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The continuous beam type of footing system is generally

analysed as beam on elastic foundation. Such a structural system

for the footing ensures flexural behaviour and minimises the

differential settlement.

The structural analysis of beams on elastic foundation

requires the computation of exact contact pressure distribution

satisfying the displacement compatibility between the soil and
footing beam.

The relative stiffness of the footing and the soil

greatly affects the contact pressure distribution and

subsequently the distribution of internal forces in the footing


The behaviour of soil is very complex as it is rarely

homogeneous, generally layered and never perfectly elastic. The

deformations are time dependant and partly irreversible.

Therefore the numerical methods with good approximations,

consistant with the accuracy of the values usually obtained for

the soil parameters in routine exploration and testing
procedures, provide equally reliable results as the classical

rigorous methods for the analysis of beams on elastic foundation.

The numerical methods also have the advantage of being easily

programmable for the computer.

The finite differance method presented in this chapter,


for the analysis of beams on elastic foundation assumes a

realistic contact pressure distribution, namely the parabolic

distribution, while most of the numerical methods assume a

stepped distribution. The computational procedure presented is

simple and requires less computational time and effort compared

to the finite element methods. The method is also applicable for

beams of varying cross section (i.e. moment of inertia ) and
varying subgrade modulus.


A number of computational procedures have been

developed for the determination of contact pressure distribution

and internal forces m the beams on elastic foundation.

The classical text on the subject is that of Hetenyi


(1946), who provided the closed form solutions using Winkler's

hypothesis, which considered the soil to behave as infinite

number of individual independent elastic springs of subgrade
modulus as the stiffness. The solutions are based on the

following two simplifying assumptions. First, the beam is of

uniform cross section, and second the subgrade modulus is

constant, irrespective of whether the soil is in compression or

tension. Lee and Harrison (1970) augmented the Hetenyi's work by
deriving the equations for deflections, moments and shears in the

beam on elastic foundation for the case of a moment acting at

some point along the beam by superimposing the Hetenyi's general

solution for the concentrated load on the beam of finite length

and solution for a finite beam subjected to an end moment and

concentrated force.

Popov (1951) presented the method of successive

approximation of contact pressure distribution of which the first

approximation being the contact pressure distribution
corresponding to infinitely rigid footing. The deflections of the
footing were computed by moment area method. Subsequent

approximations were made from the first elastic line or from

the straight line and the first curve. An iterative method was

presented by Baker (1957) for computation of the contact

pressure distribution. The method assumed a specific shape of

contact pressure distribution to start with and the same was

improved satisfying the compatibility of displacements of soil

and the beam footing.

A numerical method to obtain contact pressure

distribution which can deal with soils of homogeneous anisotropy

and isotropy and certain cases of stratification was discussed by

Barden (1962). The distribution of contact pressure distribution
was assumed to consist of steps or blocks of uniform contact

pressure. The solution was presented in the form of influence

coefficients. Bowles (1974) analysed the beams on elastic

foundation using the finite differance method considering the

stepped variation of contact pressure distribution. Jagdish and

Sharadabai (1977) used the finite differance method to derive the
general equations for the combined footing including variable
moment of inertia and subgrade modulus. Stepped variation of

contact pressure distribution used. Ramaswamy (1977) presented

an analytical procedure using finite differance method for the
problem of beam resting on compacted cohesive soil taking into
account, the nonlinear and time dependant behaviour of soil,

by using the nonlinear viscoelastic constitutive equation for


soil. It was concluded " The inclusion of nonlinear, time

dependant material properties do not significantly affect the
contact pressure distribution and moment distribution. The

conventional rigid beam solution is an upperbound ". Method of

strips was proposed by Dewaiker (1977) to compute the contact

pressure distribution below foundation beams. The method

consisted of dividing the footing into a number of strips of

uniform pressure. Deflections in the beam were computed using

beam theory and deflections in the soil medium using Garbonov -
Posadov's theory of stresses and displacements in the elastic
medium underlain by rigid layer. Equating the deflections of beam
and soil, relative to common datum and considering the
equillibrium of vertical forces, necessary equations were

obtained to solve the unknown contact pressure distribution. The

distribution was studied for various depths to rigid layer and

for various degrees of relative rigidities of the beam.

