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Prediction of ultimate axial load-carrying capacity of piles using

a support vector machine based on CPT data


A. Kordjazi
a
, F. Pooya Nejad
a
, M.B. Jaksa
b,
a
Dept. of Civil Engineering, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran
b
School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering, University of Adelaide, Australia
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 18 July 2012
Received in revised form 2 August 2013
Accepted 2 August 2013
Available online 6 September 2013
Keywords:
Support vector machine (SVM)
Static pile load test
Cone penetration test (CPT)
Ultimate bearing capacity
a b s t r a c t
The support vector machine (SVM) is a relatively new articial intelligence technique which is increas-
ingly being applied to geotechnical problems and is yielding encouraging results. In this paper SVM mod-
els are developed for predicting the ultimate axial load-carrying capacity of piles based on cone
penetration test (CPT) data. A data set of 108 samples is used to develop the SVM models. These data were
obtained from the literature containing pile load tests and each sample contains information regarding
pile geometry, full-scale static pile load tests and CPT results. Moreover, a sensitivity analysis is carried
out to examine the relative signicance of each input variable with respect to ultimate strength predic-
tion. Finally, a statistical analysis is conducted to make comparisons between predictions obtained from
the SVM models and three traditional CPT-based methods for determining pile capacity. The comparison
conrms that the SVM models developed in this paper outperform the traditional methods.
2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Ultimate strength prediction is a fundamental aspect of pile
foundation design and there exists numerous methods for its
determination. Many of the available experimental or theoretical
methods for predicting pile capacity incorporate assumptions
associated with the parameters that control the ultimate strength
or bearing capacity and consequently simplify the problem [1].
Similarly, because of complex behavior of piles in soil, almost none
of the existing methods provides uniformly consistent and accu-
rate predictions of pile capacity. Consequently, alternative solu-
tions are required to overcome these limitations.
Recently, machine learning and data mining methods, such as
articial neural networks (ANNs), have been applied to many geo-
technical engineering problems and have demonstrated a consid-
erable degree of success [15]. The support vector machine
(SVM) is a relatively new articial intelligence technique which
is increasingly being applied to geotechnical problems and has
yielded encouraging results [612]. An important feature of the
SVM is that it endeavors to discover the rules (or functions) that
govern a phenomenon using only a set of data (a set of measured
inputs and their corresponding outputs). Hence, there is no need
to incorporate any assumptions to simplify the problem as, is often
the case with many traditional methods. In the case of pile capacity
prediction, Pal and Deswal [13] employed the SVM to model the
static axial capacity of high strength concrete spun pipe piles using
stress-wave data (results of dynamic pile load tests). Another
example is the model based on pile-driving records in cohesion-
less soils that uses the general pile geometry and the piles re-
sponse to the driving equipment as input patterns [11]. The studies
carried out by Samui [14] and Liu et al. [15] are two additional
examples of the application of the SVM to the prediction of axial
pile capacity. The former incorporates penetration depth ratio,
mean normal stress and the number of blows as input variables,
while in the latter greater emphasis was given to the soil proper-
ties in the form of shear strength parameters (cohesion and friction
angle), the standard penetration test results along the pile length
and tip resistance of pile-end soil.
In addition, prediction of the friction capacity of axially loaded
piles [16,17] and the ultimate capacity of laterally loaded piles in
clay [11,18] are other aspects of pile capacity modeled with the
SVM.
In this paper, the SVM is used to predict the ultimate capacity of
axially loaded piles, based on cone penetration test (CPT) data. The
CPT is a popular in situ test in geotechnical practice which, like
other in situ tests, eliminates the uncertainty associated with the
laboratory tests, such as sample disturbance, sample preparation
and reapplying the in situ conditions in the laboratory, as well as
the possible errors due to performing laboratory tests. The strength
parameters of soil, which are measured through the CPT, namely
cone tip resistance, q
c
, and sleeve friction, f
s
, are very similar to
the properties which inuence pile capacity (i.e. base and shaft
capacity or resistance) [19]. Moreover, this test provides nearly
0266-352X/$ - see front matter 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compgeo.2013.08.001

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: Alireza.kordjazi@gmail.com (A. Kordjazi), pooyaf@um.ac.ir (F.
Pooya Nejad), mark.jaksa@adelaide.edu.au (M.B. Jaksa).
Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102
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j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er . com/ l ocat e/ compgeo
continuous results of these measurements along the soil prole
that offers more detailed information about the changes through
the soil than discrete sampling and testing. Furthermore, it has
been shown that the CPT is the most accurate in situ test method,
with a random measurement error of 3% or less [20]. It, therefore,
is expected that using CPT data when modeling pile capacity can
lead to more accurate estimations. In order to develop a generic
model, this study also employs a database including a wide range
of pile and soil types. The main aims of the paper are to: (i) develop
reliable and robust SVM models for predicting the ultimate capac-
ity of single piles under axial loading; (ii) examine the sensitivity of
the model predictions with respect to the input variables; (iii) ex-
plore the inuence of three kernel functions and their parameters
on the performance of the SVM models; and (iv) compare the re-
sults of the SVM model with three traditional CPT-based methods.
2. Support vector machine (SVM)
The support vector machine was introduced in the 1990s based
on Vapniks statistical learning theory [21,22]. This method em-
ploys the structural risk minimization (SRM) principle to minimize
errors in the model, whereas other methods, such as ANNs, apply
empirical risk minimization (ERM) [3,23]. The primary purpose of
SRM is to simultaneously minimize the empirical risk (i.e. the er-
rors associated with the training set) and maximize the generaliza-
tion ability of the model. As a result, SRM has been found to be
superior to the ERM principle [3].
Briey, SVM estimates the regression by using a set of linear
functions, although, it can be developed using non-linear regres-
sion [3,7]. The solution of a regression problem within the SVM ap-
plied to a dataset (x
1
, y
1
), . . ., (x
l
, y
l
), x e R
m
, y e R is a linear function
f(x) as given below:
f x w x b 1
where l is the number of samples; x is the input vector; y is the out-
put value; w is the weight vector; b is the bias and hwxi shows the
inner product of the two vectors, w and x.
A loss function with an e-insensitive zone is also dened as
[3,8]:
L
e
y jy f xj
e

