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Citation: Ahmed, S.A. & Fayed, A.L.

(2015) "Mitigation of Risks Associated with Deep Excavations: State of

the Art Review", Industry Academia Collaboration (IAC 2015), Cairo, Egypt, 6-8 April, 2015.

Mitigation of Risks Associated with Deep

Excavations: State of the Art Review
Sayed M. Ahmed1 & Ayman L. Fayed2
Structural Engineering Dept., Ain Shams University
1 Al-Sarayat St., Abdo Basha Square, Abbasya, Cairo, Egypt



AbstractDeep excavations inevitably initiate lateral and

vertical ground deformations due to the stress relaxation and
bottom heave associated with the excavation process. Thus,
adjacent buildings and utilities become kinematically loaded by
the induced ground deformations. To date, the ground
displacements induced by deep excavations and their associated
risks cannot be truthfully evaluated utilizing only systematic
engineering calculations for many reasons including the need to
account for the natural variability of geomaterials and the
uncertainties in soil properties, the ground constitutive behavior,
modeling of construction stages, three-dimensional effects of deep
excavations, time-dependent natures of the ground deformations
as well as the crucial needs to incorporate human factors such as
workmanship in the predicting models. The aforementioned
aspects require comprehensive knowledge and vast experience
not only in deep excavations and their effects on structures and
utilities but also in all geotechnical engineering aspects. In this
article, a state-of-the-art review of the powerful approaches in
quantifying risks associated with deep excavations and their
contemporary mitigation methods are highlighted.

Such ambitious developments call for deep vertical

excavations and underground tunneling that are frequently
close to existing structurally-sensitive buildings and utilities.
The induced deformations depend in magnitude and direction
on the building proximity to the excavations as schematically
demonstrated in Fig. 2. It is well-acknowledged that the control
of ground movements and protection of adjacent or overlying
structures is a major element in the design and construction of
deep excavations and tunneling in urban areas.

Key wordsDeep excavations, risk quantification, risk mitigation,

settlement, horizontal tensile strain, building damage, monitoring

There is an increasing National demand to utilize the
underground space in the developments of the urban congested
areas for different purposes such as transportation tunnels,
underground parking garages, basements and utilities. ElNahhas [1] highlighted many plans to utilize the underground
space in Egypt. One of the most ambitious plans that were
detailed by El-Nahhas [1] is the utilization of the underground
space is the construction of transportation tunnels and
underground garages under main Cairo streets such as Gamat
Aldoul Alarabia as demonstrated in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Utilization of the underground space under Gamat Aldoul Alarabya in

Cairo Vision 2050 (after El-Nahhas [1])

Fig. 2. Ground and building deformations induced by a deep excavation

(after Hsiao [2])

It is a common practice to support deep excavations by

continuous walls in urban areas to limit the induced
movements and consequently the associated risks. The
excavation support systems for deep excavations consist of
two main components: a wall, and its supporting measures.
Many types of walls and supports have been used in deep
excavations. Walls supporting deep excavation may be
classified into the following three major categories according
to the form of supporting measures provided for them:
1. Cantilevered
(usually for
2. Strutted/braced wall; and
3. Tied-back or anchored wall
Under each of the above support category, the following wall
types may be utilized:
a) Sheet pile wall;

b) Soldier pile and lagging wall (Berliner wall);

c) Contiguous bored piles wall;
d) Secant piles wall;
e) Diaphragm wall; and
Soil-mixing walls
Puller [3] described the aforementioned systems and other
less widely used support systems in considerable details. The
excavation-induced deformations may be affected by a large
number of factors such as: wall stiffness, ground conditions,
groundwater condition and control measures, excavation
depth, construction sequences and workmanship. The
following sections address some of the important factors that
profoundly affect the induced deformations and hence the
associated buildings' damage.

Another very well-known recent failure is the failure of

Nicoll Highway in Singapore, Fig. 4, which occurred due to
insufficient site investigations, misinterpretation of the
observations, faults in design of the bracing system and
utilization of unsuitable method for wall strutting by jet
grouting (Whittle & Davies [5]; Lee [6]).


Ground deformations are the inevitable devils awaked by
deep excavations. The horizontal stress relaxation by the
excavation induces horizontal movement of the retaining wall
towards the excavation side accompanied by vertical
deformations for the soil around the excavation. The vertical
deformations are mostly downward deformations (settlement);
yet, sometimes upward deformations (heave) are noticed
adjacent to the retaining wall or at far distances from the wall.
Settlement may be associated with the instability of the
excavation base in clayey soils. Deformations may also occur
due to the increases in the effective stresses during lowering
groundwater table.
To date, failures of structures or roadways adjacent to
excavations occur despite the recent advances made in
assessing the stability of excavations and the effects of
excavations on nearby properties. Fig. 2 shows a very recent
example of a failure case history of a collapsed 13-floor
building by toppling in Minhang District of Shanghai, China.
The failure, which happened in 2009, was due to a nearby
deep excavation that overloaded the piles of the collapsed
building. Chai et al. [4] indicated that the failure was initiated
by lateral overloading on the pile foundation due to excavation
near one side of the collapsed building and stockpiling the
excavation at another side of the building. The unbalanced
excavation and fill induced lateral loads on piles were also
accompanied by unforeseen soil softening due to a rain event.

