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Ground Improvement and Geosynthetics GSP 238 ASCE 2014

A Note on Pile Length Optimization of Pile Groups Considering the Non-linear


Behavior of Piles
Fayun Liang1Haibing Chen2, Zhu Song3, and Jie Han4
1

Professor, Ph. D., Department of Geotechnical Engineering, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, P. R.

China, fyliang@tongji.edu.cn
2

Ph. D. Graduate, Department of Geotechnical Engineering, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, P. R.

China, chbmusic@126.com
3

Ph. D. Graduate, Department of Geotechnical Engineering, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, P. R.

China, sz1987321@163.com
4

Professor, Ph. D., Department of Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering, The University

of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA

ABSTRACT: The use of dissimilar piles below a raft is a relatively innovative


concept and can optimize the design of a piled raft. This paper discusses a pile length
optimization method. To analyze non-linear behaviour of piles, a cut-off method
was adopted to limit pile capacity in the integral equation considering linear
behaviour of piles. In this method, adjacent non-yielding piles take more loads when
some piles start to yield (i.e., reaching their individual ultimate load capacity). A
pile-square rigid raft system was analyzed to illustrate the effects of the proposed
approach. The analysis showed that the stiffness of the piled raft decreased after
considering the load cut-off. The load cut-off procedure could make the distribution
of the reactions for short piles more reasonable in terms of their locations and lengths.
The optimized design using dissimilar piles would create a more economical solution
than the design with uniform piles.
INTRODUCTION
Traditional design of group piles or piled rafts often arranges piles uniformly (i.e.,
using the same pile diameter length, and spacing). However, research showed that
peripheral piles either carry a greater proportion of loads than the central piles under a
rigid cap, or suffer larger differential settlements under a flexible cap, as a result of

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Ground Improvement and Geosynthetics GSP 238 ASCE 2014

pile-soil-raft interaction (Chow and Thevendran 1987, Clancy and Poulos 1993, Liu
and Chi 2000, Liang et al. 2003). Therefore, the traditional design often does not
result in the best performance in overall stiffness or differential settlement.
To overcome these aforementioned problems, the use of piles with different
lengths or positions below a raft can optimize the design of a piled raft. A few studies
were conducted on the optimization of piled raft design. Chow and Thevendran
(1987), Horikoshi and Randolph (1998), Valliappan et al. (1999), Liu and Chi (2000),
Kim et al. (2001), Chow and Small (2006), Liang et al. (2009) and Leung et al. (2010)
attempted to optimize the pile-raft system by varying design parameters, such as raft
thickness, pile size, and arrangement. Chan et al. (2009) and Hwang et al. (2011)
proposed some advanced optimization methods for the piled groups. Wang et al.
(2010) carried out some model tests on a composite foundation with different
combinations of vertical reinforcement elements in subsoil. To give a closer
observation for the interaction between dissimilar piles, Wong et al. (2005) and
Zhang et al. (2011) presented an extensive parametric study on the interaction factor.
Two types of optimization principles of pile groups were discussed by Chow and
Thevendran (1987). The first type is to minimize the load differentials within the piles
resulting in smaller moments and more appropriates stress distribution in the rigid
pile cap or raft. The other type is to minimize the differential settlements by
apportioning the group piles stiffness to meet the requirements of their positions in
the group. Such concepts have been implemented in practice in a few buildings. The
foundation of the Messeturm Tower in Frankfurt is a well-reported case study using
varying pile lengths in a piled raft (Reul and Randolph 2003, 2004). Liu and Chi
(2000) applied the balance settlement optimum design method in some projects with
flexible caps or rafts in their pile groups.
To investigate the behavior of piled rafts with dissimilar piles, the authors (Liang
et al., 2009) proposed an integral equation method to analyze the piled rafts in an
elastic state. In reality, some of the piles (especially short piles) may yield before
other piles under a certain loading due to various pile stiffness and differential
loadings at each pile-head. To consider this situation, the authors (Liang and Chen,
2011) introdued the load cut-off method proposed by Hain and Lee (1978) for
analyzing non-linear behavior of piles in brief. Taking the interaction of piles into
account, a 33 pile group with a uniform pile dimension exhibited a non-linear
behavior in elastic stage as a corner pile sustained a higher percentage of loading than
an edge pile and a center pile. Adjusting pile lengths gave an optimized design to
minimize the load differences between piles. As the load increased, the calculated
load of pile exceeded its pile capacity, and the pile capacity would be assigned to that
pile. A re-distribution proceeded for the difference between the calculated load and
the capacity of a pile. In this study, the authors extended the cut-off analysis of
non-linear behavior of piles in details.

