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Quantitative Risk Assessment of Cut-Slope Projects

under Construction
Zhihong Li1; Hongwei Huang2; Farrokh Nadim3; and Yadong Xue4
Abstract: In some cut-slope projects landslide is a common problem during construction due to unfavorable geomorphological and
geomechanical conditions. It is necessary to do a quantitative assessment of the risk posed by landslide before determining the budget or
tender price. This paper outlines a general procedure for doing this, followed by an example to demonstrate the approach in comparison
to a known failure. Finite-element analyses identify the most dangerous landslide scenario among all construction steps. The slope failure
probability is then estimated using reliability theory based on the most dangerous construction step. After identifying the potential failure
surface and estimating the volume of the sliding mass, the runnout behavior of sliding mass is simulated to delimit the extent of likely
impacted area. Then, the exposed elements at risk and their vulnerabilities are identified and analyzed. The landslide risk is assessed
quantitatively for three types of consequences: casualties, economic loss, and time overrun. Compared with actual consequences, the
estimation results were in acceptable agreement with the case study. The paper demonstrates that it is feasible to analyze the risk
associated with landslides during construction of cut-slopes.
DOI: 10.1061/ASCEGT.1943-5606.0000381
CE Database subject headings: Quantitative analysis; Assessment; Risk management; Landslides; Construction management.
Author keywords: Quantitative analysis; Assessment; Risk management; Landslides; Construction.

Introduction
Under the conditions of unfavorable topography and geology, the
construction of cut-slopes may pose a significant risk to the
project. Unfortunately, failure of engineered slopes during construction, leading to huge economic loss, time overrun, and even
loss of human life are common occurrences. For example, along
the section from Shaoguan to Wengcheng of the Beijing-Zhuhai
Highway, there were so many landslides and collapses that the
owner had to perform a reinvestigation and reconstruct with a
new design. This resulted in about 1 year delay and 0.3 billion
Chinese Yuan about $42 million economic loss in the project.
Another example is the cost of slope stabilization in the BaojiGuangyuan section of the Baoji-Chengdu Railway, which totaled
over 0.47 billion CNY about $67 million, 60% more than the
planned cost. It is therefore necessary to do a quantitative assessment of the risk posed by landslide before determining the budget
or tender price for cut-slope projects.
1

Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of Geotechnical Engineering, Tongji Univ.,


1239 Siping Rd., Shanghai, China; formerly, Research Guest at International Centre for Geohazard/Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, Sognsveien 72, Oslo, Norway.
2
Professor, Dept. of Geotechnical Engineering, Tongji Univ., 1239
Siping Rd., Shanghai, China corresponding author. E-mail: huanghw@
tongji.edu.cn
3
Director, International Centre of Geohazards, Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, Sognsveien 72, Oslo, Norway.
4
Associate Professor, Dept. of Geotechnical Engineering, Tongji
Univ., 1239 Siping Rd., Shanghai, China.
Note. This manuscript was submitted on March 19, 2009; approved
on April 26, 2010; published online on May 6, 2010. Discussion period
open until May 1, 2011; separate discussions must be submitted for individual papers. This paper is part of the Journal of Geotechnical and
Geoenvironmental Engineering, Vol. 136, No. 12, December 1, 2010.
ASCE, ISSN 1090-0241/2010/12-16441654/$25.00.

Quantitative risk assessment QRA is a method of quantifying


the degree of risk through a systematic examination of the factors
contributing to slope stability and affecting the severity of consequences. For probabilistic analysis, some advance has been made,
including classical reliability methods and Monte Carlo simulation e.g., El-Ramly et al. 2002, together with the modeling of
spatial variation of groundmass properties e.g., Nadim et al.
2005. For consequences quantification, Wong et al. 1997 have
developed a generalized, quantitative landslide consequence
model for use in QRA of man-made slopes. With the improved
capability of numerical modeling of debris runout, it is possible to
carry out more refined assessment of consequence Ko and Kwan
2006. Since the mid-1990s, some notable application cases have
been performed in assessing and managing landslide risk, notably
in Hong Kong Wong et al. 1997; Ho and Ko 2009 and Australia
Australian Geomechanics Society AGS 2000.
This paper outlines a general procedure for quantitative risk
assessment of cut-slope projects under construction in aspects of
casualties, economic loss, and time overrun. Then the methodology is demonstrated for a landslide along the Shuifu-Maliuwan
Highway in Yunnan Province of China.

General Procedure
This present study proposes a general procedure of quantitative
risk assessment for cut-slope projects under construction. The
process mainly comprises four components: hazard identification,
probabilistic analysis, consequences analysis, and risk calculation.
Fig. 1 shows the process in a flowchart form. In simple form, the
process involves answering the following questions:
Which construction step is the most dangerous?
What is the failure probability of the cut-slope at this construction step?

