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The objective of the seminar is to understand the sources of foundation settlement, do

analysis of settlement of foundations and to find appropriate solutions.


2.1 Foundation Settlement

All foundations settle to some extent as the soil around and beneath them adjusts itself
to the loads of the building. Foundations on bedrock settle a negligible amount.
Foundations on certain types of clay may settle to an alarming degree, allowing
buildings to subside by amounts that are measured in feet or meters.

Foundation settlement in most buildings is measured in millimeters or fractions of an

inch. If settlement occurs at roughly the same rate from one side of the building to the
other, it is called uniform settlement, and no harm is likely to be done to the building.
If large amounts of differential settlement occur, in which the various columns and
load bearing walls of building settle by substantially different amounts, the frame of
the building may become distorted, floors may slope, walls and glass may crack, and
doors and windows may refuse to work properly.

Accordingly a primary objective in foundation design is to minimize differential

settlement by loading the soil in such a way that equal settlement occurs under the
various parts of the building. This is not difficult when all parts of the building rest on
the same kind of soil, but can become a problem when a building occupies a site with
two or more areas of different types of soil with very different load bearing capacities.
Most foundation failures are at tributable to excessive differential settlement. Gross
failure of a foundation, in which the soil fails completely to support the building, is
extremely rare.

2.2 What Causes Foundation Settlement?
The causes of foundation settlement are rarely due to the design (or under-design) of
the structure itself. More commonly, damage is caused as changes occur within the
foundation soils that surround and support the structure. The following paragraphs are
brief explanations for a few of the more common causes of foundation settlement.

Weak Bearing Soils

Some soils are simply not capable of supporting the weight or bearing pressure exerted
by a building's foundation. As a result, the footings press or sink into the soft soils,
similar in theory to how a person standing in mud sinks into soft, wet clay. In such
cases, footings may be designed to spread the load over the weak soils, thereby
reducing potential foundation settlement. However, the majority of settlement
problems caused by weak bearing soils occur in residential construction, where the
footings are designed based upon general guidelines and not site-specific soil

Poor Compaction
Placement of fill soils is common practice in the development of both commercial and
residential subdivisions. In general, hilltops are cut down and valleys are filled in
order to create buildable lots. Properly placed and compacted fill soils can provide
adequate support for foundations. When fill soils are not adequately compacted, they
can compress under a foundation load resulting in settlement of the structure.

Changes in Moisture Content
Extreme changes in moisture content within foundation soils can result in damaging
settlement. Excess moisture can saturate foundation soils, which often leads to
softening or weakening of clays and silts. The reduced ability of the soil to support the
load results in foundation settlement. Increased moisture within foundation soils is
often a consequence of poor surface drainage around the structure, leaks in water lines
or plumbing, or a raised groundwater table.

Soils with high clay contents also have a tendency to shrink with loss of moisture. As
clay soils dry out, they shrink or contract, resulting in a general decrease in soil
volume. Therefore, settlement damage is often observed in a structure supported on
dried-out soil. Drying of foundation soils is commonly caused by extensive drought-
like conditions, maturing trees and vegetation and leaking subfloor heating,
ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

Maturing Trees and Vegetation

Maturing trees, bushes and other vegetation in close proximity to a home or building
are a common cause of settlement. As trees and other vegetation mature, their demand
for water also grows. The root systems continually expand and can draw moisture
from the soil beneath the foundation. Again, clay-rich soils shrink as they lose
moisture, resulting in settlement of overlying structures. Many home and building
owners often state that they did not have a settlement problem until decades after the
structure was built. This time frame coincides with the maturation and growth of the
trees and vegetation.

Soil Consolidation
Consolidation occurs when the weight of a structure or newly-placed fill soils
compress lower, weak clayey soils. The applied load forces water out of the clay soils
allowing the individual soil particles to become more densely spaced. Consolidation
results in downward movement or settlement of overlying structures. Settlement
caused by consolidation of foundation soils may take weeks, months, or years to be
considered "complete."

2.3 Other Causes of Slab Foundation Settlement

 Poor soil preparation.
 Plasticity of clay soil.
 Poor drainage.

2.4 Structures settle into the ground for many different reasons.

The number one reason structures settle and foundation repair is later needed is
because of poor soil preparation when the structure was built. The soil is not prepared
before the concrete is poured. The soil, once it is graded, no longer remains at it's
NATURAL DENSITY. It is now disturbed, and is loose and porous. The property is
graded to level out the lot, sometimes cutting into a hill at one side and filling up the
low spots at the other side. The soil is rarely compacted to it's natural density.