Fig. 3. Failure of a building in China in 2009 initiated by a nearby deep


Fig. 4. Failure of Nicoll Highway in Singapore initiated by a nearby deep

excavation and other geotechnical factors

Serviceability problems associated with the substantial

foundation settlement and lateral deformations induced by deep
excavations are much more widespread than failures. Structure
may experience distresses such as cracking of structural or
architectural elements, uneven floors, or inoperable windows
and doors due to the induced deformations. Fig. 5 shows an
example of a cracked external wall due to a nearby excavation.
The amount of the tolerable deformations and the severity of
the excavation-related damages depend on the building type,
configuration and stiffness as well as the characteristics of the
excavation support, the ground geotechnical conditions and the
construction sequence. Both geotechnical and structural
engineers are required to collaborate in quantifying the
amount of building settlement, assess the possible structural
damages and set up the counter measures and risk mitigations
to avoid such damages.

Fig. 5. A masonry wall suffered from severe cracking due to ground

deformations (after Vatovec et al. [7])

The effect of deformations associated with deep excavation

depends on the geotechnical characteristics of the soils. The
less strength and more compressible the soils have, the more
pronounced effects and deformations are anticipated.
Awkwardly, most of the deep excavations are in urban areas
characterized by deltaic soils originating from rivers and
oceans and comprising sediments such as silts, clay and sands
under shallow groundwater table. Such deltaic soils are often
encountered in the most densely populated areas in the world.
This fact emphasizes the need to predict, control and mitigate
the deformations resulting from deep excavations.
Peck [8] showed that settlements next to deep excavations
correlate to soil type as illustrated in Fig. 6. He proposed three
zones of settlement profiles based on soil conditions. In
general, larger wall deflection and ground deformations are
induced due to excavations in soils with lower strength and

Fig. 6. Effect of soil type on the settlement induced by deep excavation

(after Peck [8])

The effect of soil type on the defamations induced by deep

excavations was further demonstrated by many subsequent
research efforts (e.g., Goldberg et al. [9]; Clough &
ORourke [10]; Bentler [11]; and others). Bentler [11]
showed that the average maximum horizontal wall deflection
for excavations in sand or hard clays is 0.19% H and for soft
to stiff clays 0.45% H, where H is the depth of excavation.
The average of the maximum settlement is 0.22% H in
sands/hard clays and 0.55% H in soft-stiff clays. The ratio
between the maximum vertical settlement and the maximum
wall deformation is mostly ranged between 0.5 and 1.
Nationally, most of the developments that need deep
excavations in Egypt are located in the Greater Cairo area
which is characterized by recent Nile alluviums with shallow
groundwater table. Geologically, the Nile developed its course
in this area through the down faulting of the limestone
extending between the El-Muqattam cliff and the Pyramids
plateau and deposited recent alluviums of alternating layers of
cemented silty sand, clayey sand and medium to coarse sand
underlain by Pliocene very stiff plastic clay that rests on the
Upper Eocene limestone marine formations as illustrated in
Fig. 7 (Said [12]; El-Sohby & Mazen [13]; El-Ramli, [14]; ElNahhas [15]; others).

Fig. 7. Typical formations in the Greater Cairo area

(after El-Sohby and Mazen [8])

The geotechnical conditions of the Nile alluviums are

considered problematic for deep excavations particularly as
the expected deformations impose risks on the adjacent
structures and utilities including possible loss of support to
existing foundations and structurally distressing buildings,
pavements and utilities surrounding the excavation. Abdel
Rahman & El-Sayed [16][17] and [18] and El-Sayed & Abdel
Rahman [19] concluded the following regarding the
deformations of shallow and deep foundations associated with
excavation supported by diaphragm walls in Nile Alluviums:
The maximum settlement associated with trenching is
equal to 0.045% for both shallow and deep foundations.
The maximum settlement due to pit excavation is about
0.11% of the excavation depth for shallow foundations
and 0.03% of the maximum depth of excavation for pile
The extent of the settlement troughs was found to reach
up to a distance equivalent to 3.5 of the depth of
excavation in alluvial soils for both shallow and deep
Most of the settlement of buildings on pile foundations
occurs during the trenching stage
A. Ground and wall deformation patterns
Goldberg et al. [9] identified different settlement patterns
associated with the wall lateral deformations modes as shown
in Fig. 8. They showed that the settlement model do not only
depend on the soil type but also on the wall lateral
deformations as well.

Fig. 8. Settlement patterns associated with different wall deformation modes

(after Goldberg et al. [9])

Clough and ORourke [10] explained the lateral walls

deformations according to the method of construction in two
modes: cantilever mode, and bulging mode. The settlement
troughs associated with each mode are different as shown in
Fig. 9. Boone [20] and Boone & Westland [21] concluded the
same effect of wall deformation on the surficial settlement
trough as shown in Fig. 10.

Hsieh & Ou [23] presented a concave settlement profile for

the bulging mode of walls based on the analysis of 9 case
histories. The maximum settlement is assumed to occur at 0.5
He, where He is the excavation depth. The settlement at the
wall is approximated to 50% of the maximum settlement as
shown in Fig. 12.

Fig. 9. Modes of deformation of the wall (after Clough and ORourke [10])
Fig. 12. Concave settlement profile (after Hsieh & Ou [23])

Ou et al. [22] presented a tri-linear settlement profile called

spandrel-type settlement based on 10 case histories of deep
excavations in soft clays from Taipei and Taiwan. The
maximum settlement is located at the wall face when the wall
deforms as a cantilever. The settlement trough is shown in Fig.

