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A9

Analysis of berms

A9.1

MULTIPLE COULOMB WEDGE LIMIT EQUILIBRIUM ANALYSIS

A9.1.1

Total stress analysis


Daly and Powrie (2001) present a modified limit equilibrium stress analysis for bermsupported walls, which, as well as providing a reasonable estimate of the lateral stresses
exerted by the berm, enables the factor on soil strength to be determined for any given
wall or berm geometry and soil strength properties. This analysis is based on the
undrained shear strength of the soil, and is therefore applicable only to clay soils in the
short term, before any significant drainage or negative excess pore water pressure
dissipation occurs.
In the modified limit equilibrium approach, the distribution of passive resistance
provided by the berm is represented more closely than in any of the methods described
in Section 7.2.1 by carrying out Coulomb wedge analyses over the entire depth of the
wall rather than just at the toe. The multiple Coulomb wedge method is also used to
represent berms in some soil-structure interaction computer programs, and is
summarised in the flow diagram given in Figure A9.1.
A typical limit equilibrium analysis involves the following steps:

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subdivide the wall into nodes at (say) 1 m intervals over its depth

assume a point of rotation at a depth h+zp below original ground level (97.5 per
cent of the total wall height h+d below original ground level represents an
appropriate initial starting point)

carry out Coulomb wedge analyses in front of the wall at each of the nodes at and
above the pivot point to determine the plane slip surface at each location offering
the least resistance to failure

calculate an equivalent earth pressure distribution in the restraining soil in front of


the wall, at and above the pivot point, by dividing the increase in resistance
between successive sliding wedges by the distance between successive nodes

carry out Coulomb wedge analyses in front of the wall at each of the nodes at and
below the pivot point and calculate an equivalent active earth pressure distribution
by dividing the increase in the force between successive sliding wedges by the
distance between successive nodes.

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Figure A9.1

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Modified equilibrium analysis approach: multiple Coulomb wedge analysis


(undrained) in terms of total stresses for a retaining wall supported by an earth
berm

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Behind the wall, standard active (above the pivot) and passive (below the pivot)
pressures are assumed. Conventional limit equilibrium stress analyses, based on the
fixed earth support method for free cantilever walls (assuming short-term undrained
conditions) are then carried out. For a given berm geometry, retained height h and depth
of wall embedment d, the unknown quantities are the mobilised undrained shear strength
su mob and the depth below formation level to the point of rotation zp. These can be
determined from the conditions of horizontal force and moment equilibrium.
Simplifying the calculation by replacing the active and passive pressures below the pivot
point with a net resultant force and applying an empirical factor of 1.2 to the calculated
depth of embedment, will lead to a conservative solution, as shown by Bolton and
Powrie (1987).

A9.1.2

Effective stress analysis


In principle, a multiple Coulomb wedge calculation in terms of effective stresses could
be carried out. However, such an approach is as yet unvalidated and may be
unconservative because the critical passive slip surfaces may not be planar.

A9.2

GENERAL FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS OF AN EARTH BERM


REMOVED IN SECTIONS FROM IN FRONT OF A LONG
RETAINING WALL
Gourvenec and Powrie (2000) carried out a series of three-dimensional finite element
analyses to investigate the effect on wall movements of the removal of sections of an
earth berm supporting an embedded retaining wall in overconsolidated clay. The results
showed that:
removal of a section of an earth berm will result in localised displacements in the
vicinity of the unsupported section of the wall, the magnitude and extent of which
increase with the length of the berm section removed and with time following
excavation of the berm
wall movements during removal of a berm in sections can be minimised by
reducing the width of the sections removed; and
several sections can be removed simultaneously without increasing wall
movements, provided successive unsupported sections are separated by a sufficient
length of intact berm.
For a wall along which bays of length B are excavated simultaneously at regular
intervals separated by sections of intact berm of length B', the degree of discontinuity
may be defined by the ratio of the excavated length to the total length ie = B/(B+B')
(see Figure 7.5). Then, for a given wall and berm geometry, ground conditions and time
period there is a critical degree of berm discontinuity, crit, such that:
if the degree of discontinuity of a berm-supported wall is less than, crit,
displacements increase linearly with the length of the unsupported sections
if exceeds crit then displacements become a function not only of the length of the
unsupported section but also of the degree of discontinuity and increase more
rapidly with continued increases in .

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In practical terms:
when several sections along the berm are removed simultaneously, as may occur
with construction of a long retaining wall in bays, the sections removed should be
separated by a section of intact berm between one and three times as long as the
section removed (ie = 2550 per cent). This is because the maximum wall
movement (at the centre of the unsupported section) begins to increase with above
= 25 per cent, and the minimum wall movement (at the centre of the supported
section) increases with when > 50 per cent;
if minimisation of wall movements is critical, the length of the unsupported bays
should be as small as possible, as the additional wall movement (compared with the
case of an intact berm) increases in proportion to the length of berm section
removed.

A9.3

REFERENCES
BOLTON, M D and POWRIE, W (1987)
Collapse of diaphragm walls retaining clay
Geotechnique, vol 37, no 3, pp 335353
DALY, M and POWRIE, W (2001)
Undrained analysis of earth berms as temporary supports for embedded retaining
walls
Proc Instn Civ Engrs, Geotechnical engineering, vol 149, no 4, pp 237248
GOURVENEC, S M and POWRIE, W (2000)
Three-dimensional finite element analyses of embedded retaining walls supported by
discontinuous earth berms
Can geotech J, vol 37, no 5, pp 10621077

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