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Benson, N.D., Haberfield C.M., Assessment of mass modulus of a weathered argillaceous rock.

ISRM 2003Technology roadmap for rock mechanics, South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 2003.

Assessment of mass modulus of a weathered


argillaceous rock
Neil D. Benson, Chris M. Haberfield
Golder Associates Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Australia
The assessment of overall modulus (or stiffness) of a fractured weak to moderately strong rock
mass is a key parameter in the design of civil engineering works in these materials. It also
provides the highest level of uncertainty due to scale effects, anisotropy and the influence of joint
frequency and joint stiffness. Using the example of the Melbourne Mudstone, this paper compares
approaches using empirical rules based on intact rock strength, laboratory testing, insitu field
testing, semi-quantitative assessment techniques based on rock mass classification and back
analyses.
L'valuation du module (ou rigidit) global dune masse rocheuse faible et fissure a modrment
forte est un paramtre principal dans la conception des travaux du gnie civil dans ces types de
matriaux. Elle fournit galement le niveau le plus lev d'incertitude due aux effets dchelle,
l'anisotropie et l'influence de la frquence et de la rigidit des joints rocheux. En utilisant
l'exemple du schiste de Melbourne, cet article compare des approches empiriques bases sur la
force intacte de La roche, les essais exprimentaux au laboratoire, les essais sur site, les techniques
semi-quantitatives d'valuation bases sur la classification de la masse rocheuse et les analyses en
retour.
Die Schaetzung des allgemeinen Steifigkeit-Moduls des gebrochenen schwachen bis zu maessig
starken Felsmassen ist eine Haupt- Annahme in dem Entwurf von Tiefbau-Projekten in diesen
Materialien. Es verursacht den hoechsten Grad der Ungewissheit in Folge der Groessenordnung,
Spaltorientierung und dem Einfluss der Haeufigkeit der Risse und Bruch-Steife. Unter
Verwendung des Beispiels des Melbourner Tonsteine, vergleicht diese Darlegung die Anwendung
der empirischen Regeln, die sich auf die Staerke des ungestoerten Fels Basieren mit Versuchen in
der Material Pruefungsanstalt, Untersuchungen auf der Baustelle und halb-quantitative
Schaetzungsverfahren, die sich auf die Felsmassen Klassifikation und fruehere Analysen stuetzen.

Introduction
The assessment of overall modulus (or stiffness) of a
fractured weak to moderately strong rock mass is a key
parameter in the design of civil engineering works in these
materials. It also provides the highest level of uncertainty
due to scale effects, anisotropy and the influence of joint
frequency and joint stiffness. Rock mass properties are
difficult to measure directly and their estimation has
historically relied on subjective assessments of rock mass
quality and measurements of intact values. Using the
example of the Melbourne Mudstone, this paper compares
approaches using empirical rules based on intact rock
strength, laboratory testing, insitu field testing, semiquantitative assessment techniques based on rock mass
classification and back analyses.
Melbourne Mudstone is a generic name used to
describe the open folded and faulted sedimentary deposits
comprising predominantly siltstones with some fine grained
sandstones and rare mudstones of Silurian and early
Devonian age that underlie the Melbourne area. The
weathering state, varying from extremely weathered to
fresh, was first classified for engineering purposes by
Bamford (1969) and Nielson (1970).
The saturated water content of the siltstone provides a
useful quantitative indicator of the engineering properties of
the intact rock varying from around 20% (void ratio 0.54)

for extremely to highly weathered siltstone to less than 1%


(void ratio 0.027) for fresh siltstone (Johnston and Chiu
(1984)).
Four major discontinuity sets are typically observed.
Joints in the less weathered material tend to be clean and
tight, planar to rough and undulating, although joints
containing clay seams up to 100 mm thick are not
uncommon. There are a number of significant faults in the
formation where the siltstone is highly sheared and
fractured. Minor faults, with sheared and slickensided
zones, parasitic concertina type folding and contortion of
bedding are common associated with the cores of the major
anticlinal and synclinal fold structures. Late Devonian age
intrusives are also common and associated with fault and
fracture zones and along fold axes.
The data presented in this paper has been collated from
various sources and projects over a considerable period.

