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Modeling of Rocking of Shallow Foundation with Contact Element Method

University of California, Davis Professor Boris Jeremic Winter 2005 George Hu

INTRODUCTION For a simple wall-footing system with rigid footing, allowing uplifts can be beneficial under earthquake loading. Taylor et. al. (1981) theorized that energy can be dissipated when the subsoil beneath the footing yields. However, much more researches were needed to fully understand the nonlinear load deformation behavior of such system. Owing to the benefits of technological development of centrifuge testing, six series of tests were performed at the University of California, Davis to study the behavior of shallow foundation during cyclic and earthquake loading. In this paper, findings from these centrifuge tests will be summarized. An analytical modeling called Contact Element Model developed by Gajan et. al. and based on these findings was utilized. Discussions on some preliminary results from contact element model are also presented.


At the Center of Geotechnical Modeling at the University of California, Davis, the 9.1m radius centrifuge with 20g acceleration capacity was used to perform six series of tests.

Fig. taken from Gajan et. al.

Figure 1 shows the model of the wall-footing system. Five series of tests were conducted in dry sand of relative density of 80% and 60% and one series of test was on saturated clay with Cu=100kPa. The initial static vertical factors of safety of footings were varied from 2 to 10. The displacement of the system was measured by a load-cell two horizontal and two vertical linear pententiometers attached to the wall and forces were measured by a load-cell attached to the actuator. Detail on experimental setups, testing procedures, and the method of data processing for all the tests are in Kutter et. al (2003) and Gajan et. al. (2004).


From the moment-rotation relationships, energy is dissipated at the footing soil interface just as theorized.

The moment capacity did not decrease with number of cycles or with amplitude of rotation, but the rotation stiffness decreases with increasing amplitude of rotation.

The accumulation of permanent settlement beneath the footing accumulates with each cycle. The rate of increase in settlement per cycle decreases with the number of cycles applied, because as the footing settles down, the depth of embedment increases, overburden stresses increase, and vertical stiffness also increase, thus the rate of increase of settlement reduces.

At large rotation amplitudes, the base of the footing looses contact with the footing soil due to uplift.

The gap formed on one side of the footing causes yielding of the soil on the other side of the footing, and the yielding of the soil on the other hand increases uplift.

High amplitude of lateral loading causes rounding of the soil beneath the footing. The rounding of the soil causes the nonlinear moment rotation relationship and the degradation of rotational stiffness due to closing of the gap.


Plaster was cast at the structures footprint after selected tests to preserve the imprint for subsequent analysis of the shape of the soil surface beneath the footing. Footing imprints measured with Computer Measuring Machine illustrated at the foundation soil interface, which cumulated during the slow-cyclic lateral push tests. The contact area between footing and soil decreases due to the partial separation of the footings from the soil. Because of uplifting of the footing on one side, the contact length decreases and the rounding of soil become significant. Nonlinear bearing pressure distribution in the soil beneath the contact length during moment loading develops. The location of the resultants of the bearing pressure distribution changes with the rotation of footing determines the moment-rotation behavior.


Under static loading condition, a shallow footing can be assumed to be in contact with the subsoil over the entire area. In ATC (1997a), the concentration of stress is idealized to be rectangular, which is the same idealization as Taylor et al (1981). When overturning moment is applied and uplift occurs, Taylor et. al. assumes the contact stress to be triangular as shown in figure 3 and figure 4 for cohesionless soil. However, based on the centrifuge testing results and the study of the rounding of the soil beneath the footing under overturning moment and rotation, the behavior is more complicated than that.

Another important finding in from the centrifuge is that a parabolic shaped bearing pressure distribution for the Winkler mesh gives more reasonable results to experimental results. Also the Winkler mesh is least sensitive to the magnitude of tension capacity provided in the springs.

Fig. 2 Idealized concentration of stress at edge of rigid footings subjected to overturning moment. (after ATC, 1997a)

Fig. 3 Contact Stress with partial separation. (after Taylor et. al. 1981)

Fig 4 Contact Stress on cohesionless soil.