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Ground Improvement and Geosynthetics GSP 238 ASCE 2014

METHOD OF ANALYSIS

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Pile-Raft System with Dissimilar Piles


Since the present work is essentially a modification of the previous research by
the authors (Liang et al. 2009), the main analysis procedures are only outlined briefly
below for the completeness of this paper.
As described in the previous paper (Liang et al. 2009), the integral equation
method with a fictitious-pile model was developed to analyze the piled raft
foundation with dissimilar piles under a vertical load. The diameter, length, and
material of piles were not required to be identical in the analytical model for the piled
rigid raft. The loads shared by piles and subsoil, the load transfer, and the settlement
of the piled raft were obtained by numerical calculations considering the
compatibility condition under which the axial strain of the fictitious pile should be
equal to the cross-sectional average vertical strain of the extended soil at the same
depth.
Optimization Criteria
In the previous paper, Liang et al. (2009) also discussed an optimization technique
of a piled raft with dissimilar piles. The optimized design apportions the lengths of
the group piles in the pile-raft system to overcome the following two problems:
(1) Uniformly distributed piles under a rigid raft carry different magnitudes of
loads depending on their locations.
(2) This non-uniform distribution of loads among piles results in the larger
moments in the raft than a uniform distribution of loads. Since the piles in the
periphery carry more load if the piles are identical, the longer piles should be placed
in the center to increase the loads carried by the center piles. And then, the load
differences among the piles can be reduced.
Similar to Liang et al. (2009), the aim of the optimization in this study is to
determine the lengths of group piles under a given layout considering the load cut-off
so that the total load is evenly carried by all the piles. Under such a condition, the
stiffness of the whole foundation is maintained within 5% difference from that of the
original design with a uniform pile length.
However, the calculated load on each pile should be checked against its capacity
to ensure that the load on each pile does not exceed its capacity, especially when an
optimized design is achieved to minimize the load differences between piles. If the
calculated load of one pile exceeds its pile capacity, the pile capacity is assigned to
that pile. The difference between the calculated load and the capacity will be
re-distributed. This procedure is referred as the load cut-off method in this study and
will be applied to pile length optimization.

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Procedure of the Cut-Off Method


When a pile-raft system has piles with different lengths, a certain number of piles,
especially with short lengths, may yield under an applied load. In practice, more and
more designs have been done based on a settlement criterion, under which it is
tolerable to have a certain number of yielding piles. Any analysis method for a piled
raft based on the elastic theory may not well predict the performance of such a
pile-raft system with dissimilar piles if yielding piles exist.
To consider this situation, the load cut-off procedure can be used for some short
piles with loads more than their ultimate load capacities to re-calculate the
distribution of reactions in the computation process. The load cut-off method was
used by Hain and Lee (1978) and Yang et al. (1998) to deal with the elastic-plastic
behavior of piled rafts. In other words, when the calculated load of a pile is higher
than the cut-off load capacity, the cut-off capacity is used and the remaining load
is re-distributed among other unyielding piles. This method is easier to consider the
influence of pile yielding on the behavior of a pile-raft system. Hain and Lee (1978)
noticed that the load cut-off procedure was an approximation to the rigorous
elastic-plastic procedure. In this study, the load cut-off method was adopted to deal
with the elastic-plastic behavior of pile group.
RESULTS OF ANALYSIS
Model for Analysis
To illustrate the proposed method, a freestanding pile groups connected by a
square rigid raft is analyzed in this section. Fig. 1 presents the analytical model for a
piled rigid raft with dissimilar piles in a homogeneous half space. The piles in the 33
pile groups were divided into three categories according their locations (corner piles
labeled as 1, edge piles 2, and an interior pile 3), where s/d = 3 (where d is the
diameter of a pile and s is the centre-to-centre distance) and the Poissons ratio of the
soil, s was assumed to be 0.49.