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Consequences analysis
Probabilistic analysis
Hazard Identification
Identifying the critical scenario
among the construction steps
Using the code PLAXIS to find
out the most dangerous
construction step

Landslide probability estimation


at the most dangerous
construction step
Based on reliability theory
Using the code FLAC 3D to get
the factor of safety, and using
small program made by the
authors to count the number of
failure samples

Identifying the landslide magnitude


Estimating the potential impacted area
Identifying the exposed elements in the
impacted area
Estimating the extra time due to landslide
Using FLAC 3D to estimate the landslide
volume and the probable position of
sliding surface
Using PFC 3D to estimate the runout
behavior of sliding mass
Identifying the exposed elements (e.g the
number of workers and corresponding
temporal and spatial probability) in the
impacted area

Risk calculation
Risk= failure probability
spatial probability
temporal probability
elements at risk

Fig. 1. Flowchart of QRA for cut-slope projects under construction the sentences in italics indicate the methods adopted in demonstration
example

Hazard Identification
The stability of a cut-slope varies significantly during the construction time because of the excavation and protection schemes
implemented. Furthermore, the probable sliding volume and impacted areas are different for different steps of cutting and slope
protection. Therefore, the elements at landslide risk are not static
as the slope failure probability and corresponding consequences
change in various stages of construction. Fig. 2 shows an example
of risk variation as a function of construction time or construction
steps. Generally, the purpose of construction activity is to make
the slope much safer and more reliable. Meanwhile, the engineers
must ensure the constructed slope will have a good reliability
during a long operation period. Therefore, the reliability is usually
greater near the project completion than during initial phases of
the project, and the most dangerous scenario is often one of the
intermediate construction steps.
In the risk assessment process, the critical landslide scenarios
should be identified for different construction steps to identify the
scenario that poses the highest risk to the project. At every construction step the landslide occurrence probability and corresponding consequences should be analyzed. For simplicity, only
the factor of safety based on average strength parameters was

used in this study to assess the stability situation and triggering of


landslide. The estimated volume of sliding sediments was then
used to assess the consequences.

Probabilistic Analysis of Slope Instability


There are a variety of methods of estimating probability from the
disparate sets of information that may be assembled. Soeters and
van Westen 1996 and van Westen et al. 1997 divided these
methods into inventory, heuristic, statistical, and deterministic approaches. The Australian Geomechanics Society AGS 2000
outlined the methods as five types: observation and experience,
inventories, triggering, cause and effect, and deterministic/
probabilistic. Fell et al. 2008 summarized the methods as: historical records, sequences of aerial photographs and/or satellite
images, silent witnesses, correlation with landslide triggering
events, proxy data, proxy data, and subjective assessment. In
practice, assessing the frequency or probability of the landslides
will usually require using different and complementary methods.
Without historic data, the probability is often very subjective and
approximate because of the complex interaction between the mechanical behavior of geomaterials and triggering factors Fell et
al. 2008.
It can be seen that most of the frequency or probability analysis methods are based on experience, subjective judgment and/or
historical records. However, for many slopes such as those encountered in highway construction in mountainous regions, historical data may be lacking, incomplete or inaccurate.
Furthermore, empirical methods typically work for specific areas
from which the original data were taken, but may be misleading
for other areas.

CS ithe ith construction step

risk

What is the magnitude if landslide occurs?


What kinds of and how many elements can be shocked?
How long time the construction resumption will take and what
is the economic loss and casualties?
As the cutting of the slope will create a new free face, redistribute the stresses at the toe of the slope, and disturb the equilibrium of the primary geological environment, engineered slopes
are mainly influenced by the construction activity. Therefore, the
critical landslide scenario should be identified first among the
construction steps. Based on the critical scenario, which represents the landslide risk of the cut-slope project, the failure probability is analyzed. Meanwhile, the most important considerations
in a construction project may be the safety of construction workers, money, and time. Therefore, in this study, the landslide consequences were analyzed for these three aspects, i.e., casualties,
economic loss, and time overrun. In order to quantifying these
consequences, the landslide magnitude and its runout behavior
should be simulated and estimated. Once the impacted area is
identified, the elements shocked by landslide can be listed. Together with the vulnerability coefficients of exposed elements, the
consequence can be calculated and the risk can be obtained.

CS 1 CS 2

CS n

construction time

Fig. 2. Schematic figure for risk changes with construction time

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In order to progress from a qualitative to a quantitative approach, the use of reliability theory is appropriate when the historical records are scarce. For individual slopes, the probability of
failure can usually be considered as simply the probability corresponding to a safety factor less than unity. In conventional methods, the performance function of a slope is usually formulated
using the simplified limit equilibrium method, such as the ordinary method of slices, simplified Bishops method, or simplified
Janbus method Dai et al. 2002. The shortcoming of this approach is that the critical slip surface is generally determined or
assumed based on deterministic analysis and then probabilistic
analysis is performed on this predetermined critical slip surface.
In fact, the resulting value of failure probability from the method
above is not necessarily the maximum value. The critical probabilistic failure surface is a function of both the value of the parameters at the critical condition and the critical shear surface.
The maximum instability probability occurs on some critical
probabilistic surface that does not, in general, coincide with the
critical deterministic surface Hassan and Wolff 1999. Some researchers e.g., Bergado and Anderson 1985; Chowdhury and Xu
1994 have performed parametric studies considering different
specified surfaces not necessarily associated with the minimum
factor of safety or minimum reliability index.
In this study the uncertainties of soil and rock strength parameters were accounted for by the Monte Carlo simulation method.
The factor of safety was then calculated using the strength reduction method. For every group of strength parameters, the slip
surface can be searched and identified automatically and the factor of safety can be calculated. Also, in the calculation process,
installation of anchors and cables can also be modeled according
to the real construction situation. The researched slope referred is
a cut-slope project, therefore, the cutting and protecting activities
may influence the stability strongly. So the human constructed
activities were analyzed in detail and the rainfall infiltration was
not considered in this study. The landslide hazard, or occurrence
probability, corresponds to failure probabilities obtained for different construction steps.

