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Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301

DOI 10.1007/s10706-006-9110-7


Single piles under horizontal loads in sand: determination

of P–Y curves from the prebored pressuremeter test
Ali Bouafia

Received: 11 June 2005 / Accepted: 20 September 2006 / Published online: 27 October 2006
 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Abstract Lateral load-deflection behaviour of parametric study undertaken on the basis of the
single piles is often analysed in practice on the proposed P–Y curves showed the significant influ-
basis of methods of load-transfer P–Y curves. ence of the lateral pile/soil stiffness on the non-
The paper is aimed at presenting the results of linear load-deflection response.
the interpretation of five full-scale horizontal
loading tests of single instrumented piles in two Keywords Lateral loading test Æ Lateral reaction
sandy soils, in order to define the parameters of modulus Æ P–Y curves Æ Pressuremeter test Æ Sand Æ
P–Y curves, namely the initial lateral reaction Single pile
modulus and the lateral soil resistance, in correla-
tion with the pressuremeter test parameters. P–Y List of symbols and units
curve parameters were found varying as a power of B diameter or frontal width of the pile (m)
lateral pile/soil stiffness, on the basis of which D embedded length of the pile (m)
hyperbolic P–Y curves in sand were proposed. The De effective pile length (m)
predictive capabilities of the proposed P–Y curves E elastic soil modulus (MPa)
were assessed by predicting the soil/pile response e excentricity of lateral load (m)
in full-scale tests as well as in centrifuge tests and a Ec characteristic soil modulus (MPa)
very good agreement was found between the Em first load pressuremeter modulus (MPa)
computed deflections and bending moments, and Er reload pressuremeter modulus (MPa)
the measured ones. Small-sized database of full- Eti initial lateral reaction modulus (MPa)
scale pile loading tests in sand was built and a EpIp flexural pile stiffness (MN m2)
comparative study of some commonly used P–Y F tangential lateral reaction (kN/m)
curve methods was undertaken. Moreover, it was Fl limit tangential lateral reaction or
shown that the load-deflection curves of these test tangential lateral resistance (kN/m)
piles may be normalised in a practical form for an Gr pressuremeter shear modulus (Gr = Er/
approximate evaluation of pile deflection in a [2(1 + m)]) (MPa)
preliminary stage of pile design. At last, a H lateral load applied on the pile top (kN)
Id density index (%)
K pile/soil compressibility
A. Bouafia (&)
Kr lateral pile/soil stiffness
Department of civil engineering, University of Blida,
P.O. Box 270, R. P Blida 09000, Algeria L tangential dimension of the pile section
e-mail: (parallel to H) (m)

284 Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301

L0 transfer length or elastic length (m) foundations were besides horizontally loaded,
M bending moment at a given depth (kN m) inclined piles, often difficult to achieve were to
M0 bending moment applied to the pile top be added. Due to the progress done in the
(kN m) knowledge of piles foundation behaviour, it is
NH rate of increase of Eti with depth in nowadays recognised that vertical piles can sus-
Gibson’s soil (MPa/m) tain horizontal loads. Earth pressures on a bridge
Nspt N value of the SPT (blow counts/30 cm) abutment piles, lateral displacement of soft clayey
P lateral soil reaction at a given depth layer underlying an access embankment to a
(kN/m) motorway and wind pressures on slender struc-
Pu lateral soil resistance or limit lateral tures built on piles are usual examples of hori-
reaction (kN/m) zontal loading of piles. Behaviour of piles under
pf pressuremeter creep pressure (kPa) horizontal loads is a complex soil/pile interaction
pl limit pressuremeter pressure (kPa) problem because of the tridimensional nature of
p* net limit pressuremeter pressure (kPa) the phenomenon and its dependence on a multi-
Ple net equivalent limit pressuremeter tude of key parameters. This fertile domain of
pressure (kPa) research was investigated since more than a half
p0 at-rest lateral earth pressure (kPa) century.
Q frontal lateral reaction (kN/m) Geotechnical literature contains a wealth of
qc cone penetration resistance (MPa) methods of analysis mainly based on elasticity,
qs limit skin friction along the pile shaft finite/boundary elements or on subgrade reaction
(kPa) theory. However, It should be emphasised that
R least-squares regression coefficient (%) the theoretical approaches offer simplistic
R0 initial radius of pressuremeter borehole schemes of soil/pile response and therefore do
(m) not take into consideration many pile/soil inter-
DR increase in PMT borehole radius (mm) action parameters such as the pile installation, the
Sf , S t shape factors soil/pile interface roughness and the soil com-
Y lateral displacement or deflection at a pressibility. Furthermore, some particular aspects
given depth (mm) of the problem of laterally loaded piles such as
Y0 pile deflection at ground level (mm) the proximity of a slope, the group effects, and
Yref. reference deflection or threshold of lateral piles undergoing lateral soil movement are diffi-
soil resistance Pu(mm) cult to be analysed by theoretical methods.
z depth with respect to the ground level (m) Experimental research may then be considered
zc critical depth (m) as the most adapted way to investigate such a
k rate of linear increase of Em with depth in problem. The last four decades were marked by a
Gibson’s soil (MPa/m) considerable progress in the understanding of the
l rate of linear increase of Pl with depth in response of a pile to bending forces by means of
Gibson’s soil (kPa/m) several experimental studies in full-scale as well
g lateral resistance factor as in centrifuge.
m Poisson’s ratio Prior to the development of numerical meth-
w ratio Eti to Em ods in geotechnical engineering, piles were usu-
n ratio Pu to PL B ally designed by evaluating the deflections under
working loads on the basis of small displacement
methods such as the elasticity. Subgrade reaction
theory was also used for the linear analysis of pile
deflection by modelling the pile as a beam on
1 Introduction elastic foundations. These approaches were
adapted for simple pile/soil configuration and do
Pile foundations were initially designed in order not account for the soil properties heterogeneity
to transmit vertical loads to the soil. When these and the non-linear lateral response of the pile/soil

Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301 285

system. Moreover, foundations of some structures Kr. Based on these relationships, hyperbolic
working under severe lateral loading conditions functions were proposed to describe P–Y curves.
are designed on the basis of limit equilibrium Validation process was undertaken by comput-
methods. These latter ones are based on approx- ing the tests piles used to derive such a method as
imate mechanisms of soil resistance derived from well as other test piles in sandy soils. Comparative
the lateral earth pressures theory (Bouafia 1990, study showed the good prediction capability of
1998; Bouafia et al. 1991). the proposed soil/pile stiffness dependant P–Y
It is nowadays recognised that the design curve methods compared to the current
methods based on P–Y curves are the most approaches based on the PMT test.
reliable to the analysis of the behaviour of
laterally loaded single piles with possibility of
taking account of the non-homogeneity of soil
2 Brief review of the methods of construction
properties as well as of the material non linearity
of P–Y curves
in lateral pile/soil response. Soil/pile interface is
modelled by infinity of non-linear springs in
To the knowledge of the author, the first study on
which the soil reaction P at a given depth is
the basis of P–Y curves was due to Reese and
undertaken by the spring for a lateral pile
Matlock (1977) by introducing the concept of the
displacement Y.
lateral reaction modulus previously defined by
Full-scale tests on instrumented piles are often
Winkler (1867). The first generation of P–Y
used to investigate the soil/pile response in the
curves was bilinear describing an elastic plastic
light of load-transfer theory. P–Y curves are
behaviour at the pile/soil interface.
derived from bending moment profiles measured
The in-situ tests such as the PMT become
by strain gauges along the pile. However, a few
usual tools for pile foundations analysis and
full-scale tests on instrumented piles in sand
design. The PMT test provides an experimental
were reported in the literature with successful
stress–strain curve describing the borehole
derivation of P–Y curves from double differen-
response under radial loads. Some similitude
tiation and integration of the bending moment
exists between the expansion of the PMT beor-
profile. The main difficulty in deriving these
ehole and the mobilisation of the frontal lateral
curves is due to the high sensitivity of the lateral
reaction of the soil around a pile (Ménard et al.
soil reaction P to the experimental conditions as
well as to the method of fitting and differenti-
Geotechnical literature contains a diversity of
ation of bending moments (Bouafia and Garnier
methods for deriving P–Y curves from PMT
parameters, namely the PMT deformation mod-
This paper is aimed at presenting the results of
ulus Em and the limit PMT pressure pl. For
an extensive analysis of full-scale horizontal piles
brevity, only the commonly used methods will be
loading tests in quite homogeneous sandy soils.
presented hereafter.
Test piles were well instrumented, and P–Y
curves were derived from the interpretation of
bending moment distribution along the experi- 2.1 Method of Ménard et al. (1969)
mental pile. The experimental results presented
herein are part of an important research pro- This method was initially suggested by Ménard
gramme carried out by the LCPC (Laboratoire et al. (1969), and then improved by Gambin
Central des Ponts & Chaussées, France) during (1979). As illustrated in Fig. 1, the curve 1 is tri-
more than three decades. linear shaped. The first portion has a slope equal
It was shown the existence of fundamental to the initial lateral reaction modulus Eti, the
relationships between the P and Y curves param- second one has a slope equal to the Eti/2 and the
eters namely the lateral soil modulus and the third one corresponds to the lateral soil resistance
lateral soil resistance, the parameters of pressure- taken equal to net limit pressure multiplied by the
meter test (PMT) and the lateral pile/soil stiffness diameter (or the frontal width) B.

286 Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301

Pu=Pl .B.ξ(Kr) to neglect the effect of the slenderness ratio D/B
3 of the pile, D being the embedded length of the
Pl .B 1 pile.
P (kN/m)

Evidences from full-scale lateral loading tests

showed that in the same site the response of piles
* Eti /2 characterised by different pile/soil stiffnesses Kr
Pf .B 2
could not be characterised by a unique lateral
Eti=Em.ψ (Kr) 1: Ménard at al reaction modulus (Bouafia 1990, 1997, 2002a).
2: Fascicule-62 Tests on instrumented pile models in centrifuge
Eti 3: Proposed P-Y
showed rather a variation of the modulus Eti as a
ref. ref. ref.
Y3 Y2 Y1 Y (mm) power of Kr (Bouafia 2002b).
Many investigators have confirmed from the
Fig. 1 Schematisation of some typical P–Y curves analysis of full-scale pile loading tests that this
method is rather pessimistic in predicting small
Lateral reaction modulus Eti was evaluated by deflections behaviour (Frank 1984; Briaud 1986;
Menard et al. (1969) on the basis of the formula Baguelin and Jézéquel 1972; Baguelin et al. 1990)
of settlement of strip foundation, by considering and optimistic in the domain of large deflections
the pile as a infinitely long rigid foundation whose (Baguelin et al. 1990; Bouafia and Bouguerra
settlement is horizontal and equal to the pile 1995, 1996).
deflection Y. Modulus Eti was derived as a According to this method, for a small diameter
function of Em, B and a as follows: pile (B < 0.60 m) the deflection noted Yref. in
Fig. 1, beyond which the lateral reaction reaches
Eti 18 the soil resistance ranges between 5 and 10% of
¼ for B  B0 ¼ 0:60 m ð1Þ
Em 4ð2:65Þa þ 3a the diameter whatever the pile/soil stiffness.

