You are on page 1of 94


because of its empirical character. For other types of piles, such as bored piles, lower bearing
capacities must be expected.

It may be clear that the pile point resistance can be computed for each depth in the cone
penetration graph (not only for one specific depth). If this is done one gets a picture of the pile
point resistance derived from the cone penetration graph as indicated in figure 38. This resembles
the outcome of the test performed by Geuze and earlier tests. For different size of pile point a
different pile point resistance curve will be obtained.

n x diameter




=3 o
=0 o


Figure 38 Figure I Theoretical slip surfaces caused by

penetration of a cone or a pile point

The Koppejan method (State of the Art 2006)

In The Netherlands a calculation method for the pile point resistance (method of Koppejan) has
been developed based on the similarity of the soil behaviour of the penetration of a cone in a
Dutch cone penetration test and the penetration of a pile during pile installation. It is assumed that
during penetration a failure surface pattern develops around a penetrating cone as well as around
a vertically downward moving pile point (figure I). In contrary to the failure surfaces below a
shallow foundation where the failure surfaces reach the surface, the failure surfaces near a cone or
pile point extend upwards to the CPT rod or the pile shaft.

For the calculation method it is assumed that on the average the slip surfaces extend 4 pile
diameters (4D) downwards and 8 pile diameters (8D) upwards. The influence zone for a cone
with a diameter of 36 mm is therefore 150 mm below and 300 mm above the cone point. The
measured cone resistance at a certain depth is therefore influenced by the soil strength over a
height of 450 mm.

The method of Koppejan for the calculation of the point resistance is mainly empirical and
usually gives a good approximation of the real pile point resistance. Subsequently the calculation
method will be explained by means of an example. The empirical method consists of a sequence
of steps which are elucidated hereafter:

- if the cone resistance progressively increases below the pile point, the influence zone is
limited to 0.7D
- the contribution to the point resistance of the qc values recorded in the influence zone below
the pile point, is the lowest average qc value (qc,0) of minimal 0.7D and maximal 4D below
the point, both in a downward (qc1) and in an upward direction (qc2), whereby the used qc
values to determine qc2 must never be higher than the previous value in the upward direction;
the average point resistance below the pile point is then qc,0 = ½ (qc1 + qc2)
- the contribution to the point resistance of the influence zone above the pile point is
determined by the average qc value (qc,b) over a distance of 8d, whereby in the same way as
for qc2 the qc value used for determining qc,b must never be higher than the previous one
starting with the last value of the qc2 trajectory. For continuous flight auger piles there is an
exception the start of the qc;b trajectory should also be lower than 2 MN/m2.
- the maximum point resistance qmax and the ultimate point resistance qu is then determined as

qc ;0 + qc ;b
qmax = (13)
qu = α p q p (14)


qmax [kN/m2] maximum point resistance

qu [kN/m2] ultimate point resistance, with qu < 15000 kN/m2 (based on
empirical data)
αp [-] pile class factor see table I

Example: A precast pile with a shaft width of 0.40 m is driven to a depth of 6.8 m (see figure II).
This pile has an equivalent shaft diameter of:
Deq = 0.4 2 × = 0.45 m
For this foundation level the following cone penetration resistance are determined using the graph
in figure II:

- qc1 = 8000 kN/m2

- qc2 = 3000 kN/m2
- qc,b = 1500 kN/m2.

The ultimate point resistance for a depth of 6.8 m becomes:

8000 + 3000
+ 1500
q max = 2 = 3500 kN / m 2 )
qu = α p q max = 1.0 × 3500 = 3500 kN / m 2

The ultimate pile point resistance is obtained by multiplying the ultimate point resistance with the
point area (0.16 m2 for a square pile with a width of 0.4 m):

Qu = qu A (15)
Qu = 3500 × 0.4 = 560 kN 2


qu [kN/m2] ultimate point resistance stress

Qut [kN] ultimate point resistance force
A [m2] point area.

