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Computers and Geotechnics 67 (2015) 187203

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Research Paper

Mechanical and numerical behavior of groups of screw (type) piles

founded in a tropical soil of the Midwestern Brazil
C.C. Mendoza a,, R. Cunha b, A. Lizcano c,1

Department of Engineering, Civil Engineering, Pilot University of Colombia, Bogot, Colombia

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Braslia, Braslia, DF, Brazil
SRK Consulting, Vancouver, Canada

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 7 July 2014
Received in revised form 3 September 2014
Accepted 12 September 2014
Available online 3 April 2015
Standard pile group
Piled raft
Finite element analysis
Load test
Tropical soil
Foundation design

a b s t r a c t
This paper presents and discusses the behavior of standard groups and piled rafts constructed with helical screw piles founded in the typical soil of the Federal District of Brazil (DF). The paper initially
characterizes the soil deposit of a new Experimental Site in the DF via laboratory (standard characterization, triaxial) and eld (standard penetration and at dilatometer) tests. It then moves to explain a
recently adjusted (hypoplasticity) constitutive model that takes on consideration the inherent soils structure to simulate the behavior of this typical geotechnical material. The model was calibrated via point
load test analyses and incorporated into a nite element methodology (FEM) routine internal to the traditional Abaqus software. Real scale eld load tests on standard pile groups and piled rafts executed with
this pile type were carried out in the new site. FEM analyses were used to calibrate the model and to
expand the knowledge on the shearing mechanisms, generated stresses, displacement elds, load sharing, group efciency, and on the contribution of the supporting raft to the overall systems performance.
Conclusions of practical and academic interest are given for this new type of foundation employed in the
2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
The city of Brasilia, the Brazilian capital, is situated in the
Midwest central area of the country, a at plateau with a common
(tropical) soil deposit. Generally speaking, this region contains in
its initial few meters a highly weathered, laterized and collapsible
clayey type soil, locally known as the Braslia porous clay. Research
theses and past publications from the University of Braslia (UnB),
as those from Araki [1], Cunha et al. [2], Cardoso [3], Mota [4] or
Anjos [5] have already extensively studied this material and others
in the DF. Since it covers more than 80% of the districts surface, it is
also logical to study the behavior of deep foundation systems in a
site with similar characteristics, specially for piled rafts where the
soil-raft contact do intervene in the mechanical performance of the
Alluvial Anker piles, as locally known in Braslia, are a modied
type of the common helical screw pile (well described by Clayton
[6]). It has recently been introduced in construction sites in this
city [7] where the soil reinforcement is done underneath bridge
or viaduct abutments. It can also be adopted for light foundations
Corresponding author.

E-mail address: (C.C. Mendoza).

Previously with Geotechnical Research Group at the University of Los Andes.
0266-352X/ 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

in similar structures or others (transmission towers, silos, etc.).

Although it is not a new foundation technology, its usage, design,
and mechanical behavior, still lacks a better understanding for
the tropical deposits in which it is currently being founded.
Therefore, this paper focuses on the experimental behavior, on
the numerical simulation, and on the derived traditional variables
for group and piled raft systems, constructed in the tropical soil of
the DF with this pile type.
Real (large) scale load tests on several foundation systems constructed in a new Experimental Site in this city were carried out.
The site was thoroughly investigated via laboratory and in situ
tests in order to provide backbone data to calibrate geotechnical
models. The hypoplasticity was then adopted as the framework
for the constitutive model to be assessed herein. This model, with
the incorporation of the soils cementing structure, was further
developed and incorporated into a numerical FEM (Abaqus)
routine. With this tool, it was possible to carry out numerical simulations in which the load curves, the stress and strain regimes, the
failure and working loads, and the load share from the systems
components (soil, pile, raft), among other variables, could be
assessed. Some of them were directly compared to the experimental instrumented data (as the load versus displacement curves),
enabling conclusions on the mechanical behavior of the loaded


C.C. Mendoza et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 67 (2015) 187203

The paper discusses and concludes on aforementioned issues

that are undoubtedly of interest for practical design engineers or
researchers in this area. It is based on a recently defended D.Sc.
Thesis [8] of the University of Braslia.

2. Experimental Site
All the experiments are related to a new Experimental Site
located in Solotrat Ltds headquarters in the DF, in the outskirts
of the city of Braslia. Fig. 1 graphically depicts the location of
the city within the national (Midwest), regional (DF) and local (district) context. Approximate coordinates of the site are 15 480 5900 (S)
and 47 570 5800 (W), with a mean elevation of 1084 m above sea
Within this site several standard penetration tests with (SPTT)
and without (SPT) torque measurements were carried out, together
with Marchetti Dilatometer tests (DMT), and load tests on foundation systems (isolated-I, standard groups-PG and piled rafts-PR),
within a particular arrangement depicted in Fig. 2. Undisturbed soil
blocks were also retrieved from a trench excavated in the site (see
this same gure).
As previously noted, the main difference between the loaded
systems was the contact (PR), or not (PG), of the top raft with
the supercial soil during tests. In the particular conditions of
the former case, it was strictly followed the general denition of
Janda et al. [9] for PR systems.
As one can nally note in Fig. 2, systems of 16 piles (PG and PR)
were tested with distinct internal arrays for some cases, which
demanded a multitude of reaction piles (also depicted) all around
the systems.

