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9th International Symposium on Lowland Technology

September 29-October 1, 2014 in Saga, Japan

NUMERICAL SIMULATIONS USING FEM 2D COMPARED TO FEM 3D AND OBSERVED


BEHAVIOR OF REINFORCED FULL SCALE EMBANKMENT
S.Shrestha1,P.Baral2,D.Bergado3,J.C.Chai4,T.Hino5
ABSTRACT: A full scale test embankment (6 m height) was constructed by Department of Highways, the Bureau of Road
Research and Development in Phitsanulok, Thailand. A surcharge fill of 1.2 m thick without reinforcements was added at the
top of the embankment equivalent to 2 tsm of load. One side of this embankment was reinforced with polymeric
reinforcements consisting polyester (PET), polypropylene (PP) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) and referred as
reinforced steep slope (RSS), which is at an angle of 70 degrees from horizontal. The other side of the embankment was
reinforced with metallic reinforcements consisting of metallic strips (MS) and steel wire grids (SWG) combined with precast
concrete panel and termed as mechanically stabilized earth wall (MSEW). The comparisons of these reinforcing materials in
terms of stiffness from highest to lowest are metallic strip (MS), steel wire grids (SWG), polypropylene (PP), high density
polyethylene (HDPE) and polyester (PET). The behavior of the test embankment on hard foundation was analyzed and
compared with the simulated results using PLAXIS software. The FEM 2D and the FEM 3D simulations were compared with
the observed data. The results obtained from FEM 3D have good agreement with the field measurements in terms of vertical
and lateral deformations of the embankment. However, there were discrepancies between measured data and FEM 2D
simulations due to its limitations. The FEM 2D simulation overpredicted the vertical settlements in the foundation which
affected the predictions of the lateral deformations.
Keywords: FEM3D,FEM2D,metallicreinforcement,polymerreinforcement,hardfoundation,testembankment

BACKGROUND
Soil reinforcement, has become a widely used
earthwork construction method that provides technically
attractive and cost-effective grade separations at the ground
surface. The increasing use and acceptance of soil
reinforcement has been triggered by a number of factors
including cost savings, aesthetics, simple and fast
construction techniques, good seismic performance, and the
ability to tolerate large total and differential settlement
without structural distress.
Numerical analysis has been proved as a powerful and
convenient tool for predicting the performance of the MSE
wall (Bergado et al. 2003). Furthermore, many investigators
have demonstrated the use of the finite element method
(FEM) in the analysis of reinforced soil wall (Chai and
Bergado 1993 a;b Bergado and Chai 1995; Tanchaisawat et
al. 2008).This paper deals with modeling of the full-scale
test Mechanically Stabilized Earth wall/embankment by
FEM 2D and FEM 3D as compared to the observed data.
1

Bergado et al. 2003 suggested FEM under plane strain


condition can be successively utilized to analyze the pullout
and direct shear mechanisms as well as the behavior of
hexagonal wire mesh reinforced embankment with silty
sand backfill. Bergado and Teerawattanasuk 2008 compared
the reliability of FEM 2D and FEM 3D by studying two
full-scale embankments; steel grid embankment having
longer plan dimensions with length-to-width ratio of 3.0
(long embankment) and hexagonal wire mesh reinforced
embankment having shorter plan dimensions with lengthto-width ratio of 1.0 (short embankment). The actual
behavior of the steel grid reinforced long embankment
corresponded more closely to the results of the 2D
numerical simulations. Furthermore, the actual behavior of
the hexagonal wire mesh reinforced short embankment
corresponded more closely to the results of the 3D
numerical simulations. The geometric effects were
important factors that affected the results of the numerical
simulations. Suksiripattanapong et al. 2012 performed
numerical simulation on the bearing reinforcement earth

PhDCandidate,SagaUniversity,Saga,Japan,shresthasailesh@gmail.com
PhDCandidate,UniversityofWollongong(UOW),Wollongong,Australia,baral.pankaj@gmail.com
3
GuestProfessor,InstituteofLowlandandMarineResearch(ILMR),SagaUniversity,Saga,Japan,dbergado@gmail.com
4
Professor,DepartmentofCivilEngineeringandArchitecture,SagaUniversity,Saga,Japan,chai@cc.sagau.ac.jp
5
Professor,InstituteofLowlandandMarineResearch(ILMR),SagaUniversity,Saga,Japan,hino@ilt.sagau.ac.jp
2

Shrestha,etal.

