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Section 21 HYDRO 2009

Paper 14 Progress - Potential - Plans

Lyon, France

Structural Design of Dam;

a feasibility level approach
N. A. Khan U. Latif
Engineer (SED) Engineer
National Engineering Services National Engineering Services
Pakistan (Pvt.) Ltd. Pakistan (Pvt.) Ltd.
NESPAK House Building # 17, F-6 Markaz
Lahore, Pakistan Islamabad, Pakistan

At feasibility stage of a hydropower project, site specific data is usually unavailable and various parameters are
to be conservatively assumed. This presents difficulties in initiating an optimum design of the dam. This paper
provides guidelines to carry out structural design studies when the project is at its initial stages. The
implementation of these guidelines to Dasu Hydropower Project is briefly described here for illustration.
Different methodologies for structural analyses and inference to respective codes are also discussed. The
feasibility studies at Dasu were carried out to a thorough standard, easily adequate to demonstrate the viability
of the works proposed. Though detailed studies involving linear and non-linear analyses is imperative for the
design of dams, these may not be economical in the early stages of the project.

1. Dam Features
Dasu Dam is essentially run-of-river project to be constructed about 75 km downstream of Diamer Basha
damsite with the sole purpose of hydropower generation. The project is a part of Pakistan Water and Power
Development Authority’s - Vision 2025. Feasibility studies were carried out by joint venture consultants
NESPAK (Pak), ACE (Pak), MWH (USA), CPE (Switzerland) in association with Binnie & Partners
(Overseas). The objective of the feasibility structural design studies was to provide structural configurations of
the roller-compacted concrete gravity dam and appurtenant structures that result in safe and economically viable
solution. A maximum height of 233m, base width of 213.5m and dam crest length of 584m involving high
volumes of RCC (approximately 4.2 MCM) makes Dasu dam one of the remarkable structures to be built in

2. Proposed Design
Based on hydropower requirements, geotechnical and hydraulic studies, it was proposed that 233m high RCC
gravity dam shall be constructed at Dasu. The design of an RCC dam balances the use of available materials,
the selection of structural features and the proposed methods of construction. Sound rock foundations as
encountered at Dasu damsite are considered the most suitable for RCC gravity dams. Favourable rock
characteristics including high bearing capacity, good shear strength, low permeability and a high degree of
resistance to erosion also governed the choice of an underground power system. The detailed layout of project is
presented in Figure 1.

The structural design studies for Dasu dam were divided into following sections:

2.1 Stability Analysis of the Dam

Stability analysis of the RCC gravity dam at Dasu was carried out to determine an optimum dam profile
satisfying overall stability including safety against sliding, overturning and uplift. Pseudo-static, pseudo-
dynamic and dynamic methods of analyses were undertaken to determine the dam’s stability under seismic
loadings. In addition, parametric analyses for the sliding stability of dam were performed at the dam-foundation
interface and at the concrete lift joints.

Software CADAM was used for stability analysis. CADAM is designed for use with gravity dams and is based
on rigid body equilibrium and beam theory. Analysis assumptions and various loading conditions were based on
USACE engineering manuals EM 1110-2-2200, 1995 – “Gravity Dam Design” and EM 1110-2-2100, 2005 –
“Stability Analysis of Concrete Structures”. Pseudo-static analysis treats earthquake loads as an inertial force
applied statically to the structure. The loadings are of two types: inertia force due to the horizontal acceleration
of the dam and hydrodynamic forces resulting from the reaction of the reservoir water against the dam. Pseudo-
Section 21 HYDRO 2009
Paper 14 Progress - Potential - Plans
Lyon, France

dynamic analysis is conceptually similar except that it considers dynamic amplification of the inertia forces
along the height of the dam. The oscillatory nature of the amplified inertia forces is however, not considered.