3. Soil characteristics
3.1. In situ tests
SPT, SPTT and DMT tests were carried out in the site to geotechnically characterize it and to provide an initial basis of model
parameters for subsequent analyses. Disturbed samples from the
SPT thick-walled standard tube were also retrieved, and helped
in the visual & tactile assessment of the distinct soil layers. All tests
were carried out in accordance to the Brazilian NBR6484 (2001)
standard [10].
Fig. 3 presents both SPT and SPTT results, in terms of blow
counts and peak torque. It also describes the general division for
the layers at the site, in accordance to the following depths:
 05 m: reddish, very soft to soft, laterized silty sand (Braslia
porous clay), with water level around 4.5 m;
 58 m: brownish, medium to stiff, laterized sandy silt (Braslia
porous clay);
 89 m: white, stiff to hard sandy silt (transition layer);
 914 m: brownish, very stiff to hard silty clay (saprolite of
 Deeper than 14 m: yellowish hard sandy silt (saprolite of slate).
Flat Marchetti dilatometer tests were carried out, in accordance
to the U.S.A. ASTM D6635-01 standard [11]. Unfortunately just one
sounding with this test was possible, as the blade got stuck at
around 8 m depth, and damaged the rods.
Fig. 4 presents the intermediate variables from the unique DMT
carried out (respectively the indexes for horizontal stress and
material). From this data one concludes that the material behaves
as normally consolidated silty sand up to around 5 m and as an
overconsolidated sandy silt from 5 to 8 m.

3.2. Laboratory tests

Laboratory tests were performed not only to complement the
assessment of parameters of this new site, but also to evaluate
the performance (and calibrate) a new rheological model for the
soil. All tests were done with an undisturbed block sample
retrieved at around 3 m deep in the site, inside a trench (see
Fig. 2) excavated for this purpose.
Characterization tests were composed of sieving and sedimentation analyses, plus Atteberg limits. Based on that, the sample
was classied as CH by the Unied Classication system, with a
plastic Index of 12% and a natural unit weight around 15 kN/m3.
Ten triaxial tests in total were also performed, some of them with
distinct (shearing) velocities, others with relaxation of stresses,
some with distinct stress path trajectories and one test with an
unstructured sample. All tests were done in saturated conditions.
Four samples were initially submitted to an anisotropic consolidation in the triaxial chamber, with stress ratios (g = deviatoric/
mean stress q/p0 ) respectively equal to 0.50.0, 0.3, and 0.5.
Fig. 5 presents such results.
The rst consolidation was performed with a stress ratio of
g = 0.3 (Fig. 6) to a constant vertical strain velocity, and the point
where relaxation begins, and nishes, has a mean effective stress
of 335 kPa. After that, consolidation continued till a p0 of 535 kPa,
being unloaded to 5 kPa afterwards. The sample was then loaded
again to a p0 of 580 kPa. In addition, a test with this same stress
path was made in a sample without structure (Fig. 6). Two other
samples were then anisotropically consolidated from the initial
unload stage, with g equals to 0.00.5 and 0.5, as noticed in this
same Fig. 5.
The second consolidation was performed with a stress ratio of
g = 0.5 to a mean effective stress (p0 ) of 140 kPa, under a constant
vertical strain velocity, being followed by an unloading to the isotropic state (g = 0.0). Subsequently, in the same sample, consolidation was performed in isotropic conditions (g = 0.0) to a p0 of
590 kPa. Fig. 7 shows the consolidation curve for the sample at g
equals to 0.50.0, while Fig. 8 a similar one to an g respectively
equal to 0.5.
From Fig. 7 it is observed the change of preconsolidation stress
with the change of the stress trajectory. Note nevertheless that
both two trajectories do return to the same consolidation line.
In Fig. 8 a stress ratio of 0.5 was adopted, together with variable
velocities of vertical strain. The test was performed with a deformation rate of 0.01 mm/min, being suddenly changed to
0.001 mm/min afterwards. This variation was done at two distinct
effective stress levels to check the response to velocity rate effects.
The results are also consistent with the work presented by
Tatsuoka et al. [12], but on a smaller scale.
Six extra triaxial tests were also made, under drained and
undrained shearing conditions. Such results were used to obtain
both the critical state parameters and the deformability moduli
of the supercial soil. Fig. 9 presents the stress paths in the q x p0
The three samples sheared under undrained conditions (with p0
of 110, 200 and 300 kPa) had a constant vertical deformation rate
of 0.05 mm/min. Results in this gure show that the paths reach
the critical state line and continue through it, leading to a gain of
shearing resistance with strain. This is not a typical behavior for
clays, as illustrated by Roscoe et al. [13].
Moreover, it was also observed that the higher were the conning pressures the higher were the obtained peak deviator stresses
at unitary strain (Fig. 10b). A typical behavior in soil mechanics,
according to Whitlow [14].
The other three samples sheared under drained conditions
(equally with p0 of 110, 200 and 300 kPa) were tested with distinct
values of deformation rate, as shown in Fig. 10a. Again, to check on

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Fig. 1. Approximate location of Solotrats site (Google Maps and Earth and Arcview).

Fig. 2. Location details of systems and in situ tests.



