Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Civil Engineering (MCE)


Civil Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Nadarajah Ravichandran

Committee Member

Dr. Ronald Andrus

Committee Member

Dr. Brady Flinchum


This study was inspired by a tree’s reliance on its root system that enables it to withstand a natural disaster, such as an extreme hydroclimatic event or hurricane. This curiosity has led to an investigation into what makes this possible, developing a new and innovative foundation configuration for infrastructure systems, and a new possible construction material and method. This study provides results on a material that does not have conventional testing procedures or standards: a tree root. The trees studied are common to the upstate of South Carolina, which are Pine, Sweetgum, and White Oak. According to the results, on average, the root with the highest modulus of elasticity is White Oak, the second highest is Pine, and the lowest is Sweetgum. The wind load on a White Oak tree with a height of 25.1 m was calculated as a point load and modeled on a 3D Finite Element model. The model provides preliminary results for a tree’s load transfer mechanism and the performance of the tree root configuration when a tree is subjected to 175-mph wind speeds. From observation, the optimal foundation configuration was 12 main roots and 0 sub-roots. With the addition of sub-roots, the improvement was very little; therefore, the contribution that sub-roots have to the foundation’s performance is negligible, in this study. However, more research is required to draw this conclusion. A new construction material and method were studied to determine the constructability of the foundation. The new material was fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP), and the construction of the foundation with the material was possible with modification to existing methods common in other industries.



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