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K. Gorska1

Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland

ABSTRACT

Trench is connected to very narrow and deep excavation filled with bentonite suspension. This paper presents estimation of its

stability in cohesive soil. The stability is assessed by two calculation methods. The first involves the equilibrium of forces acting

on the rigid wedge. The second one includes numerical calculations conducted in Plaxis 3D Foundations. A few examples

having different dimensions (length and depth) are analyzed in uniform soil conditions. Graphs defining the dependence of

length, depth and factor of safety are presented. It is found that for long trenches (L6m) the soil kinematics at failure coincides

with the literature data. Short trenches are under a large influence of the arching effect and cohesive forces. The limit

equilibrium method can be used under the condition of employing a factor, which reduces the value of the earth pressure.

Keywords: retaining wall, trench, safety, stability, numerical analysis, arching, failure.

1 INTRODUCTION variations in construction phases result in a huge

range of implementation possibilities, e.g. slurry

Trench excavation is widely used in geotechnical walls in which a suspension is mixed with

works. It is performed as the first stage cement that hardens [2].

of construction for diaphragm walls, barrettes or The first stage of construction is critical for

slurry walls [3, 12]. A deep vertical cut in the the construction process. In the following phases,

ground is excavated under a slurry suspension. the stability of the surrounding soil is easier to

The first application of diaphragm walls was in maintain. During the concreting process pressure

the early sixties [10] and now they are inside the trench increases (slurry is being

continually used successfully supporting the continuously replaced by concrete) as does the

construction of deep excavations or deep exerted force on the faces and the toe of the

foundations. Walls made from concrete and steel trench.

work well against high values of internal forces There is a widespread belief among

and permit the transfer of loads from leaning geoengineers that if the slurry level exceeds the

slabs. Another advantage is water resistance that water level by more than 1 m and the slurry unit

is only provided by a proper execution of panel weight is greater than 10.5 kN/m3 trench stability

joints. Van Tol presents four cases of leakage is guaranteed; although in this case the safety

through the diaphragm walls at stop end joints in margin is unknown. The primary question is in

deep excavations, which led to very serious what situations special care or preparations

1

Wroclaw University of Technology, ul. Wybrzeze Wyspianskiego 27, 51-692 Wroclaw. karolina.gorska@pwr.wroc.pl

during the trenching process should be taken. the Coulomb method for two-dimensional

Usually, major problems are not related to the stability of a slope with an infinite length [1].

trenching process, but are connected to human The shape of the wedge is a prism with triangular

error. sides (see Figure 1a). Acting forces on the wedge

There are several theories for calculating are (see Figure 1b): the bulk weight of the wedge

trench stability that have been implemented in W, the resultant force on the slip surface R,

practice. The first group of theories concerns 2D cohesion force on the slip surface CR, the earth

cases with long trenches. The wedge is triangular pressure Ph and the hydrostatic slurry pressure

and the slip surface is inclined by the angle Ps. To simulate spatial working conditions, shear

cr = /4 + /2, as in the Coulomb criterion, forces Ss and cohesion forces C on the wedge

where is friction angle. Initially only sides are applied. This method provides a very

homogeneous, perfectly cohesive soil conditions quick and accurate estimation for engineering

without groundwater were analyzed by Nash and purposes.

Johns [5]. Later, other forces such as

groundwater pressure and a varying slurry level

were taken into consideration (Morgerstern and

AmirTahmasseb [4]). These solutions can be

assumed for shallower rather than longer

trenches (trenches with dimensions of L<2H).

If 3D working conditions are considered, the

forces acting on the sides - shear forces and

cohesion forces - must be analyzed. This

represents the simplest transition from 2D to 3D

analysis and was proposed by Prater [7]. Another Figure 1 a) 3D-view of the sliding block; b) Polygon of

modification is the inclination of the sides into acting forces in the plane of symmetry.

the interior of the wedge. The inclination angle

= /4+/2 proposed by Washbourne [11] seems In the limit-equilibrium method for this

to have a too small value according to numerical specific case the stability of cohesive soil Ph and

calculations conducted by the author. This Ps must have equal values. This statement leads

angular wedge shape is easily described, but it to the determination of the failure surface

differs from the shape observed in the numerical inclination. For the 2D case it is cr = /4 + /2.

calculations. Ph is determined from the projection of all acting

The first solution with a curved failure surface forces in the horizontal and vertical directions.

was presented by Piaskowski & Kowalewski in The equilibrium equations are as follows:

1965 [6]. This solution uses a vertical elliptic Fz = 0 Ph + 2 S sz + 2 C z + C Rz = R z

cylinder cut by a critical plane. The latest 3D (1)

solutions by Tsai and Chang employ a more Fy = 0 W = R y + C Ry + 2 S sy + 2C y

realistic smooth and convex shear surface [9].

