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William A. Kitch

l

, Stephen G. Wright2 and Robert B. Gilbert3

Abstract Submitted to:

10

th

ASCE Engineering Mechanics Specialty Conference

Professor Stein Sture

Department of Civil, Environmental and

Architectural Engineering

University of Colorado

Boulder, CO 80309-0428

Tel: (303) 492-7651

Fax: (303) 492-7317

12 May 1994

lph.D. Candidate

2Professor of Civil Engineering

3Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering,

Dept. of Civil Engineering, The University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712-

1076, (512) 471-4929

Pub, May 1995, 10th ASCE EMC, Boulder CO, Vol 1. pp 325-328

Abstract

Geosynthetic reinforcement IS being used increasingly to improve the

stability and performance of soil slopes and embankments. The

current methods of design for such reinforcement are deterministic,

based on the same limit equilibrium procedures that are used for

design of conventional, unreinforced slopes. Stability is evaluated

based on a factor of safety that is typically defined with respect to

soil shear strength. The most critical potential failure surface with

the minimum factor of safety is found by trial and error. For typical

reinforced slope designs, the most critical potential failure surface is

located primarily outside of the reinforced zone; thus, the factor of

safety essentially reflects the potential for failure in the unreinforced

soil. In reality there are two potential modes of failure. One

primarily through the reinforced soil mass, the other primarily

through the unreinforced soil mass. The conventional factor of safety

does not reflect the likelihood of failure by each mechanism. In this

paper, we present a design approach for reinforced slopes that is

,

based on structural reliability theory. This approach considers the

possible modes of failure and provides a better assessment of the

likelihood of failure. It is shown, for example, that the failure

mechanism with the highest probability of occurrence may be

different from the mechanism associated with the minimum factor of

safety. Typical results from the reliability analyses will be presented

and compared with results based on the conventional factor of

safety-based design procedures for reinforced slopes.

Probabilistic Analysis of Reinforced Soil Slopes

William A. Kitch\ Stephen G. Wrighe, and Robert B. Gilbert

3

, Members ASCE

Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of a geosynthetically reinforced slope that is based on

structural reliability theory. This probabilistic analysis is compared to current

deterministic analysis methods. Current deterministic methods use limit equilibrium

techniques to locate the failure mode with the minimum factor of safety. The analysis

presented considers many possible failure modes. It is shown that the failure mode

with the highest probability of failure does not necessarily correspond to the failure

mode with the minimum factor of safety.

Introduction

Current design methods for geosynthetically reinforced slopes are deterministic, based

on the same limit equilibrium procedures that are used for design of conventional,

unreinforced slopes. Stability is evaluated based on a minimum factor of safety along

a potential failure surface. There are numerous potential failure surfaces in reinforced

slopes, some lying within the reinforced zone of the slope and some lying outside of

the reinforced zone of the slope. The factor of safety is typically defined with respect

to soil shear strength. It is difficult to evaluate the relative reliability of different

failure modes using the factor of safety.. The conventional factor of safety does not

reflect the likelihood of failure of each of the potential failure modes. This paper

compares the current deterministic stability analysis method with a probabilistic

method using a typical reinforced slope design as an example. The slope analyzed in

this paper was derived from guidelines published by the Tensar Corporation and is

representative of the current state-of-the-practice for design of reinforced slopes. For

a detailed description of the design procedure the reader is referred to the design

guidelines (Tensar 1988).

1Assistant Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, United States Air Force Academy,

CO 80909-6232

2professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Texas, Austin, TX78712-1076

3Assistant Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Texas, Austin, TX

78712-1076

1 Kitch, et al.

Deterministic Analysis

Traditional limit equilibrium analysis techniques, adapted for reinforced slopes, were

used in the deterministic analysis. The stability method used was Spencer's procedure

of slices, including reinforcement forces following the technique developed by Wright

and Cuenca (1986). The allowable reinforcement forces were input to the stability

computation and the traditional factor of safety was then computed. The factor of

safety was defined as the ratio of the available soil shear strength to the applied shear

stress. In this case, for cohesionless soil, the factor of safety, F, was

F = tan (1)

'f

where r is the applied shear stress and is the angle of internal friction of the soil.

