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Theory and Practice



Proceedings of the conference Reinforced embankments,

theory and

practice in the British Isles, organized b y MMG Civil Engineering

Systems and held at Cambridge University o n 27 September 1989

^ 1 Thomas Telford, London

P u b l i s h e d for M M G Civil Engineering S y s t e m s b y T h o m a s Telford Ltd,

T h o m a s Telford H o u s e , 1 H e r o n Q u a y , L o n d o n E14 9XF
First p u b l i s h e d 1990

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Shercliff, David A., ed.
Reinforced embankments.
1. Embankments
ISBN: 072771545 3
Authors, 1989,1990, unless otherwise stated
All rights, including translation, reserved. Except for fair copying no part of this
publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form
or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, with
out the prior written permission of the publisher. Requests should be directed to the
Publications Manager, Thomas Telford Ltd, Thomas Telford House, 1 Heron Quay,
London E149XF.
Papers or other contributions and the statements made or opinions expressed therein
are published on the understanding that the author of the contribution is solely
responsible for the opinions expressed in it and that its publication does not necessarily
imply that such statements and/or opinions are or reflect the views or opinions of the
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Mackays


This book contains the proceedings and discussions of the major sym
posium held at Cambridge University on 27th September 1989 concern
ing embankments reinforced by high strength geotextiles and geogrids.
The symposium is the culmination of much work and the experience
gained over the last five years since the first symposium of this kind.
As Dr Jewell said in his opening remarks to delegates "Now we know
much more about the mechanisms involved in the design of these types
of embankments we can offer a more realistic set of guidelines for
engineers to use".
To quote Malcolm Bolton during a discussion on retaining walls: "We
now know more about the forces in a soil block reinforced with a
geotextile than we do for a gravity wall solution".
The Engineer should now feel capable independently of pursuing
these excellent solutions where they can form appropriate substitutions
for more rigid and more expensive classical retaining schemes, nor is it
any longer necessary to accept uncritically the in-house designs of the
various geotextile manufacturers.
This book aims to equip each engineer with the ability to design and
then to specify exactly the type of product he wants, for his specific
design, with respect to its particular properties.
I would like to thank Malcolm Bolton, Chairman of the day at the
symposium. Thanks also to the advisory committee; Stephen Corbet Chairman (G. Maunsell and Partners), John Greenwood (Travers Mor
gan), Richard Jewell (Oxford University); also the discussion editors:
Jeremy Love (Geotechnical Consultants Group), Dick Murray
(T.R.R.L.), Malcolm Bolton (Cambridge University).
Finally a special thanks to the speakers who presented an entertaining
set of relevant and interesting papers.
D. A. Shercliff
Director, T-Plan Systems Ltd




1. Theory of reinforced walls: Revised design charts for

steep reinforced slopes. R. A. JEWELL
2. Case study: Design and construction of reinforced
soil walls at Snodland, Kent. M. J. DUFFIN
3. Case study: Stabilenka fabric reinforced soil
retaining wall at Hewetts Quay, Barking. D. H. BARKER
4. Theory of slopes: Design approach for slope repairs
and embankment widening. J. R. GREENWOOD


5. Determination of allowable design strength of polyester

reinforcing mats. W.VOSKAMP

6. Strength and safety: The use of mechanical property

data. J. H. GREENWOOD and R. A. JEWELL
7. The philosophy of specification and testing of
geotextiles for reinforcement. S. P. CORBET



8. Theory of reinforced embankments.


9. Case study: Reinforced embankments on soft ground:

some design and constructional experience from
Bunratty Bypass. E. R. FARRELL, S. DAVITT and

10. Case study: Design of road embankments over

mineral workings using high strength geotextile
membranes. D. S. COOK




General discussion


1. Revised design charts for steep reinforced slopes

R. A. JEWELL, MA, PhD, CEng, MICE, University of Oxford

The mechanics of steep reinforced soil slopes in the range 90 > p > 30
are considered to seek improvements in the simplified design charts
published by Jewell et al (1984). A description of the equilibrium in a
steep reinforced slope is given which clearly identifies the mechanics
governing the maximum required reinforcement forces for equilibrium,
and the required reinforcement length. Two independent limit equili
brium analyses are used to derive revised design charts, which are
presented in the paper, and to identify some conservatisms in the
existing charts. The influence of reinforcement bond is clearly identified
and a bond allowance is introduced for chart design. Savings in reinforce
ment quantity of the order 20% to 30% can be achieved for slopes
designed using the revised charts.
An analysis for steep reinforced slopes was developed in the early
1980s and used to derive design charts, Jewell et al. (1984a). The
confidence in using geotextiles and polymer grids to reinforce steep
slopes has increased markedly since that time. As indicated by several
papers to this symposium, the behaviour and testing of polymer rein
forcement materials is now more clearly established, and the practical
details of steep reinforced slope construction have been developed
through experience. Indeed, steep reinforced slope construction has
now achieved such maturity that work on drafting national and inter
national standards and codes of practice is well advanced, for example
BSI (1988) and ICE (1989).
Another important development is that steep reinforced slopes de
signed using the existing charts have performed satisfactorily, although
the reinforcement forces (and measured deformations) have been smal
ler than those anticipated in the design calculation, see for example
Jarrett and McGown (1988) or Fannin and Hermann (1989).
In the light of the above, it is timely to reassess the design charts for
steep slopes, and their theoretical basis, to determine what improve:


ments and refinements might be made. A major objective is to see

whether reinforced slopes might be designed with less reinforcement
material, but to the same level of safety.
This paper summarises some of the main findings from the study. It
concentrates on the revised design method and simplified charts for
steep reinforced slopes which supersede those published in 1984. The
theoretical detail of the calculations, further design charts covering a
wider range of slope cases than published hitherto, and the detail
concerning the equilibrium in very steep slopes (p > 80) will be de
scribed in future publications.
The revised charts offer greater flexibility in the design of steep
slopes, and are expressed in terms which, it is believed, will be common
to the description of all reinforced soil applications. It has been possible
to identify and eliminate some conservatisms from the earlier charts,
which have otherwise stood up well to the detailed examination.
Definitions for the steep reinforced slopes considered in this paper
are summarised in Figure 1. Uniform soil sloping at an angle (3
measured from the horizontal in the range 90 > p > 30 is considered.
This extends the previous charts from 80 to the vertical.
The slopes are assumed to rest on a competent, level foundation. The
crest of the slope is level. In a future publication allowance will be made
for inclined soil above the main slope. Uniform vertical surcharge
loading is allowed, but, as before, point loads and earthquakes are not
included in the charts.
The critical equilibrium considered for a steep reinforced fill is
usually governed by long-term stability. The soil strength is thus de-


scribed in terms of a frictional shearing resistance, (<(>', cM)), the magni

tude of which depends on the mean effective stress. The curvature of
the Mohr-Coulomb envelope of peak shearing resistance (for a soil tested
at one density and a range of effective stresses) is taken into account by
the choice of an appropriate secant angle of shearing resistance ^'p,
rather than by the choice of (c',tf)parameters, (Fig. 2). The latter choice
of parameters leads to unrealistically high strengths at low effective
stresses, as discussed by Bolton (1986).
In line with the earlier work, the large strain or critical state shearing
resistance ty s is recommended for the design of reinforced soil Unlike
the peak shearing resistance, the critical state shearing resistance does not
vary with mean effective stress over the practical range, (Fig. 2).
Pore water pressures are an important feature of soil mechanics
design problems, and these are included using the non-dimensional pore
water pressure coefficient r = u/yz introduced by Bishop and Morgenstern (I960). This approach identifies the magnitude of the pore water
pressure u, at depth z, simply as a function of the overburden pressure
yz, (Fig.1). The coefficient r is not an ideal description of the pattern
of pore water pressures which might develop with water infiltration or
flow through a slope, but it is the only non-dimensional description of
pore water pressure available.
The interaction between the soil and the horizontal reinforcement
layers is described in terms of a bond coefficient f\> which governs the
rate of load transfer between the reinforcement and the soil (i.e. the
pullout resistance or required bond length for a reinforcement layer). A
separate direct sliding coefficient fd governs the shearing resistance to

Peak strength envelope

Critical state
shearing resistance

Design effective stress o '



Fig.2 Curved envelope of shearing resistance showing a peak secant angle offriction
<|> p at &d, and a conventional (c'^O fit to the data


Fig.3 Illustration of bond and direct sliding in a steep reinforced slope

failure either immediately above or below a layer of reinforcement in

the slope, (Fig. 3). A full description of these two interaction coeffi
cients, and methods of measurement, is given by Jewell et al (1984b).
Specific values/b = 0.5 and/d = 0.8 were assumed in the earlier design
The present work allows greater flexibility in design, and the bond
coefficient may take any value in the legitimate range 1 > j\> > 0. The
revised design charts are therefore not restricted to geotextile and
polymer grid reinforcements, and may be used for strip or other narrow
reinforcements, as well as for anchored earth and loop anchors.
To keep the number of charts to a minimum it is necessary to select
only one value for the direct sliding coefficient, and /a = 0.8 has again
been chosen to safely encompass most practical cases.



Fig.4: Three zones in a steep reinforced slope; zone 1 with uniform high reinforcement
forces, zone 2 with decreasing reinforcement force, and unreinforced backfill in zone


Fig.5 Maximum required stresses in a steep reinforced slope, exceeded everywhere by

the maximum available stresses from the reinforcement

It is helpful to identify three distinct zones in a steep reinforced fill,
(Fig. 4). Large reinforcement forces are required in zone 1 to maintain
stability across a series of critically inclined surfaces such as CD. Each
reinforcement layer must have an allowable force and spacing sufficient
to maintain equilibrium in this zone. The reinforcement layers extend
beyond zone 1 to a depth into the slope, zone 2. This is required both
to maintain equilibrium on potential failure surfaces passing through
zone 2 and the unreinforced soil behind, zone 3, and to allow for bond
between the reinforcement and the soil The idealised equilibrium is
with a constant force in the reinforcement through zone 1 (i.e. main
tained through to the connection with the facing) and a reducing force
through zone 2 which falls to zero at the boundary with zone 3.
Internal equilibrium in zone 1 is the starting point for steep slope
design. The magnitude of the required reinforcement stresses and the size
and shape of zone 1 depends on the slope angle, p, the soil shearing
the pore water pressure, r and any uniform vertical
surcharge, q , (Fig. 5).
Because of similarity between critical potential failure surfaces such
as AB, C D and E F in the slope, the magnitude of the maximum required
reinforcement force for equilibrium in zone 1, P R M , increases with the
square of the slope height. The requirement for reinforcement may


The concept of these zones in reinforced soil is discussed for reinforced soil
walls by Jewell and Milligan (1989).


0' = 30

= 70
= 20

Fig.6 Stress characteristics illustrating balanced equilibrium in zone 1 (Houlsby 1989)

therefore be represented as a linearly increasing maximum required stress

for equilibrium, (Fig. 5).
The concept of required stress is useful as it ensures that both local
and overall equilibrium is satisfied in the most efficient way. Reinforce
ment with a sufficient allowable force P ii and spacing s Sh is selected
so as to provide an available stress at each depth in the slope a = Paii/svSh
which exceeds the maximum required stress for equilibrium at that depth.
A typical pattern oimaximum required andavailablestress for a steep slope
design is shown in Figure 5, where the reinforcement is divided into
two zones of constant spacing.
The available stress must equal or exceed the maximum required
stress at every depth. A shortfall in the provision of reinforcement at
any depth could result in local stressing of a reinforcement layer above



the allowable force.




The magnitude and distribution of maximum required stress in zone 1

in a reinforced slope is similar to that in conventional retaining wall
design. Rather than being provided externally by a retaining wall, the
stresses are t r a n s m i t t e d back i n t o the s o i l in zone 2 by the r e i n f o r c e m e n t
layers. Balanced equilibrium in zone 1 for a steep reinforced slope is
illustrated in F i g u r e 6, which shows a stress field calculated by the

The use of similarity to deduce stress distributions in earth pressure analysis is

well described by Terzaghi (1943).


method of characteristics. This is analogous to a Rankine active stress

field for a vertical wall. Wroth (1972) gives a description of the method
of characteristics. Figure 6 was derived using a stress characteristics
program, Houlsby (1989).
It is possible to use established earth pressure coefficients, such as
those of Caquot et al. (1973), to determine the maximum required stresses
in zone 1 for steep reinforced slopes. For horizontal reinforcement, the
appropriate earth pressure coefficient corresponds to a wall roughness
8 which is a function of the slope angle, 5w = (90- p), (Fig. 6).
Earth pressure coefficients only apply to a limited range of steep
slopes, however, where p > (90 - <>| ) (i.e. 8w/<|> ^1) and where there is
zero pore water pressure, r = 0. New analysis is required for slopes
outside this range.,


Two limit equilibrium solutions have been used to investigate the
stability of steep reinforced slopes; a two-part wedge analysis, (Fig.
7(a)), and a logarithmic spiral analysis, (Fig. 8(a)). Both mechanisms
have desirable features. The first adapts well to the problem of a
potential failure cutting out sharply between reinforcement layers, and
to the analysis of direct sliding. The second does not require assump
tions to be made about interslice forces, being a rigid body mechanism.
Confidence in the findings is increased when agreement is found
between the results from two different analyses.
Two-part wedge mechanism The forces in the two-part wedge mech
anism for the analysis of equilibrium in zone 1 are shown in Figure 7(b).
There are three pore water thrusts U and three effective soil forces JR'.
The full shearing resistance of the soil is mobilised on the three plane



Fig.7 (a) Two-part wedge mechanism and (b) forces on the wedge boundaries




Fig.8 (a) Logarthmic spiral mechanism and (b) forces on the boundaries

failure surfaces. The maximum required force for equilibrium, P R M , is

applied at the face of the slope as a linearly increasing horizontal stress.
A search is required to find the mechanism with the largest required
force for equilibrium, the most critical mechanism through the toe. This
search reveals that the apparently simple two-part wedge mechanism
actually depends on four variables, the coordinates of the central node,
(*tu Zn)/ and the angle of the two upper failure surfaces, 62 and 63, for
Logarithmic spiral mechanism
In contrast to the above, the apparent
ly more complex logarithmic spiral mechanism through the toe of the
slope depends only on two variables, the coordinates of the origin of
the spiral (x z ), for example. The logarithmic spiral mechanism
adopted for the analysis of reinforced slopes is the one most widely used
in plasticity analysis, that is it has a radius which increases according to
the equation dr/rd8=tan<t>, as illustrated in Figure 8(a), see Terzaghi
The attraction of the logarithmic spiral mechanism is that the soil
reaction R' acts through the centre of the spiral and does not need to be
known for the determination of the required force for equilibrium, PR,
which can be found from moment equilibrium. Pore water pressures

In a later publication the two-part wedge and logarithmic spiral mechanisms

used in this study will be shown to correspond with an upper bound limit
analysis in the theory of plasticity, and to approach within a few per cent the
best lower bound solutions for the earth pressure coefficient, Chen (1975).


acting on the failure surface at a radius re disturb the equilibrium with

a moment arm re sin<|>, (Fig. 8(b)).
RESULTS: r = 0

A comparison between the earth pressure coefficients determined

from the above analysis and the well established values published by
Caquot et al. (1973) are given for a range of slope and friction angles in
Tables 1 and 2.
An earth pressure coefficient defines the horizontal stress or force
resultants for stability, equivalent to a retaining wall with roughness 8w
= (90 - p). As in the earlier work, the earth pressure coefficients KRea are
expressed here in terms of the vertical slope height PRM=^ReqYW /2.
This has immediate practical appeal. However, note that in Caquot et
al (1973) the earth pressure coefficients are expressed in the more
fundamental terms of the length down the sloping soil boundary.
Tables 1 and 2 show that an 'exacf answer can be found by almost
any correctly formulated equilibrium analysis when p = 90 and 5w =
0. This is because the most critical mechanism is a plane wedge, so that

Caquot et al














































Table 1 Earth pressure coefficients from different analyses, = 40 and r = 0




Caquot et al


















































Table 2 Earth pressure coefficients from different analyses, <|> = 20 and r = 0.






Slope angle (3



Fig.9 Maximum required force from two-part wedge analysis: (a) previous charts,
(b) allowing 8w = <>
| , (c) allowing 83 < 90, (d) with corrected reinforcement force
allocation across inter-wedge boundary, and (e) result of logarithmic spiral analysis

as long as the failure surface can reduce to a plane the exact result will
be found irrespective ofanyassumptions



The same also holds asp-><|) (for r = 0), which is the limiting infinite
slope where again the most critical mechanism tends to a plane surface.
The results show that both the two-part wedge and logarithmic spiral
limit equilibrium analyses perform well over the range of slope angles.
The logarithmic spiral mechanism is slightly superior for all the slope
cases examined, and agrees with the earth pressure coefficients of
Caquot et al. (1973) to within a few per cent.

Comparison with previous charts

The final two columns in Tables 1

and 2 show that there is some conservatism in the previous design charts
for slopes within the range between the two extremes p = 90 and p = <(>.
At the extremes the values are "exact", as discussed above. The revised
design charts offer a reduction in the required reinforcement force for
equilibrium of the order 15% to 20% for most intermediate slopes.

The most critical logarthmic spiral has an infinite radius in this case.


It is helpful to identify the source of the conservatism in the earlier

work, which was based on a simpler two-part wedge mechanism. The
two simplifying assumptions made in that work were: (1) the interwedge boundary is vertical (03 = 90 in Fig. 7(a)), and, (2) the interwedge boundary is smooth (i.e. there is no vertical shear force between
the two wedges).
Investigations show that these assumptions, (1) and (2) above, are
only partially responsible for the conservatism in the computed results.
There is a third "hidden" assumption concerning the allocation of the
horizontal stabilising stresses between the two wedges which is also
To illustrate this point with some numerical results, consider the case
where d? = 20 and r = 0. The earth pressure coefficients are recorded
in Figure 9 from (a) the previous work, (b) allowing a rough but vertical
inter-wedge boundary and (c) additionally allowing the inter-wedge
boundary to find a critical inclination. Analysis (c) still indicates higher
required stresses for equilibrium than calculated from Caquot et al.
(1973) or the logarithmic spiral analysis.
The source of the discrepancy (for the analysis of equilibrium in zone 1)
is in the allocation of the reinforcement force across the inter-wedge
boundary. This is illustrated in Figure 10, where three reinforcement
force resultants P\j, Piw and P L are defined. The influence of these
reinforcement forces on the two wedges is shown correctly in Figure
10b. The reinforcement layers crossing the inter-wedge boundary exert
an equal and opposite force on the upper wedge, and thus have no net
effect on the wedge equilibrium. The net stabilising force resultants are
correctly allocated as Pu to the upper wedge, and Piw + P L to the lower

Fig.10 Illustration of the allocation of the reinforcement force crossing the inter-wedge
boundary (internal equilibrium


Taking account of the forces in the reinforcement layers crossing the

inter-wedge boundary in this way reduces the net required reinforce
ment force for equilibrium in the two-part wedge analysis, line (d) in
Figure 9, to a value corresponding logically with the existing earth
pressure solutions.
Important supporting evidence that this interpretation of force equili
brium between the wedges is correct comes from the agreement with
the logarithmic spiral analysis for which no assumption on inter-slice
boundaries has to be made.
RESULTS: r > 0

Apart from two closed form solutions for the vertical case p = 0, and
for the infinite slope case K R e q - 0, there are no published results for
r > 0 with which to compare the computed magnitude of the required
reinforcement force.
The two closed form expressions are as follows:
For the vertical case the reinforcement has to maintain effective stress
equilibrium in the soil, and additionally resist the horizontal pore water
pressure, so that


= K (\-r )



The limiting infinite slope Pum that is just stable without need for
reinforcement is
tan piim = (1 - r)tan<|>


Both the two-part wedge and the logarithmic spiral analysis agree
exactly with equation (1) when p=90, and tend towards the limiting
slope Piim as the required force for equilibrium reduces to zero.







































Table 3: Earth pressure coefficients from different analyses, <>

| = 30 and r = 0.25


Typical results for a range of slopes are given in Table 3, where $=30
and r =0.25. The results from both analyses are similar. The greater of
the two values was selected for the revised design charts.

Comparison with previous charts

The comparison in Table 3 between

the earth pressure coefficients in the revised charts, and those from the
previous work, indicates again that there was some conservatism in the
earlier work, for the same reasons as discussed earlier in the section on
the results for r = 0.


The revised charts for the required reinforcement force

for slope angles

in the range 90 > p > 30, for soil friction angles in the range 50 > $ > 20
and for three values of pore water pressure r = 0,0.25,0.50 are given
together in Charts 1 to 3 at the end of the paper.

As previously indicated (see Internal Equilibrium), having satisfied
the ideal equilibrium in zone 1 it is necessary next to proportion zone 2
to ensure satisfactory equilibrium on more deep-seated potential failure
The problem is illustrated in Figure 11. Clearly the reinforced zone
must extend to a sufficient depth into the slope so that an acceptable
equilibrium can be achieved with the reduced magnitude of available
reinforcement force, because of the fewer reinforcement layers inter
The present work has confirmed that the choice of a constant rein
forcement length LR made for the earlier charts does indeed provide

P A P E R 1: J E W E L L

an efficient and practical reinforcement layout, and this has been main
The overall equilibrium calculations for the required reinforcement
length L R / H were completed for the revised design charts assuming that
the maximum available force from the intersected reinforcement layers
was fully mobilised, as indicated in Figure 11. Clearly the requirement
for a bond length at the free end of the reinforcement layers would
invalidate this assumption. To allow for this, and to provide greater
flexibility in the range of reinforcement materials to which the charts
may be applied, requires the introduction of two new concepts for steep
slope design, namely bond allowance and load-shedding allowance.


The maximum bond force which can be mobilised Pbond (in kN), for
a section of reinforcement of length Lbond and width W , embedded in
sand with a friction angle <>| and an effective stress normal to the
reinforcement & is given by the equation



Pbond =2W L ndCT n/btan<|>



where fb is the bond coefficient. A sufficient bond length is required

in a steep slope to mobilise the allowable reinforce ment force P ii. The
required bond length L B for reinforcement at the base of a steep slope

( L > H /tan





yH 2W

In the design of flatter slopes (LR < H / tan p) the depth of overburden
is limited by the sloping soil surface above the reinforcement, and this
smaller depth should replace one term H in the right-hand side of
equation (4).
In steep slopes, the required bond length Lb higher in the slope
increases as a simple function of L R / H and the depth of the reinforce
ment z below crest level


This bond length is shown in Figure 12 for a vertical wall. Also shown
is the mobilised reinforcement stress and force for a typical potential
failure surface. Only a proportion Pb of the maximum available rein
forcement force P R is available to maintain equilibrium on such a poten
tial failure surface.






M a x i m u m



Lost stress
d u e to b o n d






B o n d length

Fig.12 The variation of the reinforcement bond length with depth in the slope, showing
the loss of available reinforcement force due to bond along an overall failure

Investigations with a plane failure surface inclined through the toe

of the slope showed that the influence of the required reinforcement
bond length is to reduce the maximum available reinforcement force
by an almost constant proportion, irrespective of the angle of the trial
surface in the range (45 +<|>/2) > 0!> 0, so that

= constant



This proportional reduction in the mobilised reinforcement force can

be closely but conservatively described as a simple function of Lb and
Lr. A bond allowance for steep slope design may now be defined
bond allowance




and this provides a simple allowance for bond in design.

On any potential failure mechanism in an investigation of overall
stability only a constant proportion of the maximum available rein
forcement force may be mobilised from the layers intersected. This
proportion may be expressed as, from equations (4), (6) and (7),



= 1 -



{ 1[ 1
U tv



The exact proportion of the maximum available reinforcement force

which can be mobilised could be calculated using equation (3) for the
reinforcement layers intersected in their bond length. The simpler ap
proach described above using the bond allowance captures (slightly


conservatively) the magnitude of the mobilised force to well within the

accuracy which would be significant in routine design.
The power of a simplifying concept such as bond allowance is that it
represents the influence of a feature of behaviour - in this case the need
for a bond length at the end of the reinforcement layers - in terms which
have immediate physical appeal. The bond length at the base of the
slope L B / H , equation (4), combines many diverse factors such as the
allowable force, the reinforcement geometry, the reinforcement interac
tion with the soil, and the slope height, into a single non-dimensional
It is anticipated that the non-dimensional parameter Lb/H and the
concept of bond allowance could be found as useful in the design of
reinforced soil slopes as the reinforcement length ratio L R / H .

The consequence of reducing bond as described above is to reduce

the mobilised reinforcement force. Greater reinforcement length LR /H
is then required to ensure satisfactory overall equilibrium in the rein
forced slope.
Alternatively, additional reinforcement layers may be included in the
slope, surplus to those required for the ideal equilibrium in zone 1 (see
Internal Equilibrium), so that the short-fall in reinforcement force can
be made up without increasing the reinforcement length.
Since the available reinforcement force is an approximately constant
proportion of the maximum available force at any depth in the slope,
(Pb = bond allowance x P R ) , the short-fall may be counteracted most
effectively by increasing the provision of reinforcement in the slope
by a constant factor. This factor can be called the load-shedding allow


In practical use, the requirement for reinforcement determined from

the design charts J C R e q would be increased in design to Kd, as illustrated
in Figure 13, where
K d = #Req x load-shedding allowance



The name load-shedding allowance indicates that the requirement for

reinforcement force which is not met where bond is a problem is shed further
down the potential failure surface to where the extra reinforcement layers
have been included.



Additional stress
made available
from load-shedding


Fig.13 Compensation for the loss of force due to bond through design with Kd > KReq

There are a wide range of combinations of reinforcement length LR/H

and load-shedding allowance which can provide satisfactory overall
equilibrium in a reinforced slope with a given bond allowance.
To recapitulate, as the bond capacity in the reinforcement reduces
(bond allowance < 1.0), the reinforcement length required to maintain
balanced overall equilibrium has to be increased. Alternatively, the
number of reinforcement layers may be increased. Both approaches
compensate for the reinforcement bond at a cost of increased reinforce
ment quantity.
Investigations into the quantity of reinforcement required for differ
ent combinations of the three factors bond allowance, load-shedding
allowance, and the corresponding required reinforcement length LR/H led
to the choice for the revised design charts of counter-balancing exactly

the bond allowance and the load-shedding allowance, i.e. for the revised

design charts assume

load - shedding allowance




The attraction of this choice is that the reinforcement length deter

mined from the revised design charts is not influenced by the rein
forcement properties or bond coefficient.
The reinforcement properties influence design simply by increasing
the amount of reinforcement required in the slope. Poorer reinforce-

Clearly, very short reinforcement length (but not necessarily economic design)
could be achieved if a high load-shedding allowance were used. The limit is
eventually set by external equilibrium criteria, or criteria for no-tension in the

P A P E R 1: J E W E L L

ment bond characteristics are compensated for by extra reinforcement

In practice, for typical granular soil slopes reinforced by geotextile
and polymer grid reinforcement, the additional requirement for rein
forcement due to bond is often less than 5%, and seldom greater
thanlO%. Typically load-shedding allowance < 1.1.
Bond generally only becomes significant in slope design as the
reinforcement force per unit width P ii/W increases, and as the bond
coefficient fb decreases, which is particularly the case for smooth strip


The design procedure so far has adequately allowed for the influence
of reinforcement bond on all potential failure mechanisms through the
toe of the slope. However, bond also influences the stability in zone 1
on the similar, but equally significant critical failure mechanisms higher
in the slope, Figure 4.
A balanced solution for the influence of bond on the equilibrium in
zone 1 can be achieved by selecting a maximum allowable spacing for
the reinforcement higher in the slope. A critical depth
can be used
to determine the maximum allowable spacing, and this occurs where
the bond length Lb becomes equal to the reinforcement length L R . For
a vertical wall this occurs at a critical depth below the slope crest


U ^>{ 1






The additional provision of reinforcement to allow for bond at the

crest of the slope is illustrated in Figure 14. The effect of this provision
on the total quantity of reinforcement for typical geotextile and polymer
grid reinforced slopes is usually small (< 5%), because of the relatively
low density of reinforcement in the upper portion of a reinforced slope.
For completeness, where p < 90, the critical depth is given by the root
of the equation


= 0


The increase in critical depth from equation (12) is found to be small,

even for the flatter slopes. The conceptually more attractive and simpler
equation (11) is considered perfectly adequate for practical design
The revised design charts apply to slopes on competent foundation


Fig.14 Provision of additional reinforcement near the crest of the slope (above Zcrit) to
compensate for lack of bond in zone 1

There are typically three concerns for external equilibrium in steep

reinforced slope design: (a) direct outward sliding of the reinforced
block, (b) local bearing capacity failure beneath the reinforced zone and
(c) complete failure of the whole reinforced slope on a mechanism
passing through the unreinforced fill behind the reinforced zone and
continuing through the foundation soil
Mechanisms (b) and (c) above have not been included in the scope of
the revised design charts, where, as with the previous work, the as
sumption has been made that the foundation has adequate capacity.
For very steep slopes, p > 85, particular attention should be given to
checking mechanism (b), using the conventional adaption of the Meyerhof (1953) bearing capacity rules commonly applied in conventional
reinforced soil wall design. For flatter slopes, particular attention should
be given to checking mechanism (c), using routine slope stability calcu
Direct sliding, mechanism (a) above, is a critical mechanism which
can occur across the surface of a reinforcement layer through the rein
forcedfill.A reduced shearing resistance/d tan<t> is considered for the
analysis of direct sliding, where /d is the coefficient of direct sliding for
soil over reinforcement.