What has happened is that the loose un-compacted soil compacted on its own, and the
slab settled into the ground. Un-compacted fill dirt will compact when it gets dry or
when it gets wet, bringing the structure down with it. Once a Bedrock foundation
repair specialist installs supports deeper into the ground to reach undisturbed soil, soil
that is naturally compacted at it's natural density, it is then strong enough to support
most structures. On loose soil that is un-compacted, even a light small shed will soon

There maybe water and moisture inside the trenches before the concrete is poured, and
they pour the concrete anyway. It looks good at the time, and they didn't have to spend
any time and money digging the wet muddy soil out of their trenches. No damage is
done there are cracks and damage. The soil again was not prepared properly before the
concrete was poured.

The number two reason foundations settle is because of the plasticity of clay soils.
The clay will swell when it gets wet, and it will shrink when it dries. This swelling and
shrinking will work the weight of the structure down into the ground. Over time, the
foundation will remain more settled than it has risen.

Plasticity is the ability of the soil to shrink and swell. The higher the plasticity of the
soil, the more apt the soil is to rise up and then settle down. One side of the structure
may have more clays than the other side, and foundation may be sitting on more clay
than the neighbouring buildings, which accounts for some structures experiencing
more foundation problems than others.

The third main reason for foundation settlement is poor drainage. Water must
never pond around a foundation. The soil around the foundation must always shed
water away from the structure. To fix the foundation you must first fix the drainage.
Water is the enemy. It can wash out around foundation supports, but it can also cause
the clays to swell and shrink, damaging the foundation. Also, if there is too much
moisture in the soil, it can reach a saturated point where it will no longer support the
weight above it.

2.5 Factors Influencing Settlement

1. Size of footing
2. Depth of footing
3. Rigidity of footing
4. Tolerable settlement
5. Water table
6. Rate of settlement

2.6 Danger Signs

-Visible signs of cracking or deterioration in the foundation itself
- Garage door leaning
- Large cracks along brick facing
- Exterior window and wall separation
- Cracks in interior's wall
- Doors out of square that no longer shut tightly

2.7 SOLUTIONS - How to prevent foundation problems
 A foundation/structural engineer and an architect should be involved in the
building process from the beginning of construction to protect the future owner.
 The soil should be properly compacted before allowing any concrete to be poured.
 The structure should high enough to insure proper water drainage.
 The trenches should be properly inspected for standing moisture and wet spots,
and the wet soil should be removed and the area properly compacted before
concrete is installed.

2.8 Foundation Settlement: crack patterns, other evidence

The photograph shows a significant settlement crack in a poured concrete foundation

of a new (modular) home. This crack appeared first as a fine hairline crack. A
combination of poor site preparation of soils below the building footings
(uncompacted fill), portions of footings sitting on bedrock, and nearby blasting led to
differential settlement that produced this damage. Also some reinforcing steel may
have been omitted from construction of the foundation wall.

A settlement crack is more likely to be wider at top than its bottom as the foundation
"bends" over a single point (or as one section of footing tips downward from its
neighbor), allowing differential settlement; it is possible for a settlement crack to
appear fairly uniform however if a foundation breaks vertically and then pursues
differential settlement. Settlement cracks need to be separated into initial settlement
due to construction or site factors and ongoing settlement due to site factors.

Settlement cracks are usually wider at the top of the crack, usually continuous, and
may occur multiple times in a wall

• Direction of downwards movement: If you draw an imaginary line orthogonal

(at a right angle to) the line of a diagonal foundation crack, usually the line
you've drawn points to the direction of downwards movement in the wall.
However a diagonal crack may also indicate upwards wall-lift such as by frost
or expansive clay soils which are more active under one portion of a foundation
wall than another.
• Sink holes and foundation cracking: Settlement cracks may appear at the
opposite end of a wall when a reinforced masonry foundation is settling due to
presence of a sinkhole (for example in Florida). This condition can be
distinguished by observing or measuring the directions of floor or wall slope.
• Multiple settlement cracks in walls: Multiple cracks of either type (settlement
or lifting) may occur in a given area. Usually settlement cracks are visible both
outside and inside of the foundation wall if the wall material is exposed to view
at all.

2.9 Differential Settlement vs. Uniform Settlement in a Foundation:

(A)Building Before Settlement Occurs(B)Uniform Settlement

(C) Differential Settlement

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2.9.1 Differential settlement in a foundation: We use the term "differential
settlement" to describe a condition in which one portion of a building foundation is
moving down, (or up and down) at a different rate or in a different amount from other
portions of the foundation or wall.

Differential settlement will damage the foundation or wall by producing (usually

vertical, possibly diagonal or stair stepped) cracks and other symptoms of wall

The large foundation crack in this poured concrete wall was caused by differential
settlement in a new foundation wall. All of this movement occurred during the first 13
months after the home was built.

