Engineering and construction methods are something that people outside of the industry likely know very little about. Sheet piling is one of those methods, and although it’s not widely talked about, it is definitely widely used in the world around us, and something that most of us probably see on a daily basis without really realizing.
Sheet piling is used in everything from railways and roads to underground car parks, and it enables us to build all kinds of important modern structures safely.
We thought we’d take a quick look at three ways that sheet piling is used in construction that you probably haven’t heard of.
What even is sheet piling?
So unless you already have a little bit of engineering knowledge, you may be wondering what exactly sheet piling actually is. It is essentially large sheets of steel, plastic, or wood that are interlocked and driven into the ground.
These interlocking sheets form a strong and sustainable structure that acts as a barrier that can protect surrounding structures from the heavy forces of things such as soil and water.
This is extremely useful when excavating as it protects both the site and the contractors from anything collapsing, and sheet piles can either be used as a temporary structure for this purpose or actually form part of a permanent structure.
Depending on the environmental conditions of the surrounding area and buildings, sheet piles are usually driven into the ground using either vibratory or hydraulic hammers.
For a more in-depth explanation of what exactly sheet piling is, check out this post.
One application of sheet piling that you will probably notice once you’ve learned about it is in underground structures. These days in urban areas it is hugely useful to be able to expand while making good use of space, and building underground safely and effectively is hugely important.
In everyday life, you’ll probably see sheet piling used in the construction of basements and underground carparks, with the sheets sometimes remaining exposed as part of the final structure. They create a strong foundation and also protect the structure from groundwater and flooding.
Sheet piling is used often in the construction of transportation links, whether that be motorways or railways.
Often roads and railways need to safely pass through hillsides, and sheet piling offers a vital solution to the need to retain the large amounts of soil on either side of a trench or tunnel. Preventing the earth from collapsing makes safe construction possible, and keeps road and rail users safe once complete.
These case studies from Sheet Piling UK give a bit of an idea of exactly how sheet piling is used under these circumstances.
Marine structures and environmental protection
Another hugely useful application of sheet piling is in situations where there is water involved. For example, sheet piling is often used in marine structures such as seawalls, harbors, and cofferdams.
Sheet piling is able to withstand the amount of pressure that tides and adverse weather put on these types of structure, and this makes it extremely valuable in allowing ports and harbors to expand and evolve to withstand heavier weights and more cargo and large vessels.
You’ll often find that sheet piling is also used for the purpose of environmental protection in areas prone to flooding, or to protect river banks from erosion.