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Efficient Concrete Pile Design in D.C.

Changing the Face of Deep Foundations in our Nation’s Capital

By Karl A. Higgins, III, P.E.

he Washington, D.C., metro area enjoys one of the healthiest building and infrastructure development markets in the United States, particularly in the early 21st century. The region is home to some of the nation’s largest building developments. Notable recent projects include the National Harbor Development and the redevelopment of southeast D.C., spearheaded by the recent construction and opening of the new Washington National’s baseball stadium. T

construction (typically). Many decision-makers would prefer to spend a building’s cost budget on upgraded interior or exte- rior features versus a more costly foundation. As such, unless driven concrete piles are the least costly alternative, they are highly unlikely to be selected. So, why the recent trend toward the use of driven concrete piles in the Washington metro area? We believe the reason is price.

Until recently, preferred deep foundation alternatives in the Washington, D.C., metro area often included drilled shafts (caissons) and augered, cast-in-place piles. Notable and recent Washington developments are supported on driven precast concrete piles, prompting some building industry leaders to ask, “Why the change?”


Building in our nation’s capital is expensive. Real estate, labor and materials are all major cost considerations. Having worked on hundreds of D.C. metro building and infrastructure projects, our collective experience indicates that owners want a reliable and less costly foundation, with emphasis on less costly. Let’s face it - a building’s foundation is “unseen” post-

Efficient Designs

The Gaylord National Harbor Hotel and Convention Center project was the largest East Coast building project in 2006-2007 and the world’s fourth largest building project dur- ing the same period. The project is situated on the bank of the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, Md., just east of the newly constructed Woodrow Wilson Bridge connect- ing Maryland to Virginia. The project is a visible component of Washington, D.C.’s skyline and the hotel has views of our nation’s capital. The hotel’s grand opening was in April 2008.

The Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center was the catalyst for the Washington Region’s overall National Harbor project, the region’s largest construction project, described by some media as a city in itself. The construction

Gaylord National appears in the right foreground while National Harbor appears to the left.


  • Q2 • 2008

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