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Introduction

Stresses imposed on the soil by the weight of the overburden or by structural loads may cause

strengthening of the soil mass or failure depending on the method of application of the load and distribution of the

stresses.

If a vertical load of 1 ton is applied to a column of 1 sq.ft cross-sectional area, and the column rests directly

2

on a soil surface, the vertical pressure exerted by the column onto the soil would be, on average 1 ton/ft (neglecting

the columns weight). In addition to this pressure at the area of contact between column and soil, stress influence

extends both downward and outward within the soil in the general area where the load is applied. The increase in

pressure in the soil at any horizontal plane below the load is greatest directly under the load and diminishes

outwardly. The pressures magnitude decreases with increasing depth.

Stress distribution in soil is quite important to soil engineers particularly with regard to stability analysis and

the settlement analysis of the foundation.

Vertical Pressure below a Concentrated Load

There are two methods for calculating pressure below a concentrated load the Westergaard Equation and

the Boussinesq Equation. Both of these result from the theory of elasticity, which assumes that stress is proportional

to strain. Implicit in this assumption is a homogeneous material, although soil is seldom homogeneous. The

Westergaard equation is based on alternating thin layers of an elastic material between layers of an inelastic material.

The Boussinesq equation assumes a homogeneous soil throughout.

Westergaard Equation:

The Westergaard equation is as follows:

(1)

Where

Q = concentrated load

= Poissons ratio

z = depth

r = horizontal distance from point of application of Q to point at which

is desired

The vertical stress at depth z resulting from load Q, is sometimes referred to as vertical stress increment, since it

represents stress added by the load to the stress existing prior to application of the load. (The stress existing prior to

application of the load is the overburden pressure). This equation gives

as a function of both the vertical distance

z and horizontal distance r between the point of application of Q and the point at which

is desired. If Poissons

ratio is taken to be zero, Eq, (1) reduces to

(2)

[

( ) ]

In 1885 Joseph Valentin Boussinesq advanced theoretical expressions for determining stresses at a point within an

ideal mass due to surface point loads. They are based on the assumption that the mass is an (1) elastic, (2)

isotropic, (3) homogeneous, and (4) semi-infinite medium that extends infinitely in all directions from a level surface.

Boussinesqs equations provide a widely-used basis for estimating the stresses within a soil mass caused by a

concentrated load applied perpendicularly to the soil surface. In 1938 Westeergard developed a solution for stresses

within a soil mass by assuming the material to be reinforced by very rigid horizontal sheets that prevent any

horizontal strain.

Boussinesqs equations may be expressed in terms of either rectangular or polar coordinates. Referring to

the elements Figure 1, the equations are as follows:

In rectangular coordinates:

(eq.2)

,

+-

(eq.3)

+-

(eq.4)

(eq.5)

(eq.6)

Figure 1. Stresses on elements due to concentrated

load Q (a) rectangular coordinate (b) Polar

coordinate notation

(eq.7)

In polar coordinates

(eq.8)

+

[

(eq. 9)

(eq. 10)

(eq. 11)

In the above equations designates Poissons ratio, which varies between 0 and 0.5. Although Poissons

ratio may be readily obtained from tables for most materials, for soil it cannot. In fact, the experimental results in this

regard vary widely and are inconclusive. Because it simplified some of the equations, many engineers have used a

value of 0.5.

The expression for vertical stress, designated , is regarded as reasonably accurate and is widely used in

problems associated with bearing capacity and settlement analysis.

Equation 8 is more conveniently expressed in a slightly different form as

(

[

)

]

(eq. 12)

or

(eq. 13)

where NB, commonly referred to as the vertical stress coefficient, is given by

An analysis of Eq. 12 reveals that the intensity of vertical stress at a point within a soil mass caused by a given

surface point load decreases with an increase in the depth and radial distance from the load to the point within the

mass.

The intensity of the vertical stress, , at various depths and radial distances is plotted to a uniform scale and

is schematically represented in Figure 2 by the arrows under the dashed lines. If one were to connect the points of

equal stress for various depths, the result would be a series of pressure bulbs, as indicated by the solid lines. That is

the pressure at each point of a particular pressure bulb has the same value. Hence, any number of pressure bulbs

may be drawn for any given load, with each pressure bulb representing particular stress magnitude. The value of any

given pressure bulb could be obtained by merely reading the intensity of

corresponding to the point where the solid

line intersects any of the dashed line.

load Q. Dashed lines represent the stress

distribution for various values at depth z; solid

lines connect points of equal stress

Length

Boussinesqs expression for the vertical stress

as given by

Eq. 1 is not directly applicable for the determination of vertical

stresses induced by line loads, perhaps typified by continuous

wall footings. It can be modified, however, to provide us with a

tool for estimating the vertical stress or pressure from a line load.

Figure 3 shows a line load applied at the surface. For an

element selected at an arbitrary fixed point in the soil mass, an

expression for

could be derived by integrating Boussinesqs

expression for point load as given by Eq. 1. The line load is

assumed to be of equal intensity q and applied at the surface.

Furthermore, one notes that the intensity of q is expressed as a

force per unit length.

where

by line loads

(a)

. Thus, we have

(b)

For a specific location of the element, x and z are constants (x and z in Fig. 3). Let

Then

Eq.( b) becomes

But

(c)

, and

*

From Fig.3,

and

(d)

/ ]

Rearranging,

If we let

and

) 1

(e)

) ]

(14)

or

(14a)

where

0

) 1

Values for Po for various combinations of m and n are given in Table 2. In using this table one notes that

the values for m and n are not interchangeable. Furthermore, for values of m and n falling within the range of those

given in the table, a straight-line interpolation may be assumed.

