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Virginia Polytechnic Institute

And State University

The Charles E. Via, Jr.


Department of Civil Engineering

CENTER FOR
GEOTECHNICAL PRACTICE AND RESEARCH

Beginner’s Guide For Geotechnical


Finite Element Analyses

by

Nathaniel Bradley

and

Daniel R. VandenBerge

Report of a study performed by the Virginia Tech Center for


Geotechnical Practice and Research
May 2015
CGPR # 82

Center for Geotechnical Practice and Research


200 Patton Hall, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24060
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgement ....................................................................................................... 1
Chapter 1 – Introduction ............................................................................................. 2
Chapter 2 - Fundamentals .......................................................................................... 5
Finite Element Programs ......................................................................................... 7
Chapter 3 - STEADY-STATE SEEPAGE .................................................................... 8
Governing Principles ............................................................................................... 8
Finite Element Mesh Design.................................................................................... 8
Boundary Conditions ............................................................................................. 10
Free Surface Flow Problems ................................................................................. 11
Element Types ...................................................................................................... 12
Mesh Refinement .................................................................................................. 12
Transient Seepage Analysis .................................................................................. 13
Capabilities of Commercially Available Finite Element Programs ......................... 14
Examples............................................................................................................... 15
Example 1: Steady-State Seepage under a Gravity Dam .................................. 15
Parametric Study ............................................................................................... 24
Example 2: Steady-State Seepage through a Compacted Silty Sand
Embankment .......................................................................................................... 25
Validation............................................................................................................... 33
Chapter 4 – STRESSES AND MOVEMENTS........................................................... 35
Principal Variables ................................................................................................. 35
Shape Functions for Load-Deformation Problems ................................................. 36
Stress-Strain and Strength Parameters for Soils ................................................... 36
Linear Elastic Stress-Strain................................................................................ 37
Hyperbolic Stress-Strain and Strength ............................................................... 38
Selection of Hyperbolic Parameters ................................................................... 41
Initial Stresses and Displacements ........................................................................ 43
Drained vs. Undrained Conditions ..................................................................... 43
Initial Stresses in Phase2................................................................................... 44
Modeling Construction Sequence .......................................................................... 45
Capabilities of Modern Finite Element Programs .................................................. 46
Examples............................................................................................................... 46
Example 3: Embankment Constructed on Stiff Foundation................................ 46
Example 4: Embankment Constructed on Clay Foundation............................... 54
Example 5: Excavation in Clay .......................................................................... 62
Chapter 5 – Stability Analyses .................................................................................. 76
Strength Reduction Analysis ................................................................................. 76
Example 6 .......................................................................................................... 77
Advantages and Disadvantages ............................................................................ 79
Rules of Thumb and Guidelines ............................................................................ 80
Chapter 6 – Guidelines and Lessons Learned .......................................................... 81
Fundamentals........................................................................................................ 81
Seepage ................................................................................................................ 81
Modeling ............................................................................................................ 81
Validation ........................................................................................................... 81
Load Deformation .................................................................................................. 82
Stress-Strain Properties ..................................................................................... 82
Stress-Strain Modeling....................................................................................... 82
Validation ........................................................................................................... 83
Stability Analysis ................................................................................................... 83
References................................................................................................................ 84
Appendix A Staged Embankment Constructions in Phase2 ................................... 86
Analysis Steps ....................................................................................................... 86
Appendix B Initial Stresses in Level Ground in Phase2.......................................... 91
Analysis Steps ....................................................................................................... 91
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
This Beginner’s Guide for Finite Element Analyses was written at the suggestion of
the CGPR members at the 2014 Annual Meeting, and the CGPR provided most of the
financial support for the effort. Virginia Tech provided financial support during the final
phases of the project through Dan VandenBerge’s post-doctoral position. All of this
support is gratefully acknowledged.

The authors thank Professor Mike Duncan for his guidance, encouragement, and
contributions to this project and the development of this report. His insights and
practical experience in the application of the finite element method were essential to the
report’s success.

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CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION

This manual is intended for the use of geotechnical engineers and geotechnical
engineering graduate students who understand the behavior of soil and conventional
methods for analyzing seepage, settlement and stability, but who have not performed
finite element analyses.

With the objective of removing the “black box” aspect of finite element analyses,
Chapter 2 is devoted to the fundamentals of the method, so that the user will
understand concepts such as nodal points, elements, and boundary conditions, and the
sets of equations that are formed and solved in the process of performing a finite
element analysis. While it is not necessary that the user be able to derive these, an
understanding of these concepts is important for performing and interpreting the results
of finite element analyses.

Chapter 3 is devoted to seepage problems, both confined flow and free surface
steady state flow. Finite element analyses offer great advantages for analysis of
seepage problems, through the ability to perform parametric studies at the click of a
button. Hydraulic conductivity can never be evaluated precisely, and the ability to study
the effects of possible variations in hydraulic conductivity and anisotropy is essential for
thorough analyses of seepage through soil. Two examples illustrate applications to
seepage beneath and through dams.

Chapter 4 is devoted to problems of stresses and movements in embankments and


around excavations, and the use of excavation bracing to control these movements.
Deformation analyses are more complex than seepage analyses, both in terms of the
soil properties involved and the techniques necessary to model nonlinear stress-strain
behavior in soils. Three examples illustrate deformations of embankments during
construction and movements around braced and unbraced excavations in clay.

Appendices A and B are devoted to important details of staged analyses to model


successive constructions steps, and the procedures used in the computer program
Phase2 to establish values of initial stresses in the ground prior to embankment
construction or excavation.

The balance of this chapter is devoted to summaries of papers and reports that
illustrate practical uses of the finite element analyses, to illustrate the wide range of
practical uses of the method. These papers and reports include:

 The Behavior of Embankment Dams: Kulhawy was one of the first to perform
analyses using nonlinear stress-strain behavior of soil in finite element analyses.

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The analyses he conducted demonstrated that displacements within embankment
dams could be predicted with reasonable accuracy (Kulhawy 1969).

 Earth Pressures on and Deflections of Reinforced Concrete Structures: Clough and


Duncan used finite element analyses to compute earth pressures and deflections of
the reinforced concrete walls of Port Allen Lock, a reinforced concrete structure 75
feet wide by 75 feet high by 1,100 feet long. They compared the results of their
analyses with data from field instruments to determine the ability of analyses to
simulate field behavior (Clough and Duncan 1969).

 Reinforced Embankments: Duncan and Schaefer conducted finite element analyses


of a reinforced embankment constructed over soft clay and peat. The analyses
demonstrated the feasibility of constructing an embankment over weak soil using a
single layer of reinforcement near the base of the embankment (Duncan and
Schaefer 1988).

 Reinforced Soil Walls: The stability of reinforced soil walls was evaluated using the
finite element method for several different types of reinforcement by Adib, Mitchell,
and Christopher (Adib et al. 1990).

 Urban Excavations: A simulation of the construction of an underground parking


garage at Post Office Square in Boston was completed by Whittle, Hashash and
Whitman. They found that it is possible to make useful predictions of deformations
occurring during top-down construction of an excavation using finite element
analyses (Whittle et al. 1993).

 Lateral Spreading of Unreinforced Embankments: Crawford et al. performed a finite


element analysis on an embankment to study the influence of lateral spreading on
consolidation settlement. A two-dimensional consolidation analysis compared better
with field measurements than a one-dimensional consolidation analysis (Crawford et
al. 1994).

 Stability of Slopes and Dams: Finite element analyses for the assessment of slope
stability have been conducted by Griffiths and Lane. By comparison with traditional
limit equilibrium techniques, they demonstrate that the finite element method can be
a useful tool for evaluating stability of slopes (Griffiths and Lane 1999). Hammah et
al. (2006) performed slope stability analyses using finite element software. Analyses
were performed on a broad range of slopes and the results compared well with limit
equilibrium methods.

 Pile-Supported Bridge Abutments: Ellis and Springman analyzed a bridge abutment


supported by piles using two-dimensional finite element analyses. Aspects of the
structure that influenced its behavior in three dimensions, such as the piles and

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vertical drains, were successfully implemented into the two-dimensional analysis
(Ellis and Springman 2001).

 Soil-Bentonite Cutoff Walls: Baxter and Filz developed a finite element model to
simulate construction of soil-bentonite cutoff walls. They used this model to predict
the ground deformations adjacent to the cutoff wall (Baxter and Filz 2007).

 Retaining Wall Failures: The failure of a segmental retaining wall was studied by
Hossain and his colleagues using finite element analysis. Analyses were able to
replicate the behavior of the wall prior to failure, and they provided insight regarding
the causes of the failure (Hossain et al. 2009).

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CHAPTER 2 - FUNDAMENTALS
The finite element method involves discretization of the physical body being
analyzed, dividing the geometry into small areas where properties can be assumed to
be uniform. An example of the discretization of a rectangular body is shown in Figure
2.1. The smaller areas into which the larger body is divided are the “finite elements.”
The elements are connected to each other only at their corners, or “nodes.” Elements
always have nodes at their corners. Some more complex elements also have nodes
along their sides. Elements used for two-dimensional analyses in geotechnical
engineering are usually triangles or quadrilaterals. Some triangular elements may be
right triangles, and some quadrilateral elements may be rectangles, but any triangular or
quadrilateral shape can be used. Triangular elements normally have either 3 or 6
nodes, while quadrilaterals usually have either 4 or 8 nodes. 6-node triangles and 8-
node quadrilaterals have nodes along their sides.

Nodes

Typical Element

Elements

Figure 2.1: Discretization of a Rectangular Body into Finite Elements.

After discretization of the problem geometry into elements, the next step in the finite
element method is definition of the primary variable (or the primary unknown). For
steady-state seepage problems, the primary variable is hydraulic head (h). For load-
deformation problems, the primary variable is displacement (u). Element characteristics
called “shape functions” determine how the value of the primary variable varies within
each element. Finite element computer programs provide various types of elements
and suggestions for selecting elements for various purposes. Element types for steady-
state seepage problems are discussed in Chapter 3. Element types for load-
deformation problems are discussed in Chapter 4.

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After the geometry has been subdivided into elements connected at nodes, the
computer program forms a set of equations which relate the value of the primary
unknown at each node to another variable at each node. For steady-state seepage
problems, the second variable is the flow at the node. So, for steady-state seepage
problems the heads at the nodes are related to the flows at the nodes. The equations
are based on Darcy’s Law and values of permeability for seepage problems. For load-
deformation problems, the second variable is the externally applied force at the node.
The displacements at the nodes are related to the forces at the nodes, using the
requirements of equilibrium and the stress-strain properties.

Once the governing equations have been formed by the computer program, they are
combined to form a global set of equations that describe the properties of the entire
system. Heads and flows are related by a “transmissibility” matrix, while displacements
and forces are related by a “stiffness” matrix. Equations 1 and 2 express the general
form of these equations. These matrices satisfy the condition that the entire system
must remain continuous. They also describe the material properties and boundary
conditions of the problem.

For seepage problems:

  Vector of   
 Transmissibility   Nodal   
     Vector of 
  (1)
 Matrix  Hydraulic   Nodal Flows 
    
  Heads

For load-deformation problems:

  Vector   
 Stiffness  of   
     Vector of 
  (2)
 Matrix  Nodal  Nodal Forces 
 
  Displacements   

These global equations are solved by the computer program to obtain the value of
the primary variable at each nodal point. Using the values of the primary variable, the
values of other unknowns (such as pore pressures or strains) can be calculated for
each nodal point.

When compared with other techniques, the finite element method has several
advantages. First, problems involving non-homogeneous earth masses are no more
difficult to analyze than problems involving masses with homogeneous properties. The

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finite element method can account for the variation of properties from one element to
another. Complex boundary conditions can also be accommodated readily. Third,
limitations in the user’s capabilities in mathematical analysis do not prevent use of the
finite element method. As long as the user has a thorough understanding of the
problem, including the geology, site conditions, properties of soil and rock, and
construction processes, the finite element method can produce useful and accurate
results.