Figure 1: Proposed Layout of Dasu Hydropower Project

Table 1: Sliding Stability Factors of Different Codes

Sliding Safety Factor Vertical
Earthquake in Comments
Code Usual Unusual Extreme
USACE 2.0 1.7 1.3 No No site specific ground motion
With site specific ground
USACE 2.0 1.5 1.1 No
USBR 3.0 2.0 >1.0 Yes Rock to foundation contact
Any plane of weakness in
USBR 4.0 2.7 1.3 Yes
FERC 3.0 2.0 1.3* ** With Cohesion
1.5 (worst
FERC 1.3 (PMF) 1.3* ** Without Cohesion
static case)
*Seismic acceptance based on post-earthquake analysis only (FERC).
**Pseudo-static method not accepted. Dynamic methods required to determine level of damage for post-earthquake evaluation (FERC).

Minimum sliding safety requirements recommended

by different codes are given in Table 1. Overturning
stability criteria was based on the load resultant
remaining in the middle 1/3rd of the base for the usual
case and remaining in the middle ½ for unusual
cases. Extreme case results were deemed acceptable
provided the resultant remained within the base. A
special sensitivity analyses was also performed to
check the sliding stability of the shortest monolith
having peak spectral acceleration. In addition, sliding
stability was determined for the case if passive
resistance of rock disappears. The movement of sub-
horizontal rock shear joints beneath the dam was also
checked in stability analysis.

Figure 2: Dam Section in River Channel

Section 21 HYDRO 2009
Paper 14 Progress - Potential - Plans
Lyon, France
Table 2: Typical Sliding Stability Results and Safety Factors
Criteria Result -Psuedo Dynamic Analysis
Flotation Flotation
Minimum Sliding Sliding Safety Base Pressure
Load Case Reservoir Level Earthquake Safety Crack
Uplift Safety Factors Safety Factors (MPa)
Factor Length
Relief Factor
Usual FRL - - - 67% 1.50 3.00 1.30 2.22 3.14 1.84 2.90 3.76 0

Unusual (1) - MRL - - 67% 1.30 2.00 1.20 2.09 2.97 1.58 2.94 3.53 0

Unusual (2) FRL - OBE - 67% 1.30 2.00 1.20 1.65 2.33 0.91 3.84 3.76 0

Unusual (3) - - OBE - - 1.30 2.00 1.20 7.51 10.15 5.60 0.24 - 0

Unusual (4) FRL - - - 50% 1.30 2.00 1.20 2.11 3.02 1.51 2.90 3.25 0

Unusual (5) FRL - - - 25% 1.30 2.00 1.20 1.93 2.85 1.16 2.90 2.70 0

Unusual (6) FRL - - - 0% 1.30 2.00 1.20 1.75 2.67 0.76 2.90 2.30 0

Extreme FRL - - MCE 67% 1.00 1.10 1.10 1.16 1.58 0.00 5.35 3.76 24.02


with pre-seismic
FRL - - - 67% 1.50 2.00 1.20 2.22 3.14 1.84 2.90 3.76 0
uplift (OBE)

with Modified
FRL - - - 0% 1.00 1.30 1.10 1.67 2.48 0.59 2.88 2.16 58.51
uplift (MCE)

2.2 Stress Analysis of the Dam

Linear elastic finite element analyses were carried out for the dam to determine the magnitude and distribution
of associated stresses and deformational states under static and dynamic loadings. Software SAP2000 version-
11 was used for 2D modeling of the dam body and the rock foundation considering dam-water-foundation
interaction and seismic loadings, using design response spectra for MCE and OBE. 4500 plane strain elements
were modeled for the stress analyses. SAP2000 determines total dynamic response using a modal combination
method. Response spectrum analyses determined absolute maximum values of dynamic response. These
absolute maximum values were converted into actual response using manually configured worksheets which
were later used to determine modified stresses and sliding safety factors.

Under dynamic loadings, 30% compressive strength increase and 50% tensile strength increase was assumed for
mass concrete as per ACI 207.5R-99. Based on this, selected allowable stresses for mass concrete in
compression were 6.3 MPa for usual and 8.19 MPa for unusual and extreme cases. For mass concrete in tension,
allowable stresses of 1.05 MPa were used for usual and 1.58 MPa for unusual and extreme load cases.

