SCHOOL OF CIVIL & RESOURCE ENGINEERING
GEOMECHANICS
CIVL 2122
PART1
COMPRESSION AND CONSOLIDATION
PROFESSOR MARTIN FAHEY
SCHOOL OF CIVIL & RESOURCE ENGINEERING
NOTE ON PRINTING THESE NOTES:
The notes are organised for printing doublesided. For most sections, the Figure on the righthand page should have the same number as the Section text on the left hand page. Thus, Figure 3 should be on the righthand page, facing Section 3 on the lefthand page, and so on.
Geomechanics (CIVL 2122)
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Compression and Consolidation
Table of Contents
1. Some Basic Soil Properties 
1 

1.1 Origin 
1 

1.2 Rock “weathering” 
1 

1.3 Soil Classification 
1 

1.4 Soil “density” 
2 

2. Water Flow in Soil: “Permeability” 
3 

2.1 Darcy’s Law 
3 

2.2 Range of permeability values 
3 

3. The Principle of Effective Stress 
5 

4. Calculating the Initial Vertical Effective Stress in the Ground 
7 

5. Soil Compressibility 
9 

6. Settlement Calculations: Normally Consolidated Layer 
11 

7. Settlement Calculations: OverConsolidated Layer 
13 

8. Preloading to reduce settlement 
15 

9. The Consolidation Process 
17 

10. MultiCell Analog 
19 

11. Solution of the Consolidation Problem: Terzaghi Solution 
21 

12. Terzaghi’s Solution (Contd) 
23 

13. Calculating Consolidation 
Times 
25 

14. Laboratory Compression / Consolidation Testing 
27 

15. Interpretation of the Compression Curve 
29 

16. Determining the coefficient of consolidation c _{v} (assuming no creep) 
31 

17. Square Root Time Method: Allowing for Creep 
33 

18. Measuring Consolidation Parameters: Rowe Cell 
35 

19. Typical Results of Rowe Cell Test 
37 

20. Capillary Effects and Suction 
39 

20.1 
Air entry pressure 
39 

21. Suction in a Drying Soil 
41 

22. Measuring Air Entry (Suction) Value for Soil 
43 
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Compression and Consolidation
1. Some Basic Soil Properties
1.1 Origin
Most soils are produced by the breakdown (“weathering”) of rocks. The principal exceptions are those of biological origin – e.g. offshore soils often consist of the remains of the skeletons of tiny marine organisms, or of the shells of such organisms, and are hence composed largely of calcium carbonate (CaCO _{3} ), and are called calcareous soils or carbonate soils (these two terms are almost, but not completely, synonymous). In some offshore regions influenced by deposition from major river systems (e.g. in the Gulf of Mexico, around the mouth of the Mississippi, or off Brazil, around the mouth of the Amazon, the soils can consist of clays of terrestrial origin, washed out by the river).
1.2 Rock “weathering”
The process of rock breakdown to form soil is termed rock “weathering”. This is either:
• 
Mechanical weathering – the physical breakdown that occurs due to mechanical forces (ice expanding in cracks, rocks grinding together, erosion by action of water, heatingcooling cycles, etc). The rock is broken into smaller and smaller particles, but the original rock minerals are not changed. This produces (in order of decreasing size) cobbles (> 60mm), gravel (60mm – 2 mm), sand (2 mm to 60 μm) and silt (60 μm to 2 μm). It is very difficult to break down soil to finer than silt size by mechanical breakdown. 
• 
Chemical weathering – where the actual minerals in the parent rock are changed, by chemical “rotting” – e.g. by the action of oxygen and water, particularly in warm humid climates. This forms completely new minerals – called clay. Clay particles are “platey” in structure (much smaller in one dimension than in the other two – like cornflakes), but silts, sands, gravels, etc are more rounded in aspect ratio (not that much difference between maximum and minimum dimensions). Clays are actually quite complex, with complex electrochemical forces between the grains. They have very high “specific surface area” – the surface area per unit weight (e.g. the clay mineral montmorillonite can have hundreds of m ^{2} in surface area per gram of material). Since many of the particle interactions are surface effects, these are very important for clay minerals. 
1.3 
Soil Classification 
Soils are classified on the basis of:
• Size (as above). Determined using a series of sieves of decreasing mesh size (down to 60 μm) and sedimentation methods (from about 100 μm down to about 2μm; below 2μm, the material is defined as clay, and, for clay, size does not mean much.
• Fine grained soils (silts and clays) are also classified according to plasticity properties (effectively, how well they absorb water). The plasticity properties are called the Atterberg Limits, which are water contents at which the soil changes from a viscous liquid state to a plastic solid state (the “liquid limit”, w _{L} ), and from a plastic solid state to a brittle solid state (the “plastic limit”, w _{p} ). The difference between these is the “plasticity index”, I _{p} = w _{L} – w _{p} .
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1.4 Soil “density”
The density of the soil particles themselves is denoted ρ _{s} (the soil particle density), and for many soils, this is between 2.6 and 2.7 t/m ^{3} . The density of water ρ _{w} is 1 t/m ^{3} . The relative density of the soil particles is therefore G _{s} = ρ _{s} /ρ _{w} (being a ratio, this is just a dimensionless number).
As we are generally dealing with soil on the earth’s surface (and not on the moon, or in a centrifuge with elevated glevel), we are usually interested in the forces in soil, and hence we are more interested in weight than density, where weight is simply ρ.g (and g, the acceleration due to the earth’s gravity, is 9.81 m/s ^{2} ). Thus, instead of using density all the time, we use unit weight γ (where γ = ρ.g, and has units of kN/m ^{3} ). The unit weight of water, γ _{w} , is therefore 9.81 kN/m ^{3} . The unit weight of quartz (the mineral that many sands are comprised of) is about 26 kN/m ^{3} (that is, a solid 1 m ^{3} block of silica would weigh 26 kN.)
If a 1 m ^{3} container is filled with dry silica sand, the weight would be considerably less than the weight of a solid block of silica, due to the airfilled voids between the particles.
The basic means of expressing the density of packing is to use the voids ratio (e):
e =
V
V
v
s
,
where V _{v} is the volume of the voids, and V _{s} is the volume of the “solids” (soil particles). Note that e can be greater than 1 (it very often is for clay soils).
So, for our 1 m ^{3} box of dry sand, the total weight of the soil in this state is the dry unit weight (γ _{d} ):
γ
d
^{=}
γ
s
1 + e
If the voids are now completely filled with water, the box will of course be heavier. The weight would
now correspond to the saturated unit weight (γ _{s}_{a}_{t} ).
γ sat
=
γ
s
+
e
⋅
γ
w
1 + e
The “wetness” of a soil is described (in civil engineering) by on a weight basis:
w =
W
w
W
s
(often expressed as %)
(i.e. as the weight of water divided by the weight of the dry soil. This is found by weighing the wet sample first, then drying it in the oven, then weighing the dry soil).
From these relationships, we can see that:
γ
d
^{=}
γ sat
1 + w
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2. Water Flow in Soil: “Permeability”