Finite Element Programs

The examples in this report were analyzed using the computer programs Slide v.6.0
and Phase2 v.9.0 (recently renamed RS2). These programs are available for use on
academic projects through the Rocscience Education Program. Slide is a 2-
dimensional slope stability program that contains a module for finite element seepage
analyses. The Rocscience finite element program Phase2 can be used for both
seepage and load-deformation analyses.

Full versions of the Rocscience programs used to prepare the examples in this report
can be downloaded from the Rocscience website (http://www.rocscience.com/
downloads/trial_versions).

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CHAPTER 3 - STEADY-STATE SEEPAGE
Governing Principles

The governing principle for steady seepage is Darcy’s Law:

Q  kiA (3)

where Q = seepage quantity (volume / time), k = permeability or hydraulic conductivity


(length / time), i = hydraulic gradient (length / length or dimensionless), and A = gross
cross-sectional area of flow, including both solids and voids (length2).

For finite element analyses of seepage, a global set of equations relates heads at the
nodal points to flows at the nodal points. When these equations are solved, the values
of hydraulic head are obtained at each node.

Finite element programs use “shape functions” to determine the values of hydraulic
gradient between the nodes, within the elements.

The simplest shape functions use linear variations of hydraulic head within triangular
elements. The hydraulic gradient between adjacent nodes (within any element) is
constant. The surface representing hydraulic head consists of connected triangular,
planar facets.

Hydraulic gradients within quadrilateral elements are more complex. The surface
representing hydraulic head within a quadrilateral element is defined at four nodes, and
(in general) these define a warped surface rather than a plane. As a result, more
complex shape functions are required for quadrilateral elements.

Finite Element Mesh Design

In designing a finite element mesh, two things are important:

1. The elements should be small enough to achieve accurate results in the area of
greatest interest. For seepage beneath the concrete gravity dam shown in Figure
3.1, the areas of greatest interest would be the base of the dam, where uplift
pressures would be of concern, and the zone immediately downstream, where
high hydraulic gradients could lead to erosion and piping. Outside the area of
interest, larger elements can be used.

2. External boundaries should be far enough away from the area of interest so that
they don’t unduly influence the results in the area of interest. Placement of the
boundaries is usually decided based on judgment and experience. For seepage

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beneath the concrete dam in Figure 3.1, the left and right boundary positions
shown in Figure 3.2 would be reasonable. If in doubt, multiple analyses can be
performed, to establish positions for these boundaries where their effect on results
is negligible.

The bottom boundary of a finite element seepage mesh is usually placed at the top of
a relatively impermeable layer of soil or rock.

With today’s computers, it is possible to use meshes that contain thousands of


elements and nodal points, and designing meshes that satisfy these criteria is usually
not a problem.

Figure 3.1: Areas of Greatest Interest for Seepage beneath a Gravity Dam.

T 3T T

Figure 3.2: Suggested Locations of Mesh End Boundaries.

The mesh for the problem shown in Figure 3.2 would look similar to Figure 3.3. The
concrete structure and water upstream and downstream are not included in the finite
element mesh.

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Figure 3.3: Example Finite Element Seepage Mesh.

Boundary Conditions

Boundary conditions must be assigned to nodes around the outer boundaries of the
mesh. One of the following three useful boundary conditions is assigned at each
boundary node:

1. q = 0, or
2. h = specified value, or

3. unknown (for free surface problems),


where q = seepage quantity and h = head.

The boundary condition at all interior nodes in the mesh is q = 0. The reason for this
is that total flow at any node is equal to the sum of the flows in all elements attached to
that node. For interior nodes, some flows are positive and others are negative, and
their sum is zero. Any flow that goes out of one element (negative flow) goes into
another element (positive flow), and the sum of flow at each interior node is thus zero.

Consider the problem shown in Figure 3.4. Say that the water level on the upstream
side of the structure is at an elevation of 50 feet, and the water level on the downstream
side is at an elevation of 10 feet. Appropriate boundary conditions for the problem are
shown in Figure 3.4. Detailed views of the left-hand and right-hand boundaries of the
mesh are shown in Figure 3.5 and Figure 3.6. The boundary condition on the left and
right-hand sides of the mesh can either be q = 0 or h = headwater or tail water
elevation. If the lateral boundaries are far enough from the region of interest the results
will be essentially the same for either choice. Assigning the boundary condition h =
headwater or tail water elevation to the left and right-hand boundaries is more common.

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h = 50 h = 10
q=0

h = 10
h = 50

q=0

Figure 3.4: Boundary Conditions for Problem shown in Figure 3.1.

h = 50
h = 50

q=0

Figure 3.5: Left-hand Boundary of Mesh in Figure 3.4.

h = 10
h = 10

q=0

Figure 3.6: Right-hand Boundary of Mesh in Figure 3.4.

Free Surface Flow Problems

A free surface flow example is shown in Figure 3.7. Steady-state seepage occurs
from left to right through the embankment and underlying soil strata. Near the right-
hand boundary of the mesh, the total head (the tailwater elevation) is below the ground
surface. The appropriate boundary conditions for this problem are shown in Figure 3.8.

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In this case, the right-hand boundary is assigned a value of total head equal to the
tailwater elevation. The boundary conditions along the top of the dam and the upper
boundary of the mesh downstream from the dam are unknown.

Tailwater elevation

Figure 3.7: Seepage through an Embankment.

h = headwater unknown
unknown
elevation
h = headwater

h = tailwater
elevation

elevation
q=0

Figure 3.8: Boundary Conditions for Problem shown in Figure 3.7.

For problems involving unconfined flow (such as the example shown in Figure 3.7),
computer programs use the boundary condition h = z (head = elevation) to determine
the location of the free surface. These computer programs can determine the location
of the free surface automatically, by iteration.

Element Types

Either triangular or quadrilateral elements can be used effectively to represent soil in


two-dimensional seepage problems. Lower order elements (3-node triangles and 4-
node quadrilaterals) both give good results.

Mesh Refinement

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Finite element meshes should be refined in the areas of greatest interest. Use small
elements in these areas. In areas of less importance, larger elements can be used. For
the embankment shown in Figure 3.7, hydraulic gradients are expected to be highest
around the toe of the embankment. The area of the mesh that should be the finest is
shown by the dashed ellipse in Figure 3.9.

Figure 3.9: Area of Mesh Refinement for Embankment shown in Figure 3.7.

Elements should be as close to square as possible in the area of greatest interest.


Aspect ratios of 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 are good; 1 to 1 is ideal. Outside the area of interest
much larger aspect ratios will work fine.

Transient Seepage Analysis

Finite element analysis can also be used to calculate non-steady state, or transient,
seepage. Transient seepage conditions occur as boundary conditions change over
time. Examples include a raise in water level behind an earth dam or levee, and varying
surface infiltration on a slope caused by rainfall. Transient seepage analyses are
especially helpful for determining the amount of time required to reach steady state
following a change in boundary conditions.

Transient seepage analyses require soil properties in addition to the saturated


permeability, some of which are difficult to define or measure. For this reason, transient
seepage analysis will not be considered in further detail in this report. These properties
include:

 Soil-water characteristic curve – relationship between the degree of saturation


and the suction (negative pore pressure) in the unsaturated zone.

 Hydraulic conductivity function – relationship between the hydraulic


conductivity and suction in the unsaturated zone.

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 A measure of soil compressibility due to changes in effective stress. The pore
pressures calculated by transient seepage analyses tend to be very sensitive
to the compressibility assigned to the soil.

Most transient seepage analyses are “uncoupled”, meaning that pore pressures do
not change in response to changes in normal or shear stress. For this reason, transient
analyses do not accurately model pore pressures for design conditions like rapid
drawdown or levee flood loading. Seepage analysis must be linked with load-
deformation analysis (Chapter 4) by a complex soil model in order for these effects to
be considered.

Capabilities of Commercially Available Finite Element Programs

When computing time and computer memory were at a premium, a typical finite
element mesh for a seepage problem would have contained 50 to 100 elements.
Modern computers can analyze problems that contain many more elements. A typical
mesh for a seepage problem may contain 1500 elements, or even more. Even if the
mesh contains a large number of elements, a typical laptop computer can compute the
solution within seconds.

Many commercial finite element programs are capable of analyzing steady-state and
transient seepage problems. Modern programs have automatic mesh generation
features, and users can easily develop meshes with these programs. We reviewed the
capabilities of six commercially available programs – GGU-SS-FLOW2D, PLAXIS2D,
SEEP/W, Slide, Phase2, and SVFlux. All of these programs have automatic mesh
generation tools and can perform steady-state and transient seepage analysis. In some
cases, an additional module is required for transient analyses.

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Examples

Example 1: Steady-State Seepage under a Gravity Dam

This example shows a steady-state seepage finite element analysis of flow beneath a
gravity concrete dam. This example shows how to:

1. Calculate exit gradients and evaluate hydraulic head.

2. Determine if the values of uplift pressure and exit gradient are affected by the type
of finite element mesh used.

3. Examine how the value of hydraulic conductivity of the deep clean sand affects
the results.

A cross section through the structure is shown in Figure 3.10. The dam is 100 feet
wide and 45 feet high. It is embedded 10 feet into a layer of silty sand, which is 50 feet
thick. The silty sand lies on top of a layer of clean sand, which is 100 feet thick. The
geometry and heads are shown in Figure 3.10. The hydraulic conductivity of the silty
sand is 10-4 cm/sec. The hydraulic conductivity of the deeper clean sand is 10-2 cm/sec.
The appropriate boundary conditions for modeling the problem are shown in Figure
3.11.

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100'
y = 180 ft.
(x, y, h)
x = 0 ft.
y = 150 ft., h = 180 ft. (100, 150, 155) 45' y = 155 ft.
(-450, 150, 180) (0, 150, 180) (550, 150, 155)
(0, 140, h)
y = 140 ft. (100, 140, h) y = 150 ft., h = 155 ft.
Silty Sand k = 10-4 cm/sec
y = 100 ft.
(-450, 100, 180) (550, 100, 155)

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Clean Sand k = 10-2 cm/sec

y = 0 ft.
(-450, 0, 180) (550, 0, 155)

Figure 3.10: Cross Section through the Example 1


Gravity Dam.
h = 180 ft. h = 155 ft.

q=0

Silty Sand k = 10-4 cm/sec

h = 180 ft. h = 155 ft.

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Clean Sand k = 10-2 cm/sec

Figure 3.11: Boundary Conditions for Example 1.


This problem was analyzed using the computer program Slide. In order to perform
steady-state seepage analyses in Slide, the Groundwater Method must be set to the
Steady State FEA option. The geometry of the problem is defined using Slope Stability
mode. Then, in Steady State Groundwater mode the finite element mesh, steady-state
groundwater boundary conditions, and hydraulic conductivity values are defined. For
instruction on more specific program features see the Help Topics, available in the Help
menu of Slide.

Three different types of meshes were used for this example. The first consists of 3-
node triangles and was created using the automatic mesh generation features of Slide.
The second mesh consists of 4-node quadrilaterals (except where triangular shapes
were needed to fit the geometry) and was created using automatic mesh generation.
The third mesh consists of 4-node rectangles and was created using the Mapped Mesh
feature of Slide. The three meshes are shown in Figures 3.12, 3.13, and 3.14. Each
mesh contains approximately the same number of elements.

Each of the two meshes created using automatic mesh generation (Figures 3.12 and
3.13) was made by allowing the program to generate its own mesh for the model. The
approximate number of elements and the element type were specified in the Mesh
Setup dialog box. The program then automatically created the mesh. The mesh was
manually refined in the areas of greatest interest by increasing the number of segments
between nodes along the mesh boundaries and the number of elements.

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Engineering Time for Mesh Generation and Refinement: ~4 min.
← To x = - 450 To x = 550 →
Computer Time for Solution: ~5 seconds

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Figure 3.12: Screen Shot of Automatically Generated
Mesh using 3-node Triangles.
Engineering Time for Mesh Generation and Refinement: ~4 min.
← To x = - 450 To x = 550 →
Computer Time for Solution: ~5 seconds

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Figure 3.13: Screen Shot of Automatically Generated
Mesh using 4-node Quadrilaterals.
Engineering Time for Mesh Generation and Refinement: ~10 min.
← To x = - 450 To x = 550 →
Computer Time for Solution: ~5 seconds

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Figure 3.14: Screen Shot of Automatic “Mapped
Mesh” using 4-node Rectangles.
The Mapped Mesh (Figure 3.14) was created using more manual input. In order to
create a Mapped Mesh, the model must be divided into rectangular regions using the
Material Boundaries feature. The opposing sides of each rectangular region must have
the same number of discretizations. Once the rectangular regions were drawn, the
approximate number of elements and the element type were specified in the Mesh
Setup dialog box. After the boundaries were discretized, the discretizations were
manually adjusted so that nodal points would be closest together in the areas of
greatest interest. The mesh was subsequently generated automatically by the program,
and then the automatic Mapped Mesh function was used to generate the Mapped Mesh.