wall constructed on the hard stratum using FEM 2D. The


behavior of the BRE wall was simulated satisfactorily and
agreed well with the predictions in terms of changes in
foundation settlements, bearing stresses, lateral earth
pressures and tensions in the reinforcements during and
after construction.
A full scale test embankment (6 m height) was
constructed in Phitsanulok, Thailand consisting of
Reinforced Steep Slope (RSS) and Mechanically Stabilized
Earth Wall (MSEW) with high strength polymeric geogrid
and metallic reinforcements. The behavior of this
embankment on hard foundation was re-analyzed with FEM
2D and compared with the simulated results from previous
studies (FEM 3D). The soil and reinforcement parameters
along with the interface strengths of the MSE
embankment/wall were back-analyzed. The input
parameters for metallic and polymeric reinforcements were
obtained from laboratory testing at AIT. Similarly, the input
parameters for the backfill materials and surcharge were
also initially obtained from the laboratory test and then
back calculated until the suitable values were obtained.
DESCRIPTION OF THE MSE EMBANKMENT
In the full scale embankment, reinforced steep slope
(RSS) of 70 degrees from the horizontal with soil bags as
facing was utilized in one side whereas mechanically
stabilized earth wall (MSEW) with concrete panel as facing
was used in another side. The test embankment with facing
(RSS and MSEW) was designed up to a height of 6m. A
surcharge fill 1.2 m thick was later added without
reinforcement at the top of the embankment equivalent to 2
tsm load. The length of the embankment was 18 m and
width was 15m. Polyester (PET), polypropylene (PP) and
high density polyethylene (HDPE) geogrids were used as
polymeric reinforcements in the reinforced steep slope
(RSS) whereas metallic strips (MS) and steel wire grid
(SWG) were utilized as metallic reinforcements in
mechanically stabilized earth wall (MSEW) facing of the
embankment.
The vertical spacing between each reinforcement layer
was 0.5 m and the length was 5 m while the upper layers of
metallic strip from layer 7 to layer 12 had 5.80 m length.
Different monitoring instruments were installed to monitor
the vertical and lateral displacements, total stresses, excess
pore water pressure, groundwater and strains in reinforcing
material including inclinometers, settlement plates, total
pressure cells, standpipe piezometers, vibrating wire strain
gauges and fiber optic strain gauges. In addition,
observation wells were installed to monitor the level of
groundwater at the dummy area located more than 10.0 m
from the embankment. The plan and section views of the
embankment are shown in Figs. 1 a, b.

MODEL PARAMETERS
BackfillMaterials
The material used as backfill in the embankment
consisted of 50% lateritic soil mixed with 50% silty sand
(by volume) and has moisture content and dry unit weight
as 7% and 22.05 kN/m3, respectively. The friction angle
and cohesion of this backfill material obtained from direct
shear test were 42 degrees and 80 kPa. From triaxial 1 (CU)
test, the effective friction and cohesionwere 37 degrees and
20 kPa, respectively. Moreover, from triaxial 2 (CU) test,
the effective friction angle and cohesion were 32.8 degrees
and 0 kPa, respectively. Thus, the effective friction angle
varied from 32.8 degrees to 37 degrees, and effective
cohesion varied from 0 to 20 kPa, as obtained from two
different triaxial (CU) tests.
Table 1 Soil properties of the backfill soil
Property
Lateritic Soil Mixed with Sand
(50:50 by volume)
Atterberg Limit Test
LL = 20.8%, PL=17.3 %,
PI=3.5%.
Sieve Analysis Test
Sample No.1
Percent Finer=0.94%, Cu=40,
Cc=0.34
Sample No.2
Percent Finer=0.14%,
Cu=42.86, Cc=0.55
Unified Classification
Poorly Graded Sand (SP)
AASHTO
A-2-4(0)
Classification
Compaction Test
Maximum Dry Unit Weight
(d) = 22.05 kN/m3
Optimum Moisture Content
(OMC) = 7.0%
California Bearing
CBR=50.5%
Ratio (CBR) Test
Direct Shear Test
Friction Angle, =42 degrees
Cohesion,C = 80 kPa
Triaxial 1 (CU) Test
Friction Angle, =37 degrees
Cohesion,C = 20 kPa
Triaxial 2 (CU) Test
Friction Angle, =32.8
degrees
Cohesion,C = 0 kPa
Plane strain from
ps=38.5 degrees
Triaxial 1 (CU) Test
Plane strain from
ps=32.2 degrees
Triaxial 2 (CU) Test
pH Value
6.16
Organic Content
0.9918%
Resistivity
5088 -cm

Numerical Simulations using FEM 2D compared to FEM 3D and observed behavior of reinforced full scale embankment

