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FOUNDATION DESIGN AND BEHAVIOUR OF TOWER LATIN0

AMERICANA IN MEXICO CITY


by
LEONARDO

ZEEVAERT,P~.D.

SYNOPSIS
The foundation design for the forty-three storey
building Tower Latino Americana in Mexico City
introduced new and interesting problems in foundation engineering.
The Paper describes the general
philosophy adopted in the design of the foundation
of this building.
A detailed description of subsoil
conditions and mechanical properties of the lacustrine deposits encountered at the site is given.
The ground surface subsidence problem and
investigations performed to discover the source of
compression of the clay deposits are described, and
the way this phenomenon was taken into account
when consideration
was given to the foundation
design.
Excavations
into the lacustrine volcanic clay
deposits in Mexico City produce large heave.
The
Author describes the procedure used to excavate to
a 13-m depth for the foundation structure, and to
avoid the heave of the bottom of the excavation and
the excessive settlement of adjacent buildings and
streets.
Settlement observations
are reported-of
the
building, of the ground surface, and other deepseated strata.
Piezometric
water-level
observations during construction, and afterwards, are also
dealt with.
Finally, a comparison of observed and computed
settlements is given in an attempt to predict the
future behaviour of the foundation of the building.

Le plan de fondation du batiment de quarantetrois Ctages Tour Latino Americana a Mexico a


pose de nouveaux et interessants problemes de
travaux de fondations.
Larticle decrit la philoSophie generale suivie pour le plan de fondation de
ce batiment.
On y donne une description detaillee
de letat du sous-sol et des proprietes mecaniques
des depots lacustres rencontres sur le chantier.
Le problitme daffaissement de la surface du sol
et les recherches faites pour decouvrir lorigine de
compression
des depots dargile y sent decrits,
ainsi que la man&e dont ce phenomene fut trait6
lorsque fut consider6 le plan de fondation.
Les excavations dans les depots lacustres dargile
volcanique Q Mexico produisent de fort soulevement.
Lauteur
decrit la methode
employee
pour
creuser a 13-m de profondeur afin de mettre en
place la structure de fondation,
en dvitant le
soulevement du fond de lexcavation et le tassement
excessif des batiments et rues avoisinants.
Y sont rapportees des observations sur le tassement du bbtiment, de la surface du sol et dautres
couches profondes.
On traite aussi des observations piezometrique de
niveau deau pendant la construction ainsi quapres.
Enfin, les tassements observes sont compares aux
tassements estimes dans lintention de predire le
comportement futur de ce batiment.

INTRODUCTION

The forty-three storey building property, La Latin0 Americana Seguros de Vida, S.A.,
(Fig. 1, facing p. 118) was constructed in Mexico City at the corner of Madero and San Juan
de Letran opposite the Palace of Fine Arts. The foundation surface occupied by the building
is 1,114 sq. m. The weight, including the foundation structure and 20% live load, is 23,500
tons ; therefore the unit load at the foundation slab elevation is 21.1 tons/sq. m.
The building is supported on a rigid reinforced-concrete mat foundation resting on 361
concrete piles driven to a depth of 33.5 m into a firm sand layer where they act as pointbearing piles. The foundation plan and the pile layout are shown in Fig. 2. The depth to
the bottom of the foundation slab is 13 m below ground surface elevation. The total depth
is occupied by two basements and the foundation structure. The foundation and retaining
walls have been waterproofed to obtain effective use of the buoyant forces.
In order to take care of the ground surface subsidence (typical of Mexico City) as the
sidewalk settles away from buildings on pile foundations, the Author recommended a special
design that would facilitate the lowering at any time of the ground floor of the building.
The floor was divided into panels supported on wood blocks, permitting the panels to be
lowered as required. This practice will avoid in the future the necessity to construct steps
into the building as the sidewalk subsidence progresses.
The piles were driven from a preliminary excavation 2.5 m deep made in advance to clean
the site from old foundations. After the piles were inserted a I Wakefield -type of wood
115

.
116

LEONARDO

ZEEVAERT

sheet-pile was driven in a single operation to a depth of 16 m. The wood sheet-pile served
to create an impervious diaphragm to prevent water entering the excavation.
Therefore
the water-table in the upper pervious deposits was protected from a strong draw-down that
might have initiated a large settlement of the neighbouring buildings.
During excavation to the S-m depth the wood sheet-piles were shored from side to side
Thereafter,
the foundation beams
in both the north-south
and the east-west
directions.
were constructed in braced trenches excavated to the full depth required for the foundation
structure.
After the gridiron of beams was completed the panels between beams were
excavated one after another, and the foundation slab resting on the piles was constructed.
-4s substitutes
for the excavated load, every panel was immediately
filled with sand and
gravel.
After this the foundation was completed and loaded to obtain a reaction on the
piles of 12.5 tons/sq. m, equivalent to about half the weight of the building.
The erection
oi the steel structure then proceeded, and as more load was added the water-table was permitted to rise and exert under the foundation slab an equivalent reaction to the additional

43rd.srcrey

SAN

JUAN

DE

FOUNDATION

LETRAN

AVE.