Consequences Analysis
When assessing the landslide consequences, it is important to
estimate the area that the slide mass will impact. The probable
impacted area depends on the slope geometry, natural characteristic of slope forming materials, failure mechanisms, modes of
movement, characteristics of downhill path, etc. Australian Geomechanics Society AGS 2000. Once the most hazardous scenario has been identified, the impacted area can be assessed.
Therefore the necessary steps to allow the definition of consequences are as follows Amatruda et al. 2004a:
Identification of elements at risk in the impacted area;
Evaluation of the value of elements at risks;
Vulnerability evaluation; and
Consequences analysis.
The assessment of landslide debris mobility is fundamental in
the evaluation of the consequences of slope failure and quantification of landslide risk Ho and Ko 2009. Runout prediction
methods of a landslide can be grouped into three broad categories: empirical methods, analytical methods, and numerical methods Dai et al. 2002. Empirical methods, which should only be
used for preliminary estimates, are based on simple correlations
between the volume of the mass involved in the movement and
the geometrical parameters of slope. Analytical methods describe

no occurrence
1-p
landslide
occurrence
p

no loss of life
p1
time interval 1
p2
time interval 2
p3
time interval 3

slight injury
severe injury

No.

death or missing

Fig. 3. Event tree approach for analyzing casualties

the physical behavior of debris movement based on lumped mass


methods in which the debris mass is lumped at a single point.
Therefore, analytical methods cannot account for lateral confinement and spreading of the flow and the resulting changes in flow
depth. Numerical methods, which mainly comprise computational
fluid dynamics models and discrete element methods, can simulate the runout distance, damage corridor width, debris depth, etc.,
more accurately. Their limitation is that the required calculation
parameters are difficult to obtain. Amatruda et al. 2004b used
two methodologies, PFC3D in cooperation with FLAC3D and the
dynamic analysis model DAN Hungr 1995 integrated with ROTOMAP Geo and Soft International 1999,2003, to analyze the
landslide debris mobility for the Oselitzenbach landslide in Austria. FLAC3D, which is a three-dimensional 3D finite-difference
program, was used to estimate the approximate volume of sliding
mass. PFC3D, which can model the movement and interaction of
spherical particles by the distinct element method, was applied to
estimate the runout behavior of sliding debris. The comparison
showed that the PFC-Ball Wall model had the similar results as
the DAN Code model in travel distance, runout width and affected area. The combined use of FLAC3D and PFC3D-Ball Wall
model presented an effective approach for runout analysis when
the pore pressure is not a main triggering factor to landslides.
In this paper, numerical simulation method was used for
runout estimation. The methodology of consequence analysis is
shown in Fig. 1 in italics. First, FLAC3D was used for modeling
the three-dimensional failure surface and estimating the sliding
volume. Then the code PFC3D was used to simulate the runout
behavior of landslide and determine the probable impacted area.
Once the affected area is established, the elements exposed to the
landslide threat can be identified, their vulnerabilities analyzed,
and the consequences estimated. The consequences analyzes focused on the scenario that gives the highest risk.
Casualties
The probability of casualties can be analyzed using event tree
analysis, as shown in Fig. 3, where p is the occurrence probability
of landslide. The probabilities p1, p2, and p3 are the temporal
probabilities of each shift interval in one day. Estimation of the
human impact of landslide should also account for the spatial
distribution of constructor workers at any given time interval.
According to terminology recommended by the Technical
Committee on Risk Assessment and Management under International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering,
vulnerability, expressed on a scale of 0 to1, is defined as the level
of potential damage or degree of loss for a given element affected
by a hazard Wong et al. 1997; Australian Geomechanics Society
AGS 2000; Nadim and Kvalstad 2007. Finlay et al. 1999
provided some data on vulnerability derived from Hong Kongs
statistical information, with a subset of the data presented in Table
1.
The casualties are obviously related to the number of construction workers on-site when the landslide occurs. For one construc-

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Table 1. Summary of Hong Kong Vulnerability Ranges and Recommended Values for Impact of Landslides on Humans in Open Space
Vulnerability of person
Case

Range in data

If struck by a rockfall
If buried by debris
If not buried

0.10.7
0.81.0
0.10.5

Recommended value
Persons in open space
0.5
1.0
0.1

tion step, the number of construction workers on-site can be


assumed to change on one-day cycles. The vulnerabilities of persons can be estimated based on the landslide magnitude and the
distance between the individual and the center of sliding mass.
According to the impacted area and the relative position of construction workers to the sliding mass, the vulnerability can be
estimated.

Economic Loss
Construction Equipment
On construction-sites, excavation equipment, such as scrapers and
trucks, are always used. The equipment is vulnerable to damage
by landslides. The degree of damage can be divided into three
levels for simplified risk calculation. The economic loss can be
estimated as the product of the net present value of the equipment
and the recommended vulnerability coefficients listed in Table 2.
The data in Table 2 are based on the experiences from construction sites in China and subjective judgment.
The probability of damage to construction equipment in the
area affected by the landslide is also a temporal and spatial probability problem. Like the risk of casualties, it can be calculated
using event tree analysis.
Existing Structures
The slope protecting structures, such as bolts, cables, framed
beams, and antislide piles, are vulnerable to landslides. Once a
landslide occurs, the economic loss for the slope protecting structures affected by landslide will be almost the total cost for these
structures. Most of these structures cannot be repaired or reused
even though the damage degree might be far less than 100%.
Therefore the loss calculations are based on the total cost for
rebuilding these structures.

