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Models to estimate k subgrade reaction modulus values based on deflection


basin parameters

Conference Paper · June 2009


DOI: 10.1201/9780203865286.fmatt

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Models to estimate k subgrade reaction modulus


values based on deflection basin parameters

C.Y. Suzuki
University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil

C.R.G. Santos, S. Ferri, F.M. Lopes, R.T.G. Cruz & A.M. Azevedo
Planservi Engenharia Ltda., São Paulo, SP, Brazil

ABSTRACT: The structural design of concrete pavements according to AASHTO and


PCA methods makes use of modulus of reaction (k) from the subgrade and subbase/subgrade
system as parameter to calculate slab thickness. Conventionally, the k-values must be deter-
mined through NDT testing that is expensive and lengthy. The objective of this paper is to
present a correlation between k-values and deflection measurements, which are easier and
cheaper to obtain; thereby giving the inspector a faster method to determine and check the
desired k-values. The correlations are results of a computer simulation with the ELSYM-5
software program. The resulting models from the maximum deflection and area parameter
had good results, unlike the radius of curvature. These models provide improved ability and
agility in the evaluation of subgrade layers and the subbase of concrete pavement, when
compared to the plate bearing test.

1 INTRODUCTION

Traditionally in Brazil jointed concrete pavement has been used for heavy traffic loads. Load-
transfer devices, such as dowel bars are commonly used in Brazilian concrete pavements. The
Portland Cement Association design method, translated by ABCP (Associação Brasileira de
Cimento Portland ), is regularly used and accepted for rigid pavement design.
In the structural design, one of the parameters is the value of modulus of reaction (k)
from the subgrade or subbase/subgrade system, which is conventionally determined through
nondestructive (NDT) testing. As in other countries, in Brazil, these tests must conform to
ASTM-D-1196 and AASHTO T-222, using metallic plates with a 76-cm (30-in.) diameter to
measure the required pressure to produce a 1.3-cm (0.5-in.) vertical displacement.
Due to practical and economic difficulties to carry out this test, the values of modulus
of reaction (k) can be estimated according to the subgrade CBR (California Bearing Ratio)
values. This method is in compliance with ABCP, which is an important organization in
Brazil to represent the cement industry and currently develops studies about Portland cement
structures, such as highway pavements.
The subbase layers improve the k-values of the foundation system. Beyond the correlation
between subgrade CBR and the k-value, in this paper k-values are used on the top of subbases,
due to granular or cemented materials utilization. The quality of lower layers and the founda-
tion support has an important influence on the long term performance of concrete pavement.
The maximum deflection measurement has been employed to obtain on-site field results
that are faster to obtain than CBR, which requires four days for results and do not repro-
duce the real behavior of untreated and cement treated layers. Different types of equip-
ments measure the deflections and technological advances have allowed better and precise
measurements.

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The purpose of this paper is to present guidelines to provide improved ability and agility in
the evaluation of subgrade layers and the subbase of concrete pavement using the measure-
ments of FWD (Falling Weight Deflectometer) equipment, rather than the plate bearing test.

2 MODULUS OF SUBGRADE REACTION

The values of modulus of reaction from the subgrade or subbase/subbgrade system are used
as parameters on the rigid pavement design procedure to determine the necessary slab thick-
ness, based on AASHTO (American Association of State Highways and Transportation
Officials) and PCA (Portland Cement Association) design procedures.
These methods are based on Westergaard theory to define the foundation modeling where
the concrete slab will be supported. In this theory, a concrete slab was treated as a homogene-
ous and an elastic solid, supported by the subgrade that is considered a dense liquid, accord-
ing to Winkler modeling.
In accordance with AASHTO (1993), the effective modulus of subgrade reaction (k-value)
must be determined for the design procedure to calculate the slab thickness, which depends
on the subgrade characteristics and the weather variation, which affect the subgrade resilient
modulus.
The k-value, which indicates the foundation’s structural capacity, is obtained through field
testing using a static load. However, this is too expensive and demands a lot of work and
time. These tests could be replaced by correlations of easier tests, as CBR testing.
In Brazil, the PCA concrete design method is recommended and used. Its translation,
edited by ABCP, presents a correlation between k-value and the subgrade CBR value. The
modulus of reaction must be determined on the top of the foundation, and an increase on the
k-value is obtained due to the use of untreated or cement treated subbases.
Therefore, the ELSYM-5 (Elastic Layered System) software is used to obtain deflection
parameters of FWD equipment through computer simulations for different types of pave-
ment structures. This computer program applies the finite difference model to determine
stresses, strains and displacements produced by a static loading.