B. Wall Stiffness and Excavation Stability

Stability and deformations are interrelated. For walls with
large factor of safety against collapse, strains around the
excavation will be small and ground deformations will be
limited. Conversely, if the factor of safety is small, strains
around the excavation will be large and ground deformations
will also be high. Additionally, the wall stiffness greatly
affects the induced ground movements. Goldberg et al. [9]
showed using finite element and measured data that the
maximum lateral deformations for deep excavations in clays
can be estimated using the stability number of the excavation
H/cu (where is the soil unit weight, H is the depth of the
excavation and cu is the undrained shear strength) and the
stiffness of the supporting system EwIw/h4 (where Ew is the
Youngs modulus of the wall, Iw is the moment of inertia of
the wall per linear meter and h is a representative unsupported
length of the wall such as the average distance between struts).
Figure 7 illustrates the findings of Goldberg et al. [9].

Fig. 11. Spandrel-type settlement trough (Ou et al. [22])

Fig. 13. Effect of wall stiffness and soil stability number on the wall
deformations in clays (Goldberg et al. [9])

Fig. 10. Lateral and vertical displacement patterns: concave on left, spandrel
on right (after Boone [20]; Boone & Westland [21]).

Mana & Clough [24] utilized the finite element and the
field measurements to relate the maximum wall movements
with the factor of safety against basal heave in clays as shown
in Fig. 14. The quasi-constant non-dimensional movement at
high safety factor is an indication of an elastic response. The
rapid increase in movements at lower factor of safety is a
result of plastic soil deformations at low factors of safety.

C. Excavation Geometry and Three-Dimensional Effects

Ou et al. [25] performed parametric three-dimensional
finite element analyses to investigate the features of threedimensional deep excavation behaviors. They found that close
relationships exist between the aspect ratio of the excavation
geometry (B/L) and the wall deformation. B and L are the
excavation dimensions in horizontal plane in the direction of
lateral wall measurements and the perpendicular direction,
respectively. Increasing the B/L decreases the wall
deformation. Additionally, the wall deformation of a deep
excavation is directly related to the smallest distance from the
corner (d). The smaller is the value of d, the less is the wall
Ou et al. [25] defined a ratio called the Plane Strain Ratio
(PSR). PSR is defined as the ratio of the maximum wall
deformation of the cross section at a distance (d) from the
excavation corner to the maximum wall deformation in the
plane strain conditions of the same geometry. They established
the relationship between (PSR), (B/L) & (d) based on the
results of parametric studies, as shown in Fig. 16.

Fig. 14. Effect of the basal heave stability on the wall deformations induced
by deep excavations in clays (after Mana & Clough [24])

Clough & ORourke [10] utilized the nonlinear finite

elements and field measurements to determine the effect of the
wall stiffness on the maximum lateral wall movement in clays
that is induced by excavation. They introduced a system
stiffness factor, similar to Goldberg et al. [9], for estimating
wall stiffness of unit thickness (plane strain) which depends on
wall material, section properties and support spacing; this
factor is giving by:


w have


= Dimensionless system stiffness
= Youngs modulus of wall system
= Moment of inertia of wall system
have = average vertical distance between tiebacks/struts
w = unit weight of water = 9.81 kN/m3
The results of their analyses are shown in Fig. 15.

Fig. 16. Plane strain ratio (PSR) as a function of the aspect ratio B/L and
distance from the corner d (Ou et al., 1996)

Finno & Roboski [26] and Roboski & Finno [27] studied
deep excavations in soft to medium clays based on the
settlements that were observed using optical survey around a
12.8 m deep excavation in Chicago. The excavation was
supported by a flexible sheet pile wall and three levels of regroutable anchors. They suggested a parallel distribution for
the deformation to account for the corner effect. They found
that the complementary error function (erfc) can be used to
define the three-dimensional settlement distributions of
ground movement around excavation of finite length.


Fig. 15. Effect of the basal heave stability and the system stiffness on the wall
deformations induced by deep excavations in clays
(after Clough & ORourke [10])

Where, max can be either the maximum settlement or the

maximum lateral movement, L is the length of the excavation,
and He is the height of the excavation as presented in Fig. 17.

Fig. 17. Three-dimensional distribution of settlement and lateral movement

around finite deep excavation
(after Finno & Roboski [26] and Roboski & Finno [27])

Fig. 19. Maximum building settlements due to slurry trench excavation for
diaphragm walls as a function of foundation depth in Hong Kongs
MTR (after Cowland & Thorley [31])

D. Wall Installation Effect

The wall installation process can cause significant
movements in the surrounding ground. The assumption of
negligible deformations associated with wall installation may
lead to a substantial underestimation of excavation-related
lateral movements. In a survey of the problematic deep
excavations in The Netherlands carried out between years
2007-2012, Korff & Tol [28] noted that many problematic
deep excavation cases occurred due to ignoring the installation
effects of the walls.
Morton et al. [29], Budge-Reid et al. [30], Cowland &
Thorley [31], and Thorley & Forth [32] reviewed the
settlements induced by the construction of the diaphragm
walls in Hong Kong, particularly for the Mass Transit Railway
project where soils are generally fill, marine deposits and
alluviums underlain by decomposed granite. Settlement values
up to 150mm were reported for shallow foundations while less
settlement was reported for deep foundations as shown in Fig.
18, 19 & 20.