It may be noted that in the calculation of overall equilibrium the foundation

properties <(>, r were assumed equal to the fill properties. For flatter slopes,
lower shearing resistances and higher pore water pressures, the critical
mechanism for overall equilibrium passes around the lower corner of the
reinforced zone and through the surface of the foundation soil, as envisaged in



Reduced shearing resistance


Fig.15 Two-part wedge analysis for direct sliding

The logarithmic spiral mechanism is not suitable for examining direct

sliding, and the calculations for the revised design charts were based on
the two-part wedge mechanism illustrated in Figure 15. The overall
equilibrium calculation already includes an investigation of the mech
anism shown in Figure 15 but with /d =1.00, i.e. perfectly rough rein
In order to keep the number of design charts to a minimum a single
value for the coefficient of direct sliding had to be chosen, and the value
from the earlier work/ds = 0.8 was selected again. This value should
allow for most reinforcement materials, with the possible exception of
any particularly smooth geotextile sheets.


The more sophisticated limit equilibrium analyses used in the present
work have again highlighted some conservatisms in the earlier work,
so that the revised design charts indicate shorter required reinforcement
lengths for equilibrium.
The required reinforcement length L R / H calculated by the two sep
arate limit equilibrium analyses for overall equilibrium were in good
agreement, adding confidence to the results. The required length for
direct sliding could only be checked with respect to the results from the
earlier work.
Some comparisons between the reinforcement length from the re
vised charts and from the earlier work are given in Tables 4 and 5. These
indicate a reduction in reinforcement length of the order 15 % to 30 %.
The three revised charts of the required reinforcement length are given
at the end of the paper together with the corresponding charts of required
reinforcement force.





























Table4 Required reinforcement length LR/H from different analyses,<|> = 30 and r = 0



























Table 5 Required reinforcement length LR/H from different analyses, <|> = 30 and
r = 0.25


A rough index to the savings which can be achieved through the

revised design charts may be found by assuming the reinforcement
quantity is directly related to the product of the required reinforcement
force and length. For a typical geotextile or polymer grid reinforced
slope, both the required force J C R e q and the required length LR /H can be as
little as 80% of the value from the earlier charts. However, the load-shedding allowance and the allowance for bond at the crest of the slope can
account for an additional 10% of reinforcement, at most. The net saving
in reinforcement quantity for a design made with the revised charts is
typically of the order
revised design
= 0.8 x 0 . 8 x 1.1 = 0.70
previous design

(ie. 3 0 % saving)




The above is only indicative and the savings will vary depending on
the slope case and the reinforcement material
The focus of attention for steep slopes has been the distribution of
maximum required stress in the slope and the provision of reinforcement
with a sufficient strength and spacing so that the minimum available stress
exceeds the maximum required stress at every depth. This focus is main
tained in the revised design procedure which will centre on the con
struction of these two distributions of stress.
The design described below is the stability analysis, or strength
limit state, which seeks to ensure an adequate margin of safety against

The selection of the design values for the material properties of the
soil and the reinforcement, and the selection of safety margins, is almost
certainly the most important step in design, and this is discussed first.



The procedures follow the design philosophy which has been fully
described by Jewell and Greenwood (1988).
Soil properties

The recommended approach with polymer reinforce

ment materials is to select directly a design value for the soil shearing
resistance equal to the critical state shearing resistance tfd = <t>'cs.

In a compact fill reinforced by polymer materials the mobilised

shearing resistance is almost certain to exceed the critical state value.
The ratio between the expected peak shearing resistance for the fill tfp
and the critical state shearing resistance <t>' may be considered to
represent a factor of safety on the soil strength FS = tan<|)p/tan<t>' .
Selection of <f>'d = <t>' removes the need to consider the influence of
the reinforcement stiffness for stability analysis purposes.
Placement of fill during construction is normally well controlled in
the field so that the maximum expected soil density may be selected
directly for design y = YmaxPore water pressures are altogether less certain. It would be prudent
in most designs to allow for some pore water pressures arising from
infiltration into the reinforced zone, or into the unreinforced soil behind.
This is particularly true for flatter reinforced clay fills, where long term
equilibrium pore water pressures of the order r = 0.25 have been
recorded in the UK, Vaughan et al. (1978).
A design value for the pore water pressure coefficient r is best
selected by considering the magnitude of the pore water pressures that
it implies and comparing these with the worst expected pore water
pressures in the slope.





The slope dimensions H and p may be taken equal to their expected

values for design. Inclusion of a nominal vertical surcharge of the order
10 kN/m would be prudent in routine design to allow for some margin
on over-filling, and other temporary loadings on the slope crest. Verti
cal surcharge loading is taken into account by designing an equivalent
slope of increased height H ' , as described later.
The above selection of design values <>
| d, (r )d/ Yd/ H and p are sufficient
to determine the required earth pressure coefficient K Req, and the required

reinforcement length L R / H from the revised design charts.

Reinforcement properties
There are two aspects: load-carrying capacity
and bond.
The allowable force Pan for the reinforcement must apply for conditions

in the ground, at the end of the design life at the design temperature (t&
Td), and for the material having been subject to installation mechanical
damage and the subsequent action of the soil chemical and microbiol
ogical environment. A procedure for evaluating such an allowable force
is described in the paper to this symposium by Greenwood and Jewell
(1989), who give recommended values for the safety margin/ between

the allowable force and the expected strength in the ground

{expected strength ) ,



The magnitude of f includes for (among other factors) the amount

of extrapolation of the reinforcement test data required to reach the
envisaged conditions at the design time and temperature.
For geotextiles (i.e. continuous sheets) the bond coefficient f\> may be
determined in a conventional direct shear test for "skin friction", or
direct sliding, as in this case fb = fds = tan67tan<|>. If the measured
coefficient is less than that assumed in the design charts, i.e. /d ^ 0.80
then greater length to resist direct sliding will be required than that
indicated in the charts.
There is no simple test for the bond coefficient of grid reinforcement,
and this parameter depends strongly on the proportions of the grid and
the shearing resistance of the soil. Currently available grids typically
have a bond coefficient in the range 1.0 >fh z 0.3 .The bond coefficient for a
grid depends on the shearing resistance of the soil and can change by a
factor of 2 depending on whether the grid is to be used in compacted
sandfillor compacted clay fill, i.e., from/b= 0.9 to/i, = 0.45, for example.
A method for estimating the bond coefficient of grids was described by
Jewell et al. (1984b), and the values deduced using their lower limiting
solution have been shown to give suitable, slightly conservative values
for design, Palmeira (1987).


P A P E R 1: J E W E L L

The direct sliding resistance for grid reinforcement may be measured

in a direct shear test, and this should be checked to ensure that it falls
within the range for which the design charts apply.
The above design parameters allow the bond length at the base of the
slope LB/H

to be determined.

Design chart procedure

(1) First determine the design values for JCR^,
LR/H and LB/H as described in the sections above. A linear interpola
tion between charts is sufficient where the design pore water pressure
coefficient (r )d takes an intermediate value. Ensure that the charts are
valid for the design case by checking that/ds > 0.8
(2) Construct the distribution of maximum required stress for the slope
as follows:

(a) The required stress for equilibrium in zone 1 is determined from the
depth below the slope crest z and the required earth pressure
coefficient KReq, giving oReq =yd z KReq, Fig. 16(a)
(b) A greater provision of reinforcement is needed to allow for the
reinforcement bond characteristics. Calculate the bond allowance
(1 - LB/LR). Take the inverse to determine the loadshedding allow
ance, and increase the design required stress throughout the slope by
using an increased earth pressure coefficient Kd = KReq x load-shed
ding allowance, Fig. 16(a).

(c) Finally, additional reinforcement is required near the crest of the

slope to allow for the influence of bond on the equilibrium in zone
1 (see). Calculate the critical depth ZCRIT/H=LB /LR . Determine the
minimum required stress at the crest A M I N = y d H ( L B /LR)KReq Fig.
(3) Now devise a reinforcement layout so that the minimum available
stress at every depth z exceeds the maximum required stress, the outer
envelope shown in Figure 16(a). The available stress a ^ A I I / S V S H
depends both on the reinforcement allowable force and spacing, and
either or both of these may be changed at different elevations in the
Practical design would normally involve two zones of reinforcement.
The maximum allowable spacing is set by the lowest layer in any zone.
For all slopes the lowest zone extends from the base, where the selected
reinforcement must satisfy the inequality P u / s SH > YdHKd
If the spacing is changed at a depth Z2 below the slope crest, the above
inequality must again be satisfied but using the depth zi rather than H .
Construct an envelope of available stress, marking in the maximum
depths at which the spacing may be changed, and marking in the
positions of the reinforcement layers. Start from the base of the slope



spacing 2

spacing 1


x load-shedding allowance

K =K




I H - L I LR
Vmin = 7dH(L
I L)

R e q

= load-shedding allowance


Kd = K


x load-shedding allowance

Fig.16 Illustration for the revised design procedure for steep reinforced slopes

and only change the spacing once the reinforcement layer is above the
maximum depth for any new zone, Fig. 16b.
The following practical limits to the maximum vertical spacing are
suggested for design
($v)max Minimum

o/(H/8, lm)


Uniform vertical surcharge ^

at the slope crest is allowed for by designing the slope with an artificially
greater height

Allowing for uniform vertical surcharge


Design proceeds in exactly the same way as before (steps 1 to 3 above)
but using H' instead ofH for the slope height. The reinforcement layout
is simply terminated at the physical height of the slope.
Note, this procedure is exact for the required stresses. For significant
surcharge loading, say H'/H > 1.3 the required reinforcement length



becomes rather conservative. Separate analysis would be recom

mended for steep slopes where there is substantial surcharge loading.
The design charts for steep reinforced soil slopes published by Jewell
et al. (1984a) have been fully revised in the light of the knowledge and
confidence developed over the past five years. The revised design
procedure has been expressed in a way that it is expected will be
common to all reinforced soil applications.
The earlier work has been shown to contain some conservatisms,
which was expected, and many of these have been eliminated in the
revised design charts. Overall, the earlier work has withstood well the
detailed investigation. It has been possible to reduce both the required
reinforcement force and length for most designs, and the revised design
charts provide savings of the order 20% to 30% on the quantity of
reinforcement for many slope cases.
A major innovation in the revised design charts has been the concepts
of bond allowance and load-shedding allowance. With these concepts it has
proved possible to extend the range of the design charts to almost any
reinforcement type.
The influence of reinforcement bond on the equilibrium in steep
slopes has also been highlighted. A non-dimensional measure of bond
length at the base of the slope LB /H has been introduced and shown to
have particular significance for the design of reinforced slopes.
The assistance of Guy Houlsby and Rick Woods with a number of the
computations described in the paper is gratefully acknowledged. The
work was partially supported by AKZO bv.
Bishop, A.W. and Morgenstern, N. (1960). 'Stability coefficients for
earth slopes.' Geotechnique, Vol. 10,129-150.
Bolton, M.D. (1986). The strength and dilatancy of sands'. Geotech
nique, Vol. 36, No. 1,65-78.
British Standards Institution (1988). 'Report on strengthened/rein
forced soils and other fills.' Published Document, PD 6517:1988, London.
Caquot, A., Kerisel, J. and Absi, E. (1973). Tables de butee et de poussee,
2nd edition, Gauthier-Villars, Paris.
Chen, W.F. (1975). Limit analysis and soil plasticity, Elsevier, New
Fannin, R.J. and Hermann, S. (1989). ' Some soil and reinforcement
parameters for design.' Proc. 12th Int. Conf. Soil Mechs. and Fndn.Engng,
Rio de Janeiro, Vol. 2,1239-1242.


Greenwood, J.H. and Jewell, R. A. (1989). 'Strength and safety: the use
of mechanical property data', Reinforced Embankments Symposium,
Thomas Telford.
Houlsby,G.T. (1989) Private communication.
Institution of Civil Engineers (1989). Specification for the use of geotex
tiles and related materials. Ground Engineering Group Board, ICE (in

Jarrett, P.M. and McGown, A. (editors) (1988). The application of

in soil retaining structures.
Kluwer Academic
Publishers, Holland.
Jewell, R.A. and Milligan, G.W.E. (1989). 'Deformation calculations
for reinforced soil walls'. Proc.llth Int. Conf. Soil Mechs. and Fndn.
Engng, Rio de Janeiro, Vol 2,1257-1262.
Jewell, R.A. and Greenwood, J.H. (1988). T,ong term safety in steep
soil slopes reinforced by polymer materials'. Geotextiles and Geomembranes, Special issue on Durability, Vol. 7, Nos. 1 & 2,81-118.
Jewell, R.A., Paine, N. and Woods, R.I. (1984a). Ttesign methods for
steep reinforced embankments'. Polymer grid reinforcement, Thomas
Telford, 70-81.
Jewell, R.A., Milligan, G.W.E., Sarsby, R.W. and DuBois, D.D. (1984b).
'Interactions between soils and grids'. Polymer grid reinforcement, Tho
mas Telford, 18-30.
Meyerhof, G.G. (1953). The bearing capacity of foundations under
eccentric and inclined loads'. Proc 3rd Int. Conf Soil Mechs and Fndn
Engng, Switzerland, Vol. 1,440-445.
Palmeira, E.M. (1987). The study of soil reinforcement interaction by
means of large scale laboratoy tests, D.Phil thesis, University of Oxford.
Terzaghi,K. (1943). Theoretical soil mechanics. John Wiley, New York.
Vaughan, P.R., Hight, D., Sodha, V.G. and Walbanke, H.J. (1978).
Tactors controlling the stability of clay fills in Britain'. Proc. Conf. on
Clay Fills, Institution of Civil Engineers, London.
Wroth CP. (1972) 'General theories of earth pressures and deforma
tions. General Reporf. Proc. 5th Int. Conf. Soil Mech. and Fndn. Engng.,
Madrid, Vol. 2,33-52.

polymeric reinforcement




r = = 0.00

Jewell (1990)

Minimum Required Force K

Minimum reinforcement length:


(1) The minimum length at the crest of the

slope is that required for overall stability.
(2) The minimum length at the base of the
slope is the greater of that required for overall
stability and to prevent direct sliding.
(3) Where reinforcement of constant length is
to be used select the greater length required to
satisfy equilibrium at the base of the slope, (2)
(4) Where direct sliding governs the required
reinforcement length at the base of the slope it
is permissible to reduce the length uniformly
from Lj, at the base of the slope to
at the
crest of the slope.





Slope angle




Minimum Required Length

Minimum Required Length

Overall Stability (L /H) Direct Sliding (L^H)^






Slope angle










Slope angle






r=- = 0.25

Jewell (1990)

Minimum Required Force K


Minimum reinforcement length:

(1) The minimum length at the crest of the
slope is that required for overall stability.
(2) The minimum length at the base of the
slope is the greater of that required for overall
stability and to prevent direct sliding.

(3) Where reinforcement of constant length is

to be used select the greater length required to
satisfy equilibrium at the base of the slope, (2)
(4) Where direct sliding governs the required
reinforcement length at the base of the slope it
is permissible to reduce the length uniformly
from at the base of the slope to
at the
crest of the slope.





Slope angle



Minimum Required Length

Overall Stability (L /H)





Slope angle




Minimum Required Length

Direct Sliding (LRIH)^




Slope angle






Jewell (1990)

Minimum Required Force


- = 0.50

Minimum reinforcement length:

(1) The minimum length at the crest of the
slope is that required for overall stability.
(2) The minimum length at the base of the
slope is the greater of that required for overall
stability and to prevent direct


(3) Where reinforcement of constant length is

to be used select the greater length required to
satisfy equilibrium at the base of the slope, (2)
(4) Where direct sliding governs the required
reinforcement length at the base of the slope it
is permissible to reduce the length uniformly
from L at the base of the slope to L at the
crest of the slope.





Slope angle



w H


Minimum Required Length

Overall Stability
{L IH)


Minimum Required Length

Direct Sliding
(L IH)





Slope angle



Slope angle


2. D e s i g n a n d construction of r e i n f o r c e d s o i l w a l l s
at S n o d l a n d , K e n t

M . J. DUFFIN, BSc, MSc, DIC, FGS, Ove Arup & Partners (Bristol)

Two sections of geotextile reinforced soil wall 150 m and 50 m in length
varying from 1.0 m to 9.0 m in height with 80 front batters were built
mostly using site won materials. The walls were required to support
high soil banks acting as acoustic barriers in the relatively narrow space
between the site boundary and a perimeter quarry access road. The
walls were faced with topsoil and preseeded matting to encourage
vegetation of the surface.
Conventional methods were used for the design and the labour
intensive construction technique is described in the Paper.
Ove Arup & Partners were appointed in 1987 as consulting engineers
for a coldstore development at Snodland, Kent. The Client, Wards
Construction (Industrial) Limited, has developed the site for lease to
Tesco as a regional distribution centre for frozen foods at a total cost of
approximately 12 m. The developed site area is 7.5 hectares, including
a main 20,000 m coldstore building.
Planning approval was given in November 1987, after a lengthy
procedure to resolve sensitive issues relating to the proposed develop
ment. Most of the planning conditions imposed by the District Council
were related to protecting the residential area along Hollow Lane, north
and east of the site. The two areas of concern were the effects of noise
from the anticipated 24 hour coldstore operations, and access to the site.
It is envisaged that up to 500 delivery vehicles per day will serve the
site, of which 150 will be articulated heavy goods vehicles. An acoustic
barrier was therefore required along the eastern and northern edges of
the s i t e , which had to b e s e n s i t i v e l y l a n d s c a p e d . This b a r r i e r a l s o c l o s e d
off the original site entrance, and a new access road was required to
prevent traffic from affecting the residential area.
Initial enabling earthworks and road construction works involving
extensive earthmoving to form building platforms, embankments and



the new access road were carried out by Spencer King (Civil Engineer
ing) Limited.
The earthworks involved major cut andfilltotalling some 300,000 m
of material within the site. A complex design was evolved to provide
an economic solution by making maximum use of on-site materials.
This paper concerns the design and construction of the geotextile
reinforced soil walls, or blocks, along the eastern and northern sides of
the site in order to accommodate the acoustic barrier between the site
boundary and a quarry access road running around the outside of the
coldstore compound.

The site is located at the former Ham Hill Sandpit, south west of
Snodland and half a mile north of junction 16 on the M20, near Maid
stone, (see Fig. 1).
The abandoned quarry had been dug into the Folkstone Bed Sands
with a quarry floor measuring approximately 350 m by 350 m up to 20
m below original ground level. On abandonment in the 1970s, the
quarry faces were stabilised by banking overburden and waste materi-

Fig.l Site location



als against the near vertical cuts at slopes of up to 45 and up to 15 m

Beyond the north west boundary of the site, a sandpit is still being
operated by Tarmac. Their original access was by a road across the
quarry floor from an entrance off Hollow Lane in the south-east corner
of the site.
A site investigation, consisting mainly of trial pits with a few bo
reholes, showed that the majority of the overburden and waste materials
consisted of silty occasionally clayey fine sand sometimes with variable
proportions of gravel. It also included large masses of solidified tarmac
waste and imported mainly clay soils from elsewhere as well as other
heterogeneous materials. The Folkestone Beds themselves consist of
very dense to very weakly cemented uniform sand.
With care and appropriate selection for task, it was decided that most
of these materials could be used around the site and earthworks plat
form levels were designed accordingly to minimise the volume of
material run to tip.
In order to fit the proposed development within the site, the existing
banked up quarry faces had to be cut back to or beyond their original
lines and the quarry floor raised by filling.
The District Council required acoustic barriers with top levels of 22
m AOD along the eastern, Hollow Lane boundary and up to 30 m AOD
around the north and north-east side of the site where the site boun
daries are the garden fences of a number of houses, (see Fig. 2).
The quarry access road was required to be designed to the adoptable
standards of Kent County Council in the event of future developments
in the working sandpit, so road and verge width and both vertical and
horizontal alignments were constrained.
This resulted in very limited space to build the acoustic barriers. At
the highest pinch point on the eastern side, Hollow Lane was at 10.3 m
AOD and 32 m to the west the access road verge was at 7.4 m AOD. By
incorporating a pronounced hump in the vertical alignment along the
northern boundary, verge level was raised to 10 m AOD. Ground level
at the boundary fence was 23 m AOD some 30 m away. Here the top of
the acoustic barrier was required to be 30 m AOD. A 2.0 m high acoustic
fence was incorporated in the design to reduce the earthworks with a
2.0 m wide crest.
In order to soften the visual impact on the Hollow Lane side a limiting
slope of 1 in 2 (vertical and horizontal) was initially imposed. This was
later steepened to 1 in 1.5.
Where there was ample space, the existing fill slopes could be cut back
to 1 in 2. But at the pinch points continuous fill slopes of up to 1 in 0.75



2m wide crest with

Fig.3 Typical section through eastern embankment

with heights of around 16 m and 1 in 0.65 with heights of 28 m would be

needed at the eastern and northern boundaries respectively.
Initial designs were sketched out with continuous reinforced soil
slopes but this option was rejected on grounds of appearance, and the
difficulty of building embankments with continuously changing slopes
and cost.
Vertical concrete retaining walls, crib and gabion walls at the toes of
normal embankments were rejected on cost grounds leaving reinforced
soil as the preferred option.
Sections were drawn through the proposed embankments at approxi
mately 20 m intervals to determine the required geometry. Where
possible, existing vegetated slopes on Hollow Lane were retained. The
filled slopes were also steepened to 1 in 1.5 in order to reduce the soil
block heights, and to match existing slopes, (see Figs 3 and 4).
Initial designs were carried out using Netlon Tensar. Stabilenka
woven fabric was proposed as an alternative which was rejected on
grounds of appearance and questionable ability to accept vegetation.
Fortrac was finally accepted for the design after due consideration.
Reinforcement spacing was standardised at 400 mm (or 200 mm for
more densely reinforced zones) which was 2 lifts of the compacted fill
in order to regulate the appearance of the walls. This was achieved by
varying the strength or grade of reinforcement up the elevation of the



"Approved site dug material" was specified for the majority of the
filling. This consisted of material which could be loosely defined as
granular material with minimal cohesive content.
Analyses using the methods of Jewell et al. (1985) were done for each
section since, whilst the crest level of the acoustic barrier was more or
less constant, the road level varied and its curving shape in plan meant
that both the retained height and reinforced soil block top level varied
constantly along its length.
The elevations were divided into sections over which the various
designs were appropriate and adjusted so they could be built in whole
numbers of fabric widths allowing for overlap. To finish off the wall, a
600 mm thick coping layer was laid to follow the curve, (see Figs 5 and
The "pile of sausages" appearance typical of Stabilenka reinforced
walls was not visually acceptable and a flush face was specified. This
is intended to be vegetated in order to enhance its appearance and to
shade the exposed fabric from UV light. To encourage and support
growth a minimum 200 mm of "topsoil" was required in the face of the
wall with "Greenfix" preseeded matting used to prevent loss of soil
through the open mesh until the root systems could take over.
In order to prevent the build up of water pressures beneath the
reinforced soil block, a drainage blanket of well graded granular ma
terial was to be tied into a toe drain. This blanket was required to have
a minimum thickness of 500 mm. Where the reinforced soil block was
not founded directly on the Folkestone Beds, this blanket was thickened
to up to LO m to form a foundation.

Fig.4 Typical section through northern embankment



Foundation levels were chosen so there was a minimum of 0.5 m of

soil block beneath verge level to provide a toe.
The Contractor proposed flint rejects as an alternative drainage ma
terial. This consists of gravel to cobble sized flints and is a waste product
from a local cement works. To prevent loss of fines this coarse material
was blinded with graded drainage material and it was also used for the
first 200 mm of the soil block, a typical section is shown on Figure 7.
Preliminary laboratory and site trials were undertaken to confirm the
new material's strength and general behaviour before construction
began. Any soft spots in the exposed formation in old fill material were
dug out and replaced with compacted selected fill and the drainage
blanket and blinding placed. Strips of the appropriate Fortrac were then
laid on the formation with 2.2 m or 2.4 m of overlength for the wrapover
and tieback length. After some experimentation Spencer King evolved
a system for forming the front batters with formwork.
400 mm high lengths of formwork were supported at the correct 80
angle by steel pins driven into the underlying soil and tied back to
prevent it being pushed forward as "topsoil" was hand compacted
behind in a "kerb" 400 mm or so wide at the top. There was a dearth of
true topsoil on the site and the top 100 to 150 mm of the in situ material
around the site which had been supporting growth for 10 years or so
was designated as "growing medium" and used as topsoil.
The first 200 mm lift of fill was placed and compacted using a towed
vibrating roller to within 2 m of the face. A small tandem Bomag roller
was used for this strip. The formwork was moved on once the topsoil



1:V5 slope spray seeded

Topsoil and pre-seeded

matting placed within 80


50/30 -20
400mm spacing

cut slope


400mm spacing

200mm graded
500mm flint

200mm spacing
Toe drain

Fig.7 Typical section through reinforced soil block

kerb was in place and batten slots backfilled. Greenfix matting was
unrolled along the face and pinned in place using nails. The Fortrac
overlength was then brought up over the face and tensioned using
garden forks and held in place by shovelfulls of soil. The second lift of
fill was placed and compacted and the process repeated to full height.
Where the block was to be buried below finished verge level the Greenfix was omitted.
Initial problems with the face fabric becoming loose as the overlying
layers were built were overcome by thoroughly hand tamping the
topsoil kerb and tensioning the tieback length.
In practice the bulk of the filling consisted of silty fine sand with some
gravelly overburden soils and occasional loads of Folkstone Bed sand.
The latter proved too uniformly graded for satisfactory compaction as
bulk fill. The appropriate number of passes of the vibrating roller had
been established by preliminary trials and quality control was carried
out by in situ density tests using a nuclear density meter and more
usually by dynamic probes.




After completion of the soil blocks, steel pins were driven into the face
at bottom, middle and top height on a number of sections and levels
taken as the embankments were constructed above.
Up to 10 mm of settlement was noted on the bottom pins and up to 20
mm for the top with no visible evidence of bulging or slackening of the
face fabric.
The walls have been slow to vegetate and growth has been concen
trated in the joints between lifts. This is particularly true of the northern
block which has a more exposed aspect. However, there are signs of
The reinforced soil block was a cost effective solution to the problem
as it allowed the maximum use of available on site materials. It was the
first use of Fortrac on a large scale in the UK and possibly in Europe.
In conclusion the finished product is performing satisfactorily and, in
the author's opinion, has a pleasing appearance.
Jewell, R.A., Paine, N. and Woods R.I. "Design Methods for Steep
Reinforced Embankments", Polymer Grid Reinforcement in Civil Engineer
ing, ICE, 1985, pp. 70-81.


3. S t a b i l e n k a f a b r i c r e i n f o r c e d s o i l r e t a i n i n g w a l l at
Hewetts Quay, Barking

H. BARKER, BSc, CEng, MICE, MMT, PE (Malaysia), Geostructures



A reinforced soil retaining wall was built in 1985/86 across an old dock
in the tidal Barking Creek. It incorporates a variety of geosynthetics and
natural fabric (hessian) sandbags as temporary face support and a novel
form of wrap-around face construction. The main reinforcement is
Stabilenka 150 woven polyester fabric. The temporary face of the soil
block formed by the wrap-around construction acted as the back shutter
for 200 mm thick in situ concrete facing panels. These are tied back to
the soil block by cast-in polymer grid strips buried between envelopes
of the limestone aggregate fill.
1. As part of a development carried out by Barking Oil Wharves Ltd
at Hewetts Quay on the tidal River Roding (better known as Barking
Creek), a small dock has been reclaimed. The 15 m wide dock entrance
has been closed by a 4 m high 5 m thick reinforced soil retaining wall
founded on a 0.6 m reinforced granular mattress constructed on a 1.5 m
high hardcore mound. This foundation rests on a 1 m thick layer of
gravel overlying London Clay. The 2 m thick layer of alluvium covering
the site was excavated locally under the 5 m by 15 m area of reinforced
soil block. A thick, 200 mm concrete facing was selected as protection
for the soil block against impact from river barges mooring alongside
(see Figure 1).
2. Almost the entire height of the wall lies within the 6.5 m tidal zone.
Mean Spring high tide level is only 340 mm below the top of the
reinforced soil block and is exceeded during coincident storms and
operation of the Barking Flood Barrier at the mouth of the Creek. This
restricted working at earlier stages of construction to 3 h periods each
side of low tide. Crushed free-draining limestone aggregate to the
grading shown in Table 1 was selected for the reinforced fill to minimize
tidal lag. The buffering action of water flushing in and out of the soil
block twice daily under tidal action was judged to reduce the pH of the
soil in contact with the Stabilenka fabric to levels below the recom41


Table 1. Grading of free draining reinforced fill
Sieve size








0.6 (600 microns)

mended maximum value of about 9. This decision was based on the

long-term experience of major manufacturers of the performance of
polyester fibres and was supported by expert advice and the results of
some simple laboratory flushing tests.

