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DISCUSSION
Discussion of Field investigation of the axial resistance of
helical piles in dense sand1

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Zorany S.Z. Mosquera, Cristina de H.C. Tsuha, Jos A. Schiavon, and Luc Thorel

Introduction
The authors presented a very interesting full-scale study of the
axial response of helical piles in dense sand (Gavin et al. 2014). In
this work, a single helix pile installed in dense sand was tested in
tension and compression. Strain-gage measurements were used to
determine the load distribution and to separate the shaft resistance and helix bearing resistance. The instrumented single helix
pile had a 110 mm shaft diameter and a 400 mm helix diameter (D)
installed 2.44 m below the ground surface (the helix was installed
at a relative embedment of approximately 6D). The results of the
load tests in tension and in compression indicated that, for both
cases, the majority of pile resistance was mobilized by the bearing
helix. In addition, nite element analyses were performed using
Abaqus to provide additional insights on the pile response. They
used a nonassociative linear DruckerPrager to model the soil
behaviour and used the results of laboratory oedometer and triaxial compression tests (Tolooiyan and Gavin 2011) to provide input parameters for the nite element (FE) method soil models.
The paper under discussion compares the experimental and numerical results with respect to the loaddisplacement response. The
FE analysis indicated excellent agreement with the measured
pressuresettlement response of the bearing helix (base pressure)
mobilized during the compression load test. However, a comparison between the measured and predicted uplift pressure mobilized on the helix showed that the FE analysis overpredicted the
uplift resistance and stiffness developed during the tension loading test.
The authors commented that the poor prediction of the pile
response in tension occurred because the strength and stiffness
properties of the sand used in the numerical model were derived
from triaxial compression tests. In contrast, the numerical simulation of the compression test exhibited good agreement because
the sand below the helix is relatively unaffected by the installation procedure. However, as the sand above the helix experiences
severe strain due to torsional loading during pile installation and
this disturbance effect was not modelled in the simulation, the
prediction of the pile loaddisplacement response under tension
loading was not in good agreement with the experimental result.
The ndings of the paper under discussion demonstrate the
importance of considering the installation effects on the soil
above the helix in the numerical simulations and analytical solutions of the loaddisplacement behaviour of helical piles under
uplift forces. Regarding this importance, we present a comparison
between the uplift loaddisplacement behaviour of a single helix
pile in sand obtained by the centrifuge model test and by numer-

ical simulations using the three-dimensional nite difference program Flac3D (Itasca Consulting Group, Inc. 2012).

Installation effect on pile response under uplift


forces
During the installation of a helical pile, the soil traversed by the
helices experiences torsional shearing and is disturbed and displaced, mainly in a cylindrical volume with similar diameter to
the helices. Kanai (2007) observed through model tests that during
pile penetration, the soil at the lower edge of the helical plate
starts moving towards the upper edge. In addition, small-scale
model tests performed by Komatsu (2007) found that after the
installation of a helical pile, (i) the soil above the plate rises upwards, (ii) the soil close to the pile shaft is pulled down due to the
shaft friction, and (iii) the soil beneath the plate is compressed.
A Ph.D. thesis in preparation by discusser J.A. Schiavon investigates the installation effect of a single helix pile installed in dense
sand. In this study, a helical pile model was installed in dry sand
(Hostun sand with density index of 95%) at a centrifugal acceleration of 8.3g. Figure 1 shows photographs of this model pile after
installation and after a tension load test (performed in-ight) in
the centrifuge of IFSTTAR (Nantes). Figure 1a illustrates the disturbance that occurred within the cylindrical installation zone above
the helical plate. This gure conrms the observations of Komatsu
(2007) mentioned in the paragraph above.
Figure 1b indicates that, for a vertical uplift displacement of the
pile head of 0.2D, the soil directly above the helical plate controls
the pile performance. In this case, the properties of the disturbed
soil control the loaddisplacement response because the shear
surface will be within the cylinder. The photographs presented in
this gure, which indicate the cylindrical zone of disturbed sand
after helical pile installation, coupled with the results of the numerical simulation of Gavin et al. (2014) motivated the current
discussion.

Back-analysis simulation of loading test


In this Discussion, numerical analyses to simulate the uplift
loaddisplacement behaviour of a single-helix pile installed in
dense sand are presented. For this purpose, the discussers modelled the loaddisplacement curve of a tension loading test conducted on a helical pile model (model P4) in a centrifuge by Tsuha
et al. (2012). The prototype pile had a 98 mm diameter pile shaft
with a 326 mm helix at an embedment depth of 4.4 m (relative
embedment of 13.5D). The test was conducted in dry Fontaineb-

Received 30 April 2015. Accepted 15 May 2015.


Z.S.Z. Mosquera, C.deH.C. Tsuha, and J.A. Schiavon. Department of Geotechnical Engineering, University of So Paulo at So Carlos, Av. Trabalhador
Socarlense, 400, So Carlos, SP - 13566-590, Brazil.
L. Thorel. Earthworks and Centrifuge Laboratory, GERS Department, IFSTTAR, LUNAM Universit, F-44344, Bouguenais, France.
Corresponding author: Cristina de Hollanda Cavalcanti Tsuha (e-mail: chctsuha@sc.usp.br).
1Appears in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 51(11): 13431354 [dx.doi.org/10.1139/cgj-2012-0463].
Can. Geotech. J. 52: 11901194 (2015) dx.doi.org/10.1139/cgj-2015-0212

Published at www.nrcresearchpress.com/cgj on 10 July 2015.