From Dutch engineering practice it is known that the ultimate bearing capacity of the Koppejan
method can be safely used in all situations. In figure III an example of the application of
Koppejan method is given where the van der Veen method would have given an overestimation.
If the pile point level approaches (<4Deq) the bottom of a layer with high cone penetration values
the physical mechanism of punch trough can occur, instead of the type of theoretical failure
mechanism given in figure I. The Koppejan method takes good care of this punch trough
mechanism. In figure III the resulting dramatically reduction of the bearing capacity for pile point
levels near the bottom of the soil layer with high cone penetration resistance values are shown.
cone resistance

cone resistance
0 5 10 MN/m2
depth in m

5 8d = 3.60 m

ll l 4d = 1.80
depth in m



Figure II Example of method of Koppejan for of Figure III Point resistance for a precast
the determination of the point resistance 0.29x0.29m2 pile according to
with the results of a CPT Koppejan method (fat line is CPT)

Influence of pile type

The pile type and the construction method have significant influence on the ultimate bearing
capacity of a pile point. Driving a precast pile in a sand layer leads to densification, resulting in
an increase of the angle of internal friction (φ'). Densification also leads to higher horizontal
effective stresses on the pile. Both these factors have a positive influence on the ultimate bearing
capacity as Coulomb law states τf=σ’tanφ‘. A bored pile can result in a stress relaxation as soil
will move toward the excavated space in which the pile is created. Beside stress relaxation,
loosening may occur too. Due to the stress relaxation and possible loosening of the packing of the
soil, this pile type will have a lower ultimate point bearing capacity than the driven pile. In table I
for some pile types the influences of the previous described factors are expressed in a pile class
factor (αp). The factors are based on Dutch experience in Dutch sand layers.

Pile type Friction factor (αp) in Dutch sand layers

driven straight sided piles 1.0
steel sections and open pipe piles 1.0
continuous flight auger piles 0.8
bored pile 0.5
Tabel I Pile class factors

Influence of the shape of the pile base

The ultimate point resistance is influenced by the shape of the pile base. The soil surrounding a
driven pile with an enlarged base will exhibit a lower effective stress level than surrounding soil a
driven pile with a normal shaped base. Lower effective stress results in a lower ultimate point
resistance. In figure IV the cause for this mechanism is illustrated by showing a (exaggerated) gap
above the enlargement. The ultimate point resistance can be written as follows:

qu = βα p qmax (16)


qu [kPa] ultimate point resistance, with qu < 15 kN/m2 (based on empirical data)
β [-] is the factor that takes in account the influence of the shape of the pile base, see
figure V and VI.

Figure IV Driven precast concrete pile with an enlarged base


The pile base shape factor β can be determined using figure VI. The graph in this figure shows
the relations between the effective height of the pile base (H), its equivalent diameter (Deq), and
the diameter of the pile shaft (deq) (figure V).

pile point level

pile point level

pile point level

Figure V Shape of the pile base

(1) β = 1.0
(2) β = 0.9
(3) β = 0.8
(4) β = 0.7
(5) β = 0.6
A1 Deq
= 2
A2 d eq

Figure VI Pile base shape factor β

Influence of the shape of the pile cross section

The shape of a cross section has influence on the pile point resistance. A round and a square
shape result in a higher ultimate bearing capacity than other shapes. This influence is taken in
account by using a for shape factor (s) which can be determined by:

sin φ′
s= r (17)
1 + sin φ′


φ' [°] the effective angle of internal friction. In case of a pile in a densely packed sand
layer this can be taken φ' = 40°
r [-] ratio b/a; for round pile r = 1

b [m] the longest side of a rectangular cross section of pile point

a [m] the shortest side of a rectangular cross section of pile point

The ultimate pile point resistance finally can be rewritten as follows:

qu = βsα p qmax (18)

qu [kPa] ultimate point resistance, with qu < 15000kN/m2

Cone resistance(MPa)
C. Pile driving formulae 10

A third type of method for determining the bearing -1

GL = NAP - 1,25 m
capacity of a point bearing pile uses pile driving
formula. The principle is to measure the vertical -2
displacement of the pile due to the action of the
driving hammer. This is mostly done by counting the
numbers of blows needed for a certain penetration
distance e.g. 0.25 m. In soft soil layers this number is
very low. When the pile point encounters a hard layer
the number becomes higher. A high number indicates
a soil layer with a good bearing capacity. In figure VII
an example is given of a pile driving record with 0.25
m intervals.
All through many very complex/advanced formulae
exist these formulae are unreliable and not suitable for
design purposes. Sometimes a factor 10 exist between
the different predictions made by the various methods.

