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Efficiency of Pile Groups in Clay under Different Loading Rates

Abdullah I. Al-Mhaidib
Department of Civil Engineering, King Saud University
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia







ABSTRACT

A

total of forty model tests have been conducted to examine

the
behavior of axially loaded pile groups under different loading rates. The
tests were conducted in a clayey soil bed prepared in a test tank. The
pile groups have five different configurations with center-to-center
spacing of three or nine times

the pile diameter. The model piles were
subjected to axial compressive loads at four different loading rates.
Along with the pile groups, a single pile was also tested. Test results
indicated that the effect of loading rate on the efficiency of pile group,
within a group configuration, for the different pile group configurations
is insignificant. For the same center-to-center spacing between piles in a
group, the pile

group efficiency reduces with increasing number of piles
in

a group. The efficiency increases with the increase in spacing between
piles in a group. The efficiency values obtained in this study are in good
agreement with those reported in the literature and with those calculated
from Convese-Labarre equation.


KEY WORDS: Pile Group; Pile Capacity; Group Efficiency; Loading
Rate; Clay.



INTRODUCTION

Loading rate has been found to significantly affect the strength of
cohesive soils. Laboratory studies have shown that the undrained shear
strength of clays increases as the rate of loading increases (Richardson
and Whitman, 1963; Vaid et al., 1979; Kimura and Saitoh, 1983; Nakase
and Kamei, 1986; Kulhawy and Mayne, 1990; Awoleye et al. 1991;
Lacasse, 1995; Sheahan et al., 1996; Matesic and Vucetic, 2003).

The limited studies on the effect of loading rate on axial capacity of
single piles in clay have shown that the capacity increases as the loading
rate increases (Kraft et. al, 1981; Horvath, 1995; Al-Mhaidib, 2001).

The behavior of pile groups under the applied loads is generally
different from that of a single pile due to the interaction of neighboring
piles. The overall behavior of a pile group is given by the efficiency of
the group. To the writers knowledge, the literature on the effect of
loading rate contains no known published data about the behavior of
axially loaded pile groups in clay under different loading rates. It
is, therefore, of practical importance to investigate the influence of the
rate of loading on the axial capacity of pile groups and examine the
behavior of such piles under different loading rates.

This paper presents the results of a series of model pile group tests
performed in the geotechnical laboratory at King Saud University,
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The model piles were subjected to axial
compressive loads at different loading rates. The effect of loading rate
on the efficiency of pile groups in clay has been investigated.


TEST SETUP

All model tests were conducted using the setup shown in Fig. 1, which
consists of a soil tank, model pile group, and loading machine. The soil
tank was made from steel with dimensions of 500 mm x 800 mm x 800
mm deep. These dimensions were chosen so that the tank can be put
inside the testing machine. The model piles were smooth steel piles
having a diameter of 25 mm and a length of 550 mm. Five different
configurations of the pile groups 2 x 1, 3 x 1, 2 x 2, 2 x 3, and 3 x 3
were used. The spacing between the piles is 3d or 9d , where d is the
pile diameter.

The vertical load was applied to the model piles by means of 10 ton
compression test machine. It is a displacement controlled machine with
rate capability in the range 0.0001 to 59.99 mm/min. A 10 kN capacity
load cell was used to record the applied load. The load cell was placed
at the bottom of the testing machine top reaction beam. Pile head
displacement was measured using a linear variable displacement
transducer (LVDT) having a 25 mm range with 0.001 mm sensitivity.
Data acquisition system and laptop computer were used during the test
to monitor and store displacement and load.


SOIL CHARACTERISTICS

The soil used in this study was a homogeneous soil with a brown color
obtained from a brick factory in Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia. It is
Proceedings of the Sixteenth (2007) International Offshore and Polar Engineering Conference
Lisbon, Portugal, July 1-6, 2007
Copyright 2007 by The International Society of Offshore and Polar Engineers(ISOPE)
ISBN 978-1-880653-68-5; ISBN 1-880653-68-0(Set); ISSN 1098-6189 (Set)
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sold in a powder form under the trade name "fire clay". Specific
gravity, Atterberg limits, and grain size analysis were determined in
accordance with ASTM test standards. The average properties of the
clay are shown in Table 1. Based on the Unified Soil Classification
System (USCS), the clay is classified as CL. The soil grain-size
distribution curve is presented in Fig.2.