The approximate amount of time taken to generate and refine each mesh and to
compute the solution for each mesh is shown in Table 3.1. All three analyses were
performed using Slide v. 6.029 on a laptop computer with a 2.40 GHz Intel® Core™2
Duo processor with 3.46 GB of usable memory.

Calculated values of total head on the bottom of the dam and exit gradients at the
downstream end of the dam are listed in Table 3.1. The results are the same for all
three meshes. Figure 3.15 shows how the values of exit gradient were computed.

Table 3.1: Times for Mesh Creation and Execution,


and Calculated Values of Head at Base of Dam.

Triangular Quadrilateral Mapped


Type of mesh
elements elements mesh
User time for mesh development 4 minutes 4 minutes 10 minutes

Computer time for solution 5 seconds

Head at upstream corner of base of dam 175.3 feet

Head at center of base of dam 167.5 feet

Head at downstream corner of base of dam 159.7 feet

Exit gradient at downstream end of dam 0.47

The results of these analyses demonstrate that as long as the mesh is refined
sufficiently in the areas of interest, it does not matter which element type or mesh type
is used for steady-state seepage analyses. The Mapped Mesh does have a better
appearance than the other two meshes, but mapped meshing is only needed when an

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orderly-appearing mesh is desired. The Mapped Mesh involves more steps to create,
which increases the likelihood for mistakes. It is most convenient to use 3-node
triangles with automatic mesh generation for seepage analyses.

y = 150 ft.
B
Dam
Δy = 10 ft.

y = 140 ft. A

hA - hB
i=
Δy

Figure 3.15: Calculation of Exit Gradient.

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Parametric Study

The effect of the hydraulic conductivity of the deep clean sand on the uplift pressures
and exit gradient was examined, by varying the value of hydraulic conductivity of the
deep sand from 10-1 cm/sec to 10-3 cm/sec using the 3-node triangular element mesh.
Table 3.2 shows the values of total head and hydraulic gradient for each value of the
hydraulic conductivity of the clean sand. These results show that when the hydraulic
conductivity of the deep clean sand is varied, the results do not change a great deal.
Such parametric studies can be performed easily by changing assigned property
values, and provide a very useful method of determining the sensitivity of the results to
the assigned property values.

Table 3.2: Results of Parametric Study to Determine Effects of Hydraulic


Conductivity of Lower Layer (kupper = 10-4 cm/sec)

Hydraulic conductivity of lower layer (cm/sec) 10-1 10-2 10-3

Head at upstream corner of base of dam (feet) 175.3 175.3 175.7

Head at center of base of dam (feet) 167.5 167.5 167.5

Head at downstream corner of base of dam (feet) 159.7 159.7 159.3

Exit gradient at downstream end of dam 0.47 0.47 0.43

24
Example 2: Steady-State Seepage through a Compacted Silty Sand Embankment

This example demonstrates how to perform a steady-state seepage finite element


analysis on a compacted silty sand embankment. This example shows how to:

1. Calculate heads and quantity of flow through the embankment,

2. Determine the location of the phreatic surface for an unconfined flow problem, and

3. Use anisotropic hydraulic conductivity and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity in


an analysis.

A cross section through the embankment is shown in Figure 3.16. The embankment
is 260 feet wide at its base and 40 feet wide at its crest. The embankment is
constructed on a foundation that is considered impermeable. The top of the foundation
material is thus a no flow boundary. The total head on the left-hand side of the
embankment is 50 feet. The total head on the right-hand side of the embankment is
zero. The coordinates shown in Figure 3.16 include the horizontal and vertical
coordinates.

The hydraulic conductivity of the embankment is anisotropic. In the vertical direction,


the hydraulic conductivity of the compacted silty sand is 10-5 centimeters per second. In
the horizontal direction, the hydraulic conductivity of the compacted silty sand is four
times as large. The hydraulic properties are summarized in Table 3.3. Values are listed
in units of centimeters per second, and feet per day, which are the units used in the
analysis.

For unconfined flow problems, it is necessary to determine the position of the


phreatic surface. This position is affected by the hydraulic conductivity which varies in
the unsaturated zone above the phreatic surface, where pore pressures are negative
(suction). As soon as pore pressures drop below zero, the soil becomes unsaturated
and the hydraulic conductivity drops suddenly. This drop in hydraulic conductivity is
shown in Figure 3.17. Various mathematical functions are available to represent this
behavior. The same relationship is assumed to apply in the horizontal and the vertical
directions. For pore pressures greater than or equal to zero, the vertical hydraulic
conductivity is equal to 10-5 cm/sec. As pore pressure decreases from zero to -50 psf,
the value of hydraulic conductivity is assumed to decrease precipitously to one one-
hundredth of the saturated hydraulic conductivity. Note that 50 psf is equivalent to less
than one foot of water. For pore pressures less than -50 psf, the hydraulic conductivity
is equal to one one-hundredth of the saturated hydraulic conductivity in this example.

25
(x, y)

y = 60 ft.
y = 50 ft. (120, 60) (140, 60)

(100, 50)
2 Compacted Silty Sand 2
1 1
kvertical = 10-5 cm/sec

26
y = 0 ft. khorizontal = 4*10-5 cm/sec y = 0 ft.
(0, 0) No Flow Boundary (260, 0)
Impermeable

Figure 3.16: Cross Section through Compacted Silty Sand Embankment.


Table 3.3: Hydraulic Conductivities used in Example 2.

Property Value

Saturated Vertical Hydraulic Conductivity of Silty Sand

kv (cm/sec) 10-5

kv (ft/day) 0.028

Saturated Horizontal Hydraulic Conductivity of Silty Sand

kh (cm/sec) 4×10-5

kh (ft/day) 0.113

Unsaturated Hydraulic Conductivity of Silty Sand 0.01×ksat

Vertical Hydraulic Conductivity, kv


ksat = 10-5 cm/sec

u = -50 psf

0.01 ksat = 10-7 cm/sec

negative 0 positive
Pore Pressure, p

Figure 3.17: Variation of kv with Pore Pressure used in Example 2.

The boundary conditions used in the analysis are shown in Figure 3.18. Seepage
occurs only through the embankment, so the finite element mesh includes only the
embankment. The nodes on the bottom boundary of the mesh are assigned a zero flow
boundary condition since the foundation material is impermeable. The upstream total
head of 50 feet is assigned to the nodes on the upstream face of the embankment.

27
Above the headwater elevation on the upstream face, across the crest of the
embankment, and along the downstream face, an “initially unknown” boundary condition
was assigned.

“Initially Unknown” Boundary Conditions

Compacted Silty Sand


kvertical = 0.028 ft/day
khorizontal = 0.113 ft/day

q=0

Figure 3.18: Boundary Conditions for Example 2.

This problem was analyzed using Slide v. 6.029. The same basic program features
used to solve Seepage Example 1 were used to solve this problem. The Groundwater
Method must be set to the Steady-State FEA option. The geometry is defined in Slope
Stability Mode. The finite element mesh, steady-state groundwater boundary
conditions, and hydraulic conductivity values are all defined in Steady-State
Groundwater Mode. The anisotropy of hydraulic conductivity is specified in the Define
Hydraulic Properties dialog box. The relationship between hydraulic conductivity and
pore pressure shown in Figure 3.17 was defined using the Define New Permeability
Function option in the Define Hydraulic Properties dialog box. Slide uses matric
suction, not pore pressure, to define the variation of hydraulic conductivity in the
unsaturated zone. Instructions on more specific program features are available in the
Help Topics in the Help menu of Slide.

The finite element model created in Slide is shown in Figure 3.19. The mesh was
created with the automatic mesh generation feature using 3-node triangles. A node was
placed at (100, 50), where the reservoir surface intersects the surface of the
embankment, so that a total head of 50 feet can be assigned to the appropriate portion
of the upstream face.

28
x = 100, y = 50

29
Figure 3.19: Mesh used in Analysis; Generated
automatically using 3-node Triangles.
The analysis was performed using Slide v. 6.029 on a laptop computer with a 2.40
GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo processor with 3.46 GB of usable memory. The solution was
computed in approximately 5 seconds.

Contours of pressure head are shown in Figure 3.20. The phreatic surface is the
contour of zero pressure head. Pressure head is measured in feet of water.

Figure 3.21 shows the quantity of flow through the saturated zone of the
embankment and the quantity of flow through the unsaturated zone. The total quantity
of flow across the right-hand Discharge Section is 0.85 ft3/day. The quantity of flow
through the saturated zone is 0.79 ft3/day. The quantity of flow through the unsaturated
zone is the difference between these two quantities, 0.06 ft3/day. These quantities
involve some small approximations that are insignificant compared to the uncertainty
associated with values of permeability. The quantity of flow through the unsaturated
zone depends on the assumed value of unsaturated hydraulic conductivity. It is logical
that the flow through the unsaturated zone is much less than through the saturated zone
because the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity is so small. For a flow net, the quantity
of flow in the unsaturated zone is assumed to be zero.

The seepage quantities are ft3/day for a unit length of embankment (one foot)
measured perpendicular to the plane of the drawing in Figure 3.21, because this plane
flow analysis represents a one foot thick slice of the embankment.

30
31
Figure 3.20: Contours of Pressure
Head, in Feet of Water.
32
Figure 3.21: Discharge Sections Showing the Quantity of
Flow through the Saturated and Unsaturated Zones.
Validation

It is important to critique the results of finite element analyses. Flow nets are a
simple method of analyzing steady-state seepage problems. They can be used for
rough validation of the results of finite element analyses, even if the problem is complex.
A flow net can be drawn using the same geometry as the problem and assuming simple
conditions. Patterns of flow and head loss should be the same as the finite element
results.

The quantity of flow through the embankment in Example 2 can also be estimated
using Dupuit’s assumptions. This approximation is shown in Figure 3.22. Using this
formula, the flow through the saturated zone is estimated to be 0.88 ft.3/day per ft.,
which is very close to the finite element value, 0.79 ft.3/day per ft.

H = 50 ft. kH2
q≈
2Dt

Davg = Average width = 160 ft.

k = equivalent isotropic hydraulic conductivity =

H = total head

Dt = transformed average width of embankment =

Figure 3.22: Estimation of Flow through the Saturated Zone of the Embankment
in Example 2 using Dupuit’s Assumptions.

Other checks on the results can be even simpler. For example, the results can be
inspected to make sure that most head loss occurs in zones of low hydraulic
conductivity. Because the geometry of Example 1 is symmetric, the uplift pressure on
the dam halfway between the heel and toe should be equal to the average of the

33
upstream and downstream heads. Another simple way to check results is to estimate
the effective stress at several points. The estimated effective stress should not be
negative at any point.

34
CHAPTER 4 – STRESSES AND MOVEMENTS

Principal Variables

Steady-state seepage problems involve only one primary variable, hydraulic head.
Load-deformation problems involve two primary variables, displacement in the x-
direction and displacement in the y-direction. There are therefore two primary
unknowns at each node. The unknown displacement in the x-direction is ux, and the
unknown displacement in the y-direction is uy, as in Figure 4.1. Forces are likewise
defined as forces in the x and y directions. When the global set of equations relating
forces and displacements is solved, values of ux and uy are obtained at each node.
Other quantities such as stresses and strains within elements are calculated from the
values of ux and uy, and the stress-strain properties of the material in the elements.
Strain (ε) is the derivative of displacement, so εx is the derivative of u with respect to x,
and εy is the derivative of u with respect to y.

uy3
y

3 ux3

uy2

uy1 ux2
2

ux1
1
x

Figure 4.1: Nodal Displacement for Triangular Element (after Figure 4.2,
Grandin 1986).