In practice the registration of the number of blows as

function of the pile penetration has proven to be very
useful for quality control. Actually in engineering
practise there is only a limited amount of CPT’s -11

available (for example c.t.c. 15 m and not one CPT for

every pile). The dimensions of the piles in between
CPT locations are often designed using interpolated
CPT values. -13


Number of blows per 0,25 m


Figure VII Pile driving record


To be able to check whether a proper pile tip level is reached (geology can be different in
between the CPT locations), the following procedure should be followed:

− pile driving should start at the location of a CPT (distance to a CPT as small as possible) It is
recommended to start at the location with the deepest pile point levels

− for a pile at the location of a CPT the pile driving record should be registered for the total pile

− the pile driving record should match the CPT graph; in that case the recorded blow count can
be used as a guideline for the piles, which are driven between CPT locations

− for piles, driven within a distance of 5 times the pile diameter to a previously driven pile a
higher blow count has to be recorded than the one of the previously driven pile

D. Calculation by theory

The ultimate bearing capacity of a pile is reached when the soil underneath the point is pushed
away along continuous failure lines. The critical load on the pile tip is in equilibrium with the
shear resistance mobilized in the failure lines (in fact rupture surfaces). This equilibrium is
indicated in figure 34. The shear resistance depends on the shear strength characteristics of the

If it is a homogeneous soil the shear strength τf is equal to:

τ f = c ′ + σ′n tan φ′

in which c’ and φ’ are the effective cohesion and the effective angle of internal friction. If the
shape of the failure line could be determined, it would be possible to calculate the ultimate
bearing capacity of the pile point if c’ and φ’ are known.

In another words: to determine the ultimate bearing capacity c’ and φ’ have to be determined as
well as the location of the failure line.

It is how ever not so easy to take an undisturbed soil sample from deep layers especially if the
consists of sand. Special equipment is necessary to take the sample and keep it intact for use in
the triaxial apparatus. This is the first difficulty, although it may be overcome.

It should be mentioned that values as low as 20 kN/m2 have sometimes been found in certain
types of sands. One must how ever be extremely careful when using average values. If no other
data is available, a high factor of safety should be used, especially in case of tension piles. In sand
the friction along tension piles may be much lower than in case of compression piles.

This is illustrated in figure 40 which gives the measured skin friction the tubes of a cone
penetrometer, both in a downward and upward direction (push and pull). in clay the difference is
less pronounced.

Figure 40

C. Field tests

The positive skin friction can also determined using the results of Cone Penetration Tests
(CPT’s). Originally CPT’s were carried out with a mechanical mantle cone. In 1952 a friction
sleeve was introduced to measure the so called local friction. Begemann established that the ratio
of local friction and cone resistance, the friction ratio, is related to the soil type. Nowadays CPT’s
are carried out with an electrical friction sleeve cone. The friction ratios of local friction and cone
resistance measured with this equipment range from approx. 1% for fine sand to approx. 4% for
clay. The friction ratio of peat can be as high as 10%.

It should be noted that with the mechanical cone the cone resistance and local friction are
discontinuously recorded at 200 mm intervals. With the electrical cone recording of data is semi-
continuous with extremely short time/depth intervals. Furthermore, the shape of the mechanical
cone is not the same as the shape of the electrical cone, as can be seen in figure 41. The recorded
cone resistance and local friction with the two cones at a certain depth are therefore not exactly
the same. The friction ratio for fine sand determined with the mechanical cone can be around 2%,
while the friction ratio determined with the electrical cone usually not exceeds 1.3% as
determined with the electrical cone. Differences in friction ratios determined with the two types
of cone are much smaller for clay and peat.

friction sleeve

friction sleeve



Figure 41 Mechanical (left) and Electrical cone (right)

The positive skin friction can be derived from the measured local friction. However, it appears
that the cone resistance can generally more accurately be determined than the local friction. For
the calculation of the positive skin friction the recorded cone resistances are therefore used. The
calculation is similar to the determination of the pile point resistance. The positive skin friction is
determined as follows:

q s = α s qc

qs [kN/m2] ultimate unit positive skin friction.

