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APPROXIMATION OF LATERAL SOIL MOVEMENTS FOR

ANALYZING LATERAL PILE RESPONSE

L.T. Chen1 and H.G. Poulos 2

ABSTRACT: Piles may be subject to lateral soil movements induced by nearby


settling embankments, pile driving operations, excavation operations, tunneling
operations, moving slopes, or landslides. Accurate estimation of the soil movement is
key to successful estimation of the lateral pile response caused by the soil movement.
This paper first briefly describes a theoretical procedure and elastic design charts for
analyzing the pile response to lateral soil movements, and then, through a study of
published centrifuge model tests and case histories, develops simple guidelines for
approximating actual soil movements for theoretical analysis. It is shown tha t in many
cases the actual soil movement can be simplified to either a linear or uniform profile,
and can be readily applied to the design charts for estimating the maximum pile
response with reasonable accuracy. The analysis methods and guidelines described in
this paper are simple and efficient to use in practice, especially for undertaking
preliminary feasibility studies.

INTRODUCTION
In Hong Kong geotechnical engineers are often required to either assess the lateral
response of existing piles caused by adjacent settling approach embankments (where piles are
supporting bridge abutments), pile driving operations, excavation operations, tunneling
operations, moving slopes or landslides, or to design piles to stabilize unstable slopes or
potential landslides. In all these cases, the piles are subject to lateral soil movements which
induce bending moments and deflections in the piles and may lead to their structural distress
or failure.
The problem of piles subject to lateral soil movements has become a subject of
considerable research work. However, great uncertainties still remain in relation to the
theoretical solutions for estimating the pile response (including deflection and bending
moment) and the consequent pile integrity, the most notable being the accurate estimation of
the magnitude and distribution of the soil movements and the limiting lateral soil pressure
which the moving soil applies to the pile. While the estimation of the limiting soil pressure
has received reasonably wide discussion in the literature (see for example Poulos & Davis,
1980; Chen & Poulos, 1994, 1997), discussion on the estimation of the soil movement is
relatively scarce .
It is the main purpose of this paper to first describe briefly a theoretical procedure and
some design charts based on elasticity theory for analyzing the lateral pile response, and then,
through a study of published centrifuge model tests and case histories, to develop simple
guidelines for approximating soil movements for making theoretical estimation of the lateral
pile response. The analysis methods and guidelines described in this paper are simple and
efficient to use in practice, especially for undertaking preliminary feasibility studies.

1
Senior Geotechnical E ngineer, Atkins China Ltd, 15/F Miramar Tower, 132 Nathan Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR, China.
2
Senior Principal, Coffey Geosciences Int. Ltd, 142 Wicks Road, North Ryde 2113, and
Professor, The University of Sydney, Australia.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Detailed accounts of examples of piles subject to soil movements can be found in the
literature, such as Poulos & Davis (1980), Poulos (1988) and Chen (1994). Some typical
examples are briefly described below.

Piles adjacent to Excavation or Tunneling Operations


Finno et al (1991) described a case where a 17.7m deep tieback excavation was made
through primarily granular soils within an existing frame structure, which was supported by
groups of step-tapered piles about 21 m long. Although the excavation was provided with
temporary support by a tieback sheet-pile wall, the main column pile caps had moved about
6.4cm laterally toward the excavation by the time the sheet-pile extraction was about to
begin.
Lee et al. (1994) described a case involving the construction of a tunnel for the Angel
Underground Station in London. The tunnel was driven between pile foundations supporting
a seven-story building with a two-story basement, the tunnel axis line being about 5.7m from
the nearest piles. Measured data showed that some of the piles had moved laterally toward the
tunnel by about 10mm when the tunneling operation was complete.

Piles for Slope Stabilization


Kalteziotis et al (1993) documented a case where more than 30 piles arranged in two
rows were used successfully to stabilize an unstable slope.
Poulos (1995) described a case where large diameter bored piles were designed to
increase slope stability in Australia.
Chen & Thomas (1999) described the design of bored pile walls to stabilize two fill
slopes in Hong Kong.