0 jy f xj e
jy f xj e otherwise
_
2
where L
e
(y) is the loss function and e > 0 is a constant value.
Nomenclature
A
s
pile-soil surface area
A
tip
cross sectional area of the pile tip
D pile width or diameter
b bias
b
0
optimum bias
C penalty parameter
C
y
j
d
j
covariance between the model output (y
j
) and the ob-
served output (d
j
)
d degree of polynomial kernel
d
j
measured (observed) output

d mean of the observed output (d


j
)
f unit shaft resistance (de Ruiter and Beringen [70] meth-
od)
f
s
cone sleeve friction in CPT

f
s
average cone sleeve friction
f
s1
, f
s2
, f
s3
average cone sleeve friction along rst, second and third
segment of the embedded length of the pile
f(x) regression function
K(,) kernel function
k
c
penetrometer capacity factor (Bustamante and Gianes-
elli [71] method)
L
e
loss function
L
embed
embedded length of pile
L Lagrange function
l number of samples
m dimension of x-vector
N
c
bearing capacity factor
N
k
cone factor (de Ruiter and Beringen [70] method)
n number of samples (to calculate the coefcient of corre-
lation)
O perimeter of pile
P
u
ultimate bearing capacity
P
um
measured (observed) ultimate capacity
P
um
average measured (observed) ultimate capacity
P
up
predicted ultimate capacity
P
50
50% cumulative probability
q unit tip resistance of pile (de Ruiter and Beringen [70]
method)
q
c
cone tip resistance in the CPT
q
cav
average cone tip resistance
q
ca
the equivalent cone tip resistance at the level of the pile
tip (Bustamante and Gianeselli [71] method)
q
1
, q
2
minimum average cone resistance in Schmertmann [69]
method
q
c1
, q
c2
, q
c3
average cone tip resistance along rst, second and
third segment of the embedded length of the pile
q
ctip
average cone tip resistance below the pile tip
r number of data in sensitivity analysis
R coefcient of correlation
RI rank index
R
s
ultimate shaft resistance
R
t
ultimate tip resistance
s
u
undrained shear strength
w weight vector
w
0
optimum weight vector
x input vector
x
r
, x
s
support vectors
y output
y
j
model output
y mean of the model output
a, a

Lagrange multiplier
a
0
adhesion factor (de Ruiter and Beringen [70] method)
a
b
a coefcient for calculating the unit tip resistance in the
Bustamante and Gianeselli [71] method
a
c
ratio of pile shaft resistance to the sleeve friction from
the CPT for clay (Schmertmann [69] method)
a
s
ratio of pile shaft resistance to the sleeve friction from
the CPT for sand (Schmertmann [69] method)
r width of the RBF kernel
r
0
width of Pearson VII kernel function
r
d
j
standard deviation of the measured output
r
y
j
standard deviation of the modeled output
x tailing factor of the peak in Pearson VII kernel function
h,i dot product operator
||w||
2
Euclidian norm of weight vector
e allowable error in the loss function
n
i
; n

i
slack variables
92 A. Kordjazi et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102
The goal is to identify a function that has the greatest e devia-
tion from the target actually obtained for all the training data
and at the same time as at as possible [22]. It has been shown
that, in order to achieve this objective, the following function must
be minimized [3,23]:
Uw; f

; f
kwk
2
2
C Rf

Rf 3
Subject to
y
i
w x b 6 e f
i
w x b y
i
6 e f

i
f
i
; f

i
P0
_

_
i 1; 2; . . . ; l 3a
where ||w||
2
is the Euclidian norm of weight vector, w; C is a con-
stant known as the penalty parameter which is >0; and f
i
and f

i
are slack variables. Fig. 1 illustrates the e-insensitive loss function
and the slack variables. A at function is one that seeks a small
weight vector (w) and to achieve such a small w, the Euclidian norm
of the weight vector must be minimized. Then, minimizing the rst
term in Eq. (3) ensures the atness of the function [22]. The concept
of the e-insensitive loss function also, allows the regression func-
tion to estimate the training samples output with some errors
and the slack variables represent the amount of these errors. There-
fore, minimizing the second term in Eq. (3) controls the model per-
formance on the training set. Finally, the constant C > 0 maintains a
trade-off between the atness of the regression function and the
threshold to which deviations larger than e are tolerated [22].
The function in Eq. (3) can be rewritten in the form of a La-
grange function:
La

; a e

l
i1
a

i
a
i
_ _

l
i1
y
i
a

i
a
i
_ _

1
2

l
i1

l
j1
a

i
a
i
_ _
a

j
a
j
_ _
x
i
x
j
4
where a and a

are Lagrange multiplier and L(a, a

) indicates the La-


grange function. The function above must be maximized subject to
the following constraints:
Ra