C.C. Mendoza et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 67 (2015) 187203

Fig. 3. Stratigraphy and SPT-SPTT results.

the soils response to velocity rate effects. Results in Fig. 9 also

show that the paths reached the critical state line. Its noticeable
that shear velocity has no inuence on test results, indicating that
this soil has virtually no viscous effect.
An important aspect is the presence of cementation, similar to
those reported by Lagioia and Nova [15] for cemented soils.
Basically one notices that, to a mean effective stress of 110 kPa,
the cementing inuence in the soil stiffness corresponds to 7% of
the axial strain. To 200 kPa of stress, the inuence reduces to
24% of the axial strain, and to 300 kPa the corresponding inuence of the cementation decreases to values as lower as 1.5% of
the axial strain (Fig. 10a). This is an important aspect since these
values are similar to instrumented deformations of typical geotechnical structures.

3.3. Soil parameters

Fig. 4. DMT main results.

Fig. 5. Consolidation paths in triaxial compression at distinct stress ratios.

Using the interpreted data from in situ tests via well known
(empirical) equations proposed by Skempton [16], Meyerhof [17],
Clayton [18], Marchetti [19] and Lacasse and Lunne [20], together
with previously shown lab. (triaxial) data, it was possible to derive
estimates for strength and deformation parameters at each soil

Fig. 6. Curve of consolidation for triaxial compression with g = 0.3.

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had this contact with the top block (which needed to be constructed to load it), being also considered as a PR system. PG systems were simulated by excavating a gap underneath the raft
before the tests.
For the purpose of this paper only the tests loaded in the vertical direction will be presented, although laterally loaded tests were
also performed (see Mendoza 2013 [8]).
4.1. Alluvial Anker pile

Fig. 7. Curve of consolidation for triaxial compression with g = 0.50.0.

This geotechnical interpretation set was complemented by published results from the traditional UnB Experimental Site, which
has a similar soil prole (see Araki [1], Mota [4] and Anjos [5]).
Table 1 presents the original derived parameters, valid in the
context of a Mohr Coulomb rheological model, as initially interpreted for the Solotrat site. Laboratory results have also conrmed
that shearing velocity is not a key aspect of the problem, hence,
constitutive models without the viscous effect can be undoubtedly
used without detriment to the analyses.
In Fig. 6 the effect of the structure of the soil is related to the differences between the consolidation line of the unstructured sample and the corresponding one of the structured sample. Similar
effect is observed in Fig. 9, where cohesion is noted (in the space
q  p0 ) basically given by the structure of the soil.
4. Pile load tests
Several foundation systems were constructed in the
Experimental Site, side by side in a layout surrounded by reaction
piles that has facilitated the load tests.
The tests started on December 2010 (isolated pile) and nished
on June 2011 (6 piles PR). For each system (or no. of piles), the tests
with the soil in contact with the raft (PR) were always carried out
rst, followed by those without contact (PG), done in the same previously tested system.
One should note however that by the fact that PG systems were
carried out at the same previously tested ones (PR), and that an
excavation process took place from one series of tests to the others,
that some inherent input error may be included in the results,
given loadingunloading effects. Nevertheless, it is believed that
the errors may be of small magnitude to hinder the tendencies of
the correct results.
Fig. 11 depicts the general characteristics of the tested systems.
The triangular shaped system with 3 piles was solely tested
with the contact soil with raft (hence a PR). The single pile also

Fig. 8. Curve of consolidation for triaxial compression with g = 0.5.

As previously stated, Alluvial Anker piles were constructed, and

formed the basis of the foundation type in the loaded systems.
Figs. 1214 show the general aspects of this particular foundation, as well as a typical drilling hydraulic machine.
The piles were either executed with a nominal diameter of
17 cm and 12 m in length (reaction piles), or 13 cm dia. and 8 m
in length (tested piles).
The piles are done by continuous drilling with simultaneous
injection of a coolant uid, which can be water or a watercement
mixture (the latter was adopted herein).
The uid is injected through a rigid hollow steel tube with an
enlarged base (cone shaped cutting edge. See Fig. 12). The tube
itself forms the structural element of the pile, and is not withdrawn
after soil excavation. It is totally immersed, and surrounded, by the
pressurized watercement uid injected during self-drilling and
post drilling stages. Once cured, this uid forms the corrugated
shaft of the pile.
Fig. 15 schematically depicts the distinct execution stages of
this pile type, from the assemblage in the drilling machine to the
nal injection stage.
Perhaps one of the main advantages of the Alluvial Anker is the
execution time. Given the fact that it practically has in the same
stage both soil excavation and piles shaft reinforcement and execution, it can be indeed done in a fast manner.
Figs. 16 and 17 bring the average execution times for each of
aforementioned diameters, during drilling and subsequent postdrilling (injection) phases.
As one can notice, for the (optimum) conditions of the
Experimental Site, and taking on account that no major drawbacks
happened during eld operations (i.e., Murphys Law did not apply
in this case), an average execution time of 15 min. was accomplished per pile. This relates to the total time considering all execution phases.
4.2. Load test procedures
All tests were done in accordance to the Brazilian NBR 12131
(2006) [21] standard for slow maintained pile load tests.
Therefore, they consisted of equal increments by no more than
20% of the piles workload, followed by the load stabilization for at

Fig. 9. Stress path in drained and undrained conditions for normally consolidated


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Fig. 10. Stress and strain curves from for (a) CID triaxial tests and (b) CIU ones.