3. A novel aspect of this structure was the use of 'traditional' hessian

sandbags to form a temporary face support wall on the inside of each
envelope of wrap-around geotextile facing (see Figure 2). The sandbags
were laid in a single skin in 3 or 4 courses of stretchers with headers at
3 sandbag length intervals. This detail was derived in trials before the
start of construction. The use of sandbags overcame the problem arising
from lack of firm support in the creekbed in front of the wall. This
precluded the use of temporary steel-props or timber falsework to
support the face of the wall during construction as is frequently
adopted. The use of horizontal walings spanning the 15 m wide gap
across the entrance of the former dock was not considered an economi
cal or practical alternative. The filling of sandbags was done during
periods in normal working hours when the site was flooded during high
tides. This work provided a useful site activity in these periods.
4. Stabilenka 150 polyester geotextile has been used to reinforce both
the wall and the granular foundation mattress: 7 layers in the wall and
2 in the mattress (Figure 3). It was selected for its strength and low-creep
qualities. The wall has been built using the wrap-around facing tech
nique whereby a succession of envelopes of geotextile-wrapped freedraining fill are constructed to form a near-vertical faced free-standing
soil block (Figure 4).
5. After the reinforced soil block wall had been constructed to full
height, steel-mesh reinforced concrete facing panels 200 mm thick were
cast in situ against a polythene sheeted 3-dimensional geotextile. Enkadrain type St was draped over the front of the reinforced soil block




(Figure 5). The Enkadrain has an open matrix core sandwiched between
non-woven geotextiles and in this structure has three different but
complementary functions:a) as a drainage curtain to carry water percolating out of the face of
the reinforced soil block on falling tides, i.e. to reduce tidal lag and
its effects.
b) as an impermeable back shutter for the in-situ concrete facing
c) as a compressible slip layer to permit horizontal and vertical
movements of the fill behind therigidfacing panels in the event of
settlement under imposed loading (all face movement during con
struction of the free-standing soil block having taken place before
casting of the facing panels).

Fig. 4 Close-up view of near vertical plane face of completed soil block, with sand
wiched tie-back strips of geogrid



Fig. 5 Close-up view of concrete facing panel reinforcing mesh layers fixed to soil block
and connected to it by geogrid tie-backs sandwiched between envelopes of fill:
Enkadrin vertical curtain and sealed polythene sheet behind

6. Another feature of this wall, also shown in Figure 5, is that the six
full-height 2.5 m wide in situ concrete facing panels have not been
directly connected to the main reinforcement. Instead the facing panels
were tied back into the reinforced soil wall by 300 mm wide 2 m lengths
of Tensar SR2 polymer grids. 1.25 m of their length were sandwiched
between layers of fill at three levels up the face and the remainder cast
into the panels after fixing to the two layers of steel mesh reinforcement.
7. The Tensar ties were passed through sealed openings in the
Enkadrain curtain and polythene sheet barrier between the concrete
panels and soil block. In order to drain the structure more effectively,
the sections of Enkadrain drainage curtain were bent round the vertical
edges of each of the five facing panels to daylight at the front of the wall.


The polythene barrier was also removed along the full height of the
15 mm wide open joints between panels. Free drainage for the full
height of the soil block was thus obtained at 2.5 m intervals along the
entire length of the wall.
8. The selection of in situ concrete facing panels was made after
establishing that for the short wall length the small number of non
standard thickness pre-cast concrete panels needed would require ex
cessively costly moulds. The contractor was given the option of casting
the wall either as full-height vertical panels or as part-height horizontal
strips. He elected to use a 2.5 m by 4 m high framed shutter to form
each of the five panels in a single pour.
9. Backfilling of the remaining 20 m of the dock with suitable
material, hardcore and other predominantly granular fill, proceeded at
the same rate as the reinforced soil block. The backfill was placed on a
layer of Stabilenka 150 fabric which acts as combined separation/rein
forcement layer extending over the full length of the dock. A1 to 1.5 m
thickness of alluvium on the dock floor was left in place under the fabric.
A second layer of fabric extending 6 m behind the soil block was laid
after placing 450 mm of backfill. Both these layers were extended to the
front of the wall to form the lowest two reinforcement layers of soil
block: they also provide additional stability against wedge or circular
failure behind and beneath the soil block.
10. The wall was provided with a 1.5 m high in situ reinforced
concrete parapet dowelled to the top of the in situ facing slabs and
having a 1.5 m wide balancing slab. Each of these are tied back by cast-in
Tensar grids buried in the 0.45 m thick suitable fill and sub-base backfill
above. Concrete blocks of hardstanding construction, were to be used
over the entire surface of the wall block - and around the general
industrial shed. This was to be erected in a subsequent contract on the
reclaimed area beyond the soil block itself. This shed was to be a piled
single-storey portal-framed building with internal ground bearing
slabs. The external area and inside of the sheds were to be used as
storage areas. The retaining wall has been designed to support the high
imposed loading of 25 kN/sq m as required by the client.
11. The entire works, i.e. reinforced soil wall, facing panels and dock
reclamation were constructed by a team of 2 men, one of whom was the
operator of a Mitsubishi MS140 360-degree hydraulic excavator, the
other acted as the operator of the pedestrian-operated twin-drum ar
ticulated roller. Both men filled the hessian sandbags during periods of
high tide when no other work could be carried out. The excavation of
unsuitable material beneath the foundation mattress, the removal of
debris above an existing concrete barge berth and its demolition and


removal, the construction of the reinforced soil wall block itself and the
20 m by 15 m area of reclamation behind it, of 3 m average depth, were
constructed in a total of 90 h of low-tide working within a 4 week period.
The construction of the parapet wall located above high tide level was
carried out on an uninterrupted basis over a period of 10 days by the
same team augmented by 2 carpenters/concretors.
12. A single settlement gauge was set up 2 m back from the front
face at the centre of the reinforced soil block on top of the first envelope
of fill: 20 mm total settlement of the foundation was recorded by the end
of construction. Only one post-construction reading has been taken:
after six months there had been no additional settlement.
13. Four coupons of Stabilenka 150 fabric, each 1.5 m wide and 2 m
long were buried at 250 mm vertical intervals in the upper layer of fill.
This part of the structure is possibly significantly drier on one hand (less
hydrolysis potential) and exposed to less tidal flushing action on the
other (higher pH). They may therefore, on the basis of a crude evalu
ation, be considered to give a reasonably representative indication of
any environmental degradation to which the Stabilenka reinforcement
may be subjected. The only non-typical feature is that these coupons
are not stressed. A programme of tensile testing of these coupons is
hoped to be carried out at 5-year intervals.
14. Site investigation. Four Mackintosh Probe drives, six Perth Pene
trometer tests and two trial pits were dug to establish the depth of
alluvium, obtain samples for strength testing and to obtain the geometry
of the existing dock walls. Hand-vane shear strength tests were carried
out in the alluvium and underlying gravels and London Clay.
15. Design strength parameters. The selection of design parameters for
soil and geotextile were based on field and laboratory strength testing
and Enka's Stabilenka data sheets and literature (ref. 1).
16. Internal stability. Design was carried out in accordance with DTp
Technical Memorandum BE 3/78 (ref. 2) aided by a program mounted
in a desk-top computer.
17. External stability. Computer based slip circle analysis and some
runs using WAGGLE (ref. 3) and SABRE programs indicated the need to
tie back the wall and enhance the strength of the alluvium beneath the
foundation mattress. Two alternatives were considered: jetted installa
tion of stone columns at close centres or excavation and replacement of
the weak alluvium under the soil block by granular material. The latter
course was adopted.



18. The lowest two layers of Stabilenka 150 main reinforcement have
been taken 10 m back into the reclamation to act as tie-backs to enhance
overall stability. The lower of these also functions as a separation/re
inforcement layer between the alluvium over the dock floor and the
hardcore backfill.
19. The reinforced soil method of construction was chosen by the
client as previously adopted conventional sheet pile walls had experi
enced early corrosion. He was interested in evaluating the potential of
this recent technique with its advantages of speed and economy for use
in future quaywall reprovision in other parts of Barking Creek. While
the short length of this wall has not realized these benefits in full, other
features of the selected design, as listed below, contributed to its adop
a) capability to accept economically heavy design loading,
b) absence of need to fill around and pile between long sheet pile tie
rods and anchor piles of the sheet pile alternative,
c) greater durability of the concrete facing panel compared with the
sheet pile alternative.
20. Subsequently, there have been changes in the client/s develop
ment plans for the reclaimed dockyard and its surrounds. They have
been left as open areas and used primarily for general storage. The quay
wall and dock reclamation have performed this role satisfactorily in all
respects since completion nearly four years ago.
21. The writer wishes to express his gratitude to Mr G. S. Sanders Hewett, of Barking Oil Wharves Ltd, the client and to Mr C. Hartley of
Star Developments, the contractor, for their enthusiastic approach to
this project, willingness to adopt unfamiliar techniques and getting
them carried out so successfully.
1. Risseeuw, P. Long term behaviour of heavy duty reinforcing
mats/structural elements in earthworks. Proceedings of Geotextile Tech
nology Conference, 462-477, Austrian Man-made Fibre Institute, Vienna,
2. Department of Transport Technical Memorandum (Bridges) BE
3 / 78, Reinforced earth retaining walls and bridge abutments for embankments,

London, 1978 (and 1984 revision).

3. Binnie & Partners. WAGGLE User Manual - Design of steep rein
forced slopes and retaining walls, London, 1983.


4. D e s i g n approach for slope repairs and embankment


J. R. GREENWOOD, BSc, MEng, CEng, MICE, MIHT, Travers Morgan

Consulting Group

Many highway embankments in South East England are constructed of
stiff overconsolidated clay which is particularly prone to softening and
shallow slope failure. Repair techniques have been developed to reuse
the on site clay by reinforcing with geogrid layers. The use of reinforc
ing layers is now being extended to new embankment and highway
widening schemes where landtake is restricted and steeper slopes are
required. A design approach for assessing the stability of reinforced
embankments by limit equilibrium methods is described and a practical
example given for embankment widening. Other design aspects includ
ing embedment lengths, pull out resistance and factors of safety are
1. Many of the highway embankment slopes in South East England
have been constructed at 1 in 2 sideslopes using locally available stiff
overconsolidated clays. These clays are particularly prone to softening
and consequent shallow slope failure commencing typically 5 or 6 years
after construction (ref. 1). Slope repair methods utilizing geogrid rein
forcement were tried on a number of sites and compared with the
conventional 'excavate and replace with granular' repair methods (refe
1,2 and 3). The geogrid repairs were shown to be particularly efficient
as the on-site softened clay material could be reused by the addition of
quicklime to improve the workability and compaction of the clay.
2. The initial design of geogrid bags (Fig. la) was thought to be over
elaborate for relatively flat embankment slopes. The wrap around at
the face was particularly difficult to construct effectively without some
kind of formwork to provide a resistance against which to compact the
fill The wrap around was therefore replaced with an intermediate
secondary layer of reinforcement to prevent local instability at the slope
face (Fig. lb). With the availability of a revised range of geogrid meshes
the design was again reappraised bearing in mind the benefit of addi-




Fig.l Development of geogrid designs for slope repairs

tional embedded lengths and ease of construction to give the current

typical design as shown in Fig. lc.
3. It was realised that the reinforcing techniques used in repairing
slips could also be used for preventing slips in new embankments and
for steepening embankments where landtake is restricted or additional
lanes are required to be added to a highway.
4. The design engineer requires a method for assessing the benefit of
reinforcement included within a soil slope. Various charts and tables
are available for reinforced embankment design but they are of limited
practical value because they only apply to particular cases and do not
generally allow for water pressures or variable slope geometry. They



tend to inhibit the designer from developing an understanding of the

problem and its particular features.
5. The design approach presented in this Paper is based on conven
tional limit equilibrium stability analysis by the method of slices. It is
totally flexible and may be applied to any slope whether reinforced or
non reinforced.
6. Before applying stability analysis to reinforced soils it is necessary
to review some of the problems associated with routine stability analysis
by the method of slices or wedges. Greenwood (ref. 4) and Morrison
and Greenwood (ref. 5) have demonstrated the importance of conside
ring interslice water forces if a sensible solution is to be obtained. The
conventional force diagram and the necessary modification for true
effective forces for a slice of the analysis is illustrated in Fig. 2.


7. The effective force diagram, Fig. 2b, forms the basis for any sta
bility solution. The simplified effective stress stability equation may be
derived by defining the factor of safety, Fm, for moment equilibrium as

F = Ir/ID

The assumption is made that the resultant of the effective interslice

forces is parallel to the slip surface and by resolving normal and parallel
to the slip surface the 'Simplified' stability equation 2 is obtained.

I{c'l + [W cos

- ul - (U - Ui) sin


tan 0 }

I W sin a
8. It should be noted that if, in equation 2, U2 = Ui, ie the water table
is parallel to the slip surface, then equation 2 becomes the conventional
Fellenius or Swedish equation. If, more realistically for most situations,
a horizontal water table is assumed across each slice, then U2 = Ui =
ub tan a, and equation 2 becomes the Simple equation (ref. 6):-

I[c'b sec

+ (W - ub) cos

I W sin

tan </>']


9. The factor of safety in terms of moment equilibrium, F , is appro

priate for circular or near circular slip surfaces but when a non circular
surface or wedge type mechanism is analysed a factor of safety in terms
of horizontal force equilibrium should be considered. This has the
advantage of bringing slope stability analysis in line with conventional



E -E,

a) Conventional force diagram

b) Effective force diagram


kN/m , deg







u. u


total weight of soil slice

effective strength parameters
required shear resistance along base
(= disturbing force)
available shear resistance along base
effective horizontal interslice forces
effective vertical interslice forces
average pore water pressure at base of slice
forces due to water pressure on sides of slice
width of soil slice (o = / cos a)
length of slip surface at base of slice
base inclination of soil slice
angle between reinforcement and slip surface
effective normal force on slip surface
pore pressure ratio (r =
allowable reinforcement force on base of slice
factor of safety (moment equilibrium)
factor of safety (horizontal force equilibrium)


Fig. 2 Stability analysis by the method of slices



analysis of pressures on earth retaining structures and is particularly

appropriate to reinforced slopes and walls.
10. The factor of safety for horizontal force equilibrium, Ff, is deter
mined by dividing the numerator and denominator of the stability
equation by cos a before summation of the slices (ref. 5).

Ff = I(x/cosa)/I(D/cosa)
Equation 3 now becomes


I{[c'b sec a + (W - ub) cos a tan 0]/cos a}

I (Wsin a/cos a)

11. The factor of safety for horizontal force equilibrium, Ff, derived
from equation (4) is generally conservative because the enhanced nor
mal stress on the slip surface, due to the interslice or interwedge
resistance, is ignored.



12. The effective force diagram, Fig. 2b, may be modified to include
the effect of available reinforcement forces (Fig. 3). For simplicity the
reinforcement force is assumed to act only where it crosses the base of
the slice. This is appropriate for a circular slip surface with no interslice
straining where reinforcement would be of no benefit between the slices.
With a non circular surface interslice reinforcement would inhibit de
formation between slices and enhance the factor of safety. However this
effect is likely to be small compared with the vertical weight and other
force components and it is conservatively ignored in the proposed
13. The stability equation 2 with the factor of safety expressed in
terms of moment equilibrium is now modified as follows

I{c'l + [W cos

- ul - (U - Ui) sin


7 sin /3] tan 0 + 7 cos /?} ^

W sin a

and the corresponding modified simple equation is given by


I{cb sec a + [(W - ub) cos a + T sin p\ tan 0 + 7 cos j3}

W sin a

14. It is noted that the term T cos p should strictly be deducted from
the denominator rather than added to the numerator. It makes no
difference if F = 1 but it gives a more conservative value of F as it
increases above 1. For engineering purposes it is probably easier to
consider the reinforcement as a positive restoring force rather than a
negative disturbing force.


a) Division into appropriate slices

b) Forces on slice

c) Effective force diagram for

equilibrium of slice

Fig. 3 Effective force diagram modified to include available reinforcement force

15. The equation for horizontal force equilibrium, equation 4, now

F f


sec a + [(W-


cos a + T sin fi] tan 0 + 7 cos fi] /cos a}

( 7 )

I(W sin a/cos a)

16. The full 'simplified' equation 5 could be used to determine the
factor of safety of a reinforced slope where interslice groundwater forces
are precisely known or where the effect of local changes in groundwater
level are to be studied. However for most routine practical problems
the groundwater conditions cannot be precisely defined and the


'simple' stability equation (6 or 7) is generally adequate to give a

reasonable estimation of the factor of safety with the proposed reinforce
ment forces included.
17. In the case of repairs to a failed slope or steepening of an existing
slope the existing condition (with no reinforcement) is first analysed by
l3ack analysis' to check that sensible soil and groundwater parameters
have been assumed. The improvement in the factor of safety by intro
ducing the reinforcement can then be calculated. An example of this
approach for a widened embankment is given in Appendix A. Typical
details of the calculations by the method of slices are given in ref. 7.
18. The application of conventional stability analysis should help the
designer to develop an understanding of the sensitivity of the problem
to the parameters selected and to appreciate the benefits that the rein
forcement can provide. It is important that all potential slip surfaces
and failure mechanisms are checked particularly those passing between
reinforcement layers and those immediately behind the effective rein
forcement zone.
19. This Paper concentrates primarily on the stability analysis of
reinforced embankments but other factors are equally important to the
design and must be given due consideration.
20. The available design force in the reinforcement must take account
of factors such as mechanical damage, chemical and bacteriological
attack, the effect of creep over the design life and stiffness of the
geotextile or geogrid. It has been suggested for earthworks applications
that the available force should not exceed half the rupture strength at
the design life and the maximum allowable extension at the end of the
design life should not exceed 7% or half the breaking extension at the
design life. The available design force is typically between 0.25 and 0.5
of the ultimate strength.
21. The embedment length and pull out resistance of the geotextile
or geogrid is often critical to the stability of the reinforced slope. The
bond coefficient between geotextile reinforcement and the soil may be
determined from the modified direct shear test as described in Specifi
cation for Highway Works, clause 639 (ref. 8) to check that it meets the
design requirements. Pullout test may be carried out to measure the
pullout resistance for grids or geotextiles as an alternative to modified
direct shear test.
22. Caution is needed however, to determine how each type of grid
or geotextile develops its pull out resistance (i.e. direct friction on the
grid surface or bearing of cross members) and to check its reliability
under larger strains and sustained loads. It is suggested that a safety
factor of 2 is applied where possible to resistance measured in pull out


tests to allow for creep and other effects. Additional pull out resistance
can sometimes be obtained by 'anchoring or 'wrap around' of the ends
of the geogrid.

23. It is not considered appropriate to work to a single fixed factor of
safety. The selected value depends on the method used and the way in
which the component parameters are assessed and the risk to life and
property. It is quite common to work to Factors of Safety in the range
1.1-1.3 where conservative (or long term) soil, reinforcement and
groundwater parameters have been used and the consequences of
failure are not catastrophic. In fact for many earthworks it is not
economically feasible to work to a high factor of safety. On the other
hand where slopes become steeper, and the possible risk to life and
property is greater, a factor of safety exceeding 1.3 is desirable based on
conservative parameters.
24. For slope repairs and modifications to existing slopes the increase
in factor of safety due to the treatment (based on the same methods and
assumptions) is generally more reliable than the absolute value of the
factor of safety.
25. As noted previously the pullout resistance is less certain and a
factor of safety of 2 is recommended where possible on measured
reinforcement pullout values. This factor may be reduced if calculations
and tests can demonstrate a consistent long term pullout resistance
26. The availability of geotextiles and geogrids for soil reinforcement
has considerably extended the options open to the embankment de
signer and in certain situations is likely to permit widening of highways
with the minimum of additional landtake.
27. The true nature and behaviour of soil slopes is complex and
difficult to model precisely. The introduction of reinforcement further
complicates the problem and it is most important that the designer
develops an understanding of the potential failure mechanism and
appreciates the limitations of any analysis. With uncertain factors such
as progressive failure and time related effects, horizontal stresses, three
dimensional effects, definition of strata and ground water regime and
difficulties of determining appropriate parameters, there is little point
in applying over sophisticated methods of analysis to routine problems.
The simplified limit equilibrium method offers a consistent, readily
applied method of analysis for routine appraisal of the stability of
reinforced slopes. This should enable the designer to concentrate on
determining and assessing the critical geotechnical features affecting the



slope and to give due consideration to the potential benefit of the

1. Greenwood, J. R., Holt, D.A., and Herrick, G.W. Shallow slips in
highway embankments constructed of overconsolidated clay. ICE Sym
posium Failures in Earthworks, 1985. Paper 6,76-92.
2. Oliver, T.L.H. Reinforced soil techniques for the reinstatement of
failed slopes using geogrids,. ICE Symposium Failures in Earthworks,
1985, TN7 417-419.
3. Johnson, P.E. Maintenance and repair of high way embankments:
studies of seven methods of treatment. TRRL report RR30,1985.
4. Greenwood, J.R." Effective stress stability analysis.". Discussion
session 4, Proc 9th Eur Conf SMFE, Dublin 1987.
5. Morrison, LM. and Greenwood, J. R. Assumptions in simplified
slope stability analysis by the method of slices. Geotechnique Sept 1989.
6. Greenwood, J.R." A simple approach to slope stability". Ground
Engineering, 1983, vol 16, No4,45-48.

7. Greenwood, J.R." Stability analysis of reinforced slopes". Journal

of Institution of Highways and Transportation, October 1986 pp 26-27.

8. Department of Transport. Specification for Highway Works. HMSO

August 1986.


To steepen a clay embankment for carriageway widening.


Al. An existing 6 m high embankment in London clay with 1 in 2

side slopes has experienced one or two shallow slip failures. It is
necessary to widen the carriageway by 3 m. No extra land is available
and it is proposed to gain the extra width by steepening the embank
ment slope to 1 in 1.5. Determine a suitable reinforcement layout.

A2. By reference to published literature, in situ or laboratory testing

and back analysis of the existing slope appropriate soil and ground
water parameters are derived.
i.e. c' = 2 kN/m

r = 0.2 above 1.5 m depth


(note r = ^ )

<(>' = 24 deg

r = 0.1 between 1.5 and 2 m depth




* Reduces to 0-92 if seepage

parallel to slope assumed

Fig. Al Analysis of existing slope

y = 19 kN/m

r = 0 below 2 m depth

The stability of the existing slope may be checked using these parame
ters in the stability equation 4 based on horizontal force equilibrium,
F = 2{[cb

sec a + (W - ub) cos a tan 0]/cos a]

I (W sin a/cos a)

The calculated minimum factor of safety, (Fig. A.l), is just below unity
which is consistent with the observed shallow failure confirming that
the selected parameters are sensible.

analysed as coulomb wedge with

interwedge forces included.

Fig. A 2 Analysis of proposed slope



A3. The proposals for the reinforced steeper slope are now drawn
out and tested by stability analysis to ensure that there is an adequate
factor of safety (Fig. Al).
a) The existing slope is assumed to be excavated to a minimum
depth of 2 m and benched as shown in 1.5 m steps to remove all
softened material.
b) The excavated clay is to be reused as backfill, possibly with lime
added to improve compatibility but no extra strength is assumed.
c) The initial design assumes the reinforcement layers are placed at
750 mm spacing.
d) Examination of the strength and stiffness characteristics of the
proposed geogrid indicates an available working force of 18 kN/m
e) Simple pull-out tests confirm an immediate pull-out resistance of
20 kN/m of embedment. Applying a factor of safety of 2, an
embedment length of 1.8 m is required to generate the necessary
18kN/m width force. A 9 kN/m width force is assumed to be
available 0.9 m from the end of the reinforcement.

A4. The minimum factor of safety is calculated using the previously

defined parameters by applying the stability equation 7 for horizontal
force equilibrium.


sec a + [(W - ub) cos a + T sin /3] tan 0 + 7 "

cos fi]/cos a}

I (W sin a/cos a)

The most critical failure surface is that just behind the reinforced zone
and this is shown to have, as a conservative estimate, Ff = 1.11 which is
at least 13% better than the existing slope and is therefore considered to
be satisfactory.
A5. Further improvements in the factor of safety could be obtained
if required by installing drainage at the base and lower benches or by
the use of better quality (i.e. granular) backfill. The design might be
further refined by more detailed stability checks using search routines.



Edited by J. P. LOVE, Geotechnical Consultants Group

Mr M. Bolton opened the questions at the end of the first session by

addressing a question to Dr R. Jewell. Earlier, in his talk Dr Jewell had
stated that well-established earth pressure coefficients, such as those of
Caquot et al (1973), could be used directly in the context of steep slopes
by taking the wall roughness, 8w, to be (90 - p), where was the angle
of the slope, but for slope angles less than p < (90 <>
| ) Dr Jewell had
had to perform his own analyses. In Dr Jewell's analyses the gross effect
of the reinforcement layers had been represented by a single horizontal
force applied externally to the front face. Mr Bolton questioned the
correctness in such analyses of applying a force to a surface at an
inclination in excess of the angle of friction. Mr Bolton, addressing Mr
Greenwood, also questioned the suitability of building slopes with
non-wrap-around facing, at slope angles in excess of <)>', in view of
potential local instability at the front face. He also requested a defini
tion from any of the speakers as to what constituted a 'steep slope'.
Dr Jewell answered Mr Bolton's first point about the over-inclination
of a horizontal reinforcement force, by sketching the typical pattern of
stress characteristics for such a slope. Dr Jewell indicated that the stress
characteristics observed in typical computer runs appeared to take
account of this by curling around horizontally, locally at the front face
of the slope, while in the main body of the slope they were unaffected
and were 'correct/. Later in the day, Dr Jewell returned to this point and
answered Mr Bolton's question in another way. He postulated that the
consequences of a force acting at a greater inclination to the angle of
friction should result in the force riding up the surface of the slope, and
accepted that this is what would happen if the force were applied
externally in the field. However, in practice the reinforcement is applied
from the inside of the slope and has no freedom to move upwards, due
to reaction from the soil layer above. Dr Jewell therefore concluded that
it was a 'non-problem', and that his method of analysis was acceptable.
In answer to Mr Bolton's question regarding the definition of a 'steep
slope', and to which situations his design charts applied, Dr Jewell said
that his charts should be used when the factor of safety of the unrein63


forced slope was definitely less than unity; if the unreinforced slope
factor of safety was near to unity or slightly in excess of unity, his charts
would not give economic solutions and that analyses of the sort pro
posed by Mr Greenwood would be preferable.
In answer to Mr Bolton's question regarding front face stability for
unfaced slopes built at angles in excess of Mr Greenwood said that
front face stability was often ensured due to the cohesion of the fill
material and that the critical state assumption of zero cohesion in the
long term was overconservative for many cohesive soils. He went on
to say that the definition between 'steep' and 'shallow embankment
slopes was unnecessary as the procedure of checking the factor of safety
on slip surfaces was common to all types of slope. If there had to be a
definition, he considered it to be that 'steep' slopes required face pro
tection, and were dependent on the reinforcement for stability.
Dr Mark Dyer (T. H. Technology) asked Dr Jewell for clarification
regarding the definition of zones 1 and 2. He asked whether it was fair
to say that zone 2 always required more reinforcement than zone 1, and
that, if so, what was the need for defining zone 1. Dr Jewell explained
that it was necessary to define zone 1 since its rear boundary represented
the mechanism which has the highest reinforcement requirement. The
provision of reinforcement for zone 2 was then determined from the
zone 1 requirement by the procedure of bond allowance and load
shedding allowance described in the paper. Dr Jewell stressed that the
zones themselves were only conceptual in nature.
Mr Alan Toms (G. Maunsell & Partners) asked whether the orienta
tion of the reinforcement should be assumed in design to be horizontal,
as originally constructed, or inclined at the angle of the failure surface.
Dr Jewell said that he had no doubts that the correct assumption was to
take the reinforcement force acting horizontally. Dr Jewell's observa
tions from triaxial tests in the laboratory were that when reinforced
dense sand is sheared and photographed using x-rays at the point of
failure, no discrete failure surface is yet apparent. Only after the sample
'gives up the ghosf, do failure surfaces begin to develop.
On the same point, Mr Greenwood remarked that the effect of the
reinforcement layer aligning with the failure surface may not necessar
ily change the calculation significantly, since the effects of the reinforce
ment were two-fold: the reinforcement force resists movement on a
failure surface by supplying a component of force tangentially, but also
by increasing the normal stress across the failure surface. Thus, what
one gains tangentially is to some extent counteracted by what one loses
in a normal direction. Mr Greenwood went on to answer a second point
made by Mr Toms, who had questioned the advisability of building
steep slopes to road embankments, since it may encourage less land
acquisition for road construction, which would then leave less allow7



ance for potential road widening at a later date. Mr Greenwood said

that he considered it the designers responsibility to work to a given
brief; this did not usually require provision for future traffic trends.
Mr Colin Wood (Department of Transport) made the last contribu
tion to the morning session by drawing attention to the need to consider
the long term softening of cohesive fill between layers of reinforcement
at the front face of intermediate slopes of non-wrap-around construc
tion. He stressed the importance of establishing vegetation on such


5. D e t e r m i n a t i o n o f a l l o w a b l e d e s i g n strength o f
p o l y e s t e r r e i n f o r c i n g mats

W. VOSKAMP, MSc, Manager Geotechnics, Akzo Industrial Systems

bv Arnhem, The Netherlands

This paper describes the method to establish the allowable design
strength of a reinforcing fabric. Thefirststep in the calculation method
is to establish the characteristic strength of the material in relation to
various life times. This characteristic strength depends on the ultimate
tensile strength and the creep characteristics of the material. Tests and
test-results are described which have been executed to establish the
relationship. Test-results will be shown in the form of stress-rupture
lines and isochronous curves. Relations will be given between 0.8 m
wide, strip and yarn test-results both for creep and short term tests.
Results for various test speeds and temperatures are also shown. To find
the allowable design strength the characteristic strength must be
divided by various reduction factors. Tests and test-results are shown
which have been executed to find these factors: mechanical damage,
chemical attack, biological and environmental attack.
The allowable design strength of a reinforcing mat is the ultimate
tensile strength minus factors or values for creep, temperature effects,
chemical or bacteriological attack, mechanical damage during installa
tion, etc For a safe design it is required that all these factors be deter
mined correctly and long-term effects of the combination of these factors
be taken into account.
The effects of most of these mechanisms are known to polymer
scientists, but often this know-how cannot be directly translated into
parameters understandable to civil engineers. Akzo and especially its
fibres and polymers division, formerly called Enka, as one of the leading
industrial yarn producers has used this know-how to develop an ac
ceptable design method for the determination of the allowable design
strength of polyester mats.
About 25 years ago Akzo became involved in geotextiles for what we
now call base reinforcement of embankments. At the time no require
ment was specified. All effects had to be learnt by trial and error. The
requirements reinforcing mats had to meet were not known and had fo


100 200


Fig.1 Influence of sample width on strength (Myles)




Fig.3 Strip tensile test with encircling clamps

be discovered by full-scale testing etc. Most of the early development

work was done in co-operation with the Dutch Transport and Road
Research Laboratory.
Although Akzo had been involved in geotextiles since 1960 it was not
until 1975 that the effects of base reinforcement were analysed on the
basis of a full-scale test. One of the conclusions was that reinforcement
with a high modulus, high strength and low elongation was required.
With the use of high-modulus polyester yarns all these requirements
could be fulfilled. As these mats were used as base reinforcement of
embankments, it was important that their strength would not be af
fected by creep or relaxation. All materials show creep behaviour under
prolonged loading, but polymers far more so than normal construction
materials. Therefore, it is essential that for soil reinforcement a material
with very low creep characteristics be used. For this reason our special
ists chose a special type of polyester yarn.
There is a wide variety of polyester yarns with many different
characteristics, such as low crimp, low creep, modulus, special finish
ings, etc. We chose a Diolen 770 yarn which is produced in two separate
spinning and strengthening steps imparting a low creep property com
bined with high modulus. Since the beginning of the 1980s creep has
become an increasingly important issue, to which the number of papers
and publications on this subjecttestify.In the years 1980-1985, a great
many internationally well-established institutes performed all sorts of



Fig.4 Wide strip test tensile strength hydraulic jaws

tests and investigations to establish the effects of various parameters.

