Publication Abstract

Proceedings of the 45th Annual Conference on Deep Foundations, 2020 - ONLINE , (DFI)

Excessive Pile Breakage, Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center, a Look Back 15 Years Later
Karl A. Higgins III, M. Eng., PE, D. GE

In August 2004, the long-awaited National Harbor project in the DC metro area sprang to life with the design of Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. When the project was in its final stages of construction in 2007, it was noted as largest building development of the east Coast and the 4th largest Building project in the U.S. The final construction costs were above $900M and it served as the catalyst for the overall National Harbor development which added another $1B in construction costs over the next few years. The Gaylord Hotel is supported by approximately 150,000 linear-feet of driven precast concrete piling, one of a handful of major DC area projects in the early 2000s that were supported by this pile type. The project overall was a success, but the fast-paced construction schedule created significant challenges to the designers and contractors. Piling installation was the first major building construction task, and it did not start out well. While the test piles were installed without damage, when production pile driving began in the summer of 2005, pile head and body breakage soon became evident. Typical of most high-profile projects, there are many stakeholders involved and an equal number of opinions on why the piles were breaking. The financial and contractual implications of starting the project off awkwardly were evident to all. The pile driving criteria was scrutinized by the contractor, and the engineer's had reservations about the size and type of the hammers used for pile driving. Ultimately, it was proven the leading cause of pile breakage was neither the pile driving criteria nor equipment, rather the pile materials themselves. The author of this paper is also the Geotechnical Engineer of Record for Gaylord National and many of the adjacent National Harbor buildings including the recently completed MGM casino. About 100 piles were damaged during Gaylord's construction some requiring multiple piles for replacements. Over the past decade or so, rumors on the causes of the pile breakage have spread in the market, with some alleging this pile type is not compatible with the geologic setting. I have purposely avoided writing this case-study due to the controversy surrounding the subject, but now some 15 years later it seems appropriate to do so considering DFI's annual conference location. This will be a fact-based assessment of pile breakage at Gaylord and will also include a comparison to the neighboring buildings where far fewer driven piles were damaged, once a more appropriate concrete mix design was required. The pre-cast supplier is no longer in business.

 article #3685; publication #1073 (AM-2020)