is of significant importance. Previous studies suggest that the adfreeze bond after bond breaking was considerably low (Nidowicz and Shur, 1998). However, the test results showed that a significant bond recovery was observed; and the residual adfreeze stress was still very high after the initial bond was broken, especially for frozen soils having a high moisture content (Wen et al., 2016 ). When the environmental temperature is low, and the displacement rate is nominal, the melting of ice and the rupture of ice bonding are accompanied by new formation of ice crystals during the shearing process. So special attention should be paid to the phenomenon of bond healing, in terms of pile design in frozen ground (Ladanyi and Theriault, 1990). In addition, residual bond strength after sliding should be quantified for diverse soil types in practice.

4 Laterally loaded piles

Piles subjected to lateral loads in cold regions are of particular interest in association with aboveground oil pipelines, heated structures supported by piles, and power poles, as well as offshore drilling platforms. Horizontal loads arising from wind, ice, vehicular impact, waves, etc., are generally the critical factor for the design of such structures.

The performance predictions of laterally loaded piles are generally derived from two prevailing methods adopted for piles embedded in thawed/unfrozen soils, namely modulus of subgrade and pressure deflection-curve methods. Loading tests were carried out to determine creep parameters for pipe piles; then, the loading capacity of lateral piles was predicted based on the acquired parameters (Rowley et al., 1975 ). Another approach for determining the creep parameters came from pressuremeter creep tests. A reasonable agreement was found between these two methods. Ladanyi (1985) discussed the possibility of using CPT (cone penetration test) in connection with the design of lateral piles.

With a computer program that employed p-y curves to describe the loading process and pile–soil interactions, Crowther (1990, 2015) presented a design approach to analyze the effects of horizontal loads on piles in frozen soils. Shear strength and strain criteria were introduced to construct p-y curves and were parameterized based on thermal regime and load duration. A p-y model was developed by Shelman et al. (2014) , based on the constitutive relationship of frozen soils; then, it was applied to assess the seismic performance of bridge L-pile foundations, accounting for variations of soil temperature. Similar thoughts on the application of the p-y approach in analysis of laterally loaded piles in frozen silt have been shared by Li and Yang (2017). Furthermore, Yang et al. (2017) carried out a large pile-deformation test to gather in-situ data regarding lateral performance of piles under frozen and unfrozen conditions, respectively, and demonstrated how the collected data can be used in a simplified design tool.

By contrast, the numerical solutions for piles subjected to lateral loads in permafrost developed quickly, usually achieved by means of finite-difference techniques applied to solving coupled partial differential equations. A preliminary finite-element method (FEM) study concerning creep behaviors was presented by Foriero and Ladanyi (1990), using a Maxwell model, which was then verified by results of loading cases. Subsequently, Foriero and Ladanyi (1991a) tried to propose a general procedure for lateral-stability analysis of a single pile subjected to both axial and horizontal loads, whereas such quantities as equivalent-length factor and buckling length can be easily calculated to facilitate the analysis using design code for the practice. Later, an FE model to simulate the behavior of laterally loaded piles in permafrost was developed, for the specific purpose of verifying an analytical method derived from streamline theory (Foriero and Ladanyi, 1995). The results indicated that the assessment of the interface adfreeze and friction component required further research. In northern Quebec, a field study was undertaken on laterally loaded piles in permafrost, under a controlled displacement rate (Foriero et al., 2005 ). The test results, including bending moments, shear loads, and pile displacements, were employed to verify an earlier FEM model developed by Foriero and Ladanyi (1991b). Gu et al. (2016) presented an FE simulation to appraise nonlinear behaviors of a steel-pipe pile tested at a field site in Alaska. Sensitivity-analysis methodology was adopted to delve into frozen soil–pile interactions when piles were subjected to lateral loads.

In many cases, piles suffer from lateral loads and axial loads simultaneously, especially when an earthquake takes place. We should make an effort to develop comprehensive approaches, thus such conditions can be adequately appraised, and the contributions of horizontal and vertical loads clarified.

5 Dynamic response of pile–frozen soil systems

In Arctic and subarctic regions covered by seasonally frozen ground or permafrost, some structural failures during earthquakes appear to be directly attributed to the existence of frozen ground and ice formation. Because research has documented the significant effect of frozen soil on the seismic response of bridge foundations, it is vital to evaluate the dynamic performance of piles under frozen scenarios. The reason lies in that the ice matrix formed within the soil volume during freezing greatly affects soil–structure interactions (SSI) due to higher stiffness and shear strength with respect to unfrozen soil.

Parameswaran (1984) conducted a creep test of piles in frozen soil subjected to static loads and superimposed alternating loads, the results of which indicated that a dynamic stress as small as 5% of the static-stress magnitude accelerates the displacement and creep rate, thereafter decreasing the long-term bearing capacity of piles in permafrost. A similar experiment was conducted, only differing in pile materials and the amplitude of cyclic loads (Parameswaran, 1982). Later, Stelzer and Andersland (1991) further revealed the sliding mechanism operating at the pile–frozen sand interface by applying both static and superimposed cyclic loads to friction piles. It indicated that the addition of cyclic loads would greatly increase the displacement rate over those observed under sustained loads.