Table 1
Elasto-plastic (Mohr Coulomb) parameters interpreted for Solotrats Experimental
First layer
Friction angle
Elasticity modulus
Poissons ratio
Second layer
Friction angle
Elasticity modulus
Poissons ratio
Third layer
Friction angle
Elasticity modulus
Poissons ratio
Fourth layer
Friction angle
Elasticity modulus
Poissons ratio















least 30 min, during which displacement readings (1, 2, 4, 8, 15 and

30 min) are taken. The testing load is raised to a nal value equals
to two times the predicted workload of the pile, when the system is
nally unloaded.
For the load tests a hydraulic jack of 2000 kN capacity was
adopted, together with a load cell of 1 kN of internal resolution.
Displacements were measured by four analogical dial gauges with
resolution of 0.01 mm each, installed all around the base plate of
the jack.
Fig. 18 shows the arrangement of the testing elements on top of
the supercial rigid raft, while Fig. 19 a typical set up with reaction
frames and reaction piles.

4.3. Testing results

In total, twelve load tests were carried out in this site, being
seven related to PR systems and 5 to PG ones. Figs. 20 and 21
respectively show the obtained results for both systems.
Both gures contains a linear load x settlement relationship
that represents the conventional failure load criterion, in accordance to the Brazilian NBR 6122 (2010) [22] standard. It was

therefore based on this criterion that the ultimate load of each system was dened, in the intersection between the standard line and
the experimental load test result.
In some few cases where such intersection did not occur, due to
an insufcient displacement of the tested pile, the results had to be
extrapolated by the Van der Veen (1953) technique [23] (red line in
Figs. 20 and 21).
Fig. 22 shows the failure loads estimated by aforementioned
methodology, for both foundation systems. It is clearly noticeable
that PR systems do have a reasonable increase in load given the
contact of the raft with the supercial soil. The average increase
was in the range of 18% of the conventional failure load of the
PG systems, which is not negligible.
5. Constitutive models used in FEM
The selected constitutive models to the nite element simulations were, respectively, the hypoplastic with structure, the
standard elastoplastic one and the simple elastic model.
5.1. Hypoplastic with structure model
The rst tested model was the hypoplastic with structure. This
model was adopted in the rst layer of the strata (see Table 1),
where the soft Braslia porous clay prevails. It was further incorporated into the nite element simulations, yet to be presented.
In the present paper the proposal made by Masn [24] was chosen given the simplicity required to implement it into the code, as
well as recorded good accuracy. However, a brief discussion of the
soils structure and the constituent models with structure is presented next.
5.1.1. Introduction in the structured soils and constitutive models
The structure models were developed by research of Burland
[25], Leroueil and Vaughan [26], Adachi, et al. [27],
Anagnostopoulos, et al. [28], Cuccovillo and Coop [29], Cotecchia
and Chandler [30] among others. It has shown the difference in
the behavior of reconstituted and natural soils, explained such differences as the lack of structure (arrangement of particles and
bonds between particles) associated to natural soils. Based on that,
some researchers tried to develop constitutive formulations that
could take on consideration the structures effect. Among them,
one can name Gens and Nova [31], Vatsala, et al. [32], Liu and
Carter [33], Masn [24], Yan and Li [34]. The majority of formulations change the shape and size of the state boundary surface

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Fig. 11. Arrangement, location and characteristics of the tested foundation systems.

Fig. 12. Self-drilling steel tube and open tip-Alluvial Anker piles base and body.

(SBS) of the soil by two state variables (in functions of the stress
state): the rst is sensitivity (s) and second is the shift of the SBS
towards the tensile stresses zone (natural cohesion). It means that
the stress tensor (r) of the model is the tensor without structure
(rReconstituted ), besides of the stress tensor for the soil structure
(rStructure ) (Eq. 1), with a parallel coupling. This proposal has already
been made by Baudet and Wu [35] and Vatsala et al. [32], where
the stress tensor for soil structure (rStructure ) is a simple linear elastic relation which disappears with the increasing stress.

r_ r_ Reconstituted r_ Structure

5.1.2. Hypoplastic with structure model

The theoretical framework of hypoplasticity was developed by
Kolymbas [36] and dened with a continuous tangential stiffness
of the strain rate [37]. Afterwards Kolymbas performs the

Fig. 13. Adopted drilling machine.

formulation of its hypoplastic model and since then there have

been several modications as presented by Wu [38],
Wolffersdorff [39] and Niemunis [37] among others. Previous


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Fig. 14. Finished top of Alluvial Anker pile.

models were proposed for granular soils, nevertheless, there have

been extensions to represent the behavior of ne soils as proposed
by Niemunis [37] and Masn [24] to natural soils (with structure).

The modication in the hypoplastic with structure was the

incorporation of a structure degradation law by means of the proposal made by Baudet and Stallebras [40]. The proposal consists in
the incorporation of a larger size swept-out-memory (SOM) surface (this is a close approximation of the SBS), by altering
Hvorslevs equivalent stress by a scalar (s) value (in a constant volume section through SOM), as illustrated in Fig. 23.
The modication done by Masn [24] basically adds 3 new
parameters (s0 ; k; A). The rst (s0 ) is the initial value of the state
variable of the structure factor or sensitivity (s), shown in Eq. (3)
(law of degradation). The other factors in the equation are the
(sf ) factor, which is the limit to a stable state with a value of 1
(Fig. 23); the (k) factor, which is a parameter that controls the
degradation of the structure; k which is the slope of the virgin isotropic compressibility line, in a double natural logarithm chart; (d )
(Eq. (4)) which is a damage strain that depends on the volumetric
and shear strain rates; and the (A) factor which controls the importance of the shear strain, with values in the range 0 < A < 0:5. A
complete mathematical formulation of the model is given in
Appendix A.