Piles in Landslide Areas


Escario et al (1989) reported a case where three 50m long masonry piers were used to
support a viaduct adjacent to unstable steep slopes. The sliding slopes had caused the piers to
deflect horizontally and damage the viaduct.

Piles adjacent to Pile Driving


Hagerty & Peck (1971) reported a case of substantial pile deflections caused by adjacent
pile driving. Some step-taper piles were driven behind a bulkhead into a soft clay deposit.
The already driven piles were caused by subsequent driving to displace laterally and were
tilted towards the bulkhead. The average measured lateral movement of the pile nearest to the
bulkhead was estimated to be about 58cm.

Piles adjacent to Embankments


Hull & McDonald (1992) reported a case where some pier piles were damaged by the
lateral soil movements resulting from an adjacent embankment construction.

ANALYSIS METHOD OF LATERAL PILE RESPONSE


The problem of a vertical pile subject to lateral soil movements is schematically shown
in Fig. 1, where d is pile diameter, L is pile le ngth, and zs is thickness of unstable soil layer.

zs
L

d Fig. 1 Pile subject to lateral soil movement


Broadly speaking, the analysis methods of the lateral pile response may be classified
into the following three categories:
1) displacement -based methods, as described by Poulos (1973) in which a free-field soil
movement profile is imposed on a pile in a simplified boundary element analysis to
estimate the pile response.
2) pressure -based methods, in which a soil pressure profile is imposed on the pile in the
pile analysis, such as that used by De Beer and Wallays (1972).
3) finite element method, such as that described by Rowe & Poulos (1979).
Of these methods, it appears that the displacement-based boundary element analysis can
be applied virtually to any type of problems provided that the free-field soil movement can be
estimated. In the analysis, the pile is modeled as a simple elastic beam, and the soil as an
elastic continuum. The lateral displacement of each element of the pile can be related to the
pile bending stiffness and the horizontal pile-soil interaction stresses. The lateral
displacement of the corresponding soil elements is related to the soil modulus or stiffness, the
pile-soil interaction stresses, and the free-field lateral soil movements. A limiting lateral pile-
soil stress can be specified so that local failure of the soil can be allowed for, thus allowing a
nonlinear response to be obtained. Based on this analysis, Hull (1987) developed a boundary
element program named PALLAS for analyzing the lateral pile response.
Using such an analysis method, a series of simple design charts have been developed for
estimating maximum pile bending moments and deflections associated with slope
stabilization, excavation and tunneling operations, as described by Poulos (1995), Poulos &
Chen (1996a, 1996b), Chen & Poulos (1996), and Chen et al (1999, 2000).

Fig. 2 Elastic solutions for unrestrained free-head pile in Gibson soil (Linear Soil Movement Profile)
(after Chen & Poulos, 1997)
Elastic design charts to accommodate a more general situation have also been presented
by Poulos (1989) and Chen & Poulos (1997, 1999). These elastic design charts cater for two
basic soil movement profiles, namely, uniform and linear profiles, although in principle they
can be extended to cover other profiles. Some of the design charts are reproduced in Fig. 2.
The input parameters required for use of the elastic design charts include pile diameter
(d), pile length (L), pile bending rigidity (EpI p), soil Young’s modulus (E s, either uniform
with depth or = Nhz for Gibson soil, where Nh is a constant), magnitude of soil movement at
ground surface (so ), the limiting soil pressure, and thickness of unstable soil layer (zs).
Estimation of the soil movements will be discussed in the next section.

APPROXIMATION OF SOIL MOVEMENTS FOR THEORETICAL PREDICTIONS


As the lateral soil movement profile cannot always be obtained before hand for
theoretical predictions in practice, an assumed simplified profile may need to be used.
Although the actual soil movement profiles vary from case to case, a study of published case
histories has indicated that in some cases they can be simplified to either a uniform or linear
profile, as demonstrated below.

