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Pile Testing and Settlement Prediction


Harry G. Poulos Dist. MASCE
Coffey Geotechnics, 8/12 Mars Rd., Lane Cove West, 2066, Australia. <harry_poulos@coffey.com>

ABSTRACT This paper describes a process by which pile load test data can be used
to assist in the prediction of pile foundation settlements. In the interpretation of the
load test results, the critical importance of making allowance for the load test setup
and possible interaction effects is emphasized, because of the potential for overestimation of pile stiffness. Two examples are given, one of an unsuccessful use of
pile load test data for pile foundation settlement prediction, and the other of a more
successful outcome. The reasons for the unsuccessful prediction are examined. It is
found that successful prediction of the test pile settlement does not guarantee that the
overall settlement of the foundation system will be predicted successfully.
INTRODUCTION
Pile testing is commonly carried out to assess the geotechnical capacity of piles
within a foundation system or to check on the integrity of as-constructed piles. Pile
testing also has a useful role to play as a tool in the prediction of foundation
settlements, despite the doubts expressed by many engineers that the settlement of a
single pile bears little or no relationship to that of a pile group.
Ideally, pile tests should employ instrumentation to allow estimation of the
distribution of shaft and base resistance during the loading process. Interpretation of
such tests should take account of the presence of residual stresses induced during pile
installation, otherwise misleading assessments of the shaft and base resistances can be
made (for example, Fellenius et al, 2004). Unfortunately, the vast majority of pile
tests undertaken are on uninstrumented piles, and hence it is desirable to have means
of interpreting such tests in terms of their settlement behaviour.
This paper sets out a method by which load-settlement data from pile load tests can
be interpreted and used to predict the settlement of pile groups or of single piles of
different dimensions. One of the commonly employed methods of pile group
settlement analysis, the interaction factor method, is reviewed and its practical
implementation is discussed. This method is described with respect to a simple elastic
soil model, but the principles involved can also be applied to more realistic soil
models. The use of the method is illustrated via two case studies, one in which the

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foundation settlement prediction was poor, and the other in which the prediction was
more satisfactory. From these cases, some indications are provided of the steps that
need to be taken to avoid unsatisfactory pile group settlement predictions.
THE PROCESS OF PILE SETTLEMENT PREDICTION
The use of load-settlement data from pile load tests to predict the settlement
behaviour of a pile group or piled raft involves the following steps.
1.

Ground investigation and establishment of a geotechnical model.

2.

Interpretation of the pile load test to assess the pile and ground stiffness
characteristics, taking into account the site stratigraphy and the load test
configuration.

3.

Application of a suitable method of pile or pile group analysis into which the
following parameters are input.

4.

a.

The local ground stiffness parameters for a single pile, as assessed


from the pile load test data.

b.

The global ground stiffness parameters for the various strata not
influenced by the pile load test.

c.

The applied loads and the foundation and structural characteristics.

Check calculations with a simple method of assessment to check that the


settlements are of the correct order and consistent.

The first and last steps should be axiomatic in any proper geotechnical assessment.
Therefore, attention will be focussed below on the second and third of the above
steps.
LOAD TEST INTERPRETATION
The Ground Profile and the Interpretation Process
For the model of ground behaviour assumed in the pile analysis, the relevant ground
parameters need first to be interpreted from the measured load-settlement behaviour.
For example, if a load transfer (t-z) approach is adopted, the initial slope and
subsequent shape of the load transfer curves must be assumed and then the
parameters for the curves derived via a process of trial and error. If an elastic-plastic
soil model is assumed, then a distribution of Youngs modulus and ultimate shaft
friction with depth must be assumed and again, a trial and error process will generally
be required to obtain a fit between the load-settlement behaviour from the theoretical
model and the measured load settlement behaviour. More often than not, there will
be no instrumentation along the pile so that there is no detailed load transfer
information along the pile shaft. Thus, an assumption has to be made regarding the
distribution of soil stiffness and strength with depth. This needs to be done in relation
to the geotechnical profile in order to obtain reliable results.