Finite element method is used extensively for the

analysis of beams on elastic foundation by many researchers. Few

are cited here. Bowles (1974) formulated the stiffness matrix by
combining the conventional beam element with descrete soil

springs at the ends of the beam. The degree of accuracy using

this element is highly dependant on the number of elements

modelled. Miahara and Ergatoudis ( 1976 ) proposed Qa| one

dimensional line finite elements offering resistance not only to

normal forces but to shear and torsional forces. Wang (1983)

derived the expressions for the member stiffness matrix and fixed

end reactions and moments from the closed form solutions of the
governing differential equation for a few cases of transverse

loads, as functions of stiffness modulus of both soil and


footing. The stiffness matrix and nodal load vectors due to

concentrated forces, concentrated moments and linearly varying

distributed forces were derived by Ting and Mockry (1984) for the

beams on elastic foundation. Patankar (1985) described the

application of infinite elements to the strip foundation on
elastic continuum for the computation of vertical settlements.
A finite element for the analysis of beam - column on elastic
foundation using displacement function obtained from the solution
of governing differential equation is proposed by Razhaqpur

(1989). Sirosh and Ghali (1989) presented a computational

procedure for the analysis of reinforced concrete beams on

elastic foundation, accounting for reinforcement in concrete by

considering the members to have the transformed cross-sectional

area of concrete plus the area of steel multiplied by ES|-/Ec(t0)f

where Es is elastic modulus of steel and Ec(tQ) is the elastic
modulus of concrete at age tQ. Thus the creep and shrinkage was

also accounted for. Alijanabi et. al.(1990) modified the finite

element derived by Ting and Mockry to include the effect of
shear modulus of the subgrade reactions of the foundation, as

well as axial force in the beam.

Kurian (1982) remarked, " It is seen from the

general solution of the governing differential equation,

E If (d4 y / d x4) + ks y = 0

that ^max a X / ks

(ks)-3/4 , where X = (ks / 4 E If)1/4

l .e. Ymax a

and ^ax a 1 /X

l . c‘. Mmax " ^

Since the sensitivity ol the function, depends upon the

power in which the variable appears, the above results show that,

the moment is much less sensitive to a variation in subgrade

modulus than deflection. An important conclusion that follows

from this result is the fact that at any rate, the winkler model

is more reliable when the criteria for the design is allowable

stresses rather than where it is allowable deformation.M

Kurian et.al. (1995) nonlinearised the winkler model by

defining the subgrade modulus as the function of applied
pressure. This was achieved by hyperbolic fitting of load
settlement data from a plate load test used to determine the

values of the subgrade modulus. The method was illustrated by

considering the example of hypar shell footing. The conclusions

again indicate that such a model is mseful particularly in a

situation where the criteria for the performance is deformation
rather than stresses.


The governing differential equation for the beam

(Fig.3.1) is,

(d2 y / d x2) = (Mn / E If) 3.1

The bending moment Mn, at any point n is produced by

the loads together with the contact pressure. The contact

pressure may be represented by equivalent concentrated reactions,
Rn, at the nodal points.

Assuming a parabolic distribution of contact pressure ,

equivalent concentrated reactions (Fig. 3.1) are,

Rjl = - (ks h / 24) (7 yi + 6 y2 - ys> 3.2

^m = (^s h / 24) (7 ym + 6 ym--i - ym-2) 3.3

at the ends and,

Rn = - (ks h / 24) (2 yn--i + 20 yn + 2 yn+i> 3.4

at any intermediate point, where the deflections, y in the upward

direction are positive.

Writing the differential equation (3.1) in the finite

difference form,

yn-i - 2 yn + yn+i = (n2 / e if) Mn 3.5

e.g. at node 2,

yi - 2 y2 + y3 = (h2 / £ if) [ (Rj* h) - (PjXh) + (Mx + M2)]


P2 P3 P f
fow p ? i8 r So Si

-**1 h k-

h----------------------L ----------H
R> ft ft *jio
Rj—-(ksh/24) (7)/] +6y2-y3)
R2=( ksh/12 ) (y? +ioy2 -f-y3)

f1 p p p
q=Q I |D=P

R, =(h/2) yt ks
f p p ft fio^n

R.-(ksh/6) (2y,+y2)
ksh/6) (y,+4 y2+y3)

Fig.3-1 Contact pressuie distribution


= (- ks h4 / 24 E If) [7 yi + 6 y2 - y3] +

(h2 /E If) [(-PjXh) + (Ml + M2)] 3.6

and at node 3,

y2 - 2 y3 + y4 = (h2 / E If) [(R1x2h) + (R2*h) - (P1x2h) - (P^h)

+ (Mx + M2 + M3)]

= (- ks h4 / 24 E If) [16 yx + 32 y2] + (h2 /E If)

[(-P1x2h) + (-P2*h) + (Mx + M2 + H3)] 3.7

Similar equations are written upto (m-l)*"*1 node, and

the same may be written in the matrix form as,

[CY] {y} = - B4 [CM] (y) + (h2 / E If) ({EMP} + {EMM}) 3.8

i.e. ([CY] + B4 [CM]) (y) = (h2 / E If) {EM} 3.9

where, B = (ks h4 / 24 E If)^

[CYM] {y} = (h2 / E If) {EM} 3.10

Thus eqn.(3.10) is a matrix of (m-2) equations. The

remaining two equations are obtained from force equillibrium.