The analytical procedure, then, is to search for the potential shear surface that has the

minimum factor of safety as defined in Equation 1. The computer program

UTEXAS3 (Wright 1991) was used to compute the factor of safety and to aid in the

search for the shear surface with the minimum factor of safety. Shear surfaces were

restricted to circular arcs. An extensive search was performed to locate the circle

with the minimum factor of safety, and included circles lying both within and outside

of the reinforced zone ofthe slope.

Probabilistic Analysis

The probabilistic analysis used the first-order reliability method. The limit state

function, g, was defined as

g=F-1 (2)

where F is the factor of safety, as defined in Equation 1. Two random variables were

considered: the soil shear strength, tan, and the allowable force in the primary

reinforcement, R. Both were considered to be normally distributed. The mean value

of the shear strength, tan, was taken to be 0.625 (=tan32) and the mean value of the

reinforcement force was taken to be 32 kN/m. A number of different values for the

coefficients of variation of these two variable were considered based on an analysis of

the expected variabilities (Kitch, 1994).

Comparison of Analytical Methods

A 70 degree slope (0.36 H : 1 V) 11.6 m (38 feet) high was chosen for analysis

(Figure 1). The slope was designed assuming that the foundation and backfill soils

were cohesionless with an angle ofinternal friction of32 degrees. The nominal factor

of safety with respect to soil shear strength chosen for design was 1.3. The slope

contained 17 layers of primary reinforcement, each 8.5 m (28 feet) long. The primary

reinforcement was SR2 Tensar geogrid with an allowable long-term tensile capacity

of32 kN/m (2200 lb/ft). In the upper portions ofthe slope, secondary reinforcement

was placed between the layers of primary reinforcement. The secondary reinforcement

consisted of SSl Tensar geogrid, 1.5 m (4.9 feet) long, with an allowable long-term

tensile capacity of 5.6 kN/m (386Ib/ft).

From the deterministic analysis, the critical circle with the minimum factor of safety

2 Kitch, et al.

(1.51) was found to be predominately outside the reinforced zone of the slope (Figure

1). For circles contained within the reinforced zone of the slope, the minimum factor

of safety was 1. 85.

Using the first-order reliability method, the reliability index, f3, was computed for

different potential failure modes (all circular). It was found that the most probable

failure mode was always one of two critical modes: one consisted of a circle lying

completely within the reinforced zone of the slope and the second consisted of a circle

lying predominately outside the reinforced zone. The locations of these two critical

failure modes corresponded essentially to the two circles with the minimum factors of

safety shown in Figure 1.

The reliability index for the two critical failure modes was computed for coefficients

of variation of the shear strength of 0.1 and 0.2, and coefficients of variation of the

allowable reinforcement force ranging from 0.05 to 0.5 (Kitch 1994). In Figure 2 the

reliability indexes for these two critical failure modes are compared as a function of

the coefficients of variation of shear strength and reinforcement force. It is apparent

that either failure mode may be the least reliable (have the lowest reliability index)

depending on the magnitude of the coefficients of variation. In contrast, the

deterministic analysis indicated that the failure mode passing outside of the reinforced

zone of the slope is the most critical.

Conclusion

Both the probabilistic and deterministic analyses show there are potential failure

modes within the reinforced zone of the slope and outside of the reinforced zone of

the slope. The probabilistic analysis clearly shows that the most likely mode of failure

is a function of the uncertainties in the reinforcement force and the soil shear strength.

Because the deterministic factor of safety does not contain any information about the

effects of the uncertainty of these two variables, it cannot indicate which mode is

most likely. The mode with the lowest factor of safety, computed by conventional

deterministic methods, may not correspond to the most probable failure mode. Using

a probabilistic analysis, the potential for failure in different modes can be made on a

rational basis.

References

William A. Kitch (1994), Deterministic and Probabilistic Based Analyses of

ReinforcedSoil Slopes, Ph.D. Dissertation, Dniv. of Texas, Austin TX

Tensar Earth Techonolgies, Inc. (1988), Slope Reinforcement with Tensar Geogrids:

Design and Construction Guideline, TTN:SR1, Tensar Corporation, Morrow,

GA, 44 pgs.

