Learning foundation engineering from nature

Giovanna Pipin, Abdelaziz Ads, Magued Iskander

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Bio-inspired design is increasingly popular in a variety of disciplines. Tree roots provide an anchorage system that is significantly more efficient than typical engineered systems. Trees are capable of withstanding substantial axial and lateral loads, with root structures that have improved throughout time. In comparison, engineered piling systems require the foundation to extend deeper in order to support comparable loads to those experienced by trees. This study explores the effect of lateral roots on trees' bearing and uplift capacity to identify best practices for bio-inspired foundation design. The tree-soil interaction during loading is investigated using a transparent soil representing sand, made of fused quartz and a mixture of mineral oils having a matched refractive index. Load deformation response was obtained during loading. Soil movements were obtained by tracking fused quartz particle movements illuminated by laser light. Successive images were analyzed using digital image correlation to obtain displacement and strain fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-292
Number of pages11
JournalGeotechnical Special Publication
Issue numberGSP 323
StatePublished - 2021
Event2021 International Foundations Congress and Equipment Expo: Installation, Testing, and Analysis of Deep Foundations, IFCEE 2021 - Dallas, United States
Duration: May 10 2021May 14 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Building and Construction
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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