Building on Permafrost

Building on permafrost should be avoided if possible, as your foundation will see significant shifts as the ground begins to thaw and resettle. If you must proceed with construction, it’s vital to receive a thorough geotechnical analysis to avoid potential structural issues moving forward. Learn more about building foundations in permafrost and how to stay safe with Central Geotechnical Services.

Why Do Buildings on Permafrost Have Potential Structural Issues?

Construction is all about stability, but unfortunately, building on permafrost puts that value to the test by removing a secure base. Permafrost prohibits builders from accessing solid ground, forcing workers to build upon a surface that will either melt during construction or possibly melt later in the life of the structure and cause everything above to shift. This is why building on permafrost has potential structural issues: without a firm starting point, it’s impossible to guarantee stability moving forward.

Building foundations in permafrost can lead to everything from drywall cracks to sinking buildings, so it’s recommended to consult a geotechnical engineer licensed in the State of Alaska when considering a project on or near permafrost.

Tips for Building on Permafrost

Sometimes building foundations in permafrost cannot be avoided, especially if you are building on permafrost in Alaska. If this is the case, your best bet in minimizing potential structural issues is to hire a geotechnical engineer who can assess your conditions and make safety and structural recommendations.

Geotechnical engineers can:

  • Assess the terrain and surrounding areas, looking for additional unfavorable conditions such as marshes, standing water, and significant sloping
  • Test the subsurface conditions to determine the extent of the permafrost, noting any challenging characteristics
  • Perform a soil test to evaluate the ground soil, rocks, and ice
  • Provide advice and guidance on how to move forward with building foundations in permafrost

When forced to build in less-than-desirable circumstances, geotechnical engineers and architects must work together for creative solutions. As seen when building on permafrost in Alaska, some construction sites see buildings constructed on top of above-ground metal frames, allowing for air flow under the building. This creates space for the ground to thaw without affecting potential structural issues, though it does add cost to the overall budget.

Work with Central Geotech When Building on Permafrost

If your project lies outside of Anchorage and into the interior, put yourself in the best possible position by hiring Central Geotechnical Services to help oversee your frozen construction. Our engineers will evaluate your site to ensure the highest safety standards and structural integrity for your project, so contact us to get started.