Foundations: The Unseen Reality

While reflecting back at an onsite visit taken to one of our past construction projects, I pondered on its earliest phases, which are so critical to get right…since everything is reliant on these initial phases and elements of the construction project.

While on site, I inspected 2 significant components…related items and yet very different.

Component #1 – Foundations and under slab items – the trenches and forming for the foundations had just been completed and ready for inspection.

Component #2 – Substandard soil conditions – we had some soil conditions where “pumping” was observed and probes revealed inadequate soil bearing capacity…requiring remediation to correct.

Every building is built on what is referred to as a foundation. The foundation of a building transfers the weight of the building to the ground. While ‘foundation’ is a general word; normally, every building has a number of individual foundations, commonly called footings.

Since the weight of the building rests on the soil (or rock), engineers have to study the properties of the soil very carefully to ensure that it can support the loads imposed by the building. It is common for engineers to determine the safe bearing capacity of the soil after such study. As the name suggests, this is the amount of weight per unit area the soil can bear.

As you can see from the above, the foundation and the soil conditions are interdependent on each other. If either one is suspect or does not meet requirements, the other will fail. They also are literal “building blocks” in the sequence of a building. Uncorrected poor soil will lead to inadequate foundations which in turn would make any building constructed on such condition unsafe for occupancy.

What makes these 2 components even more unique, is that most of the occupants of a building will never see these items. When the pastors present the gospel from the platform, no one in the audience will be able to see the foundations on which the worship space was constructed.  When the children’s leaders are impacting the lives of hundreds of kids, they will not be worrying about the bearing capacity of the earth beneath their feet. And yet, in both instances, if these components had been constructed in a less than correct manner, they would see the impact of such issues.

Let’s look at an iconic edifice in America…the Space Needle in Seattle.  This structure soars over 600 feet in the air. It is an amazing engineering feat. But is what you see all there is?  Not hardly.  Here are some facts about its foundation.

> Its foundation is 30 feet deep

> Weighs 5,850 tons

> Contains 250 tons of reinforcing steel…almost 6 miles of rebar

> The foundation is as heavy as the Needle, enabling the airy structure to withstand a wind velocity of 200 miles per hour.

>In 2001 it withstood an earthquake of 6.8 on the Richter scale. It is estimated that it can endure even greater shocks because the architects doubled the 1962 building code requirements.

Here is another interesting fact about foundations…they are not a single component but rather a complex set of interconnected components.  You have the soil that forms the foundation…then there is the reinforcing steel (rebar) that is interconnected in an engineered grid/pattern…then come the anchor bolts (for the space Needle, there are 72 bolts, 30 feet long EACH)…and then concrete. A LOT of concrete. In fact, it required 467 cement trucks to complete the foundation. At Freedom House Church, we maybe had 2-3 trucks total to pour our foundations…just a little difference.

Here is what really stuck out to me as I did the site inspection…these unseen components (at least unseen by the final occupants…not unseen by those that laid the foundation) are the basis for the success of the rest of the structure. Without them, the buildings would fail (Luke 6:47-48). This is not magic…it is a fact of nature and physics. There is no getting around it.

Buildings are not the only thing that require a well planned and executed foundation. Foundations are necessary in any aspect of our life worth “building” and developing. Our families. Our churches. Our businesses. Our relationships. Our finances. To be successful at any/all of these, you need a foundation that is intentionally designed for the desired outcome.


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