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Lateral earth pressures behind rotating walls

Ming-Fang Chang

Abstract: Classical earth pressure theories are valid strictly for retaining walls subject to uniform free translation. Practically
all retaining walls rotate, and movements of the wall could be restricted, particularly under working conditions. The lateral
earth pressure on the wall often deviates from the fully active Coulomb value. There is a need for predicting the lateral earth
pressure at any wall displacement behind a rotating wall. The finite element method (FEM) is capable of providing valid
solutions of lateral pressures for different wall movements, but a simple alternative method has its practical value. This paper
presents a simple analysis method using a modified Coulomb’s solution of active pressure. The deformation pattern and the
associated mobilization of shearing resistance in the soil as affected by the wall movement are considered in a simplified
manner. Comparisons of calculated results with solutions from FEM and observations from model tests show that the method
can provide a good prediction of lateral pressures for walls rotating about the base when proper distributions of mobilized
shearing resistance and wall friction are used. For walls rotating about the top, the prediction is fair due to arching and the
difference between assumed and observed rupture mechanisms.
Key words: earth pressure, sand, retaining walls, shearing resistance, wall friction, wall displacement.

Résumé : Les théories classiques de poussée des terres ne sont strictement applicables qu’à des murs de soutènement soumis à
une translation libre uniforme. En pratique tous les murs présentent un déplacement de rotation et les mouvements peuvent
être empéchés, en particulier en conditions de service. La pression latérale des terres diffère souvent de la valeur active
indiquée par la théorie de Coulomb. On a donc besoin d’un outil de prédiction de la pression latérale des terres derrière un
mur en rotation. Si la méthode des éléments finis (MEF) peut fournir des solutions correctes pour différents mouvements du
mur, une méthode simple peut avoir un intérêt pratique. Cet article présente une procédure d’analyse simple pour la poussée
utilisant une solution de type Coulomb modifiée. Le modèle de déformation et la mobilisation de la résistance au cisaillement
dans le sol en fonction du mouvement du mur sont pris en compte de manière simplifiée. Les comparaisons entre les résultats
calculés, les solutions MEF et les observations sur modèles réduits montrent que la méthode peut fournir une bonne précision
pour les poussées latérales sur des murs en rotation autour de leur base, à condition d’utiliser une répartition correcte de la
résistance au cisaillement mobilisée et du frottement sur le mur. Pour des murs en rotation autour de leur sommet la prédiction
reste raisonnable compte-tenu des effets de voûte et de la différence entre les hypothèses faites et l’observation.
Mots clés : poussée des terres, sable, mur de soutènement, résistance au cisaillement, frottement sur le mur, déplacement du mur.
[Traduit par la rédaction]

Introduction Experimental investigations based on large-scale (Terzaghi

1934) and small-scale (e.g., James and Bransby 1970; Sherif
Retaining walls such as bridge abutments and anchored, strut- et al. 1984; Fang and Ishibashi 1986) model retaining walls
ted, or cantilever in situ embedded walls are restrained and and field observations (Terzaghi 1941) have enhanced the un-
often subject to rotations. A fully active state may not develop derstanding of lateral earth pressure problems. However, the
behind these walls when in service, and the lateral pressure on prediction of lateral pressure distributions for design applica-
the wall is affected by the mode and the magnitude of wall tions still needs further development to take account of wall
movement. movements.
Classical solutions, such as that of Coulomb, are only valid The finite element method (FEM), which allows the effect
for the limiting condition where an active horizontally trans- of wall movement to be incorporated, has been used for ana-
lating sliding wedge has developed in the soil mass behind the lyzing retaining wall behavior since the early 1970’s
retaining wall. These solutions often do not provide valid dis- (e.g., Clough and Duncan 1971). Solutions for simple walls
tributions of lateral earth pressures that are needed for the de- involving different modes of movement have also been pre-
sign of walls for which the shearing resistance of the soil mass sented by many others (e.g., Nakai 1985; Potts and Fourie
behind the wall is not necessarily completely mobilized. The 1986; Fang et al. 1993; Matsuzawa and Hararika 1996). These
lateral pressures on retaining walls in service are generally solutions, involving different constitutive relations for the soil
larger than those corresponding to the limiting state at failure. and the soil–wall interface, allow further insight into the rela-
tionship between wall movement and lateral earth pressures.
Although the FEM is versatile and readily accessible, it is
Received June 13, 1996. Accepted March 15, 1997. not always practical because of the significant amount of effort
M.-F. Chang. School of Civil and Structural Engineering, required in the assessment of necessary input parameters and
Nanyang Technological University, Blk N1 #1A–37 the preparation of the mesh. A simpler alternative method for
Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798. evaluating the lateral pressures for different wall movements

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Chang 499

relevant to various situations in practice would be useful. Such Fig. 1. Assumed deformation pattern behind a rotating wall. Fz,
a method should consider the deformation patterns or the pro- interslice force; dFz, incremental interslice force; dPz, incremental
gressive rupture mechanisms in the soil behind the wall and total pressure force; dWz, weight of individual slices.
how they influence the mobilized shearing resistance.