STRUCTURE

7OUNDAliON
,-,F
VI
Wood Sheet-P,les

Fig.

2.

Foundation

plan

and layout

LA

LATIN0

Forty

Three

of piles

LAYOUT

AMLRIGANA
-

5tcw.j

Bwldlng

FOUNDATION

DESIGN

AND

BEHAVIOUR

OF TOWER

LATIN0

AMERICANA

117

load.
This procedure was followed until the total load of the building was applied and the
water-table was restored to its original elevation.
Settlement
observations and piezometric
water levels were carefully observed during the entire process of construction of the foundation, and thereafter.
In order to design the foundation of Tower Latin0 Americana it was necessary to investigate the source of surface subsidence and the index and mechanical properties of the subsoil
The results of these investigations
are reported in
materials at the site of the building.
the Paper.
SUBSOIL

CONDITIONS

The subsoil condition was investigated


from continuous cores of undisturbed
samples
obtained from a 2.5-m depth to a depth of 70 m from the ground surface.
The samples
obtained were 5-in.-dia. undisturbed
samples in the lacustrine clay deposits and 3-in.-dia.
The results of the investigation are shown in soil profile,
in the clayey sand and silt deposits.
Fig. 3. The stratigraphic
column was found as follows :
Depth from :
0.0-5.55 m

5.555.70
m
5~70-6+30 m

6~80-6~85
6.85-7.45
7.45-7.55
7.55-9.15
9.15-l

m
m
m
m

1-9 m

1 l-9-12.1
12.1-15.8

m
m

15.8-15.85 m
15.85-16.5 m
16.5-21.4 m

21.4-21.50
21.50-22.50

m
m

22.50-23.65
23.65-24.30

m
m

24.30-27.20

27.20-29.10

Condition
A fill was found of clayey silt and sand with humus.
A large content of
pottery remains of Aztec origin was encountered in these horizons.
The
average water content is about 4576.
A layer of black volcanic ash with silt and little clay.
Deposit of light grey plastic fissured silty clay with root-holes and high
content of calcium carbonates,
Caliche Barrilaco.
The average water
content is about lOOo/o.
Pumice sand.
Grey clayey silt with calcium carbonates.
Pumice sand, and gravel.
Greyish olive-green fissured clayey silt with little calcium carbonates.
Average water content about 90%.
Becerra sediments.
Lacustrine volcanic clay, containing the mineral montmorillonite,
diatoms,
and ostracods.
Tacubaya Clay I.
Black volcanic ash.
Brown and reddish brown lacustrine volcanic clay containing the mineral
montmorillonite,
diatoms, and ostracods.
Tacubaya Clay I.
Black volcanic ash.
Grey clayey silty sand, with root-holes and calcium carbonates.
Olive-green
lacustrine
volcanic
clay, montmorillonite,
diatoms,
and
ostracods with lenses of white volcanic glass at 19.75 and 20.80-m depth.
Tacubaya Clay II.
Brown pumice sand.
Grey clayey silt and fine sand with root-holes and calcium carbonates
caliche .
Brown and reddish brown volcanic clay.
Tacubaya Clay III.
Grey clayey silt and fine sand with root-holes and calcium carbonates
caliche .
Olive-green lacustrine volcanic clay, contains montmorillonite,
diatoms,
and ostracods.
Tacubaya Clay IV.
Series of lacustrine deposits of volcanic montmorillonitic
clay, pumice
sand and ostracods sand.
Ostracods and iiolites very abundant.
Extremely
pervious
deposit in horizontal
direction
corresponding
to
Tacubaya Clay V.

118

LEONARDO

29.10-3350 m
33.5~38.20

38.20-41.55 m

41.55-41.95 m
41.95-45.25 m
45.25-47.70 m
47.70-64.50 m
64.50-65.25
65.25-65.40
65.466660
66.60-68.75
6875-70.00

m
m
m
m
m

ZEEVAERT

Olive-green lacustrine volcanic clay, containing the mineral montmorillonite, ostracods, and some diatoms. Tacubaya Clay V.
Series of alluvio-lacustrine deposits of andesitic sand, clayey silty sand
with little andesitic gravel and pumice, root-holes and calcium carbonates
in the upper part of the deposit. Tarango Sand I.
Olive-green lacustrine volcanic montmorillonitic clay, with diatoms,
ostracods, sponge spicules, with a black sand lens at 41.20. Tarango
Clay I.
Fine sand layer of white clean volcanic glass, wind deposited on the lake.
Olive-green lacustrine volcanic montmorillonitic clay with white clean
volcanic glass lens at 43.50-m depth. Tarango Clay I.
Same lacustrine clay as above, interbedded with numerous thin lenses of
volcanic sand. Tarango Clay I.
Series of deposits of sand, clayey silt, or silty sand of andesitic origin.
Little gravel and pumice grains. Tarango Sand II.
Brown lacustrine volcanic clay.
Lenses of volcanic sand.
Olive-green lacustrine volcanic clay.
Fine sand of white, clean volcanic glass.
Olive-green iacustrine volcanic clay.