Comments
May be injured but unlikely to cause death
Death by asphyxia almost certain
High chance of survival

Cost of Construction Resumption


The economic loss because of landslide not only includes the loss
of exposed elements at risk but also the construction resumption
cost. The cost for clearing debris and the loss due to time overrun
are the most important factors in this cost. If the magnitude of the
landslide is large, the cost for clearing the debris could be very
high. In the risk analysis, once the approximate sliding volume is
evaluated, the cost for clearing the debris can be estimated based
on the local unit price of cutting and transportation expense. In
practice, the volume of debris cannot be predicted accurately. In
the analyses, the slide volume obtained from 3D numerical simulation was considered as the most likely value. The probable cost
range can be expressed in a probabilistic format.
Meanwhile, the loss due to construction time overrun should
not be neglected in the cost estimation. The economic loss because of time overrun includes direct and indirect losses. The
indirect loss mainly includes the economic loss resulting from
social or environmental problems because of time extension. The
direct loss is mainly time-dependent costs, such as wages, equipment cost, management fee, etc., because of extra time. Meanwhile, for a long delay in construction activities, the loss due to
inflation and loan interests should be considered. Therefore, the
economic loss because of extra time can be expressed as the sum
of the loss due to increased time-dependent cost, loss because of
postponed operation and loss because of inflation and loan interests Yang and Cao 2003. In this study, only the direct loss due to
time-dependent costs, including wages, equipment rental, and
management fee was considered; indirect losses were not included due to lack of data.

Time Overrun
The construction time for a project is often modeled as a random
variable. The or triangle distributions are often used because

Table 2. Vulnerability of Construction Equipment


Level

Descriptor

Description

Case
If the equipment is buried for a long time,
and is struck or crushed by a big rockfall with
large deformation.
If the equipment is buried for a long time,
and some components are destroyed.
If the equipment is just struck by a
small rockfall.

Major damage

The equipment is extensively damaged, and it


cannot be used or requires major overhaul for use.

II

Medium damage

III

Minor damage

The equipment is moderately damaged, and it


can be used after some components are repaired.
The damage to the equipment is limited.

Recommended
vulnerability
0.7

0.3
0.05

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sufficient data are rarely available to justify a distribution with


complex parameters Nasir et al. 2003. The characteristic values
for these distributions are usually based on expert opinions taking
into consideration the scale of the probable landslide.
In the analyses presented here, the extra time because of landslide was assumed to consist mainly of the extra time for clearing
the debris and reconstruction. The time overrun because of clearing debris is closely related to the landslide magnitude. However,
it is also strongly influenced by management factors and technical
skill of the construction team. If the team has emergency plans
beforehand, decisions can be taken swiftly and the accident can
be dealt with rapidly and efficiently. Thus, the extra time for
clearing the debris can be minimized. Otherwise the time overrun
may sharply increase. The extra time for reconstruction, such as
redesign and rebuilding of the protective structures can be estimated based on the conventional schedule estimation methods.

Risk Calculation
Quantitative risk assessment involves integration of the probability and consequences analysis. For human impact, the risk can be
calculated from
RHI = PL PTL

PSL VSL

where RHI = average individual risk in different time intervals;


PL = occurrence probability of the landslide event; PT L
= temporal probability that landslide occurs in different time intervals; PS L = probability of spatial impact; and VS L
= individual vulnerability given the spatial impact. For nonstationary property e.g., trucks, backhoe loaders, the risk calculation
formula can be
RNSD = PL PTL

PSL VSL E

where RNSD = damage risk of nonstationary property and E


= total net value of damaged elements. For stationary property
e.g., buildings or exist structures, it can be
RSD = PL

PSL VSL E

The value of VS L in this study is considered to be 1.0 because


most of protecting structures cannot be repaired or reused even
though the damage degree might be far less than 100%.
For collective risk, casualty estimation is taken as an example.
In this study, the impact area shocked by landslide is divided into
three zones including fatality or missing zone, severe injury zone,
and slight injury zone. The probable number of fatalities, severe
injury, and slight injury can be expressed as binomial distribution
Ronald and Raymond 1993. And the probability that k workers
are impacted can be expressed as

n k
n
pk

p 1 pink
i =p
k i
n

i = 1,2,3

where p = probability that there are n construction workers onsite; p1, p2, and p3 = probabilities of one construction worker locating in fatality or missing zone, severe injury zone, and slight
injury zone respectively; and k = number of impacted workers. If
the spatial probabilities of locating in these three zones are estimated according the construction activity at the critical landslide
scenario, the number and corresponding probability can be calculated according to Eq. 4 easily. For some nonstationary properties, the process is similar to casualties estimation.

(a)

(b)

