There is a large building in New York City which has recently been reconstructed, and the foundations rearranged, where the load reached to the enormous amount of six to ten tons per square foot. It was a frequent occurrence in the class of high mills spoken of to impose loads of so much greater intensity upon the wall foundation than upon the piers under the columns of the mill, that the floors became much lower at the walls than at the middle.
The stone for such foundations should be laid in cement rather than in mortar, not merely because cement offers so much greater resistance to crushing, but because its setting is due to chemical changes occurring simultaneously throughout the mass. The hardening of mortar, on the other hand, is due to the drying out of the water mechanically contained with it, and its final setting is caused by the action of the carbonic acid gas in the air.
Although quicksands are never to be desired, yet they will sustain heavy loads if suitably confined. When inclined rock strata are met with, all horizontal components of stress should be removed by cutting steps so that the foundation stones shall lie upon horizontal beds.
Foundations are frequently impaired by the slow, insidious action of springs or of water percolating from the canal which supplies the water power for the mill; and the proper diversion of such streams should be carefully provided for.
In the question of foundations, there is much of a general nature which is applicable to all structures; but, at the same time, each case requires independent consideration of the circumstances involved.
In addition to what has been said, there is but little for me to offer on the subject of walls beyond the general question of stability. In mill construction, walls of uniform thickness have been displaced by pilastered walls, about sixteen inches thick at the upper story, and increasing four inches in thickness with each story below.
The remainder of the walls is from four to six inches less in thickness than at the pilasters. Frequently the outside dimensions of these pilasters are somewhat increased, giving greater stability and artistic effect. By leaving hollow flues within them, and using these flues as conductors for heated air which may be forced in by a blower, such pilasters afford a means for the most efficient method of warming the building.
Consideration must be given to the contraction of brick masonry, especially when an extension or addition is to be made to an older building. This shrinkage amounts to about three-sixteenths of an inch to the rod, an item which is of considerable importance in the floors of high buildings, where the aggregate difference is very appreciable. Some degree of annoyance is caused by neglect to consider this element of shrinkage in reference to the window and door frames, which should have a slight space above them allowing for such contraction. This contraction is often the source of serious trouble in brick buildings with stone faces, the shrinkage of the brick imposing excessive stress on the stone. Instances of this are quite frequent, especially in large public buildings, notably the capitol at Hartford and the public building at Philadelphia, where the shivering of the joints of the stone work gave undue alarm, on the general assumption that it indicated a dangerous structural weakness. The difficulty has, I believe, been entirely remedied in both cases.
The limit of good practice on loads upon brickwork is eight to ten tons per square foot, although it is true that these loads are largely exceeded at times. It is not to be shown, however, that the limits of safety in regard to desirable construction should be confined to the use of masonry for any low buildings. Structures which may be said to be equal to those of brickwork, as far as commercial risk is concerned, can be built wholly or in part of wood so as to conform to all practical conditions of safety. This statement does not apply except to low buildings of one or possibly two stories in height, where the timber cannot be subjected to the intense blast of flame occurring when a high building is on fire.
Mr. George H. Corliss, the eminent engine builder, of Providence, first built a one-story machine shop, with brick walls extending only to the base of the windows, above this the windows being very close together, with solid timber construction between them.
Another method is to place upright posts reaching from the sill to the roof timbers, and to lay three-inch plank on the outside of such posts up to the line of the windows. A sheathing on the outside plank between the timbers is laid vertically and fastened to horizontal furring strips. In some instances a small amount of mortar is placed over each of the furring strips. The reason for this arrangement is to prevent the formation of vertical flues, which are such a potent factor in the extension of fires.
Light is often limited or misapplied on account of faulty position or size of windows. The use of pilastered walls permits the introduction of larger windows, which are in most instances virtually double windows, the two pairs of sashes being set in one frame separated by a mullion. A more recent arrangement, widely adopted in English practice, is to place a swinging sash at the top of the window, which can be opened, when necessary, to assist in the ventilation, while the main sashes of the window are permanently fixed.
Rough plate glass is used in such windows, because it gives a softer and more diffused light, which is preferred to that from ordinary clear glass. White glass may be rendered translucent by a coat of white zinc and turpentine.
The top of a window should be as near the ceiling as practicable, because light entering the upper portion of a room illuminates it more evenly, and with less sharply marked shadows, than where the windows are lower down.