Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Engineering Geology

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series pp 1-3

Date: Latest Version

Bearing Capacity


Bearing capacity is the maximum stress or pressure that a footing can sustain without failure of the soil or rock that is supporting the footing. Bearing capacity is a function of the shear strength of the soil material or rock mass, but it also depends on the size and shape of the footing and the thickness of soil or rock adjacent to and above the base of the footing.


Bearing capacity is a soil–structure interaction phenomenon. Typically, it is associated with foundations of buildings, which is the domain of structural and geotechnical engineers. Engineering geologists provide valuable site characterization details pertaining to the nature and uniformity or variability of subsurface earth materials, as well as the geohazards that might affect site suitability or represent constraints that require design provisions or mitigation by ground improvement prior to construction.

For buildings supported on shallow foundations (spread footings), the weight of the buil ...

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