Taylor et. al. used Winkler model to model the soil behavior under the foundation footing. Modification was made to allow partial uplift separation of the footing from the subsoil and the effect of plastic deformations. The subsoil is assumed to act as a uniform bed of springs as shown in figure 5. While under eccentric loading, the contact stress is triangular. Taylor et. al. acknowledges that this model does not

account for continuity of the subsoil and can provide only an approximation. A comparison of the theoretical response to the experimental response of the footings is shown in figure 6 and 7, respectively. The relationship between moment and rotation is quite different. The theoretical maximum moment is higher by about 500 Nm for rotation of 20 m radians. Also the hysteretic loop of the experimental results is very different from that of

Fig 5-Winkler model from Taylor et. al. (1981)

Fig 6. Theoretical response of footing on sand (Taylor et. al. 1981)

theoretical results. When comparing the experimental response of displacement and rotation to the theoretical response, the behavior is totally different. The magnitude of the settlement is much higher experimentally than theoretically.

In light of this, contact element method is developed by Gajan at the University of California, Davis improvements based on the findings from centrifuge test. In this method, the bearing pressure distribution along the contact length of footing is no longer linear, but nonlinear. Using the geometry of the rounded soil surface beneath the footing due to foundation rocking, the model implements more accurate location of contact length and bearing pressure during rocking. Another advantage comparing to the Winkler model used by Taylor et. al. is that the springs are not independent, but related to one another. This allows for more continuity of the behavior of subsoil.

Fig 7 Experimental results of footing on sand (Taylor et al. 1981)

In contact element model, the footing and soil is considered as a single element. The contact element model keeps track of the shape of the soil and the contact area beneath the footing during rocking of foundation. With this information, the bear pressure distribution along the contact area is calculated for a specific time frame. Also the elastic rebound and plastic bulging of soil is calculated. More details on this model can be found in Gajan et. al. Comparison of experimental results from centrifuge test and this model is shown in figure 8, and the results seem very promising due to better bearing pressure distribution.

Fig 8 comparison of contact element results to experimental (after Gajan et. al) SIMPLE ANALYSIS WITH CONTACT ELEMENT MODEL

A simple analysis was performed with the contact element model in OpenSees. The analysis involves a simple column of height of 5m on a rigid foundation with a specified with. The column is assumed to be elastic. No horizontal displacement is allowed in this analysis. The system in OpenSees is made up of 3 nodes. A schematic is shown in figure 9.
Node 3 Elastic column Rigid slab

Node 1 and 2 ZeroLengthSection

Fig 9 Schematic of footing in OpenSees

Numerical analysis using contact element model was performed with a slow cyclic (sine wave) horizontal load of 100kN at node 3. With the cross sectional area remaining constants, parameters including footing width, vertical stiffness of soil (Kv), factor of safety, and ultimate vertical load were varied. The properties of soil (eg. Friction angle) can be back calculated using general bearing capacity equation.

qult = L * B * ( c * N c + q * N q + 0.5 * * B * N ) N q = e * tan tan 2 ( 45 + / 2 ) N = 2 * ( N q + 1 ) tan


Ultimate moment can be calculated by using equation 2.

M max =

V*L 1 (1 ) FS 2


Initial vertical load can be is indirectly applied by initiating ultimate vertical load and factor of safety. The initial vertical load can be calculated by using equation 3.