The parameter that describes how easy or difficult it is for water to flow through soil is correctly called the hydraulic conductivity, but more commonly (in civil engineering), called the permeability (k). (This is analogous to thermal conductivity for heat flow in solids, or electrical conductivity for electrical current flow. The inverse of conductivity is resistivity, but we tend not to use this in water flow).
Flow of water in soils occurs in response to a difference in total head between two points (or more precisely, it occurs in response to a gradient in total head, with flow being “down gradient” – in the direction of reducing total head.)
Figure 1 gives the definition of total head. What it says is that fluid flow depends on both the pressure in the water at a point, and the elevation of the point (above some arbitrary datum). In order to combine these two, the most convenient is to express the pressure as pressure head (h _{p} ), which can be thought of as “the height that water would rise to in a standpipe (tube) inserted into the soil to the point of interest” – as this height has units of metres, it can be combined directly with the elevation head (h _{e} ), which also has units of metres, to give total head (h _{t} ).
2.1 Darcy’s Law
Figure 2 shows a circular container, with cross sectional area A, containing sand of uniform density (uniform “packing”), confined between two mesh screens, at a distance L apart. The total head difference between points M and N is Δh _{t} . The total flow per unit time (Q) is given as:
Q = kAit , where
i =
Δ h
t
L
(and i is the hydraulic gradient).
In this equation, the quantity Q is in units of m ^{3} /s, the area A is in m ^{2} , the hydraulic gradient i is
dimensionless (it’s a length divided by a length) and time t is in seconds. So k has units of m/s.
If we divided both sides by A, we end up with Q/A on the lefthand side. This has units of m/s, and represents the average water velocity v through the tube if there was not soil present.
We can then restate Darcy’s law in its simplest form:
v = ki This is called the “Darcy velocity”, or “appartent velocity”, because it assumes that flow occurs across the total crosssectional area (it ignores the fact that there is soil present). The true velocity or seepage velocity is given as:
v _{s}
= ^{1}
+ e
e
⋅ v
2.2 Range of permeability values
The value of the permeability k has an enormous range: from maybe 1 m/s for gravels (i.e. 10 ^{0} m/s), down to 10 ^{}^{9} to 10 ^{}^{1}^{0} m/s for clays – that’s a range of 10 orders of magnitude (the permeability of clay is maybe 10,000,000,000 times less than that of gravel!).
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("zero") for elevation
("zero") for elevation
("zero") for elevation
("zero") for elevation
Figure 2. Flow of water governed by Darcy’s Law
For this setup, the total head loss from M to N is Δh _{t}_{(}_{M}_{}_{N}_{)} . The hydraulic gradient from M to N is:
i
M
−
N
=
Δ
h
t(M
−
N)
L
M
−
N
and the flow rate through the system is:
Q
=
k
⋅
A
⋅
i
⋅
t
=
k
⋅
A
⋅
Δ
h
t(M
−
N) _{⋅}
L
M
−
N
t
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3. The Principle of Effective Stress
Consolidation refers to the process of increasing the density of a saturated soil by applying external stress to “squeeze out” the water. There are two major issues:
• for a particular stress increment, how much compression will result; and
• for a particular stress increment, how long will it take for this compression to occur.
The amount of compression depends on the compressibility of the soil, and the time required depends on the consolidation properties.
We shall describe the process using the spring/piston/water analog (a mechanical model) shown in the lower part of Figure 3, which represents the soil structure shown in the upper part. The soil structure or soil skeleton is represented by the spring.
At all stages, the applied load is shared between the spring and the water. The equilibrium of the piston requires that:
P = F + u. A
where P is the applied force; F is the force taken by the spring; u is the pressure in the water; and A is the crosssectional area of the piston. This can be rewritten as:
F = P – u. A
which states that the force in the spring (soil) is the applied force less the force due to the pore water.
If we treat all forces as being “spread over” the crosssectional area, then:
^{F} =
P
− u
A A
Since force per unit area is stress, we can write the equilibrium of the piston in terms of vertical stresses:
σ´ _{v} = σ _{v} – u
where σ´ _{v} is the stress carried by the soil skeleton (the effective stress), σ _{v} is the total stress applied to the soil, and u is the pore water pressure (or just the pore pressure).
This is the Principle of Effective Stress, and is the basis of much of soil mechanics.
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TotalTotal stressstress σσ
PRINCIPAL OF EFFECTIVE STRESS:
PRINCIPAL OF EFFECTIVE STRESS:
Mechanical Analog
Mechanical Analog
Valve Valve shut: shut:
Forces on piston balance each other
Forces on piston balance each other
P P
P/A = F/A + u
P/A = F/A + u
= F + uA, which gives:
= F + uA, which gives:
In stress terms:
In stress terms:
σ σ
=
=
σ´
σ´
+ u
+ u
Figure 3. Principle of Effective Stress
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Compression and Consolidation
4. Calculating the Initial Vertical Effective Stress in the Ground
The process of soil compression is highly nonlinear (the “spring” loadcompression relationship is not linear) – i.e. to work out how much compression we get when we apply a load (resulting in a change in effective stress), we must know the starting value of the vertical effective stress.
Total vertical stress σ _{v} : the weight per unit plan area of everything above a point in the ground, including soil and water – (i.e. what is the total weight of a column of soil, with a base plan area of 1 m ^{2} , and a height equal to the distance from the point to the surface). Can find it if we know the total unit weight (γ _{s}_{a}_{t} if it’s saturated, or just γ if it’s not).
Initial pore water pressure u _{o} : for “hyrostatic” conditions, this is found by knowing how far below the water table the point is, and knowing that the unit weight of water is γ _{w} .
The effective vertical stress σ´ _{v} is then:
σ´ _{v} = σ _{v} – u _{o}
In the example shown in Figure 4, the soil above the water table is assume to have a unit weight γ = 17 kN/m ^{3} , and the saturated soil below the water table to have a unit weight of γ _{s}_{a}_{t} = 21 kN/m ^{3} . The calculation of the effective vertical stress is shown in the Figure.
We also need to know the initial void ratio (e _{o} ). We can find this by taking an undisturbed tube sample from the ground, and measuring the total density and the water content, which allows us to find the dry density (or dry unit weight). From this, the initial void ratio can be determined.
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The “water table”
The “water table”
represents the level that
represents the level that
water would eventually
water would eventually
be at in a hole dug in the
be at in a hole dug in the
ground, where the water
ground, where the water
pressure is “hydrostatic”
pressure is “hydrostatic”
 
