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Soil Compaction

Measuring and Characterizing the Impacts of Construction Practices on Urban Soil Compaction


How do today’s home construction practices affect the characteristics of the soils that will be landscaped once construction is completed and all the heavy equipment is removed?


To answer this question and others, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program sought the expertise of Dr. Sudeep Vyapari, University of Florida, who is an expert in environmental horticulture with specific emphasis in urban landscape management.  Dr. Vyapari and colleagues studied the effects of single family home construction practices on urban soil compaction in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.  They used a variety of sophisticated equipment to measure such parameters as soil penetration resistance, dry density and gravimetric water content.


Forty-seven randomly selected locations were chosen to evaluate residential soil compaction.  Three different urban landscapes were selected:  1) new houses (less than 5 years old), medium aged houses (6 – 15 years old, and older houses (more than 15 years old).


In addition to the field survey, soil compaction was recorded on twenty randomly selected undisturbed areas and ten commercial areas.  A survey was conducted of homeowners and landscapers to assess landscape usage practices.


The greatest difference between home sites was found in the first 40 cm of soil depth.  Within the top eleven cm, penetration resistance was significantly higher in new and intermediate houses compared with older houses.  To a lesser degree, this same relationship was found at intermediate soil depths between 12 and 34 cm.  Below 34 cm, soils from each house site had a similar degree of penetration resistance.


In terms of dry density levels, new sites had the highest values, followed by middle-aged sites then older sites.  During the rainy season, however, the dry density values from all three treatment sites were similar.


Hopefully, these findings can be used throughout the construction industry to improve development and building practices that will reduce the amount of soil compaction.  This, in turn, will improve the ability of these soils to retain water, allow for newly planted vegetation and turf to take hold and not just survive, but thrive.

For more info on this and other SBEP research projects please contact our staff scientist Dr. Jay Leverone at 941-955-8085 or