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Ground Improvement and Geosynthetics GSP 238 ASCE 2014

Rigid cap

d
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61

3d

3d

3d

Ep
Gs

3d

(a) Groups piles with dissimilar piles

(b) Discretization of pile and soil

FIG. 1 Analytical model for a piled rigid raft with dissimilar piles
The objective of the optimization in this study is to determine lengths of piles
under a given layout of group piles so that the total load is evenly carried by the piles.
The optimization requirements are expressed in Eq. (1). In the first step, the
optimized results of piles length is solved under the elastic stage. And the stiffness of
the whole foundation is maintained within 5% difference from that of the original
design with a uniform pile length. In the following steps, the performances of pile
groups are obtained with the load cut-off method. The results of pile groups with a
uniform pile length and non-equal pile length without and with the load cut-off
method are compared in the next section.
It is clear that the total load on the pile raft would affect the cut-off solution. For
illustrate the detail of the load capacity. this note gives calculation of the assumption
of load capacity. For both the freestanding pile groups and pile groups, the ultimate
load capacity of the group can be considered to relate the load capacity of a single
pile to the efficiency factor .

Pult Pulti
i 1

(1)

where Pult is the load capacity of group, and Pulti (i=1, , n)is sum of load
capacities of individual pile. As a guide to take into account of group efficiency, the
value of parameter factor is 1.0 in this model. The theoretical load capacity of
single pile under the axial vertical load is obtained conventionally from the sum of the
shaft and base resistance. Thus all the piles are assumed to have a uniform shaft
resistance f and different base resistance qi, although the load capacity of single pile
must be examined in more detail. The simplified experience values of the shaft and
base resistances pile were specified by the Chinese Technical code for building pile
foundations (JGJ94-2008).

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Pulti Uli f Aqi

62

(2)

where, U is the circumference of pile, A is the area of pile base, and li is the length of
pile i.
Pile Groups with Uniform and Optimized Pile Lengths
The analysis is divided into two steps. Firstly, the optimized design based on the
elastic theory was carried out to obtain the referenced scheme. Table 1 presents the
calculated results of the original design with uniform piles versus the optimized
design with different pile lengths. The optimized design was based on the proposed
optimization requirements in Eq. (1). Secondly, the elastic-plastic behavior of piles
was considered with the load cut-off method based on the previous optimized scheme.
Table 2 summarizes the calculated results of load sharing and piled raft stiffness
based on the uniform pile length and the optimized pile length. In this study, the
modulus ratio of pile to soil was kp = Ep/Gs = 10000, where Ep is the elastic moduli of
the pile and Gs is the shear modulus of the soil, respectively. The stiffness of the piled
raft can be expressed as K = PG /(Eswcd), PG is the total load acting on the piles and
the subsoil and wc is the settlement of the piled raft. Korg and Kopt are the stiffness of
the piled raft in the original and optimized designs, respectively.
The following conclusions can be drawn from the results in Table 2:
(1) As compared with the original design, the optimized design resulted in higher
loads on the inner pile (pile 2) and the edge piles (pile 3), but lower loads on the
corner piles (pile 1). In other words, more load capacities of the inner pile was
utilized when piles with different lengths were used.
(2) In this analysis model the increasing load on the pile may reach its the
ultimate load capacity. The previous analysis method (Liang et al. 2009) based on the
elastic theory may not well predict the performance of such a pile-raft system with
dissimilar piles if yielding piles exist. When the calculated load on a pile was higher
than its ultimate load capacity, the ultimate load capacity would be maintained and
the extra load would be carried by adjacent unyielding piles up to their load capacities
as shown in the Table 2. However, the stiffness of the piled raft, after considering the
load cut-off, will be decreased obviously.