Fig. 4. Situation of landslide: a the landslide; b the barrier lake

Demonstration Example
General Situation of the Project and the Landslide
The Shuifu-Maliuwan Highway is located in the area adjacent to
the Yungui Plateau and Liangshan Mountain, in northeast of Yunnan Province in China. The area is characterized by high mountains, steep gorges with heavy erosion, rapid rivers, and saw-cuts,
and there are many cut-slopes along this highway. The studied
slope is located in canyon terrain cut by the Guanhe River. On the
construction site, the bedrock partially outcrops. The stratum
layer mainly consists of loose accumulation, which is distributed
over a width of more than 200 m. The main component is
medium-weakly weathered hard limestone. The detritus content is
from 30 to 50%. The diameter of detritus ranges widely, and the
greatest value is about 1.5 m. The content of mudstone and siltstone is quite low, which is less than 5%. The particle size is only
from 1 to 2 cm. The maximum thickness is about 10m. There is
no seepage found in this slope and it is not likely that the undergroundwater had any inference with slope excavation.
The landslide occurred in the section from K121+ 490 to
K121+ 670 at about 5:00 a.m. on June 27, 2006. Fig. 4 shows the
situation of landslide. The biggest thickness of the debris was
estimated to be 10 m. The sliding surface was approximately a
straight line. According to the sliding geometry, the maximum
width along the highway embankment is more than 200 m. The
horizontal area is about 10, 400 m2. The total volume is assessed
roughly at some 230, 000 m3. The furthest travel distance was
about 150 m. The landslide dam, which was formed with 200-m
width, raised the water level by over 10 m.
Fortunately, the landslide occurred at a time when there were
not many construction workers at the site. Still, the landslide resulted in two deaths, four missing, and two severe injuries, as
well as several slightly injured. The protecting structures were
completely destroyed. Two trucks were buried or hit by debris or
rockfall. One of the piles for bridge near the slope was broken.

Probabilistic Analysis of Slope Instability


Hazard Identification
In order to identify the most dangerous construction step, the
construction process of cutting and protecting the slope was simulated using the finite-element code PLAXIS 2007. In the simplified analysis, the factor of safety which was calculated based
on strength reduction method under the condition of average
strength parameters, was used to evaluate the stability state of the
slope. The section area of the sliding mass, which can be representative of the debris volume, was used to assess the consequences. The calculations comprised total 10 steps or cases as

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Table 3. Calculation Cases for the Cutting and Protecting


Case
Case
Case
Case
Case

Probabilistic Analysis

Description
1
2
3
4

Case 5
Case 6
Case 7
Case 8
Case 9
Case 10

Initial gravity stress calculation


Calculating the safety factor at natural state
Excavating the first layer
Safety factor calculation under the condition of
Case 3
Excavating the second layer and installing the
anchors for first layer
Safety factor calculation under the condition of
Case 5
Excavating the third layer and installing the anchors
for second layer
Safety factor calculation under the condition of
Case 7
Installing the anchors for third layer
Safety factor calculation under the condition of
Case 9

listed in Table 3. The average cohesion of the loose deposit body


and its average internal friction angle were estimated to be 45 kPa
and 30, respectively, according to the geological investigation
report.
According to the simulation results as shown in Fig. 5, the
factor of safety at the natural state is 1.16, which implies the slope
is safe under the condition with average strength parameters. The
factor of safety increases under Case 4, because the cutting unloads the slope. However, the critical slip surface under Case 4 is
basically identical to that at the natural state. From Case 6 to Case
10, the critical slip surface changes markedly; this causes the
volume of the probable sliding mass to vary. Considering the
probable volume of landslide, the quantity of vulnerable elements, and the factor of safety, the state at Case 8 is considered as
the most critical scenario. The landslide scenario corresponding to
this case was analyzed in detail.

With cutting and protecting, the probability also the consequence


changes with time or construction steps. So the probability and
consequence analysis should be performed for every construction
step. It will be a time and effort consuming and but maybe low
efficiency work. Based on the research above hazard identification, Case 8 is considered as the most hazardous construction
step. Therefore, the failure probability of Case 8 is analyzed in
detail. The uncertainty and variability of soil and rock parameters
were simulated by the Monte-Carlo method. The factor of safety
was obtained using strength reduction method. The calculation
process allows anchors to be installed according to the real construction situation. The failure probability can be estimated by
counting the portion of simulations where the computed factor of
safety is less than 1.0.
According to the test data from the geological investigation
report, a probability density function can be fitted over the frequency diagram of strength parameter, which is a modified histogram whose ordinate has been scaled, so that the area under the
histogram is unity. In practice, normal distribution is very popular
and often selected to express the uncertainty of soil and rock
Matsuo and Kuroda 1974; Tobutt 1982. The mean value represents the best estimate of the random variable, and the standard
deviation, or coefficient of variation, represents the uncertainty.
According to the geological investigation report, the mean value
of cohesion, c, is 45 kPa, and its coefficient of variation COV,
ratio of standard deviation to mean value is estimated to be 6.7%.
The average interval friction angle, , is 30, and its CoV is 10%.
The average density is 1 , 800 kg/ m3, and its corresponding COV
is estimated to be 11%. The analysis was done for the case where
c parameters are correlated. The value of c correlation coefficient was assumed to be 0.5. Using the code Riscue Huseby
and Terramar 2008, 1,000 groups of strength parameters were
generated for the Monte-Carlo simulations.
The FLAC3D code was used to calculate the factor of safety at
Case 8. In order to decrease the calculation effort, a typical calculation profile was selected and a simple three dimensional

loose deposit body

bedrock


(a)

(b)

(c)

(e)

(f)

(d)

Fig. 5. Factors of safety and shear strain contours at critical states under different cases FoS: factor of safety: a the numerical model; b
FoS= 1.16 at natural state; c FoS= 1.21 under Case 4; d FoS= 1.28 under Case 6; e FoS= 1.10 under Case 8; and f FoS= 1.28 under Case
10
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0.16
0.14
0.12