For the plane strain condition the friction angle is


converted by Lade and Lee (1976) formula as =38.5
degrees and 32.2 degrees, respectively. The various
properties of backfill material are tabulated in the Table 1.
Foundation Soils
The soil profile in Phitsanulok Province consisted of
generally hard ground. One borehole was located (BH-1) in
the middle of the embankment. Three additional boreholes
BH-2, BH-3 and BH-4 were drilled adjacent to the
embankment near the RSS facing in order to obtain more
data on the soil profile. The borehole locations and
instrumentations at MSE wall/embankment are shown in
Fig.1a. Fig.1b indicates the cross section of MSE wall. The
soil profiles are from dense to very dense clayey sand to
hard silty clay. The level of the groundwater was found at
2m depth below the ground surface.
Precast Concrete Panel Facing
The precast concrete panel was used as wall facing. The
dimensions of the panel are 1.5 m width, 1.5 m height and
0.15 m thick. In this study, the precast concrete panels were
modeled using plate elements.. The properties of concrete
panel facing are tabulated in Table 2.
Table 2 Material properties of concrete panel facing
Parameter
Name
Value
Unit
Material
Type of behavior
type
Elastic
Normal stiffness
EA
42000000 kN/m
Flexural rigidity
EI
78500
kN.m2/m
Equivalent thickness d
0.15
m
Weight
w
3.6
kN/m/m
Poisson's ratio

0.15
Model
Plate

Table 3 Material properties of reinforcements


Tensile
Thick
Material
Strength
-ness
Name
Model
(kN/m)
(mm)
Metallic Strip
(MS)
Geogrid
277.6
4.00
Steel Wire
Grid (SWG)
Geogrid
128.1
6.00
Polyester
(PET)
Geogrid
83.6
1.50
Polypropylen
e (PP)
Geogrid
91.9
1.45
High Density
Polyethylene
(HDPE)
Geogrid
85.8
1.91

Normal
Stiffness,
EA (kN/m)
88000
35000
925
1360

1320

Soil / Reinforcement Interfaces


Interface elements were attached on the grid elements in
order to simulate the frictional interaction between the
geogrid and the backfill soil. The various properties of R
interface parameter from Large-Scale Direct Shear Test
results are tabulated in the Table 4.
Table4Interfacestrengthsfromlargescaledirectsheartest
result
Soil to
Friction
Cohesion,
c Rinter
angle, () (kPa)
Soil
40
23
1.00
Steel Strip
36
23
0.87
Steel Grid
40
28
1.00
Miragrid
GX80/30
PET
Secugrid
80/80 Q1 PP
TT
090
SAMP HDPE

33

21

0.79

35

25

0.83

33

24

0.77

Metallic and Polymeric Reinforcement


The metallic and polymeric reinforcement were
modeled as geogrid material in FEM 2D, specifically desig
ned to simulate the behavior of thin, flat and discrete reinfor
cing strips. The strip element can yield in compression and t
ension. The axial stiffness was obtained from laboratory tes
ts. The various properties of reinforcements are tabulated in
the Table 3. The comparison of the reinforcement stiff
nesses from highest to lowest is as follows: metallic strip
(MS), steel wire grid (SWG), polypropylene (PP), high
density polyethlene (HDPE) and polyester (PET).

Fig.1a Plan and instrumentations of MSE wall/embankment

Shrestha,etal.

Fig. 1b Cross section of MSE wall/embankment indicating the locations of monitoring instruments

Table 5 Material conditions and parameters used in the analysis


Mo
del

Depth(m
)

Conditi
on

sat
(kN/m3
)

Backfill material
Dense to very
dense
clayey sand

MC

Drained

22.7

MC

0.002.00

Loose
clayey sand

MC

Medium dense
clayey sand
Very stiff to hard
silty clay

Soil Description

unsat
(kN/m
3)

Kx(m/
day)

Ky(m/d
ay)

E (kPa)

c'
(kPa
)

'ps
()

21.0

0.8

0.4

0.37

12,000

10

38.5

Drained

19.0

17.0

0.001

0.0005

0.35

20,000

15

30

2.004.00

Drained

18.0

16.0

0.001

0.0005

0.35

15,000

34

MC

4.005.50

Drained

18.0

16.0

0.001

0.0005

0.35

25,000

36

MC

5.5010.00

Undrain
ed

19.0

17.0

0.0001

0.00005

0.35

50,000

70

28

11.5013.00
Drained 19.0
17.0
0.001
0.0005
13.00Undrain
Hard silty clay
MC 21.45
ed
22
20
0.0001 0.00005
Rint(PET)=0.79 , Rint(PP)=0.83 , Rint(HDPE)=0.77 , Rint(SWG)=1.0 , Rint(MS)=0.87
Dense clayey sand

