Bad road surfaces in close proximity to buildings can cause structural damage.

A reflection on the damage that may be caused by bad road surfaces. In Ottawa, Canada, we lived in a seven-storey apartment building in a residential area. The road was not especially busy but single-decker buses passed throughout the day. The building was new, but top-floor residents soon began to notice swaying and shaking on an intermittent basis. Over time it became worse. Many complaints were submitted to the council. They pointed out that the structure was built to earthquake resistant standards and couldn't possibly shake. Ottawa is, believe it or not, in an earthquake zone.

Fortunately, an opposition party leader owned the penthouse, which may have influenced the council inspection, which concluded that the road surface was so uneven as to perhaps cause the problem. The road was resurfaced completely and properly and the vibration and swaying ceased. Bad road surfaces can easily and probably do cause cracking in foundations that are too close to a trafficked road.

Asked on 2 May 2011 by NW, Thetford

Answered by Honest John
JW of Glenrothes helpfully writes,

“Further to your response to LC of London SW18 on 7 May, you may be interested to learn that report TRL 235 published by the Transport Research Laboratory in 1997 concluded that to "reduce the risks of complaints to a low value then consideration should be given to imposing a minimum distance of 11m" (between road humps and buildings). Any roads authority which disregards this recommendation will need to have shown that it has investigated the matter fully including ground conditions, traffic demograph and adequate condition surveys of relevant properties. Without this data, I would have thought that the charge of causing structural damage from ground borne vibration generated by road humps would be difficult to refute.”

The photo is of a building next to a speed table that recently collapsed on Berkhamsted High Street.
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