3 DEFLECTION PARAMETERS

The deflection parameters that are considered in this study are: maximum deflection, radius
of curvature and area parameter. They were simulated using a load plate as well as FWD
equipment system.
Assuming that the subgrade analysis is an elastic system in a homogenous and isotropic
environment, it is possible to use Boussinesq–Love’s equation to calculate the maximum
deflection. The following expression (1) is used to estimate deflection beneath load point
application.

D=
( )
2 ⋅ 1− μ2 ⋅ p ⋅ r
(1)
E

where D = maximum deflection on the load point application, cm; μ = Poisson´s ratio;
p = pressure of contact tire/pavement, kgf/cm2; r = radius of contact area cm; and E = elasticity
modulus, kgf/cm2.
Usually, the resilient modulus (MR) is determined through correlations with the CBR value.
For soils, the following equation (2) is frequently used and recommended by AASHTO.
MR(MPa ) = 10 ⋅ CBR(%) (2)

where MR = resilient modulus; and CBR = Subgrade California Bearing Ratio.


Another parameter that can be used to characterize the structural condition of a pavement is
the radius of curvature, which is a parameter that indicates the curvature of the deflection basin
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in a critical portion, generally considered to be 25 cm from the center of the load. Figure 1 shows
the parabolic arc. A low value of radius of curvature indicates a severe deformation in the deflec-
tion basin, indicating a critical structural condition.
The expression used to determine the radius of curvature was the one adopted by the
Brazilian National Highway Department (Departamento Nacional de Estradas de Rodagem—
DNER), contained in DNER ME-024/94:
6250
R= (3)
2 × ( D0 − D25 )

where R = radius of curvature of the deformation basin, m; D0 = deflection beneath of load


application point, 10−2 mm; and D25 = deflection to 25 cm from the load application point,
10−2 mm.
Other parameter widely used to determine the structural pavement condition, also rec-
ommended by AASHTO is the area parameter (A) of deformation basin calculated using
expression (4) presented below. Deflections D30, D60 and D90 were obtained through ELSYM-5
software, which simulated deflection measurements from the point of load application with
geophones offset from 30, 60 and 90 cm.

⎡ D D D ⎤
A = 15 ⎢1 + 2 30 + 2 60 + 90 ⎥ (4)
⎣ D 0 D 0 D0 ⎦

where A = Area parameter, cm; D0, D30, D60 and D90 = deflection offset from 0, 30, 60 and
90 cm respectively, from the point of load application 10–2 mm.

4 DETERMINING THE REACTION MODULUS (K)

This research makes use of correlations between k-values and subgrade CBR proposed by
PCA and according to ABCP, despite the lack of information about the field conditions and
characteristics of the tested materials for the research establishment.
k = 1.26 + 20.67 ⋅ ln(CBR ) (5)

where k = modulus of subgrade reaction, MPa/m; and CBR = Subgrade California Bearing
Ratio, %.
This expression was determined through values presented in ABCP (1998). In this study k-values
are presented contemplating different types of materials and thicknesses for the subbase layer. These
values are an adaptation from the abacus used by PCA (1984) design method.

Figure 1. Radius of curvature.

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Table 1 below presents the increase on the values of the modulus of reaction (k) with the
usage of subbase layers, untreated or cement-treated materials. For granular subbases the
increase of k-values of the system in relation to k-values of the subgrade is lower than that
of cement-treated materials, as shown below.
From the values presented, correlations were determined between subgrade k-values and
subbase system, for both granular and cement-treated layers. In all of these cases, high R2
coefficients were obtained, denoting a good fit of the models as shown below in Table 2.

5 DEFLECTIONS ON TOP OF THE SUBBASE

To estimate deflections on the top of the subbase layer, an elastic system constituted of
two layers and a typical load for a simple wheel with FWD equipment were used. The
maximum deflections could be calculated using Burmister equations or the ELSYM-5

Table 1. Increase of k-values in relation to different materials and thicknesses


(ABCP, 1998).