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2.9.2 Differential settlement in a building slab or supporting piers can produce
significant and recurrent cracks in the living area as drywall and trim are torn and
dislocated during building movement.

This photograph shows a significant crack in an upper floor interior wall which was
bending as the center of this home settled downwards. The home had been built over
the site of a previous stream bed.

Its basement floor slab and supporting piers was settling downwards at its center.
There was some additional movement in some of the building perimeter foundation
walls, but the most significant settlement was at the center of the basement floor.

2.9.3 Uniform settlement in a foundation: Some buildings may settle so uniformly

that the entire building moves down without producing cracking in the building's
foundation or walls.

For example, while it has a few settlement cracks, the Empress Hotel in Victoria BC, a
very large masonry structure built on pilings on what was originally a marsh, has
settled rather uniformly down over many decades, so that now visitors enter the hotel's
"lobby" on what was originally its second floor.

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Concrete slab foundations are supported by the load bearing soils beneath them. When
this support is
reduced, the foundation adjusts accordingly. In parts of the country where highly
expansive clay soils predominate, structural problems are common when the
foundations are not constructed to take into
consideration changes in the characteristics of the soil. One such situation involved a
single-family residence with extensive cracking to interior sheetrock and exterior brick
veneer. An engineering evaluation was requested to determine the cause of the

A slab deflection survey was performed to determine the slope and curvature of the
foundation. The results showed localized settlement toward the front of the house such
that the slab sloped at a gradient of nearly two inches over 10 feet. The observed
cracking of the sheetrock and brick veneer was consistent with the measured slopes of
the foundation. A large oak tree was located fifteen feet from the foundation. It is
known that most trees will project root systems beyond their canopy (drip line) to seek
moisture. It was noted from the survey that the region of greatest settlement coincided
with the observed tree canopy and the probable extent of the root system.

The slab deflections were not indicative of any water leaks near or beneath the
foundation. Water leaks will cause excessive swelling of clay soils and ultimately
heave the slab upward in the affected area. In this case, however, the slab had not
heaved, but had suffered differential settlement at the side of the house where the oak
tree was located.

The observed differential settlement was caused by subsiding clay soils that shrank
over time and no longer provided adequate support to the slab. The culprit was the tree
which had, by way of its root systems, drawn water from the soil beneath the slab. Soil
contraction because of moisture extraction was expected to continue as long as the tree
roots remained viable beneath the slab.

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 Total Settlement (St) = Si + Sc + Ss Eq.(1.1)

Si – Immediate settlement
Sc – Consolidation Settlement
Ss – Settlement due to
secondary consolidation

 Skempton and Bjerrum

 Si = q1oB
− µ2 
 Is Eq.(1.2)
 Es 

q0 - Contact pressure at the base of footing

B - Least lateral dimension of footing
μ - Poisson’s ratio
Es - Soil Modulus
Is - Shape factor
Es - From Stress strain curve obtained from triaxial CU test

 Janbu, Bjerrum, Kjearnsli

1− µ 2
Si = µ 0 µ1q0 B Eq.(1.3)

µ 0,and µ 1 are coefficients to be obtained from chart for given depth and width of
foundation and depth of hard layer

 Settlement of Rectangular foundations on soil layer

The settlement is given by

Si = I Eq.(1.4)

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Dimension less coefficient depending on ν , L/B, H/B


3. 1.1 Types of foundation settlement

Foundation settlement under load can be classified according to two major types:
immediate or elastic, settlement, Se and consolidation settlement, Sc. Elastic settlement
of a foundation takes place during or immediately after the construction of the
structure .Consolidation settlement is time dependent and takes place as the result of
extrusion of the pore water from the void spaces of saturated clayey soils .
The total settlement of a foundation is the sum of the elastic settlement and the
consolidation settlement .

Consolidation settlement comprises two phases: primary consolidation settlement and

secondary consolidation settlement. Secondary consolidation settlement occurs after
the completion of the primary consolidation that is caused by slippage and
reorientation of solid particles under sustained load. Primary consolidation settlement
is more significant than secondary settlement in inorganic clays and silty clay soil.
However in organic soil, secondary consolidation settlement is more significiant.

3. 1.2 Elastic settlement based on the theory of elasticity

The elastic settlement of a shallow foundation can be estimated by using the theory of
elasticity. From Hooke’s law,

Se = ∫ εzdz = 1 ∫ (∆σz – μs∆σx - μs∆σy)dz Eq.(1.5)

o Es o

Se =elastic settlement
Es =modulus of elasticity of soil
H=thickness of the soil layer
μs =Poisson’s ratio of the soil
∆σx , ∆σy, ∆σz = stress increase due to the net applied foundation load in the x,y and z
directions, respectively.

