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Lesson the First

"But it is not enough to know the nature of the soil on which a building is to be erected; we must also examine the subjacent water-courses, and how the rain water flows off on the surface of the ground, or beneath it. The presence of a bed of clay, however thin, between strata of limestone, grit or sand, is a most important fact to the builder; for such beds being impervious - that is, not allowing the rain-water to penetrate them - give rise to currents or sheets of water, which may occasion most disastrous consequences to the foundations. Examine this greenish layer just here, along the escarpment; - it is of clay; it is very thin, and cannot retain water; but suppose it were 20 inches thick. The rains, which will easily penetrate the gravel placed above, will be arrested by this layer of clay, and pursue their course along,its plane of inclination, and they will gradually form cavities like small grottoes, and a concealed current. If you build a cellar wall or a foundation descending below that accu mulation of water, it will reach your wall and penetrate it, in spite of your efforts, and will fill your cellars. It will consequently be necessary at the outset to divert this accu mulation of water by collecting it in a drain to keep it away from your buildings. Give me your note-book, that I may show clearly what I mean by a sketch - (Fig. 6). Let A B be the stratum of clay, C D the pervious stratum of gravel or sand. A sheet of water running from E to F will be formed after every shower. This sheet will be arrested by the foundation or cellar wall G H, and will soon permeate it, since it cannot reascend nor penetrate the clay. We must, therefore, provide, at I, a transverse drain, with openings on the upper side, through which water will find its way into the channel shown in sketch K. This drain will take the water thus collected wherever you like, and leave the wall G H perfectly dry. You understand, don't you? "But if you have to lay your foundations entirely in clay, you must adopt much more serious precautions : for, as I told you just now, the whole bed of clay may chance to slip.

"Banks of clay are apt to slip, especially when they present such a section as I have drawn - (Fig 7). Let A be a bed of rock, B a bed of clay. Rain-water falling on the upper side from D to C, will pass at C below the bed of clay; and if the rain is persistent, it will form from c to E a soft, slippery, soapy stratum, so that the clay bed C B E will slide over it by its own weight, but especially if at G you have burdened it with a building.

"How, then, can we guard against the danger? First, by collecting the water at C into a sewer, or a dry stone drain, so that it may not pass under the clay bed, - in case the latter is very thick. Secondly, if it is only a few yards thick, by getting down to the rock or gravel for the foundation wall, and placing a collecting sewer at 1, as above. Then the triangular bed of clay, c I K, will not be able to slide, being kept up by the firmly-planted and loaded wall. The part of the clay lying below, not being moistened from above, will not slip. But this wall, H, and its drain, 1, must be thick enough to resist the pressure of the triangle c I K.

"You perceive, then, how important it is to understand the soils on which you have to build; and how essential it is for an architect to have some acquaintance with geology. Remember this well, for the architects of the preceding generation have shown a contempt for these studies, and have relied on their contractors in many in stances where that knowledge was required.

"We shall also take into consideration muddy low lying soils, permeated by water, which cannot be dug into, because their consistency is little better than that of com pact mud, and in which the deeper you dig the less re sistance you meet. When these soils are not of a turfy description, contain little vegetable detritus, and always retain the same quantity of water, you can build upon them, for water is not compressible. Your building is then a kind of boat; the only question is, how to prevent the water from escaping, from receding under the weight of the structure as it does under that of a boat. When you plunge into a bath half full of water, the liquid rises along the brim proportionately to the volume of your body. But suppose that a board cut out so as exactly to fit the outline of your body, prevents the water from rising around you, you will not be able to sink into the water, and it will bear you on its surface. Well, then, the prob lem of building in a muddy soil consists in preventing the mud from rising around the house in proportion to the pressure. I must once more give you a sketch,

showing the method of securing a successful result in this pacrticular case. (Fig. 8.) "Let us suppose we have been digging in made ground' A, i.e., ground in which we cannot build with security. At B we reach the virgin soil, but it is very moist - mud of old formation, permeated by water, and in which one sinks in walking. The deeper we go into it the softer we find it. A bar thrust down to the depth of two or three yards discovers no bottom, and the holes made in it are immediately filled with water. Piles driven in sink up to the head. Now, there can be no doubt that for an ordinary building it will not do to spend in foundations double what the building itself would cost. We must consider, therefore. In this case we shall dig a trench of about z foot 6 inches to 2 feet deep, to receive the walls forming the perimeter of the house, as drawn at E; then, in these trenches, and over the whole area of the building, we shall pour concrete, having a thick ness of 2 feet to 2 feet 6 inches, between the trenches, as at F. We shall thus have formed a cover of homogeneous material, which will prevent the mud, G H, comprised within its edges, from rising. The weight of the made ground A will suffice to keep down the rest. On a plateau of this kind you will be able to build securely.

"You will, perhaps, ask me what ' concrete' is, and how it is made. You will learn this later on." Talking and making sketches, Paul and, his cousin–had reached the slope of the hill on which the house was to be built.

"The situation is good,"said Eugene."We have an excellent calcareous soil, from which we shall even be able to get stone or rubble fit for building. Here, on the lower slopes, we have fairly clean sandy clay, with which we shall make brick. And there is the spring of fresh water coming from the wood, and passing out below the lowest of the limestone beds; we shall easily secure it, and lead it along the house, where it will be doubly useful, for it will give us water for the requirements of the household, and carry off in a drain all the house sewage and impurities, which we will discharge into that old excavation which I see on our left.

"However, we must examine before we proceed, for it seems to me that these beds have already been worked at some points. We should be very likely to meet with some of those carelessly-conducted quarryings which are too common in this neighbourhood." "How,"asked Paul,"can good building-stone be dis tinguished from that of inferior quality?" "It is not always easy to distinguish it, and in this, as in many other branches of knowledge, experience must con firm theory. Among calcareous stones, which comprise, with certain sandstones, the materials that can be easily quarried and worked, some are hard, others soft; but the hardest are not always those which best resist the effects of time. Many limestones contain clay, and as this retains water, when frosts supervene, these clayey parts swell, and burst blocks whose substance is composed of carbonate of lime, and also of silica, in larger or smaller quantity. Lime stones free from clay are those which best resist moisture, and are least liable to be damaged by frost. When, as here, we have beds laid bare by erosion, it is easy to dis tingush the good from the defective ones. Thus, observe that large dark-looking mass, whose smooth bare edge has been covered with lichens for centuries; it is of an excellent quality, for lichens spread over a 'rock very slowly; and to enable them to attach themselves to this stone. and give it that grey speckled appearance, the limestone must have resisted the decomposing action of the atmosphere. Noiv, look at that bed of nearly pure white, and which seems so sound. Well; it has this fair appearance only because at every frost it has lost its skin; its surface has been decom posed. Touch this rock, and you will observe a white dust remaining on your hands. It is so, is it not? The quality of this block is consequently bad; in fact, you see that below it the grass is covered with small calcareous exfolia tions, whereas the turf under the grey block is quite free from dust. It is then very desirable for an architect, when he intends to build, to go and see the quarries, and observe how the beds that compose them stand when exposed to the air, a thing - I may tell you - our brethren rarely do."

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water, clay, bed, building and wall