Nicholson Construction Company 12 McClane Street Cuddy, PA 15031 Telephone: 412-221-4500 Facsimile: 412-221-3127

Diaphragm Walls
by

Thomas D. Richards, Jr. P.E. Nicholson Construction Company, Cuddy, Pennsylvania

Presented at: Central PA Geotechnical Conference Hershey, Pennsylvania March 23-25, 2006

05-01-145

2005 .Diaphragm Walls Thomas D Richards. Jr P.E.March 23-25. Nicholson Construction Company Central PA Geotechnical Conference .

Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . especially when a low permeability layer underlies the granular soils. where a very rigid earth retention system is required. where noise and vibration must be limited. Diaphragm walls are a method of creating a cast in-situ reinforced concrete retaining wall using the slurry supported trench method. and design methods for diaphragm walls. MD. the term “diaphragm walls” Concrete diaphragm slurry walls were first introduced in the United States in the 1960s. construction process. and Washington. New York City. DC. Diaphragm walls are often attractive in granular soils with a high groundwater level. Keying into this low permeability layer reduces groundwater seepage below the wall. 1990). 2004) Projects that have used these walls include: • • • • • • below grade parking/ deep basements cut and cover subway tunnels highways as cut and cover tunnel walls and for underpasses shafts for deep sewers dam appurtenances landslides For highway projects. 2005 Page 2 of 17 . they are often known as slurry walls. and have found a niche in urban environments such as Boston. The diaphragm walls are typically terminated in the underlying low-permeability layer which can consist of soil or rock. CO and Baltimore. (Pearlman. diaphragm walls were employed extensively on the Central Artery Tunnel and also have been used in Denver. However. where the geology and groundwater preclude the use of conventional earth retention systems and/or where dewatering is not practical Compared to other wall types. As such. diaphragm walls are considered to be very stiff with respect to ground movement control (Clough and O’Rourke.March 23-25.INTRODUCTION The purpose of this paper is to describe the application. APPLICATIONS Diaphragm walls are most commonly used : • • • • • in areas with dense and historic urban infrastructure. since this topic has not been addressed much if at all at previous Hershey conferences.

2004). permanent basement walls. hydraulic (groundwater) cutoff.BENEFITS Diaphragm walls can: • • • • • • • • • • be formed to depths of several hundred feet. 2005 Page 3 of 17 .March 23-25. and with great control over geometry and continuity facilitate excavations below groundwater while eliminating dewatering provide fairly watertight walls provide structural stiffness which reduces ground movements and adjacent settlements during excavation be load bearing transferring loads to the underlying layer be reinforced to allow incorporation of many structural configurations. they have proven to be an economical alternative in many circumstances (Pearlman. Because of this combination. Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . through virtually all soil types and through rock. and vertical support elements. accommodate connections to structures be easily adapted to both anchors and internal structural bracing systems be constructed in relatively low headroom (say 15 feet) and in areas of restricted access be installed before excavation commences provide economic solutions in cases where temporary and permanent support can be integrated or redesigned into one retaining structure Diaphragm walls combine into a single foundation unit the functions of temporary shoring.

Mueser Rutledge Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . The slurry is typically bentonite and water or polymer and water.March 23-25.CONSTRUCTION PROCESS Overview The trench excavation is performed using slurry for support. 2005 Page 4 of 17 . Diaphragm walls are constructed in the following steps: • • • • • • • • pretrenching to remove obstructions guidewall construction panel (vertical segments) excavation endstop placement panel desanding reinforcing cage placement tremie concrete end stop removal (if temporary) Excavation Cage Placement Tremie Concrete Figure 1 Source: George Tamaro.

Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference .March 23-25. To reduce site area requirements.Site Logisitics and Slurry Plant Setup It is important to note that diaphragm wall installation requires sufficient work area to set up the slurry plant and to assemble the reinforcing cages prior to placement in the wall. ** The plant are is dependant on number of tanks. The slurry plant includes a slurry mixer. This work may be difficult on congested sites. Cage Fab * ~120’ x panel depth Slurry Plant with 6 tanks ** ~60’ x 120’ Cage Fabrication Area – Another Job * The cage fabrication area is dependant on the number of rigs and production schedule. and desanding units. recycled bentonite. several panels of bentonite. offsite cage fabrication is possible. Sufficient storage tanks must be used for bentonite slurry hydration. storage tanks. 2005 Page 5 of 17 .

provide a reference elevation Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . restrain the endstops. This pretrenching may be performed as open excavation backfilled with flowfill or excavated under self hardening slurry. serve as a platform to hang the reinforcement.March 23-25.Storage Tanks Desanders and Desilter Pretrenching Pretrenching is often performed to remove shallow obstructions and provide stable support for the guidewalls (next step). 2005 Page 6 of 17 . support the top of the trench. Guidewall construction Guidewalls provide a template for wall excavation and panel layout.