Wall movement and observed deformation

patterns in the soil
The pattern of deformation or rupture mechanism in the soil be-
hind a retaining wall depends on the mode and the magnitude of
wall movement. Lateral earth pressures behind a retaining wall
could deviate from the Coulomb active pressure if the rupture
mechanism differs from that assumed in Coulomb’s method.
In Coulomb’s analysis, it is assumed that, in the limiting
state, a sliding wedge will develop in the soil behind a trans-
lating wall. The soil will simply slide horizontally along an
inclined plane separating the wedge from the remaining soil
mass. For walls subject to movements other than free transla-
tion, the rupture mechanism in the soil may deviate from hori-
zontal wedge sliding.
Kezdi (1958) showed that for outward (active) rotation of
a vertical wall about the base, a well-developed failure pattern
characterized by distinct surfaces of sliding generally occurs
behind the major portion of the wall. However, a “dead” zone
in which the soil is close to its at-rest state exists near the base.
James and Bransby’s (1970) experiments on passive walls ro-
tating about the base into a dense sand showed that rupture
surfaces usually appear along the upper part of the wall, while
shear strains near the base are negligible. Limited data from
Fang and Ishibashi (1986) also support the existence of a vary in the lower part. Consequently, a nonlinear distribution
“dead” zone. Using the FEM, Nakai (1985) also showed the of lateral pressure is expected in the lower part.
same pattern of deformation with extensive yielding occurring Although the rupture mechanism for walls rotating about the
only in the upper part. Recent work by Matsuzawa and top is similar to that of Coulomb’s, it has been observed that the
Hararika (1996) also showed that failure starts from the top pressure distributions are generally nonlinear (e.g., Fang and
and advances towards the bottom of the wall as the amount of Ishibashi 1986). This nonlinearity can be attributed to local vari-
rotation increases. Nevertheless, when the wall is free to rotate, ations in the mobilized soil resistance and wall friction along the
the “dead” zone could be restricted to a small zone near the wall as a result of displacement restraints.
point of rotation.
In contrast, for walls rotating about the top, James (1965)
and James and Bransby (1971) showed that a passive rotating
A simple analysis method
wall usually develops a single rupture surface extending from Following sections describe an alternative simple analysis of
the base of the wall to the soil surface. The whole mass of soil lateral earth pressures behind outward rotating rigid walls with
above this rupture surface will slide as a rigid body. Nakai displacement restraints.
(1985) also showed by finite element analysis the same pattern
of deformation with yielding occurring only near the base of Basic considerations
the wall, the rotating end. Matsuzawa and Hararika (1996) also Because of the relevance of lateral earth pressures to the soil
showed that failure is generally initiated at the bottom and deformation pattern or rupture mechanism behind a rotating
advances toward the top as the amount of rotation increases. wall, an acceptable analysis method should consider a defor-
The rupture mechanism with a single curved surface is similar mation pattern that is commonly observed in practice. It is
to that assumed in the general wedge theory (Terzaghi 1941), widely accepted that Coulomb’s solution of active earth pres-
which is the basis of Coulomb’s analysis. sure, which is assumed to be linearly distributed with depth, is
The difference in the deformation pattern in the soil for differ- valid for walls rotating outward freely about the base. The
ent modes of wall movement affects the mobilization of the shear- method proposed here therefore considers a rupture mecha-
ing resistance of the soil and consequently the lateral pressures nism similar to that which has been observed in walls rotating
behind the retaining wall. For walls rotating about the base, the about the base. When the outward rotation is sufficiently large,
shearing resistance will be completely mobilized and rupture sur- the “dead” zone will be restricted only to the base of the wall,
faces will form in the soil behind the upper part of the wall. The and thus its presence can be neglected for practical reasons. It
distribution of lateral pressure is expected to be linear, as that is assumed that, in this situation, the soil mass immediately
assumed in Coulomb’s analysis, for the upper part. Since a drastic behind the wall will reach the limiting state and a sliding
drop in shear strains is expected near the base where the wall wedge containing an infinite number of uniformly distributed
movement is insufficient, the mobilized shearing resistance will rupture surfaces, as shown in Fig. 1, will develop. The shearing

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500 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 34, 1997