i
Ra
i
0 6 a

i
6 C
0 6 a
i
6 C
_

_
5
to determine the coefcients a and a

. The regression function


within the SVM is then calculated using [3]:
w
0

Support vectors
a

i
a
i
x
i
6
b
0

1
2
w
0
x
r
x
s
7
f x

Support vectors
a

i
a
i
x
i
x b
0
8
where w
0
and b
0
are the optimum values of the weight vector and
bias, respectively, and x
r
and x
s
are the support vectors.
Samples which have a non-zero Lagrange multiplier are known
as support vectors [3,23]. These samples have prediction errors lar-
ger than e and, hence in this way, the value of e determines the
number of support vectors [7].
It should be emphasized that, since the latest optimization
problem can be solved utilizing quadratic programming (QP) tech-
niques, achieving a global minimum (or maximum) is ensured ne-
gates any concern regarding local minima [23].
In order to develop a SVM model the constants e in the loss
function and the penalty parameter, C, must be dened by the user.
The constant C, the penalty function, maintains a balance between
empirical risk minimization (or good performance on the training
set) and maximizing the generalization ability of the model. A large
value of C assigns higher penalties to errors so that the regression
is trained to minimize errors with lower generalization, whereas, a
small C assigns fewer penalties to errors, which leads to higher
generalization ability [8].
As mentioned previously, the value assigned to e can alter the
support vectors characteristics and in this way can play a signi-
cant role in the models efciency. Although, assigning a large va-
lue to e causes a desired reduction in the number of support
vectors, achieving this goal by widening the e band does not neces-
sarily lead to the best results. In contrast, when this constant is
very small, the number of support vectors grows and the risk of
overtting also increases [7].
Finally, non-linear regression within a SVM can be achieved by
mapping the training patterns into a higher dimensional feature
space (where the linear regression is feasible) and then applying
the linear regression algorithm in that feature space. This process
poses computational difculties due to high dimensionality of
the feature space [22]. To avoid this problem the SVM employs ker-
nel functions. With a kernel function, data will be mapped implic-
itly into a feature space, thus the dimension of the feature space
will have no effect on the computational process [3,22,23]. To date,
many kernel functions have been introduced [23], although poly-
nomial and radial basis functions, specically, have been employed
successfully in geotechnical engineering problems [68]. As a re-
sult, Eqs. (6) and (7) can be rewritten as [3]:
w
0
x

Support vectors
a

i
a
i
_ _
Kx
i
; x 9
b
0

1
2

Support vectors
a

i
a
i
K x
r
; x
i
Kx
s
; x
i
10
where K(x
i
, x) is a kernel function used in non-linear regression.
Fig. 1. e-Insensitive loss function and slack variables [22].
A. Kordjazi et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102 93
3. Development of the support vector machine model
In this study a set of 108 samples is used to develop SVM mod-
els for predicting the ultimate capacity of single, axially-loaded
piles. Each sample contains information regarding pile geometry,
full-scale static pile load test and cone penetration test (CPT) re-
sults. The data were obtained from the literature containing pile
load tests and the references used to compile the database are gi-
ven in Table 1. Some of these data were used previously by Eslami
[24] (87 cases) and Pooya Nejad [25] (18 cases). The database
includes a wide range of pile and soil types: the pile materials in-
clude steel, concrete and composite; the pile shape square,
round, octagonal, triangle, pipe and H section; pile tip condition
closed and open; and the type of installation driven and bored.
The soil types include sands, clays and silts, in individual and mul-
tiple layers, with the soil properties of each varying spatially and
naturally as measured by the CPTs.
All piles were subjected to compression static load tests and the
ultimate capacity was calculated based on the results of these load
tests. The pile fails when rapid pile movement occurs with respect
to a constant value of applied load or small increase in it, and the
load corresponding to the failure load is considered the ultimate
capacity [26]. In cases where this failure point was not easily rec-
ognizable on the loadsettlement curve, the 80% criterion has been
used [27]. In other words, the load that yielded four times the
movement of the pile head, the ultimate pile capacity was taken
as 80% of that load. This criterion agrees well with the type of fail-
ure considered in this study [26].
The process of developing the SVM models has been divided
into a series of steps, as outlined in the following sections.
4. Model inputs and outputs
In order to obtain accurate prediction of pile behavior (includ-
ing settlement and capacity), an understanding of the factors
affecting pile behavior is required [63]. Pile geometry, pile material
characteristics, mechanical properties of soil and applied load are
well-established, key parameters in the calculation of ultimate pile
load capacity in many of the published methods. In a similar way,
the method of pile installation, pile tip condition (open or closed)
and the type of pile load test are other factors which can affect pile
capacity [63].
In this work, the results of CPTs are considered as quantifying
the soil properties. The CPT results consist of cone tip resistance
(q
c
) and sleeve friction (f
s
) along the piles embedded length. In or-
der to account more accurately for the variability of soil properties
along the pile length, the embedded length of the pile is sub-di-
vided to three segments of equal thickness [5] and the average of
q
c
and f
s
are calculated along each segment. Therefore, the input
variables used in the development of the SVM models are the:
(1) type of static pile load test (maintained or constant rate of pen-
etration); (2) pile material (steel, concrete and composite); (3)
method of pile installation (driven or bored); (4) pile tip (closed
or open); (5) embedded length of pile (L
embed
); (6) perimeter of
the pile in contact with the soil (O); (7) cross sectional area of
the pile tip (A
tip
); (8) average cone tip resistance along the embed-
ded length of the pile (q
c1
, q
c2
and q
c3
); (9) average sleeve friction
along the embedded length of the pile (f
s1
, f
s2
and f
s3
); and (10)
average cone tip resistance beneath the pile tip (q
ctip
) (over a depth
of three times of the pile width or diameter below the tip of the
pile). The ultimate load-carrying capacity of the pile (P
u
) is the sin-
gle output variable. It is important to note that this study does not
consider the separate components of ultimate capacity, that is, pile
tip and shaft resistance. Rather it aims to predict the total ultimate
bearing capacity of the pile as the sole output of the developed
models.
5. Data preparation
In order to develop an SVM model, the data set must be divided
into two subsets: training and testing [3,7]. The training set is used
to train the model and the performance of the model is evaluated
using the testing set. In this paper, 76.8% of the data (83 cases) are
used for training and the remainder (23.2% or 25 cases), are used
for validation (i.e. testing).
This paper considers SVM as an interpolation technique within
the range of the training data. Consequently, all patterns that are
contained in the training data need to be included in the testing
set. In addition, the ANN literature suggests that the data subsets
which are used for developing a model, need to exhibit similar sta-
tistical properties (e.g. mean, standard deviation and range) [64].
Numerous combinations of training and testing sets were exam-
ined and, while some inconsistencies are apparent, the statistical
parameters for each subset, as shown in Table 2, are reasonably
consistent.
After dividing the available data into their subsets, the variables
are pre-processed by scaling them to a suitable form. Scaling elim-
inates the variables dimension [63] and ensures that all inputs
roughly correspond to the same range of values [6]. In this study
all variables (input and output) are scaled between 0.0 and 1.0
by normalizing each variable against their maximum values.
Table 1
Database references.
Reference Location of test(s) No. of pile load tests
Abu-Farsakh et al. [28] Louisiana, USA 1
Albiero et al. [29] Sao Paulo, Brazil 2
Altaee et al. [30] Baghdad, Iraq 2
Avasarala et al. [31] Florida, USA 3
Bakewell Bridge
(unpublished)
Adelaide, Australia 1
Ballouz et al. [32] Texas A&M University 2
Briaud and Tucker [33] USA 36
Brown et al. [34] Grimsby, UK 2
Campanella et al. [35] Vancouver, Canada 4
CH2M Hill [36] Port of Los Angeles, USA 1
Fellenius et al. [37] ITD-Idaho 1
Fellenius et al. [38] ICS2 site, Portugal 1
Finno [39] Evanston, IL, USA 2
Florida Dept. of Transport [40] George Island Bridge 1
Gambini [41] Milan, Italy 1
Harris and Mayne [42] Georgia, USA 1
Haustorfer and Plesiotis [43] Australia 2
Horvitz et al. [44] Seattle, USA 1
Laier [45] Alabama, USA 1
Matsumoto et al. [46] Noto Island, Japan 2
Mayne [47] Georgia, USA 1
McCabe and Lehane [48] Belfast, Ireland 1
Neveles and Snethen [49] Oklahoma, USA 2
Nottingham [50] West Palm Beach, USA 1
Nottingham [50] Jefferson County, USA 1
Nottingham [50] Blount Island, USA 5
ONeill [51] Houston, USA 2
ONeill [52] SF, California, USA 1
Omer et al. [53] Brussels, Belgium 4
Paik and Salgado [54] Indiana, USA 2
Peixoto et al. [55] Brazil 1
Reese et al. [56] Texas, USA 2
Tucker and Briaud [57] Lock and Dam 26, SL, USA 3
Tumay and Fakhroo [58] Louisiana, USA 7
Urkkada Ltd. [59] Puerto Rico, USA 2
US Dept. of Transport [60] Route 351 Bridge 3
Viergever [61] Almere, Netherlands 1
Yen et al. [62] Taiwan 2
94 A. Kordjazi et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102
6. Training and model validation
As mentioned previously, in order to develop a non-linear SVM
model, kernel functions are employed. In this paper, three models
with three kernel functions are developed. The radial basis func-
tion (RBF), the Pearson VII function and the polynomial function
kernels are used in this study, which are shown in Eqs. (11)(13),
respectively [3,8,65].
Kx; x
i
expjx x
i
j
2
=2r
2
11
Kx; x
i
1 1 2