Eti 18B
¼ for B[B0 ð2Þ 2.2 Method of the French code Fascicule-62
Em 4B0 ð2:65 BB Þa þ 3Ba
0 (MELT 1993)

a is a rheological factor called ‘‘coefficient of soil The previous method was integrated in the French
structure’’ depending on the nature of the soil and geotechnical code with reduction of the lateral soil
its compressibility. It is equal to 1/3 for loose and resistance to the net creep pressure pf* multiplied
medium dense sands and 1/2 for very dense sands. by B, as illustrated by curve 2 in Fig. 1. This
For small diameter piles (B £ 0.60 m) ratio Eti/ adaptation was dictated by the necessity to obtain
Em ranges between 2.24 and 2.75. conservative prediction of the pile response at
Pressuremeter parameters defining the P–Y large deflections (Baguelin et al. 1978).
curves above a critical depth zc, should be For non-circular pile section, in addition to the
reduced to take into consideration a reduction lateral reaction defined by curve 2 in Fig. 1,
in soil resistance due to soil heave and a probable tangential lateral reaction F is mobilised along the
reduction in soil confinement (Baguelin et al. tangential sides. Lateral tangential F–Y curve is
1978; Briaud 1986). According to Ménard (1971), defined as a bilinear curve. The first linear portion
the critical depth zc is equal to 4 diameters in has a slope equal to that of P–Y curve and the
granular soils and to 2 diameters in cohesive soils second one is horizontal and represents the
(Frank and Jézéquel 1989). tangential lateral resistance Fl given by
It should be emphasised that the model of
lateral reaction proposed by Ménard (1971) is Fl ¼ 2qs ðL  BÞ ð3Þ
limited to a rigid pile section and therefore
neglects the effects of the pile flexural rigidity. qs is the limit skin friction equal to that mobilised
Moreover, analogy assumed by Ménard (1971) under vertical loads and L is the tangential
between the pile and an infinitely long beam leads dimension of the pile section. The overall P–Y

Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301 287

curve is the superposition of the two lateral The shape factor St is equal to 2 for square piles
reaction curves. and to 1 for circular pile section. Limit skin
friction qs slightly differs from the one mobilised
2.3 Method of Dunand (1981) along the pile shaft under vertical loads and then
may be evaluated with usual bearing capacity
This method is based on a bi-linear P–Y curve as formulae (Smith 1987).
illustrated by curve 2 in Fig. 1. Lateral reaction According to the authors, the assessment of
modulus was correlated to Em on the basis of an this method with respect to the experimental
elastic method whereas the limit lateral reaction evidence of 27 pile loading tests carried out in a
is equal to plB. The concept of critical depth is variety of piles and soils showed a good predictive
introduced as in the previous methods. According capability of pile deflections (Briaud 1986).
to the author, this method is recommended to the
design of drilled piers supporting transmission 2.5 Method of Baguelin et al. (1978)
line structures.
In this method, based on the self-boring pres-
suremeter test (SBPMT), the total P–Y curve is
2.4 Method of Briaud et al. (1985) constructed point by point from the experimental
PMT expansion curve as follows:
The total lateral reaction P to the deflection Y at
a given depth is the sum of the frontal reaction Q F ¼ g p B ð7Þ
and the tangential reaction F. As a result, the P–Y
is the addition of the Q–Y curve and the F–Y BDV
Y¼ ð8Þ
curve. Carayannacon et al. (1979) showed by 4V0
finite element analysis that the contribution of
the tangential reaction increases with slenderness V0 and DV are respectively the initial PMT
of the pile section. borehole volume and the increase in borehole
The main assumption in this method is that volume under the net pressure p* g is called
radial displacements of a PMT borehole and the lateral resistance factor taking into account the
pile deflections are homothetic. Q–Y is directly surface effect and varies form 0.33 to 3 (Baguelin
built from the expansion curve of the PMT test as 1982).
2.6 Method of Robertson et al. (1984)
Q ¼ Sf p B ð4Þ
P–Y curve is constructed for a bored pile from a
BDR prebored PMT or a self-boring PMT, and for a
Y¼ ð5Þ
2R0 driven pile from a pushed-in PMT test. Formulae
5 and 7 should be used with factor g equal for
The shape factor Sf is equal to 1 for square sandy soils to 0 at surface and increasing linearly
piles and to p/4 for circular section. R0 and DR are with depth to 1.5 at the critical depth and below.
respectively the initial PMT borehole radius and The critical depth was estimated to 4 diameters
the increase in borehole radius under the net (Robertson et al. 1985).
pressure p*. Atukoralla and Byrne (1984) analysed by finite
F–Y curves have a bilinear shape composed of element modelling the lateral displacements of a
an initial portion with a slope equal to 2Gr, Gr rigid disk within an elastic plastic material as well
being the PMT shear modulus, and a horizontal as those due the cylindrical cavity expansion
asymptote equal to the limit frontal reaction Fl as within the same material. It was shown that the
follows: ratio of lateral pressures surrounding the disk to
those around the PMT cavity varies between 1.4
F l ¼ St qs B ð6Þ and 1.7 with an average value of 1.50, which is in