The primary purpose of the finite element analysis is stress evaluation. The finite element analysis provides
more stress details for evaluation compared to rigid body stability. It also provides more realistic frequency
based response to earthquake motions. Although finite element method is used more for stress analysis and
evaluation, the stability of the structure can also be evaluated. The resultant force and shear at any plane can be
computed using stress integration. For static FEM analysis, resultant forces should be the same as for rigid body
stability as static equilibrium should be satisfied for both methods. For dynamic FEM analysis using response
spectrum methods, stability evaluation can be considered to be a good estimate. In reality, the peak stresses
along the plane of integration may not occur at the same time step. The steps to obtain resultant forces for
stability evaluation at various elevations are presented below:

i. Import of nodal stress values from software to spreadsheet for all the load cases.
ii. Calculation of normal stresses and shear stresses for static load cases.
iii. Modification of response spectrum results for seismic load cases to positive and negative stresses by
judgment based on the dam behaviour.
iv. Calculation of uplift pressures at respective selected layers of the model.
v. Calculation of total vertical stresses by summing up adjusted seismic stresses, usual stresses due to static
load cases and uplift pressures.
vi. Calculation of individual forces developed in each elements of the layer under consideration and summing
up these forces to determine total vertical force developed in that layer.
vii. Calculation of the total moment for a particular layer by multiplying the vertical forces of each element of
that layer with its respective moment arm.
Section 21 HYDRO 2009
Paper 14 Progress - Potential - Plans
Lyon, France

viii. Determination of location of resultant by dividing the total moment of the selected layer with the total
vertical force calculated in step- vi.
ix. Determination of un-cracked length along the selected layer using formulae given below.
x. Determination of total horizontal force along the selected layer using the procedure discussed in step-i.
xi. Calculation of sliding safety factor.
The formulae used in these calculations are given below:
F    22i  Ai  Ui
i 1

H    12i  Ai
i 1

 M    22i  Ai  ei
i 1


F tan   cL
FOS s 
σ22i = Vertical stress in any element i Figure 3: Typical Stress-Stability Analysis
σ21i = Shear stress in any element i (Extreme Load case)
Ui = Uplift pressure in any element i
F = Sum of all vertical forces acting on a plane
H = Sum of all horizontal forces acting on a plane
Ø = Angle of internal friction
c = Cohesion
e = Location of resultant
L = Length of base in compression for a unit strip of dam equals to 3X
X = Location of resultant form the downstream face of the dam

2.3 Thermal Analysis of the dam

Thermal cracking is a concern for mass concrete structures and is undesirable in mass concrete dams. When
cement combines with water, an exothermic chemical reaction takes place resulting in a temperature rise of the
concrete mass. Subsequent differential cooling between different areas of the mass concrete or overall cooling
combined with significant foundation restraint can produce considerable thermally induced stresses. The peak
temperature is reached a few days after placement, whereas the cooling process usually takes several weeks,
months or even years until a stable state is reached. It is important that the cooling process is controlled to
minimize the potential for thermally induced cracking.

Dasu dam is situated at high altitude and the mean monthly temperature varies from 2.2°C in winter to 45.6°C
in summer. This difference is large and will present challenges in controlling temperature during construction.
For these feasibility studies, a preliminary thermal analysis was carried out to estimate maximum temperatures
that would be anticipated within the dam body. This gives an insight into possible crack patterns and
determination of block sizes and location of joints for construction.

The thermal analysis adopted for Dasu was a three step process involving data collection, finite element
analysis and mass and surface cracking analysis. The thermal properties were assumed based on data obtained
on similar projects as no material testing was carried out at this stage. A summary of these values is given in
Table 3.