Values of modulus of reaction on the top of


subbase/subgrade system (MPa/m), Thickness
of subbase (cm)

Cement-treated
Subgrade suport value Granular subbase subbase

CBR (%) k (MPa/m) 10 cm 15 cm 20 cm 10 cm 15 cm

2 16 19 22 27 65 98
3 24 27 31 37 87 126
4 30 34 38 44 101 145
5 34 38 42 49 111 158
6 38 42 46 53 120 169
7 41 45 50 56 127 177
8 44 48 53 60 133 186
9 47 52 56 63 140 194
10 49 54 58 65 144 199
11 51 56 60 67 148 204
12 53 58 62 69 152 209
13 54 59 63 70 154 211
14 56 61 65 72 158 216
15 57 62 66 73 160 219
16 59 64 68 75 164 224
17 60 65 69 76 166 226
18 61 66 70 77 168 229
19 62 67 71 78 170 231
20 63 68 73 79 172 233

Table 2. Correlations between k-values and subgrade CBR.

Layers h (cm) Equation R2

Subgrade – k = 1.26 + 20.67 × ln (CBR) 0.9997


Granular subbase 10 k = 3.61 + 21.65 × ln (CBR) 0.9980
15 k = 7.18 + 21.89 × ln (CBR) 0.9984
20 k = 12.57 + 22.47 × ln (CBR) 0.9992
Cement subbase 10 k = 36.81 + 45.84 × ln (CBR) 0.9976
15 k = 63.57 + 57.78 × ln (CBR) 0.9963

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software, which assumes a linear elasticity for the employed materials used on the
analysis.
In this paper, simulations with ELSYM-5 software were used to determine the deflections.
Resilient modulus of 300 MPa were considered for granular subbase and a resilient modulus
of 15.000 MPa, considered for cement-treated material. Additionally, these parameters, for
the illustrative simulation were presented in Table 3.
Replacing equation (1) for maximum deflections by equation (5), it is possible to deter-
mine the correlation between the modulus of reaction and the maximum deflection using
FWD equipment simulations. Equation 6 below presents this model.
k = 150.81 − 20.67 ⋅ ln( D ) (6)

where k = modulus of subgrade reaction, MPa/m; D = maximum deflection obtained with


FWD on the top of the subgrade, 10–2 mm.
With the results of the simulations, correlations between subgrade CBR and deflectomet-
ric parameters of several thickness and subbase materials were determined. Table 4 below
presents these correlations and the respective R2 coefficients.
The radius of curvature equation used to determined the CBR of cement-treated subbase
presents the lowest R2 coefficients. All the other models present higher R2 values, which are
very close to 1.
Below, for each one of the three studied deflectometric parameters, the models were deter-
mined by the modulus of reaction. According to each type of subbase and thicknesses, the
equations from Table 4 were replaced by the equations of Table 2, resulting in the correla-
tions presented in Tables 5 through 7 below.
For each parameter, the correlations from ELSYM-5 simulations were replaced in Equa-
tion 5 of the modulus of reaction. Table 8 presents the correlation between maximum deflec-
tion, radius of curvature and area parameter measured through FWD equipment and the
values of modulus of reaction.

Table 3. Parameters used on ELSYM-5 software simulation.

Layers Resilent modulus (MPa) Poisson coefficient

Untreated subbase 300 0.40


Cement-treated subbase 15,000 0.25
Subgrade 10 × CBR 0.45
Equipment Radius (cm) Load (kgf) Deflection
FWD 15 4100 D0, D25, D30, D60 e D90

Table 4. Expressions of correlations between deflectometer parameters and subgrade’s CBR.