March 23-25. 2005 Page 7 of 17 . hold down the cage during concreting.).for inserts ( anchors. slabs. and provide reaction for jacking out some types of endstops. The top of the guidewalls should be at least four feet above the groundwater table to allow for construction in the dry and to allow for slurry level to be three feet above groundwater table. Typical Guidewall Details Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . etc. support the tremie pipes. Guidewalls are reinforced concrete typically four to five feet deep and constructed similar to the figure and photo below.

March 23-25. and the digging mechanics may be cable or hydraulic operated.Panel (vertical segments) Excavation Special clamshells also known as grabs or buckets are rectangular shaped (see photos) and used to excavate vertical slots known as panels. 2005 Page 8 of 17 . Kelly Mount Hydraulic Grab Cable Mounted Hydraulic Grab Cable Mounted & Operated Grab Panel Excavation along Building Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . These clamshells may be cable hug or Kelly mounted.

Endstops may be permanent or removed after concrete placement. Panel lengths are typically 20 to 24 feet governed by the geometry of the project and the size of contractors special clamshells. Permanent endstops are typically wide flange shapes. The panel width is governed by the contractors clamshells. Trench stability is mostly provided by the fluid weight of the bentonite and the arching action of the soil around the trench.The excavation is performed in “panels” which are vertical slots. Endstop Placement Endstops are used to control the concrete placement so that adjacent secondary panels are not excavating monolithic concrete. Removable endstops can be pipe (Figure 1) or special keyway end stops (Photo below). 2005 Page 9 of 17 . Calculations on trench stability often do not show that successfully excavated trenches should stay open which indicates conservatism and effects that have not been considered.March 23-25. The bentonite slurry is placed in the trench after a few buckets have been excavated and continuously added to maintain at least 3 feet above groundwater level and within 2 feet of the top of the guidewall. Various widths can be accommodated by reinforcing design including shear and bending reinforcement. Permanent Endstops Special V Groove Endstop Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference .

Concrete is then placed around the reinforcing cage using tremie methods to form each concrete panel. Concrete with 8 to 10 inch slump is then tremied into the panel. The concrete mix is special to provide 4000 to 6000 psi strength with high slump and contains fairly high cement content.Panel Desanding The panel must be de-sanded to remove excess sand in the slurry and bottom of panel. The removal of sand from the slurry decreases the density of the slurry so that tremie concrete does not mix with the slurry or trap pockets of sand. often other pozzolans. Typically two tremie pipes are used for full size panels and one tremie pipe is used for single bite panels.March 23-25. Reinforcing Cage placement Carefully fabricated three-dimensional reinforcing cage are then inserted into the panel excavation. Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . 2005 Page 10 of 17 . Cage Placement Note blockouts for floor slabs and trumpets for anchors . plasictizers and often other chemicals. Tremie Concrete Tremie pipes are placed in the panel to within a foot of the bottom. The reinforcing cage may also support future structural or utility connections using “knockouts” that are pre-set in the wall.

The concrete level is sounded after each load and records maintained on actual versus theoretical concrete take.March 23-25. 2005 Page 11 of 17 . Tremie pipe sections are removed as the concrete level rises but maintained 10 feet into the concrete. While the concrete is being placed. the bentonite slurry is pumped back to storage tanks for treatment and reuse. Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference .

The approach was developed based on data from flexible wall systems. The discussion of design methodologies will consider both structure loading and system movements. and typically assumes that the wall acts as a simple beam spanning between the brace levels (Terzaghi et al. Hence. 1996). such as a slurry wall system. the pattern of wall displacement that develops during the actual excavation and bracing sequence can have a major effect on the bending moments in the wall and the distribution of load to the bracing/anchors.March 23-25. This often means late nights and overtime. where typically all stages of the excavation sequence are evaluated. Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . Empirical Methods Stress Analysis Traditionally. The pressure envelope design approach is for a temporary support system and does not necessarily provide the long-term loading corresponding to the permanent condition after the end of excavation. contractor’s methods of construction. The design considerations should include not only the stresses and loads on the support system. In general. Empirical data also allow the designer to validate the general magnitudes and patterns of the results of more sophisticated analyses. and known local practice.g. Boscardin. For the more rigid slurry wall system. temporary endstops are removed by crane or jacks (see Photo of Special V Groove End Stop above).. Clough and O’Rourke. which include cases with relatively flexible walls and a stable subgrade. DESIGN (modified from Pearlman.End Stop Removal (if temporary) As the concrete is setting typically four hours after placement at a given depth. is incorporated into the permanent building foundation. 2005 Page 12 of 17 . a staged analysis that includes loading at each stage is required to evaluate the built-in stresses and strains that are locked into the final structure at the end of construction. 1990). Movement Analysis The use of empirical data for the evaluations of movements is a useful tool in evaluating potential effects of a proposed excavation on adjacent buildings. use of apparent pressure envelopes for design of stiffer systems can be misleading. and Walker 2004) The design analyses for excavation support systems can range from relatively simple empirical analyses to more complex computer analyses. When the temporary support system. proximity of structures. The level of effort for the evaluation often depends on the stage of the project. The empirical data can be used to estimate the zone of influence of the excavation as well as typical magnitudes of ground movements for various wall stiffness and subgrade stability conditions (e. but also the affect of construction movements on the response of adjacent structures. apparent pressure envelope loadings are most appropriate as upper bounds for cases that match the bases of the empirical data.. apparent pressure envelope methods have been used successfully to design flexible wall systems such as soldier pile and lagging and steel sheet-pile systems.