288 Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301

accordance with the factor g of this method. 8% corresponding to a saturation degree of 31%.
However, results of this study do not account for It was possible to recover some samples with a
the tridimensional response of the pile under 150 mm diameter auger sampler up to 4.0 m of
lateral loads. depth. The density index Id measured according
As summarised in Table 1, the ratio of lateral to ASTM standard is 66%. Profiles of PMT, CPT
soil resistance Pu to PlB proposed by the methods and DPT tests are illustrated in Fig. 3.
mentioned above ranges in a wide margin betw-
een 0.3 and 3, which shows some uncertainty in 3.2 Test piles
predicting the soil resistance. As an alternative,
the Experimental analysis of instrumented test Test piles are steel pipes instrumented by strain
piles will be used in the next section to evaluate gauges distributed by pairs along two diametri-
the lateral soil resistance. cally opposite axes. Table 2 summarises the
main geometrical and mechanical characteristics
of the piles. Three tubes, noted T5, T10 and T15
3 Presentation of full-scale tests in sand were tested in site S1 and two piles P1 and P2
tested in site S2. The slenderness ratio (embed-
3.1 Sites and geotechnical conditions ded length D/diameter B) varies between 5.5
and 15.3.
The first site, noted S1, is located in Châtenay-sur- Piles in site S1 are externally instrumented by
Seine, 70 km south east of Paris (France). A big seven pairs of strain gauges irregularly distributed
pit whose volume is 424 m3 was previously dug to along two diametrically opposite axes and pro-
a depth of 3.20 m in a chalky soil. It was tected by an adhesive papers of aluminium.
waterproofed by plastic sheets, and then filled in Figure 4 illustrates a general view of piles in site
by Fontainebleau sand into two medium dense S1 with the scheme of loading device. Each pile in
layers. The underlying layer is 1.40 m thick with a this site was connected at its tip by a 90 jacking
density index Id = 37% whereas the upper layer cone in order to facilitate the jacking process into
has a thickness of 1.80 m and Id = 57%. Fon- soil. As shown in Fig. 4, the cone has same
tainebleau sand is poorly graded sand. In-situ diameter as that of the pile. Each pile was jacked
tests, notably PMT (Ménard pre-bored pressure- by means of a hydraulic jack in contact with a
meter test), CPT (static cone resistance test) and reaction beam (Canepa et al. 1987).
DPT (dynamic penetration test) were carried out Piles P1 and P2 in site S2 are instrumented by
and typical profiles are shown in Fig. 2. 20 and 22 pairs of strain gauges, respectively.
The second site, noted S2, is located in Le-Rheu, These latter are externally placed along the pile
5 km south west of Rennes (France). The soil is P1 and protected by steel valley for each axis. For
composed of reddish poorly graded clean sand of pile P2, they are internally stuck along two axes
marine origin from the Pliocene era. Ground along the pile. For both the piles strain gauges are
water table was found at 10 m of depth. The sand regularly spaced of 25 cm and the first one
above water table has average water content of corresponds to the ground surface. Each pile
was placed into a borehole previously made by a
helical drilling engine 6 m high. Some irregularity
Table 1 Comparison of theoretical ratios Pu/plB in diameter of borehole within 5 cm was noticed.
Method Pu/plB Remarks It was likely due to a default of verticality of
drilling axis (Jézéquel 1988). Each pile in site S1
Ménard et al. (1969) 1.00 was filled in with bentonite-cement grout. The
Fascicule-62 0.50 Usual correlation
pf  pl/2 diameter of pile was directly measured at surface
Dunand (1981) 1.00 as well as estimated from the volumes of steel and
Briaud et al. (1982) 0.83 Bored pile in sand bentonite-cement. Uniaxial compression tests of
Baguelin et al. (1977) 0.3–3.0 bentonite samples have given a Young’s modulus
Robertson et al. (1984, 1985) 1.50 Beyond 4B
of 3,500 MPa at 28 days.

Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301 289

Fig. 2 Typical profiles of

in-situ tests in site S1

3.3 Other experimental devices Figure 5 shows the experimental configuration

for piles P1 and P2.
Horizontal load was applied at 1 m and 0.07 m
above the ground surface in sites S2 and S1 4 Programme of tests
respectively. It was given by a hydraulic jack in
contact with a concrete block of reaction and Each pile was subjected to a series of static
measured by a high precision electric load cell. horizontal loads at pile head. Each load incre-
Top deflections were measured in site S1 by ment was maintained 15 min in site S1 and 2 h in
two pairs of LVDT located above the axis of site S2. Some troubles in the hydraulic jack
lateral loading of pile. In site S2, measurement performance in site S2 led to carry out a series
was made by an LVDT located at load level as of three loading-unloading sequences for pile P2
well as manually by a distance-meter (invar wire) and 2 ones for pile P1. Response of strain gauges
with a precision of 1/10 mm. above or at ground surface were used to check to
Rotation was measured by an inclinometer actual load applied to the pile.
located at piles top in site S1, whereas it was
measured along the piles in site S2 by means of
electro-levels BRE with a precision of 1/100 mRad. 5 Analysis of P–Y curves
One pipe access was fixed at the central axis of pile
P1 and two ones were internally fixed at two 5.1 Methodology
diametrically opposite axes into pile P2. Each pipe
access allows the installation of an inclinometer or Measurement of the axial deformation by strain
the electro-levels BRE every 50 cm depth. gauges along the pile allows the determination of

290 Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301

Fig. 3 Typical profiles of

in-situ tests in site S2

bending moments curve for a given load at pile were used to fit the bending moment distribution.
top. Two successive integrations of this curve lead The fitting function was chosen according to the
to easily determine lateral displacement Y along criterion of static equilibrium of the test pile under
the pile. Moreover, two successive differentia- lateral reaction profile P(z) and the loads on the
tions of this curve allow the determination of pile top within a given tolerance (Bouafia and
horizontal soil reaction P and then to define P–Y
curve at any depth.
Since the soil reaction geometrically represents
the curvature of bending moment distribution, it is
therefore very sensitive to any fluctuation of
bending moment at a given depth and strongly
depends on the choice of the fitting curve of
bending moment (Bouafia 1990; King 1994).
Quintic spline functions or polynomial functions

Table 2 Characteristics of test piles

Site Pile B (m) D/B EpIp(kN m2)

S1 T5 0.050 14.2 59.74

T10 0.100 15.3 868.9
T15 0.150 15.3 4,331.6
S2 P1 0.500 10.0 56,370
P2 0.900 5.50 743,600
Fig. 4 General view of test pile in site S1

Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301 291

Fig. 5 General view of piles P1 and P2 in site S2

Garnier 1991). This criterion was subsequently (Reese 1971; Garassino 1976; Georgiadis et al.
adopted in other studies in LCPC (Mezazigh 1995; 1992). Experimental P–Y curves were fitted by
Remaud 1999). the following hyperbolic function:

