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An Introduction to Building Foundations

March 5, 2020

Steel building kits in a Construction

In last month’s blog series, we examined the permit process and the early stages of a new construction project. We looked in detail at what documents and information are required to begin planning for a new steel building project, and how you should get a jump on this stage of the process during the winter months, so your project is ready to break ground during the warmer months. However, now that the worst days of winter are behind us – hopefully – we turn our attention to the next stage of the build process.

From now until the end of Spring, we will focus on the foundation system of metal buildings. We will discuss in detail, what foundations do and what types of foundations are suitable to support a steel building system. The first step is distinguishing where the steel building itself ends, and where the foundation begins.

What is a Foundation?

Simply put – the foundation is the lowest load-bearing part of a building, typically below ground.

Although foundations are not part of the typical metal building package that is shipped to your build-site, all our building systems are built on top of a foundation. For this reason alone, you should have a general understanding of what a foundation is and what role it plays in the overall structure of a building. It’s also important to understand how a foundation will impact the overall cost of your structure.

The foundation required in the erection of a Pre-Engineered building generally involves a concrete slab with concrete footings (see adjacent image). The footing is extra concrete, usually rectangular in shape, poured and formed under a column or some other structural support member of the building. A footing distributes the load carried by the building system support members into the supporting soil.

Steel Building foundation design

Connecting Structure to Foundation

When a customer orders a metal building system, the structure is carefully engineered taking into account the appropriate buildings codes and loads of their structure and their particular site location. Careful calculations are made which seek to measure the precise concentrated loads at each spot where a column meets the floor of the foundation.

It is at this connection point on each column that a metal base plate is required. This pre-punched metal plate is the connecting plate that joins the building to the foundation. The metal base plate is pre-punched to fit over the anchor bolts.

The diagram above details how a single column is connected to the foundation.
Foundation Base Plate
This is an example of a base plate; where a column is connected to the underlying foundation.

Who Designs the Foundation?

Just as your building will be designed and stamped by a structural engineer who is certified to practice in your specific province or state, so too will your foundation be designed and stamped by a foundation engineer who is specialized and certified for your specific area.

Once your building has been engineered, within the permit drawings package, you will be provided with precise locations for the positioning of anchor bolts within the foundation. You will also be provided with building reactions. These are specific to each structure and are important calculations on which your foundation must be based.

Foundation Drawing permit office
The anchor bolt layout drawing above shows exactly where each column will meet the ground.
Metal Base Plate
Each metal base plate connects to the foundation with anchor bolts – this drawing shows the required diameter.
Building Reactions
Calculation are made regarding the precise concentrated loads at each spot where a column meets the floor.

You will take the permit drawings for your building, to a foundation engineer who will design a foundation to meet the requirements of your specific structure and site location.

There are many different choices for your foundation. Together with your foundation engineer, you will determine which foundation suits your soil conditions, specific location and the application for your building.

Get Started Today!

Foundations are a critical component of the full building package. When you engage Norsteel we become your partner throughout the entire construction process. Click here to contact us today for a free, no obligation quote on your next building project!

About the author 

Michelle Keenan

Michelle is one of two owner-operators of Norsteel Buildings, alongside her husband Sean. Michelle has more than two decades of experience in steel building design and construction, and has worked with thousands of customers over the years to make their building dreams come true. Under Michelle's leadership, Norsteel has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Builders in North America 5 years in a row.

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