resistance of the soil will be completely mobilized along these related to the mobilized shearing resistance (both internal fric-
rupture planes and along the soil–wall interface. As illustrated tion and wall friction) of the soil immediately next to that
in Fig. 1, the active earth pressure at a given depth z on the wall locality when the quasi-sliding planes are practically parallel,
Pz, which can be viewed as a discrete unit point load at that as illustrated in Fig. 1. This mobilized shearing resistance is
depth, can be assumed to depend directly on the angle of shear- determined by the limiting shearing resistance of the soil and
ing resistance φ and the angle of soil–wall friction δ on the slice by the nature and amount of wall displacement. Lateral pres-
directly above the rupture plane. The approximation is justified sures therefore depend on the pattern and magnitude of soil
when the slice is small and the sliding planes are practically deformation associated with the wall movement. The concept
parallel to each other. of relating the mobilized shearing resistance and, conse-
It is assumed that when the rotation is small, a similar de- quently, the lateral earth pressure to wall displacements is not
formation pattern characterized by uniformly distributed new (Terzaghi 1936; Ladanyi 1958; Dubrova 1963).
quasi-rupture surfaces will develop in the zone that has not yet While the use of local ψ is acceptable in practice when the
reached the limiting condition, but with the shearing resistance quasi-planes are nearly parallel, the use of local δw for the
only partly mobilized along these planes and the soil–wall in- evaluation of lateral pressure at a given depth may produce an
terface within the same zone. error if the mobilized angle of internal friction is not constant
The proposed method uses Coulomb’s equation of active along the wall. The prevailing mobilized angle of wall friction
earth pressures as the framework of analysis. It adopts a simple that affects the lateral pressure at a depth could be between
concept of relating the mobilized shearing resistance to wall the minimum and the maximum values above that depth. The
displacement, similar to that of Dubrova (1963), to account for local δw value is likely to be smaller than this prevailing mo-
different deformation patterns or rupture mechanisms in the bilized δw value, and the calculated lateral pressure could be
soil. The method attempts to evaluate lateral earth pressures on the safe side for walls rotating about the base. For walls
for vertical walls with a horizontal soil surface that rotates rotating about the top, the reverse is true and the calculated
outward around the base and around the top. lateral pressure could be on the unsafe side. Nevertheless, the
error should be small and have little practical significance as
Assumptions long as the change of the mobilized angle of internal friction
The proposed method of analysis involves two basic assumptions: with depth is gradual. Note that a constant wall friction along
(1) Coulomb’s solution of active earth pressures is valid for the entire wall height was assumed in a recent FEM study by
any outward rotating walls once its preconditions or con- Matsuzawa and Hararika (1996), although the fact that the wall
ditions required for the validity of Coulomb’s wedge the- friction usually varies along the wall is well recognized
ory are satisfied in a practical sense. (e.g., James and Bransby 1970).
(2) The mobilized earth pressure at a given depth can be evalu-
ated from Coulomb’s solution of unit active pressure by
substituting the mobilized angle of internal friction (ψ) and Formulation
the mobilized angle of wall friction (δw), respectively, for Based on Coulomb’s theory, the active earth pressure acting on
corresponding limiting values, the angle of internal friction a vertical wall (limiting angle of wall friction, δ) with a hori-
(φ) and the limiting angle of wall friction (δ). zontal backfill of cohesionless soils (unit weight, γ; angle of
With reference to the first assumption, an earlier discussion shearing resistance, φ) at a depth z is
has indicated that, for walls rotating about the base, rupture
surfaces appear only in the upper part of the wall. However, γz  1 
pa =
cos δ  1 + (tan2 φ + tan φ tan δ)1/2
when the rotation is sufficiently large, the lowest rupture sur-
face may intercept the wall at a level close to the base of the  cos φ 
wall, which is the point of rotation. In this case, the rupture  
mechanism will be practically the same as that assumed in where γ is the unit weight of the soil.
Coulomb’s wedge analysis, although observed sliding surfaces Following the second assumption proposed earlier, replac-
are generally slightly curved for frictional walls. Coulomb’s ing the limiting angle of shearing resistance φ with the local
wedge theory is considered satisfied in a practical sense. It is mobilized angle of shearing resistance ψ and the limiting angle
perhaps for this reason that Coulomb’s solution has been of wall friction δ with the local mobilized angle of wall
widely accepted as valid for walls rotating about the base. friction δw for conditions before failure, the mobilized earth
Nevertheless, the extent of the dead zone near the base in pressure is
which the shearing resistance of the soil is not completely
mobilized will dictate the detailed distribution of the lateral γz  1 
[2] p=  
pressure, particularly that on the lower part of the wall. cos δw  1 + (tan2 ψ + tan ψ tan δ )1/2
For walls rotating about the top, another earlier discussion  cos ψ w 
has indicated that the rupture mechanism, usually consisting  
of a single sliding surface, as observed in practice, is similar From eq. [2], the mobilized lateral pressure or the horizon-
to that assumed in the general wedge theory (Terzaghi 1941). tal component of the mobilized earth pressure ph = p cos δw,
Coulomb’s wedge theory is applicable in a practical sense, where p is the unit pressure. This equation allows the distribu-
although the observed sliding surfaces are generally curved for tion of ph to be calculated if the mobilized angle of internal
frictional walls rotating about the top. friction ψ and the mobilized angle of wall friction δw are prop-
The second assumption is based on the concept that the erly selected on the basis of a reasonable relationship between
lateral pressure at each locality along a retaining wall is directly the wall displacement and the mobilized shearing resistance.

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Chang 501

Fig. 2. Assumed wall movements and distributions of mobilized resistance: (a) rotation about base; (b) rotation about top.