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Theoretically, if the foundation is perfectly flexible, the settlement may be expressed

Se = qo(αB’) 1- μs² Is If Eq.(1.6)


qo = net applied pressure on the foundation

μs = Poisson’s ratio of the soil
Es = average modulus of elasticity of soil under the foundation, measured from
z=0 to about z=4B
B’= B/2 for center of foundation
= B for corner of foundation

To calculate settlement at the center of foundation, we use

m’ = L Eq.(1.7)

The elastic settlement of a rigid foundation can be estimated as

Se (rigid) = 0.93 Se flexible,center) Eq.(1.8)

Due to the non-homogeneous nature of the soil deposits, the magnitude of E may vary
with depth.

Es = Ʃ Es(i) ∆z Eq.(1.9)

Es = soil modulus of elasticity within a depth

Z = H or 5B, whichever is smaller

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3.1.3 Elastic settlement of foundations on saturated clay

Janbu et al proposed an equation for evaluating the average settlement of flexible

foundations on saturated clay soils.

Se = A1A2 qoB Eq.(1.10)


A1 is a function of H/B and L/B and A2 is function of Df/B.

3.1.4 Elastic settlement of sandy soil: Use of strain influence factor

The settlement of granular soils can also be evaluated by the use of a semi empirical
strain influence proposed by Schmertmann et al (1978). According to this method, the
settlement is

Se = C1 C2 ( q-q )Ʃ Iz ∆z Eq.(1.11)
0 Es

Iz = strain influence factor

C1= a correction factor for the depth of foundation embedment=1-0.5
[q/ ( q-q )]
C2 = a correction factor to account for creep in the soil
= 1+0.2 log (time in years/0.1)
Q= stress at the level of the foundation
Q= γ Df

For square or circular foundations

Iz =0.1 at z = 0
Iz =0.5 at z = z 1= 0.5B

Iz =0 at z = z2 =2B

Similarly, for foundations with L/B>10,

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Iz = 0.2 at z=0
Iz =0.5 at z = z1 =B
Iz = 0 at z = z2 =4B

Where B = width of the foundation and L=length of the foundation .Values of L/B
between 1 and 10 can be interpolated.
The use of Eq.(1.11) first requires an evaluation of the approximate variation of the
elasticity with depth. This evaluation can be made by using the standard penetration
numbers or cone penetration resistances. The soil can be divided several layers to a
depth of z = z2 and the elastic settlement can be estimated. The sum of the settlement
of all layers equals Se.

3.1.5 Range of material parameters for computing elastic settlement

Several investigators have correlated the values of the modulus of elasticity Es, with
field standard penetration number, N60 and the cone penetration resistance, qc.Mitchell
and Gardner (1975) compiled a list of these correlations.

Schmertmann(1970) indicated that the modulus of elasticity of sand may be given by

Es = 8 N60 Eq.(1.12)

N60 = standard penetration resistance

pa = atmospheric pressure =100kN/m²

Es = 2qc Eq.(1.13)

Where qc = static cone penetration resistance

Schmertmann et al.further suggested that the following correlations may be used with
the strain influence factors

Es =2.5 qc (for square and circular foundations)

Es =3.5 qc (for strip foundations)


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Primary consolidation settlement relationships

As mentioned before, consolidation settlement occurs over time in saturated clayey

soils subjected to an increased load caused by construction of the foundation.

On the basis of the one-dimensional consolidation settlement,

Sc = ∫εz dz Eq.(1.14)


Εz = vertical strain
= ∆е
1+ еo

∆е = change of void ratio

= f (σ’o, σ’c and ∆ σ’)

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Geotechnical studies for foundation settlement in alluvial deposits in the City of

Rome (Italy)
University of Roma “Roma TRE”, Dept. of Geological Science, L.go San Leonardo
Murialdo, 1 00146 Rome, Italy
Via degli Scaligeri, 29 00164 Rome, Italy
Received 14 March 2006;
Revised 31 July 2006;
Accepted 7 August 2006.