kx x
i
k
2
_

2
1=x
1
_
=r
0
_ _
2
_ _
x
_
12
Kx; x
i
hx; x
i
i 1
d
13
where constants r, x, r
0
and d are kernel parameters which must be
dened by the user; r is the width of the RBF, r
0
and x are the
width and tailing factor of the peak in the Pearson VII function,
respectively, and d is the degree of the polynomial kernel. In this
work, the SVM toolbox [66] in MATLAB has been used to develop
the SVM models.
Once model training has been accomplished successfully, the
performance of the trained model is then evaluated against data
that have not been used in the learning process (i.e. testing set).
Statistical criteria, namely the coefcient of correlation and root
mean squared error (RMSE), are used to evaluate the prediction
performance of SVM models. The coefcient of correlation (R) is
a measure that is often used to determine the relative correlation
between the predicted and measured data and can be calculated
as follows [5]:
R
C
y
j
d
j
r
y
j
r
d
j
14
C
y
j
d
j

1
n 1

n
j1
y
j
yd
j


d

1
n 1

n
j1
y
j
d
j

n
j1
y
j

n
j1
d
j
n
_ _
15
r
y
j

n
j1
y
j
y
2
=n 1
_
16
r
d
j

n
j1
d
j


d
2
=n 1
_
17
y

n
j1
y
j
n
18

n
j1
d
j
n
19
where y
j
is the model (predicted) output; d
j
is the observed output;
C
y
j
d
j
is the covariance between the model output (y
j
) and observed
output (d
j
); r
y
j
is the standard deviation of the model output (y
j
);
r
d
j
is the standard deviation of the observed output (d
j
); y is the
mean of the model outputs (y
j
);