αs [-] friction factor see table II with Dutch experience
qc [kN/m2] recorded cone resistance, where by values higher than 15000 kN/m2
that occur over a depth range more than 1 m have been limited tot
15000 kN/m2 and values higher than 12000 kN/m2 that occur over a
depth range of less than 1 m have been limited to 12000 kN/m2.

Pile type Friction factor (αs) in Dutch sand layers1)

driven straight sided precast concrete pile and 0.010
close ended steel pipe piles
steel sections, open pipe piles, continuous 0.006
flight auger piles and bored piles
Table II Maximum values of αs in sand and gravely sand


1) The values are valid for very fine to coarse sand, (105 µm <Median<600 µm). For very
coarse sand with M> 600 µm and gravel with a M> 2 mm, reduction factors of 0.75 and
0.5 respectively must be applied to αs.

The value of αs in table II can safely used for clay and silt, in reality values for clay and silt layers
will be higher. In peat the positive skin friction should be neglected because of is unreliable
nature and there are extremely large deformations needed to mobilise this the ultimate skin

The ultimate positive skin friction for a pile is given by:

F + = ∑ q s × C ×∆l


F+ [kN] positive skin friction

l [m] length of pile in soil that contributes to positive skin friction
C [m] circumference of pile shaft.

Safety factors
The current engineering practise in the Netherlands for compression piles, the pile point is always
calculated using the Koppejan method and the shaft resistance is also calculated by using the cone
resistance. The factor of safety is for both the same value and it depends on:

1. The amount of soil investigations (the number of CPT’s):

2. The type of structure and the number of piles: is the construction stiff and strong enough
to redistribute the load if one of the piles is failing?
3. The heterogeneity of the soil.
4. Type of load: constant or variable load.

For compression piles the range of the safety factor Fs generally in the range of 2-2.5. In very
special situations when all above 4 components are very favourable it can be even less than 2.

This lecture note considers compression piles. Tension piles behave totally different and one
should not apply the calculation method, friction factors and safety factors for compression piles
for the design of tension piles. Some examples of the differences in behaviour of compression
piles and tension piles:

1. Due to the progressive (brittle) type of failure during tension conditions the factor of
safety has to be taken higher ranging form 2.5 for static load up to 3.75 piles where the
load alternates form full compression to full tension.
2. The friction factor for tension (αt) is about 30% lower then the friction factor for
compression (αs).
3. In case of simultaneous loaded piles in a pile group the tension capacity is significantly
lower than for a single tension pile because the effective stress in between de piles is
reduced due to the upward movement of the piles in tension conditions. Furthermore,
exhibit pile groups a physical upper limit of the group capacity equal to the weight of the
soil in between the piles of the group.

D. Calculation by theory

A fourth, maybe the best method, to compute the bearing capacity of a friction pile is by theory
using the so-called slip method. In this method the maximum friction along the pile is:

τ p
f = a ′ + σ ′h tan ∂ ′ (21)


τ pf [kN/m2] the maximum friction between pile and soil

σ′h [kN/m2] the effective horizontal stress exerted by the soil to the pile at any depth
∂′ [°] the angle of friction between pile material and soil
a' [kN/m2] the adhesion between pile material and soil.

This friction is developed if the loaded pile moves downwards a little relative to the surrounding
soil. This friction is called positive. Negative friction also exists and will be discussed hereafter.
The friction F in a layer of a small height dh is:

F = Ac × τ pf (22)
Ac = dh × A


AC [m2] the surface of the pile in contact with the soil over the height dh
A [m2] the unit area of the cross section of the pile.

The total friction Ft is obtained by taking the sum of the friction F in each layer dh of the total
height (depth) h of contact between pile and soil.