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Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

www.elsevier.com/locate/compgeo

Three-dimensional analysis of embankments on soft soils incorporating vertical drains by ﬁnite element method

Jose´ Leita˜o Borges *

Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto, Rua Dr. Roberto Frias, 4200-465 Porto, Portugal

Received 22 October 2003; received in revised form 1 November 2004; accepted 3 November 2004 Available online 15 December 2004

Abstract

Three-dimensional behaviour of an embankment on soft soils incorporating vertical drains is analysed by a numerical model based on the ﬁnite element method. The model, which incorporates the Biot s consolidation theory (coupled formulation of the ﬂow and equilibrium equations) and constitutive relations simulated by the p–q– h critical state model, is applied on both the embank- ment with vertical drains (three-dimensional analysis) and the same problem but without vertical drains (two-dimensional analysis). Special emphasis is given to the analysis, during and after the construction period, of the excess pore pressures, settlements, hori- zontal displacements and stress levels. 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Vertical drains; Embankment; Soft soils; Finite element method; Three-dimensional analysis; Consolidation

1. Introduction

The study of embankments on soft soils is one of the permanent problems of the soil mechanics and has been analysed by a large number of authors. At the present time, in spite of all experience obtained over the last dec- ades, the execution of this kind of constructions still col- locates diverse and delicate problems that are determined by the weak geotechnical characteristics of the foundation soils: (i) low strength signiﬁcantly limits the load (embankment height) that is possible to apply with adequate safety for short term stability; (ii) high deformability and low permeability determine large set- tlements that develop slowly as pore water ﬂows and ex- cess pore pressure dissipates (consolidation). To design embankments on soft soils it is essential to take into account the multiple constructive techniques that allow to solve those problems. The constructive

^{*} Tel.: +351225081928; fax: +351225081940/1440. E-mail address: leitao@fe.up.pt.

0266-352X/$ - see front matter 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1016/j.compgeo.2004.11.001

solutions – usually based on both foundation soil prop- erties improvement and construction procedures or ﬁll properties alteration – provide one or more of the fol- lowing eﬀects: increase of global stability, consolidation acceleration and decrease of long term settlements [1–3] . The most used technique when the main purpose is to accelerate the consolidation is the use of vertical drains in the foundation soils ( Fig. 1 ), which usually determines drastic decreases of hydrodynamic consolidation time. In the paper, the geotechnical behaviour of an embankment on soft soils incorporating vertical drains (geosynthetic band drains) is analysed during and after the construction period by a numerical model developed by Borges [4] for plane strain and axysymmetric analyses (initial version) and three-dimensional analysis (improvement included in the program in 2001). Special emphasis is given to the three-dimensional behaviour of this kind of constructions by the comparison of the re- sults of the embankment incorporating the drains (three-dimensional analysis) with the results of the plane strain analysis of the same problem without vertical drains.

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J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

DRAINAGE LAYER

EMBANKMENT

(0.5 to1m)

VERTICAL

SOFT

SOILS

DRAINS

HARD STRATUM

Fig. 1. Vertical drains – acceleration of hydrodynamic consolidation.

Basically, for the present applications, the model uses the following theoretical hypotheses: (a) coupled formu- lation of the ﬂow and equilibrium equations considering soil constitutive relations (elasto-plastic models) formu- lated in eﬀective stresses (Biot s consolidation theory) [4–7] ; this formulation is applied to all phases of the problem, both during the embankment construction and in the post-construction period; (b) utilisation of the p – q – h critical state model [4–6,8] , an associated plas- tic ﬂow model, to simulate constitutive behaviour of the foundation and embankment soils. Fig. 2 (a) shows, in the principal eﬀective stress space, the yield and critical state surfaces of the p – q – h critical

state model. In the p – q coordinate system (where p is the eﬀective mean stress and q the deviatoric stress), the yielding function is a ellipse ( Fig. 2 (b)) and, depend- ing on the stress path, the p – q – h model simulates hard- ening behaviour (as shown in Figs. 2 (b) and (c) for stress path 1–2, where e _{v} is the volumetric strain and e _{d} the shear strain) or softening behaviour (stress path 3–4, Figs. 2 (b) and (d)). In this model, the parameter that deﬁnes the slope of the critical state line, M , is not constant as in the Cam-Clay and Modiﬁed Cam-Clay models, but de- pends on the angular stress invariant, h , and friction angle of the soil deﬁned in eﬀective terms, / ^{0} , as follows:

3 sin /

0

M ¼ p ﬃﬃﬃ 3 cos h þ sin / ^{0} sin h ^{:}

This deﬁnes the Mohr–Coulomb criteria (whose sur- face in the principal eﬀective stress space is shown in Fig. 2 (a)) when M is introduced in the equation of the critical state line

q ¼ M p :

ð 2 Þ

^{ð} ^{1} ^{Þ}

Fig. 2. Yield and critical state surfaces of the p–q–h critical state model in (a) principal eﬀective stress space; (b) p–q coordinate system; (c) stress path 1–2 (hardening behaviour); (d) stress path 3–4 (softening behaviour).

J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

667

This is an important characteristic of the p – q – h mod- el because, as shown by triaxial tests [33] , the critical state of soil depends on h . (Drucker–Prager is the crite- ria of the Cam-Clay and Modiﬁed Cam-Clay models and does not depend on h ). About embankments on soft ground, in order to ver- ify accuracy of the ﬁnite element program in this kind of works, Borges [4] compared numerical and ﬁeld results of two embankments on soft soils, one constructed up to failure [9] and the other observed until the end of the consolidation [10–12] . The accuracy was considered adequate in both cases, as numerical and ﬁeld results are similar, namely in terms of settlements and pore pres- sures. Only some quantitative diﬀerences were observed in the horizontal displacements, despite an overall qual- itative similarity too. In general terms, the veriﬁcation of the program was made by comparing numerical results not only with ﬁeld results, as said above (which is the adequate way for complex problems without theoretical solu- tions), but also with theoretical results of several closed problems, namely one-dimensional Terzaghi consolidation, circular load on an elastic foundation [34] , consolidation of a semi-inﬁnite elastic medium under an uniform surface loading over a circular area [35] , drained and undrained triaxial tests for soils sim- ulated with critical state models. Comparisons with numerical results presented by other authors, as Lewis and Schreﬂer [5] with CRISP (critical state program), were also veriﬁed. It should be remembered that the ﬁrst consistent and general theory of multi-dimensional consolidation tak- ing into account interdependence between soil eﬀective strains and pore water ﬂow (coupled formulation of the ﬂow and equilibrium equations) was presented by Biot [13,14]. This theory, which was initially developed considering soil with isotropic and linear elastic behav- iour, was posteriorly improved for more complex behav- iours, namely anisotropy and viscosity [15–17]. After the presentation of Biot s consolidation theory, several authors have applied the ﬁnite element method on consolidation problems using mathematical formula- tions in which some of the initial hypotheses of Biot are reformulated (extensions of the Biot s theory). Small et al. [18] considered the plasticity using Mohr–Cou- lomb model and Desai and Siriwardane [19] and Runes- son [20] applied critical state models. The variation of the permeability in the course of the consolidation was considered by Lewis et al. [21] . Norris [22] extended the study to the use of constitutive models with kinemat- ical hardening. Concerning the use of vertical drains in embankments on soft soils, Zeng et al. [23] conducted coupled consol- idation analyses to assess the eﬀectiveness of a method that calculates an equivalent horizontal permeability for plane strain analysis in which the vertical drains

