Course : HNC in Construction and the Built Environment

1. Introduction

The terminology within the construction technology is filled with the advancement of innovative tools, modification, machinery, software, etcetera. The substructure is the foundation of any building ranging from residential, commercial, and industrial. There are two components within the substructure. One is regarding the types of substructures that are related to building the foundation from the soil. Another one is related to the load-bearing modular constructions with beams and steel structures.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. What is a Substructure?
  • 3. Types of Substructures
  • 3.1. Strip Foundation - Shallow
  • 3.2. Raft Foundation - Shallow
  • 3.3. Pile Foundation - Deep
  • 4. Substructures Design
  • 4.1. Load Bearing Structures
  • 4.2. Non-load Bearing Structures
  • 5. Structural Stability
  • 6. Usage of Substructures in Different Buildings
  • 7. Required Building Registrations
  • 7.1. CIS Registration
  • 7.2. CDM Registration
  • 7.3. Planning Permission
  • 8. Three Pillars of Building Sustainability
  • 8.1. Environmental Sustainability
  • 8.2. Economic Sustainability
  • 8.3. Social Sustainability
  • 9. References

Unit 2 Construction Technology

Construction Substructure and Superstructure

Section A: Range of Substructures

Task: Produce a ‘design consideration' booklet for him to distribute to the design team. The booklet is to consider the functional requirements and design selection criteria for different elements of typical commercial buildings

1. What is a Substructure?

The substructure, also known as the foundation, is the underneath portion of a building connected to the ground (or below the ground) to support the superstructure. The purpose is to transfer the load of the building superstructure to the ground/soil to strengthen the building. Substructures can often be distinguished from the foundation of a building with different kinds of designs. It is considered that the load-bearing structures that are made from beam and steel material are the substructure of a building rather than the soil foundation. However, both foundation and substructure play the exact same role to support the superstructure of the building by distributing the load into the ground.

In modern technological advancement, construction engineers and technicians use software to examine geotechnical components and building blocks before working on the building foundation. Geotechnical support has changed the course of construction work and basic designs (Pronozin et al., 2019). The software provides enough details to the engineers about the construction stages starting from the foundation to the result to accurately choose the correct substructure for a building.

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2. Types of Substructures

Before conducting the substructure design, the project's geotechnical engineer will finalize a suitable foundation for the building. There are three common types of foundations used for different construction projects to support the superstructure from the root of the building.

2.1. Strip Foundation - Shallow
Strip footing or strip foundation is essential for supporting the basic structures, such as walls and columns. It is attached with soil with enough bearing capacity to support a comparatively light structural building. The position and size of the strip foundation are dependable on the size of the building wall. In residential areas with greater density requires a strengthening foundation to reconstruct building floors. In this situation, a strip foundation is essential to model local building grip with short piles (Evtushenko, Shutova and Pikhur, 2020).

2.2. Raft Foundation - Shallow
Unlike the strip foundation, the raft foundation spreads across the entire construction area and supports heavy construction load. At the commercial and industrial building, composite or raft foundation systems gained massive popularity. It is economical and provides heavy support to the building structures with flexible substructure volume (Varghese, Boominathan and Banerjee, 2019).

2.3. Pile Foundation - Deep
Among all foundation designs under the substructure, pile foundation is the deepest one that distributes the heavy load from the superstructure to below the ground. It consists of hard rock strata that coming from the Plinth Beam structure. The concrete beam at Plinth Beam generates support to the walls from below the ground foundation that prevents wall cracks. It is one of the most common foundations that can be seen in residential and commercial buildings.

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3. Substructures Design

3.1. Load Bearing Structures
The usage of beams made from steel, concrete, wood, and other reliable materials is the primary process of building the substructure of a building. Load-bearing structures are those beams that can carry more weight and carries the whole weight of the building distributed in several columns. For example, in residential construction, a load-bearing beam at the roof carries its own weight and a portion of the house's weight. A C-shaped profile with a T-joint is considered to provide rational stiffness to the superstructures (Rybakov et al., 2018).

