A Comprehensive Guide To Caisson Construction: Everything You Need To Know

Caisson construction is a specialized technique used in building structures that require support from a solid base. Click here to learn more!

Last Updated on June 20, 2023 by Ossian Muscad

Have you ever heard of caisson construction? If not, then you’re in the right place. Caisson construction is an innovative way to build a structure that will last for many years. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything there is to know about constructing with caisson so that your next project can be sturdy and secure. Discover how this method of foundation building has been used since ancient times, what modern-day advantages it offers, and why it’s becoming increasingly popular among engineers today.


What is Caisson Construction?

Caisson construction is a specialized technique used in building deep foundations, bridge piers, and other structures that require support from a solid base. It involves the use of watertight retaining structures called caissons, which are sunk into the ground to reach a stable soil or rock layer.


Different Types of Caisson Foundations

Caisson foundations are a specialized construction technique used to create deep foundations for structures such as bridges, buildings, and marine installations. There are several types of caisson foundations, each with its unique characteristics and applications:

Box Caissons

These are prefabricated, box-shaped structures with closed bottoms. They are typically constructed on land and then floated to the construction site. Once in position, they are sunk into place by filling them with concrete or other heavy materials. Box caissons are commonly used for bridge piers and other structures requiring shallow foundations.

Excavated Caissons

Also known as drilled caissons or shafts, cylindrical holes are drilled into the ground using specialized equipment. The excavation process involves removing soil and rock to reach a stable layer. Once the desired depth is achieved, the hole is filled with reinforced concrete to create the foundation. Excavated caissons are well-suited for areas with challenging soil conditions or limited access.

Floating Caissons

These are hollow, watertight reinforced concrete, steel, or timber structures. They are designed to float on water and can be towed to the construction site. Once in position, they gradually sink by adding weight or pumping water from their interior compartments. Floating caissons are commonly used for constructing breakwaters, harbor walls, and other marine structures.

Open Caissons

Open caissons are large, hollow, cylindrical structures with open tops and bottoms. They are used for excavating soil from within the caisson itself. As the soil is removed, the caisson sinks deeper into the ground, and additional sections are added to maintain stability. Once the required depth is reached, the caisson is filled with concrete to form the foundation. Open caissons are suitable for projects where the bearing stratum is relatively close to the surface and has little or no groundwater.

Pneumatic Caissons

These are similar to open caissons but have a closed top and an airlock system. This allows workers to operate in a pressurized environment, keeping water out during excavation. Pneumatic caissons are typically used when the excavation site is submerged or has a high water table. The construction process can be more complex due to maintaining air pressure and ensuring worker safety.

Each type of caisson foundation has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice depends on factors such as soil conditions, water table levels, access to the construction site, and the project’s specific requirements.


Benefits of Caisson Drilling

Caisson drilling is a popular technique for creating deep foundations for structures such as bridges, buildings, and marine installations. This method offers several benefits that make it an attractive choice for many construction projects:

Effective Even in Great Depths

Caisson drilling allows for the construction of foundations at significant depths, reaching stable soil or rock layers that support heavy structures. This makes it suitable for projects with challenging soil conditions or where the bearing stratum is far below the ground surface.

Lower Construction Costs

Caisson drilling can be more cost-effective than other deep foundation methods, such as pile driving or slurry walls. The process involves fewer materials, and the excavation process can be more controlled and precise. Moreover, prefabricated caissons can reduce costs by minimizing on-site labor and construction time.

Adaptable To Surroundings

Caisson drilling is versatile and can be tailored to suit various site conditions and project requirements. Different caissons (e.g., open, pneumatic, box) can be chosen based on soil composition, water table levels, and accessibility. This adaptability makes caisson drilling suitable for a wide range of construction projects.

High Load-Bearing Capacity

Caissons are designed to transfer the structure’s weight to the stable soil or rock layer below, providing excellent load-bearing capacity. This makes them ideal for supporting heavy structures like high-rise buildings, long-span bridges, and large marine installations. Additionally, using reinforced concrete in caisson construction ensures durability and resistance to various environmental factors.


What is the Caisson Construction Process?

The caisson construction process involves several steps to create a strong and stable foundation for various structures. While the exact process may vary depending on the type of caisson being used (open, pneumatic, box, etc.), the following outlines a general overview of the caisson construction process:

Step 1: Site Investigation

Before starting the construction process, a thorough site investigation assesses soil conditions, groundwater levels, and potential obstacles. This information helps determine the appropriate type of caisson and depth required for the project.

Step 2: Caisson Design

Based on the site investigation findings, engineers design the caissons to meet the project’s specific requirements. This includes selecting the appropriate materials (e.g., reinforced concrete, steel, or timber) and determining the dimensions and load-bearing capacity of the caissons.

Step 3: Caisson Fabrication

Depending on the type of caisson, they can be either prefabricated off-site (box caissons) or assembled on-site (open and pneumatic caissons). Prefabricated caissons are constructed in controlled environments, ensuring better quality control and faster construction times.

Step 4: Excavation

For open and pneumatic caissons, excavation involves removing soil from within the caisson. As the soil is removed, the caisson gradually sinks into the ground, and additional sections are added to maintain stability. In the case of pneumatic caissons, air pressure is maintained within the caisson to prevent water ingress during excavation. For excavated caissons, specialized drilling equipment creates a cylindrical hole in the ground.

Step 5: Placement

It is secured once the caisson reaches the desired depth and stable soil or rock layer. This involves floating them to the construction site and sinking them into position by filling them with concrete or other heavy materials for box caissons.

Step 6: Filling

After the caisson is in place, it is filled with concrete, creating a strong and stable foundation that can support the weight of the structure above. Reinforcing steel may be added to the concrete for additional strength and durability.

Step 7: Construction of the Structure

With the caisson foundation in place and the concrete cured, the main structure can be constructed. This may include building bridge piers, erecting steel columns, or constructing other structural components.

The caisson construction process can be complex and requires careful planning, execution, and monitoring to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the foundation. By following these steps, caisson foundations provide strong and stable support for various structures in various environments and conditions.


Create a Caisson Construction Checklist Using a Low-code Platform

A low-code platform is an ideal solution if you’re looking for the easiest way to manage caisson construction. Using a low-code platform, you can create a comprehensive checklist of tasks and activities that will help you keep track of every step in the process. Whether for a large-scale project or a standalone structure, having a checklist helps ensure that all the necessary steps are taken and nothing important is overlooked.

DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. The DataMyte Digital Clipboard, in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features a checklist and smart form builder. This tool lets you create a comprehensive caisson construction checklist to use and share with your team.

To create a checklist or form template using DATAMYTE, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to the DATAMYTE software and navigate to the ‘Checklist’ module.
  2. Click “Create Checklist.”
  3. Add a title to your checklist; select the category where it belongs.
  4. Start adding items to the checklist by clicking “Add Item.” 
  5. Define the description of each item, what type of answer it requires, and other relevant specifications (e.g., reference documents, acceptance criteria, limits).
  6. Assign a team member responsible for conducting the inspection using the checklist.
  7. Add signature fields for approvals (e.g., supervisors, quality assurance personnel).
  8. Save the checklist—you can now access it anywhere, and it will be available on any device.


DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits, a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.

With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for creating and implementing caisson construction checklists. Book a demo today!



Caisson construction is still widely used in many large-scale projects today. You can ensure your project runs smoothly and efficiently by following the outlined steps and utilizing a low-code platform to create a caisson construction checklist. DATAMYTE is the best choice for creating a comprehensive and automated checklist that can help you streamline your caisson construction process. Get started today!



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