Fig. 3 shows the water content profile from which may be seen distinctly the lacustrine
bentonitic clay deposits. The first lacustrine volcanic clay deposit corresponding to Tacubaya
Clay I-V, assumes a high water content that remains practically constant with depth and
reaches a height of 350%.
Near the sand lenses the water content in the clay drops on account of higher content of
coarser grains in the sediments. The large scattering of the water content appears to be
because of the transgression and regression of the sediments as the water level in the lake
assumed different elevations. This fact may be recognized also by the variation in the
Atterberg limits. The liquid limit was encountered as high as 400% and as low as 260%
regardless of depth, and the plasticity index between 264% and 110%. The unconfined
compressive strength shows a large variation from O-7-1.4 kg/sq. cm. This variation may
be associated with the different salinity of the water in the lake during the process of sedimentation. The minimum value of the unconfined compressive strength varies from 0.7 kg/
sq. cm in the upper part of the deposit to 0.85 kg/sq. cm at the bottom.
From the permeability point of view it is important to notice the sandy and silty layers
containing calcium carbonates at depths of 15.85, 21.50, 23.65, and 28 m. These horizons
define shallow waters in the lake. Particularly important is the series of silt and sand layers
with high content of microscopic shells, between 27.20-29.0 m deep. All these materials
have a permeability from ten to one hundred times larger than the volcanic clay deposit.
From geological considerations these layers may be considered continuous since they appear
in the same stratigraphic position in the subsoil in many other places in the heart of the city.
Therefore, from the hydraulic point of view, for consolidation purposes, they may be considered as drainage surfaces within the clay mass. Compressibility curves for the volcanic
high compressible clay deposits are illustrated in Fig. 4(a).
The first hard deposit Tarango Sand I has a variable compaction, its water content varies
The upper part of the deposit, because of cementation with clay and calcium
from 2570%.
carbonates, has in the in situ state a higher strength ; but the strength may be variable in
the horizontal direction because of the erratic development of calcium carbonates and clay
content. The cohesion may be as large as O-4 kg/sq. cm and the angle of internal friction
as high as 36.

FOUNDATION

DES

GN AND

STANDARD
PCN!lTRATlOh
BLOWS PER Fool
50 I[x)
150200

BEHAVIOUR

OF TOWER

.ATINO

AMERICANA

FIATLRCONTLNTIN: UNCONFIN
COMPRESS
If
DRYWM-ITOfSOLID:lRENGTUINI

sotoo
IS0
200
250
3003so401

iI510 1.5

119

EFFECTIVE
PRLSSURL
IN KG/CM'
05 1.0I"520 25 30 35

m
-

GRAY SILTYCLAY WITU CALCIUM

* WATER CONTENT

CARBONATES.ROOT-HOLES AND

X UNCONFINED COMPRESSIVE STRENGTH

SAND(CALlCUE)

0 INTERGRANULAR EFFECTIVEPRESSURE

iAND
ATTERBERG LIMITS

X VOLCANIC CLAY
@ SANDY J SILTYCLAY

INCLUDING SURFACE LOAD

4= BREAK INTHECOMPRESSIBILITY
CURVE

ss SPECIFIC
GRAVITY
Fig.

3.

Subsoil

profile

120

LEONARDO

ZEEVAERT

PRCSSURC
P INK/C

PRCSSLIAC :P IN K/C
Fig.

4.

Compressibility

curves

The second lacustrine volcanic clay deposit corresponding to Tarango Clay I, has an
Compared with the
almost constant water content of about 190% in its entire thickness.
The silt and very fine sand
upper volcanic clay deposit the Atterberg limits are smaller.
The variations in
content is larger and has less content of ostrocod shells and diatoms.
The unconfined compressive strength assumes minimum
liquid limit are from 260-108%.
values of about 0.9 k&q. cm in the upper part of the deposit, Fig, 3. Compressibility curves
of this volcanic clay are shown in Fig. 4(b).
The second hard deposit, Tarango Sand II, consists of a series of alluvio-lacustrine strata
of sand, silt, and clayey silts with gravel, and may be considered in a semi-compact state.
The compressibility is low.
The cohesion is zero for sand and silt stratifications and as large
The angle of internal friction may reach values
as 0.67 kg/sq. cm in the clayey sediments.
up to 45.
The second lacustrine clay deposit, Tarango Clay II, encountered at 65-m depth has a
water content of 150%, liquid limit of 153% and plasticity index of 105%.
Compressive
strengths are as low as 1.65 kg/sq. cm.
HYDRAULIC

CONDITIONS

The investigation of the hydraulic conditions in the subsoil is extremely important in


relation to the ground surface subsidence of the area in question and the value of the effective
To perform this investigation piezometers were installed
overburden pressures in the subsoil.