Fig. 20. Building settlement due to diaphragm wall installation in Hong

Kongs MTR (after Budge-Reid et al. [30])

Clough & ORourke [10] showed that significant

settlement may occur behind a diaphragm wall due to the
installation process (up to 0.15% of the trench depth) as shown
in Fig. 21. Deep trenches in Hong Kongs marine and alluvial
deposits controlled the data presented by Clough and
ORourke [10]; therefore, it is anticipated that Fig. 19
overestimates the ground movements for most cases.
Fig. 18. Settlement associated with trenching in Hong Kongs MTR
(after Morton et al. [29])

deformation is about 0.04 to 0.08% of the maximum trench


Fig. 21. Settlement due to installation of a diaphragm wall

(after Clough and ORourke [10])

Finno et al. [33] observed that 25% of the total lateral

movement occurs after installation of secant piles wall in soft
to medium Chicago clay, as can be shown in Fig. 22. It was
concluded that lateral movements of this magnitude cannot be
neglected and must be taken into account when designing
support systems, especially when sensitive structures are

Fig. 23. Vertical deformations due to diaphragm wall installation

(after Gaba et al. [34])

E. Building Stiffness and Weight

There is a mutual influence between a building located
close to deep excavations and the induced deformations. Both
stiffness and weight of the building affect the final shape of
the deformations. The building stiffness tends to flatten the
deformations distribution across the building, while the
building weight increases the deformations especially in the
locations close to the deep excavation. Goh [35] and Goh &
Mair [36] presented design charts that allow considering the
effect of the buildings stiffness on the induced deformations.

Fig. 22. Lateral deformation associated with trenching for secant piles
installed in Chicago Clay (after Finno et al. [33])

CIRIA report 580 (Gaba et al. [34]) summarizes the

horizontal and vertical wall movements due to installation of
diaphragm walls and bored pile walls in stiff clays as shown in
Fig. 23. While Clough & ORourke [10] predicted that the
maximum settlement could reach 0.15% of the trench depth,
Gaba et al. [34] found out that the maximum settlement is
0.04-0.05% of the trench depth and the maximum lateral

F. Time-Dependent Effects
For excavations in clay, longer durations before installing
the strut or constructing the floor slab may cause larger wall
deflection due to the occurrence of consolidation or creep of
clay. Studies that addressed that aspect by assessing the soil
consolidation, as one of the components of the wall and
ground deformations, were carried out based on finite element
analysis since it is not possible to separate the consolidation
deformation component out of the total deformations from the
field data.
Osaimi & Clough [37], Yong et al. [38], and Ou & Lai [39]
showed that significant consolidation can take place during the
construction of a deep excavation in clay and that the effects
of consolidation are significant. Consolidation and swelling
during excavation result in changes in the shear strength of
soils and time-dependent deformations. The negative water
pressure, generated by the excavation at the base, dissipates
with time causing loss of some passive resistance that
occurred immediate after excavation. This leads to timedependent deformations in the wall and the soil behind the

G. Workmanship
Workmanship can be considered as the human and/or
experience factor which plays an important role in the
success or failure of a certain project. It was initially
introduced by Peck [8] as one of the main controlling
factors of the ground and wall movements in deep
excavation projects. This factor has never been thoroughly
defined in the literature despite its impact is important and
well-acknowledged in the final outcomes of the
geotechnical projects. In fact, deep excavations are very
special projects as they need the Designer and the
Contractor to be well-acquainted with the technical and
constructional aspects of the site as well as the structural
nature of the adjacent buildings. Methods to enhance the
workmanship include documentation of the performance
and encountered problems in deep excavation projects and
transfer the gained knowledge to other contractors and other




mode of deflection (hogging and sagging) as they

induce different damages.
Deflection Ratio (DF=/L) is defined as the quotient
of relative defection () and the corresponding length
Tilt () describes the rigid body rotation of the whole
superstructure or a well-defined part of it. In certain
cases also rigid body tilt can cause substantial
damage, although this is not commonly
acknowledged, especially when several rigid bodies
are connected.
Average horizontal strain h develops as a change in
horizontal length over the corresponding length; i.e.,
h = (L2 L1)/L.


Deformation of the ground may cause noticeable damage
to the structure. This damage does not depend only on the
induced ground deformations but also on the structural aspects
of the affected building. The most settlement sensitive
buildings to ground deformations are masonry load bearing
walls or frames with masonry in-fill walls especially when
they are located perpendicular to deep excavations tending to
become distorted with shear strain and lateral deformations.
A purely theoretical approach to estimating building
response to excavation-related deformations is not practical
due to the variability and complexity of the factors that
contribute to the response. Consequently, building response is
estimated utilizing simplified structural approximations to
provide limiting criteria/threshold against unacceptable
damage. The ground deformation components as defined in
Figs. 24 & 25 and explained hereafter, may affect the
structural performance of buildings and/or utilities:
1. Settlement (S) is the vertical movement of a point.
The maximum settlement is denoted by (Smax).
2. Differential or relative settlement (S) is the
difference between two settlement values. The
maximum differential settlement is denoted by
3. Rotation or slope () describes the change in gradient
of the straight horizontal line defined by two
reference points embedded in the structure with
respect to their initial horizontal orientation. The
maximum rotation is denoted by (max).
4. Angular distortion () is an angle that produces
sagging (or upward concavity) when it is directed
downward from the building tilted as a rigid body, or
hogging (or downward concavity) when it is directed
upward from tilted rigid body building. The
maximum angular distortion is denoted by (max).
The mode of cracking of a distressing building
affected by excessive settlement depends on the