d is the mean of the observed out-
puts (d
j
); and n is the number of data. Based on Smith [67], when
|R| P0.8, a strong correlation exists between the two sets of
variables.
The stages involved in the process of developing a SVM model,
described in the preceding sections, are briey summarized in a
ow chart in Fig. 2.
7. Results
In this study three SVM models have been developed. The rst
model (rbf_svm) incorporates a radial basis function as a kernel
function. The pvii_svm and poly_svm models employ Pearson VII
and polynomial kernel functions, respectively, to develop non-lin-
ear models. To achieve the optimum models, the design parame-
ters of the SVM model, namely the constants C, e, and the kernel
parameters have been identied using a trial and error process.
The results of SVM models are summarized in Table 3 with dif-
ferent values of e while the remaining parameters are held con-
stant. The table contains the number of support vectors in the
training set (N
sv
) and the values of R (coefcient of correlation)
and RMSE which have been assessed against the testing set. In
the table these values for the optimal models appear in boldface.
It can be seen that as e increases, the number of support vectors de-
creases, but, as previously mentioned, achieving the lowest predic-
tion error and the highest correlation with measured capacity, is
not necessarily obtained by increasing e. Similar to Table 3, the re-
sults of models developed with different penalty parameter values,
are shown in Table 4. This table also provides information about
sensitivity of the models with respect to C. As an example, the
rbf_svm model demonstrates almost no change in performance
when C P10. On the other hand, the efciency of the poly_svm
model when predicting pile capacity drastically decreases when
C P10.
Table 2
SVM input and output statistics.
Model variables
and data sets
Statistical parameters
Mean Std.
Dev.
a
Minimum Maximum Range
A
tip
(m
2
)
Training set 0.1827 0.1783 0.0080 0.7854 0.7774
Testing set 0.1519 0.1176 0.0080 0.5030 0.4950
O (mm)
Training set 1625.12 866.92 585.0 7341.3 6756.3
Testing set 1425.68 416.67 858.0 2510.0 1652.0
L
embed
(m)
Training set 15.70 10.36 5.50 67.00 61.50
Testing set 16.17 8.47 6.50 36.50 30.00
q
c1
(MPa)
Training set 4.13 3.17 0.02 15.07 15.05
Testing set 3.76 2.85 0.24 11.72 10.74
f
s1
(kPa)
Training set 74.17 59.03 0.73 283.94 283.21
Testing set 69.49 43.67 10.76 176.75 159.7
q
c2
(MPa)
Training set 6.21 5.86 0.32 30.71 30.39
Testing set 5.73 4.09 1.00 18.42 17.43
f
s2
(kPa)
Training set 103.52 96.91 2.12 618.66 616.54
Testing set 100.65 63.69 15.00 303.08 288.00
q
c3
(MPa)
Training set 7.36 6.07 0.27 32.59 32.32
Testing set 6.63 4.76 0.70 23.05 22.36
f
s3
(kPa)
Training set 126.57 95.58 7.99 396.57 388.58
Testing set 139.18 100.87 25.00 388.00 363.00
q
ctip
(MPa)
Training set 8.75 6.28 0.25 27.11 26.86
Testing set 9.03 6.03 1.15 22.30 21.15
P
u
(kN)
Training set 1988.20 1811.60 60.00 10910.00 10850.00
Testing set 1891.68 1302.78 520.00 5850.00 5330.00
a
Std. Dev. indicates Standard Deviation.
A. Kordjazi et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102 95
It can be seen that among the rbf_svm models, the model with
C = 1.1, e = 0.02 and r = 0.9 exhibits the lowest RMSE
(=318.85 kN) and consequently is the optimal model. Similarly,
with respect to the pvii_svm series, the most efcient model design
parameters are C = 0.95, e = 0.02, x = 7 and r
0
= 2 and evaluation of
the pvii_svm model against the testing set yielded R = 0.972 and
RMSE = 315.86 kN. Finally, the optimal poly_svmmodel, which pro-
vides R = 0.936 and RMSE = 469.62 kN on testing set, is developed
with C = 0.3, e = 0.005 and d = 1.95.
The results of the optimal model corresponding to each type of
kernel function are shown in Tables 5 and 6. Table 5 contains the
design parameters and the number of support vectors for each
model, while the reliability of the models, against both training
and testing sets, are summarized in Table 6. The plots of the mea-
sured versus predicted capacity, for these three models, are also
illustrated in Figs. 35. The results indicate that the pvii_svm and
rbf_svm models show negligible difference, but the pvii_svm model
performs slightly better than the rbf_svm model.
In order to identify the relative signicance of each input vari-
able with respect to ultimate pile load capacity prediction, a simple
method proposed by Liong et al. [68] has been utilized. In this
method the change in the model output is measured by varying
each of the input variables at a constant rate, and the sensitivity
of the model is calculated as follows:
S%
100
r

