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What are Hammer Head Piers?

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

Hammerhead pier, also known as a solid shaft pier, is much like the normal pier but with the distinctness of the piercap on top of it.
3D model of a Hammer head Pier with pedestals

What is Pier?

Piers are substructures located at the ends of bridge spans that serve as vertical supports for the entire bridge superstructure. They are structural members that extend to the ground below or into the water directly into the foundation. As compression members, their primary function is to transfer the superstructure loads to the foundation below.

Being subjected to huge axial loads and bi-axial moments and shear forces in both transverse and longitudinal direction, the piers must also be designed to resist these lateral forces acting on this bridge.


Hammer head piers


Hammerhead pier, also known as a solid shaft pier, is much like the normal pier but with the distinctness of the piercap on top of it. It comprises of a single solid concrete cross section pier upon which a cantilevered cap is positioned. Due to this structural arrangement, they are also called cantilevered piers. Since a cantilever member protrudes outwardly from both lateral directions, it has to be designed as a bending member under cantilevered behaviour.


3D models of few common types Hammer head Piers in practice

In some cases, the span off the protrusion might not qualify the member as a cantilever, in such cases it should be considered as a corbel during design phase.

The longitudinal moment on the piercap due to the span generates torsion on the cantilever, thus the design must cater to the torsional stiffness requirements.


3D model of a Hammer head Pier with 2 piers

These kinds of piers are applied to support a wide array of girder types including steel I section girder, Post tensioned box girders, concrete I section girders, u girders, etc. their usage is more rampant in urban areas where space is a huge constraint.


Hammer head Pier with circular section and post-tensioned piercap

Their primary material of construction is concrete and their shape is mostly a function of the aesthetics, type, size, and dimensions of the superstructure and economic constraints.

To find out more about piers and their components, watch the video on pier components :



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