3.2. Non-load Bearing Structures
Non-load bearing beams are the opposite of the load-bearing beams that do not carry any external weight other than their own. Some examples of this type of structure are used to make partition walls that do not require an additional beam or substructure. Adopting non-load-bearing structures at high-rise commercial or industrial buildings is used to achieve a lightweight frame, and it is also economically efficient (Ariyanayagam and Mahendran, 2018).

4. Structural Stability

In achieving the desirable substructure in a building, it is important to consider the safety aspects to prevent any uncertain collapse, sliding, or building movement. The stability of a building does not relate to the loading coming from the superstructure. It is dependent on the existence of enough substructure to resists the loading without moving. One of the most crucial situations comes in constructing a multi-storey building with an accurate structural system. A study has claimed that frame-bracing structural systems help develop an accurate algorithm for the building process (Savin, Kolchunov and Emelianov, 2018).

5. Usage of Substructures in Different Buildings


Residential Buildings

Commercial Buildings

Industrial Buildings

Foundation Type

Individual footing can distribute vertical load and bear a capacity of 100 kN/m2, which is ideal for residential buildings (The Constructor, 2021c). Deep columns are also requiring for residential buildings to strengthen the foundation.

Raft or Mat foundation is economical for commercial buildings from the shallow foundation by preventing individual footings (The Constructor, 2021c). In addition, Pile Foundation can transfer the heavy load to the ground. 

Drilled Shafts provide a deep foundation to the industrial building and resist the loading from the shaft resistance (The Construction, 2021c). Raft foundation is ideal for industrial buildings as it can spread over a larger area.

Substructure Design

Combined both lead bearing and non-load-bearing beams - load bearing beam to the columns and non-load bearing beams for partition.

Load-bearing beams with steel joints (reinforced steel joints) to bear the load from the superstructures.

Pile foundations to make a deep underground foundation spreading over a large area to strengthen the superstructure.

Structural Stability

The load-bearing roof structure is connected with the column structure to distribute the load through the columns.

The columns require to be deeply founded as it sustains the load of the multi-storey building.

Pile foundation with C-shaped T-joints to support the roof and load coming down to the ground/soil.

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6. Required Building Registrations

6.1. CIS Registration
Construction Industry Scheme or CIS is there for the registered contractor and subcontractor to reduce the tax payment. The considerable parties for CIS are (GOV.UK, 2021) -
• If a contractor hires and pays a subcontractor for their work
• If a contractor does not work regularly but has worked for more than 3 million pounds within the last 12 months
CIS covers the following areas (GOV.UK, 2021) -
• Temporary or permanent building structure
• Road and bridge construction
• Demolition and dismantling of a structure
• Decorating, repair, and alteration of a structure

6.2. CDM Registration
Construction Design and Management or CDM Regulation 1994 provides safety and healthcare to the clients, constructors, and designers of a construction project. CDM is a step further the constructor registration and provides duties to the - clients, planning supervisors, principal contractors, and designers (Latham, 1994).

6.3. Planning Permission
Before starting any construction project, the construction company will apply for building planning to their Local Planning Authority (LPA) with the building plan and associate impact on the surrounding area. After the approval, the constructor will start working on the project.

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7. Three Pillars of Building Sustainability

7.1. Environmental Sustainability
The construction industry has been considered one of the significant impacts on the environment through its excessive carbon emission, dust, vibration and construction sound, air pollution, human-centric risks, etcetera. However, Connor Brickhouse highly promotes working with renewable gas, avoid land-filling constructions, uses low-impact machinery, etcetera to reduce environmental impact.

7.2. Economic Sustainability
Connor Brickhouse offers the local workers to join in a construction project that employs a large number of populations. We also choose to work with local vendors to generate economic sustainability.

7.3. Social Sustainability
Conor Brickhouse provides a well-being and efficient workplace to the employees to stay for a longer time. In the construction industry, social sustainability comes from the sustainability at the environmental and economic sustainability.


  • Q: What are functional characteristics?
  • Q: What are design selection criteria?
  • Q: How do functional characteristics impact the design solution?
  • Q: How do design selection criteria impact the final design?
  • Q: What is a design report for a building construction project?
  • Q: What are the three main structural components covered in the report?
  • Q: What information should the report include for each component?
  • Q: What other aspects might be included in the report?
  • Q: Who prepares the design report?

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