Loading machine Soil tank Model piles
Control unit for applying loading rate LVDT Load Cell

Fig. 1. Experimental Setup


Table 1. Average geotechnical properties of the clay

Parameter Value
Specific gravity of solids
Sand content (%)
Silt content (%)
Clay content (%)
Liquid limit (%)
Plastic limit (%)
Plasticity index (%)
Unified Soil Classification System
2.80
22
30
48
36
22
14
CL

30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
Grain Diameter (mm)
P
e
r
c
e
n
t


F
i
n
e
r

(
%
)
sample 1
sample 2

Fig. 2 . Grain size distribution curve for the clay



NUMBER OF MODEL TESTS

A total of 40 tests were performed. For each pile group configuration,
four model tests were performed at constant loading rates of 0.01, 0.05,
0.1, and 1 mm/min. The details of the tests performed are shown in
Table 2.



Table 2. Number of tests performed

Pile group
configuration
Spacing
between piles
Number of
tests
3 d 4
2x1
9 d 4
3 d 4
3x1
9 d 4
3 d 4
2x2
9 d 4
3 d 4
2x3
9 d 4
3x3 * 3 d 4
Single - 4
Total 40

* Tests for 33 pile group with the space between the piles of 9 d could
not be performed with the available setup because of the width of the
soil tank.


Few tests have been repeated to ascertain the variations in test results, if
any. It was observed that there was practically no variation in the results
of the replicate tests.








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EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURE

Consolidation of Clay

The clay sample was air-dried and an amount of water equal to 30% of
the dry weight of the soil was added. The moist clay was thoroughly
mixed and then stored in air-tight plastic bags, sealed in plastic wrap to
avoid loss in moisture content. It was allowed to cure at room
temperature for about 24 hours to allow uniform distribution of
moisture content.

The soil samples were consolidated in the soil tank. Four drainage holes
were drilled, two in each side, at a distance of 25 mm from the bottom
of the tank. In each drainage hole, a valve was installed to control water
drain during consolidation and testing stages. Before placing the soil
into the test tank, a 50-mm layer of poorly graded sand was placed on
the bottom of the test tank, which serves as a pervious base for reducing
the consolidation time. Above this layer, a geotextile sheet was placed
to separate the clay from the sand layer. Thereafter, the clay was placed
by hand in the test tank in three layers. The weight of clay required for
the first layer to obtain a unit weight of 19 kN/m
3
was packed into the
test tank by hand in lifts, with the interface between the lifts being
made uneven, to reduce the bedding effects. A thick rigid steel plate
with a thickness of 6 mm, covering the entire length and width of the
test tank, was placed on the surface of the top layer of the clay. Several
holes with diameters of about 5 mm were punched into the plate to
allow for drainage a long the upper surface of the clay layer. Sheets of
filter paper were placed along the sides of the test tank and between the
clay and the loading plate to speed up the consolidation process.

In order to reach the specified consolidation pressure, a high stack of
dead weights was required. This makes them unstable since they would
extend far above the top of the test tank. It was therefore, decided to
construct the consolidation frame (shown in Figure 3) with a lever arm
ratio of 1:10. It is possible to apply a quite large consolidation pressure
using this frame. The test tank rests on a 20-mm thick steel plate that is
supported by I-beams. The load is transferred to the soil by a weight
hanger with a lever arm. The hanger consists of a lower and upper cross
beams and a cantilevered beam with a pin connection at one end and a
cradle for weights at the free end. The load is applied by placing slotted
dead weights on the cradle. After the test tank was mounted in the
consolidation frame, a consolidation pressure of 20 kPa was applied.
Soil deformation was monitored and readings of settlement were taken
at certain time intervals until the relationship between settlement and
the logarithm of time became nearly horizontal. The settlement of the
clay was measured by means of two dial gauges, which were connected
to the upper plate. The load was then doubled to 40 kPa. The settlement
was taken with time until the time which the settlement change was
insignificant.

After the completion of the consolidation of the first layer, a 6-mm
rigid steel plate was placed on the top of the first layer to locate the
position of the model pile groups in the test tank. This plate is similar to
the plate used in the first layer, but it has several holes with diameters
slightly larger than the pile diameter to prevent the piles from
interfering with the plate during the consolidation process. There are
five different perforated plates (one for each pile configuration)
depending on the number of piles in a group and on the center-to-center
spacing of piles in a group. Thereafter, the model piles were placed in
their positions and the steel plate was lifted up and was taken out from
the test tank. The model piles were smooth steel piles having a diameter
of 25 mm and a length of 550 mm. The clay of the second layer was
then packed into the test tank around the model piles according to the
procedure followed for the first layer. Thereafter, the perforated plate
was place above the top of the second layer. A steel pipe was inserted
to connect the plate with the loading arm to transfer the consolidation
load to the soil without affecting the model piles. After that, the clay
soil was subjected to the same consolidation loads (20 kPa and 40 kPa)
in the same manner as done in the first layer. Finally, the third clay
layer was consolidated according to the procedure followed for the
second layer.