Fig. 24. Definition of the deformations affecting the building

(after Burland et al. [40] and others)

Fig. 25. Definition of sagging and hogging deformation modes

(after Burland et al. [40] and others)

A. The maximum angular distortion criterion

Skempton and MacDonald [41] correlated the damage of
buildings under the effect of ground deformations with the
angular distortion (). They established the following limiting
angular distortions for aesthetic and structural damages:
1. Cracking of panels in frame buildings or walls in load
bearing wall structures is likely to occur if ()
exceeded 1/300.
2. Structural damage to columns and beams is likely to
occur if () exceeded 1/150.
Bjerrum [42] presented data relating angular distortion to
building performance based on additional data and the
Skempton and MacDonalds [41] data. He suggested more
levels of serviceability damage based on the angular distortion
of the building as shown in Fig. 26.

Fig. 27. Beam model (after Burland and Wroth [44] & [45])

Fig. 26. Damage criteria based on angular distortion (after Bjerrum [42])

B. Maximum angular distortion criterion

Polshin and Tokar [43] studied the effect of the building
geometry based on the ratio (L/H) where L is the length
between two joints in the building and H is the building
height. They considered the deflection ratio (/L) as a
structural criterion related to the curvature, and they used
0.05% as the limiting tensile strain for brick unreinforced
walls using an analytical approach. They concluded the
following limits of the deflection ratio for unreinforced load
bearing walls:
Sagging mode: (L/H3) (/L)max = 1/3300 to 1/2500
Sagging mode: (L/H 5) (/L)max = 1/2000 to 1/1400
Burland & Wroth [44] & [45] assumed that the onset of
visible cracking in a given material may be linked to a limiting
tensile strain similar to Polshin and Tokar [43]. The building is
modeled as a beam deforming in the same shape as the
settlement trough as shown in Fig. 27. Cracking may occur
due to horizontal tensile strains from bending or diagonal
tensile strains from shear.

Burland and Wroth [44] & [45] suggested a strain value

equal to 0.075% for the onset of cracking. Burland et al. [46]
correlated the limiting tensile strains for unreinforced masonry
walls and the crack width. Generally, the maximum strains
that cause failure in common building materials vary widely as
a function of material and mode of deformation (Boone [47]).
Figs. 28 & 29 show the ratio /(L.c), where c is the limiting
strain, as a function of L/H for sagging and hogging modes,
respectively, based on the work of Burland & Wroth [44]
& [45].

Fig. 28. Threshold of damage for sagging of load bearing walls

(after Burland and Wroth [44] & [45])

presented above simple analysis. Burland [51] included the

lateral horizontal strain based on the work of Boscardin and
Cording [48] in the beam representation with L/H = 1.The
results are shown in Fig. 33.

Fig. 29. Threshold of damage for hogging of load bearing walls

(after Burland and Wroth [44] & [45])

C. Effect of the tensile horizontal strains

Buildings sited adjacent to excavations are generally less
tolerant to excavation-induced differential settlements than
similar structures settling under their own weight. This is
attributed to the lateral strains that develop in response to most
excavations. These strains add to the strains imposed by the
vertical movements associated with the excavation.
Boscardin and Cording [48] developed a damage criterion
for buildings adjacent to excavations in form of multidimensional relationship between the angular distortion , the
horizontal strain h and the expected tensile strain/degree of
severity as shown in Fig. 30. The criterion was based on the
state of strain of a simple deep beam with L/H=1, E/G=2.6
and neutral axis at the bottom of the beam, where E is
Youngs modulus and G is the shear modulus. The critical
tensile strains for different damage levels were determined
considering the field observations of damage associated with
deep excavations and tunnels.

Fig. 31. Tensile strain components due to horizontal strain, angular distortion
and tilting for wall with L/H=1 & E/G =2.6 (after Son & Cording [50])

Fig. 32. Damage zones with different critical tensile strains

( after Son & Cording [50])

Fig. 30. Relationship of Damage to Angular Distortion and Horizontal

Extension Strain (after Boscardin & Cording [48])

Son [49] and Son & Cording [50] provided analysis for the
empirical criteria presented by Boscardin and Cordings [48]
by estimating the principle tensile strain due to angular
distortion and lateral strain as shown from Fig. 31.
Furthermore, they presented an envelope of constant critical
tensile strain (c). They also modified Boscardin &
Cordings [48] envelopes, as shown in Fig. 31, based on the

Fig. 33. Damage criterion according to Burland [51]

D. Effect of grade beams

Boscardin and Cording [48] investigated the effect of grade
beams to reduce the greenfield horizontal tensile strain gh to
less strain h as shown in Fig. 34, where EgA is the stiffness
and area of the grade beam foundation, Es is the soil stiffness,
H is the height of excavation or the length of the section of the
foundation being strained, and S is the spacing between grade

Fig. 34. Effect of grade beams on the horizontal tensile strain

(after Boscardin and Cording [48])

E. Assessment of the induced building damage

Mair et al. [52] and Son & Cording [50] provided a
systematic procedure for damage assessment of buildings. The
design approach consists of three stages:
Preliminary assessment
Second stage assessment
Detailed evaluation.
The three phases are shown schematically in Fig. 35 and
elaborated in the following sections.