5.2 Interpretation of results Y

P¼ 1
Eti þ PYu
Figure 6 illustrates an example of P–Y curves
obtained according to this methodology. It can be Least squares regression coefficient was found
seen that P–Y curves at different depths are non- greater than 95% for curves corresponding to
linear shaped with an increase in soil stiffness depths above the zero displacement depth.
with depth. It is to be noticed that deflections and Beyond this depth values of Eti seem to be
soil reaction change in sign at almost the same inaccurate, since P and Y become small and the
depth, say 10 diameters, which is in accordance ratio P/Y has no significance regarding the
with Winkler’s hypothesis regarding the soil uncertainties due to experiments as well as to
reaction modulus (Bouafia 1998). Furthermore, the procedure of interpretation of bending
it can be seen that beyond a deflection of about moment curves.
3% of B, limit lateral reaction is reached with For all the piles, the modulus Eti varies
exhibition avec asymptotic values in the P–Y linearly with depth. This fact is in accordance
curves along the pile. with the distribution of soil modulus in homo-
The procedure of construction of P–Y curves geneous granular soils called Gibson’s soils.
was validated by back-computation of all the test Figure 8 shows a typical profile, which may be
piles. P–Y curves were introduced in the P–Y described by
curve based computer program single pile under
lateral loads (SPULL) developed in the university Eti ¼ N H Z ð10Þ
of Blida. As shown in Fig. 7, computed deflec-
tions were found in very good agreement with the
experimental results. It is possible to accurately 5.4 Influence of lateral pile/soil stiffness
describe the lateral load-deflection of the test on P–Y curves
piles by means of these experimental P–Y curves.
It has been already stated that the influence of
5.3 Lateral reaction modulus lateral pile/soil stiffness on the P–Y curves was
not accounted for by the current methods. Most
Hyperbolic formulation is often used to describe of these methods simply correlate the parameters
the elastic plastic constitutive laws of soils (Dun- of P–Y curves to those measured in PMT test.
can and Chang 1970) as well as the P–Y curves Lateral pile/stiffness may be defined as follows:

292 Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301

Fig. 6 Typical P–Y Pile P1 site Le-Rheu B=0.5 m D/B=10 Ep.Ip=56.37 MN.m

curves for pile P1

Z/B= 0.5
150 = 1.0
= 1.5
= 2.0
50 = 2.5

Lateral reaction P (kN/m)

= 3.0
0 = 3.5
= 4.0
= 4.5
-100 = 5.0
= 5.5
-150 = 6.0
-200 = 6.5
= 7.0
-250 = 7.5
= 8.0
= 8.5
-350 = 9.0
= 9.5
-400 = 10.
-20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 50 60
Deflection Y (mm)

E p Ip was studied for all the P–Y curves constructed. It

Kr ¼ ð11Þ
Ec D4 wad found that the average values of w vary as a
power of Kr as illustrated in Fig. 9. It is to be
where Ec is a characteristic soil modulus
noticed that pile P2 whose slenderness ratio D/B
evaluated as an average value of PMT modulus
is equal to 5.5 should be considered rather as a
along the pile
pier. The proposed correlation is valid only for
long pile with D/B greater than 10 and may be
ZD computed as follows:
Ec ¼ Em dz ð12Þ
0 Eti ðzÞ ¼ Em ðzÞw ¼ Em ðzÞ  0:28  Kr0:55 ð14Þ
The ratio
Within the interval 10–3 – 10–2 of pile/soil
stiffness studied, ratio w ranges between 3 and 9,
w¼ ð13Þ whereas Ménard et al. (1969) recommended 2.75.
According to Eq. 11, lateral reaction modulus

Fig. 7 Comparison of
computed and measured Pile T15 measured
deflections in site S1 35 computed from
P-Y curves
Lateral load (kN)


Pile T10


Pile T5

0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180
Top deflection (mm)

Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301 293

Pu ¼ 3PL B Kr ð16Þ

Accordingly, lateral soil resistance around a rigid

pile is greater that around a flexible pile. Accord-
ing to Eq. 12, Pu increases with the square root of
the stiffness EpIp and decreases with the embed-
ded length. For the test piles, n ranges between
0.1 and 0.3, which is less than the recommended
values of Table 1.
In case of a solid circular pile, Eqs. 14 and 16
lead to the following simplified formulae

Eti 5 1
 ðD=BÞ2 pffiffiffiffi ð17Þ
Em 4 K
Pu 2 K
¼ ð18Þ
pL B 3 ðD=BÞ2

where K = Ep/Ec is the pile/soil compressibility.

Fig. 8 Typical lateral reaction modulus profile
These formulae show the important influence of
the slenderness ratio D/B on the parameters of
approximately decreases with the square root of P–Y curve.
the flexural pile stiffness and decreases with the Curve 3 in Fig. 1 illustrates the proposed
embedded length. Such dependence was not taken hyperbolic P–Y curve. The reference displace-
account by the method of Ménard et al. (1969) ment Yref. corresponds to the intercept of the
and Fascicule-62. initial linear portion with a slope equal to Eti, and
Moreover, limit lateral reaction Pu was corre- the horizontal asymptote corresponding to the
lated to the net limit pressure by defining the ratio lateral resistance PuYref. is therefore defined as
the threshold of large lateral deflections of the
Pu pile section and of full mobilisation of the lateral
n¼ ð15Þ soil resistance according to the elastic plastic
pl B
scheme of P–Y curve. Based on Eqs. 14 and 16,
Figure 10 shows that for all the test piles with D/B ratio yref./B is simply expressed by the following
‡ 10, n increases as a power of Kr: function of Kr and PMT characteristics

D/B >=10 D/B >=10

D/B=5.5 D/B=5.5

b * b
Eti/Em=a.(Kr) 0,1 Pu/(PL.B)=a.(Kr)
b=-0.55 a=3.0
R=94 % b=0.50
1 0,01
0,01 0,1 1E-3 0,01 0,1 1
Kr Kr