i.e. where the water
i.e. where the water
pressure increases
pressure increases
uniformly with depth in
uniformly with depth in
exactly the same way
exactly the same way
that it increases in an
that it increases in an
open body of water (e.g.
open body of water (e.g.
a a
lake).
lake).
“Hydrostatic” means exactly that  “static”  i.e. no flow. That means that the total head is
“Hydrostatic” means exactly that  “static”  i.e. no flow. That means that the total head is
equal at all depths (the pressure head increases with depth, but the elevation head reduces
equal at all depths (the pressure head increases with depth, but the elevation head reduces
with depth). So, it follows that for vertical flow to occur, the water pressure distribution
with depth). So, it follows that for vertical flow to occur, the water pressure distribution
must be different from hydrostatic. This difference is what we will call later excess pore
must be different from hydrostatic. This difference is what we will call later excess pore
pressure.
pressure.
For Point A:
For Point A:
Total vertical stress
Total vertical stress
Pore (water) pressure
Pore (water) pressure
Therefore, effective vertical stress
Therefore, effective vertical stress
_{σ} _{v} _{=} _{2} _{x} _{1}_{7} _{+} _{5} _{x} _{2}_{1}
σ
= 2 x 17 + 5 x 21
v
_{=} _{1}_{3}_{9} _{k}_{P}_{a}
= 139 kPa
u = 5 x 10
u = 5 x 10
= 50 kPa
= 50 kPa
(γ
≈ 10 kN/m )
(γ _{w} = 9.81 kN/m ^{3} ≈ 10 kN/m ^{3} )
w
= 9.81 kN/m
3
3
σ´
σ´
_{v} v
= 89 kPa
= 89 kPa
Figure 4. Calculating vertical effective stress in the ground
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Compression and Consolidation
5. Soil Compressibility
After a soil forms by sedimentation from a slurry, the “sedimented voids ratio” may be very high. The exact value depends heavily the clay content, and the type of clay mineral present. Say that the voids ratio at this stage is 3.0. We can imagine the structure of the clay at this stage to be very “open”,with the voids volume being 3 times the solids volume. (This is like a very loosely packed box of cornflakes).
This structure is very compressible – that is, a very small stress applied to the surface will cause a large amount of settlement. (This requires that water be squeezed out, and thus may be a slow process; the time required to reach equilibrium will be dealt with later). However, if further equal increments of stress are applied, the amount of compression under successive increments reduces. The soil becomes progressively less compressible with increasing stress. Thus, the compression curve is highly non linear. This is illustrated in the upper part of Figure 5.
If the stress is reduced at any stage, some swelling occurs (water is sucked back into the sample), but the initial state is never recovered. Most of the compression is irrecoverable.
If the state lies on the initial compression curve, the soil is said to be normally consolidated. If it has swelled back from a higher stress state, it is overconsolidated. The ratio of the present effective stress (σ´ _{v} ) to the past maximum effective stress (σ´ _{c} ) is called the overconsolidation ratio (OCR). Thus, for point A in Figure 5, σ´ _{v} is about 10 kPa, σ´ _{c} is about 108 kPa (point B), and hence at point A, the OCR is about 11.
When plotted on a semilogarithmic plot, the initial loading points tend to lie on a straight line. This shows in this case that to reduce the voids ratio by 0.6 from 3 to 2.4 requires a stress increase of 0.9 kPa, but to reduce it by a further 0.6 requires a 9 kPa increase, with the next 0.6 reduction requiring an increase of 90 kPa, etc.
The swellingrecompression data also plot on straight lines, which are flatter than the initial loading line and parallel to each other.
The Compression Index (C _{c} ) is defined as the gradient (magnitude) of the initial loading curve:
C
c
=
change in voids ratio
change in log of effective stress
=
Similarly,
recompression lines.
the
swelling/recompression
index
(C _{s}
( e 
o 
− e 1 
) 