35
Shape Functions for Load-Deformation Problems

Shape functions determine how the x- and y-displacements vary within an element,
just as they do with hydraulic head. For triangular elements with three nodes, the shape
functions assume that displacement varies linearly across the element:

ux  A1  A2 x  A3 y (4)

u y  B1  B2 x  B3 y (5)

The values of A and B are constants for each element. Since the variation of
displacement within the element is linear, the strain within the element is constant.

The variation of displacement within quadrilaterals cannot be linear, just as the


variation of hydraulic head within quadrilaterals cannot be linear. The simplest shape
functions for quadrilaterals are:

ux  A1  A2 x  A3 y  A4 xy (6)

u y  B1  B2 x  B3 y  B4 xy (7)

The values of A and B are constants for each element. Since the x-displacement and
the y-displacement vary nonlinearly across quadrilaterals, the strains are not constant
within quadrilaterals. Elements with more than three or four nodes also require more
complex shape functions.

Stress-Strain and Strength Parameters for Soils

The stress-strain behavior of soil is highly complex. Soil stress-strain behavior is


nonlinear, inelastic, and highly dependent on the state of stress. Finite element
analyses must incorporate a realistic means of approximating the stress-strain behavior
of soil in order for the analysis to produce meaningful results. Figure 4.1 shows
variation of deviator stress with axial strain for three triaxial compression tests at three
different confining pressures. The deviator stress (σ1 - σ3 ) is plotted on the vertical axis,
and axial strain (εa ) is plotted on the horizontal axis. The plot demonstrates the
nonlinear nature of soil stress-strain behavior, as well as the effect of confining
pressure.

The most appropriate stress-strain relationship to use in an analysis depends on the


purpose of the analysis. More complex stress-strain relationships can more accurately
model the behavior of real soils. However, if use of a less complex stress-strain
relationship can yield results that satisfy the purpose of the analysis, then there is no
36
point in using a more complex stress-strain relationship. There are many types of
stress-strain relationships, including linear elastic, hyperbolic (elastic), elastoplastic, and
elastoviscoplastic. The following sections discuss linear elastic and hyperbolic stress-
strain relationships.

High σ3
Deviator Stress, (σ1-σ3)

Intermediate σ3

Low σ3

Axial Strain, εa

Figure 4.1: Nonlinear and Stress-Dependent Stress-Strain Behavior of Soil


(after Figure 5, Duncan et al. 1980).

Linear Elastic Stress-Strain

A linear elastic stress-strain relationship is the simplest stress-strain relationship that


can be used in load-deformation finite element analyses. The two parameters used to
define isotropic linear elastic stress-strain behavior are Young’s modulus, E:

change in axial stress  a


E  (8)
change in axial strain  a

and Poisson’s ratio, :

change in radial strain 


   r (9).
change in axial strain  a

37
The shear modulus, G, can be defined in terms of E and  as:

E
G (10).
2 1   

The linear elastic stress-strain relations can also be defined using Young’s modulus
and bulk modulus. The bulk modulus, B, is defined as

E
B (11)
2 1  3 

In three mutually perpendicular directions (x, y, and z), changes in normal and shear
stress can be related to changes in strain using E, G, , and B. Only two of the four
parameters are needed. These relationships are typically expressed in terms of
increments of stress and strain because we almost always deal with conditions involving
the effect of a change in stress on a soil or rock mass that is already under stress due to
its own weight, and sometimes other loads.

Because the stress-strain behavior of real soils is nonlinear, inelastic, and stress-
dependent, linear elasticity is only a good model for soil at low stress levels and small
strains. Even for low stress levels and small strains, values of E and  for soil depend
on confining pressure and deviator stress. It is therefore difficult to select a single value
of E and a single value of  for a soil. Guidance for selecting values of E and  for
linear elastic finite element analyses is given in CGPR Report #44, Soil and Rock
Modulus Correlations for Geotechnical Engineering (Duncan and Bursey 2007).

Hyperbolic Stress-Strain and Strength

Hyperbolic stress-strain relationships are a convenient and practical means for


approximating the nonlinear, inelastic, and stress-dependent characteristics of soil
stress-strain behavior. They have been used widely in geotechnical practice. Like a
linear elastic stress-strain relationship, hyperbolic models relate stress increments to
strain increments through the generalized Hooke’s law. Unlike a linear elastic stress-
strain relationship, hyperbolic models systematically vary the values of Young’s
modulus, E and Poisson’s ratio, , or the values of Young’s modulus, E and bulk
modulus, B. By varying these two values as the stresses vary within the soil, it is
possible to model the nonlinear, inelastic, and stress-dependent characteristics of soil
behavior.

Figure 4.2 shows a typical stress-strain curve for a soil sample subjected to triaxial
compression, followed by unloading and reloading. At low strains and during unload-
38
reload, the stress-strain curve can be represented well using linear relationships.
However, most of the stress-strain curve is nonlinear. The dashed lines in Figure 4.2
show how the nonlinear stress-strain behavior can be approximated using various
moduli. The four moduli shown in Figure 4.2 are:

 Ei, the initial tangent modulus, or the slope of the stress-strain curve at the origin.

 Es, the secant modulus, or the slope of a line between two points on the curve.
The secant modulus is most often used based on a line connecting the origin to
some point on the stress-strain curve (in Figure 4.2, point A).

 Et, the tangent modulus, or the slope of the stress-strain curve at some point (in
Figure 4.2, point A).

 Eur, the unload-reload modulus, or the slope of an unloading or reloading stress-


strain curve. For most practical purposes the slopes of the unloading and
reloading curves can be considered to be the same. Eur is typically greater than
or equal to Ei.

As the point A is moved farther up the stress-strain curve, values of Et and Es


decrease.

39
1

Deviator Stress, (σ1-σ3) Einitial = Ei

1
Etangent = Et
A

Eunload-reload = Eur
= average slope of hysteresis loop

1
Hysteresis Loop
Esecant = Es

1
Axial Strain, εa
Figure 4.2: Initial Modulus, Tangent Modulus, Secant Modulus, and Unload-
Reload Modulus for constant 3 (after Figure 1, Duncan and Bursey 2007).

The hyperbolic model used in this report to approximate the stress-strain behavior of
soil is the Duncan-Chang hyperbolic model. The hyperbolic model employs nine
parameters. These parameters are listed in Table 4.1.

The first four parameters in Table 4.1 affect the shape of the stress-strain curve and
its dependence on confining pressure. The modulus number, K, together with the
modulus exponent, n, relate the initial tangent modulus, Ei, to the confining pressure, 3.
The unloading-reloading modulus number, Kur, together with the modulus exponent n,
relate the unload-reload modulus, Eur, to the confining pressure. The failure ratio, Rf,
relates the deviator stress at failure, (1 – 3)f, to the asymptotic value of deviator stress
for the hyperbola, (1 – 3)ult. The fifth and sixth parameters in Table 4.1 define the
stress-dependent volume change tendency of the soil. The bulk modulus number, Kb,

40
together with the bulk modulus exponent, m, relate the bulk modulus, B, to the confining
pressure.

Table 4.1: Summary of the Hyperbolic Parameters (after Duncan et al. 1980).

Parameter Name

K Modulus number
Kur Unloading-Reloading modulus number
n Modulus exponent
Rf Failure ratio
Kb Bulk modulus number
m Bulk modulus exponent
c Cohesion
0 Friction angle at atmospheric pressure
 Reduction in  for 10-fold increase in confining pressure

The hyperbolic model also depends on the shear strength parameters, c and . If a
non-linear strength envelope is required, the friction angle at atmospheric pressure, 0,
and  can be used relate the friction angle to confining pressure. Constant values of 
(or ’) will be used for all the analyses in this report.

Selection of Hyperbolic Parameters

The parameters employed in the hyperbolic model can be obtained from conventional
triaxial compression tests. The hyperbolic relationships can be used for both effective
stress analyses and total stress analyses. For these reasons and others, the hyperbolic
model has been used widely in geotechnical practice. Although the model has
limitations, it provides a simple and useful approach to approximating the behavior of
soil for deformation analyses.

More advanced stress-strain relationships such as elastoplastic relationships are


capable of modeling the behavior of soil after failure. However, for many practical
geotechnical problems, it is not necessary to model behavior once many of the
elements in the model have reached failure. The hyperbolic model provides sufficient
41
accuracy for many geotechnical problems. A complete description of the hyperbolic
model, procedures for determining the hyperbolic parameters, and a list of parameter
values determined from drained and undrained tests on a range of soils are presented
in CGPR Report #63, Strength, Stress-Strain and Bulk Modulus Parameters for Finite
Element Analyses of Stresses and Movements in Soil Masses (Duncan et al. 1980).

Conservative values of hyperbolic stress-strain and strength parameters for soils of


various degrees of compaction are listed in Table 4.2. These conservative values were
interpreted from the compilations of data in CGPR Report #63. The values are called
‘conservative’ because they are typical of the lower values of strength and modulus, and
the higher values of unit weight for each soil type.

Table 4.2: Hyperbolic Stress-Strain and Strength Parameters for Various Soils.

RC
Unified m ϕ0 ∆ϕ c
Standard K n Rf Kb m
Classification (k/ft3) (deg.) (deg.) (k/ft2)
AASHTO

105 0.150 42 9 0 600 0.4 0.7 175 0.2


GW, GP 100 0.145 39 7 0 450 0.4 0.7 125 0.2
SW, SP 95 0.140 36 5 0 300 0.4 0.7 75 0.2
90 0.135 33 3 0 200 0.4 0.7 50 0.2

100 0.135 36 8 0 600 0.25 0.7 450 0.0


95 0.130 34 6 0 450 0.25 0.7 350 0.0
SM
90 0.125 32 4 0 300 0.25 0.7 250 0.0
85 0.120 30 2 0 150 0.25 0.7 150 0.0

100 0.135 33 0 0.5 400 0.6 0.7 200 0.5


95 0.130 33 0 0.4 200 0.6 0.7 100 0.5
SM-SC
90 0.125 33 0 0.3 150 0.6 0.7 75 0.5
85 0.120 33 0 0.2 100 0.6 0.7 50 0.5

100 0.135 30 0 0.4 150 0.45 0.7 140 0.2


95 0.130 30 0 0.3 120 0.45 0.7 110 0.2
CL
90 0.125 30 0 0.2 90 0.45 0.7 80 0.2
85 0.120 30 0 0.1 60 0.45 0.7 50 0.2

42
Initial Stresses and Displacements

Initial stresses, the stresses that exist in the ground before changes are made to a
site, are important. These existing stresses may be higher than changes in stress
imposed by construction. Knowledge of the state of stress is especially important if the
soil stress-strain behavior is modeled as nonlinear, since soil strength and stiffness vary
with confining stress.

It is necessary to establish a reasonable state of stress as a starting point when


analyzing a geotechnical problem, because the reference state for stresses cannot be
selected arbitrarily. On the other hand, the reference state for displacement can be
selected arbitrarily. Consider a site that has not been disturbed for many years. When
loads are applied to the site, displacements occur. The condition of the ground before
loads are applied can be chosen as the reference state of zero displacement. However,
the same thing cannot be done for the initial stress conditions, because the reference
state for stress must satisfy equilibrium.

Drained vs. Undrained Conditions

The method used to initialize horizontal stresses must consider whether drained or
undrained conditions are being modeled. For drained problems, it is appropriate to use
the conventional effective stress ratio, K0 = σ’h / σ’v. If K0 is less than or equal to 1, the
corresponding Poisson’s ratio can be calculated by

K0
  (12).
1 K0

Undrained analyses are solved in terms of total stress. Initial horizontal stresses
must be assigned in terms of the total stress earth pressure coefficient, K0-T = h / z,
even though the horizontal stresses are fundamentally governed by the effective stress
ratio, K0. Note that K0-T is equal to K0 where pore pressures are zero.

For conditions where the water level is coincident with the ground surface, Duncan
and Dunlop (1969) showed that

w
K 0 T  K 0  1  K 0  (13)
t

where w = unit weight of water and t = saturated unit weight of the soil.