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If instrumentation has been installed in the pile, and if proper account is taken of
residual stresses in the interpretation of the results, then the value of Youngs
modulus of the ground, Es, between each adjacent set of instrumentation can be
interpreted by use of the following relationship developed by Randolph and Wroth
(1978).
Es = (/ws)d(1+)ln(2rm/d)
where

ws
d

rm
/ws

=
=
=
=
=
=

(1)

local shear stress


local settlement
pile diameter
ground Poissons ratio
radius at which displacements become very small
the slope of the derived load transfer (t-z) curve. Randolph and
Wroth (1978) give an expression for rm and indicate that it is in the
order of the length of the pile.

Influence of Test Set-Up


The proper interpretation of a pile load test requires account be taken of the influence
of the test set-up on the measured load-settlement behaviour. This aspect has been
examined by a number of authors (for example, Poulos and Davis, 1980; Poulos,
2000; Kitiyodom et al, 2004).
Osterberg cell (O-cell) tests are being used increasingly for testing larger diameter
bored piles. In this case, the upper section moves upward while the lower section
moves downward; thus, each section tends to counteract the movement of the other,
again leading to the measured movements being less than the real movement. Proper
interpretation of an O-cell test therefore requires appropriate combination of the two
load-movement curves, together with consideration of the interaction between the
two sections of the test pile.
For conventional top-loading pile tests, where there are reaction piles adjacent to the
test pile, interaction between the upward moving reaction piles and the downward
moving test pile will lead to an under-registration of the test pile settlement. Failure
to take the test set-up into account in interpreting the load test results can lead to a
significant over-estimation of the real stiffness of the pile and the stiffness of the
surrounding ground. This is illustrated in the example below.
Example of Load Test Interpretation
Figure 1 shows an example of the ground profile in which a load test was carried out
on a large diameter bored pile, 2.5m in diameter and 32m long (Amini et al, 2008).
In this case, based on the shear strength data interpreted from cone penetration
testing, the ground profile has been characterised by the present author as one in
which the Youngs modulus, Es, of the soil along the shaft increased linearly with

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depth and was related to the undrained shear strength, su, via the relationship
Es = Asu. The value of su at the pile tip was about 100 kPa, so that the Youngs
modulus at the level of the pile tip is 0.1A MPa. The measured load-settlement curve
is shown in Figure 2. At a load of 8 MN, the measured pile head settlement was
about 1.8mm.
wn, and LL
40

60

"Shear Strength", (KPa)

Cone Stress, q t (MPa)

(%)
80

100

10

10

15

15

DEPTH (m)

DEPTH (m)

20

20
25

35

35

100

150

200

CPTUcalculated

Fill

Nilcon Vane

10

Upper
stiff
silty
clay

25
30

50

20

30

10

15
0.4 x 'z

DEPTH (m)

Pl,
0

20

25
30

NKT = 17

Sand layers
35

Lower
stiff
silty
clay

40

40
Plastic Limit

45

45

Water Content

40
45

Liquid Limit

50

50

50

Fig. 1 Soil conditions for pile test (Amini et al, 2008).


20,000
18,000
16,000

LOAD (KN)

14,000
12,000
10,000
8,000

QL/AE
6,000
4,000
2,000

b/120

0
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

MOVEMENT (mm)

Figure 2 Measured load-settlement curve (Amini et al, 2008)


In the test setup, there were two reaction piles, each 2.5m diameter, and 50m long,
located about 3 diameters from the test pile.