are represented as sheets. Hird and Kwok [24] per- formed a parametric study of a test embankment where the eﬀect of the vertical drains was considered by increasing the subsoil permeability by an estimated fac- tor. Poran et al. [25] deﬁned an equivalent vertical per- meability for the subsoils by comparing an axisymmetric analysis of a cylindrical unit cell, with drainage occurring both horizontally, inwards, and ver- tically, upwards, with a plane strain unit cell with drain- age towards the upper boundary only. This equivalent vertical permeability was used in a plane strain analysis of a trial embankment. Because embankments on soft soils incorporating vertical drains behave three-dimensionally (in terms of stress and water ﬂow, as shown below in Section 3), one of the aims of the paper is to achieve a more com- plex phenomenological interpretation of the 3D gheo- technical behaviour of this kind of works, by performing a three-dimensional numerical analysis with the program developed by the author. For three-dimensional applications, the program uses two types of the 20-noded brick element. Fig. 3 (a) shows the type used in the foundation soils (element with 60 displacement degrees of freedom, at the corners and at middle of the sides, and with 8 more excess pore pressure degrees of freedom, at the corners), where con- solidation analysis is considered. In the ﬁll, it is the 20- noded brick element with only 60 displacement degrees of freedom (at the corners and at middle of the sides) that is used. Similarly, for two-dimensional analyses, two types of the six-noded triangular element are considered ( Fig. 4 ): (i) with 12 displacement degrees of freedom, at the vertices and at middle of the edges (for ﬁll ele- ments) and (ii) with 3 more excess pore pressure de- grees of freedom at the vertices (for foundation elements).

2. Description of the problem

The problem concerns the construction of a 2 m height symmetric embankment, with a 10.6 m crest width, 2/3 (V/H) inclined slopes and very large longitu- dinal length. The foundation is a 5 m thick saturated clay layer lying on a rigid and impermeable soil, which constitutes the lower boundary. The clay is lightly over- consolidated to 1.8 m depth and normally consolidated from 1.8 to 5 m. It will be analysed the embankment with and without vertical band-shaped drains (geosyn- thetic prefabricated drains) with a 200 · 5 mm ^{2} section and installed in a square grid with drain spacing of 2 m. The grid limit is 1.7 m beyond the toe to take up any lateral spread of excess pore pressures. It is not in- tended that the band drain reproduces any commercial product.

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J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

Fig. 3. 3-D ﬁnite element used in the program, 20-noded brick element: (a) with 60 displacement degrees of freedom and 8 excess pore pressure degrees of freedom; (b) with 60 displacement degrees of freedom.

- displacement unknown

- excess pore pressure

unknown

Fig. 4. 2-D ﬁnite element used in the program, 6-noded triangular element: (a) with 12 displacement degrees of freedom and 3 excess pore pressure degrees of freedom; (b) with 12 displacement degrees of freedom.

Fig. 5 shows the ﬁnite element mesh used in the three- dimensional analysis of the embankment incorporating the vertical drains.

The displacement boundary conditions were deﬁned taking into account that the soft clay lays on a hard stratum ( y = 0 plane, where displacements are set as zero in the three directions, x , y and z ). One the other hand, symmetry conditions imply: (i) zero displacement in x-direction for nodes on the x = 0 plane; (ii) zero displacement in z -direction for nodes on the z = 0 plane, vertical plane containing one row of drains; (iii) zero displacement in z -direction for nodes on the z = 1 m plane, vertical plane equidistant from two rows of drains in x-direction. Assuming that the horizontal displacement can be deﬁned as zero at nodes that are enough distant from the embankment, the plane of

Fig. 5. 3D ﬁnite element mesh for the problem with vertical drains.

J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

669

x = 23.9 m was considered as the lateral boundary with

zero displacement in x -direction. With regard to drainage boundary conditions, excess pore pressure was set as zero on the ground level (upper

drainage surface), i.e., on the y = 5 m plane, and on the drainage surfaces deﬁned by the drains considered as sheets, namely on the following planes: x = 0, x = 2,

x = 4, x = 6, x = 8 and x = 10 m, with y -coordinate

varying from 0 to 5 m and z -coordinate from 0 to 0.1

m (which means that centres of the drains are on the

z = 0 boundary plane and each drain was installed with

its larger dimension, 0.20 m, in z -direction).

The embankment construction was simulated activat- ing the elements that form the ﬁll layers. Four 0.5 m height layers were considered and, in order to assess the drainage eﬀect even during the construction period, a discontinuous sequence of construction was deﬁned as

indicated in Fig. 6 . The ﬁrst three layers were con- structed in 3.5 days each, and the fourth in 7 days. The pause periods, which took place after each layer

construction, were respectively 3.5, 3.5 and 38.4 days.