This study identifies units characterized by specific geomechanical behaviours within
some Holocene alluvial deposits in the City of Rome. In particular, the highly
compressible units, which may be responsible for subsidence and settlement
phenomena below urban structures, have been identified. Investigations carried out
during this study have interpreted nearly 800 stratigraphic sections and physical–
mechanical features of the alluvial deposits of the Tiber and those of its right- and left-
bank tributaries. The analysis allowed to define, for each investigated deposit, a
representative series subdivided into lithotechnical units. When comparing the
stratigraphic and geologic features among the series, a remarkable difference in
geomechanical behaviour in the deposits from the Tiber's left- and right-bank
tributaries and within the river's deposits themselves could be recognized. A yield
hazard zoning for urban structures related to recent alluvial deposits has also been

4.1. Introduction

The City of Rome is located in an area where there as been long-term human activity
and continuous transformations of the original terrain have been substantial. The
hydrographic networks of the Tiber's right and left banks have been modified more
than once during historical times; sometimes, it has even been obliterated by urban
growth. These changes mean that nowadays, it is very difficult, at least in the
historical centre, to recognize the original terrain. Many of Rome's streets run along
the ancient courses of the Tiber's tributaries and many buildings are situated on
alluvial deposits now buried by anthropogenic debris. Many of these structures
overlying alluvium and debris have been damaged by subsidence and seismic wave
amplification. The effects are visible in the buildings' uniform or differential
In the past, the alluvial deposits were considered as continuous bodies consisting of
clayey–silty and sometimes sandy sediments. Instead, the formations were found to be

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mainly heterogeneous. The geotechnical characterization of these units is mandatory
for evaluating the intrinsic geological environment's hazard in urban areas, where the
risk can reach very high values. This study has been carried out through the analysis of
borehole and geotechnical data from three left-bank tributaries and three right-bank
tributaries of the Tiber River. Data for the Tiber's alluvial deposit from various parts
of the city were also included. Based on this geotechnical analysis, a subdivision into
lithotechnical units has been created for each deposit to make correlations and
comparisons among the different deposits. The same level of detail was not possible
for all of the stream valleys, since it was not always possible to obtain geotechnical
data. Nonetheless, it has always been possible to define a stratigraphic series that
would represent the examined deposit by subdividing it into units after stratigraphical
and sedimentological observations.

4.2 Geological, geomorphological, and hydrogeological setting in the City of


The dominant feature on the Tiber River's right bank is the “Monte Mario” ridge. It
lies parallel to the Tiber valley and reaches nearly 140 m a.s.l.; to the south, it is 60 m
a.s.l. Monte Mario is made up of marine deposits .The “Monte Vaticano” Unit, (blue
clays) affects the whole structural setting of the City of Rome and is remarkably thick,
consolidated, and is the aquatard for hydrogeological units of Rome. These marine
deposits are exposed at the base of the “Monte Mario” ridge. To the east and west of
the ridge “Monte Vaticano” lies at various depths in paleogeomorphic depression in
tectonically deformed “bedrock.” Above those marine sequences we can follow the
change from marine to coastal, then to continental sedimentation. The continental and
coastal facies trace the flow of the Paleotiber, which is parallel to the coast running SE
along a continuously subsiding belt, producing conglomerate deposits tens of metres
thick. From the Middle Pleistocene ash and other airborne products from an intense
volcanic activity of the “Sabatini” and “Albani” volcanic districts reached the area of
Rome. The geomorphologic and hydrogeologic setting was deeply modified by this
volcanic activity. The Paleotiber's course was deviated arriving to the present-day
position within the boundary between the Albani and Sabatini products. Later, the last
glacial lowstand was 120 m below today's level.

This produced a deepening of the Tiber's course and its tributaries' as they eroded the
volcanic deposits first, followed by the continental Paleotiber's deposits then, and later
carving deeply into the underlying and well-consolidated “Monte Vaticano” Unit.
When the sea level rose, the deep gorges were in-filled with alluvial deposits, which
are the object of this paper.

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The succession of these events created the present-day terrain of the City of Rome: the
area consists of a central plain, which is the Tiber's alluvial plain; the relief on the
river's right bank is the “Monte Mario”–“Monte Vaticano” structural high; at the
Tiber's left bank lies an articulated area that, in the historical city centre, corresponds
to the “Seven Hills”

Fig. 2. Geological map of Rome

4.3 Methodology

This study is predominantly concerning areas where growth of the modern City of
Rome has occurred over the last 50 years and where it will presumably developed in
the future. Several hundreds of recent drillings carried out from geological–technical
investigations were analyzed and interpreted using previous data from published
stratigraphies. Initially, each alluvial deposit was subdivided into units based on
physical data from stratigraphic descriptions (colour, sedimentological features,
organic matter content, consistency, etc.). Then, for each of these subdivisions, the
physical–mechanical parameters from laboratory or on-site tests were determined; this
gave a representative series for each alluvial deposit by subdividing them into
“geotechnical units”.