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In interpreting the load test data, two sets of calculations were made: one in which no
account was taken of the effects of the reaction piles, and the other in which the
interaction between the test pile and the reaction piles was allowed for. The
interpretation analyses were carried out using the computer program PIES (Poulos,
1989), and assuming that the soil behaviour was linear up to the 8MN load. PIES is a
boundary element program which computes the axial movement and load distribution
within a single pile or a pile within a group environment when subjected to axial load
at the pile head, and/or externally imposed vertical ground movements along the
length of the pile. The program employs a simplified boundary element formulation,
in which the pile is discretised into a series of cylindrical shaft elements and annular
base elements. The ground can be represented by an elastic continuum or by a series
of vertical springs, and in each case, the ground stiffness is characterised by the value
of Youngs modulus. For the elastic continuum, use is made of the classic equations
of elasticity developed by Mindlin (1936) to obtain the soil displacements at each of
the pile elements (Poulos and Davis, 1980). Non-linear pile-soil response is
incorporated either by specifying a limiting pile-soil stress at each pile element
(ultimate skin friction for shaft elements, ultimate bas pressure for base elements), or
else employing a hyperbolic relationship between soil stiffness and stress level at
each pile element.
Figure 3 shows the computed relationship between the assumed Youngs modulus at
the level of the pile tip and the pile head settlement at a load of 8MN, for the two sets
of calculations. By fitting the computed settlements to the measured settlement
of 1.8 mm, the following backfigured values of Youngs modulus at the pile tip, Esb,
are obtained.

Fig. 3

Backfigured Youngs Modulus Values

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1.

Ignoring the effects of the reaction piles: Esb = 400 MPa (i..e., the factor
A=4000).

2.

Accounting for the effects of the reaction piles: Esb = 270 MPa (A = 2700)

The latter value is considered to be more appropriate, and it can be seen that ignoring
the effect of the reaction piles results in an over-estimate of the soil modulus by
almost 50%. Consequently, pile group settlements based on this erroneous value of
Youngs modulus would tend to be under-estimated.
Use of Backfigured Parameters
Once the ground parameters have been interpreted from the test pile load-settlement
curve, and checked for reasonableness (e.g. via empirical correlations with in-situ or
available laboratory data), they may be used in at least two ways.
1.

To predict the settlement behaviour of piles of different diameter and, desirably


but not essentially, of similar length to the test pile. The same theory and ground
model used to interpret the load test is used for this purpose.

2.

To predict the settlement of pile groups. Some of the available methods are set
out below.

METHODS OF PILE GROUP SETTLEMENT PREDICTION


It is now well recognized that the settlement of a pile group can differ significantly
from that of a single pile at the same average load level. There are a number of
approaches commonly adopted for the estimation of the settlement of pile groups.

Methods which employ the concept of interaction factors and the principle of
superposition (e.g. Poulos and Davis, 1980).

Methods which involve the modification of a single pile load-settlement curve, to


take account of group interaction effects.

The settlement ratio method, in which the settlement of a single pile at the
average load level is multiplied by a group settlement ratio Rs, which reflects the
effects of group interaction.

The equivalent raft method, in which the pile group is represented by an


equivalent raft acting at some characteristic depth along the piles.

The equivalent pier method, in which the pile group is represented by a pier
containing the piles and the soil between them. The pier is treated as a single pile
of equivalent stiffness in order to compute the average settlement of the group.

Numerical methods such as the finite element method and the finite difference
method (such as FLAC). While earlier work employed two-dimensional
analyses, it is now less uncommon for full three-dimensional analyses to be
employed (e.g., Katzenbach et al., 2000).

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In the following section, the interaction factor method of analysis will be described
briefly, and then some developments will be discussed with respect to the earlier
application of this method.
The Interaction Factor Method for Pile Groups
One of the common means of analyzing pile group behaviour is via the interaction
factor method described by Poulos and Davis (1980). In this method, referring to
Figure 4, the settlement wi of a pile i within a group of n piles is given as follows.

n
w = (P S )
i j = l av 1 ij
where

Pav =
S1 =
ij =

(2)

average load on a pile within the group


settlement of a single pile under unit load (i.e., the pile flexibility)
interaction factor for pile i due to any other pile (j) within the
group, corresponding to the spacing sij between piles i and j.