MC

0.35

30,000

33

0.35

80,000

100

26

Numerical Simulations using FEM 2D compared to FEM 3D and observed behavior of reinforced full scale embankment

NUMERICALSIMULATIONSANDSTAGED
CONSTRUCTIONOFTHEEMBANKMENT
The numerical model of the MSE wall/embankment was
performed using FEM 2D (PLAXIS V 8.2, 2009). The
program allowed for plane strain idealizations including
simulation of the construction sequences. The FEM
software used required material properties (Table 5) to be
established and explicitly model the soil, facing panels,
reinforcement layers, and the interfaces. As shown in the
Fig. 2, the mesh is created and the nodal points at the
bottom boundary were fixed in both directions, and those
on the side boundaries were fixed only in the horizontal
direction. The FEM 3D (PLAXIS 3D, 2011) was done by
Baral (2012).The mesh created in FEM 3D is shown in Fig.
3 respectively. The side boundaries were placed at a
distance of two times the width of the embankment, and the
bottom boundary was fixed up to the known soil layer. Such
distances and assumed boundary conditions are considered
to approximately simulate the semi-infinite extent of the
system. The in-situ stresses in the foundation soil were
generated by the Ko procedure. Then, the backfill which
was divided into 13 layers, as in the field was placed on the
foundation soil layer by layer. After the placement of the
compacted fill layer the reinforcement was placed at
interval of 0.5 m vertical spacing per stage until the
completion of full height of the embankment. During this
construction stage drained Mohr Coulomb analysis is used
to simulate the layer by layer construction. After the
completion of the full height of the embankment drained
analysis is used to simulate the consolidation process for
186 days. The constitutive model to simulate the behavior
of the reinforced backfill used was a linear elastic,
perfectly-plastic model with Mohr-Coulombs failure
criterion. This constitutive model was characterized by five
parameters: elastic parameters (E: Young modulus, :
Poissons ratio) and plastic parameters (: friction angle, c:
cohesion, and : dilatancy angle).

Fig. 2 FEM 2D of full scale reinforced test embankment

Fig. 3 FEM 3D of full scale reinforced test embankment


RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS:
Lateral Displacements
Comparison of FEM 2D and observed data
The influence parameters to lateral displacements of the
test embankment were investigated. The soil-reinforcement
interaction parameter(Rinter), modulus of elasticity (E),
cohesion (C) were varied to study their influences in lateral
displacements. Table 4 shows the interface parameters
(Rinter) that were used in the analysis. Based on the
simulated results, the total horizontal displacement,
foundation settlement were analyzed and compared with the
observed data. The lateral displacements of HDPE on RSS
side, and MS on MSEW side obtained from field
measurement by inclinometers were compared with the data
from numerical simulations at 186 days after the end of the
construction. Figures 4 to 5 show the measured and
simulated lateral deformations at HDPE and MS
reinforcements, respectively. Inclinometers I3 and I5 were
used to measure the lateral displacement for HDPE and MS
section in the field (see Fig. 1a). The FEM 2D (Shrestha,
2013) yielded the overall behavior of the test embankment
closer in the MSEW facing i.e. MS reinforced side than the
RSS facing i.e. HDPE reinforced side when compared with
the observed data. The results showed that the observed and
FEM 2D simulated displacements were underpredicted
above 4.50 m and overpredicted below 4.50m height of the
embankment. These discrepancies may be due to the
limitations under plane strain conditions with asymmetric
embankment structure. The lateral displacement of geogrids
HDPE at the top level of the embankment after 186 days
were 16mm. The lateral displacement for HDPE cross
section was found to be larger than MS cross section due to
the lower stiffness of the former than the latter.
Comparison of FEM 2D (Shrestha, 2013) versus FEM 3D
(Baral, 2012) simulations
According to the FEM 2D analyses, at the HDPE crosssection the lateral displacement of HDPE geogrid after 186
days was found to be 7 mm at the top level of the
embankment. The large lateral displacement was observed
from the bottom to middle height of RSS facing. The

Shrestha,etal.

predicted results from FEM 2D slightly overpredicted both


the field measured lateral displacement and results from
FEM 3D (Baral, 2012) on the lower half of the
embankment height and underpredicted for the upper half
of the embankment (Fig. 4).
According to the FEM 2D analyses, at the MS cross
section the lateral displacement of MS geogrid after 186
days was found to be 4 mm at the top of the embankment.
The predicted results from FEM 2D slightly overpredicted
both the field measured lateral displacement and results
from FEM 3D (Baral, 2012) (Fig. 5).

