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EUROCK 2006 – Multiphysics Coupling and Long Term Behaviour in Rock Mechanics –

Van Cotthem, Charlier, Thimus & Tshibangu (eds)

© 2006 Taylor & Francis Group, London, ISBN 0 415 41001 0

Stress-released slope movement induced by excavation in fault zone

Z.Y. Yang
Department of Civil Engineering, Tamkang University, Taipei, Taiwan

J.Q. Hsiao
Hsiao-Jong-Quan Geotechnical Consultant, Tauyuan, Taiwan

H.M. Chen
Kung-Sing Engineering Corporation, Taipei, Taiwan

ABSTRACT: A 5 m shallow excavation in Hsinchuang fault zone in Taiwan causes a serious slope movement.
Numerous tensile cracks indicating slope instability appear at the upper ground surface to 80 m far away from
the open cut. A trial excavation in 3 m depth is carried out in field to investigate the lateral displacement behavior
of the high-stressed material in fault zone. To monitor the free displacement of the cut, no support is applied and
an inclinometer is pre-installed close to the wall of excavation. After excavating, a surface tension-crack opening
5 cm in width is rapidly developed in 2 hours. Finally, the squeezing wall of excavation failed in toppling by the
tension crack. This field observation indicates that the faulted material is in a highly stressed condition and is
quickly squeezing by the released stress.


A shallow excavation with 5 m depth of dormitory

building in Hsinchuang fault zone for MRT main-
tenance in northern Taiwan causes a rapidly lateral
slope movement. Building near the excavation was
tilted and several tensile cracks extended far from
the ground surface of upper slope of dormitory cut.
The range of surface cracking progressively reaches Figure 1. Section of soil formation of the dormitory and
to 80 m far away from the cut in five days. It reveals an retaining wall in the slope.
instability phenomena or rapid landslip in this slope.
However, this angle of this slope in landscape (see
Figs. 1–3) is smaller than 6◦ . This is very safe in slope
stability. According to the experimental data and sup-
port design, the excavation and support system actually
are on the safe side. In the other hand, the field dis-
placement measurements of inclinometers show that
the possible slip surface of landslip in this slope is
not a circular, but limited within a certain distance.
This implies that the slip surface could be cut off by a
vertical tension crack in a certain distance.
This study is aimed to explore the failure mech-
anism of this slope movement in fault zone due to
excavation. A trial cut (10 m × 4 m in area) of vertical
opening with 3 m depth, no applied support, is per-
formed beside by the dormitory in the field. In order
to observe and measure the wall lateral displacement
by pre-setup inclinometer close to the face of cut in Figure 2. Front view of the gentle landscape and dormitory
50 cm. site.

fault breccias


Axial stress (Kg/cm2)


Figure 3. Location of dormitory excavation related to 0.2

retaining wall.

water content : 32.5%

0 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08
Axial strain

Figure 5. Stress-strain behavior of fault breccias and the

sheared fracture plane.

inclinometer (at 1 m depth)
Lateral Displacement (mm)


2nd Excavating

-8 1st Excavating & Backfill

Figure 4. Topography of the MRT plan and the fault zone -16
distribution. 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400
(2004 /1/ 1) Time (day) (2005 /1/7)
Figure 6. Measurement of lateral displacement by incli-
This location of MRT dormitory buildings is close to nometer (at 1 m depth).
a reversal fault -Hsinchuang fault (see Fig. 4). Actu-
ally, the formation material of ground within cut is the 3 MEASUREMENT OF SLOPE MOVEMENT
fault breccias (with mudstone, shale and sandstone)
in faulted zone which is highly stressed. As shown in Before the excavation of dormitory building, a retain-
figure 3, the stick-slip in the axial stress- strain curve ing wall system of concrete grid-beam with bolts 6 m in
of mudstone (see Fig. 5) indicates the inhomogeneity long (see Figs. 2–3) was constructed in the upper slope
of fault breccias. The coarse grain of fault breccias also to stabilize the surface deposit. Several inclinome-
appears in the sheared surface of mudstone under axial ters were setup to monitor the slope stability during
compression. The grain shape of these fault breccias the dormitory excavation. The excavation of dormitory
is sub-rounded and the maximum size is about 2.6 cm. located near 20 m to the toe of retaining wall. In design
The properties of the mudstone are: residual cohe- stage, the excavation method is to be cut in 45◦ slope,
sion (C) = 0.4 kg/cm2 , the residual friction angle = because of the high safety in the gentle landscape.
25◦ (from the direct shear test), unit weight = 23 kN/m3 , In March 2004, during the excavating of dormitory
and moisture content = 8%. (named 1st excavation), a remarkable displacement
The amount of free swelling for mudstone in water was monitored by the inclinometers (see Figure 6). An
content of 15% is up to 3∼12%. The swelling poten- urgent backfill into the excavation space in the field is
tial of the mudstone impacting on slope stability is the determined and stop this excavating. Moreover, to
most concern in previous design suggestion for this guarantee the safe in successive excavating of dor-
MRT excavation project. However, the mudstone sam- mitory building, a series of PIP piles in 10 m long
ple (with fault breccias) contains 84% finer of clay. were driving near the toe of retaining wall (Hsiao et al.
From, the experimental result, it shows that the per- 2005).
meability of groundwater in this ground formation is After four months, for a second time the excavation
very small and the seepage of groundwater is very (2nd excavation) is opening deep to 5 m. However,
slow. Thus, the swelling could not be the possible for a violent displacement as shown in Figure 6 as well
this rapid slope movement. appears in the measurement of inclinometer. The total