One of the first dynamic tests on driven piles in permafrost was conducted by Merrill and Riker (1996). It allowed assessments of pile integrity during installation, thus serving as a useful tool to prevent possible damage to piles under permafrost conditions. Zhang et al. (1999) performed model pile tests to investigate several factors that might contribute to the dynamic response of piles under cyclic loads, indicating that the creep rate of model piles was independent of the frequency of alternating loads. Wu et al. (2010b) conducted scale shaking table tests for model piles under negative temperature, and found that seismic load accounted for an increase in temperature at the pile–soil interface; and warm permafrost was quite sensitive to seismic motions, which implied potential instability. Chen et al. (2012) carried out a free-vibration pile test, having 80% of the lower portion of the pile embedded in frozen Fairbanks silt. The dominant system parameters that characterize pile–frozen soil interactions were identified by a free-decay response-signal approach. Li et al. (2012) developed a model test system to evaluate dynamic behavior of the pile–frozen soil interface, and it could be extended to other practices in cold regions.

It has been demonstrated through analytical and experimental studies that the dynamic response of bridge columns supported by pile foundations is affected by seasonal frost. Therefore, it is crucial to dissect the interaction mechanism and seismic performance of a soil–foundation–structure (SFS) system. A selected bridge located in Alaska was continuously monitored to explore such environmental variables as traffic-induced vibrations, ambient noise, and earthquakes on dynamic performance of the SFS system (Yang et al., 2007 ). Then, an elastic–plastic FE analysis was carried out to obtain simulation results from a soil–pile system under the same condition (Xiong and Yang, 2008), the results of which compared favorably with those obtained from the field. A numerical model was developed to assess the lateral cyclic behaviors of a simple two-span prototype bridge system under frozen and unfrozen conditions, respectively (Wotherspoon et al., 2010 ). The results showed that the frozen condition increased the peak bending moment and shear-stress demands for all seismic intensities, compared with the unfrozen condition. Similar scenarios have been worked on by Yang et al. (2014) through fluid–solid coupled FE analysis. Shelman et al. (2014) examined the monotonic characteristics of several soil types with a function of negative temperature, so that a suitable p-y curve can be developed for design guidelines.

The dynamic properties of a frozen soil–pile system can be sufficiently clarified by introducing the freezing effects into a common pile–soil system, with dominant factors highlighted. Numerical simulations should emphasize dynamic shearing behavior at the interface.

6 Impact of hydration heat and the refreezing process

Due to the continuous demand for economic development and natural resources, construction activities of transportation have seen rapid growth in cold regions (Shang et al., 2017 ). It was reported that cast-in-place (CIP) piles accounted for 90% of bridge foundations on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (Wang et al., 2003 ). In the majority of permafrost regions of the world except China, precast pile, primarily made of timber or steel, is the most common type of foundation. Hence, research on CIP piles was usually carried out by Chinese scholars. It is observed that the construction of pile foundations for bridges disturbs adjacent soils in permafrost terrain, arising from pile installation and concrete-hydration heat. As the surrounding soil melts due to rising temperature, adfreeze bond strength might not be sufficient, resulting in lower bearing capacity of pile foundations. It follows that settlement or tilt of the foundation would take place if no proper measures are taken during or after construction. Consequently, a host of researchers and engineers tried to find feasible solutions to minimize the elevated temperature of frozen soil induced by hydration heat and drilling (Liu et al., 2015 ).

Yu et al. (2007) and Wang et al. (2013) performed field tests to evaluate the bearing capacity of a large-scale CIP bored pile, and dissected shaft resistance and tip resistance when adjacent soils were not fully refrozen soon after construction. Some researchers, including Wu et al. (2004 , 2010a), Xiong et al. (2009) , and Liu (2013), employed numerical methods to analyze the temperature regime of a pile–soil system affected by hydration heat and the refreezing process on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. Latent heat and energy released by the concrete-hydration process were considered for the calculation of temperature distributions radially or along the depth. Chen et al. (2014) evaluated impacts of such factors as molding temperature, hydration heat, and volumetric ice content on thawing depth and temperature regime of pile foundations during construction. To predict the refreezing time and ultimate bearing capacity of bored piles for a bridge rooted in polygonal permafrost regions, static- and dynamic-load tests were undertaken for full-scale test piles (Yu et al., 2015 ). Fu et al. (2016) investigated the impact of hydration heat and the refreezing law for a large-scale CIP pile by a comparison of in-situ measurements and numerical simulations.

A breakthrough in this aspect generally requires proper installation techniques and products of high-quality concrete. The primary principle is to preserve the thermal state of permafrost during and after the installation of CIP piles.

