Caissons are similar to piles in that they are relatively slender at least in one direction, and are used as isolated foundations spaced at intervals to support structures which may be long in plan, such as bridges or large buildings. In bridge construction the terms caissons and piers are sometimes used interchangeably. Where caissons penetrate the soil deeply, they need special consideration of soil-structure interaction effects, as discussed below for piles. Caissons may differ from piles in that they may often be treated as rigid rocking structures, rather than bending structures. This typically occurs for bridge piers in the direction lateral to the axis of the bridge.

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