43
If the water level is below the ground surface, K0-T varies with depth and must be
assigned an appropriate average value for each soil layer. A value of Poisson’s ratio for
initializing horizontal stresses in undrained analyses can be calculated by substituting
K0-T for K0 in Eqn. 12.

Initial Stresses in Phase2

In Phase2, several options are available for assigning initial stresses. These options
are Field Stress Only, Body Force Only, or Field Stress and Body Force. The material
properties used to calculate initial stresses can be linear elastic or hyperbolic. This
section of the user’s guide for Phase2 is somewhat difficult to understand. Fortunately,
it is not necessary to understand all the options.

There are two basic techniques for establishing initial stresses in Phase2:

1. Calculate initial stresses with body forces only, using linear elastic stress-strain
properties. Use an appropriate value of Poisson’s ratio, calculated using Eqn. 12.
In order for this method to be useful:

a. Keep the stresses. They are correct.

b. Set displacements to zero, which is the desired initial condition.

c. Assign nonlinear properties to the materials in the model after the initial
stresses have been established. These are needed to achieve reasonable
simulation of actual soil behavior.

2. Use gravity field stresses together with body forces. Displacements are non-zero
but negligibly small, and stresses are essentially correct. In order for this method
to be useful:
a. The initial ratio of horizontal to vertical stress must be well-defined. This is
feasible for level ground, but not slopes.

b. Field stresses must be assigned based on the effective stress ratio K0 for
drained analyses and K0-T for undrained analyses.

Option 1 is the most straightforward. It is described in detail in Appendix B. It is not


possible to achieve K0 > 1 using Option 1. Option 2 must be used to model conditions
with K0 > 1.

44
Modeling Construction Sequence

The sequence of construction steps to be represented in an analysis must be


considered. This involves simulating the problem as a series of increments or stages.
Incremental analyses model changes in geometry by adding elements to the mesh or
removing elements from the mesh. An embankment can be constructed by placing soil
in sequential lifts, with each lift added as a layer of elements, as shown in Figure 4.3.
An excavation can be modeled by removing soil in increments, with each increment
involving the removal of a layer of elements, as shown in Figure 4.4.

First lift

Second lift

Figure 4.3: Construction of an Embankment.

First layer

Second layer

Figure 4.4: Removal of Soil Layers during an Excavation.

The loading sequence is important because the behavior of real soils is nonlinear
and stress-dependent. In each increment, the stiffness values and stresses assigned to
each element are changed. Six to ten increments are usually sufficient to achieve
reasonable accuracy (Duncan 1996).

45
It may not be possible to model the exact construction sequence for a particular
project, and as a result some approximation may be necessary. The exact construction
procedure may not be known at the time of the analysis, and the software being used
may not give the engineer the ability to model every detail of construction. Thus, the
engineer must use their best judgment to decide which loads and construction steps are
most important. Both temporary and permanent construction loading must be
considered.

Capabilities of Modern Finite Element Programs

Modern programs for load-deformation analyses have user-friendly features such as


automatic mesh generation, automatic mesh refinement, and CAD-style user interfaces.
Finite element programs capable of analyzing load-deformation problems include
Phase2, Plaxis-2D, and SIGMA/W. This list is a sampling of the finite element
programs with which the authors are most familiar. These programs all have automatic
mesh generation features and can perform both linear and non-linear load-deformation
analyses.

Examples

Example 3: Embankment Constructed on Stiff Foundation

This example is a non-linear, staged finite element analysis of the deformations of an


embankment constructed on a very stiff foundation. This example illustrates how to:

1. Apply appropriate boundary conditions.

2. Determine if deformations are affected by the type of finite element mesh


used

3. Examine how a staged model affects the calculated deformations.

A cross section through the embankment is shown in Figure 4.5. The embankment is
120 feet wide and 20 feet high with 2H to 1V slopes. The embankment is constructed
from sandy gravel and is supported by a foundation that can be considered
incompressible. The embankment fill has a moist unit weight of 130 pcf and an effective
stress friction angle of 40 degrees.

46
120'

2 Sandy Gravel 2
1 20' γmoist = 130 pcf, φ’ = 40° 1

Incompressible

Figure 4.5: Section View of Embankment.

The appropriate boundary conditions for modeling Example 3 are shown in Figure
4.6. The embankment geometry and loading are symmetric. This allows the problem to
be split in half and analyzed about the centerline, which simplifies and speeds up the
analysis. The left and right sides of the embankment will behave identically. If either
the embankment or any applied loading was asymmetric, the entire embankment would
need to be modeled.

Sandy Gravel Constrained


in x

Constrained
in x and y
Constrained
in x and y

Figure 4.6: Boundary Conditions for Example 3.

The embankment staging is shown in Figure 4.7. The 20 ft fill has been split into 10
layers, each 2 ft thick. One layer will be added in each stage of the analysis. Appendix
A contains a more detailed explanation of how to create staged models in Phase2.

47
10 layers, each
2-ft. thick
CL
y

(x, y)
(40, 20) (100, 20)

20'
(0, 0) x
(100, 0)

Figure 4.7: Embankment Model.

The stress-strain behavior of the sandy gravel fill will be represented by the
hyperbolic properties provided in Table 4.3. These properties come from triaxial tests
performed for the shell material of Mica Dam (Duncan et al. 1980). Compared to the
typical values in Table 4.2, the Mica Dam properties are similar to those for a well-
compacted gravel or sand, which is reasonable.

Each new layer of fill was placed with a constant Poisson’s ratio of 0.49 to prevent
volume change in the elements during the stage in which they are “constructed.” This
was judged to be a more realistic representation of field conditions. The fill properties
were switched to those in Table 4.3 for all subsequent stages.

Table 4.3: Hyperbolic Properties for Example 3 (from Mica Dam Shell).

Parameter K Kur n Rf Kb m c' '

Value 420 504 0.5 0.78 125 0.46 0 40

The finite element mesh for the fully constructed embankment is shown in Figure 4.8.
The mapped mesh contains 410 four-node quadrilaterals. Figure 4.9 is a magnified
view of the embankment slope. Note that the elements are uniformly shaped, and
element height is equal to the layer thickness. In contrast, Figure 4.10 shows an
automatically generated mesh of 1210 four-node quadrilaterals. The elements are not
all the same shape and have a height that is about half the layer thickness.

48
49
Figure 4.8: Mesh used in Analysis;
Mapped Mesh using 4-node Quadrilaterals.
Figure 4.9: View of the Embankment Slope; Mapped Mesh of 410 4-node
Quadrilaterals.

Figure 4.10: View of the Embankment Slope; Automatically Generated Mesh of


1210 4-node Quadrilaterals.

50
Contours of vertical displacement are shown in Figure 4.11 and 4.12 for the mapped
mesh and automatically generated mesh, respectively. While the overall pattern of
displacement is the same, the mapped mesh produces a more reasonable pattern of
displacements. The automatic mesh results in a jagged variation of displacement,
which is not an accurate depiction of actual displacements. Unlike the seepage
problems in Chapter 3, a mapped or uniform mesh yields better results for load-
deformation problems.

The vertical displacements along the centerline of the embankment are plotted in
Figure 4.13. The amount of displacement that occurs at a particular elevation depends
on the amount of underlying compressible material, the load that is applied at that
elevation, and the sequence of loading. At the base of the embankment, the vertical
load is highest but the foundation is rigid and no displacement occurs. In contrast, the
greatest thickness of compressible material lies below the top elements. In a staged
finite element model, the top elements are added after the displacement from prior
stages has already occurred. These elements only experience settlement caused in the
underlying layers by the weight of the top elements. The most vertical displacement
occurs near the middle of the embankment where a significant depth of compressible fill
lies below and the soil is loaded by multiple layers of overlying fill. This important
pattern of vertical displacement can only be predicted by a staged finite element model.
If the embankment were “built” in one lift, the greatest vertical displacements would
occur at the top of the fill.

Example 3 was repeated using 20 layers and stages. Figure 4.13 also shows the
results of using 20 rather than 10 layers. A larger number of layers and stages makes
the results smoother and slightly decreases the vertical displacements. Further
reduction of the layer thickness would allow for additional refinement of the
displacements but with diminishing returns. The layer thickness in a finite element
embankment model can be practically set equal to the actual lift thickness that will be
used to construct the embankment.

51
Figure 4.11: Contours of Vertical Displacement, in Feet, for Mapped Mesh.

Figure 4.12: Contours of Vertical Displacement, in Feet, for Automatically


Generated Mesh.

52
Figure 4.13: Variation of Vertical Displacement, in Inches, versus Fill Height at
the Embankment Centerline for Construction using 10 lifts and 20 lifts.

53
Example 4: Embankment Constructed on Clay Foundation

This example is a non-linear, staged finite element analysis of the deformations of an


embankment constructed on a clay foundation. This example illustrates how to:

1. Select strength and stress-strain properties for the clay foundation.

2. Calculate initial stresses that correspond to the soil strength and stress
history and verify that these stresses are reasonable.

3. Model initial (undrained) displacements caused by embankment construction


over a compressible foundation.

The embankment and fill properties for this example are identical to those used in
Example 3. The embankment is constructed over a 75 ft thick layer of clay with a moist
unit weight of 100 pcf as shown in Figure 4.14. The water table is at a depth of 25 ft.
Pore water pressures are assumed to be zero above the water table and hydrostatic
below.

120'

2 Sandy Gravel (Drained) 2


1 20' 1
γmoist = 130 pcf, φ = 40°

Clay (Undrained)
25' Depth, z
γmoist = 100 pcf

75'
Clay (Undrained)
50' γsat = 100 pcf

Relatively Incompressible Stratum

Figure 4.14: Section View of Embankment Constructed on Clay Foundation.

The variation of undrained strength with depth in the clay is shown in Figure 4.15.
The upper 25 ft is a crust of unsaturated, overconsolidated clay with an undrained
strength of 1000 psf. Below the crust, the undrained strength increases with depth at a
rate of 10 psf per foot, representing a lightly overconsolidated clay. Based on these

54
properties, K0 was assumed to be 0.8 in the crust and 0.65 in the underlying saturated
clay.

Undrained Shear Strength, Su (psf)


500 1000 1500 2000

25
Depth, z (feet)
50
75

Figure 4.15: Variation of Undrained Shear Strength versus Depth in Clay


Foundation.

The dimensions and boundary conditions of the finite element model are shown in
Figure 4.16 and 4.17, respectively. The left-hand vertical boundary of the foundation
soil extends three times the thickness (3×75 ft = 225 ft) beyond the embankment toe to
limit boundary effects on the calculations. The problem is symmetric and only one half
of the embankment and foundation is modeled.

55
y CL
Sandy Gravel
10 layers, each
(x, y)
2-ft. thick
(265, 95) (325, 95)
y = 75 ft. 20'
(225, 75)
(0, 75) (325, 75)
y = 50 ft. Clay
(0, 50) (325, 50)

Clay
x = 0 ft.
y = 0 ft.
(0, 0) x
(325, 0)
Figure 4.16: Model of Embankment Constructed on Clay Foundation.

20' Sandy Gravel

Clay
Constrained
Constrained in x
in x
50' Clay

Constrained Constrained
in x and y Constrained in x and y
in x and y

Figure 4.17: Boundary Conditions for Example 4.

The foundation clay between depths of 25 to 75 ft was split into 10 layers, each 5 ft
thick. The layers allow the undrained strength of the foundation and the stress-strain
properties to increase with depth. The layers and finite element mesh are shown in
Figure 4.18. Note that groundwater is not shown or defined because only undrained
conditions will be considered.

56
57
Figure 4.18: Mesh used in Example 4;
Mapped Mesh using 4-node Quadrilaterals.
The elements for this example will be added to the model in the following stages:

 Stage 1 – Add foundation elements to establish initial stresses in the clay.

o Use linear elastic stress-strain to model the foundation soil.

o Keep the stresses from Stage 1 but zero the displacements.

 Stage 2 – Switch foundation elements to hyperbolic properties.

 Stages 3 to 12 – Add the embankment soil in layers, one layer in each stage.
The new layer of fill has  = 0.49. All other fill layers have stress-dependent
Poisson’s ratio.

 Stage 13 – Switch last layer of fill from  = 0.49 to stress-dependent .