Wall displacement and mobilization of soil resistance The value of Sa is highly variable and is usually much larger
Consider a vertical rigid wall with a height of H rotating out- than Sc in Figs. 2a and 2b, which is required for local mobili-
ward about the base, as shown in Fig. 2a. Prior to rotation, the zation of active stresses. A different definition of critical dis-
stress state in the soil behind the wall will correspond to the placement appears necessary.
initial at-rest condition, if a naturally deposited sand is consid- Ichihara and Matsuzawa (1973), based on experimental ob-
ered. As the wall starts to rotate, the horizontal displacement servations, first defined the active state as the state where the
of the wall, S, will increase accordingly. As the wall continues coefficient of friction tan δ attains its maximum. Sherif et al.
its rotation, the maximum wall movements, Sm, at the top of the (1982) also suggested that a more rigorous and logical defini-
wall may exceed the critical displacement, Sc, the displace- tion of the active state of stress should be based on the state
ment that is needed for the shearing resistance of the soil be- when the wall friction angle δw reaches its maximum value of
hind the top of the wall to mobilize fully. Mobilization of δ and a local active plastic wedge develops behind the wall.
shearing resistance will propagate downwards as the angle of The critical displacement (Sc) therefore should be chosen as
rotation increases. Experimental evidence for this trend of the value of S corresponding to the occurrence of maximum
propagation can be found in Sherif et al. (1984). wall friction. According to Sherif et al. (1982), this state often
For active rotation about the top, Fig. 2b, it is postulated coincides with the fixing of position of h*/H (h* is the height
that the shearing resistance will mobilize first at the base and of the total lateral force Ph from the base).
then propagate upwards as the angle of rotation increases. Mat- Studies of model walls with a measurement of the local soil
suzawa and Hararika’s (1996) recent numerical study supports pressure along the wall (Sherif et al. 1984 and Fang and
this postulation. This postulated propagation, however, may Ishibashi 1986) have shown that the value of Sc is (i) about
not realize after a slip has already taken place along the sliding 0.0003H, (ii) uniform along the wall, (iii) independent of the
surface passing through the base of the wall. angle of internal friction or the density of the backfill, and (iv)
The wall displacement required for the entire soil mass be- independent of the displacement mode. This observation, in
hind the wall to reach the fully active Coulomb state generally fact, provides a verification for the distinct sliding failure
varies with the compactness of the soil. According to Terzaghi mechanism assumed in the present analysis.
(1934), this displacement, Sa, varies from 0.0014 H for dense Figure 3 (Fang et al. 1993) shows, from model tests, vari-
sand and 0.0084 H for loose sand. Using the FEM, Clough and ations of the normalized mobilized total lateral pressure K* =
Duncan (1971) found Sa/H values of 0.0023 for a wall rotating Ph/0.5γH2 and its normalized point of application h*/H with
about the base and 0.0026 for a translating wall in medium the normalized wall displacement S/H for three different
dense sand (φ = 35°). However, Nakai’s (1985) results indi- modes of wall movement including rotation about the base
cated incomplete mobilization of shear strength for walls ro- (RAB), rotation about the top (RAT), and translation (TR). In
tating about the top in a dense sand even at a maximum wall this figure, the h*/H starts to level off when the normalized
displacement of 0.013 H. It appears that the mode of wall displacement S/H is between a narrow range from 0.0003 to
movement also has an effect on the value of Sa. 0.0005, implying that Sc/H is 0.0003 to 0.0005 regardless of
The displacement Sa corresponds to the limiting condition the mode of movement and the density of the backfill. This
when there is no further decrease in the total lateral force (Ph). range of Sc/H compares fairly well with the normalized

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502 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 34, 1997

Fig. 3. Observed relationships between total pressure force, point of the normalized mobilized shearing resistance represented by
application, and wall displacement (after Fang et al. 1993). RAB, tan ψ and the amount of slip along the rupture plane, and a similar
rotation about the base; RAT, rotation about the top; TR, translation. relationship exists between the mobilized shearing resistance and
the corresponding wall displacement, with the maximum mobi-
lized shearing resistance capped by the corresponding limiting
value. Therefore, by defining the normalized wall displacement
as β = S/Sc, the value of ψ at a given β can then be calculated
by a simplified resistance mobilization model:
[5] ψ = tan–1 [tan φo + β (tan φ – tan φo)]
It is understood that further refinement of the resistance mobi-
lization model on the basis of measured stress–strain relation-
ships of the soil will improve the solutions.

Selection of input soil parameters

The selection of distributions of the mobilized soil resistance
ψ and δw requires a clear understanding of how soil deforms as
the wall yields.
From the discussion in the previous section, one can assume
that, in Figs. 2a and 2b, for the portion where the lateral wall
“mean” wall displacement to reach the active state, 0.0006 for
displacement exceeds Sc, which is typically 0.0003H to
RAT and 0.001 for RAB, as reported by Matsuzawa and
0.0005H, the shearing resistance is fully mobilized and ψ = φ.
Hararika (1996) based on their FEM study. A Sc value of between
For the portion of the wall where S < Sc, the shear resistance
0.0003H and 0.0005H therefore appears reasonable for most of the backfill behind is only partially mobilized and the value
practical problems.
of ψ should be between φo and φ. Figures 2a and 2b show two
To consider the relationship between the wall displacement
possible distributions of ψ(z) for walls rotating about the base
and the mobilized soil resistance, one needs to take account of
and about the top, respectively. The mobilized friction angle
the initial stresses in the soil and the initial wall friction that is
ψ is assumed to vary linearly between φo and φ, following the
likely to be present and to select a proper resistance mobilization relationship in eq. [5].
The limiting angle of wall friction δ is usually taken as a
Under the at-rest condition in a naturally deposited sand,
fraction of the angle of internal friction φ and expressed as
the initial angle of internal friction (φo) of a soil for which the
δ = αφ. In the selection of δw(z), one needs to differentiate
value of Ko (coefficient of earth pressure at-rest) is less than 1
cast-in-situ or embedded walls, which retain naturally depos-
can be calculated as
ited soils, from conventional retaining walls with a compacted
 1 − Ko  backfill or the back-filled walls.
[3] φο = sin−1 
 1 + Ko 
For embedded walls such as diaphragm walls and contigu-
ous bored pile walls which are used in deep excavation work,
The value of Ko can be approximated by Ko = 1 – sin φ for the value of δo is practically zero in a semi-infinite half space
a normally consolidated sand. The Ko value should be related prior to excavation (Potts and Fourie 1986). The mobilized
to the overconsolidation ratio (OCR) if the sand is overcon- angle of wall friction δw can be assumed to increase gradually
solidated. For back-filled walls behind which the soil is usually from zero to the limiting value δ as the amount of wall move-
compacted in layers, the initial wall friction would be larger ment increases in a rate similar to the change in the ψ value,
than zero because of the shear stress induced along the inter- although experiments by James and Bransby (1970) and Fang
face by the compaction of the soil during backfilling. The se- and Ishibashi (1986) showed that δw usually mobilizes more
lected φo value should properly reflect the effect of the initial rapidly than ψ.
wall friction (δo). The following modified Coulomb’s equation For back-filled walls, experimental studies on large-scale
can be used for the evaluation of φo: and model walls (Terzaghi 1934; James and Bransby 1970;
1  1 2 Matsuo et al. 1978; Fang and Ishibashi 1986) clearly indicate
[4] = + (tan2 φο + tan φο tan δo)1/2 that the initial angle of wall friction (δo) is larger than zero and
Ki cos φο
  that the mobilized angle of wall friction generally varies along
where Ki is the initial lateral earth pressure coefficient. the wall. The δw corresponding to a given amount of wall
The assumed deformation pattern involves sliding along movement can be assumed to vary linearly between the initial
soil–soil rupture surfaces and soil–wall interfaces. The mecha- angle δo and the limiting angle δ, with the rate of change similar
nism of mobilization of shearing resistance along these sur- to that of ψ. As discussed later, one can conservatively assume
faces or interfaces is very similar to that in a direct shear test that δo = φ/2 in the absence of information on δo. The suggested
and that which occurs along an axially loaded pile shaft. With idealized δw distributions for two different rotational move-
the assumed distinct sliding mechanism, the displacement ments are shown in Figs. 2a and 2b.
along the rupture surface is dictated by the displacement of the It should be emphasized that, in the analysis of back-filled walls,
wall at the level where the sliding surface meets the wall. For both the initial stress condition and the initial wall friction should
simplicity, it is assumed that there is a linear relationship between be considered in the evaluation of φo on the basis of eq. [4].