Excavation-induced Soil Movements


Example 1: Recently, Leung et al (2000) have presented results from centrifuge model
tests on a single pile adjacent to unstrutted deep excavations in dense sand. The model pile
was fabricated from a hollow square aluminum tube and instrumented with 10 pairs of strain
gauges protected by a thin layer of epoxy. The model pile simulated a prototype concrete
bored pile of 0.63m in diameter, 220MN.m2 in flexural rigidity, and 12.5m in total embedded
length. The retaining wall supporting the excavation was made of an aluminum alloy plate,
equivalent to a KSP-IIA sheet pile wall having a bending stiffness EI of 24000 MN.m2/m and
an embedment depth of 8m. The Young’s modulus of the sand, Es , was estimated to increase
linearly with depth, z, and may be expressed approximately as Es = Nhz = 6z MPa.
Several tests were carried out in which the pile was located at different distances from
the retaining wall. The free -field soil movements, pile bending moments and deflections were
measured for different depths of excavation. The measured free-field soil movements at
different distances from the wall and corresponding to an excavation depth of 4.5m are
shown in Fig. 3(a). It can be observed that these lateral soil movements decrease almost
linearly with depth.
In order to use the above-mentioned elastic design charts to back-calculate the pile
response, the soil movement profiles shown in Fig. 3(a) were simplified to linear profiles as
shown in Fig. 3(b). The procedure of estimating the maximum pile bending moment and
deflection is illustrated for Test PC1 in which the pile was located at 1m from the wall.
At the location of 1m from the wall, the soil movement at ground surface, so , is about
35mm and the thickness of the unstable soil layer, zs, is about 8m, as shown in Fig. 3(b). For
L/d = 12.5/0.63 = 19.8; zs/L = 8/12.5 = 0.64; KR = EpIp/NhL5 = 220 x 103 /6 x 10 3 x 12.55) =
1.2 x 104; and from Fig. 2, m1 = 0.36; and so the maximum pile bending moment Mmax = 0.35
x 6 x103 x 0.632 x 8 x 0.037 = 260 kN.m compared to 220 kN.m (measured). Also m2 = 0.9;
and so the maximum pile deflection ρ o = 0.9 x 0.35 = 32mm compared to 28mm (measured).
Following the same procedure, the maximum pile bending moments and deflections for
other tests can also be similarly estimated. The estimated results are shown in Fig. 4, together
with those measured. It can be seen that the elastic design charts using the simplified soil
movements generally give an upper bound but fairly good estimation of the pile response.
Lateral soil movement (mm)
300
10 20 30 40

Maximum bending moment (kN.m)

pile-1
0 (5) (4) (3) (2) (1) estimated by design charts
250

Depth below ground surface (m)


measured

Test PC2
measured
2.5
200

Test PC1

pile-2
150

Test PC3
(a)
5

Test PC4

Test PC5
measured 100
7.5

50
(1) 1m from wall
(2) 2m from wall
0
10

(3) 3m from wall


(4) 4m from wall 0 2 4 6 8 10
Distance from retaining wall (m)
(5) 5m from wall
12.5

40

Maximum deflection (mm)


Depth below ground surface (m)

(5) (4) (3) (2) (1)


0 estimated by design charts

Test PC2
30 measured
2.5

Test PC1

Test PC3
20
5

Test PC4

Test PC5
(b)
10
7.5

simplified

0
10

0 2 4 6 8 10
12.5

Distance from retaining wall (m)

Fig. 3 Lateral soil movement profiles Fig. 4 Estimated and measured maximum pile bending
of Example 1 moments and deflections of Example 1