In Stage 1, a reasonable distribution of initial stresses must be assigned to the


foundation soil. The initial stresses must satisfy vertical equilibrium and appropriately
represent the existing (or assumed) horizontal stress state.

This example examines the undrained response of the clay foundation. Thus, the
finite element equations are solved in terms of total stress. Initial horizontal stresses
must be assigned in terms of the total stress earth pressure coefficient, K0-T = h / z,
even though the horizontal stresses are fundamentally governed by the effective stress
ratio, K0.

In the upper clay layer, the pore pressures are zero and K0-T = K0 = 0.8. Below the
water level, a value of K0-T must be determined that yields horizontal stresses
approximately equivalent to those that would result from using effective stresses and K0.
Table 4.4 shows how to calculate K0-T at the top and bottom of the saturated layer. This
calculation was repeated for multiple depths and an average K0-T of 0.75 was selected.

Table 4.4: Example Calculations of Total Stress Ratio, K0-T

Depth z u ’z ’h = ’z × K0 h = ’h + u


K0-T = h / z
(ft) (psf) (psf) (psf) (psf) (psf)
1625
25 2500 0 2500 2500  0.65  1625 1625  0  1625  0.65
2500
5967
75 7500 3120 4380 4380  0.65  2847 2847  3120  5967  0.80
7500

58
Table 4.5 provides the linear elastic stress-strain properties used to establish the
initial stresses in the clay foundation. The same Young’s modulus is used for both
layers. Young’s modulus only affects the initial displacements, which will be zeroed
prior to modeling embankment construction. Any reasonable value of E can be used.
The Poisson’s ratios correspond to the desired values of K0-T.

Table 4.5: Linear Elastic Stress-Strain Properties Used to Establish Initial


Stresses in the Foundation.

Young’s Modulus, E Poisson’s Ratio,


Soil Layer K0-T = h / v
(psf)  = K0-T / (1 + K0-T)
Foundation Soil Above
0.80 250,000 0.444
the Water Table
Foundation Soil Below
0.75 250,000 0.429
the Water Table

The finite element initial stresses in the foundation soil can easily be checked, using
vertical equilibrium and the specified value of  and/or K0-T. The expected vertical and
horizontal effective stresses at the midpoint of each major soil layer are compared to the
values calculated by the finite element model in Table 4.6. The finite element values
are close to the expected values, indicating that the initial stresses are reasonable.

Table 4.6: Comparison of Expected Initial Stresses with Stresses Calculated by


the Finite Element Model

Depth, Vertical Stress, z (psf) Horizontal stress, h (psf)


z (ft) Expected FEM Expected FEM
1250 1000
12.5 1250 998
(12.5 ft×100 pcf) (1250 psf × 0.8)
5000 3750
50 5000 3757
(50 ft×100 pcf) (5000 psf × 0.75)

After the initial stresses are established in Stage 1 and displacements are zeroed, the
hyperbolic stress-strain properties provided in Table 4.7 are assigned to the foundation
soil in Stage 2. No new loads are added in Stage 2.

59
Table 4.7: Hyperbolic Properties of the Foundation.

Depth, z
K Kur n Rf ν c ϕ
(ft)
0 – 25 160.0 320.0 0 0.9 0.47 1000 0
25 – 30 163.0 326.0 0 0.9 0.47 1025 0
30 - 35 174.8 349.6 0 0.9 0.47 1075 0
35 – 40 186.6 373.1 0 0.9 0.47 1125 0
40 – 45 198.3 396.7 0 0.9 0.47 1175 0
45 – 50 210.1 420.2 0 0.9 0.47 1225 0
50 – 55 221.9 443.8 0 0.9 0.47 1275 0
55 – 60 233.7 467.3 0 0.9 0.47 1325 0
60 – 65 245.4 490.9 0 0.9 0.47 1375 0
65 – 70 257.2 514.4 0 0.9 0.47 1425 0
70 - 75 269.0 538.0 0 0.9 0.47 1475 0

In Stages 3 to 12, the embankment fill is added in 2 ft thick layers. The vertical and
horizontal displacements of the embankment toe are plotted against the model stage in
Figure 4.19. The displacements start at zero for Stages 1 and 2 because these stages
are used to establish initial stresses not calculate displacement. The toe displacements
increase steadily as the embankment height increases. These movements are the
result of undrained deformation of the foundation. A more complex soil model would be
required to consider the effects of consolidation.

60
Figure 4.19: Variation of Displacements at Embankment Toe with Model Stage
and Embankment Height

The vertical displacements along the embankment centerline are plotted in Figure
4.20. The embankment crest experiences only settlement caused by adding the last
layer of fill. The displacements are highest at the base of the embankment and in the
upper portion of the foundation. In these regions, the increase in vertical stress is high
and a significant depth of compressible soil lies below. The vertical displacement is
zero at the base of the clay where the foundation is incompressible.

61
Figure 4.20: Variation of Vertical Displacement versus Elevation along the
Embankment Centerline.

Example 5: Excavation in Clay

This example shows how to model the undrained deformations associated with an
excavation in clay. The lessons illustrated by this example include:

1. How to deal with non-convergence and soil tension.

2. How to model structural members like sheet piles and struts.

Figure 4.21 is a section view of the excavation for this example. The excavation is 20
ft deep and 60 ft wide. Both unbraced and braced conditions are considered. The
excavation support consists of a 25 ft deep sheet pile retaining wall installed prior to
excavation and two levels of struts, one at a depth of 2 ft and the other at a depth of 12
ft. The foundation soil is the same as Example 4.
62
Half-width of
Excavation
CL

Sheet Pile 30'

A Strut
Clay (Undrained) 20'
25' γmoist = 100 pcf Strut Depth of
B Excavation
C

Clay (Undrained)
50' γsat = 100 pcf

Figure 4.21: Section View of Excavation in Clay.

The coordinates of the finite element model are shown in Figure 4.22. The
excavation is modeled in stages to accommodate non-linear soil response. The soil
elements are excavated in layers two feet thick. For the braced conditions, struts are
installed at elevations 63 and 73 ft.

The full excavation width is modeled in this example, even though the excavation is
symmetric. This is required to appropriately represent the struts in Phase2. If the
cross-section were split at the centerline, the struts would have to be fixed to locations
outside of the model space, which is not allowed by Phase2. Some finite element
programs may allow this type of constraint for structural support. The boundary
conditions for Example 5 are shown in Figure 4.23.

The finite element mesh used for Example 5 is shown in Figure 4.24. The material
properties for the foundation soil layers are provided in Tables 4.5 and 4.7.

63
y

(x, y) 10 layers, each


Sheet Pile 2-ft. thick Sheet Pile
y = 75 ft.
(225, 75) (285, 75)
(0, 75) Strut at 73' (510, 75)
y = 50 ft. Clay Strut at 63' Clay
(225, 55) (285, 55)
(0, 50) (510, 50)

64
x = 0 ft. Clay
y = 0 ft.
(0, 0) x
(510, 0)

Figure 4.22: Model of Excavation in Clay.


Sheet Pile Sheet Pile
60'
Strut
25' Clay Strut 20' Clay
Constrained

Constrained
in x

in x
50' Clay

Constrained Constrained
in x and y Constrained in x and y
in x and y

Figure 4.23: Boundary Conditions for Example 5.

Example 5 was first analyzed as an unbraced excavation. An excavation depth of 20


ft is equal to 2su/ (2×1000 psf/100 pcf). This indicates that the unbraced excavation
should be temporarily stable but does not guarantee acceptably small deformations.

The stages used for the unbraced excavation in Example 5 are:

 Stage 1 – Add foundation elements to establish initial stresses in the clay.

o Use linear elastic stress-strain to model the foundation soil.

o Keep the stresses from Stage 1 but zero the displacements.

 Stage 2 – Switch foundation elements to hyperbolic properties.

 Stages 3 to 12 – Remove the elements in the excavation in layers, one layer in


each stage.

The unbraced finite element analysis produced a convergence error message in


Phase2 as shown in Figure 4.25. It is important to understand that the finite element
solution using hyperbolic properties is an iterative process. A convergence error
message occurs in Phase2 whenever the calculations do not converge with an error
below a specified tolerance level in a specified number of iterations. When this occurs,
it is necessary to closely examine the results. In some cases, the lack of convergence
is small and does not produce inaccurate or unreasonable results. In other cases,
large, unreasonable displacements occur with convergence errors. Judgment is
required to distinguish between the two situations. In either case, it is good to try to
determine why the finite element model is not converging.
65
66
Figure 4.24: Mesh Used in Analyses of Unbraced Excavation;
Mapped Mesh using 4-node Quadrilaterals.
For the unbraced excavation in Example 5, the convergence problem was assessed
using the movement of Point A (top corner of the unbraced excavation). The horizontal
displacement of Point A is plotted against excavation depth in Figure 4.26. As the depth
exceeds 8 ft, the displacements begin to get large. The analysis was aborted after the
excavation reached 10 ft deep.

Figure 4.25: Error Message of Non-Convergence for Excavation Model with No


Sheet Piles, Struts, or Tensile Strength Assigned to the Clay.

Figure 4.26: Depth of Excavation versus Horizontal Displacement at the Top of


the Unbraced Excavation - No Tensile Strength Assigned to the Clay.

67
As indicated in Figure 4.26, small amounts of tensile stress began to develop in the
elements near the excavation when the excavation depth reached 6 ft. Tensile strength
was not initially assigned to the soil, and any tension was interpreted by Phase2 as
failure. This caused the elements to begin to yield and deform in a plastic manner,
which resulted in the large displacements and lack of convergence.

It is reasonable to allow a small amount of tensile strength when modeling undrained


conditions in clay soils. One possible option for the undrained strength envelope is
shown in Figure 4.27. The tensile stress is limited to a value equal to the undrained
strength, Su. The unbraced excavation analysis converges when tensile stresses are
allowed. Figure 4.28 shows values of 3 in the soil adjacent to an unbraced excavation
of 14 ft. At this excavation depth, a zone of small tensile stress has developed about 10
ft back from face of the excavation.

Su = 1000 psf, φu = 0

σ
σt
Figure 4.27: Undrained Strength Envelope that Includes Tensile Strength.

68
69
Figure 4.28: Values of σ3 in the Soil Adjacent to the Excavation;
Unbraced Excavation Model with Tensile Strength Assigned to the Clay.
The finite element mesh and structural elements for the braced excavation are shown
in Figure 4.29. The sheet pile retaining wall and struts are modeled using beam
elements in Phase2. Other programs will have similar types of structural elements. The
elastic properties, cross-sectional area, and moment of inertia (if applicable) of the
structural members are summarized in Table 4.8. The struts are intended to model a
pinned connection that develops no moment. The axial load in the struts is the
parameter of interest so the area of the strut is not important.

Table 4.8: Properties of Sheet Piles and Struts.

Area Moment of Inertia Young’s Modulus


Poisson’s Ratio
(in.2/ft) (in.4/ft) (ksi)
Sheet Pile
7.94 184.2 29,000 0.3
(PZ-27)

Strut 14.4 0 29,000 0.3

The stages used for the braced excavation in Example 5 are:

 Stage 1 – Add foundation elements to establish initial stresses in the clay.

o Use linear elastic stress-strain to model the foundation soil.

o Keep the stresses from Stage 1 but zero the displacements.

 Stage 2 – Switch foundation elements to hyperbolic properties.

 Stage 3 – Turn on beam elements that represent the sheet pile retaining wall.

 Stages 4 to 13 – Remove the elements in the excavation in layers, one layer in


each stage.

 Add struts at the beginning of Stage 6 (after excavation from elevation 73 to 71


ft) and Stage 11 (after excavation from elevation 63 to 61 ft).

Contours of horizontal displacement are plotted in Figure 4.30 for the full excavation
depth of 20 ft. Horizontal displacements vary from about 0.1 inches to about 0.6 inches
at the base of the excavation. No horizontal movement occurs at the center of the
excavation, as expected.