Probability

0.10
0.08
0.06
0.04
0.02

1.78

1.66

1.55

1.44

1.34

1.24

1.15

1.09

1.06

1.03

1.00

0.96

0.93

0.88

0.00

Factors of safety

Fig. 6. Histogram of simulated factors of safety


Fig. 8. Final state of runout calculation

Consequences Analysis
To assess the consequences, the volume of the landslide mass that
will impact the elements at risk should be estimated. Here, the
landslide volume was estimated on the basis of the threedimensional failure surface obtained with FLAC3D ITASCA
2002. The simulation was performed based on average parameters. This is shown in Fig. 7. The 3D model was set up according
to the most hazardous construction step in Case 8. The surface of
largest shear strain ratio from the result based on the average
strength parameters can be considered as the approximate critical
slip surface. The volume which is involved in this landslide mass
is estimated to be about 180, 000 m3.
The runout behavior of the landslide mass was then analyzed
using particle flow code PFC3D ITASCA 2005 and it was done
in deterministic method. The input parameters included density,
contact stiffness, friction coefficient, contact-bond strength, and
parallel-bond strength, etc. In this example, the parameters were
estimated based on the geological investigation report and experience judgment. Because the parameters for runout analysis are
often hard to determine accurately, the parameters are somewhat
subjective. According to the approximate position of the slip surface, a ball wall model was set up. The protecting structures were
not modeled in the calculation. Fig. 8 shows the final state of the
runout calculation. In order to visualize the travel distance of the
debris, balls with different colors represent different displacement
ranges. The longest travel distance is about 135 m. According to
the results, the impacted length along highway route is over 250
m. A landslide dam is formed on the river. Its greatest width is

Fig. 7. 3D model and sliding mass volume estimation

over 250 m and the average depth is more than 10 m. The landslide dam is a serious secondary hazard, which needs more attention. The direct impacted area is about 250 m 100 m near the
slope. The elements at risk include mainly construction workers,
equipment, existing structures, and the secondary threat of the
landslide dam blocking the Guanhe River.

Casualties due to Landslide


In order to estimate the casualties, the horizontal distance, h, from
an individual construction worker to the center of sliding mass is
used. According to the mechanism and intensity of the landslide
event, the vulnerability values specifying the damage degree of
persons at risk can be assessed as a function of h, based on the
reference values given in the literature Finlay et al. 1999. The
human impact here is classified into three levels including fatalities or missing with h from 0 to 80 m, severe injury with h from
80 to 110m, and slightly injury with h from 110 to 150m. The
persons beyond 150m are considered safe. The vulnerability
ranges are, respectively, 1.00.8, 0.80.2, and 0.20.0 for the
three groups. The number of construction workers on-site with
different time intervals is assumed to be as shown in Fig. 9. There
could be 2025, 1418, and 812 construction workers, respectively, during 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., and
12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. at Case 8. As listed in Table 4, the recommended values of vulnerability coefficients are 1.0, 0.5, and
0.1, respectively. According to the construction activities at criti-

No. of construction workers on site

model with thickness of 5 m, which is the spacing distance of


anchors, was set up. The histogram of the simulated safety factors
is shown in Fig. 6. Out of 1,000 simulations, 51 cases had a factor
of safety less than 1.0. This implies a failure probability of 0.051
at the most dangerous construction step Case 8 is 5.1%.

25
20
15
10
5
00:00

06:00

18:00

00:00

time

Fig. 9. Example of the distribution of number of construction workers on-site as function of time of day

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Table 4. Risk Calculation for Casualties


Number of workers on-site
Time interval

Range

Temporal probability
PT L

Distance, h
m

Spatial probability,
PS L

Vulnerability,
VS L

Individual risk,
PL PT L VS L

Average individual risk,


RHI

06:0018:00

2025

12/ 24= 0.5

1418

6 / 24= 0.25

00:0006:00

812

6 / 24= 0.25

0.7
0.2
0.1
0.7
0.2
0.1
0.7
0.2
0.1

1.0
0.5
0.1
1.0
0.5
0.1
1.0
0.5
0.1

0.0255
0.01275
0.00255
0.01275
0.006375
0.001275
0.01275
0.006375
0.001275

0.020655

18:0000:00

080
80110
110150
080
80110
110150
080
80110
110150

cal construction step Case 8, the spatial probabilities of one


worker locating in fatalities or missing zone, severe injury zone
and slightly injury zone are respectively estimated to be 0.7, 0.2,
and 0.1 based on subjective judgment and experiences. Since the
slope failure probability is known, the individual risk can be obtained. The construction workers working from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00
p.m., whose horizontal distance to the center of sliding mass is in
range of 0 to 80 m, are most vulnerable to landslide hazard. Their
individual risk is 0.0255 failure probability of 0.051
temporal probability of 0.5 vulnerability of 1.0. The average individual risk of time interval from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. is
0.020 655 according to Eq. 1.
With the information provided in Table 4 and Eq. 4, the
casualties can be estimated as shown in Fig. 10. Here, the number
of construction workers on-site is assumed to have uniform distribution. For example, the number of workers during 12:00 a.m.
to 6:00 a.m. is from 8 to 12, so the probabilities of 8, 9, 10, 11,
and 12 are all 1/5. It shows the probable number of fatalities or
missing, severe injury, and slight injury, and their corresponding
probabilities and cumulative probabilities if the landslide occurs,
For example, the probability of 15 fatalities is 0.085 and the probability of fatalities less than and equal to 10 is 0.345.