The model is represented by Eq. A.1, where T is an objective

stress rate, D is the Eulers stretching tensor, L and N are fourth

Fig. 15. Schematic phases of the Alluvial Anker pile execution (after Barbosa [7]).

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Gauss point. This program follows the same methodology of

materials in the Abaqus software. It was written in Fortran code,
and inputs increases of strains and returns stress increments.
Given the previously mentioned (Section 3) anisotropic consolidations, CID and CIU triaxial data, it was possible in this stage to
directly compare numerical and experimental results. Figs. 2426
show such comparisons, illustrating a reasonably good agreement
of all trajectories, in the spaces e x p0 ; q x p0 and q x a . Table 2
species the derived model parameters, from aforementioned
The rst tested model was the hypoplastic with structure. This
model was adopted in the rst layer of the strata (see Table 1),
where the soft Braslia porous clay prevails. It was further
incorporated into the nite element simulations, yet to be
5.2. Elasto-plastic model
Fig. 16. Average time spent for drilling phase.

and second order [24] invariants. The model is written as a nonlinear increasing function of time to correlate stresses and strains.

T L : D NkDk


s_   s  sf _ d
_ d _ 2v
_ 2
1A s


The other ve variables of the model can be obtained from a

natural or a reconstituted sample, tested in a triaxial isotropic consolidated chamber.
The variables (k ; j ; N) are similar to those in the Cam-Clay (CC)
model, and can be assessed in a double logarithm chart. The variable (r) is obtained from undrained triaxial tests as the ratio
between the undrained bulk and the shear moduli. The (/c ) angle
is analogous to the (M) parameter, i.e., the slope of the critical state
line on the CC model.
The hypoplastic model with structure was then implemented,
and validated, with the incremental driver program [41]. This is
the program to implement constitutive models to the level of a

Fig. 17. Average time spent for injection phase.

The second model tested herein was a simple, standard, elastoplastic model that responds to the known Mohr Coulomb failure
criteria. This model has been implemented for the nite element
simulation. Due to fact that this model has only four parameters
and due to the fact that all of them have a physical explanation,
it has a great popularity in the geotechnical practices [42]. Given
its simplicity (and lack of data from a deeper prole), this model
was adopted in the remaining 3 layers of the strata (see parameters
in Table 1). It was also further incorporated into nite element simulations, yet to be presented.
In the elastic range, the relationship between stress and strain
tensor is linear, with two parameters: Youngs modulus (E) and
Poissons ratio (l). This behavior is valid until the stress-path
reaches the yield envelope, at which time plastic deformation
starts. The yield envelope is of a Mohr Coulomb type and there
are with it two soil parameters (/ = friction angle of the soil and
c = cohesion) associated.
5.3. Elastic model
The third model is an elastic model. This is a very simple model
where the relationship between the stress and strain tensor is linear by means of a elastic modulus, which is function of the Youngs
modulus (E) and Poissons ratio (l) [43]. This model is used in FEM
analyses of pile foundations under assumptions that the piled raft
is innitely rigid in comparison with the soil (therefore the soil
deforms rst and to a larger extent).

Fig. 18. Details of measurement system and rigid raft.


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Fig. 19. Typical arrangement of the static load test.

6. Finite element analyses

Finite element (FEM) analyses of all foundation systems were
carried out in order to verify the geotechnical parameters and
adopted layering (from previous sections), and the suitability of
the rheological models to properly simulate the physical phenomena. Besides, the FEM analyses were used to further calibrate the
parameters (allowing slightly value changes) in order to use this
technique to predict testing scenarios in a subsequent future stage
(which, by the way, is not covered here given space limitations).
The initial simulation steps and the nal calibration have also
expanded the knowledge on the shearing mechanisms, generated
stresses, displacement elds, load share, pile efciency, and on
the contribution of the supporting raft to the overall systems performance to be presented in this section.
6.1. FEM environment
Abaqus environment was used to enable the 3D analyses of the
systems. In all cases, boundary effects were avoided by placing the
center of the raft 30 (individual pile) diameters away from lateral
frontiers. Likewise, a distance of 1=2 pile length was left between
pile tips and the lower end. Fig. 27 schematically depicts the
geometry for the 6-pile (PG and PR) cases.

Fig. 20. Load test results for PR systems.