log 
′ 
) 
− log 
( 
σ ′ 1 
) 

10 
( σ 
o 
10 

or 
C _{r} 
) 
is the 
gradient 
In Figure 5, the value of C _{c} is 0.6, and C _{s} = C _{r} = 0.12.
=
Δ e
log
10
of
the
and
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Effective vertical stress σ' _{v} (kPa)
Effective vertical stress σ' _{v} (kPa)
Figure 5. Compression of a soil from a slurry
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6. Settlement Calculations: Normally Consolidated Layer
From the previous section, we can calculate the settlement of a normally consolidated soil layer (i.e. where the state is on the initial loading curve) due to any loading increment from:
where σ´ _{o} is the initial effective stress, and σ´ _{1} is the final value (i.e. Δσ´ _{v} = σ´ _{1} – σ´ _{o} ). Therefore, we need to know the initial state (effective stress and void ratio) and the increase in effective stress due to the applied load (after all excess pore pressure has dissipated).
Example:. A 2 m thick clay layer is located between 5 and 7 m depth at a site (
Figure 6). There is dense sand (incompressible in comparison to the clay) above and below the clay. Assume the water table is at the surface and hydrostatic conditions, and that the saturated density (γ _{s}_{a}_{t} ) of the sand is 18 kN/m 3 . This gives the initial effective vertical stress on the top of the clay of:
σ′
v
= σ
v
−
u
= γ
sat
.z
− γ
w
.z
=
(18
×
5)
−
(10
×
5)
=
90
−
50
=
40 kPa
where z is depth, and γ _{w} (the unit weight of water) is taken as 10 kN/m ^{3} , for convenience. If the clay has the same saturated unit weight, the effective stress at the bottom of the layer will be an extra 16 kPa, or 56 kPa. Thus, the average initial vertical stress in the clay (σ´ _{o} ) is 48 kPa
Assume that Figure 5 represents the compressibility of the clay, and that it is normally consolidated (natural state lies on the normally consolidated line). For the average vertical stress of 48 kPa, the initial voids ratio (e _{o} ) would be 1.391 (shown as point C in Figure 5).
Assume that the large structure placed over a very wide area on the surface imposes a vertical stress of 100 kPa. Eventually, this will result in an increase in effective stress (Δσ´ _{v} ) of 100 kPa (we shall calculate later how much time it might take for this to happen). Therefore, the new average effective stress (σ´ _{1} ) at the centre of the clay layer will be 148 kPa (point D in Figure 5).
The height change will then be:
Δ
h
Δ
e
=
h
o
1
+
e
o
σ′
1
)
=
0.6
×
(
1
+
1.391
)
log
10
(48 / 148)
= −
0.123
(The result is negative since the height – and the voids ratio – reduces). The result is therefore a height reduction of about 12% of the initial height, or 240 mm.
Note that if the soil was in an overconsolidated state, the same stress increase would give a much lower settlement (because the overconsolidated soil is less compressible).
The settlement therefore depends not just on the increase in σ´ _{v} , but also on the starting value, and whether the starting state is normally consolidated or overconsolidated.
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Initial Initial conditions conditions
Sand
Sand
Clay layer
Clay layer
Sand
Sand
After After load load applied applied
100 kPa applied at the surface (e.g. embankment built)
100 kPa applied at the surface (e.g. embankment built)
● ● Total Total stress stress increases increases instantly instantly by by 100 100 kPa kPa
● ● Pore Pore pressures pressures in in the the clay clay increases increases instantly instantly by by 100 100 kPa kPa
● ●
Effective Effective stress stress increases increases by by 100 100 kPa kPa when when all all excess excess
pore pore pressure pressure has has dissipated dissipated (and (and the the water water pressure pressure is is
again again hydrostatic) hydrostatic)
After After consolidation, consolidation, effective effective
vertical vertical stress stress at at centre centre of of clay clay is: is:
= 48 + 100 = 148 kPa
σ′ _{v} = 48 + 100 = 148 kPa
σ′
v
.
Figure 6. Settlement of a layer of clay due to load (stress) applied at the ground surface
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Compression and Consolidation
7. Settlement Calculations: OverConsolidated Layer
For soil in an overconsolidated state, the process of calculating settlement due to an applied increase in vertical stress is similar to that described in the previous section, except that now some of the compression will be along the recompression line (until the stress reaches the preconsolidation stress σ' _{c} ), and then it follows the normal consolidation line.
The steps involved are:
1. Determine the initial vertical effective stress σ' _{v}_{o} and initial void ratio e _{o} , as before
2. Knowing the additional effective stress that will result from the surface loading, calculate the final vertical effective stress σ' _{v}_{f}
3. There are then three possibilities to consider:
(a)
(b)
σ' _{v}_{o} = σ' _{c} (in which case the soil is actually normally consolidated, so proceed as in previous section)
σ' _{v}_{f} ≤ σ' _{c} : in this case the state remains in the overconsolidated state at the end of loading, and the settlement is calculated using the recompression index only:
Δ
e
=
C log
r
10
⎛ σ′
⎜
⎜
⎝
σ′
vo
vf
⎞
⎠
⎟ ⇒ Δ
⎟
h
=
h
o
Δ e
1
+
e
o
(c)
σ' _{v}_{o} < σ' _{c} and σ' _{v}_{f} > σ' _{c} : in this case, some of the loading is calculated using the recompression index, and the rest using the compression index:
Δ
e
=
C log
r
10
⎛ σ′
⎜
⎜
⎝
vo
σ′
c
⎞
⎟ +
⎟
⎠
C
c
log
10
⎛ σ′
⎜
⎜
⎝
c
σ′
vf
⎞
⎠
⎟ ⇒ Δ
⎟
h
=
h
o
Δ
e
1
+
e
o
