Altering the thermal regime of soils below heated buildings in the continuous and discontinuous permafrost zones of Alaska

by Paul Vincent Perreault

Institution: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Year: 2016
Keywords: Climate change; Civil engineering
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2128852
Full text PDF: http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=10107613


This research investigates the impacts of thermal insulation on the thermal regime of soils below heated buildings in seasonally and perennially frozen soils. The research provides practical answers (A) for designing frost-protected shallow foundations in unfrozen soils of the discontinuous permafrost zone in Alaska and (B) shows that applying seasonal thermal insulation can reduce the risk of permafrost thawing under buildings with open crawl spaces, even in warming climatic conditions. At seasonal frost sites, this research extends frost-protected shallow foundation applications by providing design suggestions that account for colder Interior Alaska’s air freezing indices down to 4,400 °C˙d (8,000 °F˙d). This research includes field studies at six Fairbanks sites, mathematical analyses, and finite element modeling. An appendix includes frost-protected shallow foundation design recommendations. Pivotal findings include the discovery of more pronounced impacts from horizontal frost heaving forces than are likely in warmer climates. At permafrost sites, this research investigates the application of manufactured thermal insulation to buildings with open crawl spaces as a method to preserve soils in the frozen state. This research reports the findings from using insulation to reduce permafrost temperature, and increase the bearing capacity of permafrost soils. Findings include the differing thermal results of applying insulation on the ground surface in an open crawl space either permanently (i.e., left in place), or seasonally (i.e., applied in warm months and removed in cold months). Research includes fieldwork in Fairbanks, and finite element analyses for Fairbanks, Kotzebue, and Barrow. Pivotal findings show that seasonal thermal insulation effectively cools the permafrost. By contrast, Fairbanks, Kotzebue, and Barrow investigations show that permanently applied thermal insulation decreases the active layer, while also increasing (not decreasing) the permafrost temperature. Using seasonal thermal insulation, in a controlled manner, satisfactorily alters the thermal regime of soils below heated buildings and provides additional foundation alternatives for arctic buildings.