Fig. 9 Variation of the ratio Eti/Em with lateral pile/soil Fig. 10 Variation of the ratio Pu/PL B with lateral pile/soil
stiffness Kr stiffness Kr

294 Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301

Y ref: p Eti ¼ N H zn ð21Þ

 11Kr L ð19Þ
B Em is given by (Matlock and Reese 1960)
It is to be noticed from Eq. 9 that Y corre- sffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
sponds to half the limit lateral reaction in the ðnþ4Þ Ep Ip
hyperpoblic formulation and to all the limit L0 ¼ ð22Þ
lateral reaction in the elastic plastic formulation.
Equation 19 provides a simple and useful tool to
The effective length De is equal to 5L0 for
estimate the threshold of large lateral load-
n ‡ 1 and to 3L0 for n = 0. A pile is classified as a
deflection behaviour. Figure 11 drawn for typical
long one if D is greater than De and as a rigid one if
values of Em/p*L of sandy soils gives for a flexible
D is less than 2L0 for n ‡ 1 and to L0/2 for n = 0.
pile characterised by Kr equal to 10–3 a reference
Lateral pile/soil stiffness should be evaluated in
deflection of 0.22, 2.2 and 22 % of B in loose sand,
Eq. 11 by introducing the minimum of the effec-
medium dense sand and very dense sand respec-
tive length and the total embedded length. In case
of a long pile, simultaneous use of Eqs. 11 and 22
Hyperbolic P–Y curves proposed on the basis
necessitates an iterative process.
of the interpretation of full-scale instrumented
piles in sandy soils provides a simple approach to
construct P–Y curves taking into consideration 6 Validation of the proposed P–Y curve
some physical parameters of pile/soil interaction.
Lateral reaction modulus and lateral soil resis- The proposed P–Y curves method was assessed
tance are defined as function of PMT character- by predicting the lateral response of full-scale as
istics and the pile/soil stiffness according to Eq. 14 well as in centrifuge test piles in sandy soils.
and 16. Tables 3 and 4 summarise the main geotechnical
The embedded length D is a key factor in and physical characteristics of soil/pile configura-
lateral response of piles. The effective embedded tions used in this regard. Piles are identified as
length De is the relevant length of pile mobilised mentioned in the references.
in load-deflection behaviour and beyond which, The Lock & Dam 26 site is composed of
pile sections are at rest. It is usually expressed in alluvial deposits (poorly graded sand) 3 m thick
the function of the elastic length (or transfer and overlying glacial deposits (medium to coarse
length) L0. sand with gravel) 17 m thick. The bedrock is a
Length L0 of a pile embedded in a soil charac- hard limestone from the Mississipian age. Lateral
terised by a lateral reaction modulus increasing as a load tests were performed on two identical -
linear function of depth HP-14 · 73 piles socketed in the limestone
bedrock, jacked apart, and the lateral displace-
Eti ¼ b þ NH z ð20Þ ment of each pile were measured.
or as a power function of depth The Longjuemau site is located near Paris and
composed of tertiary silty fine sand, rather

Table 3 Characteristics of soil/pile in full-scale tests

Site Pile D/B EpIp(MN m2) Installation Ec (MPa) Kr D/L0 Reference
Lock & Dam-26 3–12 57.3 61.00 Driven 20.6 1.9 · 10 16.2 (Briaud et al. 1989)
Lock & Dam-26 3–13 57.3 61.00 Driven 20.6 1.9 · 10–3 16.2 (Briaud et al. 1989)
Longjumeau TG 10.0 7.31 Driven 6.65 3.3 · 10–2 2.44 (Gambin 1979)
Longjumeau TD 10.0 7.31 Driven 5.33 4.1 · 10–2 2.50 (Gambin 1979)
Roosevelt bridge 16 18.4 958.50 Driven 61.3 1.1 · 10–2 6.80 (Townsend 1997)
Lock & Dam-26 T3 44.5 61.70 Driven 15.6 2.3 · 10–3 12.3 (O’Neill 1983)
Arkansas River 2 39.7 700.50 Driven 10.6 2.8 · 10–3 7.30 (Meyer 1979)
Arkansas River 16 39.7 688.80 Driven 10.6 2.8 · 10–3 7.30 (Meyer 1979)

Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301 295

Table 4 Characteristics of prototype soil/piles in centrifuge

Soil Pile D/B EpIp (MN m2) Installation Ec (MPa) Kr D/L0 Reference

Fontainebleau – 16.7 473.60 Driven 34.1 3.0 · 10–3 7.33 (Remaud 1999)
Le-Rheu ENSM-1 15.6 44.70 Bored 7.60 9.4 · 10–3 3.80 (Bouafia 1987)
Le-Rheu ENSM-2 15.6 44.70 Bored 10.3 6.9 · 10–3 4.16 (Bouafia 1987)
Le-Rheu P1–2 10.0 56.60 Bored 3.60 2.5 · 10–2 2.15 (Bouafia 1990)
Le-Rheu P1–4 10.0 56.60 Bored 11.6 7.8 · 10–3 4.20 (Bouafia 1990)
Le-Rheu P1–t 10.0 56.60 Bored 18.7 4.8 · 10–3 4.30 (Bouafia 1990)