Economic Loss
For potentially affected construction equipment, the damaged degree can be divided into three levels, as shown in Table 2. The
loss can be estimated as the product of the average net present

0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05
0.00
0

4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
Number of impacted construction workers

(a)

Cumulative probability

Probability

fatalities or missing
severe injury
slightly injury

0.0103275

value and the vulnerability coefficients. The probability of the


construction equipment being in the area affected by the landslide
event is also a temporal and spatial probability problem. The estimation method is similar to casualty estimation. For this project,
the construction equipment on-site includes mainly backhoe loaders and trucks. If the landslide occurs, the possible loss for construction equipment is shown in Table 5.
Taking account of the number of damaged equipment according to Eq. 4, the probable loss range of backhoe loaders is from
0.3 to 1.4 million CNY. The average loss is about 1.1 million
CNY as shown in Fig. 11a. The probable loss range of trucks is
from 15 to 840 thousand CNY as shown in Fig. 11b. The average loss is around 275 thousand CNY. The probability of loss less
than 240 thousand CNY is 0.66. As a whole, the average economic loss of construction equipment is 1.4 million CNY, corresponding to an average risk of 71,000 1.4 million 0.051 CNY.
The economic loss for the existing structures in the impacted
area was calculated on the basis of the cost for building these
structures. The structures built previous to this construction step
include bolts, cables, framed beams, and catchwater ditch. The
main built structures and construction cost in or near the affected
area are listed in Table 6. The total economic loss for previously
built structures is estimated to about 10.85 million CNY.
According to the three dimensional simulation, the total volume of landslide mass is approximately 180, 000 m3. From the
results of PFC3D simulation, some of the debris traveled a long
distance or rushed into the Guanhe River. At last the debris which
is needed to be removed is estimated from 110, 000 m3 to
130, 000 m3. The local average unit price of cutting and trans-

0.30
0.25

0.0103275

1.0
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0.0

fatalities or missing
severe injury
slightly injury

4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
Number of impacted construction workers

(b)

Fig. 10. Casualties if landslide occurs: a probability; b cumulative probability


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Table 5. Information on Probable Damaged Construction Equipment On-Site


Number
probability

Horizontal distance
m

Spatial probability,
PS L

Damage level

Recommended
vulnerability,
VS L

Backhoe loaders

10.3
20.7

Trucks

10.6
20.3
30.05
40.05

080
80110
110150
080

0.9
0.1
0
0.8

I
II
III
I

0.7
0.3
0.05
0.7

80110
110150

0.1
0.1

II
III

0.3
0.05

1.0
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0.0

Cumulative probability

Cumulative probability

Equipment

200

400

600

800

1000

1200

1400

Economic loss,
VS L E 103 CNY

1,000

700
300
50
210

300

90
15

1.0
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0.0
0

1600

Average value
E 103 CNY

100

200

300

400

500

600

700

800

900

1000

Economic loss for trucks (103 CNY)

Economic loss for backhoe loaders (10 CNY)

(a)

(b)

Fig. 11. Probable economic loss for equipment: a probable economic loss for backhoe loaders; b probable economic loss for trucks

porting expense is about 10 CNY/ m3. In the risk calculations,


the debris volume was assumed to have a triangular distribution
with the most likely value of 120, 000 m3. Using the code
RISCUE Huseby and Terramar 2008, one group of data of debris volume with triangular distribution can be obtained. Timing
the unit price, the loss of clearing debris can be estimated. The
average economic loss for clearing the debris is around 1.2 million CNY, corresponding to an average risk of 61.4 thousand
1.2 million 0.051 CNY.
The economic loss due to time delay can be expressed as a
probability curve. Here, the time-dependent cost including wages,
management fee, and rent for equipment is calculated. The loss
resulting from postponed operation and inflation or loan interest
rise was not considered due to lack of data. The extra time can be
estimated from the analysis presented in the next section, and
ranges from 136 to 157 days. The number of construction workers
ranges from 42 to 55. The average wage for one person per day

varies from 70 to 80 CNY. These latter two parameters are assumed to have uniform distributions. The average management
fee is 2,000 CNY per day, and the rent cost for one backhoe
loaders is 2,000 CNY per day. Finally, the economic loss because
of time overrun is estimated to be between 3 and 4 million CNY
as shown in Fig. 12. The average economic loss because of time
overrun is about 3.5 million CNY, corresponding to an average
risk of 0.18 million 3.5 0.051 CNY.
Four groups of data including loss of affected construction
equipment, damaged structures, removing debris, and time delay
were obtained. The total economic loss can be expressed as the
sum of all these losses. Fig. 13 shows the cumulative probability
of the probable economic loss if the landslide occurs. It can be
seen that the probable loss ranges from 15.5 million CNY to 18.2
million CNY. The probability of the loss less than 17.0 million
CNY is 0.5, and the probability of the total loss being less than
17.4 million CNY is 0.9. The total average economic loss may be

Table 6. Main Construction Quantity in or near Sliding Mass


Number
1

Earlier built structures

Unit Quantity

32 steel bar
Vertical beam
Transverse beam
Concrete
C25
Anchor cable frame beams
Anchor cable
315.24
Vertical beam 0.5 0.6 m
Steel
Vertical beam
Transverse beam 0.4 0.5 m
Transverse beam
Concrete
C25
Watercatch ditch
Mortar flag stone M7.5
Anchor frame beams

Anchor
Beam 0.4 0.5 m

Steel

3
Total
Note: Most of the data are from the design and budget documents; part is estimated based on experience.

m
ton
ton
m3
m
ton
ton
m3
m3

4,480
30
30
300
22,000
170
80
1,600
1,850

Unit price
CNY

Subtotal
CNY

120
5,400
5,400
350
350
5,400
5,400
350
150

537,600
162,000
162,000
105,000
7,700,000
918,000
432,000
560,000
277,500
10,854,100

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1.0
0.9

Cumulative probability

Cumulative probability

1.0
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0.0

0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1

2900

3050

3200

3350

3500

3650

3800

3950

0.0

4100

15.4

Economic loss because of time overruns (10 CNY)

Fig. 12. Economic loss because of time overrun

16.9 million CNY if the landslide occurs, corresponding to an


average risk of 0.86 million 16.9 0.051 CNY.