Either because they simply failed to exchange information on this
subject or because they considered the findings of the institutes pro
prietary know-how, the polymer producers did not publish the results
of their tests and investigations. In the past few years it has been an issue
whether a combination of various strength reduction factors would
have the same long-term effect as their separate effects added up. All
experiences, executed projects and combination tests on a small scale
indicate that the method described in this paper gives fully acceptable
results, as does the fact that this method is currently being employed in
a great many countries around the world. Akzo is now engaged in
large-scale research with long-term testing of various combinations of
parameters to substantiate this claim. The results of this research will be
published at the 4th International Conference on Geotextiles and Geomembranes.
The allowable design strength of reinforcing mats can be calculated
with the formula:
Pall= P c [ l / f d . l / f e n v l / f l . l / f 2 ]


Pc = ultimate breaking strength with respect to time and extension
fd = reduction factorformechanical damage
fenv = reduction factor for biological and environmental attack


fl = factor for extrapolation deviations (called f in Greenwood )

f2 = factor of safety (called f in Greenwood )



The ultimate tensile strength is determined in a standard tensile

strength test facility. The clamps should be able to transfer the load on
to the fabric in such a way that all yarns are loaded equally. If this is not
done properly the test sample will break in the clamp, invalidating the
test. Elongations should be measured preferably between two points on
the fabric, measurements of the movements of the clamps are not
acceptable because of lack of accuracy. Furthermore the width and
length of the sample, the test speed and temperature at testing are
important and should be standardized (ref. Myles and Veldhuijzen van
Zanten )
It is therefore very important that, not only nationally but also inter
nationally, test conditions be standardized to ensure that everybody is
referring to the same parameters when discussing, e.g. tensile strength.
When, for example, the reinforcement is used in an application at a
continuously high temperature, it is imperative to check the tempera3




1 day

1 wk

1 0


10 yrs


log f: min duration of loading

Fig.6 Stress-rupture line of Stabilenka and Fortrac

1 h

1 nari =

I nari =




1 day 1 wk


1 yr

120 yrs




Load = 20% of UTS



L o g t: min

Fig. 7 Elongation-time lines for various stress ratios or as isochronous curves



ture effects on the polymer. Not only can the tensile strength reduce
considerably, but also the creep is affected by the temperature. The
effects of testing at different loading rates on the strength and the strain
at break can be very serious.

Creep is an extension of the material increasing with time and under

a constant tensile force. This tensile force is of course less than the
ultimate strength. After a certain time the material will break under that
force. The time required for this long-term rupture process is defined as
a strength characteristic of a certain lifetime. On the yarns used in
Stabilenka reinforcing fabrics and Fortrac geogrids, tests have been
executed at various load levels and for a period of approximately ten
years. The results are combined in the stress-rupture line of Figure 6,
where the characteristic strengths for different design life periods can
be found as a percentage of the ultimate tensile strength.
Extrapolation covers one time period on the log scale. It is important
to notice this because of the effects that extrapolation has on the factors
of safety as recommended by Jewell and Greenwood .
The results of the creep tests can also be shown in different forms such
as in Figure 7.
In the past, Akzo executed many creep tests on various materials, but
also a range of tests to analyse the effects of the width of a fabric on creep
behaviour. The fabrics were subjected to various load levels and the
widths varied from 80 cm to a single yarn. No significant difference was
found. However, this type of test is very complicated, dangerous and
expensive for fabrics of the strengths under consideration.
The value of P of equation 1 for a specific design lifetime can be found
by means of the graph of Figure 6.
P = % stress ratio. UTS
% stress ratio is the factor of the applied load divided by the ultimate
tensile strength (UTS) of that material.



Mechanical damage The dumping and compacting of fill on top of a

reinforcing mat may result in cut yarn fibres or surface abrasion and
then affect the maf s strength. To find the effects of this mechanical
damage many full-scale tests have been performed with various types
of fills. The results of the tests clearly prove the favourable effect of a
coating on top of the yarns. Stabilenka reinforcing fabrics, which are
woven like common fabrics, are available in strengths ranging from 150
to 1000 kN/m. Fortrac geogrids which are made of the same polyester
yarns as load carrying members have a PVC coating for UV protection





W e l l graded Fill
of m a x i m u m
P a r t i c l e Size

Recommended Partial Reduction

F a c t o r fm
> 55


> 400

< 55


















n nfi



Table 1 Mechanical damage factors

and protection against mechanical damage. The effects of this coating

on the mechanical damage factors can be clearly seen in Table 1. Fortrac
geogrids are available in strengths ranging from 20 to 110 kN/m.
Bblogical attack Prolonged tests executed at Sikkens' laboratories to
investigate the strength reduction of polymeric materials in bacterio
logical environments, such as are commonly found in soil, confirmed
the assumption that most polymers are not susceptible to biological





pH > 9
pH 8 - 5
pH < 4


Table 2 Recommended partial reduction factors for chemical environment

attack. Directly after the tests had started, for polyester a strength
reduction of 2% was measured. This value remained constant for the
rest of the test period (18 months). In this case a reduction factor of 1.02
may be observed. However, often simply 1.0 is used as the 2% reduction
may easily fall within the accuracy limits of the tests and within those
of the calculation method.

Chemical conditions At several research institutes, polyester yarns

and fabrics have been tested in the past decades for the effects of
hundreds of different chemicals in various combinations. While the pH
value is often used to indicate the type of chemical we found that it is
not always reliable. In general, the institutes arrived at the same con
clusions. In normal soil conditions no strength reduction has been found
(pH 9-5). At high acidic levels a reduction has been found and a
reduction factor of 1.05 is advised (pH <4). In alkaline conditions (pH
> 10), polyester is affected by hydrolysis. This occurs at higher tempera
tures (above 30... 40 C) and in combination with water and in a highly
alkaline environment. Under normal soil conditions no hydrolysis ef
fects are to be expected. For pH >10 we advise a reduction factor of 1.12.
In any extreme condition, especially if the soil contains alkaline chemi
cals and temperature might exceed the normal ground temperatures it
is advisable to contact the polyester producer for detailed information.
An extensive testing programme for analysing the hydrolysis effects at
various temperatures and in combination with various chemicals is
currently being developed at Drexel University (Geotechnical Research
Institute) under the direction of Professor R. Koerner. The results of this
programme have been made known at the 4th International Conference
on Geotextiles and Geomembranes in The Hague in May 1990.
Factor for extrapolation deviations
Jewell and Greenwood recom
mend factor Fi to compensate for any uncertainties resulting from



deficient test data or an extrapolation covering more than 1 log cycle.

This factor may vary between 1.0 and 2.2. For Stabilenka and Fortrac
this factor is often 1.0.
Safety factor Depending on the calculation method used, the safety
factor may be introduced in the allowable strength calculation of the
reinforcing mat or in the geotechnical calculation of the structure. In
Great Britain it is common practice to introduce a safety factor in the
allowable strength calculation of 1.35.

Any reinforcing geotextile or geogrid must transfer the force gener
ated in it to the surrounding soil. This transference is effected through
friction or adhesion. The adhesion of a mat is dependent on the soil type
and the type and surface configuration of the reinforcing mat
In the past years a great many investigations and tests have been
carried out to analyse the physical phenomena of bonding and adhesion
of geogrids or geotextiles in the ground. The tests included direct
shearing and pull-out tests. Furthermore, the junction strength between
ribs and bars of a geogrid has been discussed at length. Looking at the
soil mechanical aspects of this type of anchoring mat, we find as
boundary condition:
- The maximum force that can be transferred from the reinforcement
to the surrounding soil is limited to the maximum shear force in a plane
just above and under the reinforcing mat
F =

2 . C . L (in case of undrained condition)


or in case of drained condition

F = [(c'+a'. a. tan <)>' )L]soil 1 + [(C + a a .tan <t>')L] ^ 1 2


apparent cohesion of the soil (kN/m )

angle of internal friction in the soil
tan 8' / tan &
effective angle of soil geogrid shearing resistance

a can never be higher than 1.

When we evaluate the pull-out and shear test resistance results, it will
be clear that the factor a is determined by pull-out results when
F < 2 . a. a. tan
Due to the different stress conditions and because only sliding planes
just above and under the grid are included in this test, it is mostly found
that the value of a is determined by direct shear properties in the
surrounding soil and not by the pull-out properties found.



Coefficient of interaction



0/3 mm

0,83 - 0,90


Medium gravel

0/32 mm

0,83 - 0,86

0,9 - 1,0

Coarse gravel

0/65 mm

0,83 - 0,86


Clay /

lower boundary of
shear resistance
of soil in
undrained condition


Table 3 Coefficients of interaction

The boundary condition with regards to the junction strength is that

the geogrid must be able to transfer the load to the surrounding soil
without loss of the grid's integrity. It is useful to apply the same safety
factor to this requirement as is used for calculating the anchor length
(FS = 1.5).
At Munster University Road Research Laboratory in Karlsruhe (FRG)
and very recently by TRRL (UK) tests have been performed to determine
the bond properties of Fortrac geogrids. Stabilenka reinforcing fabrics
have been tested in shear boxes under the direction of Dr T.S. Ingold.
Based on these tests we recommend the coefficient of interaction as
shown in Table 3.
1. Veldhuijzen van Zanten, R., Geotextiles and Geomembranes in Civil
Engineering, A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, 1986, p. 434
2. Voskamp, W. and Risseeuw, P., "Method to establish the maxi
mum allowable load under working conditions of polyester reinforcing
fabrics". Geotextiles & Geomembranes, Vol. 6 (1987) 173 -184
3. Myles, B., Paper 7A/7. Third International Conference on Geotextiles
1986, Vienna.
4. Veldhuijzen van Zanten, R. Geotextiles and Geomembranes in Civil
Engineering. A. A. Balkema, Rotterdam, 1986, pp. 115 -130
5. Jewell, R.A., and Greenwood, V.H., "Long term strength and
safety in steep soil slopes reinforced by polymer mat". Geotextiles and
Geomembranes, Vol. 7 (1988) 81-118
6. Troost, G.H., "Resistance of geotextiles to physical, chemical and
microbiological attacks". Proc. of the 1st German National Conference on
Geotextiles, Mainz,




7. Den Hoedt, G., "Creep and relaxation of geotextile fabrics".

Vol. 4 (1986) 83-92
8. Koerner, T.F., and Lord, A.E., "Effect of high levels of alkalinity
on geotextiles".Geote:rti7es and Geomembranes, Vol. 5, (1987) 261 - 282
9. Cooke, T.F., and Rebenfeld, L "Effect of chemical composition
and physical structure of geotextiles on their durability". Geotextiles and
Geotextiles and Geomembranes,

Geomembranes, Vol. 7 (1988) 2 - 22

10. Ingold, T.S., Bond Properties of Stabilenka. Enka publication, 1985

11. Greenwood, J. H. and Jewell, R. A., "Strength and safety: the use
of mechanical property data". Reinforced Embankments: theory and practice
in the British Isles. Thomas Telford, London, 1990


6. S t r e n g t h a n d safety: t h e u s e of m e c h a n i c a l p r o p e r t y data

J. H . GREENWOOD, BA, PhD, CPhys, ERA Technology Limited, and

R. A. JEWELL, BA, PhD, CEng, MICE, University of Oxford

Design of reinforced structures for a long service life requires extensive
property data. The data will differ according to whether the critical
design parameter is a maximum strain or elongation or where it is long
term strength. This paper outlines current information on polyester,
polyethylene and polypropylene geotextiles and indicates the levels of
safety factor that should be applied when such information is available
and when it is not.
The engineer designing with a geotextile should have no difficulty in
obtaining from the manufacturer details of its mechanical strength,
puncture and tear resistance and generic chemical type. He is quite
likely to receive details of the modulus, elongation at break and creep
behaviour over a limited duration. For a few products there may be data
on stress-rupture (lifetime under constant load) and on the reduction in
strength following immersion in various chemicals for a limited time.
There may in addition be information available on similar products
which will give him guidance on long-term creep or inherent sensitivity
to chemicals. He is very unlikely to have access to the detailed compo
sition or structure of the textile, or to have any information on the likely
mechanical damage or long-term lifetime in the fill concerned.
The purpose of this paper is to address the particular question of
mechanical property data and its application in embankments where
the reinforcement must remain effective over a long period of time. It
will review the available information and will advise on how the
engineer should proceed with or without that information. For a more
detailed description with further diagrams and a full list of references
the reader is referred to Ref.l. There are, in addition, an increasing
number of handbooks (e.g. Refs 2,3), and further Codes of Practice are
in preparation.
There is a major difference between structures for which the critical
design parameter is strain (or elongation, or extension), such as a

L o Q d

/-Ultimate fensiie
/ strength

Strain or elongation
Fig. 1 Example of a stress-strain curve for geotextile (after Ref. 4)

reinforced wall, and those for which it is strength, such as an embank

ment on soft soil. What may be new to the engineer unfamiliar with
plastics is the time dependence of these properties: under sustained
load a geotextile extends; at high loads it may rupture; while under
constant strain (fixed dimensions) a pre-tension will relax. These three
effects are known respectively as creep, stress rupture and stress relax
Under BS 6906 Part 1 strength is measured on a 200 mm wide sample
of geotextile strained at 10% per minute. The grips may be adapted to
suit the product concerned: roller grips for textiles, shaped clamps for
geogrids. Values of tensile strength, expressed in kN/m, are generally
comparable and form the starting point for reinforcement selection and
The strain data is less precisely defined. The load-strain curve of a
textile fibre is generally non-linear (Fig.l), and this is reflected in the
behaviour of a textile manufactured from it with the addition of a strain
contribution from the weave of the fibre. It is often difficult to define
the point on the curve at which the load actually starts to increase and
which forms the zero from which strains are measured.
Due to variations in the manufacturing process, the load and more
particularly the strain data can be subject to a level of scatter, details of
which are rarely available to the user. Most manufacturers will quote
a guaranteed, or 'characteristic' value, but if this is not so a factor of
safety must be applied. Details of this are given under Proposed Safety




Creep is the process by which the dimensions of the material under

load change with time. For most engineering metals and glasses, creep
is usually only significant at temperatures above about 300 C. Creep at
ambient temperatures is normal for polymers, however, which is why
it is so important for design. The relative magnitude of the creep
deformation depends on the physical state of the polymer, and hence
on both its chemical composition and its processing. Following a de
mand from users of geotextiles, an increasing amount of creep data is
being made available (Ref.l).
The data from creep tests are usually presented directly as total strain
(strain on loading plus time-dependent strain) against the logarithm of
time for a series of loads. It is particularly important to check the scales
of a diagram, however, since the same data can appear totally different
when plotted on linear and logarithmic scales and can lead to widely




i strain


7ime (linear)

Time (logj


Time (logi

Fig. 2 Examples of the presentation of creep data



differing extrapolations and conclusions (Fig.2). Taking intercepts at

given times and plotting the resulting curves of load against strain
provides a series of isochronous curves, which are used widely in
design. Taking intercepts at given strains leads to isometric curves. It
is particularly important that the strain quoted is total strain and not
simply its time-dependent component since for polymers, unlike me
tals, the two cannot easily be separated from one another. Finally, it is
important that the creep curve indicates clearly what is experimental
data and what is extrapolation.


Creep data for polyester yarns has been presented in Refs 1,4 and 5.
Plotted on a logarithmic scale against time (t), the strain e is almost
e =

A + B In t

A and B are constants. The equation implies that the strain rate is falling
in inverse proportion to time:
e =


There is no evidence of accelerated creep close to rupture although

there is a detectable change of curvature when strain is plotted against
log (time).
The general creep rate, although low for all polyester geotextiles,
depends upon the detailed microstructure and processing, over which
the user has no control. Ref 6 describes the differences in creep between
two polyester yarns differing in crystallite size and in the number of
bonds between crystallite and amorphous phase and indicates the
importance of the latter.
As described under Polyester, the elongation due to the removal of
crimp on initial loading can make a considerable contribution to the total
extension in a woven geotextile, and this appears to be the principal
discrepancy between the creep of a woven material and that of its
constituent yarns. Once the yarns have been straightened, the sub
sequent performance would be expected to be similar. Diolen fabrics
are reported to have a straight weave which should successfully mini
mise the additional extension. Where practicable, however, creep data
should be determined directly on the fabric, or else a comparison should
be provided to demonstrate that the creep of fabric and weave can be
easily related to one another.



Polyester fibre yarns sheathed in polyethylene have a measured creep

behaviour that has been shown to be comparable with the polyester
yarns themselves (Ref.l).



In contrast to polyester, polypropylene yarns extend less on initial

loading but more strongly when the load is maintained. The increased
tendency to creep is attributed to the increased slip mobility of polypro
pylene molecules and to the lower temperature of molecular transitions
in the material. Since creep depends strongly on molecular weight and
draw ratio, one polypropylene product may creep substantially more
than another. Mir-Arabchahi (Ref.5) has indicated that, for both poly
esters and polypropylenes, the isochronous curves are straight and
converge on a point of non-zero load and extension when the load is
corrected for the change in cross-sectional area of the yarn, results of
which we are unable to reproduce.
Extensive creep data are also available for polyethylene grids. In
general, the rate of creep decreases with time until at very high strains
it accelerates prior to rupture. This is described in more detail later in
this paper. Measurements have also been made at different service

It was mentioned that the strain properties of geotextiles can be

subject to variation. Much of this can be attributed to the contribution
of the strain due to the crimp of the woven materials as well as to the
manner in which testing is carried out. In an effort to eliminate this
problem methods under development for the measurement of creep,
such as the draft BS 6906 Part 5, require a preload equal to 1% of the
breaking load to be applied and that all strains are measured from this
point. As previously mentioned, a factor of safety will be recommended
to make allowance for this.

Increasing temperature accelerates creep in a polymer.

In general it is necessary to perform separate creep tests over the
expected service temperature range. The temperature sensitivity of the
different polymers used varies widely, as indicated below in section 3.8,
and there is as yet no proven law for summing the effects of creep under
varying temperature. Unless such tests are made, the maximum service
temperature should be selected as the design temperature. No addi
tional safety factor is then required. Fortunately, the temperature in the
ground in the UK is relatively constant, although care is needed close



to the concrete facings of reinforced soil walls where greater tempera

ture fluctuations can be encountered (Ref.7).


The soil environment has both chemical and mechanical influences

on reinforcement behaviour. Chemical degradation principally affects
strength rather than strain. Soil also confines the reinforcement and
restricts the freedom for lateral contraction under load, hence altering
the load-extension properties compared with the measurements on
'unconfined' material in air (Ref.8), particularly for non woven materi
als. However, tests in soil have indicated only a small influence of
confinement for reinforcing geotextiles such as woven geotextiles and
drawn grids. If there is a discrepancy between the confined and the
unconfined properties, the more reproducible test measurements on
unconfined material will at least be conservative.



There is as yet no rule available to describe the strain on a geotextile

under varying loads, whether these be single changes brought about
during the construction process, slowly varying loads such as tides, or
rapidly varying loads as will be generated by traffic. If the load is
reduced, a polymer will generally retract with time in a manner similar
to creep. It is unlikely, however, that a geotextile will return to its
original dimensions, particularly when there is a strain contribution
from the weave, so that there will remain a level of Irrecoverable' strain.
No numerical data are yet available for these processes and it is prudent
to base the design on maximum load, although special positions apply
when this load is only expected for very short durations, e.g. in the case
of earthquakes.
One particularly important case is that of stress relaxation. In a
prestressed structure whose dimensions are fixed, the role of the rein
forcement is to maintain permanent compression in the soil and prevent
movement or cracking under service loads. In such cases the reinforce
ment will not extend; instead, the load introduced by initial pre-tensioning will gradually relax and could ultimately reach a level at which the
reinforcement is no longer effective. Design must be based on the
tension remaining at the end of design life.
There are practically no data available on the stress relaxation of
geotextile reinforcements, although some relevant data on fatigue and
stress relaxation is given in Ref.9 for polyester ropes. A simple indica
tion of the tendency of a material to relax can be obtained from the
isometric creep curves (Fig.2) and provides a first estimate of the beha
viour of a pretensioned tie under fixed dimensions.





Since transportation authorities can require design lifetimes of up to

120 years it is obvious that the data will require extensive extrapolation.
Creep and stress-rupture curves can be extrapolated by eye, that is by
the draughtsman's judgement of the most plausible extension of a line
or a curve. Such extrapolation appears more credible if the information
can be plotted to give a straight line, or otherwise fitted to an empirical
mathematical formula. Although empirical laws are useful, and appear
to give some credibility, they must be treated with caution unless they
can be shown to relate to actual physical mechanisms. All extrapolation,
whether by eye or by calculation, whether or not supported by physical
evidence, assumes that the mechanisms of creep and rupture remain the
same. If they do not, the extrapolation is invalid.
It is general practice not to extrapolate by more than one decade of
time (i.e. from 100 to lOOOh, or from 1 to 10 years) without supporting
evidence. This implies that a 120 year lifetime still requires results based
on 12 years' testing. One method of reducing this duration is by
accelerated testing, the most common method of which is to raise the
temperature. Creep tests are carried out over a range of temperatures
and are then compared by eye to produce time-temperature shifts.
Available data indicates that a shift of 10C corresponds to a time
acceleration of between 2 and 6 for the creep of polyester, between 4 and
6 for polypropylene and approximately 11 for polyethylene grid. In
theory, therefore a 100 hour isochronous curve for polyethylene grid at
20 C may be treated as a 1100 hour isochronous curve for 10C, or as the
9 hour curve at 30 C.
This technique can be extremely valuable. However, such estimates
must be treated as an aid to extrapolation and not as absolute values.
Measurements at the design temperature are essential. Care must be
taken that there are no physical transitions indicating a change in
polymer structure within the range of temperatures. Due to physical
ageing effects the stiffness properties deduced from accelerated testing
at elevated temperatures may be conservative when compared with the
actual properties at the (lower) design temperature, that is the strain due
to a given load would be overestimated. There must be no visual or
graphical evidence, such as an abrupt change in slope of any curve
plotted against temperature, that the processes governing creep are in
any way different under the accelerated conditions. If there is, extrapo
lation cannot be carried out.
Extrapolation based on accelerated testing should not exceed two
decades of time (a factor of 100) beyond the longest duration measured
under reference conditions. Factors of safety for data extrapolated ten
times and, with the support of accelerated data, 100 times, are given at
the end.


In all cases where accelerated data are used for design ERA recom
mends that long-term tests under reference or maximum design service
conditions should be set up as early as possible to validate the data, or
alternatively to provide due warning to the user of any unpredicted
change in behaviour.

Ultimately, a polymer material held under a sustained load below its

short-term strength may break. This phenomenon is known as creeprupture, stress-rupture or static fatigue, and is common in most materi
als. Stress-rupture generally involves time-dependent mechanisms
leading to a condition at which the material can no longer sustain the
applied load. This can occur, for example, at a critical strain, due to
breaking of molecular bonds to a critical chain length or molecular
weight, or due to growth of a flaw to a critical size.
Stress-rupture data are particularly subject to scatter and it is fre
quently necessary to repeat tests many times to have sufficient con
fidence to carry out extrapolation. At least 12 separate tests are likely
to be necessary to define a stress-rupture line over a range of stresses
under otherwise identical conditions. Many more tests are required if
statistical confidence limits are to be established. An example for
polymer materials is the work on polyaramid where extensive testing
has allowed the determination of the confidence limits.
Considering that design is most commonly governed by strength
rather than stiffness, it is surprising that stress-rupture, and the mech
anisms of long term failure, have not received more attention to date for
polymer reinforcement materials.

The stress-rupture diagram for polyester yarns as given by Voskamp

(Ref.4) indicates a linear reduction in strength with the logarithm of
time. The fracture mechanism of polyester fibres broken in creep is
similar to that in a normal tensile test and consists of crack initiation at
the fracture surface, slow propagation across the cross-section of the
fibre with some plastic deformation ahead of the crack tip, followed by
rapid failure (Ref.6).



There is very little information on the long term stress rupture of

drawn polypropylene. Takaku (Ref. 10) presents a plot of stress-rupture
against the logarithm of time for drawn polypropylene which is non-li
near; he also demonstrates the application of time-temperature shifting
to generate accelerated data.


In drawn polyethylene it has been shown that there are two thermally
actuated mechanisms present (Ref.l 1). The first dominates the initial
creep but reduces with strain rate inversely proportional to time until it
reaches a level at which the second mechanism prevails, yielding a
constant strain rate up to ultimate failure. Evaluation of this constant
strain rate for different stresses will produce a relation that can be
extrapolated to lower rates at lower stresses and thus longer times. This
method has been applied to linear polyethylene strip but has yet to be
presented for polyethylene grids. Application to polypropylene should
also be possible. There is no evidence of such a dual activation mech
anism in polyesters.
The other approach to stress-rupture is to assume a conservative
strain limit for rupture and to predict the time taken to approach this
limit from the creep data.
Considerable mention has been made of the so called brittle fracture
of polyethylenes. This is based on the very extensive work that has been
carried out on polyethylene pipes where there has been shown to be a
dual stress-rupture mechanism yielding a stress-rupture curve of dual
slope and a reduction in strain to failure at very long durations (Fig.3).
The situation has been complicated by early descriptions of 'brittle'
failure in polypropylene geogrids to describe a reduction in strain at
failure from about 25 to 15%: by no means a brittle failure in the manner
of steels at low temperature or the stress corrosion of glass fibre re
inforced plastic.



10"' 10







Fig. 3 Stress rupture of polyethylene pipes (after Ref. 12)




Only when a very large number of results are available, such as for
the rupture of polyaramid filaments (600 tests Ref.13), is it possible
to apply safety factors based on statistical confidence limits. In other
cases a safety factor must be estimated from the variation in short-term
strength, if known, or a general figure applied.
The relation between the long term stress-rupture behaviour of a
textile and that of the component yarn has not yet been established and
will depend upon the manner in which the load in a broken fibre is
transferred to its neighbours, the tendency to tear and the sensitivity of
rupture lifetime to small increases in load.

Time-temperature shifting has been used to provide accelerated

stress-rupture data of polypropylene (see Polypropylene and
polyethylene above) and for polyethylene pipes; its application where
more than one thermally activated mechanism is present would not be
advisable. Design with any geotextile to a strength criterion for a
temperature environment above that at which test results are available
will require the application of a large safety factor.