Stephen G. Wright (1991), UTEXAS3: A Computer Program for Slope Stability

Calculations, Users Manual, Geotechnical Center, Dniv. of Texas, Austin TX

Stephen G. Wright and Fernando Cuenca (1986), Stability Computation Procedures

for Earth Slopes Containing Internal Reinforcement, Research Report 435-1,

Center for Transportation Research, Dniv. of Texas, Austin TX

3 Kitch, et al.

Critical Circle Within

Reinforced Zone, F = 1.85

Soil Properties

y= 18.8 kN/m

3

=32

0

1.22m

t A

4@0.81m

f----f------ -,.----

1.63 m

0.364

1 @0.41 m Global Critical

__L Circle, F = 1. 51

---'J

Primary Geogrids: SR2

Allowable Load =32 kN/m, Length = 8.5 m

Secondary Geogrids: SS2

Allowable Load =5.6 kN/m

Vertical Spacing =0.41 m

Length =1.5 ill

11.6 m

Figure 1: 70 Degree Slope Designed Using Tensar Guidelines, Showing

Internal and External Critical Circles.

5-r-----------------------------,

a) Coefficient of Variation of

Shear Strength =0.1

4

3

2 Location ofFailure Mode

Within Reinforced Zone

Outside of Reinforced Zone

b) Coefficient of Variation of

Shear Strength = 0.2

0.5 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4

Coefficient of Variation of Reinforcement Force

o

Figure 2: Reliability Index as a Function of Coefficients of Variation.

4 Kitch, et al.

Probabilistic Analysis of

Reinforced Soil Slopes

5

th

ASCE Engineering Mechanics Conference

22 May 1995

William A. Kitch

Stephen G. Wright

Robert B. Gilbert

United States Air Force Academy

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin

Overview

Problem Chosen for Analysis

Deterministic Analysis Method

Probabilistic Analysis Method

Comparison of Deterministic and Probabilistic

Methods

Conclusions

Probabilistic Analysis of Reinforced Soil Slopes Slide 1

Problem Chosen for Analysis

Standard Design Procedures Used as Published

by Tensar

Allowable Reinforcement Forces Specified by

Manufacturer

Nominal Factor of Safety Based on Soil Shear

Strength was 1.3

Probabilistic Analysis of Reinforced Soil Slopes Slide 2

r

r

~ =32

0

/

1

f

---- A

1.63 m

~

Allowable Load = 5.6 kN/m A

Vertical Spacing =0.41 m T'2m

Length = 1.5 m 0.364 Soil Properties

I ~ 0 3

70 4@0.81m Y=18.8kN/m

Secondary Geogrids:

SS2

38'

r

r

!

!

!

/ 11 @0.41 m

/ ~

/

!

/

C Primary Geogrids: SR2

Allowable Load =32 kN/m

Length = 8.5 m

Probabilistic Analysis of Reinforced Soil Slopes Slide 3

Deterministic Analysis Methods

Traditional Limit Equilibrium Methods Used

Reinforcement Forces Incorporated as Know

Forces

Assume Circular Arc Shear Surfaces

Search Performed to Find Shear Surface With

Minimum Factor of Safety Based on Shear

Strength

F = tan

r

Probabilistic Analysis of Reinforced Soil Slopes Slide 4

Critical Circle Within

Reinforced Zone, F=1.85

Probabilistic Analysis of Reinforced Soil Slopes

Global Critical Circle, F=1.51

Slide 5

Probabilistic Analysis Method

Limit State Function, g, Defined as

g=F-

Normally Distributed Random Variables

Soil Shear Strength

Reinforcement Force

First-Order Reliability Method Used

Probabilistic Analysis of Reinforced Soil Slopes Slide 6

5 ... i

2 -4 Location of Failure Mode

Within Reinforced Zone

Outside of Reinforced Zone

4

3

Coefficient of Variation of

Shear Strength = 0.1

1

o I I i j t j j iii ttl i I j I I

4

~

"C

..53

>.

......

Coefficient of Variation of

Shear Strength = 0.2

- - III

.-- - -

.c 2 _

co __

~ ,

Q)

0:::

1

0.5 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4

Coefficient of Variation of Reinforcement Force

o f j I j I I I I I I I j I lit iii I I I t r

o

Probabilistic Analysis ofReinforced Soil Slopes Slide 7

Conclusion

Potential Failure Modes Exist Both Within and

Outside of The Reinforced Zone of the Slope

The Factor of Safety Cannot Identify the Most

Probable Failure Mode

The Probabilistic Analysis Clearly Shows the

Most Probable Mode is a Function of

Uncertainties in Both Shear Strength and

Reinforcement Force

Probabilistic Analysis Can Compare Different

Failure Modes on a Rational Basis

Probabilistic Analysis of Reinforced Soil Slopes Slide 8

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