h Cement-treated
Parameters h (cm) Granular subbase R2 (cm) subbase R2

CBR = f (D) 10 CBR = 4202.93 × D–1.279 0.9999 10 CBR = 2301.92 × D–1.449 0.9998
15 CBR = 8354.42 × D–1.468 0.9997 15 CBR = 1616.40 × D–1.503 0.9999
20 CBR = 16,129.28 × D–1.648 0.9989
CBR = f (A) 10 CBR = 1.678 × 1012 × A–7.484 0.9988 10 CBR = 1.068 × 1013 × A–6.873 0.9981
15 CBR = 1.000 × 109 × A–5.212 0.9997 15 CBR = 8.548 × 1015 × A–8.219 0.9874
20 CBR = 6.216 × 107 × A–4.360 0.9982
CBR = f (R) 10 CBR = 1.345 × 10–2 × R1.698 0.9989 10 CBR = 2.366 × 10-10 × R4.094 0.9453
15 CBR = 2.805 × 10-4 × R2.541 0.9994 15 CBR = 2.672 × 10–20 × R6.953 0.6005
20 CBR = 8.506 × 10-7 × R3.806 0.9998
where CBR = Subgrade California Bearing Ratio, %; D = Maximum Deflection, 10–2 mm; A = Area
Parameter, cm; and R = Radius of curvature, m.

575
Table 5. Maximum value of allowable maximum deflections on top of subbase.

Values of deflection on the top of the subbase/


subgrade system (10–2 mm)

Granular Cement-treated
Subgrade values material material

CBR (%) D (10–2 mm) 10 cm 15 cm 30 cm 10 cm 15 cm

2 680 391 296 177 136 92


3 462 293 224 142 98 66
4 345 228 180 120 79 53
5 285 197 159 109 68 46
6 235 171 140 98 60 40
7 203 153 124 91 54 37
8 175 137 113 86 49 33
9 152 119 103 80 44 30
10 138 111 97 75 42 29
11 125 103 91 73 39 27
12 114 96 85 69 37 26
13 108 92 83 67 36 25
14 98 86 78 65 34 24
15 94 83 75 64 33 23
16 85 77 71 60 31 21
17 81 74 69 59 30 21
18 77 72 66 58 29 20
19 73 69 64 57 28 20
20 70 67 61 55 27 19

Table 6. Maxium value of area parameter on top of the subbase.

Values of area parameter on the top of the subbase/


subgrade system (cm)

Subgrade Granular Cement-treated


support value material material

CBR (%) 10 cm 15 cm 20 cm 10 cm 15 cm

2 40 46 51 71 80
3 37 43 47 67 76
4 36 41 45 64 73
5 35 39 43 62 71
6 34 38 41 61 70
7 33 37 39 59 68
8 32 36 38 58 67
9 32 35 37 57 66
10 32 34 36 56 66
11 31 34 36 55 65
12 31 33 35 55 64
13 31 33 34 54 64
14 30 32 33 54 63
15 30 32 33 53 62
16 30 31 32 53 62
17 30 31 32 52 61
18 29 31 31 52 61
19 29 30 31 51 61
20 29 30 31 51 60

576
Table 7. Minimum radius of curvature on top of the subbase.

Values of radius of curvature on the top of


subbase/subgrade system (m)

Subgrade Granular Cement-treated


support value material material

CBR (%) 10 cm 15 cm 20 cm 10 cm 15 cm

2 19 32 46 266 722
3 24 38 52 294 765
4 28 42 56 315 797
5 32 46 59 333 823
6 36 50 62 348 845
7 39 53 65 361 864
8 42 56 67 373 881
9 46 58 69 384 896
10 48 61 71 394 910
11 51 63 73 403 922
12 54 65 74 412 934
13 57 67 76 420 945
14 59 69 77 428 955
15 61 71 79 435 964
16 64 73 80 442 973
17 66 75 82 449 982
18 68 77 83 455 990
19 71 78 84 461 998
20 73 80 85 467 1005

Table 8. Correlations between modulus of reaction and deflectometer parameters on top of the
subbase.

Parameters h (cm) Granular subbase h (cm) Cement-treated subbase

k = f(D) 10 k =184.28 – 27.686 × ln (D) 10 k = 391.66 – 66.459 × ln (D)


15 k = 204.82 – 32.128 × ln (D) 15 k = 490.44 – 86.849 × ln (D)
20 k = 230.25 – 37.043 × ln (D)
k = f(A) 10 k = 612.94 – 162.011 × ln (A) 10 k = 1411.894 – 315.035 × ln (A)
15 k = 460.74 – 114.077 × ln (A) 15 k = 2183.198 – 474.895 × ln (A)
20 k = 415.761 – 97.97 × ln (A)
k = f(R) 10 k = 36.753 × ln (R) – 89.666 10 k = 187.658 × ln (R) – 979.142
15 k = 55.602 × ln (R) – 171.826 15 k = 401.726 × ln (R) – 2540.506
20 k = 85.503 × ln (R) – 301.475

