One of the prerequisites of adequate performance of a building during an earthquake is the provision of a foundation that acts as a unit and does not permit one column or wall to move appreciably with respect to another. A common method used to attain this is to provide ties between footings and pile caps. This is especially necessary where the surface soils are soft enough to require the use of piles or caissons. Therefore, the pile caps or caissons are tied together with nominal ties capable of carrying, in tension or compression, a force equal to Ca/4 times the larger pile cap or column load.
A common practice in some multistory buildings is to have major columns that run the full height of the building adjacent to smaller columns in the basement that support only the first floor slab. The coefficient applies to the heaviest column load.
Alternate methods of tying foundations together are permitted (e.g., using a properly reinforced floor slab that can take both tension and compression). Lateral soil pressure on pile caps is not a recommended method because the motion is imparted from soil to structure (not inversely as is commonly assumed), and if the soil is soft enough to require piles, little reliance can be placed on soft-soil passive pressure to restrain relative displacement under dynamic conditions.
If piles are to support structures in the air or over water (e.g., in a wharf or pier), batter piles may be required to provide stability or the piles may be required to provide bending capacity for lateral stability. It is up to the foundation engineer to determine the fluidity or viscosity of the soil and the point where lateral buckling support to the pile can be provided (i.e., the point where the flow of the soil around the piles may be negligible).