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Analyzing Vibration Damage by a Civil Engineer


In urban and suburban areas, heavy construction operations often must be performed near neighboring structures. Typically the nearby buildings are occupied and must remain open to occupants during construction. If the new construction involves high levels of noise or vibration from operations such as pile driving, dynamic compaction, blasting or operating heavy equipment, it can lead to reported damage.

The relation between heavy construction operations and building damage can be a disputed subject when construction is done near neighboring properties.  Damage is often reported when construction activity produces waves in the ground (Rayleigh Waves) that travel outward from the source to other areas.  While the intensity of the waves decreases as they travel away from from the source, the waves may still be strong enough to cause damage in neighboring structures. Reported damages to homes near construction zones where blasting is taking place can vary from hairline plaster cracks to complete structural failures.

Since there are very few buildings that are completely distress-free, it can be difficult to determine preexisting damage from new damage caused by construction activity- particularly in cases where there is a lack of seismographic data. To help, preconstruction surveys of nearby structures are often done to map the cracking and foundation elevations. It is often possible to resolve construction damage from other sources by comparing photographs and other survey data before and after construction.  The effect of construction vibration on surrounding buildings is a significant consideration in obtaining construction permits.

There are typically two opposite extreme opinions regarding vibration effects on a surrounding neighborhood: on the one hand according to human perception and psychology, construction vibration always causes damage in structures; on the other hand vibration effects from construction activity is negligible. Neither opinion is always correct, which is why every case involving vibration damage should be reviewed and analyzed by a civil engineering expert.

If you have a case involving vibration damage, call CED Technologies at 800.466.1090 or visit us online at to see how we can be of service.

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