Time Overrun

15.8

16.2

16.6

17.0

17.4

17.8

18.2

Total economic loss (10 CNY)

Fig. 13. Total economic loss and corresponding cumulative probability

6 months. Because there were no preplans to handle emergency


accidents like this, the actual loss was higher than the estimated
range in this study.

Conclusions

Comparison of Simulation Results and the Actual


Consequences
The results from the numerical simulations were very close to the
actual situation. Table 7 shows the comparison of model predictions and actual consequences. The probabilities of fatalities less
than and equal to 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 are, respectively, 0.05, 0.34,
0.73, 0.99, and 1.00. The probability of 15 fatalities is greatest,
which is 0.085. The estimated range of economic loss is between
15.52 and 18.21 million CNY, and the probability of loss less than
17.2 million CNY is 0.72. Loss equal to 17.1 million CNY is
greatest possible, and its probability is about 0.11. Similarly, the
probability of time overrun less than and equal to 155 days is
0.99. The average time overrun is about 146 days. According to
official data after this accident, the economic loss for this landslide was over 20 million CNY and the time extension was about

The risk associated with landslide in cut slopes is very high during the construction time, especially for sites with unfavorable
topographical and geological conditions. Therefore, it is necessary to do a quantitative assessment of the risk posed by landslide
before determining the budget or tender price for cut-slope
projects.
In this study, a methodology for doing this was outlined. The
most hazardous scenario was identified among all construction
steps based on numerical simulation of the construction process.
The failure probability was then estimated using the reliability
theory. According to the probable sliding mass and the impacted
area obtained from 3D numerical models, the elements at risk
were identified for the most hazardous construction step. The temporal probability and spatial distribution of movable exposed elements at risk were estimated according to the actual project
situation. Through analyzing the vulnerabilities, casualties, and
economic loss were estimated probabilistically. In addition, the
probable extra time for clearing the debris and the extra time for
construction resumption were estimated based on experience and
construction plan. The method was tested on a large cut-slope
project in which a landslide did occur.
In comparison with the actual situation, this method proved to
be effective and reasonably accurate. However, the predicted time
extension and the economic loss for time-dependent cost were
significantly less than the actual values. In general, the time overrun is difficult to estimate, because it is influenced by both the

Probability

As analyzed above, the time overrun mainly consists of the extra


time for clearing debris and reconstruction. As mentioned earlier,
the volume of debris which needs to be cleared is estimated to be
110, 000 m3 to 130, 000 m3. The average practical productivity
to clear waste cut ranges from 1600 m3 to 2000 m3 / day for one
backhoe loader. Because of the limitation of site conditions, only
1 or 2 backhoe loaders can be used to remove the debris. It is
assumed that the temporal probability of one or two backhoe
loaders is 0.8 and 0.2, respectively. Based on these assumptions,
the number of days needed for clearing the debris was simulated
using the Monte Carlo method. If the construction team made
emergency preplans, they can handle this task efficiently. Fig. 14
shows the estimated time extension for the project. The extra time
for clearing debris ranges from 46 to 67 days.
The extra time for reconstruction, such as redesign and rebuilding the protecting structure, can be estimated based on the
conventional schedule estimation method. In this study, according
to construction plan without landslide, the construction time is
estimated to be 90 days from start to this construction step. This
number is applied as the reconstruction time. Therefore, the total
time extension ranges from 136 to 157 days. The average extra
time for clearing the debris and completing redesign is around
146 days. The average risk for extra time is 7.4 146
0.051 days.

0.20
0.18
0.16
0.14
0.12
0.10
0.08
0.06
0.04
0.02
0.00
40

43

46

49

52

55

58

61

64

67

70

73

Extra time for clearing debris (days)

Fig. 14. Extra time for clearing debris

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Table 7. Comparison of Estimated and Actual Consequences


For injury or loss of life
Probability n = number of construction workers

Range
Fatalities or missing
Severe injury
Slightly injury

0.05n 5
0.33n 2
0.73n 2

025

0.34n 10
0.70n 4
0.96n 4

0.73n 15
0.92n 6
0.99n 6

0.99n 20
0.99n 8
1.00n 8

Actual consequences
1.00n 25
1.00n 10
1.00n 10

62 + 4
2
Several

For economic loss


CNY in millions

Range
15.5218.21

0.01c 16.0

Probability c = economic loss


0.24c 16.6
0.72c 17.2
0.99c 17.8

1.00c 18.2

Actual consequences
Over 20

Range
136157

0.03t 139

Probability t = probable extra time


0.29t 143
0.62t 147
0.88t 151

0.99t 155

Actual consequences
About 6 months

For time overrun


Days

landslide magnitude and human factors. Finally, it must be noted


that because of scarcity of data, experience, and subjective judgments are required in this type of study.

Acknowledgments
This research was sponsored by National Natural-Science Foundation of China Grant No. 40772179 and Western Science and
Technology Project of Ministry of Communications Grant No.
2006318799107. Grateful appreciation is expressed for these
supports. This paper was written while the first writer was a guest
researcher at the International Centre for Geohazards ICG in
Oslo, Norway. The support provided by ICG during this period is
gratefully acknowledged.

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