Mosquera et al.

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Fig. 1. Photographs of helical pile models in dense sand: (a) after


installation; (b) after tension load test.

leau sand (NE34) with a relative density of 85% (soil unit weight =
16.3 kN/m3).
Two different numerical simulations of the pile load test were
performed through the nite difference code FLAC 3D (Itasca
Consulting Group, Inc. 2012). For the rst simulation (case 1), the
penetrated cylinder of soil above the helix is assumed to have the
same properties as the surrounding intact soil. For the second
simulation (case 2), the soil properties assumed for the cylindrical
volume above the helix are adjusted to simulate the installation
effect.
Figure 2 presents the model geometry for a single helical pile
subjected to a tensile axial load. The soil medium is divided into
two groups: cylindrical volume of soil above the helix (group 2)
and surrounding intact soil (group 1). Details of these numerical
simulations are presented in Mosquera (2015).
The helical pile was modelled as elastic steel with modulus of
elasticity (E) of 210 GPa and Poissons ratio () of 0.3. The soil
parameters used for modelling the Fontainebleau sand are summarized in Table 1. The values assumed for group 1 were obtained from the laboratory tests described in Tsuha et al. (2007)
and Andria-Ntoanina et al. (2010). In this approach, the constitutive law of MohrCoulomb was used to model the soil behaviour.
As mentioned above, for the second numerical simulation, the
soil above the helix (group 2) is assumed to be disturbed by the
helix installation. Because the installation effect on the strength
and stiffness properties of the disturbed soil is unknown, three
different hypotheses for the current model are evaluated to simulate the reductions in friction angle () and modulus of elasticity
(E) of the disturbed soil: H1, H2, and H3. The values of and E used
to simulate case 2 are presented in Table 1. The sand friction angle

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Fig. 2. Mesh geometry and zones of intact and disturbed soil.

for the disturbed cylinder of soil varies from a residual value of 30


to a peak friction angle of 41 (obtained by direct shear tests in
Tsuha et al. 2007). For these three assumptions, the modulus of
elasticity of the disturbed soil was reduced to provide the value of
pile uplift capacity (failure criterion equal to 10%D) found in the
centrifuge model test.
Figure 3 shows the relationship between a reduction factor
(RfE) applied to the modulus of elasticity obtained in triaxial
tests (Edisturbed = Rf EEtriaxial) and the ratio between measured and
the modelled uplift capacity. The values of Edisturbed used for the
simulations of case 2 are the optimum values obtained in Fig. 3
(when Q u measured/Q u model = 1) for the three hypothesis sand friction angles described in Table 1. This parametric study (Fig. 3)
demonstrates that in the experimental case simulated, for friction
angle values of disturbed sand varying from 30 (residual value) to
41 (obtained for the intact soil), the modulus of elasticity of the
soil above the helix varies from 20% to 30% of the E value obtained
from triaxial tests on samples prepared with the same sand
used in the centrifuge models. George and Clemence (2013)
measured the reduction of the elastic modulus immediately after
helical pile installation under laboratory conditions in clay and
found that installation practices reduce the elastic modulus by
25% to 45%.
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Table 1. Soil parameters used for numerical simulations.


Soil parameters for
group 1 (intact soil
around the pile)

Soil parameters for group 2 (disturbed


soil above the helix)

Simulations

()

E* (MPa)

()

E (MPa)

Case 1 (without
installation effect)
Case 2 (with
installation effect)
H1
H2
H3

0.3

41

40

0.3

41

40

0.3
0.3
0.3

41
41
41

40
40
40

0.3
0.3
0.3

41
37
30

8.4 (Edisturbed = 0.21 Etriaxial)


8.4 (Edisturbed = 0.21 Etriaxial)
11.6 (Edisturbed = 0.29 Etriaxial)

*Elasticity modulus of Fontainebleau sand obtained from triaxial tests of Andria-Ntoanina et al. (2010) in sand
samples with a relative density of 82%.
A reduction of 10% of the intact sand friction angle is proposed in Kulhawy (1985) to the shearing resistance along
the cylindrical interface.

Fig. 3. Parametric study: relationship between reduction factor applied to modulus of elasticity (RfE) and ratio between measured and
modelled uplift capacity: (a) hypothesis H1; (b) hypothesis H2; (c) hypothesis H3.

The uplift resistance developed on the helical model pile during


the pull-out test in a centrifuge is shown in Fig. 4. The measured
uplift resistance for a displacement of 0.1D (33 mm) is 137 kN.
Figure 4a shows that for the same displacement, the result of
the numerical simulation without considering the installation
effect (case 1) indicates an uplift resistance of 236 kN. In this case,
the numerical analysis overpredicted the uplift resistance, as observed in the paper under discussion. In contrast, the numerical
simulation considering the installation effect on the cylindrical vol-

ume of soil above the helix (case 2) presented in Fig. 4b exhibits a


satisfactory agreement with actual test results of the model pile
tested in the centrifuge. The three hypotheses of strength and stiffness parameters (H1, H2, and H3 presented in Table 1), assumed to
simulate the disturbed soil, provided similar loaddisplacement curves.

