By Jill Bramblett
The Katharine Hepburn estate is located on Long Island Sound in the Fenwick section of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The main house was rebuilt in 1938 after the Great Hurricane of 1938 destroyed the original structure.
Hepburn adored the property and spent much of her free time there. She enjoyed a swim in the waters of the Sound each morning, even during the milder winter days when there was still snow on the ground. The Hepburn family owned the home until a year after her death in 2003. In May of 2004, the well-known and highly successful New York builder, Frank Sciame, and his family purchased the home.
This past year, Frank Sciame decided to add to the estate to satisfy the needs of his growing family. A local architect was hired to design a guesthouse that was positioned as close as a house can be to the Long Island Sound without actually being in the water.
This structure, being built in a V-zone (velocity zone), needed special considerations when designing the foundation. This 4200 square foot, 2-story guesthouse was designed with a helical pile foundation and breakaway walls to endure the wrath of raging waters during any upcoming storms. A breakaway wall is not part of the structural support of the building. Through their design and construction, breakaway walls are designed to collapse under specific lateral loading forces, such as waves and debris, without causing damage to the elevated portion of the building or supporting foundation system.
Robert Barnabei Contracting installed twenty-four helical piers to a depth of twenty to thirty feet to achieve the 80 kip ultimate torque. The geotechnical engineer chose the round shaft helical pier foundation system for the extra lateral stability in the upper layers of the soil that would be exposed to coastal scouring during heavy rains and storms.
The twenty-four helical piles were installed in two days and capped off with twelve-by-twelve pile caps. The pile caps and upper pier will be encased in the grade beam. Tied into the grade beam will be concrete posts that will support the breakaway walls. The structure will be elevated thirteen feet above the flood plain which should protect the home from future flood damage during hurricanes.
The house is still in the process of being built. I will visit the site again for a photo of the completed project. I will also visit the site after our next big storm to see how our helical pier foundation held up!
Jill Bramblett is the Territory Manager for New England for Danbro Distributors. She has been working in the helical pier/construction industry for ten years. Prior to that, she did creative and online marketing in the high-tech industry.
When Jill is not wheeling and dealing deep foundations, she is spending time with her family, hiking, doing yoga, or plotting her next house renovation project. For all New England inquiries, please contact Jill at (603) 766-0422.