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Chang 503

Fig. 4. Typical calculated pressure distributions behind rotating walls: (a) rotation about base; (b) rotation about top.

Typical solutions lization model in eq. [5], and (3) calculating the mobilized
lateral pressures or p/γ z at depth z using eq. [2].
The determination of lateral earth pressures at a depth z corre- To see how the calculated pressure changes during the rotation,
sponding to different stages of wall rotation involves (1) evaluat- one can use the normalized maximum lateral displacement βm =
ing the degree of strength mobilization approximated by the Sm/Sc as an indicator of the amount of rotation or the degree of
normalized wall displacement β at the depth, (2) estimating the mobilization of the shearing resistance in the backfill. Fig-
values of ψ and δw at depth z using idealized distributions of ψ ures 4a and 4b show typical solutions for the proposed method
and δw, such as those in Fig. 2 and the simplified resistance mobi- forawallretainingamediumdensesandwithφ=35°

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504 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 34, 1997

and δ = 2/3φ for two simple rotational modes of movement then gradually approaches 0.33H as the rotation becomes sig-
using the idealized distributions of ψ and δw shown in nificantly large and the pressure distribution becomes practi-
Figs. 2a and 2b. These curves, plotted as the normalized mo- cally triangular (Matsuo et al. 1978; Fang and Ishibashi 1986).
bilized lateral pressure, ph/γH, versus the normalized depth, For RAT, the calculated location of Ph is initially higher than
z/H, clearly show the gradual transition of lateral pressure from 0.33H and decreases gradually as the distribution curves be-
the at-rest condition (βm = 0) to the quasi-active condition comes more and more nonlinear with the increase in the angle
(βm = 1; when the shearing resistance of the soil next to the of rotation. The calculated Ph location is, however, lower than
rotating end has just fully mobilized), and subsequently to- the levels of between 0.45H and 0.6H observed in large-scale
wards the limiting or fully active state (approximated by retaining wall tests (Terzaghi 1934), braced cuts (Terzaghi
βm = 100) for two different modes of rotation. 1936, 1941), and model tests (Fang and Ishibashi 1986), and
The pressure distribution curves in Fig. 4a and the pattern that calculated by the FEM (Matsuzawa and Hararika 1996),
of transition of the distribution curve from the at-rest to the primarily because the present analysis neglects arching effects.
fully active state with increasing wall rotation for the RAB
case resemble the finite element solutions of Clough and Dun-
Direct comparisons with finite element
can (1971) and Nakai (1985) for vertical walls retaining natu-
ral sand ranging from the normally consolidated state (φ = 35°) solutions
to overconsolidated state (φ = 40°), and of Potts and Fourie Clough and Duncan’s (1971) finite element analyses involved
(1986) for vertical walls embedded in London clay (φ = 25°, a 10 ft (3.05 m) high rough (δ = 2/3 φ) vertical wall in a me-
Ko = 2.0). Similar distribution curves and transition patterns dium dense, naturally deposited, normally consolidated sand
have been observed in the early stages of wall rotation in both with φ of 35° and γ of 15.7 kN/m3 (100 lb/ft3). The analyses
field tests (Matsuo et al. 1978) and model tests (e.g., Fang and were carried out for RAB with maximum displacements (Sm)
Ishibashi 1986). of 0.0006H, 0.0014H, and 0.0023H at the top. Assuming a
The calculated distribution curves in Fig. 4b and the pattern critical displacement (Sc) value of between 0.0004H and
of transition of the distribution curve for RAT also resemble 0.0005H, these maximum displacements correspond closely to
the finite element solutions presented by Potts and Fourie βm values of 1.33, 3.0, and 5.0, respectively. Figure 5a shows
(1986) for walls in London clay, although the calculated pres- a comparison between the present solutions and the corre-
sure distribution curves are not as highly nonlinear as those sponding finite element solutions for a rough soil–wall inter-
observed in model tests (Fang and Ishibashi 1986), in the field face. The agreement between these two sets of analytical
(Terzaghi 1941), and those obtained from the FEM (Nakai solutions is good.
1985; Fang et al. 1993; Matsuzawa and Hararika 1996) for Nakai (1985) analyzed a 10 m high, smooth (δ = 0) vertical
walls in sand. wall subject to four different modes of movement in a dense
In Fig. 4, the total lateral force (Ph) reflected by the area sand. The sand, with φ = 40° and γ = 15.5 kN/m3, is overcon-