hard ground foundation mostly depended on the uppermost


Dense to Very Dense Clayey Sand layer in the subsoil
profile. Settlements were affected when the permeability
values of the subsoil layer were varied.
Comparison of FEM 2D and observed data
Surface and subsurface settlement plates were installed
in the embankment at different heights to measure the
vertical settlements. Due to the construction of
embankment in the hard ground; the values of vertical
settlements were relatively low. The settlement profile of
the section HDPE-MS at Level 0.00m at the base of the
embankment and the embankment compression at level
5.50m at the top of embankment are plotted together with
the simulated data in Figs. 6 to 7, respectively.

Fig. 4 Observed and simulated lateral displacements of the


high density polyethylene (HDPE)
Vertical Settlements
Surface and subsurface settlement plates were installed
in the embankment at different heights such as S1 to S15 at
the foundation (Level 0.00 m) to measure the vertical
settlements and S31 to S45 at the top (Level 5.5m) to
measure the compression of the embankment (Fig. 1b). The
settlement prediction on the MSE wall/embankment on

Fig. 5 Observed and simulated lateral displacements of the


metallic strip (MS) reinforcement

Numerical Simulations using FEM 2D compared to FEM 3D and observed behavior of reinforced full scale embankment

Comparison of FEM 2D (Shrestha, 2013) versus FEM 3D


(Baral, 2012) simulations
For the HDPE-MS cross-section the
maximum
settlement at the base of the embankment (Level 0.00m)
ranged from 40 to 60 mm at 186 days after construction.
The compression of the foundation was found to increase
slightly towards the middle, as shown in Fig. 6 for this
section. Similarly, the compression of the embankment
(Level 0.00m to Level 5.50m) varied between 20 to 30 mm
and is shown in Fig. 7. The FEM 2D overpredicted the
vertical settlement when compared with FEM 3D (Baral,
2012).

The simulated results from FEM 2D overpredicted


vertical settlements in comparison to the simulated result of
FEM 3D (Baral, 2012). The over prediction may be due to
the limitation of analyses under plane strain condition with
asymmetric embankment structure. From the FEM 2D
simulations, the foundation settlements were larger towards
the middle height of the embankment as shown in Fig. 6.
The compressions of the embankment were also larger
towards the embankment slope as shown in Fig. 7.

Fig. 6 Compression of the foundation at 186 days (Level 0.00m) in HDPE-MS cross-section

Fig. 7 Compression of the embankment at 186 days (Level 5.5m) in HDPE-MS

Shrestha,etal.

CONCLUSIONS
The full scale test embankment (6 m height) was
constructed by Department of Highways in Phitsanulok,
Thailand on hard foundation. An unreinforced surcharge
fill, 1.2 m thick, was added at the top of the test
embankment after construction. One side of this
embankment was reinforced with polymeric reinforcements
consisting polyester (PET), Polypropylene (PP) and high
density polyethylene (HDPE) and referred as reinforced
steep slope (RSS), which is at an angle of 70 degrees from
horizontal. The other side of the embankment was
reinforced with metallic reinforcements consisting metallic
strips (MS) and steel wire grids (SWG) combined with
precast concrete panel and termed as mechanically
stabilized earth wall (MSEW). The comparisons of the
behavior of both metallic and polymeric reinforcements
were monitored and observed in terms of stiffness. The
lateral displacements and vertical settlements in the MSEW
faced side was less in comparison with the RSS faced side
from monitored data. The RSS side has more settlement and
displacement as a result of lower stiffness than MSEW side.
The stiffness was found from highest to lowest as metallic
strip (MS), steel wire grids (SWG), polypropylene (PP),
high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyester (PET).
The results obtained from 3D finite element method
simulation (FEM 3D) have good agreement with the field
measurements in terms of vertical and lateral deformations
in the reinforcements of the embankment. However, there
were slight differences when compared with the FEM 2D
simulations due to its limitations. The discrepancy between
the measured data and the simulated data may be due to
some limitations of the boundary conditions in FEM 2D for
shorter embankments with asymmetric embankment
structure and varying physical and engineering properties at
short distances apart as well as overpredictions of the
compression settlements in the foundation. FEM 3D is
better for analyzing the behavior of the embankment with
shorter plan dimensions than FEM 2D. In the boundary
value problem, the effects of boundary conditions (2D or
3D) applied in numerical analysis should be considered as
important factors that may affect the numerical results.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors would like to acknowledge the International
Engineering Consultants (IEC) and Department of
Highway, Thailand for supporting this research.

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