Embankment-induced Soil Movements


Example 2: De Beer and Wallays (1972) reported a field test in Belgium that aimed to
study the influence of embankment construction on adjacent pile foundations. Measured
results were presented for a steel pipe pile and a reinforced concrete pile. The steel pipe pile
was 28m in length, 0.9m in diameter, and 1.5cm in wall thickness, while the reinforced
concrete pile was 23.2m in length and 0.6m in diameter. The pile heads were restrained from
lateral displacement. The soil deposit consisted mainly of sand, with a Young’s modulus Es
of about 30MPa and the limiting soil pressure of about 2pp (where pp is the Rankine passive
pressure) (see Chen & Poulos, 1997). The measured free-field lateral soil movements are
shown in Fig. 5(a) to generally decrease with depth.
Chen & Poulos (1997) have shown that a full analysis via the computer program
PALLAS can give estimations of pile bending moments and deflections very close to those
measured, using the measured soil movement profile shown in Fig. 5(a).
In this paper, the above soil movement profile was simplified to a linear profile in two
cases. As shown in Fig. 5(b), one case has a s o value of 20mm, while the other has a so value
of 40mm, both cases having a zero value occurring at a depth of about 18m. The pile bending
moment and deflection profiles estimated using PALLAS are shown in Fig. 6, together with
those measured, and a fairly good agreement between the estimated and the measured values
can be observed. As can be seen, the measured profiles are encompassed by those estimated
corresponding to the two so values. Clearly , a so value of between 20mm and 40mm should
give reasonably good estimations.
The elastic design charts were not applied to these two piles because the pile heads were
restrained from lateral translation rather than free, and design charts for this case have not yet
been developed.
Bending moment (kN.m) Bending moment (kN.m)
-2000 -1500 -1000 -500 0 500 -400 -300 -200 -100 0 100 200
soil movement (mm)
0 0
0 20 40 60

5
5

10

Depth (m)

Depth (m)
10
depth (m)

15
15
20
sSoo ==20mm
20mm sSoo ==20mm
20mm
20
25 sSo
o ==40mm
40mm sSo
o ==40mm
40mm
measured measured
30 25

(a ) measured Pile deflection (mm) Pile deflection (mm)


-5 0 5 10 15 20 25 -5 0 5 10 15 20 25 30
0 0

5
5
depth (m)

10
Depth (m)

Depth (m)
10
15
15
20
So
so ==20mm
20mm So
so ==20mm
20mm
so ==40mm 20 so ==40mm
So 40mm
25 So 40mm
measured measured
30 25
(b) simplified
Fig. 5 Lateral soil movement (a) steel pipe pile (b) concrete pile
of Example 2 Fig. 6 Pile bending moments and deflections of Example 2

Landslide or Slope Instability –induced Soil Movements


Example 3: Esu and D’Elia (1974) described a field test in which an instrumented
reinforced concrete pile was installed into a sliding slope. The slope consisted mainly of clay,
with its upper 7.3m thick layer undergoing lateral movement. The test pile was 30m long,
0.79m in diameter, and the bending stiffness was 360MN.m2. The soil Young’s modulus was
about 0.53z MPa (where z is depth), while the limiting soil pressure was about 120kPa and
320kPa for the moving soil layer and the stable soil layer, respectively. The soil movements
were not measured.
Assuming a soil movement of 110mm distributed uniformly with depth, the pile bending
moment and deflection estimated by PALLAS were found to agree very well with those
measured, as shown by Chen & Poulos (1997). The maximum pile bending moment and
deflection estimated by the elastic design charts were also found to agree fairly well with,
although larger than, those measured, with the maximum bending moment Mmax being
1.1MN.m as compared to the measured value of 0.9 MN.m. The maximum deflection was
0.15m, as compared to the measured value of 0.147m.