FOUNDATION

DESIGN

AND

BEHAVIOUR

OF TOWER

LATIN0

121

AMERICANA

at different depths.
The horizons selected to install the porous point of the piezometers were
The curve marked B
the most pervious strata at 48, 34, 28, 21, 16, 12, 8, and 2-m depth.
in Fig. 3 shows the effective overburden pressure computed with the piezometric pressures
encountered,
and the curve marked A shows the effective pressures with static hydraulic
conditions (as if all piezometric water level elevations would reach the water-table found at
1.15 m from the ground surface).
The curve marked B shows that the effective pressures
increased by the drop in piezometeric
pressures, because of downward water flow. The
investigation
demonstrates
that there is a small drop in the piezometric water levels for
piezometers installed at 28-m depth or less, but the strong change in the piezometric levels
starts at 34-m depth.
The semi-pervious
layers at 28 m appear to provide sufficient water to maintain,
at
present, the hydrostatic
pressure practically
unchanged at this elevation.
Therefore,
an
The seepage
important downward hydraulic gradient is established only after 28-m depth.
forces have increased the effective pressures in the fifth layer of the upper clay deposit
Tacubaya, and in deposit Tarango Clay I, as shown in Fig. 3.
From this investigation
it was concluded that the source of ground surface subsidence
was mainly the compression of Tacubaya
Clay V of the upper volcanic clay deposit, and
that of the second volcanic clay deposit, Tarango Clay I.
Benchmarks
ST48 and 9T34
(see Fig. 9) installed at the site at 48-m and 34-m depth, respectively, show the quantitative
values of the compression of these two clay deposits and of the total ground surface subsidence with respect to benchmark
ABN49 installed at 49-m depth in the Alameda Park,
280 m away from the site, Fig. 7.
The location of the benchmarks and reference points used in this investigation are shown
in Fig. 8. From observations in the Alameda Park, illustrated in Fig. 9, it will be seen that
starting in 1950 the rate of drop in piezometric water pressures has diminished and also the
velocity of ground surface subsidence to about half of its value during the period 1949-1950.
This phenomenon may be due to the suppression of part of the deep water supply wells in the
central part of Mexico City.
FOUNDATION

DESIGN

The foundation was designed with piles, covering an area of 1,004 sq. m on the first hard
deposit, Tarango Sand I, Fig. 3. This layer was selected to avoid excessively large negative
friction on the piles, and the emerging effect of the building from the surface of the ground ;
in contrast to a design using piles bearing on Tarango Sand II, which would cause the effects
referred to above to be of an unacceptable
magnitude.
Furthermore,
the piles were more
economical with a length to reach the first hard stratum.
A safe average load of 1.2 kg/sq. cm
was assigned to the upper part of Tarango Sand I, taking into account the reduction of
pressure because of excavation, the rigidity of the foundation structure, and the distributing
effect of the supporting sand layer itself.
The weight of the building is 2.10 kg/sq. cm : therefore, to obtain an increment of pressure
in Tarango Clay I that could be taken safely, it was necessary to support with uplift water
Thus it was decided to place the
pressure the balance foundation pressure of 1-O kg/sq. cm.
foundation slab at a depth of 13.0 m from the ground surface.
The probable settlement
caused by the increment of load in the second clay deposit,
Tarango Clay I, may be estimated using the following settlement equations, taking into consideration the secondary consolidation :

St = s, + -52
Primary

consolidation

S, = L mqll. H . p . t . F,(T,)
S, = L m,z . H . ;[F(Tm)(t
4*

(1)

(2)

t, < t < tc .

(32

:
-

ta) +

o<t<t,

F1(T&,l

122

LEONARDO

ZEEVAERT

Secondary consolidation :
t, < t < t, + t,

(4)

t, + te < t
in which :
n=m

WV) = 1 -

(2n + 1)P f

(2%

1)2.

(5)

T
.

(6)

n=o

?I=*

F,(T,)

= 1 - -&

t, =-

n=O

1)4 .(I

(212 :

T,, . Hz
4cv

4&l
, T, = 112 . t

(2n+ l)W
--i+u)

.,

(7)

(8)

$ = AP
t = rate of loading, considered constant during loading period t,
e
The values of m,l, mt, c, and T,, are obtained from consolidation tests. The average
values of these mechanical properties and the average increment of pressure are reported in
Table 1, Fig. 5. The computed time-compression curve of Tarango Clay I for a loading
period t, = 0 months is shown as curve A in Fig. 6. However, the rate of settlement is
governed by the perimeter friction of the foundation against the upper subsoil deposits and
therefore by the speed of settlement corresponding to the ground surface subsidence with
respect to the point of the piles resting at 34-m depth on the sand layer. Therefore, the rate
TIME IN MONTUS
1

34

P-id_

SAND

200

i i i

mw mt cv L

I
I

1000

I\
3

hP

//I////////[

C=/K C2/K +tfX fl-f)n#$ K/c

CLAY

0039 0026 0.00166


3.64 0.47

68\0

YOLCLUIC
6LW

s
2

CLAY

0.03550.021 o.m2

3.03 0.40
Fig. 6. Compression of Tsrango
Clay I, because of weight of
building

Fig. 5.

