Use of Ultra-High Performance Concrete in Geotechnical and Substructure Applications (TR-558)

Project status


Start date: 06/01/06
End date: 11/30/08


Principal investigators:

Co-principal investigators:

Student researcher:

  • Thomas Vande Voort

About the research

The strategic plan for bridge engineering issued by AASHTO in 2005 identified extending the service life and optimizing structural systems of bridges in the United States as two grand challenges in bridge engineering, with the objective of producing safer bridges that have a minimum service life of 75 years and reduced maintenance cost. Material deterioration was identified as one of the primary challenges to achieving the objective of extended life. In substructural applications (e.g., deep foundations), construction materials such as timber, steel, and concrete are subjected to deterioration due to environmental impacts. Using innovative and new materials for foundation applications makes the AASHTO objective of 75 years service life achievable. Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC) with compressive strength of 180 MPa (26,000 psi) and excellent durability has been used in superstructure applications but not in geotechnical and foundation applications. This study explores the use of precast, prestressed UHPC piles in future foundations of bridges and other structures. An H-shaped UHPC section, which is 10-in. (250-mm) deep with weight similar to that of an HP10×57 steel pile, was designed to improve constructability and reduce cost. In this project, instrumented UHPC piles were cast and laboratory and field tests were conducted. Laboratory tests were used to verify the moment-curvature response of UHPC pile section. In the field, two UHPC piles have been successfully driven in glacial till clay soil and load tested under vertical and lateral loads. This report provides a complete set of results for the field investigation conducted on UHPC H-shaped piles. Test results, durability, drivability, and other material advantages over normal concrete and steel indicate that UHPC piles are a viable alternative to achieve the goals of AASHTO strategic plan.


Report: Design and Performance Verification of UHPC Piles for Deep Foundations (9 mb pdf) November 2008



  • Iowa Department of Transportation
  • Iowa Highway Research Board