Figure 7. Monitoring inclinometer is pre-setup close to the
trial vertical open cut.

lateral displacement at 1 m depth is about 16 mm in a

short period. During this period, no remarkable pre-
cipitation of rainfall and excavating work take place
near this site. In addition, at the upper ground surface,
numerous tensile cracks reach to 80 m far away from
the open cut. The abnormal influence distance by this
excavation in fault zone is 16 times of the excavating
The existence of such tensile cracks indicates that in
a certain zone of the potential sliding mass the tension
force has exceeded the tension strength of the slope
medium (Zhang & Chowdhury 1989). This means that
the retaining wall and driving piles are insufficient to
stabilize the slope movement. The mechanism of slope
movement in this gentle slope is ambiguous and thus
a trial excavation is determined.


A trial cut of vertical opening with 3 m depth (10 m ×

4 m area in size) is carried out beside the dormitory in
the field. In order to monitor the real lateral displace-
ment close to the wall of excavation, an inclinometer
is set up very close to the cut face in 50 cm (see Fig. 7).
For measuring the free displacement behavior, no sup-
port is applied to this trial excavation. Four sensors
are setup at depth of 1.5, 2.5, 5 and 10 m to record the
lateral displacement. Each lateral displacement data
in the inclinometer is automatically recorded in each
5 minutes.
As shown in Figures 7 and 8, a curve tension-crack
in 5 cm width at the ground surface (see Fig. 9) is
rapidly developed in 2 hours after excavating. The
tension crack gradually vertically extended to deep
and became wider. A rock block (in 1 m thickness)
within this tension zone is squeezing outward step by
Figure 8. The failure procedure of tension-crack and top-
step. Finally, this rock block is toppling failure in five
pling failure in 2 hours after excavating.
minutes. The vertical surfaces of this tension cracks

Figure 9. Lateral displacement rate at different depth of
faulted material by stress released. Figure 10. A safe excavation in normally-consolidated
clayey soils in Hsinchu of northern Taiwan.
in sidewall are very rough shown in Figure 8(c). This
demonstrates the mechanism of cracking is fractured residual stress. The observation of this research indi-
in tension. The lateral movement of excavation wall is cates that the faulted material in this MRT mainte-
mainly contributed by the tension-crack opening and nance site displays the property of a squeezing ground.
wall squeezing.
Figure 9 shows the rate of lateral displacement at 5.2 Critical tension crack
different depth. It is found that the lateral displace- A normally-consolidated formation of cohesive soil in
ment is mobilized from 10 minutes after complete northern Taiwan being excavated deep into about 3 m
cutting. Then, the extension rate of tension cracking is shown in Figure 10. This figure demonstrates that
is kept constant. Finally, the rate decreases due to the the excavation is very safe. Actually, the excavation
separation of this rock block where the inclinometer is smaller than its critical excavation depth in a cohe-
is setup. The rate of displacement at 1.5 m depth is sive soil. Therefore, the critical depth of excavation
faster than that at 2.5 m depth. The rate of tensile-crack to form a tension crack in this trial excavation is more
opening is about 17.5 mm per hour (i.e. 0.3 mm/min) at than 3 m. However, a visible tension crack and remark-
the top surface for this fault zone. In the other hand, the able displacement appeared rapidly. The result shows
rate of tension crack opening at 2.5 m depth is 4.2 mm that the slope movement is primarily caused by pro-
per hour (i.e. 0.07 mm/min). Therefore, the cracking gressively stress releasing. The displacement rate of
rate is about 4 times per meter in depth direction. The faulted material is much faster as we know.
tension crack rapidly propagates to 1 m in depth within As a result of stress-released, additional earth pres-
10 minutes. sure released from the in-situ stress will applied to
the man-made supporting system. To ensure the safe
of excavating within fault zones, this additional
5 DISCUSSIONS AND CONCLUSIONS earth pressure must be taken into consideration. The
approach of small-region excavating in turns to reduce
5.1 Creep or squeezing the rate of released-stress is preferential. In practice, a
The time-dependent behavior of lateral displacement quick supporting scheme or pre-cast retaining system
of fault material actually is linear during excavating. is suggested. However, the quantity of released stress
This time-dependent displacement behavior is very or displacement rate needs greater study.
different to the typical creep behavior which has the
primary, secondary and tertiary creep stages. It is also REFERENCES
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of overstressing. Squeezing implies rock mass failure Zhang, S. & Chowdhury, R.N. 1989. Identification of critical
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