uniformly graded. Piles TG and TD are installed of predictions are encouraging seeing the multi-
and loaded as in the above site. tude of approximations made during the process
The Roosevelt bridge site is composed of loose of definition of this method.
layer of sand thick of 4 m, overlying a thick layer Lateral response of test pile T3 in Lock & dam
of very dense partially cemented sand. The site 26 and piles 2 and 16 in the Arkansas River was
with submerged by water up to 2 m above the predicted. As illustrated by Fig. 13, the ratio
ground level. Square prestressed concrete pile Ypred.
0 /Ymeas.
0 was found fluctuating around 1.33
was driven and tested up to cracking under a load within an interval 094–2.80 and a coefficient of
of 200 kN and concrete failure occurred under a variation of 36%.
load of 320 kN. Sandy materials of sites S1 and S2 were used in
Pile T3 was tested in lock & Dam site 7 years the LCPC centrifuge to study the lateral behaviour
prior to tests on piles 3–12 and 3–13, PMT data of centrifuged models in sand within the scope of an
were not available. Prediction of the pile T3 was important programme of research undertaken by
made with the PMT data of piles 3–12 and 3–13. the LCPC since two decades. Reduction scales of
In the Arkansas site, the soil is a saturated SP/ piles were 1/40 and 1/18 for models in Fontaine-
SM sand and only the SPT test was carried out. bleau and Le-Rheu sands respectively. Character-
PMT data were estimated by usual correlation istics summarised in Table 4 correspond to the
with the SPT. prototype ones. Sandy mass was characterised by
It should be emphasised that the reliability of cone penetration tests (CPT) carried out by min-
the predictions of piles T3 in Lock & Dam and iature cone during the centrifugation. CPT tests in
piles 2 and 16 in Arkansas site will decrease centrifuge were used to estimate the PMT data by
because of the scatter in the estimation of the adopting the same correlation CPT/PMT found
PMT data for pile T3 or in the correlation with the in-situ. This assumption leads to a rough estimation
SPT test for piles 2 and 16. In this regard,
predictions of these piles will interpreted sepa-
rately. 25
1 : Loose sand Em/PL*=5
For each pile, lateral pile/soil stiffness was 1
2 : Medium dense sand Em/PL*=10
evaluated and hyperbolic P–Y curves according 20
3 : Very dense sand Em/PL*=20
to the Eqs. 14 and 16 were defined. In most of
cases, piles were sufficiently long to be considered
Yref./B (%)


as restrained at their tips. SPULL programme was 2

used to predict the load-deflection curve of each 10

pile. As shown in Fig. 12, very good agreement

between predicted and measured deflections, with 5

remarkable fluctuation of the 35 points of com-

parison around the ratio predicted to measured 0
0,00 0,02 0,04 0,06 0,08 0,10
deflection of 1.11. Moreover, Ypred.
0 /Ymeas.
0 Varied
between 0.81 and 1.84 with a mean value of 1.22
and a coefficient of variation of 21%. The results Fig. 11 Variation of reference displacement with Kr

296 Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301

Fig. 12 Comparison of 50
predicted and measured Full-scale pile loading tests
deflections (PMT data 45
(PMT data available)

Y0/B predicted %

30 (R2=94%)


Lock & Dam, Pile 3-12
15 Lock & Dam, Pile 3-13
Roosevelt bridge, Pile 16
Longjumeau, Pile TG
5 Longjumeau, Pile TD
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Y0/B measured %

of the PMT data of sand in centrifuge and then to methods of construction of P–Y curves. Due to
an approximate prediction of the piles behaviour. the non-availability of the PMT expansion curves,
As shown in Fig. 14, good prediction is to be the comparison was limited to the method of
noticed for small deflections up to 10% of B. Fascicule-62. For all the piles where the PMT
The ratio Ypred.
0 /Ymeas.
0 of the 27 points of data was available, P–Y curves illustrated by
comparison varied within the interval 0.56–2.40 curve 2 in Fig. 1 were defined and input in
with a mean value of 1.43 and a coefficient of SPULL. Figure 15 summarises the comparison
variation of 30%. between predicted and measured deflections. It
can be seen that the ratio Ypred.
0 /Ymeas.
0 of the 53
points of comparison fluctuates around 0.81
7 Comparative study within a margin of 0.31–3.30 and a coefficient of
variation of 40%. The proposed method slightly
The predictive capability of the proposed method overpredicted the pile deflections whereas the
is to be compared with that of the current method of Fascicule-62 underpredicted them.

Fig. 13 Comparison of 100

predicted and measured Full-scale pile loading tests
deflections (PMT data
(PMT data estimated)
estimated) 80
Y0 predicted (mm)

70 Y0pred./Y0meas.=1,33



20 Lock & Dam, 1978 Pile T-3

Arknsas river, 1970 Pile 2
Arkansas river, 1970 Pile 16
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Y0 measured (mm)

Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301 297

Fig. 14 Comparison of 50
predicted and measured
deflections (centrifuge
tests) 40

Y0/B predicted %


Centrifuge tests
Fontainebleau sand, 1999
15 Le-Rheu sand, 1987 (test 1) Pile ENSM-1
Le-Rheu sand, 1987 (test 2) Pile ENSM-2
Le-Rheu sand, 1988 (test 2) Pile P1-2
5 Le-Rheu sand, 1988 (test 4) Pile P1-4
Le-Rheu sand, 1991 (test t) Pile P1-t
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Y0/B measured %

8 Normalised load-deflection curves ZDe

pLe ¼ pL dz ð23Þ
Test piles in Lock & Dam 26 and Roosevelt De
bridge were added to those in sites S1 and S2 to
build a small database of nine lateral loading tests PLe is to be computed along the total embedded
in four sandy sites. As shown in Fig. 16, load- length D if it is shorter than the effective length.
deflection curves were normalised by dividing the Normalised curves were located in a rather
lateral load by an equivalent net limit pressure Ple narrow band, which allowed fitting all the exper-
and the frontal area De · B, and by dividing the imental data by unique fitting curve. In a
deflection Y0 at ground level by the diameter or preliminary stage of pile design, tabulated values
the width B. of this function in Table 5 provides a simple
Net equivalent limit pressure is an average net approach to estimate the pile deflections under
value along the effective length De of the pile, working loads.
evaluated as follows:

Fig. 15 Comparison of 100

predicted and measured Full-Scale Pile Loading tests
deflections (Fascicule-62) Method: Fascicule -62
Y0 predicted (mm)

