Research Looks at Elevating Concrete Slabs
A researcher at the University of Texas at Arlington is working on a web-based tool that will help design home slab elevations, a tool they say will protect homes against floods and storms.
Nur Yazdani, a professor of civil engineering at UTA, was recently awarded a two-year, $450,000 award from the Texas Sea Grant program, which uses funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We will use the knowledge we gain through our experimental work and theoretical modeling to develop a tool that will help people determine how to safely elevate their homes, evaluate safety in light of International Building Code provisions and find proper support beam-pier configurations,” Yazdani said.
“It will eliminate guesswork and allow people to make informed decisions about a major investment in their homes.”
UTA notes that, while new construction in coastal Texas is required to be elevated, raising an existing property can cost upward of $100,000, involving raising the structure with its concrete slab foundation above the base floor level and construction pier-beam supports.
“The process is not without risks. Since typical concrete slab foundations are about 4 inches thick, with minimal steel wire mesh reinforcement, raising them on pier-beams can cause cracks, irreparable damage, significant property losses—even casualties,” according to the university.
For the project, Yazdani will build concrete slabs on pier-beams and monitor them for cracking and failure. This process will hope to determine where stress points are likely to develop and how far apart pier-beams can be safely placed to create useable space underneath the home. He and his team will also use gradually rising water to simulate floods on the supported slabs.
Yazdani also will experiment with the use of a carbon-fiber laminate, which he has used on concrete bridges, to reinforce the slabs. Laminate application is one of the few options to increase the capacity of deficient and elevated existing concrete home slabs, according to UTA.
Based on the research, Yazdani aims to create a free, user-friendly decision-making software and guidance manual, which will be tested in communities in Harris, Galveston, Aransas and San Patricio counties, which are collaborating on the research project.
“Dr. Yazdani has successfully used carbon-fiber reinforced polymer, or CFRP, laminate to strengthen concrete bridges for several years, so it is exciting to see him using it in another application with so much potential,” said Ali Abolmaali, chair of the Civil Engineering Department.
“Additionally, by creating a digital tool to aid stakeholders in making decisions based on realistic data, he could help coastal and inland communities become more resilient in the face of hurricanes and other major storms, lessening recovery time, property loss and the emotional and financial toll that those losses create.”