Polymer reinforcement can be damaged during construction. Physi

cal damage can include punctures to the fabric, tearing, pierced holes in
which the yarns are separated but not torn, as well as abrasion of the
yarns themselves. Such damage would be expected to reduce the
lifetime of the fabric under load.
Further abrasion damage would be expected from loads applied in
use, particularly those due to road or rail traffic.
There have been many tests in which geotextiles have been buried in
soil, extracted and in some cases mechanically tested, but little syste
matic study of the nature of the damage. The effect of angular gravel
and sand on a geogrid has been described by Bush (Ref.14). Apart from
general abrasion, the only damage observed was incidental splits,
bruises and edge fibrillation. At no point was a single grid element fully
Mechanical damage locally reduces the cross-section of the material
supporting the load, thereby locally raising the stress. The time re
quired to cause stress-rupture at the damaged section will be corre
spondingly reduced. However, because the damage is local, the overall
shape of the load-extension curve, which is dominated by the bulk of
undamaged material, will remain almost unchanged (Fig.4). Thus
mechanical damage is likely to reduce the strength properties of
polymer reinforcement materials while having little effect on the stiff93


ness properties. The extension to rupture will be reduced similarly.

Constant rate of strain tests on recovered samples of damaged geogrid
show almost no change in stiffness, a small reduction in peak load, but
a more significant reduction in strain to rupture.
ERA is currently investigating the effect of mechanical damage on
subsequent properties for a variety of geotextiles. There is, however, no
simple test suitable for estimating the susceptibility of a geotextile to
mechanical damage and actual performance tests are recommended for
angular or aggressive fill material. An abrasion test is being evaluated
by ASTM and a combination of a puncture and tensile test might be
considered. Based on existing evidence, a range of partial factors is


The ability of geotextiles to withstand the chemical environment of

the soil over a long period of time has attracted considerable attention
(Refs 1,15-18). The principal areas of concern include oxidation, hydro
lysis, alkaline attack, ultraviolet light and biological effects. All of these
could be expected to reduce the strength of the material.
On the other hand, additives are available and are very extensively
used to counteract these effects. Geotextiles usually contain both carbon
black to reduce the effects of ultraviolet light and anti-oxidants. While
users of polymers seldom receive information upon the nature or quan
tity of the additives, results to date indicate that in the short term
geotextile products are resistant to typical soil environments. The
question now becomes whether the additives remain effective
throughout the lifetime of the geotextile, or whether in time they can be
removed physically, such as by leaching, or by being rendered chemi
cally neutral. Long term and accelerated tests are therefore essential.
Tests to establish the chemical durability of geotextiles are generally
carried out by immersing the material in appropriate liquids for a period
of time and determining any reduction in strength with a short-term
tensile test. It is possible to introduce a level of acceleration by increas
ing either the temperature or the chemical concentration, but com
parative tests are still necessary to determine the accelerating factor
All the materials mentioned are sensitive to oxidation promoted by
light (photo oxidation) or temperature and they therefore contain one
or more stabilisers which effectively counteract these effects. With
polyesters the degradation mechanism of more concern is hydrolysis.
Compared with the fibres used, for example, in shirts, the polyesters
used in geotextiles and in tyre reinforcements have an improved struc
ture, with a particularly low carboxyl end group count, to make them
more resistant to the initiation of hydrolysis. The area for immediate


concern is the highly acid or alkaline soils at the ends of the pH scale
(pH<4, pH>10).
There is undoubtedly much work that needs to be done before the
engineer can be provided with reliable test results on which he may base
a 120 year design life with confidence. Such tests may involve more
sophisticated polymer analytical techniques to determine the onset of
degradation (Ref.16). They may require more detailed analysis of the
soil: it has been proposed that certain metal ions may promote oxida
tion and the Swiss tests (Ref .3) already require immersion in more than
one alkaline solution. They could require a sequence of more than one
treatment to detect the leaching of anti-oxidants or the sensitisation of
anti-oxidants by ultra violet light, or the simultaneous application of
load in order to detect environmental stress cracking. Work is under
way in several countries to investigate this area further.
Meanwhile, the engineer has little information on which to base his
design and will necessarily have to apply a safety factor.
It is assumed that the design is based on the best available estimate
of the properties extrapolated to the end of the design life at the service
temperature. Until better data are available, this temperature should be
the maximum at which the reinforcement will be required to support
sustained stress. The two principal mechanical properties are strength
and stiffness which will be used according to whether the critical design
criterion is rupture or maximum strain.
The extrapolated value of strain, or of the load required to achieve a
limit strain at the design life of the structure, should be subject to a single
safety factor to allow for material variability. Assuming that the creep
Table 1 Proposed safety factors
mechanical damage fd:
rising to coarse fills



environmental effects f nv:

outside pH range 4 to 10



material factor f ;
extrapolation 10 x
extrapolation 100 x
Total minimum safety factor

no extrapolation



* To be determined.



data presented are based on mean rather than maximum values, it is

proposed that this factor should be 1.15.
The extrapolated value of characteristic strength determined from the
reference properties of polymer reinforcement is then reduced by:
- a damage factor fd
- an environmental factor f nv
- a material factor as f
The proposed values of these factors are given in Table 1 and illus
trated in Fig.5.
Should the tensile strength of the material not be a minimum or
characteristic value, a further factor should be applied for which a value
of 1.15 is recommended.
It is recognised that to propose safety factors to cover all materials is
a major generalisation which is likely to be pessimistic with regard to
manufacturers who provide detailed evidence of the long-term perfor
mance of their materials. With such information it is expected that
different safety factors will emerge for each type of material and accord
ing to whether a strain or rupture criterion is used for design. The
authors would welcome further evidence on which such factors can be
The procedure outlined above determines the maximum allowable
(or available) force that polymer reinforcement can be relied upon to
deliver at the end of the design life. A calculation for the maximum




Rupture strength in the ground

Allowable reinforcement force


Oesign required force

Time (logarithmic scale)


Fig. 5 Diagram showing the safety factors used in the design of a reinforcement



required force to ensure satisfactory equilibrium in the reinforced soil

structure is also required for design. Allowance for the uncertainties in
the soil properties, pore water pressures and applied loadings must be
made in this second calculation (factor f in Fig.5), as discussed in the
papers on design presented at this symposium, and in Ref.l.

John Greenwood thanks the directors of ERA Technology Ltd for
permission to publish. A co-operatively sponsored programme of longterm testing of yarns, grids, woven and sheathed materials is currently
in progress at ERA.
1. Jewell, R.A. and Greenwood, J.H. Long term strength and safety
in steep soil slopes reinforced by polymer materials. Geotextiles and
geomembranes, 1988, vol.7, pp.81-118.
2. Veldhuijzen van Zanten, R.ed. Geotextiles and geomembranes in civil
engineering. Rotterdam, 1986.

3. Ruegger, R., Ammann, J.F., Jaecklin, F.P. Das Geotextilhandbuch/Le

Vogt-Schild, Solothurn/Soleure, 1985.
4. Voskamp, W. Determination of allowable strength of polyester
reinforcing fabrics. In: Reinforced embankments: theory and practice in the
British Isles. Thomas Telford, London, 1990.
5. Mir-Arabchahi, N. Fluage des mat6riaux textiles utilise dans les
ouvrages de g6nie civil. These de docteur, L'Ecole Central des Arts et
Manufactures, Paris, 1985. Some of the results are presented in Leclercq,
B. Fluage compare defils de polyester et de polypropylene. In Ref.l, pp39-51.
6. Oudet Ch. and Bunsell, A.R. Effects of structure on the tensile,
creep and fatigue properties of polyesterfibres.] Materials Science, 1987,
vol.22, pp.4292-4298.
7. Murray, R.T. and Farrar, D.M. Temperature distributions in rein
forced soil retaining walls. Geotextiles and Geomembranes 1988, vol.7,
8. Fock, G. and McGown, A. Analyse des mechanischen Langzeitverhaltens von Geotextilien. l.Kongress Kunststoffe in der Geotechnik,
Hamburg, ppll9-126: Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Erd- und Grundbau
e.V., Essen, 1988.
9. Chambers, JJ. Long term properties of Parafil, and Crawford, H.
and McTernan, L.M. Fatigue properties of Parafil. Symposium on
Engineering applications of Parafil ropes, ed Burgoyne, C.J. pp21-27and
29-38. Imperial College, London, 1988.
10. Takaku, A. Effect of drawing on creep fracture of polypropylene
fibres. / Applied Polymer Science, 1981, vol.26,3565-3573.
manuel des geotextiles.



11. Wilding, MA. and Ward LM. Creep and recovery of high mo
dulus polyethylene. Polymer, 1981, voL22, pp870-876.
12. Kinloch, AJ. and Young, RJ. Fracture behaviour of Polymers, p213.
Applied Science, London and New York, 1983, quoting Gaube, E. and
Kausch, H.H., Kunststoffe, 1973, vol.63, p391.
13. Glaser, R.E., Moore R.L. and Chiao, T.T. Life estimation of
aramid/epoxy composites under sustained tension. Composite Technol
ogy Review, 1984, vol.6, No.2, pp26-35.
14. Bush, D.I. Evaluation of the effects of construction activities on
the physical properties of polymeric soil reinforcing elements. Interna
tional Geotechnical Symposium on theory and practice of Earth Reinforcement.

Fukuoka, Japan, pp63-68. Balkema, Rotterdam 1988.

15. Rilem. Durability of Geotextiles. Chapman and Hall, London and
New York, 1988.
16. Horrocks, D. and D'Souza, J. The durability of geotextiles. Textile
Horizons, 1989, February, pp24-27.
17. Montalvo, J.R. Evaluation of the degradation of geotextiles.
Geosynthetics '89 Conference, pp501-512, San Diego, 1989.
18. Koerner, R.M. and Bowman, H.D. (EDS.) Durability and ageing of
geosynthetics. Drexel University, Philadelphia 1988.


7. T h e p h i l o s o p h y of s p e c i f i c a t i o n a n d testing of
geotextiles f o r r e i n f o r c e m e n t

S. P. C O R B E T , CEng, MICE, G. Maunsell and Partners

Many engineers have specified, and still do specify geotextiles by
reference to a particular product name. Problems arise during the tender
period when tenderers are offered alternative materials by suppliers,
but do not have any guidance by which to judge the alternative's
suitability for the project. This problem continues onto site when the
Engineer's Representative is asked to accept the alternative geotextile
by the Contractor. Unless the Engineer's Representative has been
briefed by the designer as to which properties are relevant and the
maximum and minimum values required, how can he judge the suita
bility of the alternative?
1. The design of geotextiles as reinforcement is dealt with in the
papers by Greenwood and Jewell (ref. 1) and Hird (ref. 2). These papers
identify the parameters and properties which an engineer needs to
quantify in his design calculations with the partial factors needed to
provide the necessary degree of safety for both short term and long term
2. The design processes used to define a reinforced embankment will
result in the engineer needing to quantify the following index properties
for the geotextiles:
i) Tensile Strength (BS6906 Part 1) (ref. 3)
ii) Apparent Pore Size (BS6906 Part 2) (ref. 4)
iii) Water Permeability (BS6906 Part 3) (ref. 5)
iv) Puncture Resistance (BS6906 Part 4* and Part 6*) (refs. 6 and 8)
v) Creep Properties (BS6906 Part 5*) (ref. 7)
vi) Soil/Geotextile Friction (BS6906 Part 8*) (ref. 10)
vii) Tear Resistance (ASTM D4533-85) (Ref. 11)
*Not yet published

3. In addition to the mechanical properties defined in paragraph 2

the designer may specify other properties of the geotextile to ensure that





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materials appropriate to the project and site conditions prevailing are

selected. These properties would be selected from the following:
i) Type of polymer used in manufacture
ii) Process used to manufacture the geotextile
iii) Mass per unit area
iv) Thickness, under specified loadings
4. The relevance of these properties to the short and long term
performance of reinforced embankments will be identified during the
design. Table 1 gives a guide to the properties which should be con
sidered in these cases and during installation for most embankments
relying on a geotextile for support.
5. Other than the many individual specifications produced by engin
eers for particular projects there are currently no UK national docu
ments published which give guidance to specification writers.
6. The Department of Transport's "Specification for Highway Works"
1986, series 600, (ref. 12) includes details of the requirements required
of geotextiles for separation (Clause 609), where geotextiles are required
to reinforce embankments (Clause 621) the engineer is left to produce
his own specification (Appendix 6/9).
7. A draft document "Specification for the Use of Geotextiles and
Related Materials" (ref. 13) has been published for comment by the
Institution of Civil Engineers. This document is the first comprehensive
document covering all aspects of the specification of geotextiles. The
draft document includes clauses covering workmanship, mechanical
properties, index properties, durability, sampling and testing of geotex
tiles for most civil engineering applications. The draft has been circu
lated for comments and its formal publication is expected in late 1990 or
early 1991.
8. The use of standard specifications or extracts from them included
in particular documents, is to be encouraged as this practice will allow
contractors, suppliers and those involved with the approval and testing
laboratories to avoid confusion. The selection of the geotextile to per
form the functions required by the designer will be clearly identified,
with maximum and minimum values of individual geotextile properties
clearly defined. It should be noted that the B.S. tests being published
are index rather than performance tests.
9. Tensile Strength The basic function expressing the strength of the
reinforcement, it is important to make sure the warp (major or roll
direction) and the weft (minor or cross roll direction) strengths are
adequate, making due allowances for damage and creep. A consider
ation needs to be made of how fill will be placed and it may be necessary


(a) Compressive block jaws: serrated wedge

(c) Locked roller jaw

Fig. 1 Typical jaw arrangements for tensile tests

to lay reinforcement in two layers to provide adequate strength to suit

the filling sequence. Measurement of tensile strength is made using the
wide strip tensile strength test BS6906 Part 1 (ref. 3) using a 200 mm
wide sample, other standard tests are carried out using other widths.
The measured tensile strength will vary when narrower, usually 50 mm,
width samples are tested. Clamping arrangements for the reinforce
ment may also affect the results, care is needed to ensure failure takes
place outside the clamps holding the geotextile. Figure 1 shows typical
clamping arrangements used for tests to BS 6906 Part 1.
10. Water Permeability This property is only important when, as is
often the case, the reinforcement serves a dual function as a filter and
reinforcement. In a dual role the reinforcement/filter is usually only
required to pass relatively low water volumes but often at a low head.
The permeability function may vary with strain, but this variation is
difficult to measure. Permeability is measured using the procedure in
BS6906 Part 3 (ref.5), a 50 mm dia. sample of material is subject to a water
head of 100 mm and the quantity of water passing through is measured.
The permeability of the geotextile is given as the flow through the
geotextile (1/sec/m ) at the specified head. Figure 2 shows a typical
arrangement for this test to BS 6906 Part 3.
Other standard procedures may vary the testing arrangement, but
results of tests are similar provided that the applied heads are the same.
Some reinforcements are difficult to test as air is trapped within or on
the fibre structure during the test. The initial breakthrough or water
support head, the head when water first flows through the geotextile,


Water supply

Fig. 2 BS 6906 Part 3, typical test arrangement

is also measured in this test, a parameter which is important when low

water heads are being considered.
11. Apparent Pore Size Only important when the reinforcement is
used as a filter, as it is essential to ensure that the geotextile is able to
retain the finer fraction of soils. As with permeability the effective pore
size can vary with strain but measurement of this variation is not
possible using the current British Standard procedures. The current
standard is BS6906 Part 2 (ref. 4) a procedure using standard cut glass
beads of controlled sizes, the percentage of each size passing through
the geotextile is determined by dry sieving. The results can be presented
in a manner similar to a soil grading on a semi logarithmic plot. The
effective opening size of the geotextile, is that dimension at which 90%
of a size of beads pass the geotextile and is defined as the "O90"/ the
apparent pore size.
12. Puncture Resistance The puncture resistance is a measurement of
the geotextile resistance to damage by sharp stones etc. on the founda
tion or in the first layer of fill. The geotextile puncture resistance can be
measured using the CBR puncture test, BS6906 Part 4 (ref. 6) or the Cone
Drop test BS6906 Part 6* (ref. 8). The CBR value is the force required to
push a 50 mm diameter plunger through the geotextile and the Drop
Cone value is the diameter of the hole formed in the geotextile by a
standard cone dropped from a standard height. Figure 3a shows the


Fig. 3a CBR puncture test apparatus

Fig. 3b Drop cone penetration test apparatus



typical arrangement for the CBR test to BS 6906 Part 4 and Figure 3b the
arrangement and equipment for the Drop Cone test to BS 6906 Part 6.
13. Creep The creep or extension of the geotextile under sustained
load is critical to the long term performance. All polymers used in the
manufacture of geotextiles exhibit creep to some extent, the actual creep
is load, temperature and time dependent. Tests are time consuming as
it is essential to extend the tests over the full time of the structure's life.
The testing time can be shortened by carrying out the tests at raised
temperatures. The test procedure will be set out in BS6906 Part 5 (ref.
14. Soil Fabric/Friction The soil/geotextile friction is used to deter
mine the bond length of geotextile needed beyond the critical zone or
to determine the force available to resist the lateral pressures within the
fill. The value is determined by a pull out or shear test, BS6906 Part 8*
(ref. 10). The pull out test is an arrangement in which a piece of
geotextile is pulled out from soil with varying surcharge loads, and in
the shear test the geotextile is fixed and the soil is moved. Figure 4
shows a typical arrangement for both tests.
Problems can occur at high surcharge loads when strain measure
ments are difficult and with geotextile tearing within the test bed.
15. Type of Polymer The type of polymer can be important in relation
to the tensile strength required, the stress/strain creep relationship and
the chemical conditions on the site.
16. Mass per Unit Area A property often used to characterise the
geotextile, not really a design property but a useful measure of the
geotextile's consistency and a property which can be used to 'normalise'
otherwise random scattered test results. (Draft ISO/DIS 9864) (ref. 15).
17. Thickness As with "Mass per Unit Area" a consistency property
for geotextile, may be important if "in plane" drainage is required but it
is very unusual to combine this function with reinforcement. (Draft
ISO/DIS 9863) (ref. 16).
18. Tear Resistance The tear resistnace of a geotextile is another
parameter which is used to classify the geotextile's resistance to damage
during installation. The test is carried out on a trapezoidal sample in a
tensile test rig in accordance with the procedure in ASTM D4533-85 (ref.
19. Method of Production

Geotextiles may be woven, non woven, or

grids. Grids may be produced from sheet materials punched and

stressed, or from filaments encased by protective sheaths. The actual
production method may allow the geotextile to resist damage by wind
or water movements and it has been observed that some non woven
geotextiles can disintegrate when agitated by wind or water action.



(b) Pull out test

Fig. 4 Geotextile/soil friction test arrangements


20. Manufacturers carry out tests to British and other Standards to
produce data for inclusion in trade literature and as quality control tests.
The Engineer needs to be satisfied that before any geotextile is included
in his works that the material meets his particular specification. Inde
pendent tests should be carried out before materials are used, these tests
should cover the properties defined in the particular specification. Tests
should preferably be carried out in a laboratory independent of the
manufacturer e.g. British Textile Technology Group or University fa
cilities (in particular The University of Strathclyde).
21. Further tests should also be carried out on samples of delivered
materials during the currency of the works. The frequency and number
of samples tested would be dependent upon the size and importance of
the geotextile within the structure. The sampling procedure should be
as set out in the draft ISO document ISO/DIS/9862 (ref. 14). The
repeating of all tests may not be necessary on each sample, the critical
and or the index tests, such as mass/unit area, would be undertaken at
the predetermined frequencies. The testing programme should be in
cluded in the particular specification to allow the Contractor ample
opportunity to price and include any delays in his price and pro
22. Engineers need to understand the mechanics of the geotextile
tests used to determine the properties of geotextile reinforcements. The


relationship of these properties to designs and methods of construction

needs to be communicated through the specification and drawings to
the Contractor.
23. Testing of geotextiles needs to be carried out by independent
laboratories capable of testing materials to the procedures set out in the
relevant National or International standards. For major or important
projects these tests should be carried out for the particular project, for
minor or less critical parts of projects independent certification bodies
such as the British Board of Agreement can be used to certify that
materials have particular minimum properties.
24. The current range of British Standard Index tests are an important
guide to the selection of geotextiles for reinforcement. However it is
important to remember that the actual performance of the geotextile in
the field may bear little relationship to the relevant index properties.
The BSI and their European partners are currently developing a range
of "performance" tests to provide engineers with tests related to field
1. Greenwood, J.H. and Jewell, R.J. "Strength and Safety: the use of
mechanical property data", Proc. Symp. on Reinforced Embankments, 1989.
2. Hird, C, "Theory of design of Reinforced Embankments on Prob
lem Soils", Proc. Symp. on Reinforced Embankments, 1989.
3. BS6906: Part 1: Geotextiles, "Determination of Tensile Properties
using a Wide Width Strip". BSI 1987.
4. BS6906: Part 2: Geotextiles, "Determination of the Apparent Pore
Size Distribution by Dry Sieving" BSI 1989.
5. BS6906:Part3: Geotextiles, "Determination of Water Flow Normal
to the Plane of the Geotextile Under a Constant Head" BSI (In course of
6. BS6906: Part 4: Geotextiles, "Determination of Puncture Resistance
(CBR Puncture Test)", BSI (In course of preparation).
7. BS6906: Part 5: Geotextiles, "Determination of the Creep Proper
ties", BSI (In course of preparation).
8. BS6906: Part 6: Geotextiles, "Determination of the Puncture Resist
ance (Drop Cone Test)", BSI (In course of preparation).
9. BS6906: Part 7: Geotextiles, "Determination of the In Plane Water
Flow of Geotextiles", BSI (In course of preparation)
10. BS6906: Part 8: Geotextiles, "Determination of the Sound Friction
Resistance" BSI (In course of preparation).
11. ASTM D4533-85: Determination of the Tear Resistance of Geotextiles,
ASTM 1985
12. The "Specification for Highway Works" HMSO 1986.



13. Draft "Specification for the Use of Geotextiles and Related Ma

terials", The Institution of Civil Engineers May 1988.
14. ISO/DIS 9862: Geotextiles "Sampling and Preparation of test
specimens", ISO.
15. ISO/DIS 9864: Geotextiles "Determination of Mass Per Unit Area",
16. ISO/DIS 9863: Geotextiles, "Determination of the Thickness, at
specified pressures." ISO.
This appendix concentrates on the ways in which geotextiles can be
specified and why performance specifications are to be prefered.

"Brand X" The product name specification which many engineers

have used can restrict the use of new or alterative products as only the
designer knows what properties are needed. I would also suggest that
when a geotextile is specified in this way even the "designer" may not
know what functions the geotextile is performing.
"End Product" Acceptance can be judged by either:
a) Reference to Product Data Sheets (with care) (see Tables 1 and 2)
b) Independant laboratory tests (prefered method)
The DTp. Specification for Highways

This is an "End Product" type of specification. The Engineer is re

quired to complete Appendix 6/9, the Notes for Guidance refer the
engineer to NG 609.3. NG 609.3 is a clause which deals with geotextiles
used to separate earthworks for details of the tests required for reinforc
ing geotextiles the engineer is refered back to the "Overseeing Depart
ment". This may be satisfactory when the client is the DTp. but when
the specification is being used for other works the Engineer needs know
what to do.
The Engineer who is able to completes Appendix 6/9 following the
guidance given in Appendix 6/5.
The data required in Appendix 6/9 is:
i) Type of yarn and construction
ii) Required life
iii) Frequency of testing and methods (use B.S. if poss.)
iv) Properties to be tested e.g. Tensile strength/strain, Puncture re
sistance, Effective pore size, Permeability
v) How to lay the geotextile i.e. laps etc.

Table 1 Geotextile PropertiesfromData Sheets foraTarget Tensile strength of 70 kN/m
Product Ref.

Mass gm/m
Tensile Strength
OWarp kN/m
ii)Weft kN/m
Strain at break %
C.B.R. %
Drop Cone mm
Pore size O 9 0 mm
Permeability 1/sec/m











PP: Woven Polypropylene; PES: DSF Polyester grid + Polyester fabric; PEGr. Polyes
ter grid.
1) The data has been taken directly from the published data sheets and the test
methods used may vary between products.
2) The values shown in the table are "average" or "characteristic" values and not
MINIMUM values.
These test MUST be arried out for a particular contract unless the client states other
wise. The specification does not make reference to any other form of approval.

Table 2 Geotextile Properties from Datasheets for a Target Strength of 200 kN/m
Product Ref.

Mass gm/m
Tensile strength
i) Warp kN/m
ii) Weft kN/m
Strain at break %
C.B.R. %
Drop Cone mm
Pore Size O 9 0 mm
Permeability 1/sec/m











PP: Woven Polypropylene; PES: Woven Polyester

1) The values given the table have been taken directly from the data sheets and the
test methods may vary between products.
2) The values shown in the table are "Average" or "Characteristic" values and are
not MINIMUM values.


The I.C.E. Specification for the use of Geotextiles.