under the distribution curve is seen to vary with the angle of solidated with Ko = 0.45. The corresponding value of φo is
rotation, as indicated by the value of βm. For RAB, the Ph tends 22.3° based on eq. [3]. The range of maximum displacements
to decrease very gradually with an increase in βm in a way very considered by Nakai was one order of magnitude larger than
similar to that shown in Fig. 3 (Fang et al. 1993; Fang and that of Clough and Duncan (1971). The specified Sm values of
Ishibashi 1986) and that reported by Matsuzawa and Hararika 0.001H, 0.003H, and 0.013H would correspond to βm values
(1996). The lateral force Ph, however, is generally higher than of approximately 2, 6, and 30, respectively, based on a Sc of
the traditional active Coulomb value as long as the base re- 0.00045H. Nakai’s (1985) curves, shown in Fig. 5b for RAB,
mains hinged. This is in line with FEM results such as those do not correctly reflect these high βm values. Matching βm
of Matsuzawa and Hararika (1996). values were calculated by the author using the point of depar-
For RAT, Fig. 4 implicitly indicates that the calculated Ph ture of the calculated distribution curve from the straight line
decreases very rapidly when compared with RAB as the angle representing the limiting active state. Figure 5b shows a com-
of rotation increases (Fig. 3; Fang and Ishibashi 1986; Mat- parison between Nakai’s solutions and the present solutions
suzawa and Hararika 1996). At the quasi-active state (βm = 1), for RAB. Again, the agreement is good, even though the sand
when the shearing resistance at the base becomes fully mobi- is overconsolidated.
lized, the calculated Ph is about 18.7% higher than the active Agreement could not be obtained between Nakai’s (1985)
Coulomb value. This calculated lateral pressure agrees with solution and the present solution for RAT displacements in a
experimental findings by Taylor (1941) and Fang and dense sand. This is probably because (1) the assumed rupture
Ishibashi (1986), although a smaller increase of 5% over the mechanism is not observed in practice for walls rotating about
active Coulomb value was reported by Matsuzawa and the top, and (2) the present analysis does not take account of
Hararika (1996). The higher total lateral force can be attributed arching, which dominates the behavior of the soil near the top
to that fact that a large portion of soil cannot further mobilize of the wall.
its resistance once the slip has started at the base. It is noted
that Matsuzawa and Hararika (1996) assumed that the mobi-
Direct comparisons with model test results
lized wall friction is constant with depth, which may not be
realistic, particularly for RAT. Results of observations from Fang and Ishibashi’s (1986)
Since the pressure distributions are generally nonlinear, the model studies provide a valuable source of comparison for the
location of Ph is not at 0.33H. As in Fig. 3 for RAB, the cal- present solutions. The tests involved a 1.02 m high wall rotating
culated location of Ph as implied by the distribution curves in about the base in a loose to medium dense sand (sand I: φ =
Fig. 4 remains at a level lower than 0.33H in the beginning and 33.4° and γ = 15.4 kN/m3) and another rotating about the top in a

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Fig. 5. Comparisons of calculated pressure distributions with finite element solutions for walls rotating about the base: (a) Clough and
Duncan’s (1971) results; (b) Nakai’s (1985) results.

slightly denser sand (sand II: φ = 34.9° and γ = 15.5 kN/m3). In the analysis, the value of 0.305 mm (0.012 in.) measured in
The initial angles of wall friction δo were 17.2° or 0.52φ for the the model tests was selected as the critical lateral displacement
wall in sand I and 18.5° or 0.53φ for the wall in sand II. The Sc for estimating the βm values corresponding to various stages
values of φ o corresponding to the average measured initial of wall rotation. This critical displacement corresponds to a Sc/H
pressure distributions, which include possible prestressing ef- ratioofaround0.0003.
fect from sand preparation, were found to be 7.5° for sand I Figure 6a shows a comparison of calculated lateral pressures
and 10.4° for sand II on the basis of eq. [4]. The observed limit- with Fang and Ishibashi’s measurements for the case of RAB in
ing angles of wall friction (δ) were 0.74φ for the wall in sand I sandI(φ =33.4°).Onlysmalldifferencesexistbetweenthecalcu-
and 0.71φ for the wall in sand II. latedandthemeasureddistributioncurves;the

© 1997 NRC Canada

506 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 34, 1997

Fig. 6. Comparisons of the present analytical results with model observations for walls rotating about the base: (a) pressure distributions; (b)
resultant characteristics.