Eq. 2 can be written for each pile in the group, thus giving a total of n equations,
which together with the equilibrium equation, can be solved for two simple cases.
1.

Known load on each pile, in which case the settlement of each pile can be
computed directly. In this case, there will usually be differential settlements
among the piles in the group.

2.

A rigid (non-rotating) pile cap, in which case all piles settle equally. In this case,
there will be a uniform settlement but a non-uniform distribution of load in the
piles.

In the original approach, the interaction factors were computed from boundary
element analysis and plotted in graphical form. They usually took the form of plots of
interaction factor versus the ratio of pile spacing to diameter (s/d). Also, the
interaction factors were applied to the total flexibility S1 of the pile, including both
elastic and non-elastic components of the single pile settlement.
Pile i
Plan of
pile
group

sij
Pile j

Fig. 4 Superposition via the Interaction Factor Method

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In recent years, simplified or closed-form expressions for the interaction factors have
been developed. For example, Mandolini and Viggiani (1997) have developed the
following simplified expressions for the interaction factor, in one of the following
forms.

where

A (s/d) B

(3a)

{C + D ln (s/d)}

(3b)

A, B, C, and D are fitting parameters.

For four typical field cases analyzed by Mandolini and Viggiani, the values of A
ranged between 0.57 and 0.98, while the range of B was 0.60 to 1.20. For one other
case, values of C= 1.0 and D = -0.26 were computed. They also assumed that no
interaction occurred beyond a certain limiting value of pile spacing. Poulos (2008)
gives values of A and B for a wide range of cases.
The original interaction factors (Poulos and Davis, 1980) were based on the
assumption that the soil was a homogeneous elastic medium, having a constant
modulus with depth. This was clearly a great simplification of reality, and in
subsequent years, some significant improvements and extensions have been made to
the original interaction factor method, among the most important being:
1.

The consideration of non-uniform soil modulus with depth.

2.

The consideration of the influence of the bearing stratum on which the pile is
founded.

3.

The consideration of the fact that the soil between the piles may be stiffer than at
the pile-soil interface, because of the small strain levels existing between the
piles.

4.

Consideration of the interaction between two dissimilar piles.

5.

The effect of compressible underlying layers.

6.

The application of the interaction factor to only the elastic component of the
single pile flexibility (e.g., Randolph, 1994), and the consequent incorporation of
non-linearity of single pile response within the interaction factor for the effect of
a pile on itself (Mandolini and Viggiani, 1997).

Poulos (2006) has examined the effects of these factors and has found that, in general,
their consideration leads to interaction factors that are smaller than those obtained for
a homogeneous elastic medium. As a consequence, ignoring these factors will tend to
result in an overestimation of the group settlement.

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EXAMPLES OF LOAD TEST INTERPRETATION AND SETTLEMENT


PREDICTION
Emirates Twin Towers, Dubai
Introduction
The Emirates Project is a twin tower development in Dubai, the United Arab
Emirates. The towers are triangular in plan form with a face dimension of
approximately 50 m to 54 m. The taller Office Tower has 52 floors and rises 355 m
above ground level, while the shorter Hotel Tower is 305 m tall. The foundation
system for both towers involved the use of large diameter piles in conjunction with a
raft. Poulos and Davids (2005) give more details of this project.
Geotechnical Conditions
The geotechnical investigations revealed that the stratigraphy was relatively uniform
across the whole site, so that it was considered adequate to characterize the site with a
single geotechnical model. The groundwater level was relatively close to the surface.
The geotechnical model for foundation design under static loading conditions was
based on the relevant available in-situ and laboratory test data. The ultimate skin
friction values were based largely on laboratory data from constant normal stiffness
(CNS) direct shear tests, while the ultimate end bearing values for the piles were
assessed on the basis of correlations with UCS data (Reese and ONeill, 1988) and
also previous experience with similar cemented carbonate deposits (Poulos, 1988). In
order to provide some guidance on the expected behaviour of the piles during the test
pile program, Class A predictions of the load-deflection response of the test piles
were carried out and communicated to the main consultant prior to the
commencement of testing.
The geotechnical model used for the test pile settlement prediction is summarised in
Table 1. The values of Youngs modulus were derived from the available field and
laboratory data, and also correlations with uniaxial compressive strength.
For the static compression and tension tests on the piles, the settlement predictions
were made using the computer program PIES.
Pile Load Tests
A program of load testing was undertaken, including compression, tension and lateral
load tests on piles of 0.9m in diameter. Attention will be focussed here on the
compression tests and their use for settlement prediction for the Hotel tower.
Figure 5 shows the test setup for the 0.9 m diameter test piles. For the compression
tests, the loading was supplied by a series of jacks, while the reaction was provided
by 22 anchors drilled into the underlying calcisiltite. The anchors were connected to
the test pile via two crowns located above the jacks and load cells.