As |
said in Section 1, the coupled analysis was performed |

in |
all phases of the problem, both during the embank- |

ment construction and in the post-construction period.

The constitutive relations of both the embankment

and foundation soils were simulated using the p – q – h critical state model [4–6,8] with the parameters indicated

in Table 1 ( k , slope of normal consolidation line and

critical state line; k, slope of swelling and recompression line; C, speciﬁc volume of soil on the critical state line at mean normal stress equal to 1 kPa; N , speciﬁc volume of normally consolidated soil at mean normal stress equal

to 1 kPa). Table 1 also shows other geotechnical proper-

ties: c , unit weight; m ^{0} , Poisson s ratio for drained load- ing; c ^{0} and / ^{0} , cohesion and angle of friction deﬁned

in |
eﬀective terms; k |

in |
x and y directions. Table 2 indicates the variation |

with depth of the at rest earth pressure coeﬃcient, K _{0} , and over-consolidation ratio, OCR, in the foundation.

embankment

height

(m)

2

1.5

1

0.5

0

0

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

50

55

60

65

time (days)

Fig. 6. Embankment construction sequence.

Table 2 At rest earth pressure coeﬃcient, K _{0} , and over-consolidation ratio, OCR, in the foundation

Depth (m) |
K |
OCR |

0–1 |
0.7 |
2.43 |

1–1.8 |
0.7–0.5 |
2.43–1 |

1.8–5 |
0.5 |
1 |

The embankment soil was considered with 0.43 for K _{0} and 1 for OCR. All these parameters were deﬁned tak- ing into account typical experimental values for this kind of soils [4,26] . Fig. 7 shows the 2D ﬁnite element mesh for the embankment without the drains, problem that can be considered as a plane strain problem, given the very large longitudinal length of the embankment; y axis is the symmetry line and, with exception of the boundary conditions for excess pore pressure (set as zero only on the upper drainage surface, i.e., at nodes with y = 5 m), all the other characteristics of the problem, when compared with the three-dimensional problem, are maintained. Given the non-linearity of the constitutive model used in the soils ( p – q – h critical state model) and the boundary conditions, in both problems (with and with- out drains) mesh sensitivity in terms of variation of numerical results was analysed by considering several meshes and time increments (diﬀerent geometry and time discretizations). The meshes ( Figs. 5 and 7 ) and the increments used in the paper were assessed adequate by analysing, at each calculation of the coupled analysis, the global equilibrium of the problem (comparing exter- nal forces with stresses at all Gauss points of the ele- ments). The smooth geometric variation of the stress results in the medium (presented in the following

Fig. 7. 2D ﬁnite element mesh for the problem without vertical drains.

Table 1 Geotechnical properties of the foundation and embankment soils

c (kN/m |
m |
c |
/ |
k |
k |
p–q–h critical state model |
||||

k |
k |
C |
N |
|||||||

Foundation |
17 |
0.25 |
0 |
30 |
10 |
10 |
0.22 |
0.02 |
3.26 |
3.40 |

Embankment |
20 |
0.30 |
0 |
35 |
0.03 |
0.005 |
1.80 |
1.817 |

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J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

section) corroborated that the numerical convergence of this non-linear problem was achieved adequately. In the problem with the drains the total number of increments (i.e., total number of ﬁnite element calcula- tions) was 359 (209 during the construction and 150 dur- ing the post-construction period). In the embankment without the drains the same number was used during construction, but a higher number (177) was considered during the post-construction period (since the consolida- tion time is longer).

