Rock Mech Rock Eng (2012) 45:981–988

DOI 10.1007/s00603-012-0276-4


The Hoek–Brown Failure Criterion
Erik Eberhardt

Published online: 3 July 2012
Ó Springer-Verlag 2012

List of Symbols 2 Background and Formulation
r1 Major principal stress
r3 Minor principal stress The Hoek–Brown criterion was developed as a means to
Co Uniaxial compressive strength estimate rock mass strength by scaling the relationship
mi Hoek–Brown material constant (intact rock) derived according to the geological conditions present. The
mb Hoek–Brown material constant (rock mass) criterion was conceived based on Hoek’s (1968) experi-
s Hoek–Brown material constant ences with brittle rock failure and his use of a parabolic
a Hoek–Brown material constant Mohr envelope derived from Griffith’s crack theory
GSI Geological Strength Index (Griffith 1920, 1924) to define the relationship between
D Disturbance factor shear and normal stress at fracture initiation. By associating
To Uniaxial tensile strength fracture initiation with fracture propagation and rock fail-
r0 3max Upper limit of confining stress ure, Hoek and Brown (1980) proceeded through trial and
r2 Coefficient of determination error to fit a variety of parabolic curves to triaxial test data
to derive their criterion. Accordingly, the Hoek–Brown
criterion is empirical with no fundamental relationship
between the constants included in the criterion and any
physical characteristics of the rock (Hoek 1983).
1 Description
The original non-linear Hoek–Brown failure criterion
for intact rock (Hoek and Brown 1980) was introduced as:
The Hoek–Brown failure criterion is an empirically derived
relationship used to describe a non-linear increase in peak qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
strength of isotropic rock with increasing confining stress. r1 ¼ r3 þ m Co r3 þ s Co2 ð1Þ
Hoek–Brown follow a non-linear, parabolic form that
where r1 and r3 are the major and minor principal stresses
distinguishes it from the linear Mohr–Coulomb failure
at failure, Co is the uniaxial compressive strength of the
criterion. The criterion includes companion procedures
intact rock, and m and s are dimensionless empirical con-
developed to provide a practical means to estimate rock
stants. The criterion is non-linear in the meridian plane
mass strength from laboratory test values and field obser-
(defined as the plane which passes through the hydrostatic
vations. Hoek–Brown assumes independence of the inter-
axis and cuts the failure envelope) and linear in appearance
mediate principal stress.
in the p-plane (defined as the plane perpendicular to
hydrostatic axis and cuts the failure envelope; see Fig. 1).
The criterion is also linear in the biaxial (r1-r2) plane
(e.g., see Fig. 6).
E. Eberhardt (&) The non-linear form of the Hoek–Brown criterion dis-
Geological Engineering, EOAS, University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, Canada tinguishes it from the linear Mohr–Coulomb failure crite-
e-mail: rion (Fig. 1a). In terms of equivalencies, the parameter m is


Inset shows definition of p-plane (i..e. tion angles as observed for more ductile rocks (Hoek 1983). Eberhardt Fig. conventional triaxial compression test) or envelopes and high instantaneous friction angles at low r2 = r1. as is generally found for strong in the treatment of the advantages and limitations of the brittle rocks. the application of Hoek– assumes that rock failure is controlled by the major and Brown to rock mass strength is only briefly discussed here. which is minor principal stress.. (1). r1 and r3. 1 a Comparison of the linear Mohr–Coulomb and non- linear Hoek–Brown failure envelopes plotted against triaxial test data for intact rock and b similar comparison but projected onto the p-plane. the intermediate principal a measure of how fractured the rock is. This is demonstrated in Fig. 123 . Large values of m give steeply inclined Mohr as r2 = r3 (i. lower m values give lower instantaneous fric. criterion. is related to the rock stress. plane perpendicular to hydrostatic stress axis) analogous to the frictional strength of the rock and s. the Hoek–Brown criterion failure criterion for intact rock.e. The constant s varies as a function of how fractured the rock is from a maximum value 3 Rock Mass Properties of 1 for intact rock to zero for heavily fractured rock where the tensile strength has been reduced to zero. r2. This assumption is later discussed in more detail effective normal stresses. does not appear in the equations except insofar mass cohesion.982 E. As the primary focus of this Working Group report is As can be seen in Eq. 2.