Consolidation

properties,

Tarango

Clay I

FOUNDATION

DESIGN

AND

BEHAVIOUR

OF TOWER

LATIN0

123

AMERICANA

of loading of deposit Tarango Clay I appears to be much smaller than the rate of loading
corresponding to the construction period of the building. Calculations made to adjust the
observed settlement of the building with computed settlement demonstrate that the fitting
of the observed curve with the computed curve marked B in Fig. 6, requires a loading period
close to t, = 84 months.
The building will not emerge from the ground surface until the rate of compression of the
above-mentioned clay deposit is smaller than the rate of ground surface subsidence with
respect to the 34-m deep sand layer.
The plan and cross-section of the foundation are shown in Fig. 2. The number of piles
used is 361 and, under normal conditions, they carry a load of 33 tons/pile.
Several pile tests performed at the site showed the elastic limit working conditions of the
piles to be 90 tons and the maximum load necessary to force the pile into the sand stratum,
120 tons.
However, as the building emerges from the ground surface the compression of Tacubaya
Clay V will create a negative friction on the piles because of the relative velocity resulting
from the ground surface subsidence and the compression of Tarango Clay I.
The total negative friction acting on a pile may be estimated by means of the equation :
h
.
F(-)

(9)

0 Sda

in which S is the unit shearing strength of the remoulded clay along the shaft of the pile.
The following approximate value may be assigned to the start of shear flow :
s=~K,tan$,.*,

(10)

PALACIO

CINCO

DE MAYO

AVE.

PI8

GU4RDlOLA
ILIILUWCU
PIUS

PI7

J UARLZ

AVE.
z

ll--llI?

Fig.

7.

General

location

of building

and

benchmarks

Pi6

MADERO

AVE

124

LEONARDO

ZEEVAERT

MADERO
AT8
i

Fig. 8.

K0 = ratio of horizontal

ds =

angle of internal

The vertical effective


equilibrium equation :

@Ta

mw~tti

Li
>

Pn
- =
PV

AVF
0112

Reference points at the site

to vertical
friction

effective

of remoulded

stress in the clay deposit.


clay.

pressure within a group of piles may be computed

~+Jx.pv=~

by the following

(11)

in which :
P,=j(z)=

ver t ica 1 e ff ec t ive pressure in the


because of negative friction.
N = a constant

= 2.1 d

-n. K, 'tan

clay

deposit

not

affected

by reduction

&

. in which :
d = diameter

of pile shaft

n = number of piles per unit area


Therefore, the value of the effective vertical pressure at depth z when negative
acting on the pile may be computed by the following expression :

aP0 + c
p, .cNZ= &--a.2
&

friction

is.

The value of 9, may be expressed by an approximate


function of z, and knowing the
boundary conditions, the value of C, may be determined.
In the case of Tower Latin0 Americana, it was found that the centre piles may take an
approximate load of 19 tons/pile because of negative friction, the piles on the sides about
22.5 tons, and the corner piles of the order of 27 tons.
Therefore, when the building emerges
from the ground surface the most heavily loaded piles will be those at the corners.
However,
the total load including the load induced by negative friction is well below the ultimate
elasric load of 90 tons found from pile tests.
The earthquake effect increases the load at the
edges of the foundation to about 6 tons/pile.
Therefore, the average coefficient of safety
against pile-point
penetration
in the sand is of the order of 2, and against elastic
behaviour, 1.50.

FOUNDATION

DESIGN

Fig.

9.