nonlinear initial pressure distribution as measured in the test similar to that obtained by the experiment, and that both the
may have an effect (Matsuo et al. 1978). experiment and the analysis show that this rate of change is
Figure 6b shows the normalized total lateral force, K* = much greater for RAT than for RAB. It is interesting, as illustrated
Ph/0.5γH2 and the normalized height of Ph above the base, in Fig. 7b, that the calculated force on the wall is only slightly
h*/H at different βm values from the present analysis compared different from the experimental value, even though the analysis
with the model test results. The relationships between K* and neglects the arching effect. As expected, the difference in the
βm and between h*/H and βm from the present analysis and the h*/H ratio is significant because of the large difference between
experiment are similar. the calculated and measured pressure distributions.
Figures 7a and 7b show a similar comparison between ana-
lytical and experimental results for RAT in sand II (φ = 34.9°). Some practical considerations
The difference between the calculated and the experimental
distribution curves is fairly significant for βm exceeding 0.67. Comparisons of analytical results with FEM solutions and ex-
The experimental curves, which show double curvatures, are perimental data have shown that the proposed analysis method
much more nonlinear than the calculated curves, possibly af- can provide reasonably good estimates of the magnitude and the
fected by arching near the upper part of the wall. Note that the distribution of lateral pressure against a rigid vertical wall rotating
rate of change in the K* value as reflected by the analysis is outward around its base. The proposed method is applicable to

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Chang 507

Fig. 7. Comparisons of the present analytical results with model observations for walls rotating about the top: (a) pressure distributions;
(b) resultant characteristics.

both cast-in-situ (or embedded) walls retaining naturally de- be sufficient for design purpose, although further research
posited sand and other rigid walls back-filled with compacted leading to any refinement in the selection of Sc will be useful.
sand. Although the calculated distribution curves compare Secondly, one needs to carefully select the parameters that
fairly with the experimental observations for a wall rotating define the distributions of ψ(z) and δ(z), particularly the initial
outward around the top, the total lateral force produced by the pro- mobilized angles of shearing resistance and wall friction,
posed analysis agrees well with field and model observations. The which are usually significantly different for embedded walls
success of the analysis method, however, relies very much on and for back-filled walls. For ideal cast-in-situ walls embedded
the selection of the input parameters, which require careful in a naturally deposited sand without any installation distur-
consideration. bance, δo is zero and the determination of φo, which can be
In applying the method in design, firstly, one needs to deter- related directly to Ko, is straightforward. The assessment of φo
mine the critical wall displacement Sc that separates the state of and δo for back-filled walls, however, may require much
partial mobilization of resistance from that of full mobilization of greater effort based on our present knowledge. The considera-
resistance. As discussed earlier, previous studies have indicated tion of the initial mobilized resistance is important not only
that Sc/H (where H is wall height) is independent of soil density, with the present proposed method but also with other more
position on the wall, and mode of wall movement, and its value sophisticated analysis methods such as the FEM, if the analysis
is typically between 0.0003 and 0.0005. This range of Sc/H should results are to be useful to retaining wall design. Results from

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508 Can. Geotech. J. Vol. 34, 1997