Example: Assume the compression diagram shown in Figure 7 represents a 2 m thick layer, with the initial conditions represented by Point A (i.e. e _{o} = 1.178 and σ' _{v}_{o} = 30 kPa). Assume that a surface load is applied, resulting in an increase in vertical stress of 290 kPa. This would produce a final effective vertical stress of σ' _{v}_{f} = 320 kPa. Assume that the soil is overconsolidated, with preconsolidation pressure (past maximum consolidation pressure) of σ' _{c} = 150 kPa.
This case therefore corresponds to (c) above, with the initial stress (Point A) being less than the preconsolidation stress (Point B), and the final stress (Point C) being greater than the preconsolidation stress. Thus, assuming that C _{c} = 0.6 and C _{r} = 0.12, as before, the change in void ratio is:
Δ
e
⇒
⎛ 30 ⎞
150
⎟
⎠
⎝
⎜
⎛ 150 ⎞
⎟
⎠
⎜
320
=
0.12 log
10
Δh = h
o
Δ
e
1
+
e
o
+ 0.6log
⎝
⎛ 0.281 ⎞
⎟
⎠
⎝
⎜
2.178
10
= −
0.0839
= 2000
= 258 mm
−
0.1974
= −
0.2813
Note, if normally consolidated :
Δ
e
=
0.6log
10
⎛
⎜
⎝
30 ⎞
⎟
⎠
320
= −
0.617
⇒
Δh 2000
=
⎛ 0.617 ⎞
⎟
⎠
⎝
⎜
2.178
= 566 mm
⇒
e
f
=
1.178
−
0.281
=
0.897
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Effective vertical stress (σ' _{v} ) kPa
Figure 7. Example of overconsolidated soil and calculation of settlement
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Compression and Consolidation
8. Preloading to reduce settlement
The recompression index C _{r} is typically 510 times less than the normal compression index C _{c} , which means in a crude sense that overconsolidated soil is 510 times less compressible (510 times stiffer) than normally consolidated soil, if all else is equal.
If the estimated settlement under a proposed load is excessive (and unacceptable for the proposed structure), something must be done to change the outcome. One possibility is to preload the site.
The principle is to apply a preload to the site which, if possible, is equal to, or greater than, the load due to the intended structure. Then, once all settlement due to the preload has occurred (this may be some years!), remove the preload, and allow the soil to swell. Then, build the intended structure.
Example:
Suppose that the situation in the previous section represents the settlements that are calculated due to a structure at the site (a structure that will impose a vertical stress increase of 290 kPa to the site). The calculated settlement (258 mm) is deemed to be unacceptable. The remedy is as follows:
Apply a preload to the site that imposes the same load as the intended structure (i.e. an increase in vertical stress of 290 kPa).
Once the consolidation due to this preload has been completed, the soil state will have moved from the initial state (Point A) to a final state (Point C), in Figure 8, and a surface settlement of 258 mm will have occurred, as calculated in the previous section.
Now remove the preload, and allow swelling to occur. The total vertical stress returns to its initial value, and, after all pore pressures have returned to hydrostatic values, the effective stress will be the same as at the start. The soil will not return along the initial load path (CBA), but will swell along a new swelling line from point C – i.e. CD. We can calculate the amount of swelling from:
Δ
e
⇒
⎛ 320 ⎞
⎟
⎝
=
⎜
30
=
0.12 log
10
Δh h
=
o
Δ
e
1
+
e
o
(
=
⎠
2000
0.1234 e
⇒
−
258
)
f
=
0.897
+
0.123
=
1.020 (Point D)
⎛ 0.123 ⎞
1.897
⎟
⎝
⎠
⎜
= 113 mm (swelling to point D)
Now, when the structure load is applied (290 kPa), the state will move from point D back to point C, along the recompression line, and the settlement experienced by the structure will be more or less the same as the swelling just calculated – i.e. 113 mm. So the structure is now only subjected to a settlement of 113 mm, compared to 258 mm for the previous case (and compared to 566 mm if the soil had been normally consolidated).
What we are doing with this process is effectively increasing the preconsolidation pressure to be equal to, or greater than, the maximum pressure that will result from the structure loading. In some cases, we can’t quite preload enough, but provided the preload gives some increase in the preconsolidation pressure, the result will be less settlement than would have occurred otherwise.
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Effective vertical stress (σ' _{v} ) kPa
Figure 8. Preloading (ABC) and removal of the preload (CD) takes the initial state to Point D. Now the load resulting from the structure will take the soil from Point D back to Point C
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Compression and Consolidation
9. The Consolidation Process
We shall use our simple “single cell” analog to examine what happens in a consolidation event.
Starting point: Spring is uncompressed, and water pressure is zero. There is no external load, and the drainage valve is shut.
At time t = 0: Apply a load P to the piston, keeping valve shut. The water is incompressible, so no settlement occurs. Therefore, the spring cannot compress, and hence it carries no load. The load P is completely supported by the water pressure u, and the spring force F is zero:
At t = 0 : u =
P
A
= σ
v
and
σ′
v
=
F
A
= 0
Open valve: Water starts to leak from the aperture, allowing settlement to begin, so that the spring starts to compress, and starts to take some of the load. At all stages, the effective stress principle holds:
i.e. σ _{v} = σ´ _{v} + u – the applied force is shared between the spring and the water.
As the spring force (σ´ _{v} ) increases, the water pressure u decreases by an equal amount. The pressure differential across the drainage value therefore reduces, and this reduces the velocity of flow. Thus the rate of settlement reduces with increasing time. This is illustrated in
Figure 9.
