Architectural Technologist – Permafrost and construction in arctic conditions

by scays on 24/06/2011

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My recent trip to the Arctic circle, reminded me of the work I did some years back designing ways to overcome the basic problem of building in climates where there is a permanant frozen ground structure., which melts slightly at the surface in the summer leaving the ground undulating due to some expansion and contraction as water in say the top meter thaws.

The basic premis in designing for this type of climate is to stop the ground on which the structure is resting, from thawing this can be done in many ways, but the basic way I was involve, was to insulate the permafrost layer with insulation and build off the insulation, not easy and it requires a certane type of insulation thats both structurally capable of taking a load like this and will keep its thermal resistance in a wet environment.

The other way I saw was to pile down or take the foundation down deep enough into the permafrost so that what ever happend the structure was loading a layer that was always frozen, winter or summer.

There are many reasons why the ground might defrost, the natural weather cycle, external equipment, or the natural warmth of the structure, what ever the reason once the permafrost melts, it can change the ground surface structure and load bearing capacity.This can lead to subsidence and damage of structures built in or on permafrost soils.

Also bear in mind that there is growing evidence that the permafrost is slowly melting as we see global warming take effect, resulting in Carbon release from melting permafrost, this video from the IPA (International Permafrost Association ) is a wakeup call to global warming and carbon release. Plus as the permafrost does melt, what happens to all the building that were build relying on the traditional insulation methods of keeping the ground frozen, if global warming does continue as we all suspect, then the insulation will not protect the permafrost for ever and we will have major collapce of road , rail and buildings.

According to one paper I read, a lot of ground is held in place because its frozen, if it melts, then this ground would become unstable, so we might also be looking at a lot of land slip.

This is a massive research CPD subject and I have opened up a new folder for it. Over the next few weeks I plan to explore this and will release links and any video I have found





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