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Determine Effect of Trench

Excavation on Nearby Buildings

by Rule of Thumb
Clearly, trench excavation affects nearby buildings and causing them to
settle. The major factors that cause building settlement are soil relaxation
and lowering groundwater. Both of these factors are triggered by the trench

This articles presents the determination of trench excavation influence on

nearby buildings by rule of thumb.

Fig.1: Effect of trench excavation on nearby buildings

Trench excavation influence nearby buildings

because of two reasons which are:
 Soil relaxation due to excavation
 Groundwater lowering because of excavation
Soil relaxation due to excavation
When a trench excavated close to a building, soil relaxation and subsequent
settlement of the building is highly likely as shown in figure 1.

Fig.2: settlement or failure of building foundation due to trench excavation

Therefore, it is necessary to provide adequate support for the trench to
prevent soil relaxation as illustrated in figure 2. Alternatively, excavate the
trench away from the foundation which may not be a valid option all the
trench excavation to prevent soil movement
Moreover, a rule of thumb can be used to check whether the trench
excavation influences the nearby building or not. Draw a line with 2H:1V
from the bottom of the foundation as shown in figure 4. If the trench is
within this line, then engineer shall expect soil relaxation and eventual
settlement of building foundation.
Fig.4: The
building is within the line, prevent this condition
Finally, if the soil at project site is very loose sandy soil, then draw the line
with 3H:1V rather than 2H:1V, as illustrated in figure 5.

Fig.5: line of checking the trench excavation affect on nearby building in very
loose sandy soil

Groundwater lowering because of excavation

By and large, groundwater moves and seeps into the excavation from the
surrounding areas of the trench. This will lower the level of ground water in
the trench vicinity area as illustrated in figure 6. Effective stresses increase
as a result of groundwater lowering and consequently the foundation suffer

Lastly, lowering ground water increases effective stress in clay layer shown
in figure 6, and greater effective stress causes foundation settlement.

Fig.6: Groundwater seeps into the excavation