6 PRACTICAL EXAMPLE

The following example illustrates how deflectometer measurements obtained in the field
(using FWD equipament) can be used to determine k values.
Ensure that the modulus of reaction is higher than or equal to 53 MPa/m at the top of
a 15 cm granular base located over a subgrade with a CBR value equal to 8%. In order to
obtain an allowable deflectometric measurement using the proposed models, the maximum
observed field values of deflection must be 114 × 10–2 mm, the radius of curvature must be
higher than 56 m and the area parameter must not exceed 36 cm, as presented in Table 9 and
shown in Figures 2, 3 and 4, respectively.
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Table 9. Example of a deflectometer measurement using FWD equipment.

Thickness Area Radius of


Layers (cm) k (MPa/m) D (10–2mm) parameter (cm) curvature (m)

Subgrade CBR = 8% – 44 173 – –


Granular subbase 15 53 114 36 56

80

Subgrade
Granular Subbase h = 10 cm
70 Granular Subbase h = 15 cm
Granular Subbase h = 20 cm
Example Subgrade
60 Example Granular Subbase

50

40
Modu lus of Reaction, k (MPa/m)

30

20

10
8 20 114 173
1 10 100 100 0
CBR (%) −2
D0 FWD (10 mm)

Figure 2. Example to determine allowable maximum deflection to control the finished layer using
FWD.

100

Granular Subbase h = 10 cm
90
Granular Subbase h = 15 cm

Granular Subbase h = 20 cm 80

Example Granular Subbase


70

60

50
Modulus of Reaction, k (MPa/m)

40

30

20

10

0
1 8 10 20 36 10 0
CBR (%) Area Parameter (cm)

Figure 3. Example to determine the maximum value of area parameter to control the finished layer
using FWD.

7 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The theoretical analysis developed in this study has shown that deflectometer criteria can
be used to estimate the values of modulus of reaction from subgrade and subbase/subgrade
system, replacing static load plate tests by maximum deflection measures, radius of curvature
and area parameter.
578
100

Granular Subbase h = 10 cm
90
Granular Subbase h = 15 cm

Granular Subbase h = 20 cm 80
Example Granular Subbase
70

60

50

Modulus of Reaction, k (MPa/m)


40

30

20

10

0
1 8 10 20 56 100
CBR (%) Radius of Curvature (m)

Figure 4. Example to determine the minimum value of radius of curvature to control the finished
layer using FWD.

Based on the correlation models from the tables and/or figures presented, it is possible to
obtain the necessary field measurements to allow a faster release/approval of the foundation-
layers of the concrete pavements, through the determination of FWD subgrade deflections
as well as basin parameters on the surface of the subbase. This allows the inspector to iden-
tify the real values of the modulus of reaction (k) and compare with those adopted in the
structural design.
It should be mentioned that correlations for radius of curvature of cement treated bases
did not present good results.
It is suggested that static load plate tests be conducted in the field in conjunction with
deflection measurements using the FWD in order to calibrate the proposed theoretical mod-
els presented in this paper.

REFERENCES

AASHTO, 1993. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. AASHTO
Guide for Pavement Structures. AASHTO, ISBN: 1-56051-055-2. Washington, D.C.
ABCP, 1998. Associação Brasileira de Cimento Portland. Estudo Técnico 97: Dimensionamento dos
pavimentos rodoviários e urbanos de concreto pelo método da PCA/1984. ABCP, ISBN: 85-87024-
04-3. São Paulo, Brasil.
Huang, Y.H. 1993. Pavement analysis and design. Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0-13-655275-7. Englewood
Cliffs, New Jersey, USA.
Pinto, S. & Preussler, 2002. E. Pavimentação rodoviária: conceitos fundamentais sobre pavimentos
flexíveis. Editora Copiarte, ISBN: 85-902537-1-6. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
Preussler, L.A. 2007. Contribuição ao estudo da deformabilidade de camadas de pavimento. 129 f.
Dissertação. (Mestrado em Engenharia de Transportes)—Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São
Paulo, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brasil.

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