3. Analysis of the results

When a load is applied on a saturated soil mass, the distribution of the excess pore pressure has, usually, gra- dients that determine a ﬁeld of relative velocity among diﬀerent zones of the soil. Initial conditions of a tran- sient ﬂow process are determined and transferences of load from the water (pore pressure) to the soil skeleton (eﬀective stress) take place. Therefore, until a steady state is reached, the soil mass behaviour is determined by the variation of the ﬁelds of stress (pore pressure and eﬀective and total stress), strain and displacement (consolidation). Figs. 8 and 9 show results of excess pore pressures for the two analyses of the problem, with and without ver- tical drains, at diﬀerent phases, during and after the con-

struction period. For the 3D analysis, Fig. 8 shows results both on the vertical plane that contains one row of drain centres, z = 0 plane (on the right side), and on the vertical plane equidistant from two rows of drains, z = 1 m plane (on the left side). Based on these results, and considering the founda- tion divided into four typical zones as illustrated in Fig. 10 , one can say that, for the problem without verti- cal drains, during construction period: (a) maximum values happen in zone A and are approximately similar to the vertical stress due to the embankment weight; (b) in zone B, excess pore pressures decrease from zone A to zone D, where their values are not signiﬁcant. After con- struction, when the problem is, above all, characterised by the transient water ﬂow, one can see that isovalue curves have a very regular shape, normal to the ﬂow lines. With regard to the results of the problem incorporat- ing the vertical drains ( Fig. 8 ), the shape of the isovalue curves clearly shows the three-dimensional condition of the problem, with drainage occurring both horizontally and vertically towards the several drainage surfaces (band drains and upper drainage surface). Maximum values also occur in zone A and also with similar values to the vertical stress determined by the embankment weight. However, the most important fact (see below the analysis of the settlements) concerns the signiﬁcantly eﬀect of consolidation (mainly in zone A) due to the ver-

Fig. 8. Excess pore pressure ( u) for the embankment with vertical drains. (a) 1 m height embankment (time = 14 days); u _{m}_{a}_{x} = 20.15 kPa. (b) 2 m height embankment (end of construction); u _{m}_{a}_{x} = 38.16 kPa. (c) 64 days after construction; u _{m}_{a}_{x} = 29.29 kPa.

J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

671

Fig. 9. Excess pore pressure ( u) for the embankment without vertical

drains. (a) 1 m height embankment (time = 14 days); u _{m}_{a}_{x} = 19.62 kPa.

(b)

2 m height embankment (end of construction); u max = 40.16 kPa.

(c)

925 days after construction; u max = 25.13 kPa.

C

A

B

D

Fig. 10. Four typical zones in the foundation.

tical drains, in comparison with embankment without the drains. Figs. 11 and 12 show the deformed meshes for both analyses, at the end of construction and at the end of consolidation (displacements are represented in a scale three times larger than the scale used for lengths). These results are complemented by the results shown in Figs. 13–16 , namely, settlements at the embankment base at diﬀerent phases for the analysis with drains ( Fig. 13 ), and for both analyses: (i) settlements at the embankment base at the end of construction and at the end of consol- idation ( Fig. 14 ); (ii) variation in time of settlement at the middle point under the embankment on the ground

level, i.e., point with x = 0

and y = 5 m (and z = 0, for

three-dimensional case) ( Fig. 15 ); (iii) horizontal dis-

placements at the end of construction and at the end of consolidation, along vertical line under the toe, i.e., along points with x = 8.3 m (and z = 0, for three-dimen- sional case) ( Fig. 16 ). Based on these results, one can point out that, for both analyses, during the construction period: (i) there

Fig. 11. Deformed meshes for the embankment with vertical drains. (a) End of construction. (b) End of consolidation.

Fig. 12. Deformed meshes for the embankment without vertical drains. (a) End of construction. (b) End of consolidation.

are settlements in the central loaded zone (zone A of Fig. 10 ); (ii) there are important upward vertical dis- placements near the embankment toe ( Figs. 11–14 ); (iii) horizontal displacements are outwards ( Fig. 16 ). As explained by Borges [4] and Borges and Cardoso [27] , if the consolidation is not signiﬁcant during the construction period (which is valid, in most cases, for embankments without vertical drains, given the usually low permeability of the soft soils), these displacements are related to a strain ﬁeld characterised by volumetric strains that are practically zero (undrained conditions) and shear strains that have very expressive values. If the consolidation eﬀect is signiﬁcant during the con- struction period (which really happens in the problem with the band drains), this eﬀect is essentially expressed by the increase of the settlements (associated with the in- crease of volumetric strains by consolidation), as shown in Fig. 14 comparing maximum values of settlements at the embankment base for both analyses (13.8 and 8.4 cm). During the post-construction period, the main char- acteristic of the problem in terms of displacements is

