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Helical Pile

This past Friday in Structural Analysis (ENGS 71) we had guests from Techno Metal Post demonstrate installation of a helical pile in the backyard of Thayer. A helical pile is essentially a hollow metal tube with a helix (at the bottom and occasionally middle of the tube) that is inserted vertically into the ground to hold the load of a structure.

Helical Pile Information
Helical pile information from Techno Metal Post company.

According to the Techno Metal Post pamphlet, “helical piles are ‘screwed’ into the soil under [the] structure until suitable load bearing soil or bedrock is encountered.” 

Our project for ENGS 71 is to design a structural system for the tiny house which will be built at the Organic Farm this coming fall. The chosen house design juts out over the side of a hill which means that there will need to be supports up from the ground to the base of the building. One of the possible options for such supports is to use helical piles.

Helical Pile Pre-installation
The helical pile pre-installation.

Why would we use helical piles over another option? Helical piles have less environmental impact because they do not require site excavation and are removable. This makes them “quite nifty things” according to the engineer who presented to us on Friday.

Helical pile presentation in Zaleski Auditorium
ENGS 71 hearing about helical piles from the engineer at Techno Metal Post. The image on the screen shows their smallest installer, the R2D, fitting into a narrow alley.

Most classes in Thayer are project or lab-based to allow students to apply concepts learned in class to real-world scenarios. ENGS 71 is a project-based class. Other project based classes I have taken include Sustainable Design, where we designed a net-zero tiny home, Materials Science with a short-term research project, Solid Mechanics where we created a scale bridge from laser-cut plywood, and currently Thermodynamics with a Stirling engine project. My only lab-based class at Thayer so far has been Systems, but most of the prerequisites I completed for the major are lab-based.

ENGS 71 has been a blast so far (who knew drawing beam deflections would be so fun?) and I am looking forward to working on the tiny house project throughout the rest of this term. Stay tuned for project updates in the next few weeks!

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