Mathematical Analysis of Problem:
We can write down expressions for the process, provided we know the spring stiffness (E´) and the relationship between flow through the aperture and the water pressure. These are:
d
σ ′
′
= E ; for the spring and
dQ
A.dh
=
dt
dt
= k.u for flow through the aperture, or
d 
σ ′ 
= 
E 
′ 
and 
dh 
= 
k.u 
dh 
h o 
dt 
A 
where dQ is the quantity of flow through the aperture in time increment dt, and dh is the compression of the spring due to a stress (force) increment dσ´. The flow equation states that the rate of flow depends on the pressure differential (note this is not correct for a small aperture, but we will use this assumption). The solution for this problem can be obtained as:
(
1
σ′ = σ⋅
u
−
e
(
e
−α t
)
= σ⋅
−α t
)
,
and
where the constant
α
=
k.E ′
A
These are exponential functions, with σ´ increasing exponentially from zero at t=0 to σ at t → ∞ and u
reducing from u = σ at t=0 to zero at t → ∞.
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PRINCIPAL OF EFFECTIVE STRESS:
PRINCIPAL OF EFFECTIVE STRESS:
PRINCIPAL OF EFFECTIVE STRESS:
Mechanical Analog
Mechanical Analog
Mechanical Analog
Valve shut:
Valve shut:
Valve shut:
Forces on piston balance each other
Forces on piston balance each other
Forces on piston balance each other
P P
P
= F + uA, which gives:
= F + uA, which gives:
= F + uA, which gives:
P/A = F/A + u
P/A = F/A + u
P/A = F/A + u
In stress terms:
In stress terms:
In stress terms:
σ
σ
σ
=
=
=
σ´
σ´
σ´
+ u
+ u
+ u
Load applied at time t = 0
Load applied at time t = 0
Total force P
Total force P
Figure 9. Single cell mechanical analog for the soil consolidation process
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Compression and Consolidation
10. MultiCell Analog
In the single cell analog, the only restriction to flow is at the piston – i.e. at the sample boundary. However, in a soil sample, restriction on flow occurs within the whole body (i.e. there is internal restriction on flow).
A more realistic analog is therefore where there are many cells, stacked on top of each other. Each cell
connects with the one above via a small aperture in the piston. The springs are all of the same stiffness. The water pressures are initially hydrostatic and hence no flow is occurring.
At time t = 0: Apply a load P to the top piston, with the top valve shut. The pressures in the cells all increase by the same amount (Δu = P/A), to the line shown as t=0 in Figure 10. There is no tendency for flow between cells, since the pressure gradient is still hydrostatic (we have to remove the hydrostatic component to decide if there is a gradient in total head).
When the top valve is opened, the pressure differential across the top valve causes flow. However, only when the pressure in the top cell drops by a small amount is there any pressure differential between it and the second cell. Only then will flow begin – and this is initially at a very slow rate, because the pressure difference is small. Gradually the effect begins to be felt at lower cells. At the time shown as t _{2} , some effect has been felt at all but the lowest cell.
In this Figure, the points represent the pressures in the cells, but the lines give the pressures if we had
an infinite number of cells (i.e. if the column was filled with saturated soil, rather than discrete cells).
We can represent what would happen if we had a column full of soil by the lower diagram. The pressures (heads) in the soil at different levels are measured by the standpipes. When P is applied, all the standpipes give the same height (same total head), but as drainage begins to reduce the top pressures, the standpipes will show different levels, indicating internal hydraulic gradients, and hence internal flows.
The difference in water pressure between the initial level (before consolidation starts) and the final level (when all consolidation has ceased) is the excess pore pressure.
Note that at the drained boundary, the excess pore pressure reduces to zero instantaneously (as soon as the drainage valve is opened). The point farthest from the drained boundary is the slowest to consolidate.
Plots of excess pore pressure at any particular time are called pore pressure isochrones.
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P/A = Water pressure
P/A = Water pressure
increase at t = 0
increase at t = 0
WATER PRESSURE (u)
WATER PRESSURE (u)
Level in all standpipes when P first applied (t _{o} )
Level in all standpipes when P first applied (t )
o
Intermediate stage
Intermediate stage
Final level in all standpipes (t _{∞} ) )
Final level in all standpipes (t
∞
(= level before any load applied)
(= level before any load applied)
Figure 10. Multicell analog for consolidation
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Compression and Consolidation
11. Solution of the Consolidation Problem: Terzaghi Solution
When a load is applied to a clay layer (as in Figure 6), a long time may be required for settlement to be completed. During this stage, the pore pressure decreases gradually, while the effective stress increases at the same rate, and the soil layer compresses (settlement occurs) at an everreducing rate.
Terzaghi solved the problem of the time required for this to occur, by making some assumptions:
• the permeability (k) of the soil does not change as the effective stress increases;
• the compressibility (E´ _{o} ) of the soil does not change as the effective stress increases;
• Darcy’s Law applies (flow velocity is proportional to hydraulic gradient);
• the change in thickness of the layer is relatively small compared to the initial thickness.