The unit vertical stress on any given depth could be determined with acceptable accuracy by extending Boussinesqs

equation to a uniformly loaded circular area.

Two separate cases of the vertical stress under circular footings will be considered. Case A considers only the

vertical stress under the center of the footing, while case B considers the vertical stress at any point in the soil,

including under the center of the footing.

Case A. Vertical stress under the center of the footing

From Boussinesqs equation

Integrating,

or

Hence,

[ ]

[

(

(eq. 15)

or

(eq. 15a)

Case B. Vertical stress at any point in the soil

Equation 15 is only valid when

is to be determined under the center of a circular area. Charts and tables are

available, however, that provide expedient means for estimating

for points lying under as well as outside the

center. A chart developed by Foster and Ahlvin can be used to determine the vertical stress. The expression for

takes the form

(eq. 16)

The value of Nz can be determined from developed by Foster and Ahlvin or from table for selected values of

It is based on the assumption that the mass is a semi-infinite elastic medium whose Poissons ratio is 0.5. It

is applicable to points under as well as outside the centerline of a circular footing

From Boussinesqs equation the vertical stress under a corner of a rectangular area uniformly loaded with a uniform

load of intensity, q, can be expressed as

The integral is difficult and far too long to provide a practical benefit. The integration is performed by Newmark with

the following results:

[

where

and

(eq. 17)

(eq.17a)

where

is the shape function of the dimensionless ratio m and n. The influence values for various

combinations of m and n can be found directly from table.

When the point at which the stress is desired does not fall below a corner of the area, the area is adjusted

into rectangles such that corners become located over the point in question. Subsequently the effects are

superimposed.

In the preceding section the vertical stress induced by a uniformly distributed load over a rectangular area to a point

at z depth below the surface was evaluated. Now the total load induced on a rectangular area below the surface by a

concentrated load applied at the surface will be evaluated. For example, the typical problem may be represented by

a wheel load applied at the surface, creating stresses on a buried pipe or culvert, or perhaps on the roof of a relatively

shallow tunnel. Although we shall be assuming a horizontal plane, the procedure gives reasonably acceptable results

for arch-shaped surfaces by assuming the horizontal plane to be projection of the circular shape.

Figure 8 depicts a rectangular plane, a distance z beneath the surface, subjected to a concentrated surface

load, Q, over one of the corners. The total load on the shaded area is a summation of all the increments of forces

induced by the surface load Q.

The increment of force over a small area may be expressed as the product of the stress and the increment of

area, as indicated in Eq. (a):

(eq. a)

From

or

where

(eq. b)

(eq. 18)

is the influence coefficient or shape function, which can be obtained directly from table.

Figure 8. Load on rectangular area undersoil from concentrated surface load Q over one area

The procedure outlined in the preceding sections for determination of vertical stresses

induced by uniformly loaded

or circular area are rather clumsy when applied to irregularly shaped areas. Newmark devised a graphical procedure

for computing stresses induced by irregularly shaped loaded areas.

Newmarks procedure evolves from the expression for the vertical stress under the center of a loaded circular area,

given by Eq. 15 or Eq. 15a. From these expressions the ratio of

[

(eq. a)

The relationship between and may be illustrated by extracting a few values from Table 4 as shown in the

table below. For convenience ten equal increments of between

and

will be selected.

Table. Values of for selected values of

0.10

0.20

0.30

0.40

0.50

0.60

0.70

0.80

0.90

0.27

0.40

0.52

0.64

0.77

0.92

1.11

1.39

1.91

1.00

The values of represent concentric circles of relative radii. Plotted for a selected scale for z, these circles are

shown in Fig. 9 with the last circle not shown since

.

stress at any depth

Now divide the circles by evenly spaced rays emanating from the center, for convenience say 20.

Thus, a total of

influence units was obtained. Hence, the influence value, IV, is

(b)

In this case

(eq. 18)

To use this chart, one draws an outline of the loaded surface to a scale such that the distance AB from Figure 9

equals the depth of the point in question. The point beneath the loaded area for which the vertical stress is sought is

then located over the center of the chart. Hence, the area will encompass a number of influence units on the chart (in

our case each unit has a value of 0.005). Thus, by counting the influence units and by using equation 18, one may

proceed to determine the stress at the given point.

,

One may note that while the values for indicated in the table may be fixed for the selected values of

the scale for the influence chart was arbitrarily chosen and can, therefore, be altered as needed. Similarly, the

number of rays or the number of rays or the number of radii may also vary as desired, thereby varying the influence

values for these charts.

Approximate Estimate of Vertical Stress

Approximate estimates of the average vertical stress under a uniformly loaded area at a given depth, z, can be made

by assuming that the applied surface load spreads downward to a horizontal plane, which is enveloped by four planes

o

sloping from the edges of the loaded area at an angle of 30 with the vertical. Another method is to assume a slope

of 2:1 as shown in Figure 10. The methods are approximate but rather easy and expedient, and they are quite

commonly used for estimating average stresses. Generally, this approach yields values for

slightly lower than

those obtained by previously discussed methods for shallow depths but of comparable magnitude at greater depths.

For a uniformly loaded area a x b,

on plane at depth z

o

(eq. 20)

(eq. 20a)

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