Empirical Methods
Empirical relationships to assess rock mass modulus
based on intact rock strength (uniaxial compressive
strength, qu) have been proposed by a number of authors
(eg Deere, 1968; Hobbs;1974) .
Chiu (1981) presented the correlations for Melbourne
Mudstone between intact rock strength (qu) and intact rock
103

modulus (Ei) (measured at 50% of peak load) with


saturated water content for Melbourne Mudstone.
Reasonable correlations between qu and water content
(Figure 1) and secant Youngs modulus and water content
(Figure 2) exist but correlation between intact rock strength
and Ei/qu is poor (Figure 3).

been found to be unsatisfactory in practice. Given that the


properties and performances of rock fractures under
different stress regimes influence the relationship between
modulus of intact rock and the rock mass, the limitations of
correlations with RQD are acutely obvious from the narrow
range over which RQD operates (see Figure 4).

1000
RQD
0 30

60

90 100

100

q u (MPa)

100

10

10

15

20

W ater Content (% )

Figure 1: Correlation between intact uniaxial compressive


strength and saturated water content.
1000
Secant Youngs Modulus (G Pa)

0.1

10

dm3

0.1

0.5

10

100

0.2 joints/m3

1000

10 000 100 000

VOLUMETRIC
JOINT COUNT
BLOCK
VOLUME

Figure 4: Limited range covered by RQD (after Palmstrom,


2000)

100

10

0.1

0.01
0.0

5.0

10.0

15.0

20.0

2 5.0

W ater Content (% )

Figure 2: Correlation between intact secant Youngs


modulus and saturated water content.
1000

Modulus assessment using rock mass classification


systems have had some success. For example, Rock Mass
Quality (Q) system (Barton et al, 1974), Rock Mass Rating
(RMR) (Bieniawski, 1978; Serafim and Peraira, 1983).
However, these systems have limitations for the
Melbourne Mudstone which is a typically weak rock mass
with an intact rock strength generally in the range of 1 MPa
to 25 MPa (but can be as high as 80 MPa in fresh rock) and
typical Em values in the range of 0.1 GPa to 4 GPa (but
reach 10 GPa in massive slightly weathered to fresh
siltstone). The Q and RMR correlations are typically more
robust for rock environments where Em is greater than
about 10 GPa.
Hoeks Geological Strength Index (GSI) (Hoek et al.,
1995; Hoek and Brown, 1997; Marinos and Hoek, 2000)
which has a higher geological content in assessment of
lithology, structure and condition of discontinuities has
been found by the authors to have more practical
applications in the lower strength rock mass of the
Melbourne Mudstone. Hoek et al (1995) proposed a
variation on Serafim and Perairas 1983 amendment to
calculating rock mass modulus from RMR.
Em =

E/q u

10

20

cm3

100

10
0.1

10

100

Uniaxial C om pressive Strength, q u (MPa)

Figure 3: Variation of E/qu with qu for intact rock.


Correlations to extrapolate from moduli measured in
the laboratory on intact samples to insitu values have been
proposed using RQD and a modulus reduction ratio
(Bieniawksi 1978). This approach has, however, generally

104

10

50

c
100

GSI 10

40

.10

Sonmez and Ulusay (1999) suggested integrating


volumetric joint count Jv and Surface Condition Ratio
(SCR) (from Bieniawskis RMR Geomechanics
classification) into the assessment of GSI. This has been
found to provide reasonable results when assessing the
mass modulus of Melbourne Mudstone. It is considered to
be effective because the local correlations between
weathering grade, saturated moisture content and
unconfined compressive strength are well developed and
the weathering grade scheme is based on, a general,
homogeneous rock material degradation process. The
depth of highly and moderately weathered Melbourne
Mudstone can extend to 30 m before slightly weathered or
better rock is encountered. Typical ranges of GSI values
for the various weathering grades and water contents of

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Melbourne Mudstone are listed in Table 1 along with the


range of modular ratios Em/qu assessed using Equation 1.

compared to higher moisture contents. This is considered


to be a function of the greater stiffness contrast between
intact weathered rock and the joints (walls/infill material).

Table 1: Typical Parameters Melbourne Mudstone


Saturated
Moisture Content
8% - 12%
4%-8%
2%-4%
1%-3%

Highly
Moderately
Slightly
Slightly to Fresh
Fault/shear* zones

GSI
range
25-38
30-45
35-55
40-60
15-25

Em/qu
range
100 - 500
100 - 500
100 - 400
50 - 400

* Values are subject to weathering grade and intact rock strength of host rock

The values compare well with GSI estimates for siltstone


and siltstone/sandstone combination proposed by Marinos
and Hoek 2000.