RMR89 and Q to GSI (see Hoek et al. However. s and a. One key update was the decided whether the representation of the engineered rock reporting of the ‘generalised’ form of the criterion (Hoek mass as an equivalent continuum is appropriate or not. the Hoek–Brown and GSI gained with its use and to address certain practical limi. it must first be estimate of rock mass strength. and friction conditions of the discontinuities (Hoek et al. been updated several times in response to experience For practicing engineers. 1992. mi is a curve fitting parameter derived from of m give more steeply inclined Mohr envelopes and higher triaxial testing of intact rock. The parameter mb is a equivalent friction angles than lower m values reduced value of mi. 1995). 1992). Hoek (2007) equivalent continuum. Adjustments of s and a are also done mass conditions. 1992). i. The exponential term a was moderately to heavily jointed and the rock mass strength is added to address the system’s bias towards hard rock and approximately isotropic. s and a were reported as:   GSI  100 mb ¼ mi exp ð3Þ 28  14D   GSI  100 s ¼ exp ð4Þ 9  3D 1 1  GSI 20  a ¼ þ e 15 þ e 3 : ð5Þ 2 6 Fig. adjusted. Although relationships exist to convert direction.. the Hoek–Brown criterion has charts published on its use. procedures (see Hoek et al. (2002) re-examined the relation- ships between the GSI and mb. most practitioners have an intuitive feel for the replaced earlier with effective principal stress terms as it physical meanings of cohesion and friction. The rock mass scaling relationships for mb. s and a. it is often necessary to structure of the rock mass (or blockiness) and surface calculate equivalent rock mass cohesion. 1995). This requires the of Marinos et al. where possible. c. 1995): criterion should not be used where discontinuities have a  a significant influence on the mobilization of failure and 0 0 r03 r1 ¼ r3 þ Co mb þs : ð2Þ failure kinematics. /. 3). 1995. So¨nmez and Ulusay (2002) assumption that any fractures present are numerous enough discuss the sensitivity of the Hoek–Brown strength that the overall strength behavior has no preferred failure envelope to GSI. The angle. The et al. and introduced a new factor D to account for near surface blast damage and stress relaxation. for example where the discontinuity Co spacing is large compared with the dimensions of the The term mb was introduced for broken rock. s and a. The Geological Strength Index (GSI) Brown criterion be applied directly. values from the Hoek–Brown parameters. recommends that GSI be estimated directly by means of the As an empirical criterion. The underground opening or when a rock slope is being ana- original mi value had been reassessed and found to depend lyzed and stability is more governed by the shear strength upon the mineralogy. Hoek et al. Hoek et al. with the overall Mohr–Coulomb failure criterion. principal stress terms in the original equation had been Moreover.e.The Hoek–Brown Failure Criterion 983 In 2002. These primarily involve adjustments to improve the tropic rock mass properties. the Hoek– (Hoek et al. composition and grain size of the of individual discontinuities. the rock mass responds as an isotropic. ward means to scale laboratory test values to obtain iso- 2002). This edition of the criterion represents the last major revision of the Hoek–Brown system. Note how larger values From above. particularly under very low normal stresses Hoek (2007) recommends. the criterion can be applied to the esti. (2005). which accounts for the strength reducing effects of the rock mass conditions defined by By adjusting the m and s parameters according to the rock GSI (Fig. which is not was assumed that criterion was valid for effective stress the case for mb. The quantitative conversion of conditions (Hoek 1983). 2 Change in Hoek–Brown failure envelope as a function of m plotted in shear versus normal stress space. GSI is estimated from the chart mation of rock mass strength properties. Hoek–Brown to Mohr–Coulomb parameters is done by 123 . Where the rock mass is more intact rock (Hoek et al. according to the GSI value. given that was subsequently introduced together with several many geotechnical design calculations are written for the relationships relating mb. then the GSI and Hoek–Brown to better account for poorer quality rock masses by treatment of the rock mass as an equivalent continuum are enabling the curvature of the failure envelope to be applicable. However. 2002) provide a straight for- tations (Hoek and Brown 1988.