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4.4 Lithostratigraphic characterization of alluvial deposits at the Tiber River's
left bank
4.4.1 Alluvial deposit of the “Fosso di Grotta Perfetta” stream Geographic setting

The “Fosso di Grotta Perfetta” stream flows in a secondary valley and is a left-bank
Tiber tributary. For its low-energy, marsh-environment characteristics this stream
was considered to be a swamp in the past, the area is long and narrow. It is 8.5 km
long and 2 km wide. The lower basin of the stream is now almost completely
urbanized, the final branch was channeled during historical times. As of today, the
area is known for its instabilities for constructions, principally related to settlement
and rigid rotation of structures, caused by the soil's bad geomechanical characteristics
and inadequate foundations. The examined area follows the Grotta Perfetta stream
course for about 3 km, and a tangential band of about 1 km into the valley of the
Tiber. Subdivision into depositional units and geotechnical parameters

Based on the physical characteristics of the soil, within the alluvial deposits and
beneath the anthropic cover, six main units in the central portion of the valley can be
distinguished and linked to geotechnical data from nearly 218 undisturbed samples.
About 100 new in situ geotechnical tests were performed. The following are
descriptions of the analyzed units and their physical–mechanical parameters.
Beneath the anthropic cover, from the most recent to the most ancient unit, deposits
from the last historical flood can be observed, which are 3–4 m thick, clayey–silty
sands with floated anthropic inclusions. The soils are of pyroclastic origin with some
tuff element. The geomechanical behaviour is definitely frictional, the cohesion is
almost zero; the gravel–sand fraction percentage is higher than in the overlying
anthropic cover. Underlying the historical flood deposits are the brown clays.They
are silty clays and clayey silts; consistency is medium at the top and gradually
decreasing with depth. Water content and Atterberg's values are rather high; the
consistency index is medium to low, decreasing with depth, typical of plastic to
soft/plastic physical states. Deeper, the first brown–blackish, high organic matter
content unit can be observed. Locally, greyish, brown, and/or greenish lenses are
present. Geotechnical analysis highlighted particular parameters that are commonly
identified with geotechnically poor soils. The dominant feature is the high organic
matter content, which reached 15–25% of the total weight. Densities are particularly
low, void ratio being sometimes higher than 4.00. Often the moisture content is
higher than the liquid limit; the liquidity index is > 1 indicating liquid–plastic states.

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Such characteristics are typical of metastable or sensitive soils, for which stable
states are only possible onsite (with confining pressure); whenever they were
disturbed by both static and dynamic tension, they lose their strength. In particular,
when subjected to dynamic loading, they can produce local collapse phenomena.
Shear strength parameters are definitely low and has high compressibility; with
values of compression index Cc often more than 2.00.

Around − 5 m a.s.l there is a substantial decrease in organic matter which identifies

the top of the greenish clays The water content and Liquid Limit, despite still being
high, reveal a certain degree of geotechnical improvement compared with the
overlying organic clays. This is particularly due to the absence, or minor presence, of
organic matter (less than 10% found only in particular horizons). Nevertheless, the
shear strength resistance is still low similar to that of the above-mentioned organic
clays. Compressibility characteristics reveal compression index Cc values of 0.6–1.5,
which, although typical of highly compressible clays, indicate a slight increase in
stability compared with the overlying organic clays.

Finally, an organic matter-rich unit characterized by physical–mechanical parameters

similar to those of the above-mentioned blackish and organic ones is also present.
This layer changes from black to grey in colour at depths exceeding 35–40 m
indicating a decrease in organic matter and an increase of cohesion where coarse
horizons of floated pozzolan fragments are observed. This geotechnical and
stratigraphic setting allowed the layer to be subdivided into two sub-units: the upper
AO2′ unit and the lower AO2 unit. The AO2′ unit is characterized by parameters
similar to that of the AO1 unit.
High water content and Atterberg's values were observed, with very low, sensitive
and metastable soil characteristics again observable. The AO2 unit instead shows
better mechanical parameters. It is also characterized by the presence of diffused
floated pozzolan horizons, lens-shaped and decimetre-sized; only locally, these
horizons can be up to 1–3 m thick. Their presence improves the geotechnical
properties of the clayey unit; the higher permeability allows some local consolidation
within the organic clays. The bed of the AO2 unit has geotechnical conditions
compared to the AO2′ which is also evident when analyzing the water content,
density, and strain values. These characters define the geotechnical parameters
representative of the various lithotechnical units in the Holocenic alluvial deposits in
the “Fosso di Grotta Perfetta” stream.

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Table 1.