70
71
Figure 4.29: Mesh Used in Analysis of Braced Excavation;
Mapped Mesh using 4-node Quadrilaterals.
72
Figure 4.30: Contours of Horizontal Displacement, in inches,
Braced Excavation
The deflection of the sheet pile retaining wall is shown in Figure 4.31 for four of the
stages of excavation. Horizontal displacement is plotted against depth along the sheet
pile. The first strut is installed at a depth of 2 ft just before excavation to a depth of 6 ft.
The strut restricts additional movement at that depth for all subsequent stages.
Similarly, the second strut is installed at a depth of 12 ft before excavation to 16 ft. The
second strut provides support at 12 ft for the remaining stages. This plot confirms that
the structural support is behaving as expected.

Figure 4.31: Horizontal Deflections of Sheet Pile Retaining Wall at


Four Stages of Excavation

73
The strut loads are summarized in Table 4.9. The upper strut is installed in Stage 6
just before excavation to a depth of 6 ft. As the excavation proceeds, the load in the
upper strut increases until Stage 11 when the lower strut is installed. From Stage 11 to
13, the load in the upper strut decreases and the load in the lower strut increases. This
pattern of loading makes sense.

Table 4.9: Development of Axial Loads in Struts

Excavation Depth Axial Force (lb / ft)


Stage
(ft) Upper Strut (2 ft) Lower Strut (12 ft)
6 6 984
7 8 1937
8 10 2813 Not installed
9 12 3719
10 14 4627
11 16 4043 3238
12 18 3399 6400
13 20 2775 9494

Contours of vertical displacement at the end of the excavation process are plotted in
Figure 4.32. The analysis indicates heave (upward movement) in the center of the
excavation and behind the retaining wall for about 10 ft. This is the result of vertical
stress relief from the excavation. Away from the excavation, a small amount of
settlement is predicted in reaction to the upward movement at the excavation.

The soil at the bottom of the excavation acts as a third support for the sheet pile wall.
The toe of the wall moves toward the center of the excavation as shown in Figure 4.31.
As it does so, the forces necessary to support the wall develop in the soil. Since  =
0.47, the soil will respond in a nearly undrained (no volume change) fashion, bulging
upward in response to the horizontal movement at the toe of the wall. This explains the
localized upward movement of about 2.5 inches shown in Figure 4.32.

74
75
Figure 4.32: Contours of Vertical Displacement, in inches,
Braced Excavation
CHAPTER 5 – STABILITY ANALYSES

Recently, the finite element method has become a popular tool for stability analyses,
particularly for slopes. A brief summary of the strength reduction analysis method is
provided here along with an example to illustrate its application

Strength Reduction Analysis

Strength reduction analysis is the most common means of performing stability


analysis with the finite element method. Two features distinguish this type of analysis
from those in the previous chapters.

First, strength reduction analysis requires the use of a constitutive model for the soil
that includes plasticity. Most often, the soil is assumed to be linear elastic, perfectly
plastic. This means that the soil respond as a linear elastic material until the shear
strength is reached. The shear strength cannot be exceeded in any element, and the
excess loads are spread out to surrounding elements. Plastic deformation and high
strains will occur if the failure stress is sustained on an element.

Second, strength reduction analysis is an iterative method with respect to the soil
strength. The shear strength of the soil is systematically divided by a strength reduction
factor, SRF, such that

c tan 
cSRF  and tanSRF  (14).
SRF SRF

where cSRF and SRF are the shear strength parameters for each iteration of the analysis.
For each value of SRF, the finite element equations are solved for equilibrium.
Overstressed elements will yield and redistribute stress to other elements in the
analysis. The finite element analysis is repeated until the value of SRF corresponding
to failure is determined.

Many different definitions of failure have been suggested for strength reduction
analysis as summarized by Griffiths and Lane (1999). The simplest and most common
method defines failure as the point where the finite element solution no longer
converges. At this point, some of the elements in the analysis begin to deform without
limit. This definition of failure is illustrated conceptually in Figure 5.1.

76
Figure 5.1: Non-convergence failure criterion for strength reduction analysis

Example 6

A simple example from taken from Griffiths and Lane (1999) is repeated in this
section. The 2H:1V slope is 20 ft high and is built on a strong, rigid foundation. The soil
has a moist unit weight of 125 pcf and has drained strength parameters ’ = 20 deg and
c’ = 125 psf. Pore pressures are assumed to be zero.

The limit equilibrium factor of safety for this slope is 1.38 using Spencer’s method.
The critical noncircular failure surface (found using Slide v.6.0) is shown in Figure 5.2.

The stability analysis of this simple slope was repeated using Phase2. The following
properties and settings were used in the analysis:

 Elastic soil properties: E = 2,088 ksf and  = 0.3

 Dilation angle,  = 0 deg as recommended by Griffiths and Lane (1999)

 Four-node quadrilateral elements

 Mapped mesh with 40 discretizations per side

 Unstaged analysis (all elements were added in a single stage)

 Initial stresses determined using the Field Stress and Body Force option in
Phase2 with Total Stress K = 1

77
 Maximum number of iterations = 1000

The results of the strength reduction analysis are shown in Figure 5.3. Contours of
maximum shear strain are plotted. The zone of warmer colors is the zone of high shear
strain. Comparing with Figure 5.2, the zone of highest shear strain matches the critical
failure surface from limit equilibrium analysis very well.

Figure 5.2: Limit Equilibrium Stability Analysis of Example 6

Figure 5.3: Contours of Maximum Shear Strain from a Finite Element Strength
Reduction Analysis of Example 6

78
The maximum calculated displacement is plotted against strength reduction factor in
Figure 5.4. The critical value of SRF was found to be 1.38, which is the same as the
limit equilibrium factor of safety for this slope. Below the critical value, the
displacements increase very slightly as the SRF increases and the finite element model
converges to a solution. For strength reduction factors higher than the critical value, the
displacements are much higher and the analysis does not converge to a solution.

Figure 5.4: Determination of Critical SRF for Simple Slope

Advantages and Disadvantages

The primary advantages of finite element stability analyses compared to limit


equilibrium analyses are:

1. The failure surface does not need to be chosen or specified by the user. The
critical failure zone develops through the most highly stressed zones.

2. Assumptions regarding the location and orientation of side forces on slices are
not required.

79
3. Deformations can be predicted under working loads. This is only true if
representative stress-strain parameters are used. It should be noted that the
strength reduction method is typically performed with linear elastic, perfectly
plastic properties, which may not accurately model real soil behavior.

Finite element stability analyses have some drawbacks as well.

1. The method is not as well understood as limit equilibrium because it has not
been in use for as long. This limitation will diminish as the geotechnical
engineering community continues to gain experience with the use of finite
elements for stability analysis.
2. The second major drawback is the lack of a distinct definition of failure. The
most common definition of failure is non-convergence of the finite element
solution.

Rules of Thumb and Guidelines

Finite element strength reduction analyses can be a useful way to evaluate stability of
geotechnical problems. The following guidelines are provided for performing these
analyses. Many of these guidelines come from Griffiths and Lane (1999).

 Use linear elastic, perfectly plastic soil stress-strain properties, especially if the
analysis is primarily to assess stability and not deformation.

 Use a single stage of calculations.

 Assign reasonable values of E and  to the soil. The specific values should
not affect the results significantly.

 Set the dilation angle, , of the soil to zero degrees.

 Use a relatively fine mesh with at least 1500 nodes. Coarser meshes can
result in inaccurate values of the critical strength reduction factor.

 Check finite element strength reduction analyses using limit equilibrium or


hand calculations.

80
CHAPTER 6 – GUIDELINES AND LESSONS LEARNED
This section provides a brief summary of the major points of each chapter of this
report.

Fundamentals

 The finite element method solves complex problems by dividing a physical body
into small elements that are connected to each other at nodes.
 Finite element analyses use sets of equations to solve for the variation of a
primary variable through the physical body. The primary variable is usually
hydraulic head or displacement in geotechnical problems.
Seepage

Modeling

 Finer mesh should be used in areas of greatest interest, e.g. beneath a gravity
structure or at the landside toe of a levee.
 Provided the mesh is properly refined, steady state seepage analyses are not
sensitive to the type of elements or mesh generation method (automatic vs.
uniform/mapped).
 Parametric studies of the effects of varying hydraulic conductivity are very easy
to perform with finite element analyses.
 Analysis of unconfined flow in modern seepage programs requires the user to
define how the hydraulic conductivity changes with negative pore pressure
(matric suction).
Validation

 The results of finite element seepage analyses can be validated by comparison


to analytical solutions.
 The total head at the midpoint of symmetric confined seepage problems should
be equal to the average of the upstream and downstream heads.

81
Load Deformation

Stress-Strain Properties

 The stress-strain behavior of soil is highly complex. Soil stress-strain behavior is


nonlinear, inelastic, and highly dependent on the state of stress. Finite element
analyses must incorporate a realistic means of approximating the stress-strain
behavior of soil in order for the analysis to produce meaningful results.
 Linear elastic stress-strain relations require only two parameters to define.
However, it is difficult to select single values of these parameters that represent
soil well over a range of confining pressures and deviator stresses.
 Hyperbolic stress-strain relationships are a convenient and practical means for
approximating the nonlinear, inelastic, and stress-dependent characteristics of
soil stress-strain behavior. Hyperbolic stress-strain parameters can be
determined from the results of triaxial compression tests.
 Soil shear strength and stress-strain properties must correspond to each other
and to the field conditions.
 It is reasonable to allow a small amount of tensile strength when modeling
undrained conditions in clay soils.
 For undrained analyses, a total stress value of K0 must be used to initialize
horizontal stresses.
Stress-Strain Modeling

 Symmetric stress-strain problems can often be simplified by dividing the


geometry at a centerline and modeling only one half of the problem.
 The initial stress state cannot be selected arbitrarily. It must satisfy equilibrium
and should appropriately model horizontal stresses.
 Finite element analyses that use non-linear stress-strain properties must model
the construction and/or loading sequence in order to produce good results.
Embankments can be modeled by adding elements in stages. Excavations can
be modeled by removing elements in stages.
 Staged, non-linear, stress-strain calculations are sensitive to the configuration of
the finite element mesh. A mesh with well-ordered, uniformly sized elements will
produce results that are smoother and more reasonable, compared to
automatically generated, less orderly mesh.
 A staged finite element model is required to predict the correct pattern of
displacements.

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 Finite element models with non-linear stress-strain properties are solved
iteratively. Sometimes, programs may fail to find a solution that meets the
convergence criteria for a particular stage or group of stages. The reason for
lack of convergence should be investigated. Judgment is required to see
whether or not a serious problem exists.
 Structural finite elements can be used to model excavation support systems.
Validation

 Initial stresses should be checked using ‘hand’ calculations.


 Patterns of soil and structural displacement should be assessed see if they are
reasonable.
Stability Analysis

 The finite element method is increasingly being used to determine the stability of
geotechnical problems, particularly slopes.
 Finite element strength reduction analysis uses plastic stress-strain properties
and reduces the strength of the soil systematically until failure is reached.
 Failure in a strength reduction analysis is most often defined as the point where
the finite element solution no longer can converge.

83
REFERENCES
Adib, M., Mitchell, J. K., and Christopher, B. (1990). “Finite element modeling of
reinforced soil walls and embankments.” Proc., Design and Performance of Earth
Retaining Structures, ASCE, Ithaca, NY, 409-423.

Baxter, D. Y., and Filz, G. M. (2007). “Deformation predictions of ground adjacent to


soil-bentonite cutoff walls using the finite element method.” Proc., GeoDenver
2007 – New Peaks in Geotechnics, ASCE, Denver, CO, GSP No. 163, 1-10.

Clough, G. W. and Duncan, J. M. (1969). “Finite element analyses of Port Allen and Old
River Locks,” Report No. TE 69-3, Office of Research Services, University of
California, Berkeley, CA (see also Journal of the Soil Mechanics and
Foundations Division, ASCE, August 1971).

Crawford, C. B., Jitno, H., and Byrne, P. M. (1994). “Influence of lateral spreading on
settlements beneath a fill.” Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 31(2), 145-150.

Duncan, J. M. and Dunlop, P. (1969). “Slopes in stiff-fissured clays and shales,”


Journal of the Soil Mechanics and Foundations Division, ASCE, 95(SM2), 467-
492.