70 Y0pred,/Y0meas,=0,81
60 Lock &Dam Pile3-12
R2=84% Lock &Dam Pile3-13
50 Roosevelt bridge Pile 16
Longjumeau Pile TG
Longjumeau Pile TD
30 Chatenay Pile T5
Chatenay Pile T10
20 Chatenay Pile T15
Le-Rheu Pile P1
Le Rheu Pile P2
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Y0 measured (mm)

298 Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301

Le Rheu Pile P1 As shown in Figs. 17 and 18, load-deflection

Le Rheu Pile P2
1 Chatenay Pile T5 curves in both the two soils are very sensitive to
Chatenay Pile T10
Chatenay Pile T15 Kr, particularly in the domain of large deflections.
Lock & Dam Pile 3-12
Lock & Dam Pile 3-13
This result shows that the lateral pile capacity
Lock & Dam Pile Pile T3 should be analysed in relation with the pile/soil

0,1 Roosevelt Bridge Pile 16

stiffness, contrarily to the current methods of
estimation of the lateral pile capacity which
0,01 simply neglect this important factor by necessity
of simplification of the analysis.
R =93%
1E-4 1E-3 0,01 0,1 1 10 Conclusions
The lateral response of single piles in sand was
Fig. 16 Normalised load-deflection curves
investigated on the basis of interpretation of full-
scale lateral loading tests of single instrumented
9 Parametric study of piles in Gibson’s soils piles in quite homogeneous sandy soils, in order
to define the parameters of P–Y curves, namely
The influence of the lateral pile/soil stiffness on the lateral reaction modulus and the lateral
the non-linear behaviour of piles embedded in a soil resistance, in correlation with the PMT
soil characterised by linear profiles of PMT parameters.
characteristics was investigated. After a brief description of some current
Dimensional analysis according to Bucking- methods of construction of P–Y curves, experi-
ham’s theorem of the following general equation mental P–Y curves of the test piles were derived
and the corresponding parameters were found
f ðY 0 ; H; M0 ; Ep I p ; B; D; k; lÞ ¼ 0 ð24Þ varying as a power of lateral pile/soil stiffness, on
led to the following dimensionless equation: the basis of which hyperbolic P–Y curves in sand
were proposed. The predictive capabilities of the
proposed P–Y curves were assessed by predicting
gðH=ðpLe BDe Þ; Y 0 =B; Kr ; k=lÞ ¼ 0 ð25Þ
the soil/pile response in full-scale tests as well as
where M0 is the bending moment applied at the in centrifuge tests and a very good agreement was
ground level and taken equal to 0 in this study. found between the computed deflections and the
k and l are respectively the rate of linear measured ones.
increase of Em and PL with depth. The ratio k/l is Simple linear relationship was proposed
equal to Em/PL . between the reference deflection, which is the
Two extreme cases of pile/soil stiffness were threshold of large deflections, and the PMT
studied: rigid pile characterised by Kr equal to characteristics and the pile/soil stiffness.
1.15 and a flexible pile characterised by Kr equal Small sized database of full-scale pile loading
to 0.002. the piles were embedded in two extreme tests in sand was built. It was shown the load-
types of soils: loose sand and very dense sand with deflection curves of these test piles may be
Em/pL* equal to 5 and 20 respectively. Hyperbolic normalised in a practical form for a rough
P–Y curves were defined by Eqs. 14 and 16 and estimation of the pile deflection under working
introduced in SPULL. loads in a preliminary stage of pile design.

Table 5 Tabulated values of the normalised load-deflection curve

Y0/B 10–4 10–3 5 · 10–3 10–2 5 · 10–2 10–1 2 · 10–1
H/(PL BDe) 2 · 10–3 7.06 · 10–3 1.70 · 10–2 2.50 · 10–2 6.0 · 10–2 8.8 · 10–2 12.8 · 10–2

Geotech Geol Eng (2007) 25:283–301 299

0,18 engineering, University of British Coulombia, July

0,16 Loose sand (Em/Pl = 5) 1984, pp 34
Rigid pile Baguelin F (1982) Règles de calcul des fondations à partir
Flexible pile Kr=1.15 de l’essai au pressiomètre autoforeur (in French). In:

0,12 Proceedings of the symposium La pressiométrie et ses

0,10 applications en mer, Paris, 19–20 April 1982, pp 359–
371, editions LCPC-IFP
Baguelin F, Jézéquel JF (1972) Etude expérimentale du
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0,04 French), Annales de l’ITBTP No. 297, 1972, pp 155–200
Baguelin F, Frank R, Said Y (1977) Theoretical study of
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Baguelin F, Jézéquel J-F, Shields D-H (1978) The
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Gibson’s soil Baguelin F, Frank R, Jézéquel JF (1990) The Ménard
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0,14 Flexible pile
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0,06 -3 Bouafia A (1987) Modélisation en centrifugeuse-Pieux
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Balkema, Amsterdam
At last, a parametric study of the influence of Bouafia A, Garnier J, Levacher D (1991) Comportement
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of piles embedded in Gibson’s soils was under- French). In: Proceedings of the international sympo-
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Presses de l’ENPC
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pile/soil stiffness on the load-deflection curves fugeuse du comportement d’un pieu flexible chargé
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Bouafia A, Bouguerra A (1996) Effet de la proximité du
Acknowledgments The study reported herein is supported
talus sur un pieu court et rigide chargé horizontale-
by the Algerian ministry of higher education and research
ment (in French). Fr Geotech J RFG No 75, 2e
MESRS within the scope of the project COPIFOR
trimestre 1996, pp 47–56
(COmportement des PIeux FORés) under the code J0901/
Bouafia A (1997) Etude en centrifugeuse du comporte-
ment d’un pieu chargé horizontalement (in French).
In: Proceedings of the 14th ICSMFE, 6–12 September,
A.A. Balkema, Amsterdam, pp 771–776
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