Hence, m equations to solve for m unknowns.

Summing up the vertical forces ,

(Rf + R2 + R3 + . • • Rm) - (Pf + P2 + P3 + • • *Pra) = 0 3.11

i.e, (- ks h / 24) [(7 yx + 6 y2 - y3) + (2y1 + 20y2 + 2y3) + . •

* >1 = (Pi + P2 + p3 + * * -pm) 3.12


Or, in the matrix form - B4 [CM] {y} = (h2 / E If) {EM} 3.13

and summing up the moments of the forces about the last node,

[1^(111-1)11 ♦ R?(m-2)h ♦-••• + Rj^jjh] - [PjJm-lJh + P2(m-2)h +

• • • + t (Mf + M2 + M2 + * * -Mju) — 0 3.14

Or, in the matrix form - B4 [CM] (y) = (h2 / E If) {EM} 3.15

The above equillibrium equations are also written in

the matrix form as

[CYM} |y| - (h? / E If) (EH) 3.16

and appended to the equation(3.10).

The complete set of equations (3.10) are solved , to

obtain the deflections as,

{y} = (CYM]"1 {EM} (h2 / E If) 3.17

Or {y} = {y0) (h2 / E If) 3.18

and the reactions,

<R) = (~ksh / 24) {CM] (y) 3.19

{R} = -(B4 / h) [CM] {yD} 3.20

The moments are obtained from

{M} = (-kg h2 / 24) [CM] (y) + (EM) 3.21

(M) = -B4 [CM] {yQ} + (EM) 3.22


The above procedure can be conveniently used for beams

of varying cross-sections and varying subgrade modulus by

imposing appropriate values of B (a non-dimensional parameter
combining the subgrade modulus and rigidity of the foundation),

at nodal points in all the equations.

It is noticed that the moments obtained with only 10

elements are in good agreement with Hetenyi's classical solution.


A computer program is written for the computational


To assess the performance of the present method a

simple illustrative example (Fig.3.2) is chosen for which the

results are available (Bowles,1974). The comparison is presented

in the table 3.1 .

From the table 3.1, it is evident that author's

results agree well with the Hetenyi's classical solution, in

comparison with Bowles's finite differance solution cosidering

stepped variation of contact pressure distribution for the same

number of elements.

The effect of rigidity of the footing relative to

subgrade modulus on the contact pressure distribution is
presented in fig.3.2. lor highly compressible soils, i.e., for
soils of low subgrade modulus the footing becomes relatively
rigid and hence the contact pressure distribution is almost
uniform, whereas for the soils of high subgrade modulus the
footing becomes relatively flexible and the much of the load is

(Parametric study)
1 39


NODE No. 1 & 11 2 & 10 3 & 9 4 & 8 5 & 7 6


AUTHOR 0.0227 0.0213 0.0198 0.0186 0.0177 0.0174

HETENYI 0.023 0.021 0.020 0.019 0.018 0.018

BOWLES 0.0215 0.0204 0.0193 0.0183 0.0176 0.0174


AUTHOR 172.81 162.16 150.74 141.60 134.75 132.47

HETENYI 175.10 159.90 152.76 144.64 137.03 137.03

BOWLES 162.65 154.36 145.83 138.42 133.45 131.71


AUTHOR 0.0 95.77 -465.85 -856.07 -1085.8 -1161.9

HETENYI 0.0 95.92 -465.2 -855.23 -1084.6 -1160.3

BOWLES 0.25 175.62 -325.25 -675.18 -879.93 -948.43


shared by soil reactions m a narrow area under the columns

instead of uniform distribution.


1. The computational procedure described in this chapter for

the analysis of beams on elastic foundation assuming a very
realistic contact pressure distribution, is simple and easily
2. The computational procedure can also be used for beams of
varying cross-sections and soils of varying subgrade modulus by
imposing appropriate values of 5 in the set of finite differance