What lies beneath: The Spinnanker foundation works like a tree

Spinnanker foundation
© Spinnanker

Who needs concrete when this foundation design will take the load?

There are a lot of people trying to reduce the carbon footprint of their buildings, or to tread lightly and have as little impact on the landscape as possible. However, they often run into trouble with foundations, which are usually made of concrete.

Peter Okonek with Spinnanker foundationPeter Okonek with Spinnanker foundation/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
So it was nice to see this at Greenbuild, in the Austria booth a few rows down from the insulated concrete and foam sandwich foundations. I have been caught before, looking at plastic models and thinking it was the real product, so I was careful to ask company CEO Peter Okonek how it worked. The Spinnanker anchor is "inspired by nature":

...we created a new technique for foundation and anchoring. Screwed in threaded rods via the ground plate are holding the load which is comparable with the root system of a tree. Variable bar lengths and different numbers of treaded rods enables the adaption to the particular load. Ductile like the root system, the slim anchoring rods of the Spinnanker are searching its way down into the ground.

Foundations have to do a lot of work, taking the vertical loads and spreading it out through the soil below, but also lateral loads from wind or earthquake. But they often require digging a big hole, pouring and reinforcing concrete, and backfilling around them. They do not tread lightly on the landscape. But with Spinnanker, it all goes in and out easily. "Load-bearing foundations and anchorage points are quickly installed with the Spinnanker. After the operation the system is easily removed by unscrewing the treaded rods without damaging the ground. The system can be reused again." The friction bond between the rods and the soil does the job.

For a few years I was running a series called 'built on stilts', suggesting that we should stop digging into the ground, with my favorite role model being Juri Troy Architects' House under the Oaks. For seriously energy efficient, plastic and concrete free houses, it makes a great deal of sense. The Spinnanker system makes it even easier.

What lies beneath: The Spinnanker foundation works like a tree
Who needs concrete when this foundation design will take the load?

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