Vult FS


A series of analysis was performed keeping vertical stiffness of soil at 80MPa, factor of safety of 4, and ultimate vertical load of 2MPa, and varying footing width. When these settings are used, the friction angle is actually indirectly being changed along with changing width. This is because that general bearing capacity equation is a function of friction angel, footing width, footing length, and unit weight. If the footing width is varied and tried to keep footing length, unit weight, and beating capacity constant, phi

would have to change as well, therefore energy dissipation and settlement for fig 10 and 11 is normalized by friction angle with footing width is changing.
8 Energy dissipated Normalized by friction angle (kN*m*rad) 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 0 2 4 6 Footing Width (m)

Vult=2MPa FS=4



Fig 10 Energy dissipation with footing width and footing width

0.025 Vertical Settlement normalized by friction angle (m) 0.02 0.015 0.01 0.005 0 0 2 4 6 Footing Width (m) Kv=80MPa Kv=40MPa Kv=10MPa 8 10 12 Vult=2MPa FS=4

Fig 11 Permanent vertical settlement

Energy dissipation is calculated by taking the area of the hysteretic loop from moment-rotation plot similar to figure 8. The amount of energy dissipated increases with decreasing vertical soil stiffness. This is reasonable because as the soil becomes softer, more energy is dissipated into the soil. As Taylor et. al. concluded, permanent settlement results when uplifting of foundation is allowed. Therefore, as figure 12 shows, the total vertical settlement follows similar trend as the amount energy dissipated. Also energy dissipation is decreasing with wider footing width, because the contact area is larger for the same applied vertical load.

Another series of analysis was performed by varying factor of safety. When factor of safety is changed the static vertical load is indirectly changed as well, because the ultimate vertical load is kept constant. Therefore the energy dissipated is normalized by vertical load.

Total Energy Dissipation normalized by static vertical load and footing width

0.025 0.02 0.015 0.01 0.005 0 0 20 40 Kv (MPa)

FS=4 Vult=2MPa Footing Width=2.8m Col. Height=5m




Fig 13 Energy dissipated with changing Kv and FS

The result shows that as the soil vertical stiffness increase, totally energy dissipated decreases. With factor of safety increases, the energy dissipation increases. This is because the column becomes stiffer, thus more energy is transmitted to the soil, which is then dissipated due to the nonlinearity of soil.

0.0025 Total Energy Dissipation (normalized by V*B)


Kv=80MPa Vult=2MPa Footing Width=2.8m Col. Height=5m




0 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 FS 2.5 3 3.5 4 4. 5

Fig 14 Energy dissipated vs. normalized energy dissipation PRELIMENARY CONCLUSION AND REMARKS

These results agree with general findings from centrifuge tests. Energy is dissipated due to the nonlinearity of soil. Permanent vertical settlement as a result of nonlinearity of soil when foundation is allowed to uplift. Only general conclusions from these series of analysis can be made because the model that was analyzed was a very simple model. Also the variation of parameters for these analyses indirectly changed many other parameters. Some of the conclusions are: Amount of energy dissipation decreases with increasing footing width Amount of energy dissipation increases with decreasing vertical soil stiffness Settlement and the amount of energy dissipation is relates linearly. Settlement decreases with increasing footing width. Settlement increases with decreasing vertical soil stiffness. Amount of energy dissipation increases with increasing factor of safety.

Further study and analysis is required with contact element model, because each parameter changed may be indirectly changing other parameters. Also a more realistic column should be used, such as including plasticity and yielding.


1. Gajan, S., Kutter, B.L., and Thomas, J.M. Physical and numerical modeling of cyclic moment-rotation behavior of shallow foundations, 2. Gajan, S., Phalen, J.D. and Kutter, B.L. (2003). Soil-Foundation Structure Interaction: Shallow Foundations. Centrifuge Data Report for the SSG Test Series, Center for Geotechnical Modeling Data Report. 3. Kutter, B.L., Harden, C., Hutchinson, T., and Martin, G.R. (2004). Numerical Modeling of the Nonlinear Cyclic Response of Shallow Foundations, PEER report. 4. Rosebrook, K.R. and Kutter, B.L. (2001), Soil-Foundation Structure Interaction: Shallow Foundations. Centrifuge Data Report for the KRR Test Series, Center for Geotechnical Modeling Data Report. 5. Taylor, P.W., Bartlett, P.E. and Weissing, P.R. (1981). Foundation Rocking Under Earthquake Loading, Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering, Vol. 3, pp 33-322