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Table 1 Relative Modulus Values


Unit

Description

Thickness m

Estimated Drained
Modulus Value
MPa

Relative
Stiffness
E/E3b

Silty sand, some


calcarenite bands

30

0.06

Silty sand, some


calcarenite bands

100

0.2

Calcareous sandstone

15

500

1.0

Silty sand

10

100

0.2

Calcisiltite

20

400

0.8

Calcisiltite

15

80

0.16

Calcisiltite

Large

600

1.2

Working platform
(-0.50)
(-1.50)

Ground anchors

(-2.00)

(-5.00)

Unit 1 - Silty sand


900

(-10.0)

1285

203

(-16.0)

Unit 2 - Calcareous sandstone


Reference beams
(-20.0)

Footprint of the ground anchors


at the ground level
(-25.0)

No. 1 Extensometer
(-30.0)

Unit 3 - Silty sand

No. 4 Strain gauges

(-36.0)

22 Nos of ground anchors

(-40.0)

Unit 4 - Calcisiltite

Fig. 5 Setup for compression pile tests


Comparisons between predicted and measured test pile behaviour were made after the
results of the tests were made available. Figure 6 compares the measured and
predicted load-settlement curves for Test P3(H) for the Hotel tower, and reveals a fair

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measure of agreement in the early stages. The predicted settlements exceed the
measured values, and the maximum load of 30 MN reached exceeded the estimated
ultimate load capacity of about 23 MN.
Re-Interpretation of Load Test Data
For the purposes of the present paper, the load test data shown in Figure 6 was reinterpreted by fitting the calculated settlement at a representative working load of
12,000 kN to the observed settlement. The calculated settlements used different
values of modulus of the adopted reference layer (Unit 3), assuming that the modulus
values of the various strata had the same relative values as those shown in Table 1.
The program PIES was used for this fitting process, and linear soil behaviour was
assumed. No account was taken of the effect of the reaction anchors, as the bond
lengths were founded well below the pile tips and were assessed to have negligible
effect on the measured settlement.
Figure 7 shows the relationship between the computed settlement and the assumed
value of modulus of the reference layer (Unit 3). It can be seen that, to fit the
measured value of 10.2 mm, this reference value needs to be 500 MPa, which
(coincidentally) is the value selected in the original assessment.

30000
Predicted
Measured

Applied Load (kN)

25000
20000
15000
10000
5000
0

10
20
30
Settlement (mm)

40

Fig. 6 Predicted and measured load-settlement behaviour for pile P3(H).