4ND

Surface

BEHAVIOUR

subsidence

OF

with

TOWER

respect

LATIN0

AMERICANA

125

to ABN49

EXCAVATION

The foundation design adopted (Fig. 2) called for a deep excavation


into the volcanic
clay.
Current practice in Mexico City for excavations
up to 6-m depth have shown that
heave may be very important depending on stratigraphic
conditions.
A large heave may be
observed when the excavation cuts into the lacustrine volcanic clay deposits.
Therefore, in
order to perform the excavation required for this building a special design was necessary to
ensure the minimum possible heave and disturbance in the clay deposit.
On the other hand,
it was undesirable to produce a large water-table
draw-down in the neighbourhood
of the
excavation,
because of the very large settlements
that would be induced and consequent
damage to the street and neighbouring buildings.
In order that the heave of the bottom of the excavation and settlement outside should
be unimportant
it was theoretically
necessary to avoid a large change in the prevailing
effective stresses in the clay mass during the excavation process.
Following this philosophy
a special hydraulic system was designed.
An accurate knowledge of the stratigraphical
subsoil conditions, as explained before, was imperative in the design of such a system.
The area to be excavated was surrounded by a Wakefield -type wood sheet-pile to a
depth of 16 m. The wood sheet-pile upon saturation swelled to form a practically impervious
membrane impeding the entrance of water in the excavation,
and protecting from a strong
draw-down of the water-table in the outside area surrounding the sheet pile.
The pressure in
the sand layers was maintained by injecting clean water under pressure in the subsoil by
means of eight wells placed as shown in Fig. 10.
The injection wells were perforated at depths of 12,16,21,
and 28 m to feed water to the
sand lenses located at these depths.
The water-table was maintained in the upper pervious
deposits with an absorption ditch provided with absorption wells to a depth of 9 m. The
piezometric water levels and water-table around the excavation could be maintained with a
reduction in water levels that was not detrimental to the public utilities and old structures
surrounding the building under construction.

126

LEONARDO

ZEEVAERT

The heave because of excavation


was
avoided by producing a strong reduction in
the piezometric water levels inside the wood
sheet-pile
to
keep
effective
pressures
essentially the same, or greater, as excavation
proceeded to a depth of 8 m. This practice
at the same time produced positive friction
in the upper part of the piles previously
driven from an excavation 2.5 m deep from
the ground surface.
The above-mentioned
phenomenon
was
created using four deep-well water pumps
installed to a depth of 35 m, located as shown
in Fig. 10. The water pumps were operated
to reduce the piezometric water levels inside
the
wood
sheet-pile
diaphragm
driven
16 m deep.
The water obtained from the
wells in the interior of the sheet-piling was
injected under pressure in the injection wells
in the exterior of the sheet-piling.
When the
hydraulic system, as already described, was
working under normal conditions excavation
proceeded from 2.5 m to 8 m depth.
Thereafter, trenches were excavated to construct
the foundation
beams.
The reduction
of
piezometric water levels during the operation
of the hydraulic system described are shown
in Fig. 11, for piezometers installed inside
and outside the wood sheet-pile respectively.
The
corresponding
piezometric
water
pressures for normal and minimum conditions
during the performance
of the hydraulic
system are plotted in Fig. 12.
The total pressures for various steps in
the excavation
are given in Fig. 13, for one
point at the centre of the excavation enclosed
by the sheet-pile
and another point 2 m
away from the sheet-pile
in the outside
Fig. 10. Hydraulic system layout
loaded area.
From the total pressures, the
piezometric water pressure readings have been subtracted obtaining the effective pressures for
the various cases.
The effective pressures with excavation to 2.5-m depth inside the sheet-pile are plotted
in Fig. 13(a), curve marked A. Curve marked B shows the effective vertical pressures with
excavation
to 8-m depth and the maximum reduction of the inside group of piezometric
levels as obtained while the interior hydraulic system was working.
Curve marked A
Outside the sheet-pile the effective pressures are shown in Fig. 13(b).
shows the effective pressures with the 2.5-m deep excavation
inside the sheet-pile, and
curve marked B with the excavation inside sheet-pile to 8 m depth and injection wells working
outside sheet-pile.
In both cases of curves i3, Fig. 13, the absorption ditch and absorption
wells were working and represent the minimum piezometric
water pressure conditions
observed inside and outside the sheet pile during excavation respectively.

FOUNDATION

DESIGN

AND

BEHAVIOUR

OF

TOWER

LATIN0

AMERICANA

127

The application of the hydraulic system turned out to be a success, since the settlement
of the ground surface outside the sheet-pile caused by the deep-seated compression of the
clay deposits, Fig. 13(b), did not affect the neighbouring buildings or public utilities.
The
upheaval of the bottom of the excavation did not take place since, during the excavation period,
the upper part of the clay deposit was under an average increment of pressure of
about O-4 kg/sq. cm, Fig. 13(a), which introduced a positive friction load on the piles.
After the hydraulic system was suspended, Fig. 11, the pumping and injection wells were
sealed with cement to re-establish hydraulic initial conditions.
In order to provide means to correct any tilting of the building because of the non-homogenity in the compressibility of the volcanic clay deposits, injection wells were designed at the
four corners of the foundation.
At any one of these wells the pressure could be raised or
lowered if necessary to produce an important difference in uplift water pressure at the corners
of the building. Therefore, a counteracting tilting moment can be introduced that may help
to force the building back to its vertical position. This hydraulic system has not been in
use, however, since the building has not shown any sign of tilting.
The deep foundation
design undoubtedly has contributed very effectively in absorbing any difference in compressibility properties of the volcanic clay deposit, Tarango Clay I, consolidating under the
load of the building.
SETTLEMENT

OBSERVATIONS

Settlement and piezometric observations have been carefully carried on by the engineering
staff of La Latin0 Americana since the beginning of construction.
The most representative
observations are reported in Figs 14 and 15 taken with reference to a fixed benchmark,
ABN49, established in the Alameda Park at a depth of 49 m.