Given aforementioned aspects of the geometry, the next stage

was the generation of the 3D mesh. In order to reach a nal, optimum, condition in terms of simulation time, stability and quality
of response, several elements were tested in terms of type, size,
distribution and number (see Mendoza 2013).
Hence, C3D8 (continuous and 8 nodes), C3D8R (continuous, 8
nodes, and reduced integration) and C3D8P (continuous, 8 nodes
with pore pressure measurement) were respectively selected for
the dry soil/pile elements and the saturated soil. Fig. 28 shows
the geometry for the 1-pile (PG and PR) cases, and delineates contour conditions that were similarly adopted for all analyses.
Once the geometry was created, loads in the model were
applied in three sequential stages, as follows: Geostatic initial
overburden stresses; individual pile excavations (via element
extraction); and system loading (via constant strain rate till a total
vertical displacement of 15 cm).
The latter stage was carried out in drained mode, once raft elements were inserted into analyses (with gap, PG, or without, PR, to
supercial soil). The water level and a naturally consolidated K 0
were also considered for the soil layers.
Fig. 29 depicts the initial conditions adopted throughout the

6.2. FEM simulations

Comparisons between the numerical predictions after initial
adjustments and calibrations, and experimental data, are presented in Figs. 30 and 31 in terms of the overall load versus settlement curve.
The results clearly show that the FEM simulation was able to
grasp the overall physical behavior obtained in the eld, at least
in terms of the generated external displacements. Assuming that
this outcome sufces to assure a reasonable understanding on
the other aspects of the shearing mechanism, some extra (numerical) results will be presented and discussed next.
Fig. 32 for instance depicts the vertical displacements and stresses generated in the surrounding soil of the 5 pile PR system.
Although not shown here (but presented in Mendoza 2013 [8]) this
result is somehow similar to those from the other PR systems. It
was noticed that, in general, the stress bulb (inuence of up to
10% of applied stresses on raft) and the displacement bulb (likewise for raft displacement) can stretch vertically and horizontally
around the raft. A practical average number would be 4 times the
shorter dimension of the raft in the vertical direction, and 2 times
in the horizontal one.

Fig. 21. Load test results for PG systems.

C.C. Mendoza et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 67 (2015) 187203


Fig. 22. Ultimate (failure) load results.

Fig. 23. Isotropic compression behavior of natural and reconstituted soil (after
Masn [24]).

Fig. 24. Comparison to triaxial results: (a) Compression test with g = 0.00.5. (b)
Compression test with g = 0.3. (c) Compression test with g = 0.5.

Besides, the bulbs also extend vertically from the tip of the piles
to a dimension of around 23 times the piles diameter.
The main results from the numerical analyses in terms of the
direct comparison, and individual assessment, of the distinct PG
and PR systems are given next.
6.3. Main results from FEM analyses
6.3.1. Pile efciency
Efciency factor (g ) was calculated in accordance to the definition expressed in Eq. (5). It is basically a relationship between
the ultimate capacity of the group over the ultimate capacity of a
single pile similar to those in the group, without inclusion of any
effect of the raft. Group efciency (Ge ) on the other hand was calculated in accordance to Eq. (6). This variable expresses the
relationship of the average (pile) load in the group divided by the
load of a (similar) single pile at the same vertical displacement of
the group. Both equations are solely valid for the PG systems.


g P P


where P PG = ultimate load capacity of the group; g = efciency factor; np = number of piles; and P P = ultimate capacity of a similar single pile.

Fig. 25. Comparison of stress paths for CID and CIU triaxial tests.


P wrk


where Ge = group efciency; P wrk = working load of PG system

(equal to ultimate/1.5); np = number of piles; and P sng = load of a
similar single pile at same group displacement.
Given the fact that the single pile had a contact of the raft with
the soil (being considered as a PR), its experimental value could not


C.C. Mendoza et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 67 (2015) 187203

Fig. 26. Left: Comparison of stress paths in drained conditions; Right: Similar for undrained conditions.

Table 2
Model parameters with simulations.












Fig. 28. Mesh for analyses of 1-pile systems.

Fig. 27. Boundaries for analyses of 6-pile systems.

be employed in equations (Eqs. (5) and (6)). Hence, Table 3 solely

presents the results from the numerical simulations.
An average efciency factor of 0.97, i.e., approximately one, was
obtained indicating that with the given geometric disposition of
the systems (pile to pile distances), there were almost zero detrimental effects given by the superposition of individual stress and
displacement (pile) bulbs. It also means that pile group failure
rather than block failure did happen (taking on account nomenclature given by Mandolini et al. [44]), thus conrming the pseudoindependent behavior from each of the piles of the group.
Moreover, an average group efciency of 92% was obtained,
indicating that under similar displacements, a pile within the
group had a slight smaller load than the equivalent one of a similar
single pile. It points out to a small, but existing, interaction
between the piles of the group.

6.3.2. Load share

Load share between each element of the PR foundation system,
i.e., piles and raft, was also derived with the numerical simulations.
These individual loads were then divided by the systems ultimate
loads (capacity) and by their working loads (ultimate/2.0), as
respectively presented in Figs. 33 and 34.
In both cases similar tendencies were noticed. That means, the
higher is the number of piles in the system, the lower is the (percentage) load share taken by each pile individually. For instance,
note that for the single 1pile-PR, the pile contributed with more
than 80% of both ultimate and working loads of the system,
whereas for the 6piles-PR the individual contribution has
decreased to values lower than 20%.
Besides, in terms of the load absorbed by the raft and by the
group itself (sum of each piles contribution), it is also clearly seen
that the higher is the number of piles, the higher will also be the
importance of the raft to the overall systems capacity (with the
exception of the larger 6piles-PR system). For instance, note again
that for the single 1pile-PR, the relative weight of the raft to the
overall (ultimate and working) capacity is very low compared to
the piles importance. Nevertheless, although still small, as one
move towards higher (pile) number PR systems, the relative contribution and weight of the raft slightly increases.