At Dasu dam, MSC.MARC® - version 2005 programme was used to solve the thermo-mechanical and heat
transfer problems encountered. The main body of the dam was modeled using 540 plane strain elements. Non-
linear incremental structural analysis was performed on a time step of 1 month for duration of 10 years after
completion of dam construction. Dynamic transient analysis procedure was also utilized in which MSC.MARC
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Paper 14 Progress - Potential - Plans
Lyon, France

divides the analysis duration into various increments according to the convergence requirements. The results
obtained from this feasibility level analysis are described as follows.

Table 3: RCC and Rock Foundation properties used in Thermal analysis [2]
Properties RCC Foundation
Modulus of Elasticity, (MPa) 20,000 20,000
Poisson’s Ratio 0.20 0.25
Unit Weight, (kg/m3) 2600 2900
Co-efficient of Thermal Expansion, (per °C) 9 ×10-6 4 ×10-6
Thermal Conductivity, (W/m°C) 2.7 2.7
Specific Heat, (kJ/kg°C) 115 80
Creep Strain Rate, (per MPa) 10 ×10-6 -

a. Thermal Gradient Analysis

The output of the thermal gradient analysis are nodal values i.e. the temperature is given at every node at every
increment. These temperature values were subsequently used for thermal stress analysis. The maximum
temperature observed in the dam body was 46°C with a constant temperature of 24°C attained 4 years after
construction. The plot of temperature contours 10 years after construction is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Temperature in the dam body after 10 years of construction

b. Thermal Stress Analysis

The Software presented strain values at nodal points which were converted into stresses and then compared with
allowable stress limits. High tensile stresses were caused near the base of dam due to foundation restraint
coupled with the noticeable temperature change. Compressive stresses also developed due to differential
temperatures but these are not of concern in these crack analysis studies.

c. Thermal Crack Analysis

The number of cracks and their spacing were determined in longitudinal and transverse directions. Thermal
strain values were compared with limiting values as provided by USACE ETL 1110-2-542 (1997). These
studies revealed that transverse joints can be accepted at fairly wide spacings, however, based on RCC
placement rates, block widths were kept variable between 20 to 25 m. The final selection depends on
contractor’s expertise and construction methodologies. A longitudinal gallery was proposed parallel to the dam
axis which will be used for future monitoring, drainage and grouting. A second, lower longitudinal gallery will
also be constructed just above the foundation. A longitudinal joint will be constructed between these two
galleries by impressing a slot vertically through RCC lifts using pneumatically driven steel plates and a geo-grid
inserted at the bottom of the respective lift.

Concrete dams crack at points of least resistance and greatest restraint. Vertical transverse cracks do not affect
the stability of RCC gravity dam. The problem associated with such cracks is the potential for seepage. For
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Dasu, it was noted that the potential for cracking increased near the base of the dam due to restraint effect and
so special measures would be taken during construction to minimize this. Post cooling is possible but expensive
for such large structures and therefore the focus will be more on temperature control during concrete placement
using such measures as incorporating flaked ice in the mix and the pre-cooling of aggregates before mixing.
Effective curing during construction will also be required.

2.4 Other Structures

The power generation system at Dasu will be constructed underground. Its components include power tunnels,
powerhouse complex, draft tube and tailrace tunnels. The feasibility level structural designs of these structures
involved determination of adequate thickness for concrete and steel linings to resist all internal and external

Structural models were developed in SAP2000 for control sections of power house, intake structure, penstock,
tailrace tunnel and diversion tunnel. Interaction among rock mass, surrounding concrete and steel lining in
penstock was modeled and underground openings were subjected to relevant internal and external pressures
based on criteria set forth in USACE EM 1110-2-2901, 1997 – “Tunnels and Shafts in Rocks”. The load sharing
by the materials depends on the moduli of elasticity, Poisson’s ratios and shear and flexural thickness of all

Rock modulus of deformation was taken as 8.3 GPa whereas reduced moduli equal to 3.5 GPa was assumed due
to the disturbance effects in the periphery of excavated opening. Eight power tunnels were proposed in the Dasu
project each having a dedicated penstock. The power tunnels consisted of two portions a) square tunnel of size
8.5 m × 8.5 m provided before the vertical gate shaft b) circular tunnel of diameter 8.5 m provided after the gate