25M+aH+l3OW-_(

18P16 +

IP21

8PZ8
CPl6

38P51

Fig.

11.

49.43

Piezometric

water

levels

during

excavation

128

LEONARDO

ZEEVAERT

UYDROSTATK PRESSURE IN T/M~

Fig. 12.

Piezometric

water pressures

!E IN TON/ M*
0

during excavation

40

70 80 93 loo 110 120

CFFECT~LCAIJSE

INSIDESHUT-PILE
Fig. 13.

Vertical effective pressures

OUTSIDE SI-IET-PILE
before and during excavation

EX-

FOUNDATION

I949

IQ50

DESIGN

1451

AND

BEHAVIOUR

1952

1953

Fig.

14.

Settlement

OF TOWER

1954

LATIN0

1956

AMERICANA

1957

129

1958

observations

When excavation proceeded in 1949 the benchmarks at the site showed the following
average settlement with respect to ABN49 :
P8
9T34
ST48

..
..
..

..
..
..

..
..
..

27.3 cm/year
15.6 cm/year
6.5 cm/year

Sanborns sidewalk
at the site
at the site

Therefore, the added compression of Tacubaya Clay V and Tarango Clay I at the site
was 20.8 cm/year, the compression of Tarango Clay I, 9.1 cm/year and the compression of
Tacubaya Clay V, 11.7 cm/year. During excavation and because of load relief in Tarango
,Clay I the compression of this deposit stopped from November 1949 to November 1950 until
the load of the building was large enough to start again the compression of this layer (Figs 14
and 15), thus showing that at present Tarango Clay I is consolidating because of the load of
the building. The rate of consolidation is governed by the rate of the ground surface subsidence. The positive friction acting against the foundation walls and piles holds the building
against a faster settlement. This condition may continue until the rate of consolidation of
Tarango Clay I is smaller than the rate of ground surface subsidence with respect to the
34-m sand layer when the positive friction will turn into negative friction.
The settlement of benchmark 9T34 at the site compared with the columns of the building
is shown in Fig. 14, demonstrating that there has been no penetration of the piles in the
so-called hard layer Tarango Sand I at 34-m depth. The above-mentioned philosophy assumed
<duringdesign concerning the behaviour of this foundation is therefore confirmed.
Figs 14 and 15 show the settlement of other reference points with respect to ABN49
fixed benchmark. It may be noticed that in general the area surrounding the building has

130

*
E
i 2o

5 IO
.c
:

LEONARDO

EXCAVATION

_---

TO:

-2.5t+BM+l3.0M-j

/=iiiii

ZEEVAERT

RATE

/y

%IDRAULIC

SYSTEM WORKING

6TB
3T2

@
x

IT2

8T48
YT34

v
t

P8
Pfl

PI7

1950

1951

1952

Fig. 15.

1953

Settlement

19%

1955

1956

1957

observations

had a fairly uniform surface subsidence. A reference point P 11 on the Palace of Fine Arts
with weight of 1.2 k&q. cm (Fig. 9) shows that this building is not settling any more with
respect to the Alameda Park unloaded areas. However, the area west of San Juan de Letran
comprising the Alameda Park and Palace of Fine Arts is settling with respect to the La Traza
area east of San Juan de Letran. The clay deposit under La Traza area, heavily loaded since
the 16th century, is less compressible than those outside. This fact may be observed in
Figs 9 and 14 from surface reference points PS and ABN3.
Building Guardiola across the street is a twelve-storey building constructed in 1940 on
1,156 wood piles with an average load of 7 tons/pile. The foundation and basement are
placed in an 11-m-deep excavation : therefore, it may be considered that the movement of
Guardiola Building with respect to ABN49 benchmark, as well as the movement of this
building relative to the ground surface, may be considered representative of the ground
surface subsidence phenomenon and of the normal compression of Tarango Clay I in this
area. The settlement curve P-17 of Guardiola Building, Fig. 15, may be taken as the approximate origin for the additional compression of the Tarango Clay I deposit under the load of
Tower Latin0 Americana, as shown in Fig. 16.
CONCLUSIONS

The foundation of Tower Latin0 Americana is behaving as predicted by the investigation


of the foundation design. The rate of settlement of the building has been uniform and at
present is essentially the same as that of the ground surface subsidence observed by reference
point P8. From Fig. 16 it can be seen that from December 1950 to February 1953 the clay

FOUNDATION

DESIGN

;j~D,,,,,

5YSCt-l

AND

BEHAVIOUR

OF TOWER

LATIN0

AMERICANA

131

WORKING

-COMPUl~O
StlTLtMtNTOr L.A.TOWtRWIT!-l
RESPfCT ABM49 BCNCUMARKINALA~ hPAR
l
OBSERVED SCTTLCMCNT or L.A.T~wCRWITH
REsPrcT A8N49 BCNCUMARKINALAI RPAR
+ OBStRVCD SCTTLCMFNT OF GUARDIOLAWITURtSPtCT ABN49 0tNCUMARKIN ALIl IAPA'
. OBSEQV~DSCTTLEMENT Or SANBORN'S SIDCWALK(P8)
----RrrERENcc LiNr ~~~COMPUTED XTTLCMENT.(DARALL~LTO GUARDIOLA +I
IQ49 1950 1 1851 ] 1952 1 IQ53
Fig. 16.