further research on full-scale instrumented walls with carefully particularly when a very stiff soil is encountered. The fact that,
controlled construction details that simulate the typical back- in the field, the wall may not be perfectly rigid, a rotation may
filling procedure will definitely be valuable. take place around any point along the wall axis, and the move-
The angle of initial wall friction δo along a back-filled wall ment could be in an inward or an outward direction could be
is directly related to the construction or compaction details and potentially incorporated in the selection of proper ψ(z) and δ(z)
the roughness of the wall. Based on previous studies, the initial distributions for use in the analysis.
wall friction on a back-filled wall could be high. For example,
δo was found to be 17.2° (or 0.52φ) for the wall in sand I and
18.5° (or 0.53φ) for the wall in sand II in Fang and Ishibashi’s Conclusions
(1986) model studies for which the wall was made of alumi- A simple method has been developed for the analysis of lateral
num. It is recommended that δo = φ/2 be used for preliminary earth pressures. The method uses Coulomb’s equation of ac-
analyses of a typical back-filled walls until the information on tive earth pressure and incorporates the initial stress condition,
δo becomes available. and indirectly the effect of deformation in the soil based on
The initial angle of internal friction φo is affected not only by observations made in previous model and field studies. Simpli-
the initial stresses in the sand but also by δo. For the aluminum fied distributions of the mobilized angle of internal friction
model walls reported by Fang and Ishibashi (1986), the calculated ψ(z) and the locally mobilized angle of wall friction δ(z), de-
values of φo are 7.5° for sand I and 10.4° for sand II based on veloped by relating the degree of mobilization of shearing re-
eq. [4], and the corresponding values are over 50% higher at 12.7° sistance and wall friction to local wall movement have been
and 15.9°, respectively, if δo is taken as zero. The lateral pressure suggested in the present analysis. Results calculated using ψ
could be underpredicted with the overestimated φo. In practice, and δ distributions that properly incorporate the effect of initial
most retaining walls are likely to be made of concrete and the mobilized angles of wall friction and internal friction compare
walls are much rougher than the model walls. From a practical very well with finite element solutions and model test data for
point of view, assuming a zero initial wall friction in the analysis both embedded and back-filled walls rotating about the base.
may lead to an unsafe design of back-filled walls. The simple analysis method, which does not include the effect
The present method uses a simplified resistance mobiliza- of arching, provides only fair estimates of lateral pressure dis-
tion model that assumes an approximate relationship between tributions for walls rotating about the top, although the esti-
the wall displacement and the degree of strength mobilization. mated total lateral force is close to values observed in the
From a practical point of view, the assumption that both ψ and laboratory and in the field.
δw vary linearly along the wall is only reasonable for a per- A critical uniform wall displacement (Sc) of between
fectly rigid or very stiff wall for which the lateral wall displace- 0.0003H and 0.0005H as observed from model tests has been
ment will vary linearly with depth as the wall rotates. In fact, found reasonable for the estimation of degree of strength mo-
the mobilization of shearing resistance or the interface wall bilization for sand of various densities and at different wall
friction is a function of the extent of straining and the stiffness displacements and is recommended for the design of rigid
of the soil. There may be practical situations where the relative walls using the present method of analysis.
stiffness of the soil is comparable to that of the wall so that a
nonlinear lateral wall displacement may prevail. The assumed
distributions of ψ and δw will then require modification. Acknowledgments
In practical situations, most walls are likely to exhibit The author wishes to express his appreciation to the late Professor
movements that are combinations of rotations and horizontal G.A. Leonards of Purdue University for his inspiration on the
translation. The present analysis method should be directly initiation of the idea for this study and Professor Jim Graham of
applicable to rigid walls exhibiting predominantly rotation University of Manitoba for providing several useful suggestions.
about the base, a displacement pattern commonly observed in
gravity and cantilever walls with adequate sliding resistance,
and in rigid cantilever cast-in-situ embedded walls, such as the References
diaphragm and contiguous bored pile walls. With a proper
adjustment of the distributions of ψ and δw, the basis of the Clough, G.W., and Duncan, J.M. 1971. Finite element analyses of
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Wu (1966) pointed out that the magnitude of the total lateral Rechnoy Transport, Moscow. [In Russian.]
force is generally not seriously affected by the location of the Fang, Y.S., and Ishibashi, I. 1986. Static earth pressures with various
total force, or the detailed distribution of the lateral pressure. wall movements. Journal of Geotechnical Engineering, ASCE,
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quake. Soils and Foundations, 13(4): 75–86.
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incorporation of arching will be an important development. versity of Cambridge, Cambridge, U.K.
The solution can be improved with refinement of the assumed James, R.G., and Bransby, P.L. 1970. Experimental and theoretical
distributions of ψ(z) and δ(z) based on careful considerations of investigations of a passive earth pressure problem. Géotechnique,
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James, R.G., and Bransby, P.L. 1971. A velocity field for some pas- List of symbols
sive earth pressure problems. Géotechnique, 21(1): 61–83.
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Proceedings of the Brussels Conference on Earth Pressure Prob- h* location of total lateral force above base of wall
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Ladanyi, B. 1958. The mobilization of shear strength in the active mobilized zone
Rankine case of earth pressure. Proceedings of the Brussels Con- H height of vertical wall
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earth pressure of retaining walls by field tests. Soils and Founda-
tions, 18(3): 27–41. Ka coefficient of active earth pressure
Matsuzawa, H., and Hararika, H. 1996. Analyses of active earth pres- Ki initial coefficient of lateral earth pressure
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movement. Soils and Foundations, 36(3): 51–65. p unit pressure
Nakai, T. 1985. Finite element computations for active and passive P total resultant force or total pressure force
earth pressure problems of retaining wall. Soils and Foundations, pa active earth pressure
25(3): 98–112. ph unit lateral pressure (horizontal component of p)
Potts, D.M., and Fourie, A.B. 1986. A numerical study of the effects Ph total lateral force (horizontal component of P)
of wall deformation on earth pressures. International Journal on S lateral wall displacement
Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics, 10: Sa critical lateral wall displacement for fully-active state
Sherif, M.A., Ishibashi, I., and Lee, C.D. 1982. Earth pressures
Sc critical lateral wall displacement for local mobilization
against rigid retaining walls. Journal of Geotechnical Engineering, of shearing resistance
ASCE, 108(5): 679–695. Sm maximum lateral wall displacement
Sherif, M.A., Fang, Y.S., and Sherif, R.I. 1984. KA and Ko behind z depth below the top of vertical wall
rotating and non-yielding walls. Journal of Geotechnical Engi- α ratio of the angle of wall friction to the angle of internal
neering, ASCE, 110(1): 41–56. friction
Taylor, D.W. 1941. Abstracts of selected theses in soil mechanics. β normalized lateral displacement defined as S/Sc
Department of Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Tech- βm normalized maximum lateral displacement defined as
nology, Cambridge, Publication Series 79. Sm/Sc
Terzaghi, K. 1934. Large retaining wall tests—I. Pressure in dry sand. γ unit weight of soil
Engineering News Record, February, pp. 136–140.
δ limiting angle of wall friction
Terzaghi, K. 1936. Distribution of lateral pressure on sand on the
timbering of cuts. Proceedings of 1st International Conference on
δo initial mobilized angle of wall friction
Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering, Cambridge, Vol. 1, δw mobilized angle of wall friction
pp. 211–215. φ angle of internal friction or shearing resistance
Terzaghi, K. 1941. General wedge theory of earth pressure. ASCE φo initial mobilized angle of internal friction or shearing
Transactions, 106: 68–97. resistance
Wu, T.H. 1966. Soil mechanics. Allyn & Bacon, Boston. ψ mobilized angle of internal friction or shearing resistance

© 1997 NRC Canada

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