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Fig. 7 Computed relationship between settlement and Youngs modulus


of reference layer. Test Pile P3H.
Calculated Settlement of Foundation System
Using the derived reference value of modulus of 500 MPa for unit 3, and the
corresponding relative modulus values shown in that table for the other layers, the
final settlement of the foundation system was computed using the program DEFPIG
(Poulos, 1990). In deriving the interaction factors for the settlement calculation, two
different assumptions were made:
Case 1: The ground profile was as shown in Table 1, with the depth of Unit 7 being
very large and the modulus of this layer remaining constant with depth;
Case 2: The ground profile was as shown in Table 1, but the modulus of Unit 7 was
taken to be significantly larger, relative to that of Unit 3, because of the lower strain
levels at depth compared to those near the piles. In addition, allowance was made for
the soil between the piles being stiffer (by a factor of 5) because of the decreasing
strain level with increasing distance from the pile-soil interface.
The relationship between the computed interaction factors and the relative pile
spacing is shown in Figure 8. It is clear that the interaction factors for Case 2, which
are considered to be more realistic, are significantly lower than for Case 1.
Table 2 shows the final maximum computed settlement for the two assumptions
made. Measurements were available only for a limited period during the construction
process, up to mid-October 1998, and at that stage, the estimated load on the
foundation was about 54% of the dead load and about 48% of the design (dead plus
live) load. Thus, also shown in Table 2 are the calculated settlements when
approximately 48% of the design load had been applied, and the corresponding

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measured settlements. The use of the Case 1 interaction factors leads to substantially
larger computed settlements than for the Case 2 factors. The latter appear to be in
much better agreement with the measurements than for Case 1. A simple equivalent
raft analysis indicated a maximum settlement of 56mm for Case 1, again indicating
that the interaction factors used for this case were too large.

Fig. 8

Comparison of interaction factors for two different assumptions

This example thus indicates that, even if the single pile settlement is derived from the
load test data and hence is computed accurately, the computed group settlement can
vary widely, depending on the assumptions made in deriving the pile settlement
interaction factors. It seems essential that, if an accurate group settlement prediction
is to be made, account be taken of the fact that the ground stiffness increases with
decreasing strain level, and therefore with increasing depth and with increasing
distance from the pile-ground interface. It is also essential to carry out simple
analyses to check the results of more complex computer analyses.
Burj Khalifa , Dubai
Introduction
The Burj Khalifa (previously called the Burj Dubai before its official opening in
January 2010) is a 828m tall high rise tower, with a podium development around the
base of the tower, including a 4-6 storey garage. It is currently the worlds tallest
building, and is founded on a 3.7m thick raft supported on 194 bored piles, 1.5 m in
diameter, extending approximately 50m below the base of the raft. The geotechnical
aspects of this tower have been described by Poulos and Bunce (2008).

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Table 2 Computed Settlements of Emirates Hotel Tower


Quantity

Computed Values

Measured Values

Case 1

Case 2

Uniform ground
conditions below
pile tips

Stiffer ground
conditions below
pile tips and
between piles

Maximum Final
Settlement mm

98

28

Minimum Final
Settlement mm

65

17

Maximum
Settlement at
October 1998

47*

14*

10

Minimum
Settlement at
October 1998

31*

8*

Estimated as 48% of final values

Ground Conditions and Geotechnical Model


The ground conditions comprise a horizontally stratified subsurface profile in which
medium dense to very loose granular silty sands (Marine Deposits) are underlain by
successions of very weak to weak sandstone interbedded with very weakly cemented
sand, gypsiferous fine grained sandstone/siltstone and weak to moderately weak
conglomerate/calcisiltite. Table 3 shows the geotechnical profile revealed by the
ground investigations, below the level of the raft base, which was about 10m below
natural ground level. Table 3 also shows the values of long-term Youngs modulus
derived from a re-assessment of the available field and laboratory data. Also shown is
the Youngs modulus of each layer, relative to that of the arbitrarily chosen reference
layer, the calcareous sandstone of Layer 3b.
Pile Load Test Program
The details of the piles tested within this program are summarized in Table 4. The
main purpose of the tests was to assess the general load-settlement behaviour of piles
of the anticipated length below the tower, and to verify the design assumptions. Each
of the test piles was different, allowing various factors to be investigated, as follows.

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The effects of increasing the pile shaft length

The effects of shaft grouting

The effects of reducing the shaft diameter

The effects of uplift (tension) loading

The effects of lateral loading

The effect of cyclic loading.