Primary assessment
In the primary assessment, the greenfield settlement trough
is evaluated. Buildings which are located within the zone with
1/500 & Smax 10mm are assumed to experience negligible
damages. The above values of maximum slope and settlement
may need to be reduced when assessing the risk for structures
of higher sensitivity (i.e., building with stone or glass claddings
and important aesthetical features that should be maintained);
however, for most structures the abovementioned damage
criterion can be utilized.
If the settlement and/or the slope for a building exceeded
the maximum slope and settlement stated above, a second stage
assessment has to be carried out.
Second stage assessment
In this stage of the risk assessment, the building is
represented as an elastic deep beam whose foundation is
assumed to follow the ground movement trough. The strain
within the beam is evaluated. Categories of damage, defined in
previous sections, can then be obtained from the magnitude of
Although this approach is more detailed than the
preliminary assessment it is still conservative as the building is
assumed to follow the greenfield settlement trough. The
category of damage obtained from this assessment shall only
be considered for aesthetical damage (i.e., a maximum
diagonal tensile strain of 0.15-0.167%).
Detailed assessment
In this stage, details of the building and of the deep
excavation should be taken into account using advanced
modeling such as:
Geotechnical conditions, sub-surface profile and
groundwater conditions.
The three-dimensional aspects of the deep excavation
The building stiffness and weight.
The building orientation with respect to the deep
Building features such as the foundation type and
structural continuity as well as any previous
movement a building may have experienced in the
Sensitivity of the building.
If the risk of damage remains high after the detailed
assessment, necessary protective measures are to be
considered in the form of risk mitigation plans.

Fig. 35. Three-phases damage assessment flow chart

(after Mair et al. [52] and Son & Cording [50])

Settlements are generated by the groundwater table

lowering as the soil is passing from a submerged to a saturated
unit weight which leads to an increase of the effective stress as
shown in Fig. 36. The settlement value depends on the
drawdown of the water table and the soil stiffness. In sands,
excessive pumping out the groundwater from a deep
excavation results in a significant drop of the groundwater
table within the surrounding areas with possible excessive
settlement of the adjacent buildings and other structures and

piping if the exist hydraulic gradient at the bottom of

excavation exceeded the safe value.


In 2007, a well-known failure of the diaphragm for

the Infinity Tower in Dubai occurred due to piping
by seepage through a diaphragm wall joint as shown
in Fig. 41.

Fig. 37. Collapse of City Archive Building in Cologne (Germany) due soil
piping induced by dewatering (after Rowson [53])

Fig. 36. Influence of the dewatering works on the ground settlements

Examples of groundwater-related failures and problems

occurred to deep excavations due to improper groundwater
considerations in design and construction are as follows:
1. The collapse of a deep excavation for an
underground metro station in Cologne, Germany in
2009, Fig. 37 & 38, which in-turn caused the
collapse of the historical City Archive Building. This
failure is anticipated to be a piping failure induced
by the groundwater high velocity that was not
considered during the design of the dewatering
system, Rowson [53].

A diaphragm wall leaked during the construction of

a deep exaction for a new underground station of the
North-South Train Line in Amsterdam, the
Netherlands. This leakage caused washing of sand
below the foundations of surrounding buildings and
a subsequent subsidence of 23 cm as shown in Fig.
39. The predicted costs have gone up from 1.5 to 3
billion euros and the project completion was shifted
from 2011 to 2017, Van Tol [54] and Van
Baars [55].


In 2005, a diaphragm wall leaked and surrounding

houses started to subside in a deep excavation for a
garage in Middelburg, The Netherland. To stop the
subsidence, the pit was filled with water until 2009,
Fig. 40, till new walls were placed in the pit and the
pit was filled with 13,350 m3 of concrete with a loss
of almost half the volume of the parking space, Van
Baars [55].

Fig. 38. The collapsed City Archive Building in Cologne (Germany)

(after Rowson, [53])

Fig. 39. Damage due to Subsidence along an underground station of the

North-South Train Line in Amsterdam (after Van Baars [55]).

(a) With plug (utilized in Greater Cairo


(b) without plug causing large

drawdown (not utilized in the
Greater Cairo Metro)

Fig. 42. Schemes for groundwater control in a deep excavation

(after El-Nahhas [15]).
Fig. 40. Leakage and damage at the building pit in Middelburg, the
Netherland (Van Baars [55])


Precise prediction of the deformations associated with deep
excavations using advanced numerical analysis is practically
unfeasible due to the highly variable nature of geomaterials.
Therefore, there are always uncertainties about the assessed
deformations associated with excavations. Consequently, the
risks of distressing adjacent buildings due to the deformations
induced by deep excavation cannot be waived by any preconstruction analyses alone.





Fig. 41. Failure of a diaphragm wall in The Infinity Tower in Dubai in 2007.
Chronological sequence of the failure is (a) to (d)

To avoid problems associated with groundwater and to

minimize the effect of groundwater lowering on the adjacent
buildings, the concrete diaphragm walls in the Greater Cairo
Metro was extended deeper without reinforcement and a low
permeability grouted plug was provided at their toes as shown
on Figure 42-a to avoid the possible effects of the large
groundwater drawdown as schematically shown in Figure 42b. The grouting materials were injected in two stages:
bentonite-cement slurry and soft-silica gel, in order to reduce
the permeability of the sand to 10-6 m/s. Thickness of the
grouted plug and its elevation are selected to satisfy a safe
limit of the average hydraulic gradient within the plug.

