Software designers claim their new release makes predicting house footing and slab movement so intuitive that geotechnical engineers will be more prone to do it.

“Some practicing engineers don't actually compute potential heave,” says Geoff Chao, senior engineer and vice president of Engineering Analytics Inc., Fort Collins, Colo., a geotechnical engineering firm that partnered with SoilVision Systems Ltd., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to make SVHEAVE, a software designed to be user-friendly and to simplify heave calculations, even in multilayered soil profiles.

If these tedious calculations, as Chao calls them, are ignored, builders and geotechnical engineers can be liable in most states to legal suits for up to 10 years after completion of the property. 

“Heave is an issue where light-to-medium-weight structures have foundations near the ground surface over swelling clays,” says Murray Fredlund, president SoilVision. This typically means Montmorillonite-based clays, which show massive increases in volume when they absorb water. Differential heave beneath structures can cause cracking and other problems in the house or commercial building, says Fredlund. 

Calculating heave involves taking into account all the soil layers beneath a proposed building to judge whether uneven slab movement is likely, says Chao, a task the software can simplifies.

“In the past, we used Excel spreadsheets to compute this, but it’s hard to add layers because you have to change your equations all the time,” he says. Before Excel, Chao says, calculations were done by hand. “It becomes a troublesome task,” he adds. 

“I’m actually looking forward to having this on the market so people will start using it and computing heave,” says Chao. The software is available for $1495.