The modulus of subgrade reaction is not a true soil property. water. particularly soil stiffness and strength parameters. and passive earth pressure coefficients. 2005 Page 13 of 17 . Typically. and values for the modulus of subgrade reaction for the various soils that may affect the system. the spring loads change as soil. Typically. At the start of the model.March 23-25. at-rest. without significantly increasing the structural demand of the wall and bracing system. the required soil parameters include: unit weight. The soil and water pressures applied to the wall are representative of the actual pressures (not apparent pressure envelopes) expected in the system at each stage. At each stage of excavation or support system. and system movements. The models can incorporate interaction of the soil and the structure as the earth pressures vary with displacement. Three general methods have been used for staged construction analyses: Equivalent Beam Method Beam on Elastic Foundation Method Finite Element Method The equivalent beam method is outdated and rarely used in current practice. active. To be representative.Staged Excavation Analysis Staged excavation analyses use numerical approaches to model the actual sequence of excavation and brace installation by considering each stage of the excavation as it is constructed. conservative selection of the modulus of subgrade values should provide conservative estimates of ground movements. The soil springs load-displacement relationship (modulus of subgrade reaction) is determined by the input soil stiffness and governs the spring displacement until the limiting value of active or passive pressure is reached. and support system loads are applied or removed and lateral wall displacement occurs. Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . which varies with the size of the loaded area. The overall reliability of the structural requirements and displacement performance estimates determined from a staged excavation analysis is directly related to and very sensitive to the quality of the input parameters. the springs are compressed to create an initial load equal to represent a state of at-rest pressure. Beam on Elastic Foundation Method (BEF) The earth pressures are modeled with a series of independent spring supports similar to Winkler elastic foundation model. and calculated loads are representative of the actual loads (not upper bound loads). Discussion will focus on the beam on elastic foundation and finite element methods. Both approaches can be used to predict stresses. the predicted wall displacements are much more sensitive to the values of subgrade modulus used in the analysis than the predicted brace loads and wall bending moments. but rather depends on both the soil conditions and the geometry of the excavation being modeled. and the excavation support is installed and then removed. and hence does not include the effects of arching within the soil mass. Hence. The Winkler elastic foundation model approximates the wall-soil interaction with a onedimensional model instead of a two-dimensional model that includes the soil mass. the modulus of subgrade reaction needs to be adjusted based on the effective influence zone. loads.

In contrast to the BEF analysis. the FE analysis can provide direct information on the ground movements outside of and inside the excavation (see Figure 2 below). There are several computer programs that automate the analysis. A linear elastic. The BEF analytical model can provide useful insights into the behavior of the wall and the wall-soil boundary. The stress-strain response of the soil is represented by a mathematical soil model that can vary from a simple linear-elastic model to a complex nonlinear elasto-plastic model. The stress-strain response can be defined in terms of effective stresses or total stresses. Finite Element Methods (FE) Finite element models are typically two-dimensional models that include the soil mass surrounding the excavation. fully plastic Mohr-Coulomb soil model is often used. it is desirable to use a soil model that can model failure (plastic yield) when the soil strength is exceeded. where upon it becomes perfectly plastic. In this soil model.March 23-25. the ability to model volumetric changes in the soil (consolidation or dilation) may be important.The BEF method does not directly estimate vertical ground movements behind the wall. Some use Young’s modulus as input for the soil stiffness. Ground movements behind the wall are evaluated using the calculated wall displacement from the model. The required input parameters depend on the soil model used. In some problems. Generally. 2005 Page 14 of 17 . the soil acts linearly elastic until it reaches failure. and the automated computer programs make it easy to perform multiple analyses for optimizing the design and evaluating sensitivity to input parameters. The program then automatically converts the Young’s modulus values for the various soils to adjusted values of subgrade reaction modulus using closed-form elastic solutions. defined by the Mohr-Coulomb criterion. An empirical relationship between wall movement and ground movements must then be used. It can also be used to model the soil-structure interaction response of nearby structures to the excavation-induced ground movements. Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference .

local.. This in turn can result in an overestimate of the magnitude of displacements. PLAXIS) are making their use more common. FE models can be used to perform parametric studies to understand the relative effects of changes of parameters such as soil stiffness and excavation support stiffness and sequence on forces. by two times or more. They can also be used to estimate the absolute magnitudes and patterns of excavation support systems and ground movements which is much more difficult. In the past. stresses and displacements.g.Figure 2: Displacement Vectors from FEM Analysis Another difference between the FE and BEF methods is that variations in the soil stiffness (modulus) can have a greater effect on predicted loadings and movements due to the inclusion of soil arching in the FE model. user-friendly programs (e. 2005 Page 15 of 17 . field case history data during the selection of material parameters and to calibrate the numerical model to previous case histories. Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . A primary reason for the difficulty is the selection of reasonable stiffness values for the various materials that make up the soil mass. In general. values of stiffness based on laboratory and field tests tend to underestimate to a large degree the ground stiffness. This tendency can be tempered to a great degree by using representative. and the extent of the influence zone around an excavation. but new. performing FE analyses have been complex and time consuming to perform.March 23-25.

al.March 23-25. 2005 Page 16 of 17 . the design team could evaluate more design profiles. Pearlman et. The BEF program (WALLAP. the BEF and FE model had good agreement in predicting the local movement of the wall. (2004) note that overall the wall movements for the entire site are less than predicted. Figure 3: Modeled and Measured Wall Displacement Data Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . 2004 and Bonita (2005)). so it was used for the structural design of the wall system. the analyses for the structural design of the support system were performed using both BEF and FE models. as well as inclinometer data for the most heavily loaded design sections.al. This behavior is likely the result of the combination of conservative modulus values for the soils. The difference between the movements predicted by the BEF model and the larger movements predicted by the FE model is essentially the free field movement behind the anchor zones of the tiebacks. Figure 3 presents the predicted deflected shapes of the slurry wall for the BEF and FE model analyses. The FE model included the tieback anchors modeled within the soil mass. and conservative estimates of building surcharges used in the models. even in sections where there are no building surcharges.Comparison of BEF and FE Results For the United States Capital Visitor Center (Pearlman et. Two FE models were run to verify that the BEF model loadings and stresses were conservative. and to provide ground deformation predictions to compare to contract requirements. By using the BEF model. 1997) was easier and quicker to run than FE programs. In other words. The actual wall movement is less than the values predicted by both models.

G. S.L. Given the various options of permanent versus temporary endstops. 2005 Page 17 of 17 . An introduction to construction methods was presented. panel length and width. Orlando. and Mesri. K.March 23-25. and the economics of these options. Ph. Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice. Brookfield. 1990. R.D.. Version 4. Proceedings of 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . ASCE GSP No.. 439 . the final design of the diaphragm wall is often done as design/build working in close cooperation with the Owner. Mike Walker and Marco Boscardin. 1998. M. REFERENCES Bonita. and other case histories of successful excavation support projects in similar ground conditions.P. PLAXIS. MICE.. Rotterdam. Anchored and cantilevered retaining wall analysis program. Users Manual. “Deep Underground Basements for Major Urban Building Construction.470. Design techniques that involve sophisticated soil structure interaction models combined with local data and experience give a high level of confidence for predicting wall performance on projects surrounded by other structures. Peck.A. (ed. Third Edition. Finite Element Code for Soil and Rock Analyses. New York. MA.).D. D. CEng. T. "Construction induced movements of in-situ walls. GC. These models need to be calibrated to empirical predictions. NY. Brokgreve and Vermeer.D.." Design and Performance of Earth Retaining Structures. G. Borin. M. WALLAP. 28-31. Geosolve. et al.25.March 23-25. Jan. (2005) "United States Capital Visitor Center ". FL. W. Version 7. 2005 Clough. and Engineers. A. 1997.L.. Balkema. and O'Rourke. Diaphragm Walls 21st Central PA Geotechnical Conference . John Wiley & Sons.SUMMARY Permanent retaining walls with high groundwater tables can be economically constructed using concrete diaphragm walls. Pearlman. 1996. B. 2004. 2004.. Boscardin. Walker.. 349-360.G. Terzaghi.” Presented at Geo-Support 2004.. where control of building movement and damage are paramount to a successful project delivery. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Most of the design section of this paper was prepared By Seth Pearlman..

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