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Introduction to Geotechnical Data

This document has two (2) purposes: 1 2 The first is to provide the reader with a basic understanding of the most common geotechnical or soil science considerations which will impact the design of a helical foundation. The second is to guide the reader in the application of these basic principles to the provided Helical Foundation Capacity Calculators.

In many cases, Geotechnical Data will be part of the Design Process followed by the Engineer of Record for a foundation construction project. Often the Engineer of Record will be able to recommend a geotechnical exploration firm who will conduct exploration operations based upon the engineers requirements. A Geotechnical Report will be provided. One of the most common tests performed as part of the Geotechnical Exploration is the SPT (Standard Penetration Test) which typically will include grain size analysis. The following is a very simplified overview of basic geotechnical considerations. For the purposes of this document we shall consider only mineral based soils. Organic soils (top soil, peat, etc.) will be assumed to have unsuitable load bearing capacities. Ref : Zhang 1999, CFEM 1922, Mitsch and Clemence 1985, Meyerhof and Adam 1968, Das 1990 Geotechnical Reports A complete Geotechnical report contains far more information that just the SPT data. For a better understanding please refer to a Geotechnical Engineering text book and to the provided documentation including the files: SPT.pdf and Geotechnical Reports.html Two of the fundamental outcomes of the Geotechnical Exploration will be: 1 2 Grain Size Analysis: Is the soil predominantly Cohesive Soil or Cohesionless Soil. Soil Strength : How strong is the soil, as measured by the N Value result of the SPT.

Grain Size Analysis Cohesive or Cohesionless The first and most important qualification of your soil is to decide if it is cohesive soil (like clay) or it is cohesionless soil (like gravel). Here is a quick test: 1 2 3 Take a hand full of soil and squeeze into a fist. Release your fist and observe the state of the soil. If the soil has maintained its squeezed shape, then the soil is likely cohesive if the soil has disintegrated into a pile of soil in your palm then it is probably cohesionless

Generally speaking, soils which consist of predominantly clay size particles will behave as cohesive soils and soils whose particle size is predominantly larger will behave as cohesionless soils. The density and the degree of saturation are also important.

Grain Size (mm) (according to AASHTO)

Microscopic <0.002mm Clay

Large <0.05mm <0.2mm <75m >75mm Silt Sand Gravel Boulders


Standard Penetration Test One of the most common tests performed as part of the Geotechnical Exploration is the Standard Penetration Test. This test consists of a hole being drilled into the soil to the desired depth, i.e. 6 feet. Then a Split Spoon Sampler, which is a hollow tube roughly 2 in diameter, is dropped into the hole and a hammer is dropped, impacting the top of this tube driving it into the soil. The hammer weighs 140 lbs and is dropped 30 inches to the top of the sampler tube. The operator counts and records the number of hammer blows required to drive the sampler 12 inches into the soil. This number of blows becomes the N value of the soil at that 6 foot depth. Typically the hole is then advanced further, possibly 2 or 3 feet further, and the penetration test is repeated. The soil trapped inside the hollow sampler is removed and stored for grain size analysis to be performed in the laboratory at a later date. The water content of the samples will be determined also. For further details please access the document named SPT.pdf. Cohesive soils are those with an internal friction angle of approximately Zero degrees and cohesionless soils are those with an internal friction angle greater than Zero degrees.

Cohesive soil
For the purposes of this guide, the "Undrained Shear Strength" or Cu will indicate how well the soil will resist movement of the helical foundation once it has been installed. It is needed to calculate the bearing capacity in cohesive soil. The "N values will provide an indication of the appropriate value of Cu for a given soil sample. If appropriate Geotechnical Data is available, including the results of a SPT, then the N values can be used to estimate the Undrained Shear Strength through interpolation using the graph to the right. Example: Given an N value of 20 we can interpolate the Cu value of 200 kPa. This value, Cu = 200 kPa can be used in the calculation of the estimated bearing capacity of a helical foundation in cohesive soils, using file Cohesive.xls. The Bearing Capacity Factor is a dictated by the pile diameter as seen here. Pile diameter smaller than 0.5 m (20 in.) Nc = 9 Pile diameter between 0.5 m and 1 m Nc = 7 Pile diameter greater then 1 m Nc = 6 The Shaft Adhesion Factor This is a function of the undrained shear strength and may be found through interpolation using the
Undrained Shear Strengtht (Cu) Vs. "N" Values
450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 0 10 20 SPT "N" Values 30 40

Cu (kPa)

Shaft Adhesion Factor Vs. Cu

S h a f t A d h e s io n F a c t o r 1.2 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 Cu (kPa)


graph Shaft Adhesion Factor Vs Cu. Cohesionless Soil There are three considerations when estimating the capacity of a helical pile in cohesionless soil: 1 Effective unit weight of the soil 2 Angle of internal friction 3 Nq Bearing capacity factor. 4 Coefficient of lateral earth pressure in compression Effective Unit Weight of Soil Your geotechnical report will contain this data as a result of the soil sample analysis. Dense sandy soils typically have and effective unit weight of approximately 20 kN/m^3 or 127 lbs/cuft. IFA (Internal Friction Angle) The greater the IFA, the greater the ability of a soil to resist movement of a helical foundation. The following graph shows IFA as a function of SPT data. Given the SPT data in a geotechnical report this graph may be used to interpolate the approximate IFA. Nq (Bearing Capacity Factor) Given the IFA it is possible to interpolate an approximate value of the Nq using the graph below. Ks (Coefficient of Lateral Earth Pressure) During the installation of a helical pile, the central pile shaft will displace soil as it advances. The result is a zone of compacted soil adjacent to the pile shaft which exerts pressure on the pile shaft. This helps the soil to resist relative movement between the pile shaft and the surrounding soil. Large shaft diameters cause more displacement. Loose soils offer the greatest opportunity for compaction.

"N" Values Vs. Friction Angle

50 40 30 20 10 0 0 20 N Values 40 60 F ric tio n a n g le (d e g .)

Bearing Capacity Factor Vs. Internal Friction Angle

B e a rin g C a p a c ity F a c to r Nq 150 100 50 0 0 10 20 30 40 50 Internal Friction Angle ( deg.)


The coefficient of lateral earth pressure can be estimated using the following table, given the shaft diameter and relative density of the sand into which the pile is to be installed. Shaft Diameter mm (in.) 75 (3) or smaller 200 (8) 300 (12) or greater Loose sand 0.35 0.50 1.00 Medium dense sand 0.33 0.45 0.90 Dense sand 0.25 0.35 0.70

Given the information in this document it is possible to perform preliminary calculations using the two spreadsheet files provided, Cohesionless.xls and Cohesive.xls. It is an iterative process. Given a specified load which must be supported, the soil parameters may be adjusted to represent the conditions at a certain depth. Then the pile parameters may be adjusted to reflect a certain helical pile specification. Observe the output Qc at the bottom. Either the pile parameters may be further adjusted to obtain a desired output or the soil parameters may be adjusted to reflect a different installation depth. Because the theory behind soil mechanics is extremely complicated, it is important to see this document as no more than an introduction to geotechnical data.

Always consult with a qualified engineer.