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J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

0.10

0.00

-0.10

-0.20

-0.30

-0.40

-0.50

-0.60

0.00

2.00

4.00

6.00

8.00

10.00

Settlement (m)

Distance from x=0 plane (m)

h = 0.5 m (t = 7 days)

h = 1 m (t = 14 days)

h= 1.5 m (t= 17.5 days)

h =1.5 m (t = 55.9 days)

h = 2 m (end of construction)

h = 2 m (end of cosolidation)

h – embankment height t – time after beginning of construction

Fig. 13. Settlements at the embankment base for the embankment with vertical drains.

0.100

0.000

-0.100

-0.200

-0.300

-0.400

-0.500

-0.600

0.000

2.000

4.000

6.000

8.000

10.000

Settlement (m)

Distance from x=0 plane (m)

Embankment without vertical drains (end of construction) Embankment without vertical drains (end of consolidation) Embankment with vertical drains (end of construction) Embankment with vertical drains (end of consolidation)

Fig. 14. Settlements at the embankment base for the embankment with and without vertical drains.

0.00

Embankment without

-0.10

vertical drains

Embankment with

-0.20

vertical drains

-0.30

-0.40

-0.50

-0.60

0

1000

2000

3000

4000

5000

6000

Settlement (m)

Time after the end of construction (days)

Fig. 15. Settlement in time at the middle point under the embankment on the ground level (point with x = 0, y = 5 and, for three-dimensional case, z = 0) for the embankment with and without vertical drains.

expressed by generalised settlements and horizontal dis- placements that can be outwards too, as shown in Fig. 16 for the embankment without the vertical drains. As

explained by Borges [4] , these outward horizontal dis- placements, in consonance with experimental results ob- served in real works [9–12,28–31] , are associated with shear strains during the consolidation process which are properly simulated only by elastoplastic models with closed yielding surfaces, which is the case of the p – q – h critical state model used in this study. Three more important eﬀects about the use of the ver- tical drains, obtained from the analysis of the results, are pointed out below. The ﬁrst eﬀect, as expected, is the very expressive de- crease of the consolidation time (reduction from approx- imately 5000 to 500 days, as shown in Fig. 15 ). The second eﬀect is the reduction of the maximum va- lue of the long term settlements (about 16%, from 48.7 to 40.9 cm, as illustrated in Fig. 14 ). This eﬀect is asso- ciated with a certain improvement of the foundation soil properties (decrease of voids ratio) by consolidation

J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

673

Fig. 16. Horizontal displacements at the end of construction and at the end of consolidation along vertical line under the toe (points with x = 8.3 m and, for three-dimensional case, z = 0) for the embankment with and without vertical drains.

during the construction period. This is a kind of a soil ‘‘hardening’’ eﬀect that inﬂuences the decrease of long term settlements (as well as the reduction of long term horizontal displacements, as shown in Fig. 16 ). This ef- fect only happens because shear stress increases during the load periods and can reach higher values in the prob- lem with the vertical drains (the consolidation eﬀect dur- ing the pause periods increases undrained strength of the soil). If the problem was one-dimensional (as in the oedometer tests), this eﬀect would not take place be- cause in the load periods there is no variation of eﬀective stress (in undrained conditions) and it is indiﬀerent whether there is pause periods or not, if total load is the same. The third eﬀect is the uniformity of settlements along z -direction for the embankment with band drains, de- spite its three-dimensional behaviour in terms of stresses and water ﬂow. This point is justiﬁed by the existence of ‘‘arch eﬀect’’ inside the ﬁll, which is expressed by the application of a non-uniform vertical load on the foun- dation surface (see Fig. 17 ). The vertical load, at a deter- mined phase, is smaller on zones that tend, by consolidation, to settle more than the others, i.e., near the vertical drains. This eﬀect, as shown by ﬁeld results [10–12] , tends to be equilibrated in a non-uniform distri- bution of the vertical load that approximately unifor- mizes the corresponding settlements.