If the initial state of stress is reasonably high compared to the loading increment, then these assumptions are reasonable (the first effectively assumes that there is not a large change in voids ratio in the increment; the second assumes that the e–σ´ _{v} curve is linear over the increment of effective stress).
Terzaghi’s solution is written in terms of the permeability of the soil (k), and the compressibility (E´ _{o} ), just as our solution to the single cell analog was written. These parameters are combined into a single parameter called the coefficient of consolidation (c _{v} ):
c ^{v}
=
kE ′
o
γ
w
(units are m 2 /year or m 2 /second)
where γ _{w} (in kN/m 3 ) is the unit weight of water (= ρ _{w} x 9.81). (This term appears because the solution is in terms of pore pressure (u) rather than the head (h) used in Darcy’s Law).
To make the solution general for all problems, Terzaghi used normalised parameters.
• The normalised depth Z is explained in Figure 11 (Z varies from 0 at a drained boundary to 1 at the maximum distance from a drained boundary).
• The normalised pore pressure dissipation (U _{v} ) at any particular depth Z is:
U
^{v}
=
u
i
−
u(t)
u
where u(t) is the pore pressure at a particular depth at time t, and u _{i} and u _{f} are the initial and final values (the value just after the load is applied, and the value after all consolidation has ceased). U varies from 0 at t=0 to 1 (or 100%) at the end of consolidation.
i
−
u
f
• The normalised degree of settlement U or U _{a}_{v} =
settlement at time t
=
eventual total settlement
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Normalised pore pressure: U = percentage of excess pore pressure dissipated at time t
Normalised pore pressure: U = percentage of excess pore pressure dissipated at time t
Normalised settlement: U
Normalised settlement: U _{a}_{v} = settlement at time t as percentage of final total settlement
= settlement at time t as percentage of final total settlement
av
(Note: Normalised settlement = Average U)
(Note: Normalised settlement = Average U)
Normalised time factor T
Normalised time factor T _{v} = c _{v} .t/d 2
_{v} = c _{v} .t/d
2
Figure 11. Normalised parameters used in Terzaghi’s solution
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Compression and Consolidation
12. Terzaghi’s Solution (Contd)
The time required for consolidation depends on:
• the consolidation parameter c _{v} (i.e. the combination of permeability and stiffness);
• the maximum distance to a drained boundary, d (Figure 11). These are incorporated into a dimensionless time factor T _{v} :
The solution is (where m = 0, 1, 2,
T
_{v} =
c
v t
d
2
(dimensionless)
∞, and M = 0.5 π(2m + 1)):
U
v
=
1
U or U
−
av
∞
∑
m
=
=
1
0
−
2
M
sin MZ e
(
)
− M
∞
∑
m
=
0
2
M
2
e
− M
2
2
T
v
for the pore pressure dissipation, and
T
v
for the settlement (or average pore pressure)
(Note that in Whitlow, there is an error in both of these equations – Equations 10.17 & 10.18 in 4 ^{t}^{h} ed.)
These equations are used to produce the plots shown in Figure 12. The top figure shows normalised pore pressure isochrones (plots of normalised pore pressure dissipation versus normalised depth Z), for different time factors. This shows that at the drained boundary (Z=0), the pore pressure dissipates instantaneously, but lags behind everywhere else, with the slowest dissipation being at the point farthest from the drained boundary (Z=1).
The lower plot shows the same information, but plotted as pore pressure dissipation versus time factor for different points within the mass (different normalised depths Z). The thick black line gives the percentage settlement versus time factor (with the settlement axis on the right).
Looking at the settlement curve (the thick black line in the lower plot), we can see that 50% settlement occurs at T _{v} of 0.2. At this time, only 20% pore pressure dissipation has occurred at Z=1, but 88% has occurred at Z=0.1. But as shown below, the average pore pressure dissipation is equal to 50%.
Shaded area represents the average pore
Shaded area represents the average pore
pressure dissipation; counting squares in
pressure dissipation; counting squares in
the upper part of Figure 10 shows that this
the upper part of Figure 10 shows that this
is 50% of the total area:
is 50% of the total area:
– –
i.e. the average pore pressure dissipation
i.e. the average pore pressure dissipation
=
=
= 0.2
normalised settlement = 50% at T
normalised settlement = 50% at T _{v} = 0.2
v
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Degree of consolidation (U _{v} ) (% excess pore pressure dissipated)
Normalised pore pressure dissipation, and normalised settlement, with time.
Nondimensionalised time (Time factor, T _{v} )
Figure 12. Terzaghi’s consolidation solution in graphical form
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Compression and Consolidation
13. Calculating Consolidation Times
We can use Terzaghi’s solution to calculate the consolidation time for practical problems. Take the problem discussed previously in Section 6.
The layer thickness is 2 m, but it is twoway drained, so d = 1m. The final effective stress increase is 100 kPa. In Figure 5, the initial and final effective stresses in the centre of the layer (48 and 148 kPa) are shown as points C and D. The voids ratios are 1.391 and 1.0978. From this, the “onedimensional stiffness” (E´ _{o} ) is:
E
′
o
=
100
= (
−
1.0978
) (
1
+
1.391
)
1.391
=
815kPa
Assume the permeability k = 1 x 10 –9 m/s (low permeability clayey soil). Then the coefficient of consolidation, c _{v} is:
c
v
=
kE ′
o
1
×
10
−
9
×
815
=
γ
w
9.81
=
8.31 10
×
− 8
m
2
So, what’s the situation 1 month after the load is applied? This is equivalent to a time factor T _{v} of:
From the lower plot in Figure 12, the settlement at this time is 53% completed (i.e. 53% of the 200 mm we calculated earlier has occurred after 1 month). We reach 95% settlement at T _{v} of 1.125 (not shown in Figure 12), which is 1.125/0.218 times longer – i.e. 5.16 months.
Note that at 1 month (T _{v} of 0.218) the pore pressure dissipation at the centre of the layer (Z=1) is about 26%, which means that there is still 74% of the initial excess pore pressure of 100 kPa left, or 74 kPa. If we had a pore pressure measuring device (a pore pressure transducer) located at this point, it would measure this value plus the final hydrostatic value – i.e. 60 + 74 = 134 kPa.
Importance of depth (distance to drained boundary)
Suppose that the layer thickness was 20 m rather than 2 m (then d would be 10 m rather than 1 m – d is half the layer thickness because of twoway drainage). Previously, 5.16 months was required to achieve 95% consolidation (i.e. at a time factor of 1.125).
Now the time for 95% consolidation is:
or 100 times longer than previously.
t
95
=
T d
v
2
1.125
×
10
2
=
c
v
2.62
= 42.9 years
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increased by factor of 10, time increases by factor of 100.
increased by factor of 10, time increases by factor of 100.
m
m
To speed up consolidation, the best methods involve shortening the drainage path length (the maximum distance to a drained boundary):
• For the Narrows Interchange, this was achieved using sand drains installed on a square grid pattern.
• At Burswood Peninsula (for the railway bridge embankment, and also for the freeway embankment), a plastic drain was used (a wick drain). Here there is about 20 m of soft clay (with c _{v} of less than 10 m ^{2} /yr). In both cases, the consolidation is now not onedimensional (the water flows horizontally towards the drains), but for a drain spacing of 2 m, the consolidation would still be speeded up by about 100.
Figure 13. Importance of layer thickness (“drainage path length”).
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Compression and Consolidation
14. Laboratory Compression / Consolidation Testing
Compression and consolidation parameters (C _{c} , C _{s} , C _{r} , σ′ _{c} , OCR, c _{v} ) are conventionally obtained from laboratory compression/consolidation tests carried out in an oedometer (see Figure 14).
• An ‘undisturbed’ sample is obtained from the base of a borehole using a thinwalled sampling tube (typically 75 mm internal diameter, 3 mm wall thickness, 450 mm long, with sharp cutting edge).
• Sample is returned to the laboratory. A length of the sample is extruded into a thinwalled steel cutting ring (see Figure), and the sample is trimmed to be exactly the same length as the cutting ring. The ‘trimmings’ are used to determine the initial water content.
• The sample and cutting ring are placed into the oedometer, on top of a filter paper placed on top of a deaired porous disk (typically a ceramic disk or a sintered porous bronze or stainless steel disk).
• A top piston, with porous disk (deaired) incorporated is placed on top of the sample (again with a filter paper between the disk and the sample.
• A succession of loads is applied. Under each increment of load, the loadsettlement response is measured (settlement readings are taken at regular times), until all settlement under that increment is complete.
• Typically, the load is doubled in each increment – loading sequence is typically 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 kPa.
• Generally, at some stage an ‘unloadingreloading’ loop is conducted, and a final unloading stage is incorporated (e.g., the above loading sequence might be modified to: 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 100, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 400, 200, 100, 50, 25, 10 kPa)
• At the end of the test, the sample is removed quickly from the apparatus, and the final water content determined. From this, the final void ratio can be found (e = w.G _{s} ).
• From the height changes in each increment, the final void ratio at the end of each increment can be found by working backwards from the final increment, knowing that Δe/(1+e _{o} ) = Δh/h _{o} .
• Therefore, the void ratio (and effective vertical stress) at the end of each increment can be obtained, and a plot prepared of void ratio (e) versus σ′ _{v} (plotted on semilogarithmic axes).
• From this plot can be obtained:
o 
Compression index C _{c} and swelling/recompression indices C _{s} / C _{r} . 
o 
Preconsolidation stress (past maximum stress) σ′ _{c} (Casagrande method) 
o 
‘In situ’ compression curve (Schmertman method) 
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Steel cutting ring
Steel cutting ring
Vertical load
Vertical load
Drainage line
Drainage line
Top piston
Top piston
Porous disk
Porous disk
(sintered bronze)
(sintered bronze)
Drainage line
Drainage line
Figure 14. Schematic arrangement of oedometer test
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Compression and Consolidation
15. Interpretation of the Compression Curve
Plot data as void ratio versus log σ′ _{v} . Generally, it is not that obvious from this curve where is behaviour changes from ‘overconsolidated’ to ‘normally consolidated’. This change occurs gradually (whereas the idealised behaviour already discussed shows a sudden change). This is mainly due to disturbance of the sample obtained from the ground (in sampling, transportation, and handling). Some manipulation of the curve is required to obtain the parameters of interest.
• Find preconsolidation pressure – use method of
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