1954 1 IQ55 1 1956 1 1957 1 IQ581 (9.591 IQ60

Predictions

iQ6i 1 I962

for future settlement

deposit supporting the building did not compress, although practically all the load of the
building had been applied. The settlement is parallel to Guardiola Building on piles. After
February 1953, the Tarango Clay I deposit started to compress on account of the load of the
building that was gradually transferred to the point of the piles as the foundation was permitted to settle because of the compression of the upper clay deposits.
An attempt to estimate the future net settlement of the building is shown in Fig. 16,
using computed settlement curves from Fig. 6, for loading periods tc = 0 and tc = 84 months.
The origin of compression of the lower clay deposit Tarango Clay I was taken approximately in February 1953. The observed settlement lies between the computed curves.
Therefore, the lower clay deposit supporting the building still has to compress theoretically,
in 6 years, an estimated value of 12 cm. On the other hand, extrapolation appears to indicate
that the building will start to emerge slightly from the ground surface within the next 2 years.
However, although in the future the building may emerge from the ground surface because
of the ground surface subsidence produced by the compression of Tacubaya Clay V, the
ground floor resting on movable supports may be lowered as required to follow the sidewalks
at the building.
Provisions in Mexico City are under way to reduce the rate of fall of the piezometric water

132

LEONARDO

ZEEVAERT

levels. One item has been to stop pumping from water wells in the heart of the city. The
effect may be already noticed by observations made at the Central Park and also at the
building site. Another item has been to drill absorption wells in open areas to inject clean
water. However, this measure is still in observation. Apparently in some places wells
have not been properly sealed in the upper part of the clay deposit ; thus they serve
also to drain the upper part of this deposit above the 28-m depth. This practice, if
continued, may create a strong reduction of piezometric water levels in the upper part of the
clay deposits and consequently a large compression of them.
Already this fact has been observed by the Author in several places adjoining injection
wells. At the site of Tower Latin0 Americana the drop is noticeable already in the 28-m-deep
piezometer.
The maximum limiting condition would be when piezometric water levels in piezometer
9P34 have dropped to a depth of 33 m, and at a rate of 0.54 m/year shown by this piezometer.
This may take place within the next 30 years.
Observations plotted in Figs 14 and 15 show that with respect to the Alameda Park
benchmark ABN49 the rate of settlement taking place in the last 2 years has had the
following value :
12.9 cm/year
Ground surface
. . P8
Tarango Sand I
. . Guardiola
9.7 cm/year
2.4 cm/year
Tarango Sand II
. . 8T48
Therefore, the compression of Tacubaya Clay V is at present only 3.2 cm/year and Tarango
Clay I is compressing at the rate of 7.3 cm/year.
Assuming that conditions will remain as they are observed to-day, then in the next
30 years the building may emerge from the ground surface roughly 100 cm. On the other
hand, it will be seen from settlement observations since 1949, that there is the tendency to
reduce the rate of drop in the piezometric water levels, and correspondingly the rate of compression of the high compressibly volcanic clay deposits (Figs 14 and 15). If this favourable
situation continues, then the differential settlement between building and ground surface
will be smaller than the above-mentioned estimated value.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The pile driving, excavation, and construction of the foundation was under the direction
of Mr Adolf0 Zeevaert, Civil Engineer, Chief Engineer of La Latin0 Americana. The consulting engineering during construction, design of the foundation structure, and the soil mechanics
investigation were performed by the Author. The Author wishes to extend his appreciation
to his co-workers: Mr H. Vogel, Civil Engineer for laboratory work; to Mr Heriberto Izquierdo,
Civil Engineer, who was directly in charge of the calculation of the foundation structure;
to Mr Jaime de la Peza for preparation of figures and computations included in this Paper;
and to the staff of the engineering department of La Latin0 Americana for careful settlement
and piezometric water level observations. Without this information the behaviour of the
foundation of the building could not have been estimated and controlled during construction.
The Author wishes also to extend his appreciation to the Life Insurance Company, ,La
Latin0 Americana, for all the efforts this company made toward the solution of this interesting
foundation problem, even though the early investigations appeared to be only of academic
value.
BUISMAN, A. S. K., 1941.
FOREMAN, FRED.,

1955.

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FOUNDATION

DESIGN

AND

BEHAVIOUR

OF TOWER

LATIN0

AMERICAN.4

133

SKEMPTON, A. W., 1955. Foundations for high buildings.


Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 4 (3) : 246.
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