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P-y Curves for Group Piles

Significance of P-Multiplier and Group reduction factor:

When piles act in a group, soilpile interaction reduces the lateral resistance of the
individual piles so that the group will generally exhibit less lateral capacity than the sum of the
lateral capacities of the individual piles. In the pile group, each pile pushes against the soil in
front of it, creating a shear zone in the soil. These shear zones begin to enlarge and overlap as
the lateral load increases. One of the most common methods of accounting for the group effects
in Winklers approach is to modify the single pile py curves using a pmultiplier, as suggested
by (Brown et al. 1988) (Fayyazi (2014). In this approach, the soil resistance, p, is reduced
by multiplying by a constant factor, Pm, as shown in Figure 1. The pmultiplier for a leading
row is higher than the pmultiplier for a trailing row because of the shadowing effect. In an
alternative approach, rather than defining pmultipliers row by row, an average pmultiplier for
all piles in the group is used which gives the same pile cap loaddeflection curve (Brown et al.,
2001). This average pmultiplier is called the group reduction factor. Use of a group reduction
factor is convenient for seismic and cyclic loading because the direction of loading changes
repeatedly and often unpredictably during the loading event, and each load reversal converts a
leading row, with high pmultiplier, to a trailing row, with low pmultiplier, instantaneously.

Figure 1: Definition of pmultiplier (Pm) (Fayyazi (2014)

Brown and Reese (1985), Morrison and Reese (1986), and McVay et al. (1995) did not
detect any significant variation in the response of individual piles within a given row; therefore,
they used average response curves for each row of piles rather than attempting to match the
response curves for every pile in the group. A similar approach was used by Ruesta and
Townsend (1997) and Rollins et al. (1998). In all of these cases, loads were essentially the same
for piles in a given row. The current state of practice is thus to use individual row multipliers,
rather than separate multipliers for each pile. This approach was followed in all of the studies
reported in .

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The generally accepted approach is to assume that p-multipliers are constant with depth.
That is, a constant p-multiplier is applied to the set of p-y curves for all depths in each pile row.
Thus, individual p-y curves for a pile are adjusted by the same amount, regardless of variations
in the soil profile or depth below the ground surface. The suitability of this assumption was
investigated by Brown et al. (1988) during large-scale tests performed on fully instrumented
piles. They reported back-calculated Pm values along the length of three piles, one from each
row of the group. It was found that the variation of pm was small and had no effect on the
calculated response curve. In reality, the p-y modifier approach uses an average multiplier that
is determined by back-calculating an overall response curve. The modifier is adjusted until the
calculated response curve matches the measured response curve. Thus, assuming a constant
value of Pm with depth is reasonable, because the variation of Pm is implicitly accounted for
during the back-calculation procedure.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO
2014) has recommended the values of pmultipliers in its Table These values are
averaged from the studies listed in the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) manual
(Hannigan et al., 2006). AASHTO recommendations for choosing pmultipliers are based on
data from free head pile group tests. All of these tests were performed on 3 3 pile groups
except for the test by Ruesta and Townsend (1997), which was a full-scale test on a 4 4 pile
group. There is no consideration in the recommendations of AASHTO regarding the effects of
soil parameters or the pile head conditions. Moreover, AASHTO reports pmultipliers only for
pile groups with S/D of 3 and 5, and suggests interpolation to establish pmultipliers for other
pile spacing values when S/D is between these values. It has no specific recommendations for
S/D > 5. To obtain group reduction factors using AASHTO recommendations, the related p
multipliers for different rows of each pile group in are averaged. It is to be noted that these P-y
methods generally apply to foundation elements that have some ability to bend and deflect. For
large diameter, relatively short foundation elements, e.g., drilled shafts or relatively short stiff
piles, the foundation element rotates rather than bends, in which case strain wedge theory
(Norris, 1986; Ashour et al., 1998) may be more applicable. When strain wedge theory is used
to assess the lateral load response of groups of short, large diameter piles or shaft groups, group
effects should be addressed through evaluation of the overlap between shear zones formed due
to the passive wedge that develops in front of each shaft in the group as lateral deflection
Equations recommended for calculation of pmultipliers by Rollins et al. (2006) are
used in FEMA P-751 (2012). These equations are based on experimental results from three full
scale tests. The tests were conducted on a 33 pile group with S/D of 5.65, a 3 4 pile group
with S/D of 4.4, and a 3 5 pile group with S/D of 3.3. All pile groups were installed in stiff
clay, and the pile head condition was free in all three tests.
Reese and van Impe (2010) They proposed three equations for calculation of p
multipliers to account for the effects of piles that are side by side, in-line, or skewed (neither in
line nor side by side) with respect to the applied load. These equations are obtained using
experimental data from pile groups with just one row (edge effect) or one column (shadowing
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effect) of piles. If a pile group contains more than two piles, the effects of piles on each other
must be considered. These equations are also implemented in the GROUP program (Reese et al.,
2010) to be used as the default value for the pmultipliers.
Fayyazi (2014) conducted a comprehensive research focused on evaluating the
effects of number of piles, pile spacings, pile head conditions, and properties of the soil profile
on the group reduction factors for square pile groups. In particular, the results obtained from the
above study is compared with the different design guidelines such as AASHTO (2012), FEMA
P-751 (2012), and Reese and van Impe (2010). The calculated group factors in this study show
the following trends. For a given pile spacing, the group reduction factor decreases with
increasing number of the piles in the pile group, and also with the increase of friction angle of
soil. The group reduction factor increases with the increase of the S/D ratios. The calculated
fixed head group reduction factors appear to be generally smaller than the free head group
reduction factors. The study suggests that the pile head condition should be taken into account
in determination of the group reduction factor. The recommendations of AASHTO overestimate
the group reduction factors, hence the lateral resistance, which in turn leads to underestimation
of deflections at the pile heads under a certain demand from the superstructure. The
recommended values for the group reduction factors in FEMA P-751 (2012) and Reese and van
Impe (2010) are even higher than those in AASHTO (2012). In general, this study shows that
the recommendations of the above three design guidelines overestimate the lateral resistance for
larger pile groups and especially for pile groups with fixed head conditions. This could be due
to the fact that in these design guidelines the group reduction factors are essentially driven from
experiments on 3 3 pile groups with free head conditions.
Rollins (1998) performed a static lateral load test on a full-scale pile group to
determine the resulting pile-soil- pile interaction effects. The test is carried out on a 3 x 3 pile
group at three-diameter spacing which was driven into a profile consisting of soft to medium-
stiff clays and silts underlain by sand. The load testing was performed approximately eight
months after the piles were driven to dissipate the pore water pressure. The results obtained
from the above test are as follows. (i) At small displacements, the average load carried by the
piles in the group is similar to that of the single pile. However, as deflections increase, the
average load carried by each pile in the group is noticeably smaller than the single pile. It
highlights the fact that for the same average pile load, the displacement of the pile group is 2-2.5
times higher than that of the single pile. (ii) Load capacity in the pile group was a function of
row position. For a given deflection, piles in trailing rows carried significantly less load than
piles in the leading row, and piles in all rows carried less load than the single isolated pile due to
group (shadowing) effects. (iii) The p-multiplier concept provides a reasonable means of
accounting for the reduction in capacity produced by group effects and the resulting lateral
group behavior. P-multipliers in this study were found to be 0.6, 0.38, and 0.43 for the front,
middle, and back row piles, respectively. These values are at the low end of the range of p-
multipliers obtained from available full-scale tests; how- ever, the variation in p-multipliers is
relatively small considering the variety of soil types involved in the various tests.

