- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 28 Sep 2020
In architecture, the term ‘pier’ can be used interchangeably for several different building elements. In general, it is an upright support for a structure or superstructure, but it can also refer to the sections of load-bearing structural walls between openings and different types of column.
Piers can serve a similar purpose to piles, but are not installed by hammers and have the potential, if based on a stable substrate, to support a greater load. Pier shafts have been excavated with widths of more than 1.8 m and depths of more than 30 m , capable of supporting high-rise buildings.
Piers can also be used in foundations as a means of raising a structure from the ground, in particular if the structure is on a slope or near a large body of water. They differ from conventional foundations in that they support the structural load at a number of distinct points. This typically requires less excavation and soil disruption than other types of foundation.
The simplest cross-section of a pier is square or rectangular, although other shapes are common. In medieval architecture, drum piers (circular supports), cruciform piers (cross-shaped), and compound piers (combined with pilasters, columns or shafts) were common architectural elements. Compound piers were often used to form an arcade of arches, meeting the ribs descending from the vaults above.
The term 'pier' may also be used to refer to a marine structure that projects into a body of water, supported by a series of columns, typically allowing docking of marine craft, but also used for pleasure. The open structure of piers allows water to flow underneath, in contrast to more solid wharfs or quays.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
A guide to daylight design for commercial buildings.
Two opposite approaches to cost estimating that can work together.
BSRIA reports on propsects for the US construction industry.
ECA research shows lack of preparation amongst survey respondents.
Smart mapping approaches for building better infrastructure.
The importance of emergency planning.
Eight forms of resource optimisation.
CIOB responds to Chancellor Sunak's announcement on jobs and the economy.
Revised guide to competition rules available.
Brick slip soffit systems and intricate brick features.
An innovative engineering approach could have had tragic consequence for NYC.
Some secrets behind how canals work.