C.C. Mendoza et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 67 (2015) 187203


Fig. 29. Initial conditions of FEM analyses.

Fig. 30. Comparison of results for PR systems.

6.4. Main experimental results

6.4.1. Rafts performance
A direct comparison between PG and PR systems yields a
quantitative (and indirect) measurement of the performance of
the raft to the overall systems behavior, or, in other words, how
much the system improves by having a close contact between the
raft and the supercial soil.
Thus, a practical result gathered from previous numerical analyses would be the average value of the raft contribution (in percentage) to either ultimate or working loads of the systems. In both
cases, and for all systems, an average raft load of 12% was calculated with such analyses.
Perhaps this performance is related to the (poor) supercial
characteristics of the porous Braslia clay. Indeed, Janda et al. [9]
have already noticed similar behavior from numerical analyses of
CFA (continuous ight auger) pile-PR systems founded in the
UnB Experimental site. In this particular case, the raft had the ability to increase the bearing capacity by only 15% for the simulated

Fig. 31. Comparison of results for PG systems.

Another way of checking this performance is given by the bearing capacity coefcient fPR , as dened by Eq. 6.



where fPR = capacity coefcient; P PR = load capacity of the PR system; and PGP = similar capacity of the PG system.
According to Mandolini et al. [44] fPR may be assumed as a measure of the increase of bearing capacity due to raft-soil contact. It
was calculated and presented in Table 4 with experimental, rather
than numerical, results.
Results from Table 4 clearly indicate the small, but benecial
effect of the raft (in average 18%, as noticed for Fig. 22 too).
Besides, it agrees with Mandolini et al. [44] accounts that such factor should decrease with an increasing No. of piles.
Also according to these authors, there is a critical spacing ratio
(scrit /d) for a PR system above which the failure changes from block
failure to a pile group one. This latter case is related to an almost
(pseudo) independent pile behavior, that fails without much of
interaction with adjacent piles, or with the systems components


C.C. Mendoza et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 67 (2015) 187203

(a) Vertical displacements

generated in the simulation.

(b) Vertical stress generated in the


Fig. 32. Soil displacements and stresses around 5 pile PR system and along depth.

Table 3
Efciency factors from numerical simulations from PG systems.

Load [kN]






Fig. 34. Load share between components of the PR system, in relation to the
working loads.

(raft and soil around). Moreover, PR systems that fail as a pile group
tend to have fPR greater than one.
Taking on account results from Table 4, and the fact that spacing ratios above 4 are noticed for the systems of Fig. 11, one can
conclude that they indeed failed as pile group ones (which by the
way has already been noted in the section of load share).

Fig. 33. Load share between components of the PR system, in relation to the
ultimate loads.

6.4.2. Displacements at capacity load

Cunha and Sales [45] report a eld investigation on the behavior
of piled raft foundations in the UnB Experimental Site, where four

C.C. Mendoza et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 67 (2015) 187203

Table 4
Experimental bearing capacity coefcients using data from both PG and PR systems.

Ultimate load
P PR [kN]

P PG [kN]





Table 5
Experimental results using data from the PR systems.



Ultimate values
P PR [kN]
D [mm]

B [mm]

D/B [%]







PR systems were loaded at distinct conditions of soils water content and individual geometries. The settlements attained during
the tests ranged between 20 and 45 mm, and in any case, the
PR systems did not reach a settlement larger than 3% of B (systems
breadth) at the maximum load.
Using the available data for the experimental PR systems, it was
also possible to construct Table 5. This table presents the values of
load (PPR ) and displacement (D) at ultimate conditions (in accordance to the Brazilian conventional failure load criterion). It also
brings the breadth of each of the systems and the relationship D/B.
As noticed, the systems reached an average settlement around
2.6% of B, the shortest rafts dimension. This value agrees with
aforementioned results for similar soil conditions. Similarly as
other (previously given) numbers in this paper, this relationship
can be adopted as a practical design number in a rst rough




7. Conclusions
This paper focused on the experimental and numerical behavior
of standard groups and piled rafts constructed with helical screw
piles (a novel feature in the region), founded in the typical soil of
the Federal District of Brazil. This is a particular tropical and laterized soil, which characteristics that can be somehow found in other
deposits of the Midwest region of this country.
The paper investigated and characterized a new Experimental
Site, presenting an overview of the main geotechnical parameters
for a simple elasto-plastic model via laboratory and in situ tests.
Specic point load (lab) tests were coupled to numerical FEM
analyses to calibrate a new (modied) hypoplastic model that
can incorporate the soils structure. This model was further adopted
into numerical simulations to include some of the complex features of the supercial porous clay strata of the site.
The calibrated numerical tool aimed the expansion of the
knowledge on the behavior of the tested foundation systems, in
terms of traditional (piled raft) variables, design considerations,
and overall (shearing and displacement) mechanisms. Practical
and academic conclusions of real added value for professionals of
the studied region or elsewhere are given, as follows:
1. Hipoplasticity with the modications proposed in the present
paper has proved to grasp reasonably well the main, complex,
geotechnical characteristics of the supercial tropical soil of
the Federal District of Brazil. This rheological model can