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Table 1

Original and optimized pile lengths (First Step)

Pile No.
Pile 1 Pile 2 Pile 3
Original length (L/d)
30.0 30.0 30.0
Optimized length without cut-off method (L/d) 15.8 37.9 47.2
NOTES:
a. The ratio of the total optimized pile length to the total original length of all piles
(Li)Opt/(Li)Org = 0.97.
b. The numbers of Pile 1, Pile 2, and Pile 3 are 4, 4, and 1, respectively.
Table 2 Calculated percentage of load sharing and stiffness ratio
Case
Original (without cut-off method)
Optimized (without cut-off method)
Cut-off1 (with cut-off method)
Cut-off 2 (with cut-off method)

Total
load
0.40Pult
0.40Pult
0.60Pult
0.95Pult

Percentage of load sharing (%)


Pile 1
Pile 2
Pile 3
14.1
9.7
4.8
11.1
11.1
11.2
11.8
10.0
10.7
13.2
6.7
15.0

NOTES:
a. The load capacity of single pile can be obtained with the help of Eq. (3). The
characteristic values of shaft and base resistances of dissimilar piles are calculated
according to the item 5.3.5 of JGJ 94-2008, The shaft resistance is taken to be f =
0.03Gs while the base resistance are taken to be qi/Gs = 0.305, 0.385, 0.400, i = 1,
2, and 3. The load capacity of group can be obtained with the help of Eq. (2).
b. Cut-off i means that the load on pile i was higher than its ultimate pile load
capacity. The case of cut-off i means the loads on piles 1 ~ i were higher than
their load capacities under increasing total load for the raft-pile system.
Discussion on the Load Cut-Off Method
Figure 2 shows the calculated loads on piles in the piled raft using the elastic and
load cut-off methods. Since the corner and edge piles were short, the corner piles first
reached their ultimate load capacity, and then the loads on the edge piles gradually
increased within their ultimate load capacities, as the total load applied onto the rigid
raft increased. It is shown that the calculated loads of the corner piles beyond their
load capacitiess were re-distributed to other unyielding piles. Figure 2(b) shows that
the loads on the edge piles (i.e., pile 2) were significantly increased after the corner
piles reached their capacities. The raft-pile system may be failure especially after the
corner and edge piles reached their ultimate load capacities.

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64

Load of Pile i / Load Capacity of Pile i

However, the load cut-off procedure could make the distribution of reactions for
the short piles more reasonable in terms of their locations and lengths. Similarly, the
loads on the inner pile (pile 3) were significantly increased after the corner piles
reached their ultimate load capacities.
2.1
Pile 1
Pile 2
Pile 3

1.4

L0/d=30, Kp=10000, s=0.49


0.7

0.0
0.2

0.4
0.6
0.8
Applied Load / Load Capacity of Group

1.0

(a) Elastic solution


Load of Pile i / Load Capacity of Pile i

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Ground Improvement and Geosynthetics GSP 238 ASCE 2014

2.1
Pile 1
Pile 2
Pile 3

1.4

L0/d=30, Kp=10000, s=0.49

0.7

0.0
0.2

0.4
0.6
0.8
Applied Load / Load Capacity of Group

1.0

(b) Load cut-off solution


FIG. 2. Distribution of pile loads in a rigid piled raft
CONCLUSIONS
According to the optimization requirements of a pile-raft system with dissimilar
piles, this paper discussed the failure of individual piles (especially short piles) and
suggested adopting a load cut-off procedure to account for the failure of individual
piles. The load cut-off procedure could make the distribution of reactions for the short

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Ground Improvement and Geosynthetics GSP 238 ASCE 2014

piles more reasonable. When the load on a pile was higher than its load capacity,
adjacent piles would carry more loads. A cut-off method can be used to improve the
foundation design based on the optimization of variable rigidity, which is more
consistent with the actual situation.
This paper has dealt only with the linear elastic response of pile group
optimization. The cut-off method may be used to handle nonlinear behavior of the
piles. However, when the development of plastic zone is relatively large, this method
should be used with caution because the foundation deformation may be large. Thus,
this method is not perfect. In practice, as a general rule, the design does not allow to
consider the plastic, especially in super-high buildings.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The work reported herein was supported by the National Natural Science
Foundation of China (Grant No. 50708078), and the Shanghai Rising-Star Program
from Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai (Grant No. 12QB1402700).
All the financial support is gratefully appreciated.
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