(2007) RocLab (color figure online) pression (r2 = r3) and true triaxial compression. conventional triaxial com. has to be determined for each individual case (Fig. sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. Eberhardt Intact rock strength: σ1 m i = lab-determined s=1 GSI Co Rock mass strength: m b = rock mass adjusted s = <1 (rock mass varied) σ3 Fig. This analysis included multiple tests for the criterion’s fit to the data is generally evaluated based same rock type carried out in different laboratories and on the biaxial plane-stress condition (r1-r2 plane) and only considered data sets containing a minimum of five pffiffiffiffiffiffiffi pffiffiffi any meridian cross section 2J2  I1 = 3 plane for 0  tests covering a range of confining stresses. The choice of a pffiffiffi h  60 Þ. 4 Experimental Data on Intact Rock Fig. including the r1  2r3 plane (conventional non-linear criterion was based on this review and the mi triaxial test condition. 2002). Failure envelopes plotted using Rocscience’s include uniaxial compression. then the equivalent effective cohesion value may be too high and the equivalent effective friction angle too low. Note that the value of r0 3max. See Marinos et al. (2005) for full details on use of the GSI chart fitting an average linear relationship to the non-linear Hoek–Brown envelope for a range of minor principal stress values defined by To \ r3 \ r0 3max (Hoek et al.99. Empirical strength criteria have been developed based on fitting strengths ranging from 40 MPa for a sandstone to 580 MPa the best line or curve to these data. The coefficient of determination. 4).68 to 0. These stress ranges specified.9. the upper limit of confining stress over which the relationship between the Hoek– Brown and Mohr–Coulomb criteria is considered.984 E. 4 Fitting of linear Mohr–Coulomb failure envelopes (blue solid and dashed lines) along two different stress ranges of a non-linear Hoek–Brown failure envelope (red curve). data for more than 14 intact rock types covering a range of Zhao (2000) compared Mohr–Coulomb and Hoek– igneous. parameter was derived from best-fit linear regression to In developing the Hoek–Brown criterion. for these Brown (1980) analyzed published conventional triaxial test fits ranged from 0. If high values of r0 3max are used. Hoek and these data. 3 Scaling of Hoek–Brown failure envelope for intact rock to that for rock mass strength. r2. with most being [0. with peak Brown fits to experimental data from a series of dynamic 123 . Brown (2008) warns against applying programs that calculate equivalent Mohr–Coulomb parameters too automatically without thinking clearly about the range of effective normal stress that applies to the case being considered. The accuracy of a for a chert. where r2 = r3 or h = 0°). Note the change in There are several laboratory testing procedures from which equivalent cohesion and friction angle values for the two different the peak strength of intact rock can be measured.

in Brown and Drucker–Prager fits to triaxial experimental part. on the confining stress range (i. strength. stress. These criteria were fitted to true triaxial test data (c) It provides a straight forward empirical means to for eight different intact rocks taken from previously estimate rock mass properties. is typically more important for engineering diate principal stress). Comparisons between Hoek–Brown criterion. in each case. approximately 12 MPa). a excavations in rock. It should be emphasized that the relevance of these Pariseau (2007) compared Mohr–Coulomb. and data was found when the intermediate principal stress lomb. r2. though in six out of the non-linear form of the Hoek–Brown criterion gave a better eight cases. that a non- linear failure criterion is required to address the short The main advantages of the Hoek–Brown criterion are: comings of linear failure criteria. Based on data from a sandstone. 1b inset for definition of the p-plane projection (modified after Priest 2005) uniaxial and triaxial compression.. at both low and high confining pressures. r1–r3 plane). Ghazvinian et al. (2008) found that the and the other criteria were variable.e..The Hoek–Brown Failure Criterion 985 Fig. an approximation to Wiebols–Cook. Hoek–Brown and a combined Hoek–Brown Matsuoka– (b) It was developed through an extensive evaluation of Nakai criterion proposed by Benz et al. an Indiana limestone and a Dunham thus be of more concern than that at high confining dolomite. which (2008). gave either an equal or better fit than the linear Mohr– was better represented by the non-linear Hoek–Brown Coulomb criterion. the non-linear Hoek–Brown envelope dynamic loads. A similar comparison was reported by Benz and Schwab (a) It is non-linear in form (in the meridian plane). a clear reduction in the misfit between criteria fit to their experimental data than the linear Mohr–Cou. based on added 5 Advantages and Limitations comparisons involving other non-linear criteria. Mizuho trachyte. assessing six different criteria: Mohr–Coulomb. KTB amphibolite. Solnhofen limestone. the non-linear Hoek–Brown envelope provided a pressures. the closeness of fit in this region may high-strength norite.g. Similarly. Fitting of criteria near the reference points between the different criteria (it was origin of a normal stress–shear stress plot. low to high confining pressures) than Mohr–Coulomb and Druc- ker–Prager. uniaxial tension and published studies: Dunham dolomite. significantly better fit over the entire data range (i. from Singapore (average UCS approximately 190 MPa). a dense marble and Westerly granite. See Fig. unconfined shear tests performed on Bukit Timah granite Shirahama sandstone. Pariseau (2007) concluded.. 123 . Mogi. This comparison showed that the intact rock strength under Again. including tensile assumed that the criteria are independent of the interme. (2008). regression range) data of several intact rock types using the unconfined and the coordinate system in which the data and criterion compressive and tensile strength intercepts as common are compared (e. which laboratory test data covering a wide range of intact accounts for the influence of the intermediate principal rock types. 5 p-Plane plot comparing Priest’s (2005) comprehensive and simplified 3-D Hoek– Brown criteria relative to other commonly used criteria. agrees with experimental data over a range of Lade–Duncan. Hoek– comparisons and the level of fit achieved are dependent.e. in this case for weak marlstones (average UCS was considered in the failure criterion. Yuubari shale. confining stresses.

