The construction of buildings’ foundations makes a great impact on global warming. Because concrete is a common material used in massive structures of the foundations, substructures contain so much carbon. The problems with the foundations cause energy loss in the house. Unfortunately, foundation inspection is often neglected in energy management approaches. With the innovations, new foundation techniques and green materials appear, as well as solutions capturing geothermal energy.

Photos - foundation construction

Difficulty in measuring the environmental performance of the foundations is leaving the subject underexplored and with the lack of reliable data. An average masonry building foundation accounts for 34% of its environmental impact with the sustainable improvements in any component influencing positively each other. The effect of the foundations depends greatly on the local factors such as soil conditions, biodiversity, geology, hydrology, and relationship to the neighboring community. 

For a lot of homeowners, energy consumption is a significant and up-to-date subject. Looking for new approaches in efficient energy management they pay attention to the windows, doors, and walls without realizing how many problems emanate from the foundation. The whole structure will be influenced by the issues in the foundation exhausting the building’s cooling and heating systems.


Main foundations types:

  • Shallow foundations are common for small buildings

    • isolated footing supporting a single column

    • combined footing supporting two or more columns

    • strip footing supporting a row of columns

    • mat foundation spread across the building area supporting several columns and walls

  • Deep foundations are used for the high commercial buildings carrying heavy loads

    • pile foundations used in the areas with the poor ground, which are not suitable for heavy loads

    • drilled shafts is a method of drilling a column before adding concrete and inserting steel


Criteria for the suitable foundation selection:

  • Location and area peculiarities

  • Scale and loadings distribution

  • Soil consistency

  • Accessibility of the construction machinery

  • Durability

  • Building practices common for the area

  • Budget


Ways to reduce the environmental impact of foundations 

  • Minimization of the loads applied to the foundations. When the weight of the structures requiring support is minimized, in particular external walls, naturally the size of the foundation can be reduced and more foundation options become available. 

  • Innovations in foundations design. Using concrete in large amounts has become a common practice in the construction of foundations. Minimizing concrete volumes in foundations by applying new technologies and alternative materials, such as recycled aggregates or ground granulated blast furnace slag, reduces significantly embodied carbon amounts. 

  • Ameliorating load-bearing quality of the poor soil. Ground improvement by vibration treatment, soil re-compaction, or chemical modification can enable it to support larger loads allowing use of low-carbon foundation options. 

  • Existing foundation reuse. Many economic and environmental benefits are offered by substructure reuse. Piles foundation appears to be the most common type for reuse. 

  • Energy generation from geothermal resources. Geothermal energy provides opportunities for electricity generation and heating can be used as a means for compensating for the environmental impact of foundations. 


The issues to pay attention to in the foundation design:

  1. Foundation capacity under various loading conditions.

  2. The influence of various weather conditions on the foundation capacity, such as winds, earthquakes, waves, etc. 

  3. Settlement.

  4. Possible external movements in the surrounding area affecting the foundation system.

  5. Possible liquefaction in the soil. 

  6. Balanced load-sharing among different system components.

Foundation construction - video

More about foundation construction