A. The observational Approach

To address uncertainties in geotechnical design and the
associated risks, Peck [56] proposed to utilize the
observational approach as an effective tool in the
geotechnically related projects. The following definition of the
observational method is quoted from CIRIA 185 (Nicholson at
al. [57]): The Observational Method in ground engineering is
a continuous, managed, integrated, process of design,
construction control, monitoring and review that enables
previously defined modifications to be incorporated during or
after construction as appropriate. All these aspects have to be
demonstrably robust. The objective is to achieve greater
overall economy without compromising safety. The objective
of the observational method is to achieve greater overall
economy without compromising safety. The benefits of the
observational method are schematically shown in Fig. 43.

Fig. 43. Potential benefits of the OM according to CIRIA 185

(after Nicholson at al. [57])

Peck [56] suggested that design is to be initiated based on

the most probable conditions and utilizing monitoring as a tool
to update the geotechnical related aspects as the construction
proceeds. As such, Monitoring is considered the nucleus and
the most important aspect in the observational method. It
assists in managing a safe work place and helps to mitigate the
risks associated with variability in geological conditions and
the inappropriate interpretation of geotechnical data.
Nowadays, monitoring ground and support system
response, recording construction activities, and learning from
measured data to extract underlying soil behavior becomes an
important component in all deep excavations and tunneling
projects. Instruments often are installed to monitor and control
the performance of excavations. If the observed performance
of the excavation shows intolerable deformations, changes in
the design and construction procedure of excavation is made.
It is to be noted that the observational approach is not
suitable for brittle behaviors in the structure or rapid
deteriorations that do not allow sufficient warning to
implement any planned modifications
such as rapid
deteriorations of soils caused by groundwater or non-ductile
failures of structural members (struts/waling connections) in
multi-propped basements, Patel et al. [58].
B. Geotechnical monitoring
An instrumentation program is a comprehensive approach
that assures that all aspects of instrumentation from planning
and design through maintenance and rehabilitation are
commensurate with the overall purpose. To be fruitful, such
monitoring programs must be carried out for well-defined
purposes, be well planned, and be supported by competent
staff through completion and implementation of results from
the monitoring program.
Most instrumentation measurement methods consist of
three components: a transducer, a data acquisition system, and
a linkage between these two components. A transducer is a
module that translates a physical change into analogous
electrical signals whilst data acquisition systems are the
portable readout units.
Generally, the extent of the utilization of instrumentation
(e.g., number and spacing of different types of measurements)
depends on the variability of site conditions along and normal
to the different sides of the excavation, Karlsrud [59].
Geotechnical instrumentation for deep excavation projects
may be classified into two main types namely: the
deformation-measuring instruments, and the stress-measuring
instruments. The deformation instruments are used to assess
the ground displacement fields. The stress measuring
instruments are used to measure the pore water pressure, the
soil pressure and stresses in wall.
C. Trigger Levels for Monitoring
Trigger levels (response values or hazard warning values)
are defined as pre-defined values of the measured parameters.
If an instrument reading is higher than the trigger value, then a
pre-defined action is carried out. It is common to use two or
more trigger values during monitoring of construction to
denote different levels of response, given the magnitude of the

reading and urgency or significance of the required response.

Commonly, the traffic light system is adopted (viz., Green,
Amber and Red trigger levels). The following trigger zones
are commonly defined, Devriendt [60]:
Green: OK, proceed
Amber (Threshold, Alert, Review, or Warning):
Monitor more frequently, review calculations and
start implementing contingency measures if trends
indicate the Red trigger may shortly be reached.
Red (Limit, Maximum, Action, Response, or
Tolerable limit): Implement measures to cease
movements and stop work
The above trigger zones are separated by two trigger levels
(Amber and Red) which can be considered as two separate
unrelated scales; one related to calculated movements and one
relating to tolerable movements. As such, the values of the
triggers for deep excavations can be defined as follows,
Devriendt [60] and Patel et al. [58]:
Amber trigger is set close to the calculated
displacement from analysis (usually at 75 or 80% of
the calculated settlement;
Red trigger is based on a tolerable damage or
deformation criteria. It can be considered as a
conservative estimate of when a serviceability limit
state is likely to be exceeded.
An example for setting the trigger levels for a deep
excavation for monitoring building deformations and
triggering remedies for damage is shown in Fig. 44.

Fig. 44. Setting trigger levels for a building subject to settlement from a deep


Many sources of risks are associated with the construction
of deep excavations including: Ground movements,
groundwater control, and improper quality of construction.
Some of the commonly-acknowledged risk categories are
shown in Table 1. The major sources for the aforementioned

risks are the uncertainness in the soil properties and the

construction procedure.
Table 1. Examples of uncertainty in the geotechnical works (after Patel et
al. [58])
Geotechnical Uncertainty
Complex geology & hydrogeology
Undrained soil verses drained
Parameter and modeling
Ground treatment
Grouting, dewatering
Complex temporary work