7 Optimal design and countermeasures

Pile foundations in cold regions are facing diverse challenges, which can mainly be attributed to frost heave, thaw settlement, effects of freeze–thaw cycles, and creep/degradation of the permafrost. In general, measures to deal with issues occasionally encountered before or after operation can be divided into two types: one is associated with the optimized design of piles; and the other is connected to adjacent soils, usually in the form of frozen ground.

In addition to conventional piles adopted in engineering practice, novel pile configurations and geomaterials have been developed to enhance pile performance. Fedorvich et al. (1987) proposed one specific pile having a special configuration to satisfy requirements based on extreme conditions in the northern part of west Siberia. Bastidas (1989) worked on a case history in which an innovative pile-foundation design approach was raised up, applied in the Prudhoe Bay Field, to ideally reverse the warming trend of the subsoil, which imposed a severe threat to the long-term bearing capacity of piles. Novel geomaterials have been introduced to concrete-composite piles against complex environments, e.g., a combination of constant loads and freeze–thaw cycles. This novel geomaterial, known as concrete-filled, fiber-reinforced-polymer tubes (CFFTs), was proved effective by experimental investigations (Fam et al., 2008 ). The experience obtained from the Qinghai–Tibetan grid project indicated that a fiberglass-reinforced plastic cover can significantly reduce the adfreeze bond strength and the tangential frost-heave force due to the adfreeze bond (Wen et al., 2016 ). A novel type of carved, grooved pile made of concrete is refilled with coarse-grained porous materials to help mitigate degradation of the permafrost and downdrag force induced by thaw settlement of subsoil on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (Li and Xu, 2008). Belled piles are effective to inhibit upward movements caused by the frost-jacking process (Sego et al., 2003 ), as the special structure with an enlarged base counteracts uplift force due to frost heave of soil. A similar principle is also valid for the helical pier, which has been investigated experimentally (Wang et al., 2017a ) and numerically (Wang et al., 2017b ). Helical piers are widely adopted in seasonally frozen ground to support lightweight superstructures.

Another feasible approach is to preserve the frozen ground or to replace it with non-susceptible soil. Song (2014) presented several anti-freezing measures in seasonally frozen soils, namely geotextile-pile wrapped with residue oil, and piles filled with ash and Aeolian sand, respectively. The performances of the countermeasures were compared to determine the most effective approach. Thermosyphon is regarded as impactful tool to cool subsoil around the foundations in permafrost. It is usually a sealed tube having a circulation of working fluid inside. Field observations of the soils close to the footings along the Qinghai–Tibet Power Transmission Line showed reasonable cooling effects, which helped to maintain the frozen state of the sub-base soil (Guo et al., 2016 ). Mu et al. (2016a) presented numerical simulations to study the cooling effect of thermosyphons and their application in perennially frozen regions. Further insights were gained by investigating a combined cooling strategy of thermosyphons and insulation boards (Mu et al., 2016b ). Perreault and Shur (2016) suggested using seasonal thermal insulation to mitigate temperature-variation impacts on foundations in cold regions. Wang et al. (2016b) carried out field tests to study the effects of changing backfills, which benefited the stability of CIP bulb piles embedded in ice-rich frozen soil.

Novel geomaterials like geosynthetics are strongly recommended to mitigate frost-related issues, as they are usually cost-effective. For some cases, a combined method is more reasonable than a separate treatment. The authors would like to propose the idea of a "smart pile" that essentially combines a conventional pile with a thermosyphon. It is expected to provide bearing capacity, as well as preserving the thermal state of the surrounding frozen soil proactively through the seasons.

8 Concluding remarks

From the review of research on pile applications in cold regions, it can be summarized that the developments with respect to piling are usually accompanied by advances in techniques and emerging issues arising from engineering practice. Advanced monitoring technologies and the aid of computing techniques enable us to analyze pile performance in seasonally frozen/permafrost regions in a more effective way. The hazards induced by concrete-hydration heat occurring after CIP piles have prevailed, whereas optimal design and countermeasures are desirable to mitigate such an impact. Suggestions regarding future work are as follow:

1) Advanced and reliable measuring methods should be developed for assessing the long-term bearing capacity of piles. Connections should be established between short- and long-term loading tests. A sophisticated interface model to describe frozen soil–pile shearing behaviors under different scenarios is an urgent need, as all numerical approaches rely heavily upon it. One feasible way is to examine the mechanism at a microlevel, especially microscopic structure change and its mechanism at the interface between the pile and frozen soil subjected to long-term loads.

2) A more comprehensive frost-heave model of soil is an urgent need when simulating the frost-jacking process, along with a constitutive relationship to describe the creep behavior.

3) A smart pile needs to be invented. It is recommended to design one kind of pile that possesses the basic bearing capacity, as well as the ability to convert the thermal regime of adjacent soil into a more favorable condition.


This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41731281 and 41771073).

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