Shrinking or Swelling Soils
Some types of soil contain clay minerals such as bentonite that expand when they become wetted, and this clay-swelling mechanism can cause differential movement of foundation elements and subsequent property damages. Other types of soil containing the mineral gypsum can contract or collapse when they become wetted, again potentially causing differential foundation movements and property damages. Soils that are prone to shrinking or swelling occur naturally in the Earth’s crust and their existence in the US has been mapped by government agencies. The structural, mechanical, and chemical properties of shrinking and swelling soils have been known about and investigated by scientists and engineers for over 100 years. These concepts are taught in many science and engineering departments, and most technical information regarding this issue is readily available on the internet. Moreover, engineers have been utilizing standard methods and best practices to identify and ameliorate the influence of shrinking or swelling soils in their designs for decades.
Yet foundation and building damages continue to occur at new and even older developments due to a variety of foreseeable and unforeseen factors, like climate change. Earth’s climate has become more volatile and subject to more extreme weather events over the past several decades, which manifests as larger storms, greater floods, more extensive forest fires and soil erosion, longer-lasting droughts, and changes in rainfall and snowfall patterns. The definition of the 100-year storm is changing. All of these changes in weather patterns change the ways in which water interacts with structures.
We’re Uniquely Qualified
When property damages occur, and disputes arise over causation and allocation of liability where water is a causative or contributing factor, HRS is uniquely qualified to address such questions as: Where did the water come from? Did the water originate from a natural or man-made source? Did it come from multiple sources? If multiple sources of water are involved, what is the relative contribution of each source? When did the water arrive at the structure? How did the water arrive there, i.e., what was the flow pathway? How much water flowed at the damaged structure? And, often, were these water-damaging conditions foreseeable and preventable?
HRS has worked on numerous construction defect cases where water was a causative or contributing factor. We use a multi-disciplinary approach that combines geologic and hydrologic principles to solve these and other questions.