This method uses vertical columns as a

generalization for standard 2D slices. where:

This paper presents two further methods of

analysis for trench stability. W = 0.5 H 2 ctg L

Rz = Ry tg ( )

S s = Sn tg

The first method involves the equilibrium of S sx = S s cos

forces acting on the rigid wedge and comes from

S sz = S s sin

C = 0.5 ctg H 2 c values of 3 8 cm. The exact displacement value

Cx = C cos depends on which point is observed. Points near

the toe have larger displacements. FS values for

Cz = C sin displacements greater than 8 cm are constant. In

CR = L H c / sin addition, in examining the FS/step curve a point

of deflection is observed at the same step and the

same displacement.

3 FINITE ELEMENT METHOD

calculations conducted in Plaxis 3D Foundations.

This program uses a finiteelement method. A few examples having different dimensions

During numerical calculations, displacements (length and depth) are analyzed in uniform soil

and stress in the surrounding soil are determined. conditions. Graphs defining the dependence of

This enables estimating the shape and range of length, depth and factor of safety are presented.

the wedge and to establish if the arching effect

occurs. 4.1 Soil conditions

The trench excavation process in a block of In the examples, uniform ground conditions with

soil is taken into consideration and the advantage the Coulomb criterion are analyzed. The material

of two axes of symmetry is used. On vertical parameters are presented in Table 1. No water

surfaces of the resulting solid boundary level is considered. The unit slurry weight is 10.5

conditions allowing only vertical movement. On kN/m3. No filtration or improvement of the soil

the basis of body movement is blocked in all conditions in the surrounding layer is considered.

directions. Surface area remains free. At first the

sensitivity of the size of the modeled area in Table 1. Parameters of the homogeneous soil.

relation to the mesh size was tested. Within three

Ka c E

blocks different in size eventually a block sizes kN/m3 kPa MPa

14 16 20m was adopted, as to eliminate the Clay 20 0,66 12 15 28 0.35

effect of the impact of sides, and at the same

time not unduly magnifying the size of the task. 4.2 Trench dimensions

Adopted regions of different mesh size reduce

computation time without significantly affecting An analysis of typical trench dimensions was

the accuracy of the results. conducted for the following dimensions: length L

The excavation process is modeled as the 3 to 10 m, width B 1.0 m and depth H 8 to

removal of 2 m thick layers of soil and the 15 m.

application of slurry pressure. For simplification,

the hydrostatic slurry pressure is assumed as 4.3 Results

external stabilizing load. It increases linearly

During the excavation process, soil and slurry

with depth and is applied to all faces of the

pressures acting on the trench sides are in

trench, including the toe. The slurry level is kept

equilibrium. No change in the stresses around the

unchanged at the ground surface.

trench is observed. At the toe of the trench, the

To determine the shape of the wedge, the

force exerted by the slurry causes a reduction of

standard procedure of tan/c reduction is used. the stress in the soil. This is also influenced by

Since no limit state i.e. no failure is observed, the smaller unit weight of the suspension

the interpretation of the FS/displacement curve is compared to the soil. Figure 2 presents the total

made. The FS/displacement curve indicates a displacements after excavation with the largest

rapid change in the inclination. The factor of values of 5.5 mm occurring at the center of the

safety increases until soil displacements reach toe. This is typical for the rebound connected

with the removal of the overburden load. In this

80

case, the exerted pressure decreases.

75

70

8

65 10

12

60 15

2D

55

50

3 5 7 9

L - length of trench

H of the trench simplified calculations.

4,5

FS - limit equilibrium method

excavation finite element method.

3,5

8

Figure 3 confirms the spatial working

3 10

conditions. For every trench depth the inclination 12

of the failure surface decreases with the increase 2,5

15

in its length. This is caused by the different share 2

of forces acting on the trench sides and the

wedge weight in the Ph value. The following rule 1,5

applies: a longer trench leads to a smaller share 3 4 5 6

of acting forces. For very long trenches the L - length of trench

inclination angle is the same as the 2D Coulomb

solution and is equal to cr = /4 + /2 (dotted Figure 4. Plots of FS vs. section length L for different depths

line). Due to cohesion forces, the inclination of the trench limit equilibrium method.

angle is greater than for cohessionless soil [1].

For comparing the results of the simplified 4,5

calculation method and the numerical

FS - finite element method

4

calculations, the factor of safety is defined as

follows: 3,5

8

3

tan c (2)

10

FS = = 12

tan red cred 2,5

15

2

where: tan red and cred are reduced values

1,5

reached in calculation step assumed as a failure. 3 4 5 6

The limit equilibrium Ph = Ps must be reached

L - length of trench

for red. This definition does not reveal any local

areas of instability and it only has a global

Figure 5. Plots of FS vs. section length L for different depths

character. of the trench finite element method.

The general rule that factors of safety decrease

with an increase in length for the same depth of

trench is fulfilled (Figures 3, 4 and 5). For the

limit equilibrium method a surprising

phenomenon occurs, i.e. the tendency of higher

FS values for very short trenches of the same

depth (Figure 4 and Table 2). This is not

observed for the finite element method (Figure 5

and Table 3) and is caused by the formulation of

method solutions. Very short trenches shear and

cohesion forces have a determinant influence on

the earth pressure value. This is also a result of

the arching effect. If the trench length increases,

acting forces decrease and the arching effect

disappears.