Fig. 3. Schematic diagram of consolidation frame



Pile Compression Tests

After the consolidation process of the clay had been completed, the
consolidation loads were removed, and the test tank was carefully
removed from the consolidation frame and immediately mounted on the
testing machine. Thereafter, the drainage valves were closed and the
specified loading rate was set. The vertical load was applied to the
model piles by means of 10 ton compression test machine. A 10 kN
capacity load cell was used to record the applied load. The load cell
was placed at the bottom of the testing machine top reaction beam. Pile
head displacement was measured using a linear variable displacement
transducer (LVDT) having a 25 mm range with 0.001 mm sensitivity.
Data acquisition system and laptop computer were used during the test
to monitor and store displacement and load.

The model piles were subjected to axial compressive loads until the pile
displacement reached 15 mm. For each pile group configuration, four
compressive model tests were performed at constant loading rates of
0.01, 0.05, 0.1, and 1 mm/min. The total number of tests performed is
40 tests.


TEST RESULTS

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The measured load-displacement curves for a single pile are shown in
Fig. 4. Because of space limitations, only the variations in axial
pile capacity with the pile head displacement for pile groups
(2x2 -9d) are shown in Fig. 5. All other test results showed
similar behavior. Details about the test results are given
elsewhere (Al-Mhaidib 2006). Figures 4 and 5 show that the load-
displacement curves have peak values from which the pile load reduces
with further displacement. The pile head displacement needed to
mobilize the ultimate axial capacity ranges from 2 mm to 3 mm (about
10% of pile diameter) which is in agreement with the values suggested
by Vesic (1977). The pile head displacement at failure is essentially the
same for the slow and the fast tests, while only the ultimate capacity
changed. It indicates that the loading rate has a negligible influence on
the magnitude of the pile head displacement at failure. This is in
agreement with the findings of Audibert and Dove (1982); and Al-
Mhaidib (2001). It is clear from Figs. 4 and 5, that the loading rate
significantly affected the load-displacement response. The faster was
the rate of loading the higher was the load-displacement curves and,
consequently, the larger the ultimate axial capacity of the piles. A
possible explanation of this behavior is that if the rate of loading is
smaller, more time is allowed for the soil to creep and relax, allowing
the development of larger deformations at a given load increment and
smaller strength at a given deformation increment. The final result is
load-displacement curve that plots lower.



0
0.05
0.1
0.15
0.2
0.25
0.3
0.35
0.4
0.45
0.5
0 3 6 9 12 15
Pile displacement (mm)
L
o
a
d

(
k
N
)
1.0 mm/min
0.1 mm/min
0.05 mm/min
0.01 mm/min
Loading Rate

Fig. 4. Load-displacement curves for single pile



GROUP EFFICIENCY

The overall behavior of a pile group is given by the efficiency of the
group, and it is estimated using the formula:

(1)
2 1 s
g
Q n n
Q
=
where = efficiency of the pile group; Q
g
= axial capacity of
pile group; Q
s
= axial capacity of single pile; n
1
= number of rows
in a pile group; and n
2
= number of columns in a pile group.



0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
1.2
1.4
1.6
1.8
0 3 6 9 12 15
Pile displacement (mm)
L
o
a
d

(
k
N
)
1.0 mm/min
0.1 mm/min
0.05 mm/min
0.01 mm/min
Loading Rate

Fig. 5. Load-displacement curves for pile groups (2x2-9d)



The group efficiencies obtained using equation (1) are computed for all
pile group configurations tested and listed in Table 3. It can be seen
from this table that the effect of loading rate on the efficiency , within
a group configuration, for the different pile group configurations is
insignificant. The efficiency does not change much within a pile
group configuration when the loading rate is changed. For example, the
efficiency for 3x1 pile group changed from 0.85 to 0.88 and from 0.90
to 0.94 for 3d spacing and 9d spacing, respectively. The efficiency also
changed from 0.78 to 0.80 for 3d spacing for 3x3 pile group. There is a
good agreement between the group efficiencies obtained in this study
for piles with 3d spacing (ranging from 0.79 to 0.89 on average) and
group efficiencies for pile groups in clay with 2d to 4d spacing reported
by Zhang et. al (2001) ranging from 0.83 to 0.88 based on a compiled
database of pile group load tests.