Geotechnical parameters summary table of the lithotechnical units identified in the

“Grotta Perfetta” deposit

Average γn WC LL IP φ′ C′ Cu (kPa)
thickness (kN/m3) (%) (%) (%) (kPa)

Historical 3 16–19 32–65 //–78 NP- 30– 0–38 –

floods 23 47

Brown clays 7 15–19 30–93 43– 17– 23– 5–35 21–74

123 58 30

Organic 6 12–15 91– 102– 33– 13– 9–25 16–55

clays 186 171 93 22

Green clays 8 12–17 49– 84– 24– 17– 3–15 7–19

154 151 79 29

Organic 5 14–16 42– 63– 18– 13– 5–25 15–33

clays 184 164 76 26

Organic 15 16–19 28–84 46– 17– 25– 0–0.3 15–30

clays 104 65 30

// indicates no data.

4.5 Lithostratigraphic characterization of the Tiber River alluvial deposit

4.5.1 Introduction

When compared with tributary alluvial deposits, there are more studies of the
deposits of the River Tiber. These studies are indispensable for individualizing the
stratigraphical and evolutionary relationships between the Tiber and its tributaries.
The investigated area is located in the Historical Centre and has been characterized
by a number of boreholes that often reached down to Pliocenic bedrock.
4.5.2 The stratigraphic series representative of the Tiber River's alluvial deposit
and its geomechanical parameters

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Almost all of the studies about the alluvial deposits of the Tiber within the City of
Rome agree on both their subdivision and geomechanical characterization. There is
also a general agreement on the reconstruction of the depositional evolution of the
Tiber during the Holocene. For the Historical Centre, the authors agree on
characterization of the following stratigraphical units.
Sandy silts and dark-greenish clayey silts; subdivided into two different ones, a silty–
clayey (LAV) unit and a sandier one (SLV).

S: coarse sands constituting the filling after an erosional phase of the Tiber River.

AG: silty clays and greyish clayey silts with thin organic levels, relatively more
frequent at an elevation of − 15 a.s.l.

SLG: silty sands, grey sandy silts, and coarse sands.

G: base gravel: mainly made up of carbonate clasts from the erosional phase.

Our analysis corresponds to the above studies, even though the data come from
different areas.
Summary table of the principal geomechanical parameters representative of the units
observed in the Tiber's alluvial deposits

Units Average γn Wn LL IP φ C′
thickness (kN/m3) (%) (%) (% (kPa)
(m) )

LAV Greenish 7 18–20 20–0 43–71 12– 18– 15–30

clayey silts 41 25

SLV Greenish 7 17–20 20– 26–65 8– 27– 0–20

silty sands 40 26 35

S Medium 8 17–20 20– ND– // 30– 0–10

sands 30 27 40

AG Grayish silty 23 15–20 20– 34–93 11– 15– 5–25

clays 60 59 26

SLG Grayish silty 15 18.5–20 20– 24–46 //– 25– 0–15

sands 30 22 35

// indicates no data.

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The left-bank deposits show physical–mechanical parameters remarkably poorer
than those from the right bank and from the River Tiber itself.

The differences in shear resistance between the left-bank and right-bank deposits
are in the graphs compare three CPTs on the three deposits we examined.

The plasticity conditions can be compared by examining the Casagrande's Plasticity

Chart. It highlights the high plasticity of the organic silty deposits from the “Grotta
Perfetta” stream.

The deposits of the Tiber and of its right-bank streams show normal activity indices
(A = 0.4–0.8), whereas the left-bank deposits show higher values (A = 0.8–2),
typical of “high-activity” soils.

Prominent for the objective of this study is the remarkable deformability of the left-
bank deposits when compared with the right bank and the deposits of the Tiber. The
deformational features are here compared with three representative oedometric
graphs. The organic pelitic–silty deposits of the “Fosso di Grotta Perfetta” stream
clearly show a very high compressibility whose natural void index reaches very
high values (e0 = 1.5–2.5).

Thus, these normally consolidated alluvial deposits show a relatively higher

deformability when associated with organic sediments, which are distributed
throughout the left-bank deposits. The pelitic–silty beds in particular are potentially
prone to subsidence and settlement if loaded by landfill. The Tiber's deposits and
the right-bank deposits instead show fairly similar and comparable deformability

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4.6 Conclusions

The analysis of nearly 800 stratigraphic logs and a number of laboratory tests gave
the opportunity to subdivide the alluvial deposits of the Tiber and its tributaries into
depositional units and to define their geomechanical characteristics. This division
into units is very important for evaluating the hazard in different areas of the
territory. Such hazards are derived from the fact that alluvial deposits are subject to
seismic amplification and the structure of organic-rich units are more ‘sensitive’
and can be affected by phenomena similar to the liquefaction of silty sands below
the water table. Such sediments are mostly underconsolidated, hence, more
subjected to settlement.