Soil
layer

Table 3 Summary of Soil Model for Burj Khalifa


Estimated
Drained
Description
Thickness
Modulus
Value (MPa )
[m]

Relative
Stiffness
E/E3b

3a

Medium dense to very dense


Sand/ Silt with frequent
sandstone bands

8.00

570

0.63

3b

Very weak to weak Calcareous


Sandstone

2.00

900

1.00

Very weak to weak gypsiferous


Sandstone/ calcareous Sandstone

7.50

750

0.83

5a

Very weak to moderately weak


Calcisiltite/ Conglomeritic
Calcisiltite

32.50

610

0.68

5b

Very weak to moderately weak


Calcisiltite/ Conglomeritic
Calcisiltite

19.00

690

0.77

Very weak to weak Calcareous/


Conglomerate strata

17.15

630

0.70

Load Test Interpretation


The computer program NAPRA (Mandolini and Viggiani, 1997) was used to carry
out the back-analyses of compression tests on piles P1, P2 and P4, using the
geotechnical model shown in Table 3. In these back-analyses, the reference modulus
of Layer 3b was changed until the calculated settlement at a representative load level
agreed with the measured settlement at that load. The relative modulus values shown
in the last column of Table 3 were used for each of the analyses. For simplicity, linear
elastic analyses were carried out, assuming that Youngs modulus for the piles, Ep,
was 31.8 GPa.

Page 16/20

Table 4. Summary of Pile Load Tests Preliminary Pile Testing


Pile No.

Pile
Pile
Diam.m Length m

P1
P2
P3
P4

1.5
1.5
1.5
0.9

45.15
55.15
35.15
47.10

Side
Grouted
?
No
No
Yes
No

P5
P6
P7A

0.9
0.9
0.9

47.05
36.51
37.51

Yes
No
No

Test Type

Compression
Compression
Compression
Compression
(cyclic)
Compression
Tension
Lateral

Figure 9 shows the configuration of the test piles and the reaction piles. For
comparison purposes, the three load tests were back-analysed both taking into
account, and then not taking into account, interaction between test piles and reaction
piles. The effect of this interaction is to decrease the measured settlement of the test
pile, and thus to give an overestimation of pile head stiffness.

(a)Piles P1 and P2.

(b) Pile P4

Fig. 9 Setup for pile tests


Back-calculated values of E3b, the Youngs Modulus of the reference layer (Layer
3b), are reported in Table 5.
From Table 5, the following points can be noted.
1. The consideration of interaction between the test pile and the reaction piles
results in backfigured modulus values which are less than those for which interaction
has been ignored. Thus, there would be a tendency to under-estimate foundation
settlements if interaction effects are ignored.
2.

The back-calculated values from the three tests are scattered.

Page 17/20

Table 5. Youngs modulus values back-calculated from load tests.


Back-calculated
E3b (MPa)
Interaction
Accounted for

Interaction not Accounted for

P1

350

650

P2

700

1200

P4

850

1100

Test Pile

Back-calculated E3b (MPa)

Calculation of Foundation Group Settlement


Figure 16 shows a plan of the piled raft foundation system that was analysed using
the program NAPRA (Mandolini and Viggiani, 1997). The columns and rows in the
mesh were spaced 1.7 m apart and the actual shape of the raft was represented by a
piecewise approximation.
For the prediction of the long-term foundation group settlement, on the basis of the
back-calculated values in Table 5, Youngs modulus values of the reference layer of
825 MPa (for the case where the modulus is correctly interpreted and reaction pile
interaction is considered) and 1200 MPa (for the case where the modulus is
incorrectly interpreted and reaction pile interaction was not considered) were
adopted. The piles were founded in Layer 5a, and the ground below layer 6 was
assumed to be very stiff. The Youngs modulus of the raft was assumed to be
31.8GPa and the analysis was simplified by assuming that each pile carried its
nominal working load of 23.2 MN.