. It should be emphasized that this the Hoek–Brown criterion to the assessment and prediction treatment (i. straight lines in r1 versus r2 space. 123 . is set to zero.e. The fundamental assumption with its use by practitioners on a variety of rock made by the authors is that the stress-controlled failure engineering projects. which can be equated to frictional Considerable progress has also been made in applying strength. extending laterally from each r3 b Solnhofen limestone. d Yuubari shale. used for an elasto-plastic yielding failure mechanism where Martin et al. (1999) provide an empirical depth of spalling the frictional strength component mobilizes and dominates failure relationship using the Hoek–Brown criterion. Eberhardt Fig.986 E. 6 Best-fit comparison of the Hoek–Brown criterion to true e KTB amphibolite. c Shirahama sandstone. process around the tunnel is dominated by cohesion loss. m = 0) differs from that which would be of brittle fracture damage in overstressed massive rock. The Hoek–Brown criterion is represented by triaxial (r1 [ r2 [ r3) tests of intact rock for: a Dunham dolomite. and value (after Colmenares and Zoback 2002) (d) There is almost three decades worth of experience setting m = 0 and s = 0.11. Hence the mb parameter.

Subsequent experimental studies have since suggested 6 Recommendations that the intermediate principal stress has a substantial influence on rock strength (e. The Hoek–Brown criterion is a segment of the parabola which starts from the hydrostatic stress axis the behavior of the rock mass. 7 Illustration of underlying assumption in the development of the Hoek– Brown criterion in which r1 C r2 C r3 (or 0° B h B 60° in the p-plane). is with respect to its math- ing assumptions made in deriving the criterion (Hoek and ematical characteristics. brittle spalling for deep tunnels in blocky to massive rock its use has not been widely adopted in the petroleum (GSI [ 65).The Hoek–Brown Failure Criterion 987 Fig. Considering the influence of confinement on self-sta. strength of the rock is higher than what the criterion pre- ture propagation on confinement and can be incorporated dicts. Melkou- findings and the empirical relationship suggested by Martin mian et al. this criterion captures the dependence of frac. Zhang 2008. 2004). These Priest 2005.g.. the Hoek– 1989. One of the most the criterion is not centered on the hydrostatic stress axis. Figure 5 compares the comprehensive et al. 2000. intermediate principal stress is substantially larger than the ing. His procedure introduces a bi-linear failure industry.g. 7). Kaiser et al. A stress state where the which brittle fractures initiate and propagate during spall. Brace concluded that r2 had a negligible influence on Hoek–Brown is actually a segment of the parabola in the failure. Zhang and Zhu 2007. This forces a positive mean shear stress. Colmenares and Zoback 2002. 2009). Hoek and Brown application of Hoek–Brown. as documented through detailed discussions on the simplify. set to a typical value for the rock type in question. Hoek 1983. Brown 2008). important of these is the independency of the criterion from However.g. minor principal stress can occur adjacent to boreholes bilization of the spalling process at some distance into the drilled for petroleum and gas extraction and thus the rock mass. He noted that the parabola form of Brown 1980. (2009) explain that (2007) also uses the Hoek–Brown relationship to develop a despite the capacity of the Hoek–Brown criterion for reliable procedure for modelling the depth and extent of modelling a wide range of intact and fractured rock types. requiring the m value to be Hoek–Brown failure criterion (Pan and Hudson 1988. Diederichs et al. This Brown criterion has the advantage of describing a non- has led to the development of several 3-D versions of the linear increase in strength with increasing confinement that 123 . r1 C r2 C r3 (or 0° B h B 60° in the p-plane). Limitations in the Hoek–Brown criterion have been Another limitation of the Hoek–Brown criterion. r2. Figure 6 compares the fit of the Hoek–Brown crite- into a non-elastic numerical model using modified Hoek– rion to true triaxial test data for five different intact rock Brown parameters. axis. Therefore. Diederichs hydrostatic stress. Haimson 2006). Takahashi and Koide As a peak strength criterion for intact rock. The underlying assumption in (1980) justified this by pointing to triaxial extension and the development of the Hoek–Brown criterion is compression tests by Brace (1964) that showed no signif. this does not have any influence on the practical the intermediate principal stress.. partly because it does not take into account criterion that accounts for different stress thresholds under the intermediate principal stress. discussed by Pariseau (2007). (1999) have since been repeated and confirmed in and simplified 3-D Hoek–Brown envelopes developed by other studies on tunnel stability in highly stressed rock Priest (2005) to other commonly used criteria for a given (e. implies a positive mean shear stress sm C 0. types as reported by Colmenares and Zoback (2002). Melkoumian et al. counted as involving brittle/ductile transitions in the failure process. True triaxial testing by others (for e. which icant variation between results when r2 = r3 and r2 = r1.. I1 (Fig. Mogi 1971) meridian plane which starts from the hydrostatic stress shows that a more pronounced influence of r2 was dis.

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