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Loads from columns transferring to pile cap induce tensile forces at the bottom of the cap. For instance, by using truss analogy to analyze a pile cap sitting on two piles with a column at the centre of the pile cap, the tensile force at the bottom is proportional to the pile spacing and is inversely proportional to depth of pile cap. The bottom reinforcement is designed to resist the tensile stressed generated from loads in columns.
Sometimes, reinforcement may be designed at the top of pile caps which serve as compression reinforcement. This type of reinforcement is required in case there is a limitation on the depth of pile caps. Similarly shear reinforcement is introduced to the pile caps in case there is a restriction to the depth of pile caps. Consider that loads are applied at the centre of a pile cap.
For the case of rigid pile cap, owing to the effect of interaction of individual piles, the central piles tend to settle more than the edge piles when the pile cap is under loading condition. For the pile cap to be rigid, the local deformation of central piles would not occur. Instead, the stiff pile cap would transfer the loads from the central piles and redistribute them to the outer piles. Therefore, piles at the edge take up a higher fraction of the total loads and are subjected to higher axial and bending loads in case the pile cap is stiff. In the extreme case, the side piles may take up as much as about two to three times the loads in the central piles and this may lead to the failure of these edge piles.
For flexible pile cap, load taken up by individual piles are different because the deformation of pile cap enhances non-uniform distribution of loads among piles. The piles closer to the load tend to share more loads when compared with those which are located far away from the loads. The difference of loads induced in piles increase with the flexibility of pile cap.
This question is taken from book named – A Self Learning Manual – Mastering Different Fields of Civil Engineering Works (VC-Q-A-Method) by Vincent T. H. CHU.