The term “bearing capacity” pertains to the soil’s ability to withstand loads exerted on the ground. It is the maximum average contact pressure that can prevent soil shear collapse. The ultimate bearing capacity represents the highest pressure that the soil can ensure without failure.

The ultimate bearing capacity is adjusted by a safety factor to derive the allowable bearing capacity, especially in the case of soft soil sites where significant settlements can occur under loaded foundations without shear failures. In such cases, the allowable bearing capacity is determined based on the maximum allowable settlements.

Bearing capacity is affected by three types of shear failure, namely general, local and punching. These failures are determined by the soil’s shear strength, the foundation’s size, depth, shape, and the groundwater table.

This page is not intended to be a substitute for professional geotechnical advice and should not be relied on as geotechnical advice by individuals or other professionals to make site-specific decisions. Always seek advice from professional geotechnical engineers.

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