denitively be used into numerical simulations as those presented herein, to acquire knowledge on the approximate behavior of common engineering structures founded on this
particular strata.
For (pile group) systems under similar conditions as those studied herein, the average efciency factor is close to unity, indicating that detrimental effects given by the superposition of
individual stress and displacement bulbs are negligible. It also
means, and conrms, that individual pile failures, rather than
block failures, are the main shearing mechanisms that takes
place underneath the systems during soil plastication.
Besides, at identical displacement levels, a pile within the (pile
group) system has a slight smaller load than the equivalent one
of a similar single pile. This feature leads to a conclusion that,
although small, there is indeed some interaction between the
piles of the group.
For (piled raft) systems under similar conditions as those studied herein, the region of inuence (stress and strain bulbs)
around the raft can stretch to around 4 times the rafts breadth
in the vertical direction, and 2 times in the horizontal one. This
bulb also extends downwards below the pile tips, within a zone
of around 23 times the piles diameter.
Besides, for such (piled raft) systems, there is a load share
between the elements that compose the system, i.e., raft, piles
and surrounding soil. The contribution of the raft to the total
load is not high, but nevertheless not insignicant. It has been
shown that the raft was able to absorb a value in the range of
12% of the total (ultimate or working) load. As one move
towards systems with higher number of piles, hence with larger
raft dimensions, the relative importance of the raft to the total
systems capacity slightly increases, as it also decreases the percentage of load share taken by each pile individually.
Finally, it is clearly noticeable that (piled raft) systems do have a
reasonable increase in load given the contact of the raft with the
supercial soil. It has been shown an average increase in the
range of 18% of the conventional failure load of standard (pile
group) systems, which is by no means negligible. Moreover, at
such ultimate conditions, it has also been shown that (piled
raft) systems do not displace more than around 3% of the rafts
breadth in the vertical direction.
Helical screw piles have shown to be feasible to be employed in
the region under certain construction characteristics (viaducts,
soil reinforcement, small structures, and so on), where the fast
speed of execution (15 min) and eld behavior (slender friction
piles for compression or tension loads), add a striking competitiveness to this pile when compared to other solutions.

Although the range of the numerical analyses of the present

paper was limited in scope and dimension, generalized conclusions
have been drawn, and knowledge was undoubtedly generated. The
provided information can of course be referenced as an initial
guideline in the design of similar foundation systems for the
region, or perhaps in others that equal conditions apply. It also
serves as a rough insight in the complex soil-structure problem
that is related to particular foundation systems constructed in
regions of structured, laterized and tropical soil deposits.
This study was made possible through an existing joint technical co-operation research program from the Pilot and Los Andes
Universities in Colombia and the University of Braslia in Brazil,
where students and professors from both institutions were able
to correspond and interact.
The authors also thank the Brazilian sponsorship organizations
CNPq and CAPES for all related support in this and in all other


C.C. Mendoza et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 67 (2015) 187203

studies carried out by the second author, either in terms of personal research grants, or via sabbatical and student scholarships.
One of such scholarships allowed the rst author to pursue his
Doctorate in Brazil, strengthening the cooperation links between
this country and his homeland.
The rst author thanks to the project Study of the mechanical
behavior of bases for pavements constructed with soilcement
mixes for the nancial support.
Appendix A

T f s L : D f s f d NkDk


Dening (T) as the change rate of the Cauchy stress tensor in

time, (D) as the rate of change of strain in time, the fourth-order
tensor (L) (Eq. (A.2)) and the second-order tensor (N) (Eq. (A.9)).

1  2
c1 F I c2 a2 T


(L) is a constitutive fourth order tensor which is function of the

b (the Cauchy stress tensor (T) divided by the trace
stress tensor ( T)
tensor) and the criterion of the critical state of MatsuokaNakai
(F) (Eq. (A.3)), a ) (Eq. (A.4)), as well as scalars of the factor (c1 )
(Eq. (A.5 and (c2 ) (Eq. (A.6)), and nally (I) is a fourth order tensor

2  tan2 w
tan2 w
 p tan w
2 2 tan w cos 3h 2 2
33  sin /c
2 2 sin /c


Factors (c1 ) and (c2 ) relate to the material compression law in

(a) (Eq. (A.7 and (r) is a constant of the ratio between bulk modulus
and the undrained shear modulus. Also, it is already taken into
account the inuence of the structure factor (Si ) (Eq. (A.8)).


f s Si  3 a2  2a a 3



The equations needed to implement the model in a UMAT (used

material) for Abaqus program are given below:
The basic equation is shown in Eq. (A.1).

(Si ) factor. In the (f d ) factor the Hvorslev stress is multiplied by a

scalar (s) with the addition of the structure.

p !
23 a2  2a 3a

c2 1 1  c1 2

k  j Si 3 a2

k j Si a 3
ln 2
s  s  sf


Tensor (m) (Eq. (A.10)) and function (Y) (Eq. (A.11)) can be used
to obtain the tensor (N) (Eq. (A.9)) with the materials ow rule.
Function (Y) (Eq. (A.11)) relates the critical stress with the stress
tensor invariants function.

N L : Y
b 6T
a b b  T

3 a 2 T
I1 I2 9I3 1  sin uc
3 a2
8I3 sin uc


To complete the components of the equation there are the scalar

factors (f s ) (Eq. (A.12 and (f d ) (Eq. (A.13)) representing picnotropy
and barotropy factors of the material. They are affected by the soils
structure (f sr ) factor (factor unstructured model f s ) multiplied by a

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