Fig.10 Model adopted in NAPRA analyses

Page 18/20

Table 6 summarises the results of the NAPRA analysis. It can be seen that the
computed settlement using the incorrectly-interpreted Youngs modulus values is
about 25% less than that using the correctly-interpreted Youngs modulus values. It is
clear that the incorrect interpretation of load test data can lead to a significant underestimation of group settlement.
Table 6

Summary of Computed Long-Term Foundation Settlements

Pile Load Test


Interpretation
Method

Maximum
Settlement mm

Minimum
Settlement mm

Maximum
Differential
Settlement mm

Correct,
considering
reaction pile
interaction

58

28

30

Incorrect, ignoring
reaction pile
interaction

43

20

22

A relatively simple check analysis using an equivalent raft gives a maximum


settlement of between 59 and 97mm, depending on the assumptions made about the
modulus of the layers 5b and 6 well below the pile tip. The lower value is in good
agreement with the value of 58mm shown in Table 6.
The latest settlement measurements to which the author has access were made in
March 2009, and it was indicated that there had been very little increase in settlement
in the year prior to that date. The maximum settlement at that time (when almost all
the dead load was on the foundation) was about 44mm, while the minimum
settlement was about 22mm. If it is assumed that these settlements represent about
80% of the long-term settlement under dead plus live load plus long-term creep, then
the estimated long term maximum settlement would be about 55mm while the longterm differential settlement would be about 28mm. These latter values are in good
agreement with the values in Table 6 for the correct test pile interpretation.
It is interesting to note that Poulos and Bunce (2008) quoted other early estimates of
long-term settlement based on various methods of analysis, carried out before the
load test data became available. For the case of a relatively flexible pile cap, these
settlement estimates ranged between 66 and 78mm. While these values are of a
similar order to the values in Table 6, they were derived using estimates of soil
stiffness from field and laboratory test data. The proper interpretation of the
subsequent load test data provided a means of estimating more closely the actual
settlements.

Page 19/20

CONCLUSIONS
The availability of pile load test data can be an important component of a settlement
prediction for a piled foundation. However, even with such data available, there is no
guarantee that the settlement prediction will be accurate. The factors that must be
considered for an acceptably accurate settlement prediction include the following.
1.

Proper interpretation of the load test data. In particular, it is important to take


account of the effects of any interaction effects within the pile load test setup, for
example, the interaction between the test pile and the reaction piles in a
conventional load test setup, or the interaction between the upper and lower parts
of an Osterberg cell test.

2.

The relative stiffness values for the ground model used in the interpretation of
the load test should reflect those derived from the ground investigation.

3.

The pile load test must be interpreted in a manner that is consistent with the
method to be used for the foundation settlement prediction. For example, if linear
elastic theory is to be used for the prediction, then modulus values at the average
serviceability load should be derived from the load tests.

4.

The geotechnical model used for the overall foundation settlement assessment
should take some account of the non-linear behaviour of the soil, Depending on
the method of settlement prediction employed, it may be necessary to make
allowances for the fact that the ground stiffness will tend to increase with
decreasing distance from the piles, because of the decreasing strain level.

5.

The behaviour of a single test pile may not reflect the influence of deeper
compressible layers which the group will influence but which are not
significantly influenced by the test pile. While this has not been a factor in the
two cases described in this paper, it can be a major factor in some cases, for
example as described by Golder and Osler (1968).

6.

Complex computer analyses of foundation settlements should always be checked


with simple calculations to try and ensure that the complexities involved do not
overwhelm the fundamentals of the problem.

The study and evaluation of case histories, and comparisons between predicted and
observed settlements, can be very valuable. In the two cases described in this paper,
the understanding gained from the failure to accurately predict the settlement of the
Emirates towers was used to obtain more satisfactory settlement predictions for the
Burj Khalifa.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The author gratefully acknowledges the significant contribution to the analysis of the
Burj Khalifa made by Dr. Vincenzo Abagnara, and the helpful comments of Prof.
John Small.

Page 20/20

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