This is at present a draft document, the publication of which is

expected in late 1989 or 1990.Section 5 of the specification deals with
Reinforcement Geotextiles. The engineer is required to give details of
both INDEX and PERFORMANCE properties of the geotextiles in the
particular specification for the project.
Section 7 of the specification gives details of the procedures to be
followed when sampling from delivered materials. The individual test
procedures give details for the preparation of the test specimens for the
individual test.
The test procedures required to measure the specified properties are
listed in the specification. The draft document makes little reference to
British Standard tests as these had not been published however it is
hoped that the final document will use the relevant British Standards.
However few British laboratories have the equipment or the experi
ence to carry out these tests. It may be difficult to arrange for independant testing of geotextiles until there is an increased demand!


i) Mass/unit area (draft ISO 1987/9864)

ii) Nominal thickness (draft ISO 1987/9863)
iii) Tensile strength/strain (BS 6906 Part 1)
iv) Puncture resistance (BS 6906 Parts 4 & 6)
v) Tear resistance (ASTM D4533-85)
vi) Abrasion resistance (ASTM D3884)
vii) Frictional properties (BS 6906 Part 8 draft)
viii) Joint efficiency (Modified BS 6906 Part 1)


i) Tensile load/ strain / time /temperature (TRRL Application guide

ii) Repeated loading (No Test)
iii) Frictional properties (BS 6906 Part 8)
iv) UV radiation resistance (BS 87/43756 DC)
v) Acid/ Alkali resistance (ASTM D543)
vi) Biological resistance (ASTM G21 & G22)
vii) Joint efficiency (TRRL App. Guide No.5)
1. Before any geotextiles are used on a project the Engineer MUST be
satisied that the materials to be used meet the requirements of the
particular specification. For a major project this will require the carrying
out of test in an INDEPENDANT laboratory



2. Samples should be taken from materials delivered to site, rates of

sampling should be inserted in the specification and items included in
the Bill of Quanties to cover the payment for the tests.
3. If manufacturer's data sheets are being used as a source of test
information ,these should be examined very carefully to check the test
methods used and the type of data presented. The test results may be
"Average" or "Characteristic" values which may higher than minimum



Edited by R. T. MURRAY, Transport and Road Research Laboratory

The assessment of geotextile properties and methods of testing geotex

tile reinforcements were discussed in relation to time-dependent beha
viour and durability.
Mr McCombie (Netlon Ltd) agreed with Mr Corbett that each of the
geotextile properties needed for a project were fully understood and
that the product to be used fully met those requirements. He asked Mr
Corbett to comment on independent approval of products, and quality
control of their manufacture.
The British Board of Agrement (BBA) in the UK and the Institut fuer
Bautechnik (IFB) in Germany are just two of a number of organizations
which carried out full independent assessments of a very wide range of
products and specified how they should be used and advised on the
design procedures. The other aspect concerned quality control and
ensuring that the product arriving on site met the specifications which
had been given by the manufacturer. To ensure a satisfactory scheme
the requirements were first of all a quality control system such as one
which conformed to BS 5750, and second independent checks carried
out by approving bodies such as BBA.
Mr Corbett in his reply stated that the use of independent test
authorities such as the Agrement Board could be useful for small
projects. However, he wished to introduce a note of caution by quoting
an example that had happened earlier that week. He had been respon
sible for some drainage trials using geotextiles and had received from
the manufacturers various samples based on data that had been pro
vided concerning the soil. After the trials, excavation of these particular
geotextiles showed that one had not performed as expected although,
as far as was known, the product had been through the normal quality
controls as the manufacturer ran a full quality assurance scheme. Labor
atory tests on this product showed that it was a different grade of
product which had been mislabelled somewhere between manufacturer
and delivery. This illustrated that everyone who had handled the
product had assumed that the label was correct. In fact, it was labelled
incorrectly and although it had been through the quality assurance
scheme, the wrong product was delivered on site. Fortunately this was
only a temporary trial and was not critical but it did show the import113


ance of taking samples from very early deliveries to site, and checking
the material to ensure that it conforms to the label.
Mr McCombie made a second comment which was addressed to
Dr Greenwood and concerned the importance of element thickness in
relation to durability. A very wide range of information on the du
rability of various types of reinforcement was shown by Dr Greenwood
but many of the ways in which polymers degrade could be associated
with surface phenomena. The significance of this is that the size of the
element could have a very marked effect on the rate of loss of strength
of a particular type of reinforcement. As there was a very wide range
of element sizes ranging from perhaps 100th of a millimetre for a
multifilament fibre, through 0.005 metres thick for a tape fabric to a
millimetre thick for an extruded geogrid, this could be important in
determining the rate at which a material lost its strength. For instance,
Mr McCombie stated that some literature referred to a 2% per year loss
of strength for multifilament fibres which implied that in a fibre 100th
of a millimetre thick 10" millimetres in thickness will be lost. This is
fairly insignificant but if this reduction in thickness was applied to
elements of different sizes, the reduction in strength at corresponding
stages is 0.21% and 0.011%, and the number of years of 50% loss of
strength goes from 29 years to 250 years up to 5000 years. To conclude
he asked the speakers if this effect has been examined.
Dr Greenwood then responded to the question on the influence of
element size on the rate of strength loss. He stated that it was clear that
the bulk type geogrid or sheath geogrid was likely to be more resistant
by virtue of the fact that it had a larger volume to surface ratio. On the
other hand the graphs from AZKO he had shown demonstrated that the
degradation was not a linear effect with time. The mechanics of degredation vary: chemical degredation could lead to a 'skin' through which
the chemical subsequently has to diffuse. This could favour a bulk
material. If, however, degredation led to surface cracks and crack pro
pagation the effect on a bulk material would be more serious than on a
fibrous material. Without more information it is therefore not possible
to make reliable predictions of the distinction between, for example, a
life of 50 years and that of a thousand years.
Mr Shires (Sub-Soil Consultancy Services Ltd) said that he was con
cerned over the possible damage to geotextiles by chemical attack, for
example, petrol or diesel spillage, when placed at the surface. There
was also the problem of temperature effects to consider. For example,
if there was a petrol spillage onto a surface which caught fire, this could
have consequences for the actual structure, or may have if the surface
materials were being used to provide support and stability. These
materials were also temperature sensitive and lost strength at higher
temperatures. A further factor was that geotextiles were UV sensitive



so additives which made them black to reduce UV sensitivity, induced

temperature increases. The retaining wall constructed on the Folkestone
Beds had a black geotextile completely exposed on the surface and it
was of some concern if the adjacent grass was set alight.
Mr Voskamp replied that data had been published on the influence
of petrol and other hazardous materials on geotextiles. The results of
tests on various materials of concern were already available. In Holland
stringent requirements were imposed for the construction of petrol
stations and similar types of structure to avoid petrol or other chemicals
polluting the ground water and presumably this also applied in the UK.
Thus the same procedures should be adopted for surface geotextiles. In
regard to the problem of fire, which was always a hazard, with polyes
ters these did not catch alight and were not therefore of concern.
However, a recent soil reinforced embankment in England caught fire
and the type of polymeric reinforcement employed had been set alight.
The solution was therefore one of proper design and for critical situ
ations such as embankments, relevant data for design must be used, and
if not directly available, should be required from the manufacturers who
spend a lot on research. Most of the tests and other development data
is not published for commercial reasons and maybe only 10% is. If the
specifier needs to know certain properties of geosynthetics he should
ask the manufacturer for the relevant data.
Dr Bassett (Kings College) then stated that he was interested in the
very broad coverage of everyone's comments on geotextile properties.
In a subsequent discussion he intended to introduce some points of
detail on stress level, and in particular the locations where the highest
stresses occurred. One example concerned the connections to facing
units and the associated sharp bends that take place when wrapping
round to create the square forms of fronts often used. There was some
concern that the largest areas of stress occurred at the points where
connections to flat facing units were made round 12 mm steel bars. He
also enquired where exactly these very square kinks should be incor
porated. Was there evidence to indicate that a significant reduction
factor should be included for corrosive effects, concentration effects, and
damage effects where connections were made to other parts of the
structure? In most model tests and computer runs he had carried out,
the highest stress levels in the reinforcing materials had been associated
with the highest radius of curvature and even in the laboratory, these
had shown damage to the material. Had this effect been considered and
would Mr Corbett care to comment on whether some standardized
method of strength test around say a 12 mm steel bar as another part of
the testing programme would be helpful?
Mr Corbett replied that a standardized test as discussed by Dr Bassett
could be an advantage but he was unsure whether geotextiles would


perform any differently when bent round to form a sharp radius of

curvature. He thought that perhaps some of the grids might, and the
clamping arrangements could be modified to model a tight radius. It
would be interesting to see whether the different forms of clamping
arrangements produce differences from the results obtained in conven
tional tensile tests. It was clear that some additional experimental work
should be carried out in the laboratory to investigate the extent of the


8. The theory of reinforced embankments

C . C. HIRD, MA, PhD, CEng, MICE, University of Sheffield, and

R. A. JEWELL, MA, PhD, CEng, MICE, University of Oxford

The mechanics of an embankment constructed on a layer of reinforce
ment over a soft foundation are discussed in a design context. Methods
of analysis are reviewed for both stability and deformation, although
the emphasis is placed on the former. The role of reinforcement in
improving short term stability and restricting lateral displacements is
explained and illustrated. The concept of a 'fully reinforced' embank
ment is also discussed.
Lateral stresses within the embankment give rise to outward-directed
shear stresses at the base. In a reinforced embankment, these stresses
are transferred to the reinforcement. The embankment may then be
likened to a footing bearing on the foundation and the stability may be
calculated using plasticity theory. If the embankment is sufficiently
reinforced, the extrusion of the foundation soil is restrained by the
reinforcement, to which outward-directed shear stresses are again
transferred. Limit equilibrium methods provide an alternative, more
versatile means of analysis but must be employed with discretion. In
particular, slip circles extending through both the foundation and the
embankment should not be used where the foundation depth is limited.
Realistic analysis of deformation requires the use of finite element
methods. Only limited checks can be performed in a routine manner
for embankment serviceability and allowable reinforcement strain.
However, simple and satisfactory methods exist for calculating an
upper limit to lateral displacement in a fully reinforced embankment
and for calculating long term settlement.
1. Reinforcement may be used in embankments on soft ground in two

ways. Firstly, it may be placed across the base of the embankment to

bring about an improvement in stability and a reduction of lateral
movement under working conditions. Secondly, it may be incorporated
within the embankment to enable a steeper slope to be built than the
natural angle of repose of the fill. Only the first use will be discussed


Fig. 1 Reinforced embankment configuration

here. The second falls within the scope of the companion paper by
Jewell (ref. 1).
2. The benefits of inserting reinforcement at the base of the embank
ment, as shown in Fig. 1, have been extensively substantiated by field
trials, model studies and finite element analysis (e.g. refs 2 - 5). Yet,
despite numerous publications on the subject, the mechanics of such
embankments probably remain obscure to many design engineers. The
purpose of this paper is to review, simply and concisely, the progress
that has been made in understanding the mechanics of reinforced
embankments and establishing appropriate methods for their analysis
and design. For routine use, these methods must be reasonably simple
and readily intelligible. Because the emphasis is placed on mechanics,
the selection of suitable parameters for design purposes will not be
discussed in detail. However, some general advice will be given on soil
strengths and guidance on the properties of polymeric reinforcement
can be obtained from accompanying papers (refs 6 and 7).
3. The calculations undertaken by a designer fall into two categories:
stability analysis and deformation analysis. This division is reflected in the
paper but the emphasis is placed on the former. One reason for this is
that there are very few satisfactory, yet relatively simple methods of


E n d of c o n s t r u c t i o n


Fig. 2 Change of stability with time reinforced and unreinforced embankments (after
ref. 12)


calculating displacements. The stability analysis focuses on the critical

case of 'short term' stability in which the foundation soil is assumed to
remain undrained, notwithstanding the fact that some drainage usually
occurs during construction (refs 8 and 9). In the Tong term', stability will
increase due to consolidation of the foundation soil and the reinforce
ment will no longer be necessary, Fig. 2.
4. For simplicity, it is assumed throughout that the reinforcement
extends uniformly over the entire width of the embankment. The rein
forcement may take the form of a single continuous sheet or grid, or
may consist of a small number of closely spaced sheets or grids acting
in unison.
5. Three classes of failure must be considered for reinforced embank
ments (e.g. refs 10 and 11). As shown in Fig. 3, these are:
(a) Internal instability - failure involves lateral spreading of the
embankment soil only.
(b) Foundation instability - failure involves extrusion of the founda
tion beneath an intact embankment.






Su=Su +pz

Fig. 4 Idealized profiles of undrained shear strength (Su) with depth (z)

(c) Overall instability - failure involves a block of embankment and

foundation soil sliding along a well defined slip surface.
The third type of failure may involve rotational or translational sliding
and both possibilities must be explored. As discussed later (para. 29),
analysis of overall rotational instability can be erroneous if a purely
circular slip surface is considered (ref. 12).
6. For design purposes, it is necessary to define a profile of shear
strength with depth in the foundation. This profile may vary consider
ably, depending on the stress history of the soil. Often, the weakest soil
lies just beneath a desiccated crust. In general, the strength of normally
consolidated or lightly overconsolidated clay increases with depth and,
for the analysis of embankment stability, use of the following relation
ship (ref. 13) is recommended.
Su7o ' = 0.23 0.04


where S u is the undrained shear strength and a ' is the effective preconsolidation pressure. The strengths predicted by equation 1 correspond




Fig. 5 Schematic diagram to illustrate reinforcement action (adapted from ref. 12)


approximately to the strengths at large strains in consolidated undrained triaxial compression tests (ref. 14). Such strengths are more
dependable than peak strengths and may therefore be used with a
smaller safety factor (of the order 1.1 to 1.3). In the following sections,
frequent reference will be made to two idealized strength profiles:
increasing strength with (unlimited) depth, Fig. 4a, and uniform
strength over a limited depth with a hard layer below, Fig. 4b.
7. The analysis of stability is invariably conducted on a two-dimen
sional basis and forces are calculated for a unit length of the embank


8. To prevent lateral spreading of the embankment, horizontal

stresses within the fill must be balanced by shear reactions on its base,
Fig. 5. In an unreinforced embankment, the lateral thrust, Pfm, is trans
ferred into the foundation, Fig. 5a, but when reinforcement is present
some of this thrust is carried by the reinforcement. If it is sufficiently
stiff and strong, the reinforcement carries the entire lateral thrust, Fig.
5b. As explained below (paras 15-17), the action of the reinforcement in
opposing the lateral thrust is beneficial from the viewpoint of founda
tion stability.
9. The above concept of lateral stress transfer has been validated by
means of finite element analysis. For example, Fig. 6a shows results
obtained by Kwok (ref. 5) for an embankment on very stiff reinforce
10. The design check for internal stability simply consists of evalua
ting Pfiu and checking bond resistance on the fill-reinforcement inter
face. Here it is being assumed that the embankment slopes are
shallower than the angle of repose of the fill or have been locally



11. Before the reaction in the reinforcement can be mobilized, some

lateral movement must occur and it is likely that in many, if not most,
embankments active earth pressures will develop under working con
ditions. Exceptions to this may occur, particularly when very stiff
reinforcement is used, due to arching effects (ref. 5). Nevertheless, at
failure it is logical to assume that active conditions would apply. Thus,
for an embankment with no pore water pressures, the lateral thrust at
a distance x from the toe is
Pfill = K y h 12




Vertical s c a l e
for c l a r i t y



^ o . o o



Shear stress
on reinforcement

\ ^

^ o ^




Fig. 6 Finite element results to illustrate reinforcement action (after ref. 5)

where h is the embankment height at distance x, y is the unit weight of

the fill and the active earth pressure coefficient, Ka, allows for the
embankment slope and relates to an effective angle of friction in the fill,
e'fiii. In design calculations, a safety factor may be applied to the fill
strength in arriving at values of 0'fm and Ka- The case for adopting a
critical state angle of friction for reinforced granular soil, together with
a much reduced safety margin, has been made by Jewell and Green
wood (ref. 15), adopting the logic of Bolton (ref. 16). This approach is
again recommended.
12. In the presence of moisture, 'pore suctions' will exist in the fill
and tension cracks may develop. The value of Pfiu is consequently
reduced. However, it would be unwise to rely on the maintenance of
suctions in design. Furthermore, the possibility of tension cracks being
filled with water must be assessed. The lateral thrust, for a full depth
tension crack, is then
Pfill = Jw h 12
where y is the unit weight of water.





13. If the lateral thrust is to be transferred to the reinforcement,

adequate bond resistance must be available at the fill-reinforcement
interface. This must be checked for all values of x. For an embankment
with side slopes l:n (see Fig. 1), in the absence of pore water pressures
and neglecting redistribution of vertical stress, the available force,
(Pfiii)avaii/ at a distance x from the toe is given by

(PfilOavail = Y n h tan 8'int / 2


where 8'int is the effective angle of interface friction.

14. Because the side slopes of an embankment on soft ground are
usually governed by the strength of the foundation rather than the
strength of the fill, lack of adequate bond is rare. Thus, the design check
for internal stability almost becomes a formality.


15. Conceptually, a useful comparison can be made between the

loads applied to the foundation by a reinforced embankment and those
applied by a footing. Foundation instability can then be seen in conven
tional terms as a bearing capacity problem (ref. 12). In practice, al
though reinforcement may serve to keep the embankment intact, the
flexibility of the embankment may still be appreciable. This point is
discussed further in the section dealing with deformation analysis
(paras 38 and 39).
16. Examples of solutions obtained from plasticity theory for the
bearing capacity factor, N of a rigid footing on an idealized soil profile
are given in Fig. 7. Solutions obtained by Davis and Booker (ref. 17) for
the case of increasing strength with depth (Fig. 4a) are shown in Fig. 7a.
For the uniform strength/limited depth case (Fig. 4b) results published
by, or deduced from, Mandel and Salencon (ref. 18) are given in Fig. 7b.
In each case N depends on whether the footing is rough or smooth. For
a rough footing, the bearing capacity is increased over that of a smooth
one, because shear stresses on the ground surface oppose the soil
movement. Should shear stresses be applied so as to assist soil move
ment, as in a footing under inclined loading, the bearing capacity would
be reduced below that of a smooth footing (e.g. see ref. 19).
17. In a reinforced embankment, it is possible for the reinforcement
to serve two functions, each of which contributes to an increase in
foundation stability. The first function is to oppose the lateral thrust in the
fill, thereby reducing the adverse shear stress on the foundation. When
the lateral thrust, Pfui, is just balanced by the reinforement force, Prft, the
embankment loading is equivalent to that of a smooth footing (see again
Fig. 5b). Only when Prft > Pfm does the reinforcement begin to serve its






i-LLl|i I 1


capacity 8



Geometric ratio



Fig. 7 Bearing capacity of rigid footings on an idealized soil profile

(a) increasing strength with depth (after ref. 17)
(b) uniform strengm/limited depth (after ref. 18)

second function, namely to oppose foundation extrusion. This is shown

schematically in Fig. 5c and illustrated by finite element analysis in Fig.
6b. It can be seen that outward-directed shear stresses are applied to
both the top and bottom faces of the reinforcement. The corresponding
forces are Pfiii and Pfndn respectively. Thus, the total force carried by the
reinforcement is the sum of the two components.
Prft = Pfill + P d n

18. The resistance to foundation extrusion provided by the reinforce
ment reaches an upper limit when the beneficial shear stress applied to
the foundation, x, equals the undrained shear strength at (or near) its
surface, Su . The embankment loading is now equivalent to that of a
rough footing and the embankment may be said to be fully reinforced.
In this case, the available restraining force at a distance x from the toe,
(Pfhdn)avail/ & simply



(Prhdn)avail = Suo x


For design purposes, a factor of safety on foundation strength, FS, and

a bond coefficient, a, may be incorporated, so that x= a Suo /FS and


When a < 1 the embankment is no longer fully reinforced.

19. It is important to appreciate that the potential for improving
stability by restraining the foundation surface depends on geometry and
increases as either pB/Su or B / D increases, (p, B and D are defined in
Figs 4 and 7). At low values of these parameters, tending towards the
case of a deep foundation of uniform strength, the difference between
the bearing capacity of rough and smooth footings is small (see Fig. 7).
In contrast, the potential for improving stability by countering Pfm can be
significant at all values of pB/Su or B/D, i.e. even for the case just



20. It is possible to evaluate the foundation stability for a reinforced

embankment by considering an equivalent rigid footing of width B, so
that charts such as those of Fig. 7 can be directly used. The total weight
of the embankment over this width must not exceed N Su B/FS. How
ever, this is a rather crude method and relies heavily on the judgement
of B. Rowe and Soderman (ref. 4) assume that the embankment is fully
reinforced, and that the equivalent rough footing extends between
points on either side of the embankment where the applied vertical
pressure at failure is equal to (n + 2)Su . Allowance is made for loading
beyond these points acting as a surcharge. In Pilot's approach (ref. 20),
again for a fully reinforced embankment, the mid-side point is taken as
the edge of the equivalent footing.
21. A more detailed approach uses plasticity theory to calculate the
distribution of stress on the underside of the footing. This is shown in
dimensionless form for both rough and smooth footings in Figs 8a and
8b, for the increasing strength with depth and the uniform
strength/limited depth cases respectively. Note that a factor of safety
on foundation strength is incorporated in the shear stress parameter,
T F S / S U Q , and the loading parameter, F&yh/Suo- As explained in more
detail by Jewell (ref. 12), these solutions may be used to determine the
ideal loading distribution (embankment profile), which makes the best
possible use of the shear strength of the foundation. Unfortunately, the
resulting distribution is impractical, unless the fill is reinforced inter
nally, since there is a vertical step at the toe (x = 0). However, the
addition of a steeply sloping soil wedge beyond the ideal toe (x < 0), as
included in the practical cross-sections proposed by Jewell, enhances






Fig. 8 Ideal loading distribution on an idealized soil profile

(a) increasing strength with depth
(b) uniform strengm/limited depth

rather than reduces stability. The above approach cannot generally be

applied when designing embankments with uniform side slopes, an
exceptional attempt being reported by Bassett (ref. 21). For the increas
ing strength with depth case, plasticity solutions have recently been
obtained (ref. 22) for the full range of T F S / S U O values, i.e. - 1 < T F S / S
< +1, and hence the ideal profile of an embankment with any degree of
reinforcement can be determined.



22. Limit equilibrium approaches to foundation stability have been

developed, involving both rotational and translational mechanisms.
The versatility of such methods becomes important when the founda
tion strength profile differs from those idealized in Fig. 4. The methods
can also cope with any embankment profile, e.g. uniform side slopes or
23. It is as well to remember that with limit equilibrium methods,
despite their wide traditional use, there is ample scope for error in the
search for critical failure mechanisms, the neglect of kinematic con126


straints and the simplification of force systems. Therefore, it is import

ant, wherever possible, to compare solutions with 'bench marks' ob
tained with more rigorous methods. The validation of the methods
described below is the subject of continuing research.
24. The application of slip circle analysis to foundation stability is
illustrated in Fig. 9a. The lateral thrust in the embankment, Pfm, is
assumed to be carried by the reinforcement. The force system on the
rotating block includes the weight of the fill acting as a surcharge, W;
the required reinforcement force at point X, PfndrJ and the sum of the
incremental shear forces mobilized around the slip, S. For moment
Pfndn= [Wc-S(a + b)]/a


where the dimensions a, b and c are indicated in the figure. S may allow
for a factor of safety on soil strength.
25. The performance of slip circle analysis has been checked by Jewell
(ref. 12) against the plasticity solutions for the ideal loading distribution
(para. 21), acting as bench marks. When the foundation strength in
creases with depth, good agreement is obtained with the plasticity
solutions, Fig. 10a. In contrast, when the foundation has uniform
strength but limited depth, large differences develop as x/D increases,
Fig. 10b, and the slip circle analysis overestimates the stability. Thus,



an important conclusion to be drawn is that, while the slip circle method

of analysis represented in Fig. 9a has been shown to be satisfactory for
the case of strength increasing with depth, it becomes increasingly
erroneous on the unsafe side for limited foundation depths.
26. The analysis of a translational mechanism is illustrated in Fig. 9b.
Once again, the reinforcement is assumed to oppose Pfm. The force
system on the translating block (ABCX) includes the active and passive
thrusts, Pa and Pp. These may be approximately evaluated using Rankine's earth pressure theory in preference to Coulomb's theory. In this
case it must be assumed that no shear is transmitted on boundaries AB
and XC and that only a normal stress (surcharge) is applied on the
foundation surface to the right of point X. If Rankine's theory is used,
the slipping wedges shown at each side of block ABCX are only notional.
For horizontal equilibrium, the required force at point X is simply
Pfndn = Pa-Pp-S


where S is the shear force on BG A factor of safety on soil strength can

be included in each of the terms on the right hand side of equation 9.
27. Based on this approach, solutions for the ideal loading distribution
have again been obtained by Jewell (ref. 12) and, except at very low
values of px/Su or x/D, show close agreement with the plasticity
solutions for both the increasing strength with depth and the uniform
strength/limited depth cases, Fig. 10. Jewell's solutions can be com
puted for any degree of foundation restraint (-1 < T F S / S U < +1). The
results of Fig. 10 suggest that, despite its simplicity, the translational
approach is a good one. For a foundation of uniform strength/limited
depth, the associated calculation of stability would be superior, at high
ratios of x/D, to that described above for rotational failure. Of course,
consideration of a translational failure mode is particularly important
when a thin relatively weak layer exists in the foundation.




28. It will be shown later (paras 31 and 33) that it is possible to satisfy
overall stability by analysing internal and foundation stability separate
ly and calculating the required reinforcement force as the sum of two
components ( P r f t = Pfm + P f n d n ) . Because the twin functions of the
reinforcement are clearly identified, this approach is preferable. Alter
natively, overall stability can be assessed by using limit equilibrium
methods to analyse combined failure mechanisms of the type shown in
Fig. 3c. Previous comments regarding possible sources of error (para.
23) again apply. If a combined analysis is conducted, care must be taken



Fig. 11 Limit equilibrium analysis of overall rotational stability (adapted from ref.12)

to ensure that the bond checks on the soil-reinforcement interfaces are

correctly carried out (see para. 35).


29. The sliding surface for a rotational slide passing through both an
embankment and its foundation is conventionally assumed to be circu
lar, as indicated in Fig. 11a. This assumption has usually been adopted
in the analysis of reinforced embankments (e.g. refs 2,11, 23 and 24).
However, whilst it may be a reasonable assumption for some deepseated slides, for shallow slides it is unlikely to be so. This is most easily
explained by considering two portions of the slip surface (in the fill and
in the foundation) separately, Fig. lib. In this figure it is seen that, in
the absence of a vertical ('interslice ) force between the two slipping



blocks, an equivalent analysis could be performed by limiting the slip

circle to the foundation and applying the horizontal force Pfm to the left
hand block. As shown in detail by Jewell (ref. 12), for shallow slip circles
continuing through the fill the value of Pfm is underestimated and may
even be negative, implying the existence of tension in the embankment.
This problem was recognized by Leshchinsky (ref. 25) and overcome by
using a log spiral slip surface in the fill. A simpler and conceptually
clearer alternative, which is also consistent with the approach adopted
earlier for internal stability (para. 11), is to compute Pfm as the active
thrust supporting a plane wedge of fill, Fig. 11c.
30. For moment equilibrium of the left hand block in Fig. 11c, the
required reinforcement force at point X is
Prft = [PfiU (a - h/3) + Wc - S(a+ b)] /a


Both Pfm and S may include an appropriate safety factor on soil strength.
In view of the conclusions reached earlier (para. 25) regarding the
application of slip circle analysis to foundation stability, the analysis is
still likely to be erroneous when the foundation depth is limited relative
to the embankment width.
31. It has been stated above (para. 28) that overall stability can be
satisfied by considering internal and foundation stability separately.
With reference to Fig. 11c, this would involve omitting Pfm from the
force system on the left hand block in order to compute foundation
stability and hence P dn (see also Fig. 9a and equation 8). Then Prft =
Pfiii + Pfndn- Since exactly the same result for Prft would be obtained by
analysing the combined failure mechanism with Pfm applied at the level
of the reinforcement rather than at one third of the embankment height,
the separate approach is slightly more conservative.



32. The potential failure mode and the force system on the translating
block (ABCD) are depicted in Fig. 12. As when considering foundation

Fig. 12 Limit equilibrium analysis of overall translational stability



stability only, the active and passive thrusts in the foundation can be
evaluated using Rankine's earth pressure theory and the slipping wed
ges on either side of block ABCD become notional. For horizontal
equilibrium, the required reinforcement force at point X is
Prft = Pfm + P a - P p - S


As previously, factors of safety on soil strength can be incorporated in

the terms on the right hand side of equation 11.
33. It is important to note that it makes no difference, in this instance,
whether internal and foundation stability are considered separately or
together. In a separate analysis of foundation stability, the force Pan
would be omitted from the force system of Fig. 12 and the remaining
forces would be analysed to compute Pfndn (see also Fig. 9b and equation
9 ) . Then P r f t = P f m + P f n d n / yielding the identical answer for P r f t .


34. Jewell (refe 10 and 12) has emphasized the need to evaluate not
only the maximum reinforcement force, but also the distribution of
Strength limit




Fig. 13 Distributions of required and available reinforcement force (adapted from ref.



required force along the base of the embankment, Fig. 13a. At every
location a check must be carried out to ensure that the available force
exceeds the required force. The available force is limited by reinforce
ment strength and stiffness, as further discussed in the section on
deformation analysis (paras 42 and 43), and by bond resistance on the
soil-reinforcement interfaces. On the fill-reinforcement interface, the
available force must exceed Pfm and the bond check is as described
earlier (para. 13). When Prft > Pfm, a bond check on the foundation-re
inforcement interface is needed for the balance of the required force,
Pfndn (= Prft - Pfiii). The distribution of available force, Fig. 13b, is given
by equation 7.
35. It is emphasized that the bond resistance must be checked
separately on each of the two interfaces. Therefore, if a combined
stability analysis has been conducted to obtain Prft, the two components
Pfiii and Pf dn must still be evaluated. It is wrong and unsafe to allow
bond resistance on the fill-reinforcement interface to influence founda
tion extrusion.

36. The analysis of deformations is important for two reasons: firstly
to ensure that the embankment remains serviceable and, secondly, to
ensure that the set of stresses or forces assumed to act in stability
analyses can be simultaneously mobilized. Unfortunately, the predic
tion of soft ground deformations is notoriously difficult. The shortcom
ings of both traditional and finite element approaches were reviewed
by Tavenas and Leroueil (ref. 8) in the context of unreinforced embank
ments and would have been equally severe for reinforced embank
ments. Subsequently, however, finite element predictions have
improved as numerical modelling techniques have been refined and
experience has been gained in specifying input parameters. Some

Note: A-| is net area (settlement *ve, heave - ve )

Fig. 14 Schematic view of foundation displacements




evidence of this may be found in papers submitted to a recent prediction

symposium (refs 26-28). At present, the primary role of finite elements
is to validate simplified methods of analysis, for stability as well as
deformation. Only in exceptional cases would it be justified to use finite
element analysis directly in design.
37. The deformations of the ground beneath a long embankment are
shown schematically in Fig. 14. If the distortion of the foundation takes
place under undrained conditions, the areas Ai and A2 indicated in the
figure are equal. For simplicity, deformations during construction can
be analysed on this (short term) basis. Because reinforcement enhances
short term stability, it also reduces these deformations under working
conditions, and hence both the lateral and vertical movements of the
foundation surface, 8 H and 5v, are reduced. Illustrative finite element
results are given in Fig. 15 for the embankment shown in Fig. 6, but
without the aid of finite element analysis the amount of distortion and
the effect of the reinforcement cannot be quantified satisfactorily. In
practice, some consolidation is likely to take place during construction,
so that Ai > A2 (ref. 9). As the soil continues to consolidate after
construction, further distortion and volume changes combine to pro
duce the final (long-term) deformations.
38. When discussing short-term stability earlier in the paper (paras
15-18), a comparison was made between the behaviour of a reinforced
embankment and a footing. However, if reinforcement is only placed
at the base of the embankment, finite element results obtained by Kwok
(ref. 5) indicate that, even with very stiff reinforcement, the embank
ment is likely to behave as a flexible load, i.e. there is only a modest
redistribution of vertical stress in the embankment. This means that the
embankment is subject to bending. The tensile strain at the top of the
embankment, et, can be calculated approximately as
et = eb-8H(5v)max/L


where % is the tensile strain at the base, H is the embankment height,

(8v)max is the vertical deflection at the embankment centre and L is the
distance over which settlement takes place (see Fig. 14). This expression
successfully differentiates between cases analysed by Kwok in which
arching and no arching occurred (et < 0 and et > 0 respectively). The
effect of arching is detrimental, since the lateral thrust, Pfm, is increased.
39. Embankment bending in the presence of very stiff reinforcement
was also predicted (and observed) by Duncan et al (ref. 29). On the other
hand, in another case, Rowe and Mylleville (ref. 30) predicted a substan
tially uniform settlement profile. Nevertheless, the balance of present
results is in favour of the embankment remaining fairly flexible. In these
circumstances, the distribution of total vertical stress in the foundation
is similar to that beneath an unreinforced embankment. It follows that


settlements due to consolidation are not significantly affected by the
reinforcement, a conclusion also reached by Rowe et al. (ref. 31).
40. In routine design, it should be sufficient to make simple but
dependable estimates of the maximum horizontal strain, or movement,
in the fill and the maximum settlement. Suitable methods for calculating
these quantities will now be indicated.