Risk management in deep excavations can be performed by

identifying the different risk sources and carrying out risk
analyses using the following procedure (Ahuja [61]; AbdelRahman [62]; Lee at al. [63]):
1. Estimating the probability of occurrence of the
undesirable event;
2. Estimating the magnitude of consequences;
3. Identifying options to accommodate the risks,
o Reducing the probability of the cause;
o Mitigating the consequence; and
o Reducing the escalation from cause to
4. Prioritize risk management efforts based on:
o Level of risk (probability and consequence);
o Status of risk control and risk management
activities; and
o Optimum timescale for risk control action.
Risk control could be always ensured through the following:
1. Incorporating a design with adequate safety factor
and reasonable ground movements that could be
safely tolerated by the surrounding structures.
2. Incorporating an inclusive quality control program
during construction.
3. Performing a pre-construction dilapidation survey to
verify the conditions of the surrounding structures
and their safety conditions when subjected to the
predicted ground movements.
4. Adopting an elaborate monitoring system that suit the
risk sources associated with the execution of the deep
Contingency plans are used in the event of emergency
response, back-up operations, and disaster recovery for
construction projects which carry a large element of risk. The
contingency plan shall therefore focus upon ways in which
certain events identified through completion of project risk
assessments can be militated against using a set of preidentified procedures. The plan shall be fit-for-purpose and
undergo the following key tests prior to its release:
1. Is the plan achievable in reality, should this be
2. Are the trigger mechanisms for actual activation of
the plan clear and realistic?


Does the plan address anticipated situations in a

timely, affordable, effective, consistent manner?
Puller [3] listed the following contingency measures to reduce
the deformation induced with the deep excavation and hence
reduce the risks of affecting nearby buildings:
1. Use of construction methods such as the top-down
system or preloading of temporary struts may achieve
reductions in settlements below nearby buildings.
2. Strengthening the ground by means of cement or
chemical grout injection, mix-in-place or pin piles. In
extreme cases, freezing of the subsoil may prove an
effective solution in granular, water-bearing soils.
3. Temporary or permanent strengthening the affected
building by means of vertical support and horizontal
ties to resist horizontal tensile strains imposed by the
soil deformation. Shear stiffness of the building may
also be improved by temporarily filling window and
door openings in facades and cross-walls with
brickwork or blockwork of requisite strength.
4. Structural jacking applied progressively as the deep
excavation is made to counteract vertical settlement,
possibly with improvements of temporary
strengthening to the structure.
5. Compensation and fracture grouting may be applied
progressively as deep excavation is made.
Compaction grouting applied to both granular and
cohesive subsoils can provide a means of lifting
structures to counteract the effects of vertical
settlements. Successive injections of compensation
and fracture grouting may be carried out from tubesa-manchette drilled in arrays from positions both
inside and outside the affected structure.
Abdel-Rahman [62] illustrated the applicability of the risk
management approach to mitigate the risks of affecting
structures nearby a deep excavation for a multi-story
underground garage in Al-Tahrir square, Cairo, Egypt. He
studied in details the risks associated with the deep excavation
in this project and presented a contingency plan of actions that
was prepared to meet the unforeseen conditions as
summarized in Table 2.
Table 2. Contingency plans for deep excavation (after Abdel-Rahman [62])
Risk source
Contingency plan of action



movement of the wall

Increase the number of lateral


and ground settlement

Instability of the grout


Refill the excavation pit with water

up to the level that adequately restabilize the situation, or perform
heavy dewatering to lower the water
table as needed.





Increase the number of wells

Inject grout columns behind the


excavation level

Lateral leaking from the

support system

leaking locations


[2] Hsiao, C.L., Wall and ground movements in a braced

Deep excavations occasionally cause failures of adjacent

structures yet they often produce serviceability problems to
nearby buildings in form of wall cracks, tilting and
impairments to windows and doors due to the ground
deformations associated with deep excavations. With the
increasing demands for deep excavation in urban areas having
soft deltaic soils such as the Greater Cairo, it becomes
increasingly important to have well-designed support systems
for deep excavations that do not only ensure the stability of the
excavation itself but also warrant that the excavation will not
cause damage to the adjacent buildings and utilities due to
potentially excessive ground deformations.
The deformations patterns associated with deep excavations
depend of the mode of the wall deformations. Two basic
patterns of the settlement troughs are commonly
acknowledged: spandrel settlement trough (associated with the
wall cantilever deformations) and concave settlement trough
(associated with the wall bulging deformations). The
cumulative settlement is a function of the relative ratio
between the wall bulging and cantilever deformations.
Many damage criteria have been set to assess the effect of
the ground deformations induced by deep excavations on
building. The main common aspect of these approaches is the
inclusion of the effect of the horizontal deformation caused by
deep excavations.
Monitoring programs and risk management are powerful
tools in the observational approach to allow construction to
proceed smoothly in the face of the abundant risks associated
with deep excavation projects, particularly the risks associated
with unforeseen geotechnical conditions or construction
problems. A proper prepared risk mitigation plans with wellset monitoring trigger levels become a necessity in deep
excavations especially in urban areas. The results of the
monitoring are made available to all concerned parties through
modern communication means such as the Internet and cell

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The authors would like to acknowledge the pioneering
work done by the Prof. Fathalla M. El-Nahhas (Ain Shams
University, Faculty of Engineering, Egypt) in the fields of
tunneling and deep excavations. Prof. El-Nahhas studies and
researches inspired and motivated us during the preparation of
this article. The authors would also like to express their truthful
gratefulness to Prof. Sherif W. Agaiby (Dar Al-Handasah
Consultants Shair & Partners), Prof. Ahmed Hosny AbdelRahman (The National Research Center, Egypt) and Prof. Ali
A. Abdelfattah (Ain Shams University, Faculty of Engineering,
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