r
j1
%change in output
%change in input
_ _
j
20
where r indicates the number of data.
In this paper, a constant rate of 20% [7,9] is considered as the
change in input for each variable and a sensitivity analysis with re-
spect to cross sectional area of pile tip, perimeter of the pile in con-
tact with soil, embedded length of pile and CPT results (i.e. q
c
, f
s
and q
ctip
), for the rbf_svm model has been carried out. Finally, the
impact (inuence) factor of each input variable with respect to
the other variables affecting pile capacity is calculated and the re-
sults are summarized in Table 7.
It can be seen that the soil properties in the form of CPT mea-
surements, with a combined impact factor of 56.2% (which is
sum of three last rows in Table 7), has the most signicant effect
on the bearing capacity. Pile embedded length, the cross sectional
area of pile tip and pile perimeter are, respectively, the other most
signicant factors that inuence pile capacity. These results agree
well with understood soil and pile behavior.
No
Yes
Data Preparation
(i.e. model inputs and output;
scaling; training and testing sets)
Selecting kernel function
Selecting user defined variables
(C, , and kernel function's
parameter)
Undergoing the SVM algorithm
(Model training)
Model performance assessment
using statistical criteria
Model accepted
Statistical analysis
demonstrates
reasonable accuracy
Input vector x
Support vectors x
1
, x
2
, , x
n
Kernel function (K(x,x
i
))
Training process
Weight vectors (w
i
)
Output
Fig. 2. The summary of steps involved in the process of model development using the SVM (the training process by the SVM algorithm has been extracted from [22]).
96 A. Kordjazi et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102
8. Comparison between the results of SVM and methods based
on CPT
This section presents the results of a comparison between
predictions obtained from the SVM models and three traditional,
CPT-based methods for determining pile capacity. The methods
proposed by Schmertmann [69], de Ruiter and Beringen [70] and
Bustamante and Gianeselli [71] are employed in this study. These
methods are briey outlined below. For more details, readers are
referred to the main reference associated with each method.
Table 3
Number of support vectors, coefcient of correlation (R) and RMSE for SVM models, correspond to their optimum C and kernel values and different e.
Radial basis function (RBF) C = 1.1 and r = 0.9 Pearson VII function C = 0.95; x = 7 and r
0
= 2 Polynomial function C = 0.3 and d = 1.95
e N
sv
R RMSE e N
sv
R RMSE e N
sv
R RMSE
0.001 81 0.965 391.03 0.001 81 0.967 375.84 0.001 81 0.935 482.77
0.002 80 0.965 387.33 0.002 78 0.966 375.89 0.002 80 0.936 476.39
0.003 80 0.965 384.92 0.003 76 0.966 374.34 0.003 80 0.937 471.35
0.004 79 0.964 382.79 0.004 76 0.966 370.00 0.004 78 0.937 469.53
0.005 76 0.965 378.92 0.005 75 0.966 365.69 0.005 78 0.936 469.62
0.006 76 0.965 374.34 0.006 75 0.967 361.89 0.006 76 0.935 472.83
0.007 76 0.966 370.13 0.007 75 0.967 357.45 0.007 72 0.935 473.75
0.008 76 0.966 365.82 0.008 72 0.968 350.54 0.008 69 0.933 480.06
0.009 72 0.967 359.11 0.009 71 0.969 344.05 0.009 68 0.930 489.99
0.01 71 0.968 354.57 0.01 69 0.969 338.41 0.01 67 0.928 496.32
0.02 57 0.972 318.85 0.02 59 0.972 315.86 0.02 63 0.919 520.25
0.03 50 0.968 327.42 0.03 45 0.966 339.12 0.03 51 0.911 546.32
0.04 40 0.955 380.85 0.04 40 0.951 400.09 0.04 39 0.910 545.42
0.05 34 0.933 460.69 0.05 34 0.927 483.11 0.05 34 0.903 571.49
0.06 28 0.912 526.66 0.06 28 0.909 536.60 0.06 29 0.903 573.55
0.07 23 0.894 576.29 0.07 27 0.888 591.88 0.07 26 0.886 619.20
0.08 21 0.880 610.53 0.08 20 0.870 639.53 0.08 25 0.885 620.15
0.09 21 0.863 649.59 0.09 19 0.857 677.98 0.09 21 0.874 639.22
0.1 18 0.853 678.72 0.1 17 0.853 711.21 0.1 19 0.867 646.10
0.2 6 0.643 1284.00 0.2 6 0.651 1264.42 0.2 5 0.515 1180.68
0.3 4 0.544 1151.28 0.3 4 0.557 1112.62 0.3 3 0.419 1178.09
0.4 3 0.522 1120.11 0.4 3 0.540 1124.74 0.4 3 0.385 1224.95
0.5 3 0.495 1338.41 0.5 3 0.519 1354.54 0.5 3 0.323 1436.57
0.6 3 0.405 1701.68 0.6 3 0.441 1709.17 0.6 1 0.269 1679.10
0.7 2 0.032 2054.16 0.7 2 0.017 2052.96 0.7 1 0.269 1815.00
0.8 1 0.008 2137.48 0.8 1 0.008 2132.14 0.8 1 0.269 1962.30
0.9 1 0.008 2208.88 0.9 1 0.008 2206.24 0.9 1 0.269 2118.60
1.0 1 0.008 2282.06 1 1 0.008 2282.06 1 0 0.270 2282.05
Note: N
sv
= number of support vectors; R = coefcient of correlation; RMSE = root mean squared error (kN).
Table 4
Number of support vectors, coefcient of correlation (R) and RMSE for SVM models, correspond to their optimum e and kernel values and different C.
Radial basis function (RBF) e = 0.02 and r = 0.9 Pearson VII function e = 0.02; x = 7 and r
0
= 2 Polynomial Function e = 0.005 and d = 1.95
C N
sv
R RMSE C N
sv
R RMSE C N
sv
R RMSE
0.001 82 0.036 2013.05 0.001 82 0.038 2028.43 0.001 81 0.492 1369.64
0.01 65 0.186 1538.08 0.01 65 0.167 1547.76 0.01 75 0.864 893.93
0.05 61 0.813 1141.74 0.05 61 0.816 1139.87 0.05 75 0.894 693.09
0.1 57 0.884 962.90 0.1 57 0.873 966.66 0.1 74 0.904 613.24
0.15 60 0.887 867.18 0.15 57 0.885 860.80 0.15 75 0.918 545.15
0.2 60 0.898 804.71 0.2 59 0.898 792.99 0.2 75 0.930 497.69
0.25 60 0.911 750.89 0.25 58 0.918 743.22 0.25 77 0.934 476.45
0.3 60 0.924 709.95 0.3 57 0.932 695.47 0.3 78 0.936 469.62
0.35 57 0.934 668.82 0.35 56 0.944 638.08 0.35 77 0.935 484.05
0.4 56 0.942 618.24 0.4 54 0.953 579.52 0.4 78 0.931 520.36
0.5 57 0.957 523.57 0.5 55 0.961 477.43 0.5 77 0.928 553.73
0.6 55 0.963 457.51 0.6 54 0.970 415.52 0.6 74 0.925 575.07
0.7 56 0.967 416.42 0.7 58 0.973 370.05 0.7 75 0.922 595.43
0.8 56 0.970 378.25 0.8 58 0.975 336.96 0.8 75 0.920 613.55
0.9 56 0.972 348.48 0.9 59 0.974 318.06 0.9 76 0.916 641.44
0.95 55 0.973 337.36 0.95 59 0.972 315.86 0.95 78 0.914 656.95
1 56 0.973 328.26 1 58 0.970 318.07 1 77 0.912 670.84
1.1 57 0.972 318.85 1.1 59 0.966 335.88 1.1 75 0.908 699.22
1.2 58 0.969 325.36 1.2 58 0.960 367.78 1.2 76 0.903 731.38
1.5 59 0.959 392.18 1.5 57 0.950 443.56 1.5 76 0.894 787.90
2 58 0.955 435.77 2 55 0.948 463.47 2 75 0.889 816.18
5 58 0.949 489.87 5 52 0.946 484.26 5 72 0.896 746.28
10 58 0.947 493.10 10 55 0.947 478.61 10 76 0.860 851.56
100 57 0.946 491.63 100 55 0.947 477.62 100 81 0.796 1206.70
500 57 0.946 491.63 500 55 0.947 477.62 500 83 0.430 3735.31
Note: N
sv
= number of support vectors; R = coefcient of correlation; RMSE = root mean squared error (kN).
A. Kordjazi et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102 97
8.1. Schmertmann [69] method
Ultimate shaft resistance (R
s
) in cohesionless soils:
R
s
a
s
1
2
f
s
A
s