41. Attention will firstly be given to short-term movements. Suppose

a stability analysis has yielded a distribution of required reinforcement
force, Prft, and a maximum value, (Prft)max/ as shown in Fig. 13a. On the
assumption that the reinforcement's stress-strain behaviour can be
idealized as linear (for a given time and temperature) and an average
modulus J (force/unit width/unit strain) specified, the strain erft necess
ary to mobilize Prft is
ftft = Pift/J


Hence, once an appropriate value of J has been selected, both the

distribution of strain in the reinforcement and the maximum value,
ferft)max/ are easily determined. If, as necessary for internal stability, no
slip occurs above the reinforcement, the base of the embankment can be
assumed to strain horizontally by the same amount. The maximum
horizontal movement in the fill, (8H)max, is obtained by integrating the
strain. Atx = Xo


(8H)max =



=A /J


where Lb is the base width of the embankment and A and XQ are as

defined in Fig. 13a.
42. From the stability viewpoint, it is important that the lateral strains
and movements, calculated as above, are reasonably compatible with
those necessary to mobilize the assumed soil strengths, both in the fill
and in the foundation. If the reinforcement is too stiff (unlikely with
polymeric reinforcement), it could attract more load than assumed in
the stability calculation and approach failure more closely. If it is not
stiff enough, the soil strength could be more fully mobilized than
assumed in the calculation or, alternatively, the soil could undergo more
strain softening than allowed for. In principle, compatibility of strains
can be achieved by choosing reinforcement with a suitable value of J, in
which appropriate (or allowable) strains will be induced by the required
forces. Several suggestions have been made regarding the choice of an
appropriate strain level (e.g. refs 11 and 23), yet it remains a difficult
question which merits further research. Not only will the answer




Distance (x)
Fig. 16 Calculation of upper limit to reinforcement force

depend on the stress-strain characteristics of the soil, but also on the

approach that is taken in selecting strength parameters and the geo
metry of the cross-section. When the recommended approach (paras 6
and 11) is followed in arriving at design parameters for soil strength,
allowable values of (erft)max are likely to be in the range 3-6%.
43. An upper limit to the horizontal strain and the lateral displace
ment in the fill can be calculated by assuming that the embankment is
fully reinforced and that slip occurs on the foundation-reinforcement
interface. The distribution of Prft (also an upper limit) is obtained using
equations 2 (or 3), 5 and 6, Fig. 16. In this case, the question of strain
compatibility between the reinforcement and the foundation does not
arise, since lateral strains in the foundation are effectively decoupled
from those in the reinforcement. This is an incentive for designing for
stability on a fully reinforced basis, with the recommended choice of
strength parameters (paras 6 and 11) and a safety factor on soil strength
close to unity. Field experience shows that the actual strain or move
ment is usually much smaller than the upper limit, due to conservatism
in the calculation of Pfm and the neglect of consolidation in the founda
tion during construction.
44. From the serviceability viewpoint, the long term lateral move
ments are of more interest than the short term ones, but cannot be easily
calculated. In the short term, it may perhaps be pessimistically assumed
that the effect of embankment bending is negligible, so that the embank
ment spreads as much at the top as at the base. In the long term,
horizontal movement at the base of the embankment can be expected to
increase to some degree as the foundation consolidates (refs 5 and 32).


However, at the top of the embankment, it is possible that this additional

extension may be substantially, if not completely, cancelled out by
compression due to bending of the embankment. Therefore, an assess
ment of spreading based on the short term movements, as calculated
above, may still be useful.


45. The serviceability of the embankment may be affected by long

term settlements. Traditionally, the total settlement, cVt, is considered
as being made up of three components.
Svt = 5vi + 5vc + 5vs


where 5yi = immediate or short term settlement (under undrained

conditions), Svc = consolidation settlement and 5v = secondary settle
ment (due to creep).
46. The maximum settlement occurs on the embankment centreline.
As already indicated (para. 37), no satisfactory simple method exists for
computing 5yi, but for most embankments it is likely to be a minor
component of Svt* If necessary, on the embankment centreline 5yi can
be crudely estimated as a simple proportion of 5v (say 10 to 25% of 5vc/
based on the finite element results of Kwok (ref. 5)).
47. On the embankment centreline, the consolidation settlement, 8vc/
can be calculated satisfactorily in a conventional manner, with classical
one-dimensional consolidation theory. As discussed above (paras 38
and 39), the embankment can be assumed to be flexible and the effect of
the reinforcement can be ignored. Total vertical stresses beneath the
embankment can be realistically computed using the theory of elasticity,
even though the soil may be deforming plastically (ref. 32).
48. The secondary settlement, 5vs/ may or may not be a significant
component of cVt. A discussion of methods for calculating 5vs is beyond
the scope of this paper, but methods developed for unreinforced em
bankments should again be applicable.

49. The mechanics of a reinforced embankment on a soft foundation
have been discussed and appropriate design calculations for stability
and deformation presented. Relatively few satisfactory methods exist
for calculating displacements.
50. Reinforcement across the base of an embankment can contribute
to stability in two ways: firstly, by opposing the lateral thrust in the fill
and, secondly, by opposing extrusion of the foundation. The second
benefit depends on geometry and increases as the width of the embank
ment relative to the depth of soft soil increases. The maximum benefit
occurs in a fully reinforced embankment, where the design strength of


the foundation soil is reached on the foundation-reinforcement inter

51. Reliable plasticity solutions permit a very simple determination
of the ideal embankment profile for certain idealized foundation condi
tions, but plasticity solutions cannot provide guidance for embank
ments with uniform side slopes.
52. Because of their versatility, limit equilibrium methods are more
suitable for general use in stability analyses. Both rotational and translational failure modes should be considered. The stability of the fill and
foundation can be analysed separately or in combination, although a
separate analysis is preferable because of its conceptual clarity. In
combined analyses, slip circles passing through both the fill and the
foundation are not recommended; instead, an active wedge can be used
in the fill. This is contrary to much previous practice for both reinforced
and unreinforced embankments, and corrects a potential error on the
unsafe side.
53. Reinforcement is capable of reducing lateral displacements but
deformations can only be analysed realistically by finite element meth
ods. Further research is needed before the serviceability of a reinforced
embankment can be fully examined in a routine manner.
54. For a fully reinforced embankment, simple methods exist for
calculating upper limits to the reinforcement force, reinforcement strain
and horizontal movement in the fill. The actual values of these quan
tities are likely to be much smaller. If the embankment is not fully
reinforced, the reinforcement strain allowed in stability calculations
must be compatible with that in the foundation, but cannot be easily
55. The settlement due to consolidation is not significantly in
fluenced by the reinforcement and can be satisfactorily calculated by
conventional methods.
56. The assumption that the foundation remains undrained during
construction, adopted throughout the paper, may be unnecessarily
conservative. Designers should consider whether an increase of foun
dation strength during construction can be taken into account.
1. Jewell, R.A. Theory of steep reinforced slopes. In Reinforced Em
bankments: Theory and Practice in the British Isles. Thomas Telford, Lon
don, 1990.
2. Brakel, J., Coppens, M., Maagdenberg, A.C. and Risseeuw, P.
Stability of slopes constructed with polyester reinforcing fabric, test
section at Almere, Holland, '79. Proc. 2nd Int. Conf. on Geotextiles, Las
Vegas, 1982, Vol. 3,727-732.



3. Ovesen, N.K. and Krarup, J. Centrifuge tests of embankments

reinforced with geotextiles on soft clay. Proc. 8th European Conf. on Soil
Mechanics and Foundation Engineering, Helsinki, 1983, Vol. 1,393-398.
4. Rowe, R.K. and Soderman, K.L. Stabilization of very soft soils
using high strength geosynthetics: the role of finite element analyses.
Geotextiles and Geomembranes, 1987, Vol.6,53-80.

5. Kwok, CM. Finite element studies of reinforced embankments

on soft ground. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield, 1987.
6. Voskamp,W. Determination of allowable design strength of poly
ester reinforcing fabrics. In Reinforced Embankments: Theory and Practice
in the British Isles. Thomas Telford, London, 1990.
7. Greenwood, J.H. and Jewell, R.A. Strength and safety: the use of
mechanical property data. In Reinforced Embankments: Theory and Prac
tice in the British Isles. Thomas Telford, London, 1989.
8. Tavenas, F. and Leroueil, S. The behaviour of embankments on
clay foundations. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 1980, Vol. 17,236-260.
9. Sekiguchi, H., Shibata, T. and Mimura, M. Effects of partial drain
age on the lateral deformation of clay foundations. Proc. Int. Conf. on
Rheology and Soil Mechanics, Coventry, England, 1988,164-181.
10. Jewell, R.A. A limit equilibrium design method for reinforced
embankments on soft foundations. Proc. 2nd Int. Conf. on Geotextiles, Las
Vegas, 1982, Vol. 3,671-676.
11. Bonaparte, R. and Christopher, B.R. Design and construction of
reinforced embankments over weak foundations. Transportation Re
search Record 1153,1987,26-39.

12. Jewell, R.A. The mechanics of reinforced embankments on soft

soils. Geotextiles and Geomembranes, 1988, Vol. 7,237-273. (Also in Proc.
Prediction Symp. on a Reinforced Embankment on Soft Ground, King's
College, London, 1986.)
13. Jamiolkowski, M., Ladd, C C , Germaine, J.T. and Lancellotta, R.
New developments in field and laboratory testing of soils: general
report. Proc. 11th Int. Conf. on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering,
San Francisco, 1985, Vol. 1,57-153.
14. Milligan, V. and La Rochelle, P. Design methods for embank
ments over weak soils. Proc. Symp. on Polymer Grid Reinforcement in Civil
Engineering. Institution of Civil Engineers, London, 1984,95-102.
15. Jewell, R.A. and Greenwood, J.H. Long term strength and safety
in steep soil slopes reinforced by polymer materials. Geotextiles and
Geomembranes, 1988, Vol. 7,81-118.
16. Bolton, M.D. Limit state design in geotechnical engineering.
Ground Engineering, 1981, Vol. 14,39-46.
17. Davis, E.H. and Booker, J. R. The effect of increasing strength
with depth on the bearing capacity of clays. Giotechnique, 1973, Vol. 23,


18. Mandel, J. and Salencon, J. Force portante d'un sol sur une assise
rigide &ude tMoretique). Giotechnique, 1972, Vol. 22,79-93.
19. Bolton, M.D. A Guide to Soil Mechanics, p. 323, Macmillan, Lon
don, 1979.
20. Pilot, G. La stability des remblais sur sols mous. Bulletin de Liaison
des Laboratoires des Ponts et Chaussees, Paris, 1976, Numero Special 111,
21. Bassett,R.H. Original design of trial embankment. Proc. Predic
tion Symp. on a Reinforced Embankment on Soft Ground, King's College,
London, 1986.
22. Houlsby, G.T. and Jewell, R.A. Analysis of unreinforced and
reinforced embankments on soft clays by plasticity theory. Proc. 6th Int.
Conf. on Numerical Methods in Geomechanics, Innsbruck, 1988, Vol. 2,
23. Rowe, R.K. and Soderman, K.L. An approximate method for
estimating the stability of geotextile-reinforced embankments. Canadian
Geotechnical Journal, 1985, Vol. 22,392-398.

24. Hird, C C Stability charts for reinforced embankments on soft

ground. Geotextiles and Geomembranes, 1986, Vol. 4,107-127.
25. Leshchinsky, D. Short term stability of reinforced e mbankment
over clayey foundation. Soils and Foundations, 1987, Vol 27,43-57.
26. Human, CA., Seed, R.B., Mitchell, J.K. and Borja, R.L Predicted
behaviour of the Stanstead Abbotts trial embankment. Proc. Prediction
Symp. on a Reinforced Embankment on Soft Ground, King's College, Lon
don, 1986.
27. Poran, C.J., Kaliakin, V.N., Herrmann, L.R., Romstad, K.M., Lee,
D.F. and Chen, CK. Prediction of trial embankment behaviour. Proc.
Prediction Symp. on a Reinforced Embankment on Soft Ground, King's
College, London, 1986.
28. Hird,CC,andKwok,CM. Predictions for the Stanstead Abbotts
trial embankment based on the finite element method. Proc. Prediction
Symp. on a Reinforced Embankment on Soft Ground, King's College, Lon
don, 1986.
29. Duncan, J.M., Schaefer, V.R. and Franks, L.W. and Collins, S.A.
Design and performance of a reinforced embankment for Mohicanville
Dike No. 2 in Ohio. Transportation Research Record 1153,1987,15-25.
30. Rowe, R.K. and Mylleville, B.L.J. The analysis of steel reinforced
embankments on soft clay foundations. Proc. 6th Int. Conf. on Numerical
Methods in Geomechanics, Innsbruck, 1988, Vol. 2,1273-1278.
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geotextile-reinforced embankment constructed on peat. Canadian Geo
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Roscoe Memorial Symp., Cambridge, 1971,505-536.


9. Reinforced embankments on soft ground: some design

and constructional experience from Bunratty Bypass
E. R. FARRELL, BA, BAI, MS, PhD, CEng, FIEI, MICE, Trinity College,
Dublin, S. DAVITT, BE, MSc, CEng, MIEI, MICE, MIHT, Environmental
Research Unit. Department of the Environment, Eire, and
G CONNOLLY, BE, CEng, MIEI, Clare County Council

Road embankments with high strength fabric reinforcement are cur
rently under construction by Clare County Council in Ireland. This
paper outlines the reasons behind the decision to use a fabric reinforce
ment. The design and specification requirements are discussed. Some
preliminary comments are given on the field performance of a rein
forced embankment. A comprehensive geotechnical analysis will be
published at a later date.
1. A major upgrading of the N18, the National Primary Route from
the city of Limerick to Shannon Airport, involved the realignment of a
2.2 km section to bypass the historic village and castle of Bunratty,
County Clare in Ireland. This realignment crossed the alluvial floodland of the Ratty River and extended over marsh ground further to the
west. Two critical sections were of concern, namely the approach em
bankments to the river crossing which were to be about 3 m in height
with a further 1 m surcharge, and the approach embankments to an over
bridge which were up to 8 m in height. The ground investigation
showed that about 12 m of soft soil underlie the river approach embank
ment and about 6 m underlie the overbridge embankments.
2. A preliminary feasibility study based on in situ vane shear strengths
showed that these embankments would have to be built using stage
construction methods with vertical drains.
3. Among the various construction options considered at the design
stage of the project was the use of a reinforcing fabric to strengthen the
embankments. The availability of a suitable material was investigated
and the potential benefits of its use were compared with the costs
4. The design indicated that the use of a reinforcing fabric would
reduce the construction period by about one year for the overbridge site.
A Factor of Safety (FOS) of over 1.4 could be adopted for the stage
construction at both sites. Both these were significant and beneficial. The


increased FOS also reduced the need for a trial embankment and for a
large experienced site staff during the construction as well as reducing
the risk of a major shear failure.
5. Work on the embankments began in July 1988 and to date the river
embankment is at full height with a i m surcharge. The overbridge
embankment is at about 7 m in height.
6. The effect of the inclusion of a reinforcing fabric was assessed using
Bishop's Simplified Method of slope stability analysis. The fabric was
modelled as a horizontal force acting at the bottom of the fill. Other
potential failure modes considered in the design included squeezing out
of the soil, non circular slip surface, fabric pullout and shear failure
between the fabric and the soil.
7. A finite element analysis of unreinforced and reinforced embank
ments was carried out in Trinity College, Dublin using the computer
program "Crisp". The findings of this study indicated that, for the soil
parameters used in the analysis, the strain in the fabric would be of the
order of 2% when a large proportion of the soil beneath the embankment
had reached a failure condition: i.e. the embankment had essentially
failed (refs 1 and 2). A brief review of the findings of this analysis is
given in ref.3. The study also showed that the tensile stiffness of the
fabric is the governing criterion rather than its ultimate strength. The
selection of the most appropriate strain level requires a considerable
amount of research and future site experience. It depends on the amount
of foundation movement which can be tolerated and on the stress-strain
properties of the sub-soil. The finite element analysis predicted a maxi
mum fabric force which was approximately half that calculated by a
limit equilibrium analysis for the same embankment height.
8. Based on this research and on the limited number of case histories
which were available at the design stage of this project, it was decided
to specify a fabric which, at 4% strain, provided the force determined
from the limit equilibrium analysis. The supplier was to supply the
fabric stress-strain relationship as determined in a direct tensile test.
Tenders for the supply of the fabric reinforcement were advertised in
the public press in 1988. The Engineer reserved the right to carry out
independent tests on specimens of the material. Such tests were carried
out at Trinity College, Dublin. Partial factors were applied to the
m e a s u r e d strength of the fabric to allow for mechanical damage during
installation (1.17 used), and for alkaline and biological degradation. The
effect of the duration of loading in the ground when compared with the
rapid test condition was also considered in the design.



9. After examination of the tenders received, Stabilenka 600 was
selected for the entire project. While is was recognised that a lower
strength fabric could have been used for certain areas, it was considered
that the potential danger of placing the lower grade of fabric in an
incorrect location justified the extra cost in using the higher strength
material throughout. The material was ordered in prescribed lengths
and cut in the factory.
10. The fabric was laid on top of the free draining material (FDM)
which was blinded with a sand or a sandy gravel to limit damage to the
fabric during its installation. The grading of the blinding material at the
Ratty River site was based on the filter criteria as the tide level rose above
ground level at this location. In order to stretch the fabric, a filling
sequence was adopted which induced an initial strain in this material.
The sequence of loading adopted on site was that recommended in the
Geotextile Engineering Manual (ref.4). This sequence is outlined in Fig. 1.
This procedure successfully imparted a slight tension into the fabric.
Site experience indicated that, where there was a surface crust, the latter
stages of this sequence need not be followed exactly provided the fill is
initially placed to anchor the ends of the fabric strips.
11. A simple but effective method of laying the fabric was developed.
The fabric came in a roll which had a hollow tube running through the
centre. A frame was constructed on site which enabled these rolls to be
hung from a hydraulic excavator. The material could then be unrolled
as required. Holes were cut in the fabric at ground instrumentation
locations using a hot wire cutter. The adjacent strips were then sewn
together to provide lateral continuity.


End dump

access roads
outside sections to anchor fabric
interior sections to "set" fabric
intermediate sections to tension fabric
final centre section

Fig. 1. Construction sequence



12. No unforeseen problems were experienced in laying the fabric.

The entire process was carried out efficiently and it is estimated that
about 2000 m could be laid in one day provided the wind was not too
strong, even allowing for cutting holes at instrument positions and for
sewing the strips together.

13. Direct tensile tests were carried out on specimens cut from the
fabric delivered to site to ensure that it conformed to specification.
These tests were carried out in the laboratories of Trinity College,
Dublin. The specimens were 50 mm in width (25 strands) and placed in
the testing apparatus such that the clear distance between end clamps
was over 300 mm. The choice of end clamp was found to be very
important as stress conditions at the clamps is generally not direct
tension, consequently any test in which the fabric failed at the clamps
was considered to be invalid. Reliable test results were only obtained
with capstan clamps. The fabric was taken to failure within 30 sees. The
strain was measured using an LVTD connected across the 100 mm
length at the centre of the test specimen. An initial prestress of 1 % of the
ultimate load was applied to the fabric to ensure that it was taut at the
start of the test. The ultimate load and the load-extension relationship
of these test specimens conformed with that submitted by the supplier
with the tender submission.
14. A testing programme is currently in progress to investigate the
effects of lower rates of strain and degradation of the fabric due to
installation damage and environmental damage. A sufficient number
of specimens has not been tested to date to allow statistically reliable
conclusions to be made. However the preliminary results suggest that
the behaviour at the lower strain rates is in line with that to be expected
from available published information (e.g. ref.5) and that the partial
factor used to allow for mechanical damage (see para 8) was of the
correct order of magnitude.
15. It is appreciated that the tensile stiffness of the fabric is an
important parameter in reinforced embankment performance on soft
ground. The stiffness did not appear to be significantly reduced at the
lower rates of strain (<2% strain).
16. The approach embankments to the Ratty River have achieved
almost complete primary consolidation under a lm surcharge at the
present time. The overbridge embankments are at about 75% of their
final height. The Ratty River embankments are lower and possibly less
demanding on the fabric; however only its performance will be dis
cussed as it is essentially complete at this stage. The significant soil


parameters andfieldmeasurements at the river site are presented. Some

preliminary comments are made on these; however a detailed geotech
nical analysis will be given in subsequent publications.
17. The road crosses at a sharp bend in the river (see Fig. 2). The
ground investigations showed that the bridge abutment on the western
side of the river could be economically located over an area of limited
depth of soft ground which was excavated and backfilled with free
draining granular material. There was a short stretch of rising ground
to the west of the abutment which comprised drumlin material. The
depth of soft material on the eastern side was considerably greater in
depth and in extent. Excavation and backfilling was not a reasonable
option there.
18. The cost of the bridge structure could be reduced by constructing
the abutments as close to the edge of the river banks as possible.
However the remains of old slope failures on the banks which could be
seen in the ground bore testimony of the marginal stability of this
material, even before the construction of the embankment. The site of
the eastern abutment was selected after an extensive investigation of the
ground conditions and stability analysis of various locations.


19. A conjectural geological section at the Ratty Bridge crossing as

determined from the borehole information is shown on Fig. 3. This
indicates that the approach embankment is underlain by up to 12 m of
soft ground. The vertical drains which were installed to speed up
consolidation (see para 24) penetrated to depths of up to 19 m in places.
This indicated that the thickness of the soft material could be significant
ly greater than indicated at the borehole locations. A particular feature
of this site is the sharp curve in the river which means that the river
affects the lateral stability of the approach embankment as well as the
longitudinal stability. There was therefore an increased potential for
slope failure both longitudinally and transversely.
20. The ground conditions comprised over 11 m of very soft, some
times laminated, sandy and slightly organic SILTS, over about 1 m of
firm silty clay intermixed with peat over a glacial till. The silts were the
governing soil in the stability assessment and only these will be dis
21. The water content of the soft silts was generally between 45 %
and 65%. The higher water contents were recorded in the upper 2.3 m
and in the lower 1 m. The natural water content was generally at or
close to the liquid limit The plasticity index was generally between 25%
and 37%. A grading curve showed that the particle sizes fell within
the silt range. The effective stress parameters determined from consoli
dated undrained triaxial tests with pore pressure measurements were
c' = 3 kPa and 0' = 39 degrees. The bulk density varied between 1.6

Fig. 3 Conjectural geological section



Mg/m and 1.7 Mg/m . The embankment site was below normal high
tide level; consequently the site was prone to daily flooding.
22. The undrained shear strength of the soft soil was determined
from in situ vane tests and from undrained triaxial tests on piston
samples. The principle results are shown on Fig. 4. The Bjerrum correc
tion factor has been applied to the in situ vane values on this diagram.
The increase in the strength with depth is an important factor with
regard to the efficiency of a reinforcing fabric in increasing embankment
stability. The laboratory value for the c / V ratio determined from
compression tests only was 0.5. Analysis of the in situ strengths sug
gested the value of this ratio was 0.4. However in view of the field results
of others (ref.6) and as this was not a critical parameter, a value of 0.25
was adopted for the Ratty Bridge site (a higher value was justified on
the overbridge site by a more comprehensive testing programme).
23. The laboratory consolidation tests indicated that the consolida
tion characteristics of the alluvial soils varied with depth. This is shown
on Figs 5a and 5b which give the variation of the coefficient of volume
compressibility m (for a pressure increment of 100 kPa above the initial
effective overburden pressure) and the average coefficient of consolida
tion c over that increment. A noticeable feature is the presence of a
permeable zone of low compressibility from about 5 m depth to 8 m
depth. There was no significant preconsolidation pressure. Also given

Undrained shear strength,







In-situ vane







Fig. 4 Undrained shear strength versus depth



C o e f f i c i e n t o f c o n s o l i d a t i o n c^ (m / y e a r )

m (m /MN)







|A A

Using l a b . e - l o g p c u r v e
W i t h Schmertmann (1955)
correctionto lab. results


Fig. 5 (a) Coefficient of volume compressibility versus depth; (b) coefficient of

consolidation versus depth

on Fig. 5a is the m value determined when Schmertmann's (ref.7)

method of reconstruction of the e-log p curve to allow for sample
disturbance is applied to the consolidation results.

24. The finished height of the road surface is 3 m above initial ground
level. In order to limit secondary consolidation movement on the ap
proach to the river bridge it was decided to obtain full primary consoli
dation under 1 m surcharge prior to the construction of the bridge
abutment. The estimated settlement, using the traditional one dimen
sional consolidation analysis, was also of the order of 1 m. Consequently
a total of 5 m of material had to be placed on the approach embankment
and primary consolidation under this load was to be achieved in less
than 2 years. Based on the laboratory determined values of the coeffi
cient of consolidation, it was decided to install vertical drains to achieve
consolidation within the required time. The drain spacing near the river
was 1.05 m and that further away was 1.3 m. It was decided to adopt an
FOS of 1.4 for design for the reasons given in para 4. In order to achieve


this it was necessary to install a reinforcing fabric. As stated previously

Stabilenka 600 was adopted. The reinforcement was arranged in two
layers, one in the longitudinal direction near the river's edge and the
other in the transverse direction. The side slope of the embankment in
the longitudinal direction was 1 in 2. A slope in the transverse direction
was at 1 in 3 in order to conform with those of the unreinforced sections.
The upper 3 m of soil was extremely soft and a small berm, 1 m in height
and 6 m in extent, was constructed in front of the embankment to limit
the possibility of soil squeezing out from under the toe.
25. A total of 15 pneumatic piezometers, 6 inclinometers and 15
magnetic extensometers were installed on the river approach embank
ment. Strain gauges were attached to two lines of the fabric. Settlement
plates were also installed. The layouts of these are illustrated in Figs 2,
6a and 6b.
26. Strain gauges were installed on selected specified lengths of the
fabric in the factory. These lengths of fabric were delivered in special






HP-5 +- HE-5

HP-1-M -HE-1

HP-6 + HE-6

HP-2+ HE-2

HP-7 -j- HE-7

HP-3+- HE-3

HP-8 + HE-8

HP-4-4-. -HE-4

HP-9 +
HP-ll4- HE-11

P = Piezometer
E = Magnetic e x t e n s o m e t e r
I = Inclinometer

Fig. 6 Instrumentation lines J and H




Fig. 7 Settlement under embankment

transport containers and hung from hangers to avoid damage. The

gauges used were the traditional resistance type bonded to the fabric by
adhesive and covered with a layer of silicon rubber. Output reading
units, which converted the change of resistance in the gauge directly
into strain, were supplied by the manufacturer for use by the site staff.
27. The embankment was constructed with a crushed angular rock
fill which had a measured in situ density of about 2.05 Mg/nr. The total

(m /MN)



Field measurements



Using lab. e-log p curve

With Schmertmann (1955) correction
to lab. results

Fig. 8 Comparison of field and laboratory m y values



settlement across the embankment under about 5 m of the fill is shown

on Fig. 7. The piezometers confirmed that primary consolidation was
essentially complete at this stage. The variation in field m with depth,
as interpreted from the magnetic extensometers, is given on Fig. 8. An
allowance has been made in the determination of die field m for the
distribution of pressure beneath the embankment using Osterberg
charts (ref.8).
28. The lateral movements as indicated by the inclinometers is indi
cated on Fig. 9. The maximum lateral movement of about 120 mm was
recorded at a depth of 3 m below the top edge of the embankment.
29. The strain gauge readings recorded on the fabric across the
embankment at the time of writing this report (with primary consolida
tion essentially completed) are shown on Figs 10a and 10b. The maxi
mum recorded strain was about 1.5% close to the top edge of the


30. The amount of settlement predicted from the laboratory results
was about 1 m. This compares favourably with the on site readings of
0.925 m to 1.025 m. Furthermore the distribution of the consolidation
strain, as indicated from the m values determined from the magnetic
extensometers on Fig. 8, compares very favourably with that deterv

Lateral deflection (mm)

U5 - I



Fig.9 Inclinometer readings




Fig. 10 Fabric strain: (a) line CR; (b) line CT

mined from the ground investigation, particularly if the Schmertmann

adjustment is applied.
31. The relatively even distribution of settlement across the embank
ment would suggest that the introduction of the fabric encouraged the
fill to act as a raft. However this behaviour cannot be confidently
interpreted from the settlement of the river embankment as there was
no control unreinforced section of uniform fill depth with which to
compare the findings. It is hoped that an analysis of the more extensive
overbridge embankments will enable such a comparison to be made.
32. As expected the strain gauge readings indicated that the working
strain level was about 1.5% maximum. This is in line with that estimated
from FE analysis - ref para 7. The distribution of strain within the fabric
is also that expected from the FE analysis. It is considered that the tensile
stiffness of the fabric is the important design parameter if sufficient
horizontal stress is to be mobilized at the base of the fabric to increase
the bearing capacity of the underlying soil in accordance with the
mechanism proposed by Jewell (ref.9).
33. The inclinometers confirm that little strain has occurred in the
bottom of the embankment. The maximum deflection occurs at about 3
m depth.