Duncan, J. M., Byrne, P. M., Wong, K. S., and Mabry, P. (1980). Strength, Stress-
Strain, and Bulk Modulus Parameters for Finite Element Analyses of Stresses
and Movements in Soil Masses, CGPR #63, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 85
pp.

Duncan, J. M., and Schaefer, V. R. (1988). “Finite element consolidation analysis of


embankments.” Computers and Geotechnics, 6(2), 77-93.

Duncan, J. M. (1996). “State of the art: limit equilibrium and finite element analysis of
slopes.” Journal of Geotechnical Engineering, 122(7), 577-596.

Duncan, J. M., and Bursey, A. (2007). Soil and Rock Modulus Correlations for
Geotechnical Engineering, CGPR #44, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 88 pp.

Ellis, E. A., and Springman, S. M. (2001). “Modelling of soil-structure interaction for a


piled bridge abutment in plane strain FEM analyses.” Computers and
Geotechnics, 28(2), 79-98.

Grandin, H. (1986). Fundamentals of the finite element method, Macmillan, New York,
NY.

Griffiths, D. V., and Lane, P. A. (1999). “Slope stability analysis by finite elements.”
Geotechnique, 49(3), 387-403.
84
Hammah, R., Yacoub, T., Corkum, B., and Curran, J. (2005). “A comparison of finite
element slope stability analysis with conventional limit-equilibrium investigation.”
Proc., 58th Canadian Geotechnical and 6th Joint IAH-CNC and CGS
Groundwater Specialty Conferences–GeoSask, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Hossain, S., Omelchenko, V., and Mahmood, T. (2009). “Case history of geosynthetic
reinforced segmental retaining wall failure.” Electronic Journal of Geotechnical
Engineering, 14 C.

Kulhawy, F. H. (1969). Finite Element Analysis of the Behavior of Embankments, PhD


Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, CA.

Whittle, A. J., Hashash, Y. M. A., and Whitman, R. V. (1993). “Analysis of deep


excavation in Boston.” Journal of Geotechnical Engineering, 119(1), 69-90.

85
APPENDIX A STAGED EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTIONS IN PHASE2
This example shows how to create an embankment model in stages in Phase2. The
objective of this example is to model construction of the embankment in Example 3. It
is assumed that the reader understands Phase2’s terminology and general operation
but is unfamiliar with the procedure for modeling staged construction.

2
1 Sandy Gravel 20'

Figure A-1: Embankment Model in Example 3.

Analysis Steps

1. Create the Finite Element Model


a. Draw the model as shown in Figure A-1 in Phase2 Modeler. Locate the
lower left hand corner of the model at (0, 0). The model will look like
Figure A-2.

Figure A-2: Embankment Model in Phase2.

b. Under Analysis / Project Settings / Stages, change the number of stages


to 10. Stage tabs will appear at the bottom of the Modeler window.

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c. Create a Stage Boundary at 2-foot increments between the base and the
crest. The model will now look like Figure A-3.

Figure A-3: Embankment Model with Stage Boundaries.

d. Specify the material properties listed in Table A-1. Figure A-4 shows the
proper specification of hyperbolic properties for the embankment. For this
set of material properties:
i. Soil Total Unit Weight: 130 pcf
ii. Initial Element Loading: Body Force Only
iii. Material Type: Plastic

Table A-1: Mica Dam Shell Hyperbolic Properties

Parameter Value
K 420
Kur 504
n 0.5
Rf 0.78
Kb 125
m 0.46
c 0
ϕ 40

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Figure A-4: Specification of Hyperbolic Properties for the Embankment.

2. Staging the Lifts of the Embankment


a. Select the Stage 1 tab.
b. Under Properties, click Assign Properties…
c. Select Excavate at the bottom of the Assign window as shown in Figure A-
5. As long as this window is open, the elements in a region bounded by a
Material Boundary or Stage Boundary can be “excavated” from the model.
This means that the elements will not be used as part of the model for the
current stage or subsequent stages. Material that is mistakenly
“excavated” can be re-assigned to the model by selecting a material in the
Assign window.

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Figure A-5: Assign Window in Phase2.

d. With Excavate selected and the model on the Stage 1 tab, click on the top
nine layers of the model. These areas will turn white for this stage and all
subsequent stages. The model should now look like Figure A-6.

Figure A-6: Embankment Model after “Excavation” of Material.

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e. Now, the rest of the embankment must be constructed by adding one lift at
a time in Stages 2 through 10. Click on Material 1 (named “Embankment”
in previous figures) in the Assign window.
i. Click on the Stage 2 tab and click in the second layer of the
embankment to turn the elements on.
ii. Repeat through Stage 10.
3. Discretize and Mesh
a. This example will not cover the details of Mapped Meshing. See Appendix
B for details on creating an Automatic Mapped Mesh.
b. Discretize and mesh the model.
c. Assign the boundary conditions shown in Figure A-1 to the model.
d. An appropriate mesh for this model is shown in Figure A-7. The mesh
consists of uniform, “mapped” 4-node quadrilaterals, and triangular
shapes where needed. There is one layer of elements per lift.

Figure A-7: Mapped Mesh and Boundary Conditions for the Embankment
Model.

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APPENDIX B INITIAL STRESSES IN LEVEL GROUND IN PHASE2
This example shows how to implement Option 1 for calculating initial stresses in
Phase2. The objective of this example is to model stress conditions in the clay
foundation in Example 4. The clay foundation is shown in Figure B-1. It is assumed
that the reader understands Phase2’s terminology and general operation but is
unfamiliar with the options for calculating initial stresses.

γmoist = 100 pcf, K0 = 0.8 25'

75'
γsat = 100 pcf, K0 = 0.65

Figure B-1: Clay Foundation in Example 4.

Analysis Steps

1. Create the Finite Element Model

a. Draw the model as shown in Figure B-1 in Phase2 Modeler. Locate the
lower left corner of the model at (0, 0).

b. Under Analysis / Project Settings / Stages, add a 2nd stage to the model.

c. Create a Material Boundary at the elevation of the water table.

d. Create material boundaries at 5-foot increments below the water table so


that the foundation soil below the water table is divided into 10 horizontal
layers.

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e. Define two soil types with the material properties listed in Table B-1. For
each of the two materials listed in Table B-1:

i. Soil Total Unit Weight: 100 pcf

ii. Initial Element Loading: Body Force Only

iii. Material Type: Elastic

Table B-1: Linear Elastic Stress-Strain Properties used to establish Initial


Stresses in the Clay Foundation in Stage 1.

Young’s Poisson’s
Soil Layer c (psf) ϕ
Modulus, E (psf) Ratio, 
Foundation Soil Above
250,000 0.44 1000 0
the Water Table
Foundation Soil Below
250,000 0.43 1250 0
the Water Table

Figure B-2 shows the proper specification of linear elastic material properties for the
foundation soil above the water table. Note that the Stage Properties checkbox is
selected. This will be discussed later in the procedure.

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Figure B-2: Specification of Linear Elastic Material Properties for the
Foundation Soil above the Water Table.

f. Define eleven additional soil types using the material properties listed in
Table B-2. For each of the materials listed in Table B-2:

i. Soil Total Unit Weight: 100 pcf

ii. Initial Element Loading: Body Force Only

iii. Material Type: Plastic

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Table B-2: Hyperbolic Parameters Assigned to the Clay Foundation in Stage 2
after Initial Stresses are Calculated.

Depth, z
K Kur n Rf  c ϕ
(ft)
0 – 25 160.0 320.0 0 0.9 0.47 1000 0
25 – 30 163.0 326.0 0 0.9 0.47 1025 0
30 - 35 174.8 349.6 0 0.9 0.47 1075 0
35 – 40 186.6 373.1 0 0.9 0.47 1125 0
40 – 45 198.3 396.7 0 0.9 0.47 1175 0
45 – 50 210.1 420.2 0 0.9 0.47 1225 0
50 – 55 221.9 443.8 0 0.9 0.47 1275 0
55 – 60 233.7 467.3 0 0.9 0.47 1325 0
60 – 65 245.4 490.9 0 0.9 0.47 1375 0
65 – 70 257.2 514.4 0 0.9 0.47 1425 0
70 - 75 269.0 538.0 0 0.9 0.47 1475 0

Figure B-3 shows the proper specification of hyperbolic material properties for the
foundation soil above the water table (z = 0 to 25 ft).

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Figure B-3: Specification of Hyperbolic Material Properties for the Foundation
Soil above the Water Table (z = 0 to 25 ft).

g. Under Properties / Assign Properties…, assign the materials listed in


Table B-1 to Stage 1 of the model by selecting the checkbox This Stage
Only.

h. Assign the materials listed in Table B-2 to Stage 2 of the model.

i. Under Displacements / Reset all Displacements…, reset all displacements


after Stage 1.

2. Discretize and Mesh

a. The mesh will consist of uniformly shaped 4-node quadrilateral elements.


Select these options under Mesh / Mesh Setup…

b. Discretize the model and then under Mesh / Custom Discretize, discretize
the model so that the entire mesh will consist of 1 ft. square elements.
The number of discretizations for each line segment should equal the
length of the segment.
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c. Mesh the model. The mesh will initially consist of irregularly shaped
elements.

d. Under Mesh / Mapped Meshing, select the Automatic Mapped Mesh


option. The mesh should change so that every element is a 1 ft. square.
If it does not, one or more of the boundaries must be discretized
incorrectly.

e. Assign the boundary conditions shown in Figure B-1 to the model.

3. Finite Element Formulation

a. Under Analysis / Project Settings / Stress Analysis, make sure that the
Use Effective Stress Analysis option is not checked. The analysis will be
performed in terms of total stress.

4. Material Property Settings

a. There should be a total of 13 materials defined by the user under


Properties / Define Materials… An easy way to verify this is to select the
checkbox Show only properties used in model.

b. For each material defined by the user, select the Stage Properties
checkbox. Then, for each material, click Define Factors... The Staged
Material Properties dialog box opens, which is shown in Figure B-4.

c. For each material, make sure that Reset Element Stress When Material
Changes to This Material is unchecked. This ensures that the stresses
calculated in Stage 1 are not reset when hyperbolic properties are
assigned in Stage 2.

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Figure B-4: Staged Material Properties Dialog Box.

5. Analyze the finite element model using Compute. After computation is complete,
open the results in the Interpret program.

6. Under Query / Add Material Query, create a query from (162, 75) to (162, 0) in
Stage 2. Using the query:

a. Find the total vertical and horizontal stresses at 1-foot intervals from (162,
75) to (162, 0).

b. Find the vertical displacement at the ground surface (162, 75).

Discussion of Results

The analysis in Example 4 was performed in terms of total stress, so the initial
stresses are total stresses. The total stress ratio, K0-T, must be used. K0-T is equal to K0
above the water table because pore pressure is zero. As discussed in Chapter 4, K0-T
can be defined for cases where the water table is at the ground surface by

w
K 0 T  K 0  1  K 0  (B-1).
 sat

In Example 4 and this appendix, the water table is below the ground surface and K0-T
is not constant in the saturated clay. An average value of 0.75 was selected for the
calculation of initial stresses for this example.

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The Poisson’s ratios assigned in Stage 1 model stress conditions according to the
relationship:

K 0 T
  (B-2).
1  K 0 T

Equation B-2 was used to calculate the Poisson’s ratios in Table B-1, using K0-T
values of 0.8 and 0.75 for the clay above and below the water level, respectively.

The expected initial stresses are shown in Figure B-5. The total horizontal stresses
calculated by Phase2 are plotted with the expected values in Figure B-6. The values
calculated by Phase2 compare well with the expected values. The values calculated by
Phase2 are slightly different than the expected values because the Poisson’s ratio was
defined in Phase2 using only two significant digits.

Figure B-5: Expected Initial Stresses.

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Figure B-6: Comparison of Expected Values of Horizontal Stress and Values
Calculated by Phase2.

As expected, the stresses do not change from Stage 1 to Stage 2, since they are
calculated in Stage 1 using linear elastic soil properties and are not reset when
hyperbolic properties are assigned to the model. Phase2 can calculate illogical results
in some places, such as at the external boundaries of the model. As expected, the
vertical displacement at the ground surface is zero, since displacements were reset
after Stage 1.

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