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Charles (2001) presents results of full-scale lateral load tests of one single pile and
three pile groups in Hong Kong. The test piles, which are embedded in superficial deposits and
decomposed rocks, are 1.5 m in diameter and approximately 30 m long. This reseach aims to
investigate the nonlinear response of laterally loaded large diameter bored pile groups and to
study design parameters for large-diameter bored piles associated with the p-y method using a 3
D finite-element program, FLPIER. Predictions using soil parameters based on published
correlations and back-analysis of the single-pile load test are also compared. It is found that a
simple hyperbolic representation of load-deflection curves provides an objective means to
determine ultimate lateral load capacity, which is comparable with the calculated values based
on Broms' theory. For a two-pile group, the group effect is negligible for pile spacing at 6 D
(where D = pile diameter). It is interesting to note that the trailing pile deflected less than the
leading pile for a free-head pile group. This might be due to different rotational restraints at
each group pile head, resulting from concrete cracking near the location of the leading pile.
Comparing the field test results with the predictions using the nonlinear numerical analysis, it is
found that the predictions using nh, values recommended by Terzaghi (1955) grossly
overestimate the measurements. However, predictions using the nh values suggested by Elson
(1984) agree reasonably well with the measured results, especially at low loads. This
demonstrates that, although the deduced nh, values (Elson 1984) are based on experimental
results on driven piles, they can also be applied to bored piles.
Past experience and the results of the study by ONeill and Dunnavant (1985) confirm
that the available tools for analysis of laterally loaded pile groups provide approximate answers
that sometimes deviate significantly from observed behavior, particularly with regard to
deflection calculations. Also, limitations in site investigation procedures and in the ability to
predict single-pile soil-pile interaction behavior produce uncertainty regarding proper soil input
to group analyses. Therefore, multiple analyses should be performed for pile groups, using two
or more appropriate methods of analysis and upper-bound and lower-bound values of soil
properties in the analyses. By performing such analyses, the designer will obtain an appreciation
for the uncertainty involved in his predictions of foundation performance and can make more
informed decisions regarding the structural design of the foundation and superstructure
elements (API 2002). Moreover, most of the pile group experiments were performed on 33
free head pile groups with the center to center spacing of 3 pile diameters (D) and pile head
deflections of up to 5 cm. Because pmultipliers were typically derived from free head pile
group tests, there are some uncertainties regarding their applicability for fixed head conditions
that are more routinely encountered in engineering practice where a pile cap is used (Rollins and
Sparks, 2002). The literature review also shows the lack of a comprehensive study on the p-
multiplier and group reduction factor for larger pile groups, various pile spacing, pile head
conditions, and soil properties. The limitations in the available experimental database justify
using threedimensional numerical simulations to study the effects of these different parameters
on the group reduction factor.
The major factors influencing the lateral group deflections and load distribution among
the piles are the pile spacing, the ratio of pile penetration to the diameter, the pile flexibility
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relative to the soil the dimensions of the group, and the variations in the shear strength and
stiffness modulus of the soil with depth.

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