Example 4: Carrubba et al. (1989) reported a field test in which a reinforced concrete
pile was used to stabilize a sliding slope. The sliding surface was measured to be at about
9.5m deep below the ground surface. The instrumented test pile was 22m in length and 1.2m
in diameter. The soil Young’s modulus was about 15MPa uniform with depth, while the
limiting soil pressure was about 90kPa and 170kPa for the moving soil layer and the stable
soil layer, respectively.
Assuming a soil movement of 95mm distributed uniformly with depth, the pile bending
moment profile estimated by PALLAS w as found to agree very well with that measured, as
shown by Chen & Poulos (1997). The maximum pile bending moment estimated by the
elastic design charts was also found to agree fairly well with, although larger than, that
measured, with a value of 2.6MN.m as compared to the measured value of 2.3 MN.m.
Measured pile deflection data were not available for comparison.

Example 5: Kalteziontis et al. (1993) reported a case where two rows of piles were
installed to stabilize a moving slope. The soil conditions consisted mainly of lacustrine
deposits of over one hundred meters thick, overlying bedrock of Triassic marl. Among the
piles were three steel pipe piles instrumented with strain gauges, but measured results were
presented only for one of them. All the piles had a length of 12m and the steel piles had an
external diameter of 1.03m, a wall thickness of 18mm and a flexural stiffness of 1540MN.m 2.
The measured soil pressure was 0.9 and 3.2 MPa for the moving soil layer and the stable soil
layer, respectively, while the corresponding soil Young’s modulus values were taken to be 15
and 70MPa.
The measured soil movements at the uphill and downhill are shown in Figs. 7(a) & (b)
respectively. It can be seen that the soil movements at the uphill are rather uniform with
depth, while those at the downhill decrease nearly linearly with depth. Note that the piles
were installed at the downhill and were therefore subject to the soil movements shown in Fig.
7(b). Also note that the soil movements shown in Fig. 7(b) were measured after the piles were
in place and should therefore be smaller than the free-field soil movements occurring just
before the piles were installed. Chen (1994) indicates that the maximum free-field soil
movement at the surface was about 3.5mm.

Soil displacement (mm) Soil displacement (mm)

0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 0


-0.2 0.2
0

3
Depth (m)

12
(a) uphill (b) downhill

Fig. 7 Measured soil movements of Example 5


Assuming a linear soil movement profile, the pile bending moment and deflection
profiles estimated by PALLAS were found to agree very well with those measured, as shown
by Chen & Poulos (1997). The maximum pile bending moment and deflection estimated by
the elastic design charts were also found to agree fairly well with, although larger than, those
measured, with the maximum bending moment Mmax being 0.16MN.m as compared to the
measured value of 0.15 MN.m, and the maximum deflection being 3.2mm as compared to the
measured value of 2.7mm.
Note that, had the piles been installed at the uphill location where soil movements were
larger than at the downhill, a uniform soil movement profile would have been more suitable
for use in theoretical prediction, as can be seen in Fig. 7(a).

Discussion
From the study of the above examples, the following preliminary guidelines may be
developed for the determination of soil movements in making theoretical predictions in the
absence of measured data or more accurate estimation by other methods:
1) For unstrutted excavations or relatively small slope movements, a linear soil movement
profile, with a maximum value at the ground surface and zero at a certain depth below
the surface, may be adopted. The maximum value may be estimated from measured
ground surface settlements or via appropriate empirical approximations.
2) For landslides involving relatively large soil movements, a uniform soil movement
profile may be adopted.
The above study also shows that either the boundary element program PALLAS or the
elastic design charts can give reasonably good estimations of the lateral pile response.

CONCLUSIONS
A study of published centrifuge model tests and case histories has shown that in some
cases the actual soil movement can be simplified to either a linear or uniform profile, and can
be readily applied, with the elastic design charts, to estimate the maximum pile response with
reasonable accuracy. The analysis methods and guidelines described in this paper are simple
and efficient to use in practice, especially for undertaking preliminary feasibility studies.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors acknowledge the contributions of Dr T.S. Hull, who developed the
PALLAAS program. The first author would also like to thank Ir William Wong of Housing
Department, Hong Kong SAR, for his stimulating discussions, encouragement and support in
the preparation of this paper.