100
0 - 4 joints/m etre
Initial Young's Modulus, E pm (G Pa)

Weathering Grade

5 - 10 joints/metre
11 - 20 jo ints/m etre

10

> 20 joints/m etre


200q u
400q u
1

0.1
50q u
100q u

Plate Load Tests

0.01
0

Plate load tests (up to 750 mm diameter) in the Melbourne


Mudstone are relatively limited and mostly documented in
a number of references from the 1970s and early 1980s
(Moore, 1977; McKenzie, 1977; Baxter and Bennet, 1981).
A summary of the Youngs Modulus assessed from plate
load tests after several load/unload cycles is presented in
Figure 5. As indicated in Figure 5, typical ratios of
modulus to uniaxial strength range from 100 qu to 400 qu.

Young's Modulus, E pl (G Pa)

100

10

400 q u
1

200 q u

0.1
50q u

100q u

0.01
0

10

12

14

16

18

20

W ater Content, w (% )

Figure 5: Correlation between Youngs modulus from plate


load tests and saturated water content.

Insitu Pressuremeter Tests


Considerable practical and research effort was undertaken
in the 1980s on the use of the pressuremeter to establish
engineering properties of the Melbourne Mudstone.
Johnston (1992) concluded that the response of the
pressuremeter in these materials reflected drained
conditions and that the Youngs Modulus for Melbourne
Mudstone could be reasonably derived from pressuremeter
tests. Figure 6 shows values of Youngs modulus derived
from the initial loading response of the pressuremeter
plotted against water content.
The results are also
identified with respect to joints per metre from the core
recovered from the pressuremeter test section. Of note is
the significant scatter which does not appear to show any
distinct dependence on joint spacing and the wider scatter at
low moisture contents (slightly weathered to fresh)

10

12

14

16

18

20

W ater Content, w (% )

Figure 6: Correlation between initial Youngs modulus


from pressuremeter tests and saturated water content.
The moduli assessed from pressuremeter tests in the
Melbourne Mudstone would appear to be influenced by the
location of the displacement gauges in the probe relative to
discontinuities/seams in the rock and to the characteristics
of these (eg. open or tight, clay filled, spacing, orientation
and so on) (Haberfield 1987). This is clearly illustrated in
Figure 6. Meaningful assessment of Youngs moduli from
pressuremeter tests therefore need to consider not only the
output from the test but also the characteristics of the rock
at the test location. Initial Youngs moduli assessed from
the pressuremeter test have been used successfully in many
large foundation projects around Melbourne involving
bored piles and shallow foundations.
As shown in Figure 7, the Youngs modulus assessed
from unload/reload cycles is significantly greater than the
initial modulus (note maximum measurable value of 12
GPa). Local experience indicates that unload/reload moduli
appear to be less dependent on joint characteristics and
have been found to give reasonable estimates of modulus
(as assessed from back calculation of field response) for
unloading situations such as deformations due to excavation
and tunnelling.

Pile Load Tests


Pile load tests can also be used to assess rock modulus
(Williams,1980; Williams and Ervin,1980). Values of
Youngs modulus obtained from static load tests are plotted
against water content in Figure 8. The closed symbols in
Figure 8 have been assessed from initial loading, while the
open symbols from an unload/reload cycle. The reload
stiffness for any particular test was generally stiffer than on
initial loading, however both values appear to fall within
the overall scatter of results as also observed in the plate
loading and pressuremeter tests. Other than one very low
value obtained from a pile in extremely fractured fresh
rock, most of the data suggests that a relationship of E =
200 qu to 300 qu would appear reasonable.

105

Reload Young's Modulus, Er (GPa)

12.00
10.00
8.00
6.00
4.00
2.00
0.00
0.00

2.00

4.00

6.00

8.00

10.00

12.00

Initial Youngs Modulus, Ei (GPa)

Figure 7: Comparison on initial and unload-reload moduli


from pressuremeter tests

Young's Modulus, E p (GP a)

100

10
400 q u
2 00 q u
1

0.1
100 q u
50 q u
0.01
0

10

12

14

16

18

20

W ater C ontent, w (% )

Figure 8: Correlation between Youngs modulus from pile


load tests and saturated water content

Summary
Test data from a number of types of laboratory and field
tests show reasonable scatter which is probably indicative
of joint characteristics and the scale of the tests undertaken.
However, there is clear indication that a reasonable lower
bound modulus for all but highly fractured/faulted
Melbourne Mudstone is 100 qu with most data lying in the
range of 100 qu to 400 qu. A similar range of modular ratios
is obtained using GSI. A value of approximately 50 qu
would appear reasonable for highly fractured and faulted
Melbourne Mudstone.

References
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Melbourne Underground
Railway investigations, in Engineering Geology Extension
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Classification of Rock Masses for the design of tunnel
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BAXTER D.A. and BENNET A.G. (1981). Aspects of
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