0 to 8D
f
s
A
s

8Dto L
embed
_ _
21
Ultimate shaft resistance in cohesive soils:
R
s
a
c
f
s
A
s
22
Ultimate tip resistance (R
t
):
R
t

q
1
q
2
2
_ _
A
tip
23
where D, A
s
and A
tip
are the pile width or diameter, pile-soil surface
area and pile tip area, respectively; a
s
and a
c
are the ratio of pile
shaft resistance to the sleeve friction from the CPT for sand and clay,
respectively; a
s
is a function of the ratio of the embedment length of
pile to the pile width or diameter and varies from 0.4 to 2.4; a
c
,
which varies between 0.2 and about 1.2, depends on the values of
the sleeve friction from CPT and also the method limits the product
of a
c
and f
s
to 120 kPa; f
s
is average sleeve friction; q
1
is the mini-
mum average cone resistance over a depth of 0.7 to 3.75D below
the pile tip and q
2
is the minimum average cone resistance over a
length of 8D above the pile tip. The average of q
1
and q
2
is also re-
stricted to an upper bound of 15 MPa.
Table 5
Design parameters and number of support vectors of optimum models.
Type of kernel
function (model)
Kernel
parameter
Optimum
value of C
Optimum
value of e
Number of
support
vectors
Radial basis
(rbf_svm)
r = 0.9 1.1 0.02 57
Pearson VII
(pvii_svm)
r
0
= 2;
x = 7
0.95 0.02 59
Polynomial
(poly_svm)
d = 1.95 0.3 0.005 78
Table 6
Results of the optimum models with respect to training and testing sets.
Type of kernel function (model) Training set Testing set
R RMSE (kN) R RMSE (kN)
Radial basis (rbf_svm) 0.979 394.38 0.972 318.85
Pearson VII (pvii_svm) 0.982 372.25 0.972 315.86
Polynomial (poly_svm) 0.966 471.41 0.936 469.62
Note: R and RMSE indicate the coefcient of correlation and root mean squared
error, respectively.
Fig. 3. Measured versus predicted capacity for SVM model with radial basis
function: (a) training set and (b) testing set.
Fig. 4. Measured versus predicted capacity for SVM model with Pearson VII kernel:
(a) training set and (b) testing set.
Table 7
Sensitivity analysis of the relative importance of the SVM input variables.
Input parameter Sensitivity respect to other input variables (%)
A
tip
14.77
O 12.20
L
embed
16.79
q
cav
23.41
f
sav
22.31
q
ctip
10.52
98 A. Kordjazi et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102
8.2. de Ruiter and Beringen [70] method
Unit shaft resistance (f) in sand:
f min
q
c
=300
f
s
local sleeve friction
120 kPa
_

_
24
Unit shaft resistance in clay:
f a
0
s
u
25
Unit tip resistance (q) in clay:
q N
c
s
u
26
where q
c
and f
s
are cone resistance and sleeve friction, respectively;
a
0
is an empirical adhesion factor (in NC clays is 1 and in OC clays is
0.5); N
c
is bearing capacity factor for u = 0, then N
c
= 9 and s
u
is the
undrained shear strength and can be estimated by the following
formula:
s
u

q
c
N
k
27
where N
k
is the cone factor which varies between 15 and 20.
The calculation of the ultimate pile tip capacity in this method
is similar to the Schmertmann [69] method.
8.3. Bustamante and Gianeselli [71] method
Ultimate unit shaft resistance:
f
q
c
a
b
28
where the coefcient a
b
is a function of pile type (pile material and
the method of installation) and q
c
is the CPT cone resistance along
the pile embedded length.
Ultimate unit tip resistance:
q k
c
q
ca
29
where k
c
is the penetrometer capacity factor and depends on the
soli material and the method of pile installation; q
ca
is the equiva-
lent cone resistance at the level of the pile tip. This equivalent value
is the average of the cone resistance over the length of 1.5D over
and under the pile tip, after modifying the cone resistance prole
over this length. Limiting values on both unit shaft and tip resis-
tances have been proposed, which must be considered in the pile
capacity estimation with this method.
The same testing data set was applied to these models as were
presented to the SVM models, although three samples were not in-
cluded because of a lack of relevant information. In this work, an
approach used by Briaud and Tucker [33] is used to statistically
analyze the performance of the methods and to rank them. How-
ever, an attempt to evaluate the performance of the CPT methods
based only on statistical analysis can yield misleading conclusions
and one must also consider the comparison plot of predicted ver-
sus measured ultimate capacities [19,33]. Statistical analysis has
been carried out based on four criteria:
(1) The equation of the best t line of estimated (P
up
) versus
measured pile capacity (P
um
) with the corresponding coef-
cient of determination (R
2
) [19].
(2) The arithmetic mean and standard deviation of P
up
/P
um
[33].
(3) The 50% cumulative probability (P
50
) of P
up
/P
um
[19,72].
(4) The coefcient of efciency (E) [9].
The corresponding method is more efcient when the tangent
of the best t line and R
2
are closer to approach unity. Similarly,
the model performs better when the mean of P
up
/P
um
approaches
unity and the standard deviation of P
up
/P
um
approaches zero
[19,33]. The concept of the third criterion is to arrange P
up
/P
um
val-
ues for each method in an ascending order, and then estimate the
cumulative probability from the following equation [19]:
P i=r 1 30
where i is the order number given for the considered ratio; and r is
the number of data. An optimal model exhibits a value of P
up
/P
um
which is close to unity [19].
Finally, the coefcient of efciency, E, is calculated as [9]:
E E
1
E
2
=E
1
31
E
1

