Predicting and controlling ground movements around deep excavations

Malcolm Bolton, S. Y. Lam, Paul J Vardanega

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper

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Deep excavations frequently cause problems, and sometimes trigger catastrophic collapses, especially in soft clay. In principle, these problems are well understood, but designers may fall between the two stools of naive empiricism and over-elaborate finite element analysis (FEA). A new approach, Mobilizable Strength Design (MSD), has been developed to bridge this gap. MSD specifies deformation mechanisms tailored to each stage of construction. Each stage is analysed for energy balance, with incremental subsidence creating a drop of potential energy which must equal the work done deforming the soil and the support system. Incremental deformations are summed, while soil non-linearity is allowed for. The non-linear response of a representative shear stress-strain test is required, but good estimates can be based on routine soil characterisation. It is demonstrated that MSD back-analyses not only fit FEA results for soft clay within ± 30%, but also fit the soil-structure deformation data of 155 field studies by the same margin. Finally, a new set of dimensionless groups is defined to characterise deep excavations in clay without the need for any analysis at all. These are used to chart the maximum wall displacements taken from the field database, and an elementary formula is proposed which predicts these 155 disparate displacements within a factor of 2.5. Guidelines are deduced for designers and regulators. In particular, it is shown that wall stiffness within the typical range of sheet-piles, secant piles and diaphragm walls has little or no effect on wall deformations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - May 2010
EventThe DFI and EFFC 11th International Conference in the DFI series: Geotechnical Challenges in Urban Regeneration - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 May 201028 May 2010


ConferenceThe DFI and EFFC 11th International Conference in the DFI series: Geotechnical Challenges in Urban Regeneration
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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