Figure 7. 3D total displacements for a 3 m long trench at

H depth of L length of the trench failure finite element method.

the trench 10 6 5 4 3

8 2.13 2.58 2.84 3.16 3.75 Results of this phenomenon are observed on

10 2.00 2.51 2.76 3.13 3.81 displacement maps. In figure 6, the shape of the

12 1.96 2.50 2.77 3.19 3.95

15 1.93 2.53 2.85 3.32 4.25 wedge is easily recognized. It can be assumed

that the prism approximation used in the limit

Table 3. FS values finite element method. equilibrium method is acceptable. The shape and

the inclination of the failure surface ( = 65) is

H depth of L length of the trench

the trench close to the simplified calculations. Washbourne

6 5 4 3

8 2.32 2.52 2.71 3.00

assumption [11] for sides inclination angle is

10 2.18 2.36 2.56 2.83 highly underestimated. If the length of the trench

12 2.09 2.29 2.47 2.73 decreases, the displacements at the higher part

15 2.04 2.21 2.41 2.65 increase very slowly during excavation progress

after it reaches 6m (see Figure 7). For a 3 m long

trench, no wedge is observed.

4,5

FS - limit equilibrium method

8

3,5

10

12

3

15

2,5

2

2 2,5 3 3,5 4 4,5

FS - finite element method

failure finite element method. Figure 8. A set of points FS finite element vs. FS limit

equilibrium method for the same geoengineering data.

A comparison of results from both methods is REFERENCES

presented in Figure 8. Each concentration of

results represents different lengths of the trench. [1] W. Brzakala, K. Gorska, On safety of slurrywall

The bottom points represent a 6 m long trench trenches, Studia Geotechnica et Mechanica XXX

No.12 (2008), 199206.

while the top points represent a 3 m trench. The [2] G.M. Filz, T. Adams, R.R. Davidson, Stability of long

limit equilibrium method produces higher factor trenches in sand supported by bentonitewater slurry,

of safety values than the finite element method. Journal of Geotechnical and Goenviromental

In the figure, the dashed line shows a perfect Engineering 130(9) (2006), 915921

[3] I. Hanjal, J. Marton, Z. Regele, Construction of slurry

correlation of results. walls, Akad.Kiado, Budapest, 1984.

Although the limit equilibrium method gives [4] N.R. Morgenstern, J. Amir-Tahmasseb, The stability of

results in a very short time, one should take into a slurry trench in cohesionless soils, Geotechnique

consideration the overestimated values of FS. 15(4) (1965), 387395.

[5] J.K.T. Nash, G.K. Jones, The support of trenches using

Another advantage of this method is that a fluid mud, Grouts and Drilling Muds in Engineering

specialized computation program is not Practice (1963), 177180.

necessary. [6] A. Piaskowski, Z. Kowalewski, Application of

For engineering purposes, the results obtained tixotropic clay suspensions for stability of vertical sides

of deep trenches without strutting, 6th Int.Conf.SMFE

from the limit equilibrium method can be taken Montreal Vol.III (1965), 526529.

into consideration only when employing a factor, [7] E.G Prater, Die Gewlbewirkung der Schlitzwnde,

which would reduce the value of the earth Bauingenieur 48 (1973), 125131

pressure. This kind of factor is used by [8] A.F. van Tol, V. Veenbergen, J. Maertens, Diaphragm

walls, a reliable solution for deep excavations in urban

Piaskowski and Kowalewski [6] and it is a areas?. In s.n. (Ed.) DFI and EFFC, London, Deep

function of the length, the depth and the friction Foundation Institute, (2010), 1-9.

angle. [9] J.S. Tsai, J.C. Chang, Threedimensional stability

analysis for slurry trench wall in cohesionless soil,

Canadian Geotechnical Journal 33 (1996), 798808.

[10] C. Veder, Excavation of trenches in the presence of

5 CONCLUSIONS bentonite suspension for the construction of

impermeable and loadbearing diaphragms.

Proceedings of Symposium on Grouts and Drilling

Short trenches in cohesive soil are under a Muds in Engineering Practic,. London, (1963), 181

large influence of the arching effect and cohesive 188.

forces. The wedge is not observed in the finite [11] J. Washbourne, The three dimensional stability analysis

element method. In the limit equilibrium method of diaphragm wall excavation, Ground Engineering

17(4) (1984), 2429.

factors of safety are greater for deeper trenches. [12] P.P. Xanthakos, Slurry wall as structural system,

Curves on the graph intersect. McGrawHill, New York, 1979.

The failure surface inclination decreases with

the length of the trench. The Coulomb criterion

is the lower bound estimation.

FS values are between 2.5 and 4.5 and are

much higher than expected to fulfill the stability

conditions.

The limit equilibrium method can be used

under the condition of employing a factor which

reduces the value of the earth pressure. This kind

of factor is used by Piaskowski and Kowalewski

[6] and it is a function of the length, the depth

and the friction angle.

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