r
t1
P
um
P
um

2
31a
E
2

r
t1
P
up
P
um

2
31b
where P
um
,

P
um
and P
up
are the measured, average and predicted
ultimate capacity, respectively. The E value compares the modeled
and measured values of the variable and evaluates how well the
model is able to explain the total variance of the data [9].
In order to quantify the overall performance of the developed
models and each traditional, CPT-based method, an overall rank in-
dex (RI) is used. The rank index is dened as the sum of the ranks
from the different criteria (i.e. RI = R1 + R2 + R3 + R4). The lower the
rank index, the better the performance of the method [19]. The re-
sults of the statistical analysis are summarized in Table 8.
The best t line of P
up
versus P
um
and the corresponding coef-
cient of determination have been obtained by an ordinary least
squares regression analysis and the results are illustrated in
Fig. 5. Measured versus predicted capacity for SVM model with polynomial
function: (a) training set and (b) testing set.
A. Kordjazi et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102 99
Fig. 6. It can be seen that both the rbf_svm and pvii_svm models
with P
t
= 0.94P
um
and R
2
= 0.94 yield the best performance and
hence they rank number one based on this criterion (i.e. R1 = 1).
Since P
t
= 0.94P
um
, these models tend to underestimate the mea-
sured ultimate capacity, on average, by 6%. In a similar way, the
other methods have been investigated and the results are summa-
rized in the column corresponding to R1 in Table 8.
As shown in Table 8, the pvii_svm model, with arithmetic mean
and standard deviation values of P
up
/P
um
of 1 and 0.22 respectively,
ranks rst with respect to the second criterion. On the other hand,
the Bustamante and Gianeselli [71] method ranks last.
The plots of P
up
/P
um
versus cumulative probability, for the
SVM models and three traditional, CPT-based methods are also
illustrated in Fig. 7. Again, both the pvii_svm and rbf_svm model
Table 8
Results of statistical evaluation.
Method Best t Calculation Arithmetic calculation of P
up
/P
um
Cumulative probability Coefcient of efciency Overall rank
Pfit
Pum
R
2
R1 Mean Std. Dev. R2 P
up
/P
um
at P
50
R3 E R4 RI Final rank
pvii_svm 0.94 0.94 1 1.00 0.22 1 0.97 1 0.94 1 4 1
rbf_svm 0.94 0.94 1 0.99 0.23 2 0.97 1 0.94 1 5 2
poly_svm 0.95 0.88 3 0.96 0.29 3 0.91 3 0.86 3 12 3
Schmertmann [69] 1.19 0.82 5 1.12 0.39 4 1.04 2 0.52 5 16 5
deRuiter and Beringen [70] 1.08 0.91 2 1.14 0.37 5 1.11 4 0.87 2 14 4
Bustamante and Gianeselli [71] 0.86 0.84 4 0.85 0.34 5 0.77 5 0.79 4 18 6
Note: Std. Dev. = Standard deviation; P
50
= Cumulative probability at 50%.
Fig. 6. Measured versus predicted capacity for different SVM models and CPT methods (solid line and dashed line indicate best t and perfect t lines, respectively):(a)
rbf_svm; (b) pvii_svm; (c) poly_svm; (d) de Ruiter and Beringen [70]; (e) Bustamante and Gianeselli [71]; and (f) Schmertmann [69].
100 A. Kordjazi et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 55 (2014) 91102
with P
50
= 0.97 and the highest coefcient of efciency (E = 0.94),
show the best performance, according to these criteria.
Finally, based on the nal two columns of Table 8, it can be con-
cluded that the SVM models outperform the three traditional, CPT-
based methods. Among the SVM models, the pvii_svm performs
best, followed by the rbf_svm and the poly_svm models, as ob-
served previously.
9. Conclusions
The support vector machine (SVM) technique was used to
predict the ultimate load carrying capacity of single, axially
loaded piles. Three SVM models with three kernel functions,
namely radial basis (RBF), Pearson VII and polynomial functions
have been developed and among these models the ones with
Pearson VII and RBF kernel demonstrate superior performance.
The results indicate that the model with Pearson VII kernel
has the ability to predict the ultimate bearing capacity with a
high degree of accuracy (R = 0.972 and RMSE = 315.86 kN), for
capacities up to about 11,000 kN. Results of the sensitivity
analysis on the SVM model developed using the RBF kernel,
indicate that the CPT results, which are representative of soil
properties, have the most signicant effect on pile capacity.
Finally, the results of a statistical analysis indicate that the
SVM models provide more accurate pile capacity prediction
when compared to three CPT-based methods, namely the
Schmertmann [69], de Ruiter and Beringen [70], and Bustamante
and Gianeselli [71] methods.
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