34. The eastern approach embankment to the Ratty River was con
structed on a potentially unstable river bank. It was decided to incor
porate a reinforcing fabric into the design of the embankment to shorten
the time of construction and to increase the FOS of the embankment
during the construction phase. This increased FOS enabled the embank
ment to be constructed with a minimiim of highly skilled site staff and
the construction of the bridge was brought forward to the earliest
possible date.
35. The installation of the fabric on site was straightforward. A
preliminary analysis of the field results indicates that the settlement of
the embankment was as expected from normal one dimensional con
solidation analysis. The strain in the fabric was about 1.5% which is in
line with that predicted from FE analysis. A detailed geotechnical
analysis of the findings from the Ratty River site and from the more
extensive overbridge sites will be given in future publications.
36. The authors would like to thank Mr J. J. Coyne, Acting County
Engineer from Clare County Council, for permission to publish the
information given in this paper.
1. Fraser, S. The analysis of reinforced embankments. MSc disserta
tion, Trinity College, Dublin, 1987.
2. Bousquet, H. Behaviour of a reinforcing fabric in an embankment
on soft ground. Project work at Trinity College Dublin and Ecole nationale superieure d'hydraulique et de mecanique de Grenoble.
3. Farrell, E.R. Design of geotextile reinforced embankment. Proc. of
seminar on reinforced earth, Institution of Engineers of Ireland, 1989.
4. Geotextile Engineering Manual, Federal Highway Administration,
National Highway Institute, Washington D.C
5. Veldhuijzen van Zanten, R. Geotextiles and Geomembranes in Civil
Engineering, A.A. Balkema, 1986.
6. Milligan, V. and La Rochelle, P. Design methods for embankments
over weak soils, Proc. Int. Conf. on Geotextiles, Las Vegas, 1978.
7. Schmertman, J.M. The undisturbed consolidation of clay, Trans.

Vol. 120,1955.

8. Osterberg, J. O. Influence values for vertical stresses in semi-infi

nite mass due to embankment loading, Proc. 4th Int. Conf. SMFE, Lon
don, Vol. 1, p. 393,1957.
9. Jewell, R.A. Mechanics of reinforced embankments on soft soil
Proc. Prediction Symp. on a Reinforced Embankment on Soft Ground, Kings
College, London ,1986

10. D e s i g n of road embankments over mineral workings

using high strength geotextile membranes

D. S. COOK, BSc, CEng, MICE, FGS, Thorburn Associates, Glasgow

Road construction over minerally unstable ground for a local authority
lends itself towards adoption of innovative cost effective support sys
tems in lieu of conventional mineral consolidation techniques. This
paper describes the general design principles and philosophies adopted
in assessing the viability of a road embankment support system together
with details of a current project in which this has been adopted.
1. The existence of old mineral workings at sites for development
requires some form of remedial work to be undertaken. Stabilisation of
mine workings is frequently achieved by filling the voids within the old
workings with a mixture of cement, pfa and sand and gravel.
2. Construction of structures in areas of former mineral extraction
often required complete infilling of voids due to concern over differen
tial ground movements and generally were owned by individuals or
financial organisations who would not accept any possible risk or
damage which could occur if complete consolidation was not carried
3. Many roads are built over areas of previous mining and in the past
total consolidation of the workings was normally the solution adopted.
However, with the large number of roads being planned and con
structed over minerally unstable ground the cost of total consolidation
would be enormous, and it is accepted that only newly constructed
roads or roads in areas of high risk would be treated by this method.
4. Where a client, such as a roads authority, will be the long term
owner of the system an alternative form of treatment can be considered
to provide a more cost effective solution, even if localised additional
treatment may be required in the future.
5. The use of strong geomembranes to support the road over any
potential voids will provide such a cost effective solution and has been
adopted by Thorburn Associates in two major road schemes, the most





recent currently being constructed in the last section of the Edinburgh

City Bypass at Straiton. (Fig 1).
6. In the initial stages of a feasibility study for a road scheme, an
evaluation of risk has to be carried out when considering other methods
of providing protection. This evaluation has been considered when
dealing with similar circumstances in other projects.
7. The basic criteria which govern the decision on factors of safety
to be applied are:
a) The level of risk acceptable to the general public.
b) The legal responsibility of those who have a duty of care.
c) The cost of reducing the level of risk.
8. In a specific case of construction work over areas of potential
mineral instability arising from shallow workings two fundamental
questions are considered:
a) What is the likelihood of a plump hole (crown hole) developing?
The assessment of the likelihood of plump holes is based on the
following considerations:
the thickness of extraction,
the spacing and sizes of the stoops,
the rock cover to the workings,
the dip of the seam.
the properties of the rock overlying the seam,
any record of plump holes in the vicinity.


the properties of the superficial deposits,

the level of the water table,
b) What would be the consequences of a plump hole? Where limited
degrees of subsidence can be permitted without undue risk to the
general public then the use of structural protection systems may be
9. From experience of design of embankment support on the Stirling
shire Link Motorways it was considered that an attractive concept was
to encourage deflections large enough to mobilise the embankment
material to arch across the hole and thus reduce the load on the struc
tural support system. A sufficiently flexible system could be achieved
by the provision of a tension membrane below the embankment at
rockhead. In the event of a hole forming, this membrane would sag into
the hole and support the remaining load in tension, taking the form of
a two-way spanning catenary.
10. The question of how to assess proportioning of load be ween soil
arching and membranes was investigated by model tests carried out at
Dundee University. The results of a typical test are given in Fig. 2.
11. The main conclusions of the tests were:
a) The load carried by the membrane was independent of membrane
b) The load carried by the membrane was independent of sand type.
c) the load carried by the membrane was directly proportional to the
diameter of the hole.
d) Once the depth of sand over the membrane exceeded a fixed
proportion of the span then no more load was carried by the
membrane. The equivalent depth of sand carried was 0.2 times the
span when the sand height is greater than 0.6 times the span.
The critical parameter governing the performance of the membrane was
the load-strain curve for the tension members.
12. In the design process of the membrane systems, the following
criteria were adopted:
a) During working conditions the membrane will take the form of
catenary and share load by two-way spanning action when two
orthogonal layers are adopted.
b) The deflection of the membrane under working load would be
limited to provide a deflection at road surface no greater than 1/60
of the diameter of subsidence at road level.


P A P E R 10: C O O K

c) The ultimate capacity of the membrane would provide a factor of

safety of 1.5 when supporting the total weight of soil above the hole.
d) The assumed working load would be calculated as an equivalent
height of fill above the membrane of 0.2 times the diameter of
subsidence at the surface of the bedrock.
e) The size of depression at road surface would be a function of the
depth of embankment, allowance for material bulking and a limit
to the zone of subsidence through the embankment.
13. The tests carried out at Dundee University were performed using
a loose, uniform graded sand as an equivalent "embankment" material.
This material is analogous to ball bearings or "marbles" in so far as there
would be no volume change for a given deflection. The effects of volume
change were ignored and it was assumed that the volume of the part
sphere formed at rockhead due to a settlement was equal to the volume
of a corresponding part sphere at road level Thus any deflection at
rockhead would result in a correspondingly smaller deflection at road
level. It should be noted that even given this loose, mobile form of
embankment arching did occur within the system which resulted in the
load transmitted to the membrane being equivalent to an embankment
height of 0.2 of the hole diameter. This form of settlement is shown on
Fig. 3A.
14. In practice road embankments are formed using compacted
granular material. This should result in a more substantial arching
system being formed which could result in no deflections being reflected
at road surface, as shown in Fig. 3B.

N01 150mm HOLE: C O N G L E T O N 60 S A N D







Fig. 2





dofloction at road aurfaca raiatad
to small daftaction at rockhaad


looso granular matarial

( ball baaring analogy )

no void ratio changa

v, v

lod on mombrana
~ 0.2 x Dia dua
" arching



Ma sign of movantant
at road aurtaca


compact amfcanfcmant


tooao butfcad
grammar matarial
void ratio ineraaaaa to provont
further upward movamont

~- 0.2 i Dia dua to
* arching "



largo dof loot ion at road
aurfaca raiatad to larga
( ultimata ) dafiaetion of



15. It is considered that the compacted embankment material forms

a strong arch over the depression and the loosened material beneath the
arch bulks sufficiently to prevent further upward migration of the arch.
Further movement of the arch could only occur if the membrane deflects
further or the opening size increases.
16. It can therefore be considered that the deflection of the road
surface is a function of the plump hole size and the embankment arching
17. For the Straiton contract the maximum plump hole diameter at
rockhead, used for ultimate analysis, was taken as 12 metres, although
the majority of working room sizes were in the order of 3 - 6 metres. In
addition the size of the opening at rockhead and any corresponding
diameter of subsidence at road level is time dependent with a period
elapsing between initial collapse at the workings and final angles of
draw developing within the rock and superficial deposits.
18. This philosophy of time dependent collapse can be seen in Figs 4
and 5 for both loose and compacted embankment materials where the
initial plump hole at rockhead is relatively small with a correspondingly
minimal deflection of the road.

Photo l


19. In time the rock will degrade and the superficial deposits and/or
road embankment draw angles will decrease from near vertical to
approximately 60 degrees. This phenomenon has been recorded in
several collapses and was highlighted by the collapse of ground within
a caravan park at Straiton, engulfing a mobile home during the site
investigation period (Photo 1). The initial hole was some 6 metres
diameter and 10 metres deep, but increased to approximately 10 metres
diameter within a few days.
20. It should be borne in mind that most collapses have an open shaft
which allows overburden material to collapse into it and as a result
degradation occurs quickly. However, with a membrane placed at
rockhead this material will be restrained and any degradation will take
place over a longer period.
21. For previous contracts a limiting deflection/span ratio of 1/60 for
any subsidence at road level was set to govern movements.
22. It was also considered that small deflections, which resulted in
deflection/span ratios greater than 1/100 at roadsurface, would not be
observed by motorists.
23. For the Straiton contract with room sizes up to 12 metres square
and seam thicknesses of up to 8 metres a deflection/span ratio of 1/60
was difficult to achieve and could lead to an uneconomic solution. It
was therefore proposed that the philosophy of rock failure should be
considered further and a judgement given to the rate of failure.
24. As stated previously there are two "working" conditions which
may occur:
a) Assumed no volume change of a loose embankment material
which results in some deflection at road surface - Fig. 3A.
b) Full arching of the compacted embankment resulting in no settle
ments at road surface - Fig. 3B.
25. The worst condition that could occur is when all the embankment
weight is carried by the membrane, i.e., no arching occurs, as might
happen if a cohesive upfill is used. This fill weight loading would result
in large deflections of the membrane with correspondingly severe set
tlements at road surface - Fig. 3C.
26. This severe condition is unlikely to occur but a factor of safety in
excess of 1.5 was provided for material stress for this case.
27. However, these settlements and deflection/span ratios are for
the worst case and final conditions, once supporting rock and soil
materials have degraded to their final draw angles.
28. For smaller holes and/or initial, near vertical draw angles the
deflection/span ratios should be correspondingly better.




Photo 2 The laying out of 1000 Stabilenka on site

29. It is envisaged that the road surface settlements may progress
through the following modes:

Hole Diameter












12 m

(Time passage increasing)

30. This time relationship is subjective but records, and photographic
evidence confirms, that it may take days, weeks, if not months to reach
such a final condition.
31. On this basis it was considered reasonable to adopt a membrane
which would be sufficiently strong to carry the ultimate conditions.
Although it would not meet the criteria set for deflections for the worst
32. Initial settlements at road surface should be relatively small and
sufficient time would be available for these settlements to be observed,
r e p o r t e d t o the Highway A u t h o r i t y , lane c l o s u r e action taken and
remedial work carried out before limiting conditions are reached.



150mm SAND
500mm SAND
200mm SAND
500mm SAND


Fig. 6




33. Due to the inherent flexibility of a geomembrane solution it was

considered that its use below embankment heights less than 4 metres
could lead to excessive road settlements.
34. To meet the 1 /60 deflection/span criteria set a stiff 150 mm thick
concrete slab with a mesh of pre-stressing tendons placed orthogonally
at mid depth was adopted in such locations.
35. For embankments greater than 4 metres high two orthogonal
layers of a composite of Terram reinforced with Paraweb straps was
adopted (now known as Paralink).
36. Due to the more severe design criteria to be met for this contract,
i.e., 12 metres embankments to be supported over a 12 metre span, four
layers of Stabilenka 1000s were adopted to carry the load (Photo 2).
37. These four layers were laid as two orthogonal systems separated
by 700 mm of sand which will produce a stiff interacting system (rein
forced earth analogy) and could reduce deflections.
38. The state of the art philosophy of reinforced earth design is not
sufficiently advanced to accurately determine the stiffening effect of this
interaction but it is sufficient to say some deflection reducing factors


will be present and any settlement will be less than that calculated for
two separate membranes.
39. The ends of the membrane were wrapped around the granular
layer, similar to a 'bob' on a reinforcing bar, thus providing a better
anchorage capacity to the system by mobilising the passive wedge of
soil in front of the anchorage. (Fig. 6).
40. The use of strong geomembranes in this manner will provide a
cost effective solution to the problem of road support over minerally
unstable ground. The cost of the geotextile support system at Straiton
was estimated to be in the order of 2 m compared to 4 m for conven
tional grouting. However, it should not be considered a panacea in so
far as should collapse of workings occur and excessive settlements be
observed, then remedial works need to be adopted immediately which
would normally take the form of lane closures and conventional grout
ing to this local area of collapse.
41. This form of design and construction has been adopted and is
protecting road users in the two instances quoted. Further research
would be required to provide a more cost effective solution based on a
better understanding of soil-structure interaction.
42. The author considers this would take the form of:
a) Larger scale deflection tests, similar to those carried out at Dundee
b) An assessment and understanding of the benefit of the interaction
of multi-layer systems to reduce deflections.
c) The accurate assessment of 'turned back' anchorage compared to
conventional frictional design.
d) The study and back analysis of an actual failure event - although
the roads authorities may not wish for such.
43. The author would like to acknowledge Lothian Regional Coun
cil's permission to include information relating to the Straiton contract.



Edited by M. D. BOLTON, Cambridge University

Dr Dyer (TH Technology) asked the speakers whether pre-tensioning

of the geotextile during placement should be specified in a contract. He
felt that such a practice might reduce extensions in service.
In response, Dr Farrell explained that, in the works he had described,
a small tension was applied to take out minor kinks and folds, but this
was not specified in detail.
Dr Bassett said that his experience with embankments at Stanstead
Abbots and Harlow was that tensioning seemed to have no appreciable
effect. He felt that the lateral displacement of the underlying soft soil
would inevitably pull the reinforcement tight in service, with a tension
far exceeding that which could be applied during construction.


General discussion

Edited by M. D. BOLTON, Cambridge University


Reinforcement in the base of embankments was discussed in relation to
its possible effects on ground movements, and the degree to which
reinforcement had been observed in practice to take up tension. The
possible effects of pore pressure changes in the soft clay, the usefulness
of observing such changes, and the methods of analysis which could
incorporate them, were also raised.
Mr Sanders (Dobbie and Partners) began by describing the Great
Yarmouth bypass which was constructed in 1985, with a geotextile
reinforced base over all of its 5 km length. He concurred with Dr Hird
that the main effect of such a sheet of geotextile was to influence lateral
spreading of the embankment: the settlement profile was not signifi
cantly modified. He went on, however, to propose that the analysis of
such soft foundation soils should be in terms of effective stresses,
incorporating the measurement or prediction of excess pore water
pressures due to embankment loading. In his experience there was an
advantage in this compared with the measurement and use on a total
stress analysis only of the in situ undrained shear strength s .
Initial s is a very conservative parameter when designing for staged
construction. What is wanted is the consolidated undrained strength
allowing at any stage for that part of the overburden pressure which has
become effective. Pore pressures u were monitored during construction
of the Great Yarmouth bypass and it was possible first to estimate the
total vertical stress a from the current loading geometry, then to deduct
u to find the effective vertical stress g ', and then to use a Skemptontype correlation for s / o ' to deduce the current undrained strength.
This permitted both the prediction of stability in the office, and its
control on site: only one small failure was occasioned between in
strumented sections, taking this 'observational' approach.
It may perhaps be added that the effects of embankment construction
are not truly one-dimensional. Excess pore pressures which are initially
generated under the centre of the embankment promote local consoli
dation settlement which forces the embankment to tend to arch over the



imminent depression, throwing a greater proportion of its total weight

outwards along the flanks. This effect is also recognized in the paper by
Hird and Jewell. If these high pore pressures are then transmitted into
zones of relatively small total stress beneath or beyond the toe of the
slope, due to preferential lateral drainage, the resulting loss of effective
stress could have serious consequences for local bearing capacity in the
partially drained state.
Mr Sanders, being aware of high pore pressures in these circumstan
ces, wondered why Dr Hird had not advocated analysis solely in
effective stress terms, with angle of shearing cp' and pore pressure u in
the soft soil.
Dr Hird (Sheffield University), in response, confirmed that the use in
design of consolidated undrained strengths, based on a value of s / o '
for the clay site, was advisable for staged construction. This was one
way of implementing the recommendation in paragraph 56 of his paper,
and was consistent with the approach proposed in the paper for single
stage construction. Research is currently in progress at Sheffield and
Oxford Universities to see if this method of allowing for strength gains
during construction is wholly satisfactory. If a full effective stress ana
lysis were to be performed, avoiding the explicit use of s altogether,
the main difficulty would then lie in the prediction of excess pore water
pressures. The generation and subsequent dissipation of excess press
ures could be predicted by many finite element programmes, such as
CRISP developed at Cambridge. CRISP is based on the Cam-clay model
of soil behaviour which, being elasto-plastic, is capable of replicating
the non-linear rate of excess pore pressure generation with superim
posed load. This is much more realistic than the linearized approach of
fitting single values of Skempton's parameter A and B to triaxial test
data. It does, however, require that the over-consolidation cycle of the
soft soils be known, together with the critical state friction angle. If such
information were available, he accepted that good analyses could be
obtained that way. Of course, an effective stress analysis during con
struction can be based on measured pore pressures: this would be
relatively straightforward, and certainly worthwhile.
Dr Tonks (Manstock Geotechnical) returned to the need to account
for consolidation during staged construction. He pointed out that the
presence of geotextile reinforcement, even if it were only capable of
making a modest contribution to stability, could remove a great deal of
uncertainty on site during construction. He had experience of a site
where the consolidation coefficient which had been assumed to be
greater in the field than in the laboratory oedometer tests, apparently
remained at the lower value which had been determined. The presence
of the reinforcement meant that schedules could be kept by permitting
the reinforcement to carry, temporarily, a greater fraction of its ultimate



tensile capacity. Dr Tonks then asked whether there were any views on
the relative advantages of stripping, or leaving in place, the mat of
vegetation which is often found to cap the drier crust over soft clay
deposits. Would it affect bond, for example?
Dr Jewell (Oxford University) replied that the top of the clay would
be well drained in any event where granular fill was used for the
embankment. An adhesion of 0.8s would nearly always create a con
servative estimate of bond.
Dr Farrell (Dublin University) said that he had found from finite
element studies that the dried crust could have a significant effect on
embankment behaviour, though it might be difficult to assign a stiffness
to it. He thought that crust or mat effects could possibly explain
observations where geotextiles had extended by only 1.5% to 2%.
The implication of these replies was that the crust and mat could be
left in place as a further source of lateral strength, beyond that which
could reasonably be included in design calculations. It should not be
forgotten, however, that the crust and mat are produced by, and sub
sequently influenced by the seasonal climate. Cracks caused by drought
could eliminate lateral tensile resistance in the crust and the effective
stress analysis of the shear strength of grass has received comparatively
little attention. Final decisions on the replacement of superficial organic
materials should be left to the engineer on site.
Dr Murray (TRRL) returned to the point that reinforcement exten
sions were sometimes quite small, perhaps 1% to 2%. Could he be
assured that the inclusion of reinforcement in these embankments had
been strictly necessary?
Dr Farrell responded that the lateral soil displacement in the case
study described in his paper had been measured by inclinometers
placed at various sections. The maximum lateral movements about 3 m
below the surface of the soft soil beneath overbridge embankments
which are currently under construction, were found to be 235 mm
beneath a 6 m high section of unreinforced embankment, but 180 mm
beneath a 9 m high section that was reinforced. Although the lateral
extension of the geotextile was rather less than these figures, its high
stiffness still led to tensions of the order of 100 kN/m. It is too early in
this study to be conclusive that soil variability, for example, did not play
a part in the comparative behaviour of the reinforced and unreinforced
sections. Nevertheless the impression certainly was that the reinforce
ment gave a significant improvement in embankment performance.
Professor Leonards applauded the clarification of limit analysis for
reinforced embankments which has been achieved in the authors'
papers, and felt that the challenge now was to produce similar analysis
of soil-textile deformations. Like some of the authors, he had used finite
element analyses to gain some insights into the problem. He pointed



out that whereas shear stress develops within the soft soil mass as a
function of its local shear strain, bond stresses on the fabric at the surface
are only created if the fabric can extend and develop commensurate
tension. Actual lateral displacements are therefore necessary at the soil
surface, albeit smaller displacements than those in the underlying soil
which is tending to squeeze laterally out of the sandwich created by the
geotextile on top and the progressively stronger soils below. Research
workers should aim to produce a concise, consistent deformation mech
anism which accounts for soil-reinforcement interaction.
Mr McCombie (Netlon Ltd) claimed advantages for elongating pun
ched sheets of polypropylene which were flexurally stiffer than textiles.
He went on to suggest a theory for constructing a 3D geocell mattress
filled with gravel. He showed a theoretical slip line field corresponding
to the squeezing of soft plastic material between rough rigid plattens,
which was used to design their geocell mattresses on soft clay. He
proposed that the enhanced bending rigidity of geocells was required
to apply this approach, and illustrated this with an example of an
embankment which had settled 1.5 m but with comparatively little
Dr Bassett (King's College, London) agreed that in laboratory model
studies, 3D geocells had proved about five times stiffer in bending than
the same weight of 2D sheets of similar grid material with sand placed
on top to the same depth as the geocell.
Professor Leonards, however, referred to the paper by Bushbridge J.
R., Chan P., Milligan V., La Rochelle R. R., Lefebvre L. D. - The effect of
a geogrid reinforcement on the stability of embankments on a soft
sensitive champline clay deposit - a report to the Canadian Transport
ation Centre, March 1985 in which the reverse was observed in practice.
Dr Hird ventured an explanation for the apparent contradictions. He
referred to the results of finite element analyses of embankments with
sheet reinforcement in the base. In some instances there were significant
compressive lateral strains in the embankment at the crest, together with
the expected lateral extension at the base. In other words, and as
discussed in his paper, there was significant bending about a longitudi
nal axis, superimposed on the primary mechanism of lateral extension.
Once the embankment was completed, there was an advantage in
placing the reinforcement in a flat sheet as far as possible from the
neutral axis of bending. The resulting flexural stiffness of the completed

embankment must be far larger than the flexural stiffness of a geocell

which, although of a different form, is much shallower than the bank

itself. The bending moment associated with the distortion of a given
amount of reinforcement would be proportional to its distance from the
neutral axis of bending. Whereas a geocell might provide extra bending



rigidity at the start of construction, the relative benefit might reduce as

the embankment grew.
Dr Hird also pointed out that the possible advantage of bending
stiffness in ensuring more uniform vertical settlement could be out
weighed by the requirement for additional reinforcement to carry the
greater lateral earth pressures in the embankment fill. Whereas he had
tried to stress in his paper the importance of separating the required
reinforcement tension into two components, Pfndn due to outward
movement of clay beneath and Pfiii due to the lateral pressure of fill in
the centre of the embankment, he had not been aware of any allowance
for Pfui in the design method that Mr McCombie had briefly outlined.
Dr Bassett returned to the question of assumed lateral soil displace
ments above and below the reinforcement. Both Mr McCombie and Dr
Hird had used the same pattern of outward clay movement to deduce
the worst possible drag on the lower surface of the reinforcement.
Measurements of reinforced embankments in service had sometimes
indicated that maximum sheet tension was developed under the shoul
ders: this then fell to a smaller value beneath the centre of the bank. If
tension drops towards the centre, the geotextile must be displacing
outward relative to the adhering soil under the crest of the embankment.
Clearly the relative displacements in service of fill, geotextile and soft
clay must be quite complicated.
Mr Bolton, in summarizing the outcome of this part of the discussion,
drew attention to the separate issues of safety and deformation. The
methods referred to by Hird and Jewell seem to satisfy safety criteria.
They demonstrate that the applied loads can be held in equilibrium
without violating the ultimate strength criteria of either the fill, the soft
clay, or the geotextile. In these circumstances, for materials which
exhibit perfect ductility at least, the lower bound theorem of plasticity
guarantees that collapse cannot occur, even if the assumed stress dis
tribution is in error. In order to get good estimates of deformation in
service, however, the distribution of strains and displacements must
be correctly anticipated. As Professor Leonards remarked, we are still
some way from proposing, or validating, a geo-structural mechanism
for reinforced embankments which encompasses the details of relative
lateral deformations. What we do have is the observation that Terzaghi's
consolidation theory taken together with oedometer test values on the
soft soil have apparently led to reasonable predictions of the shape and
size of the long-term settlement trough created by a reinforced embank




There was some further discussion of steep embankments con
structed with many levels of reinforcement attached to, or wrapped over
to produce, a facing which prevents the fill from escaping.
Dr Bassett spoke about the deformations observed in small labora
tory models of reinforced soil walls, built over extremely soft clay. The
lowest level of reinforcement tended to go into compression rather than
tension, due to the tendency for horizontal outward sliding of the
reinforced block. Perhaps there is little to be gained in placing reinforce
ment in the wall at lower ground level. He went on to remark on tension
distributions in wall reinforcement which could deviate from simple
design assumptions. For example,finiteelement analyses which he had
performed showed that compaction against the face could have a large
effect on tensions in service. Furthermore, bond often seemed to be so
large that tensions at the face might remain large along the reinforce
ment, dropping only in a narrow bond-zone at what is tantamount to
the 'fixed-anchor length' of a ground anchor.
Mr Masterton (Babtie, Shaw and Morton) showed an example of a
wall at Annan in which the ground-anchor analogy was explicit. This
was developed from both die TRRL anchored earth concept and a
similar Austrian system. Synthetic straps attached to facing units went
back into the cohesive backfill and were looped around semi-circular
concrete discs acting as anchor blocks which developed fixity through
both passive pressure in front and shear on the top and bottom surfaces.
The synthetic material was specified because it was compatible with the
low pH backfill which was available. The facing units were so designed
as to be capable of being planted like window boxes. The wall was also
very straightforward to construct.
Dr O'Reilly (TRRL) referring to Jewell's charts, found that certain
geometries were contrary to his initial intuitions, and asked whether the
charts had been validated by testing models or prototypes. For
example, it may be seen that for moderate pore water pressures, the
steeper slopes require shorter straps. And for slopes which apparently
might stand unreinforced (slope angle P = an angle of soil shearing 9)
there was still a requirement for reinforcement of length L = 0.4H.
Dr Jewell responded that certain deductions from the charts had
initially seemed strange but that, on further investigation, explanations
could be found. With regard to shallow faces, sliding on the horizontal
sheet of fabric (at reduced <p), forced along by an active wedge behind
the reinforced block, becomes the dominant mechanism. Hence the
need for reinforcement of some length: the introduction of reinforce
ment has effectively reduced the composite strength, and sufficient
must be used to regain overall stability.



Dr Jewell also referred to the possibility of using his charts or the

design of loop anchor walls as described earlier by Masterton: the bond
length L B would be short, corresponding to the radius of the anchor
Finally, he came back to the problem of apparently small working
stresses in reinforcement. He perceived that lateral displacements in
geotextile reinforced embankments would generally be large enough to
fully mobilize the strength of the soil fill. All the reserve of strength
under working conditions would then be vested in the reinforcement.
It is necessary, therefore, that working stresses are relatively small: the
partial factor approach demands that some account be taken of long
term deterioration etc.
Mr Bolton, in concluding this section of the discussion, pointed to the
great diversity of forms and details which has been devised for steep
reinforced embankments. There was clearly great scope for ingenuity
in design and construction to satisfy the particular constraints or oppor
tunities of a wide variety of schemes. As far as analysis is concerned, it
seems that stability can be assured through the careful application of
limit equilibrium techniques. The chief uncertainty lies in the internal
deformations, and internal working stresses, within the reinforced
Until this is better understood, the significance of measured field
displacements, compaction stresses, construction techniques, and con
nection details cannot exactly be determined. Neither can the service
ability of reinforced embankments subject to live loads be exactly
determined. In these respects we must presently rely on empiricism
based on field experiences.
It is to be hoped, as Professor Leonards said, that research workers
will take up this challenge. Having generated hypothetical deformation
mechanisms, it is also to be hoped that they obtain some verification for
them, as proposed by Dr O'Reilly. Such advances in understanding,
coupled with further ingenious applications in the field, seem almost
inevitable over the next few years. We will then have to re-convene.