Finally, Figs. 18 and 19 show values of the stress lev- els (which vary from 0 to 1, being 1 the critical state le- vel) at diﬀerent phases of the problem; Fig. 20 presents the eﬀective principal stresses for the embankment with- out vertical drains at the ends of construction and consolidation. The deﬁnition of stress level, SL, is given in Fig. 21 for an arbitrary stress state represented by the point A in the p – q plane, where p is the eﬀective mean stress and q the deviatoric stress. For the embankment without vertical drains ( Fig. 18 ), one can point out that: (i) during the construction period, the main characteristic of the problem is

Fig. 17. Increment of vertical eﬀective stress (kPa) at the end of construction for the embankment with vertical drains.

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J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

Fig. 18. Stress levels for the embankment without vertical drains. (a) 1 m height embankment (time = 14 days). (b) 2 m height embankment (end of construction). (c) End of consolidation.

expressed by the increase of the stress levels in the foun- dation (and therefore by the decrease of the problem safety [27,32]), especially in Zone B ( Fig. 10 ); as shown in Fig. 20 (a), this eﬀect is associated with an eﬀective stress path basically characterised by the rotation of the principal stresses directions (i.e., low variations of eﬀective mean stress and signiﬁcant increases of devia- toric stress); (ii) during the post-construction period,

Fig. 20. Eﬀective principal stresses for the embankment without vertical drains. (a) End of construction. (b) End of consolidation.

the eﬀective stress path (associated with the dissipation of the excess pore pressures) is characterized by expres- sive increases of eﬀective mean stress and low variations of deviatoric stress (for in Fig. 20 the magnitude of the principal stresses increases without their directions sig- niﬁcantly changing), which implies a generalised reduc- tion of the stress levels, as illustrated in Fig. 18 . With regard to the results of stress levels of the embankment with vertical drains ( Fig. 19 ), the main diﬀerence in relation to the embankment without drains concerns the very signiﬁcant reduction of the stress levels at all phases of the problem (and particu-

Fig. 19. Stress levels for the embankment with vertical drains. (a) 1 m height embankment (time = 14 days). (b) 2 m height embankment (end of construction). (c) End of consolidation.

J.L. Borges / Computers and Geotechnics 31 (2004) 665–676

675

q

tg γ

SL=

tg

ψ

critical

state line

ψ

A

γ

p

Fig. 21. Deﬁnition of stress level, SL, in the p–q plane.

larly at the end of the construction period) due to the consolidation acceleration determined by use of the vertical drains.

4. Conclusions

In the paper, a numerical model based on the ﬁnite element method was used to analyse the structural behaviour of an embankment on soft soils incorporating vertical drains. The model, which incorporates the Biot s consolidation theory and constitutive relations simu- lated by the p – q – h critical state model, was applied on both the embankment with vertical drains (three-dimen- sional analysis) and the same problem without vertical drains (two-dimensional analysis). The analysis of the results (excess pore pressures, settlements, horizontal displacements and stress levels) allows to point out the following conclusions on the eﬀects of the use of vertical drains in embankments on soft soils:

1. The eﬀect on the total time of consolidation is very expressive (reduction of about 10 times, from approx- imately 5000 to 500 days).

2. This fact is obviously associated with the faster dissi- pation of the excess pore pressures (and consequent decrease of the stress levels) at all phases of the prob- lem, during and after the construction period.

3. The increase of the maximum settlement value at the end of the construction is signiﬁcant (about 64%, from 8.4 to 13.8 cm), which implies a certain improvement of the foundation soil properties (decrease of voids ratio) by consolidation during the construction period.

4. This eﬀect, which is a kind of a ‘‘hardening’’ eﬀect of the soil, inﬂuences the decrease of the long term settle- ments (about 16%, from 48.7 to 40.9 cm), as well as the reduction of long term horizontal displacements.

5. In spite of its three-dimensional behaviour in terms of stresses and water ﬂow, settlements of the embank- ment with vertical drains are approximately uniform

along longitudinal direction. This is justiﬁed by the existence of ‘‘arch eﬀect’’ inside the ﬁll, which is expressed by the application of a non-uniform verti-

cal load on the foundation surface.

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