Through data derived some alluvial deposits in the City of Rome (including those of
the Tiber), it is possible to identify areas potentially at risk from instabilities caused
by the presence of organic matter. Units with high organic matter content, widely
dispersed and several metres thick, are mainly within a portion of the stream with
shallow gradients. The Tiber's deposits only show thin layers of organic matter and
generally have better geotechnical characteristics than deposits underlying the left-
bank tributaries. All the deposits that have been subjected to loading by backfills
and buildings in the historical centre over thousands of years have completed their
consolidation process and are no longer affected by subsidence.

Areas with significant organic matter content on the left bank are subsiding now,
whereas the right-bank alluvial deposits are no longer subsiding.

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Case study: Reinforced Earth retaining wall approaches
Thursday, June 10, 2010, 11:03 Hrs [IST]

Dhananjoy Das and Saikat Chatterjee present an interesting case study of how the
highly-flexible Reinforced Earth technology was successfully deployed on a bridge
over a canal in Kolkata. Marshy land had made construction difficult.

A bridge was to be built over Bagjola Canal to meet the increasing traffic and
developmental demands. The banks of the canal were made of filled up soil on a low
and marshy lands. For PWD, the construction of main bridge structure was not so
critical due to its pile foundations. Whereas, it was hard to construct its approaches in
such a marshy land with 'N' value ranging from 2-3 only, up to a depth of 15m from
ground level in most of the places. Conventional RCC retaining wall was not a feasible
solution in such ground condition. Therefore, the owner of the project opted for highly
flexible Reinforced Earth Retaining Wall and the work was awarded to Reinforced
Earth India.

The solution: It was a challenging engineering task to build Reinforced Earth Walls
under such extreme weak ground conditions with very low bearing capacity to support
the load of the structure. Therefore, it was imperative to improve the foundation soil to
withstand the load to be imposed from the wall. PVD (prefabricated vertical drain) in
combination with stage construction preloading was selected as a best possible
solution at that location followed by two layers of PET uniaxial geogrids to improve
the foundation soil and ensure the safety of the wall under global stability. Proper
instrumentation and stage construction were done to monitor settlement and
development of additional pore water pressure with each stage of construction and
subsequent dissipation during pause period.

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Owner: West Bengal PWD
Main contractor: Mackintosh Burn Ltd
Construction stage: April 2005 to November 2007
RE wall area: 5,062 sq. m (as built)
Engineering Data
Facing: 1.5mx1.5m Cruiciform Terraclass panels
Connection type: Galvanised tie strips
Reinforcement type: High Adherence (HA) galvanised steel strips
Fill soil properties: Phi=32 deg., ?min=15KN/m3, ?max=17KN/m3
Foundation type: N' value = 2-3 up to depth 15m
Foundation system: Prefabricated vertical drain

PVD work: PVD had been inserted up to a depth of 15m (average), in 1.5mx1.5m
square grids, below a depth of 2.0m from existing ground level. The job was done at a
very fast pace and the overall PVD work at an approximate plan area of 7,000 sq.
metres, had been completed within two weeks.

Instrumentation: Four settlement plates and ten Piezometric tubes had been installed at
both the approaches to measure the periodical settlement and pore water pressure

Stage construction: Stage construction

technique had been adopted to stabilise
the foundation soil with every stage of
construction by allowing dissipation of
pore water through PVD along with
very sophisticated sub-surface drainage
system. As the wall height was
approximately 9.0m, three stages of rest
periods had been considered to achieve

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the maximum settlement in stages. At 4.0m, 7.0m and 9.0m, average rest periods of 45
days each had been provided.

The gain in shear strength of foundation soil at each stage of construction allowed
construction of next stage of RE wall. During this rest periods instruments were
monitored at regular basis, and the next stage of construction started after reaching the
desired settlement and dissipation of pore water pressure. Below is one example of
settlement and piezometer monitoring report at one of the locations.

Notable observations: A maximum 319mm settlement had been observed; differential

settlements had been observed varying from 99mm to 319mm; and post-construction
settlements had also been observed in some places.

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1.) Braja M. Das, Principles of Foundation Engineering, Thomson, India Edition.

2.) Website:
3.) Geotechnical studies for foundation settlement in Holocenic alluvial deposits in
the City of Rome (Italy) Maria Paola Campolunghi Giuseppe Capelli, Renato
Funiciello and Maurizio Lanzini University of Roma “Roma TRE”, Dept. of
Geological Science, L.go San Leonardo Murialdo.
4.) Soil mechanics and foundation engineering, vol. 43, no. 1, 2006
Settlement analysis based on recommendation of building code 50-101-2004
V. A. Barvashov.
5.) Settlement analysis of foundations.Willmore, M J
Proc lnt Conference on Foundations and Tunnels, London,
arch 1987 VI, P25-29. Publ Edinburgh: Engineering Technics Press. 1987

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