The average values of group efficiency , from Table 3, are plotted
versus number of piles in a group in Fig. 6. This figure shows that, for
the same center-to-center spacing between piles in a group, the
efficiency decreases with an increase in the number of piles in a
group. This is in agreement of results of O'Neill (1983) for piles tested
under axial loads, Gandhi and Selvam (1997) and Patra and Pise (2001)
for piles tested under lateral loads. This can be attributed to the
increased area of overlapping zones between piles. The average values
of group efficiency are also plotted versus spacing/diameter (s/d)
ratio in Fig. 7 to show the effect of spacing on group efficiency. As seen
in Fig. 7, the efficiency increases with increase in spacing between piles
in a group. A possible explanation of this behavior is that as the spacing
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between piles in a group is increased, the overlapping area is reduced,
and hence the efficiency increases.



Table 3. Values of group efficiency

Pile group
configuration
Loading rate
(mm/min)
Spacing between piles
3d 9d
2x1

1
0.1
0.05
0.01
Average
0.91
0.87
0.90
0.89
0.89
0.97
0.93
0.94
0.96
0.95
3x1

1
0.1
0.05
0.01
Average
0.88
0.85
0.87
0.86
0.86
0.94
0.90
0.92
0.92
0.92
2x2

1
0.1
0.05
0.01
Average
0.87
0.81
0.83
0.84
0.84
0.91
0.88
0.87
0.86
0.88
2x3

1
0.1
0.05
0.01
Average
0.83
0.80
0.82
0.80
0.81
0.87
0.82
0.83
0.82
0.84
3x3

1
0.1
0.05
0.01
Average
0.80
0.79
0.80
0.78
0.79
-




0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
No. of piles in a group
G
r
o
u
p

e
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
c
y

9d
3d

Fig. 6. Group efficiency versus number of piles in a group


0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
0 3 6 9 12
Spacing / diameter (s/d)
G
r
o
u
p

e
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
c
y

2X3
2X2
3X1
2X1

Fig. 7. Group efficiency versus (spacing/diameter) ratio



The average values of group efficiency are compared with those
calculated from Convese-Labarre equation (Bolin 1941) and listed in
Table 4. According to Convese-Labarre equation, which is considered
as one of the most acceptable equations for calculating group efficiency
in clay, the efficiency of group piles is expressed as:

(2)
) 1 ( ) 1 (
90
1
2 1
1 2 2 1

+
=
n n
n n n n



where = efficiency of the pile group; = arctan d/s (in degrees); d =
pile diameter; s = center-to-center spacing between piles in a group; n
1
=
number of rows in a pile group; and n
2
= number of columns in a pile
group.

There is a fairly good agreement between the values of the group
efficiency computed in the present study and those calculated from
Convese-Labarre equation as shown in Table 4.


Table 4. Comparison between obtained and calculated values of
group efficiency

Spacing between piles
3d 9d
Pile group
configuration
This study
Converse-
Labarre
This study
Converse-
Labarre
2x1
3x1
2x2
2x3
0.89
0.86
0.84
0.81
0.90
0.86
0.80
0.76
0.95
0.92
0.88
0.84
0.96
0.95
0.93
0.92
1462
3x3 0.79 0.73 - -


SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

In this paper, the behavior of pile groups under different loading rates
was studied by conducting tests on model pile groups. The tests were
conducted in a clayey soil bed prepared in a test tank. The model pile
groups were subjected to axial compressive loads at four loading rates of
0.01 mm/min, 0.05 mm/min, 0.1 mm/min and 1 mm/min. At each
loading rate, five different pile group configurations (from line pile
groups to square and rectangular pile groups) were tested. The center-to-
center spacing of piles in a group was three or nine times the pile
diameter. Along with the pile groups, a single pile was also tested. The
efficiency of pile group was determined from the model tests and
compared to those reported in the literature.

Based on the results of present experimental investigation, the following
conclusions are drawn with respect to the group efficiency:

The effect of loading rate on the efficiency of pile group,
within a group configuration, for the different pile group
configurations is insignificant.

For the same center-to-center spacing between piles in a
group, the group efficiency decreases with an increase in the
number of piles in a group. The efficiency increases with
increase in spacing between piles in a group.

The values of group obtained in this study are in good
agreement with those reported in the literature and with those
calculated from Convese-Labarre equation.

Further experimental work that covers wide variations in
loading rate, pile characteristics, and soil properties is needed to
get conclusive conclusions about the effects of loading rate on
the efficiency of pile groups. The results of this study is hoped
to simulate further research in this direction.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The author would like to acknowledge the funding provided by the
Deanship of Scientific Research at King Saud University, through
Research Center at College of Engineering, Research No. 6/425,
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


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