The penstocks layout was such that they run in close vicinity of underground structures and any possible
leakage from penstock will be detrimental for electrical installations. Structural dimensions of the linings for the
penstocks were established to resist the internal design pressures. Structural analysis was carried out for
different loads and it was observed that the internal pressure carried by concrete lining is 1229.5 kN/m2 while
that carried by steel lining is 910.1 kN/m2. Steel lining was analysed for resistance to external water pressure
assuming that whole load is to be carried by steel lining alone. Curves based on Jacobsen’s equations developed
by E.T. Moore were used to determine critical buckling pressure for 40mm thick steel lining. Stiffeners were
not considered in this analysis. Critical buckling pressure was determined to be 967 kN/m2 and the applied
external water pressure was 655 kN/m2.

Analysis of underground powerhouse requires input from electrical and mechanical, geological and structural
engineers to evolve an optimized design. Lining and rock support elements are less affected by seismic waves
but any structural member present inside the cavern experience seismic shears since the natural time period
differs from the period of earthquake. This was considered in the design of crane supports and machine
foundations in the powerhouse complex.

Four D-shaped, long tailrace tunnels of size 10m by 12.5m were proposed for Dasu project to convey
discharges emerging from powerhouse through draft tubes and surge tanks, back to the river. As the 2.6 km
long tunnels cross Khoshe fault, so fissured and jointed rocks are expected in the surrounding of the tunnel.
Therefore, concrete lining was proposed for preventing the rock pieces from falling in the tunnel in addition to
resisting the hydrostatic pressure.

3. Conclusions
At feasibility stage, the main emphasis is laid on determining the optimum dam profile which is safe against all
anticipated loads and at minimum cost. Each dam is a prototype and special methodologies have to be
established for analyzing the structural integrity at the expense of huge resources. A number of conservative
assumptions are generally inherent at this stage. As the project progresses, refinements are incorporated based
on site specific data and material properties. RCC gravity dams behave similar to conventional concrete dams
and plenty of design techniques are available in literature.

At Dasu, all efforts were made to establish sufficiently accurate methodology for analyzing various structures
with minimum allocated resources. The results achieved from this feasibility study satisfy the basic principles of
stability and economy and hold a good precedence for future works.
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[1] American Concrete Institute 207.5R-99 “Roller Compacted Mass Concrete” Reported by ACI Committee
[2] Berga, Jofre and Chonggang “Roller Compacted Concrete Dams”, Proceedings of the 4th international
symposium on RCC Dams, 2003.
[3] “Gravity Dam Design”, EM 1110-2-2200, US Army Corps of Engineers, 1995.
[4] Leclerc M. et-al, CADAM User’s Manual version 1.4.3. École Polytechnique de Montréal, 2001.
[5] “Non linear Incremental Structural Analysis of Massive Concrete Structures”, EM 1110-2-536, US Army
Corps of Engineers, 1994”.
[6] “Stability Analysis of Concrete Structures”, EM 1110-2-2100, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE),
[7] “Thermal Studies of Mass Concrete”, EM 1110-2-542, US Army Corps of Engineers, 1997.
[8] “Tunnels and Shafts in Rock”, EM 1110- 2-2901, US Army Corps of Engineers, 1997

The Authors

Nabeel A. Khan graduated in Civil Engineering from University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, Pakistan. He is
currently employed as Structural Engineer in National Engineering Services Pakistan (Pvt.) Ltd. and has worked on the
feasibility studies of Dasu Hydropower Project. He has also been involved in the detailed design of different small
hydropower projects and industrial units in Pakistan.

U.Latif also graduated in Civil Engineering from University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, Pakistan and is
working as Structural Engineer in NESPAK (Pvt.) Ltd. and has co-worked at the feasibility studies of Dasu Hydropower
Project. He was involved in carrying out the stability and stress analyses of the dam. Currently he is involved in the design of
high rise building structures.