Failure mechanisms
The contours of displacement and stress in the vertical (z)
direction for the two simulations evaluated (cases 1 and 2) unPublished by NRC Research Press

Mosquera et al.

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Fig. 4. Measured and numerically predicted loaddisplacement curves obtained from: (a) simulation of case 1 (without installation effects);
(b) simulation of case 2 (considering installation effects).

Fig. 5. Contours of displacement (left) and stress (right) in z-direction: (a) case 1, (b) case 2, hypothesis H2.

der a displacement of 0.1D are shown in Fig. 5. These contours


emphasize the differences in the failure mechanism for both
simulations. Marked alterations are noted in the contours
when the effect of installation is applied to the numerical models. The displacement elds for both simulations indicate that
the vertical length of the mobilized zone above the plate is
smaller for the simulation assuming the installation effect.
Additionally, in this case, the failure surface is extended along

the interface between the disturbed zone and the undisturbed


soil mass. This failure mechanism of deep helical piles considering the installation effect is more realistic and agrees with
the experimental results. In the paper under discussion, because the
helical plate was installed in a lower relative embedment depth, a
shallow anchor failure mode was observed. Therefore, the failure
mechanism of Gavin et al. (2014) and the current simulation are
not comparable.
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Summary
The paper under discussion (Gavin et al. 2014) presents an interesting analysis of the axial resistance of helical piles in dense sand.
The authors conclude that the numerical simulation of the pile
response in tension, using the strength and stiffness properties
obtained in triaxial compression tests, overpredicted the uplift
resistance. In this case, the installation effect of the helical piles
was not taken into account. For this Discussion, a parametric
study was performed to investigate the effect of pile installation
on the properties of the soil above the helix. A numerical simulation of the uplift behaviour of a helical pile in dense sand was
adjusted using the result of a pull-out test on a pile model performed in a centrifuge. The contours of the numerical simulation
considering the installation effect on the pile uplift response demonstrate that the failure surface is developed in the interface between the disturbed cylindrical volume of soil (penetrated during
installation) and the surrounding undisturbed soil mass. The paper of Gavin et al. (2014) and the discussers preliminary results
suggest that further research into numerical modelling considering the installation effects for the prediction of the uplift behaviour of helical piles will provide valuable information to improve
the current state of the design of helical foundations.

References
Andria-Ntoanina, I., Canou, J., and Dupla, J.C. 2010. Caractrisation mcanique
du sable de Fontainebleau NE34 a` lappareil triaxial sous cisaillement monotone. Laboratoire Navier Gotechnique. CERMES, ENPC/LCPC.
Gavin, K., Doherty, P., and Tolooiyan, A. 2014. Field investigation of the axial

Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 52, 2015

resistance of helical piles in dense sand. Canadian Geotechnical Journal,


51(11): 13431354. doi:10.1139/cgj-2012-0463.
George, D., and Clemence, S.P. 2013. Effects of installation disturbance on elastic
modulus for helical anchor short-term uplift loading in clay. In Proceedings
of the 1st International Geotechnical Symposium on Helical Foundations,
Amherst, Mass., 810 August 2013. International Society for Helical Foundations. pp. 141152.
Itasca Consulting Group, Inc. 2012. FLAC3D Version 5.0. Fast Lagrangian analysis
of continua in three dimensions. Itasca Consulting Group, Inc., Minneapolis,
Minn.
Kanai, S. 2007. A seismic retrotting application by means of multi-helix micropiles. In Proceedings of the 23rd U.S.Japan Bridge Engineering Workshop,
Tsukuba, Japan.
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of Deep Foundations (IWDPF07), Yokosuka, Japan. Edited by Y. Kikuchi. Taylor
& Francis. pp. 253257.
Kulhawy, F.H. 1985. Uplift behaviour of shallow soil anchors an overview. In
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Mosquera, Z.S.Z. 2015. Probabilistic study of the behaviour of helical anchors
based on eld data and centrifuge model tests. M.Sc. thesis, Department of
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Carlos, Brazil. [In Portuguese.]
Tolooiyan, A., and Gavin, K. 2011. Modelling the cone penetration test in sand
using cavity expansion and Arbitrary Lagrangian Eulerian nite element
methods. Computers and Geotechnics, 38(4): 482490. doi:10.1016/j.compgeo.
2011.02.012.
Tsuha, C.H.C., Aoki, N., Rault, G., Thorel, L., and Garnier, J. 2007. Physical modelling of helical pile anchors. International Journal of Physical Modelling in
Geotechnics, 7(4): 112. doi:10.1680/ijpmg.2007.7.4.01.
Tsuha, C.H.C., Aoki, N., Rault, G., Thorel, L., and Garnier, J. 2012. Evaluation of
the efciencies of helical anchor plates in sand by centrifuge model tests.
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