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Indian Geotechnical Conference 2010, GEOtrendz

December 1618, 2010

IGS Mumbai Chapter & IIT Bombay

Evaluation of Optimum Spacing of Stone Columns

Rao, L. Madhira, M.1

Asst. Manager (Designs) Professor Emeritus
e-mail: e-mail:

IVRCL I&P Ltd., Hyderabad,

Dept. of Civil Engg., Hyderabad

Soils existing at a given site may not be suitable for supporting the desired facilities because of inadequate
bearing capacity and/or due excessive settlements under design load. A method now being used, most often, to
improve soft soils is the installation of stone columns. The design of stone column foundation primarily involves
the determination of suitable spacing of stone columns for a chosen diameter and length. The paper presents a
case study for the determination of optimum spacing of stone columns by conducting pre- and post installation
Standard Penetration tests for three different spacing, viz.. 1.6 m, 2.0 m and 2.5 m of stone columns installed in a
triangular pattern in a soft clay deposit. Based on the degree of improvement achieved the optimum spacing is
arrived at and the design carried accordingly. Load tests were conducted on single column and group of three
columns for confirming the design capacity of stone columns.

1. INTRODUCTION stress on stone columns and the undrained shear strength

Because of the ever increasing value of land, the of clay has been proposed by Greenwood (1970) and Saha
development of marginal sites, once cost prohibitive, is now (1999). Hughes and Withers (1974) carried out series of
economically feasible. The increased cost of conventional tests on stone columns installed in normally consolidated
foundations and numerous environmental constraints clay. The test results indicated that ultimate capacity of a
greatly encourage insitu improvement of weak deposits. A single stone column was influenced primarily by bulging
number of ground improvement techniques are feasible to mechanism.
economically develop marginal sites for present use. Engelhardt et al. (1974) demonstrated the beneficial
Construction of oil storage tanks using conventional effects of stone columns by carrying out load tests in soft
design methods such as preloading, dredging and soil clay with and without stone column reinforcement. Madhav
displacement techniques can often no longer be used due (2000) presented an overview of recent contributions for
to environmental restrictions and post construction the analysis and design of stone columns. Several
maintenance expenses. Stone columns/granular piles are approaches available in the literature for finding bearing
one method of ground improvement having a proven record capacity and settlement of stone column improved ground
of experience. They are ideally suited for improving soft have also being given.
clays, silts and loose silty sands. The stone column 3. THE SITE
technique of ground treatment has proven successful in
Tank farms as a part of a Refinery Project are being built at
1) Improving stability of both embankments and Paradip, Orissa. The subsoil deposit (Fig. 1) indicates that
natural slopes, the subsoil in the upper reaches varies in terms of
2) Increasing bearing capacity, occurrence and thickness of different strata. The different
3) Reducing total and differential settlements, strata briefly are:
4) Reducing the liquefaction potential of sands and Stratum -I: Fill material (silty sand with little fines) of
5) Increasing the time rate settlement. thickness 2.5 m to 4.0 m.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW Stratum -II: Very soft to soft silty clay/sandy clay (CH)
of thickness 0.3 m to 5.3 m.
Semi empirical design approaches based on the allowable
760 L. Rao and M. Madhira

Stratum -III: Very loose to loose silty fine sand (SM)

of thickness 1.0 m to 5.5 m.
Stratum -IV: Soft to medium stiff silty clay/ clayey silt
(CI) of the thickness 1.7 m to 3.5 m.
Stratum -V: Medium dense to dense silty sand (SM-
SP) of thickness 8.0 m to 15.0 m.
Stratum -VI: Medium stiff to stiff silty clay/ sandy clay
(CL) of thickness 1.0 m to 5.5 m.
Stone columns are adopted as the foundation for the
crude oil tank farm to increase the bearing capacity of the
foundation soil as well as to reduce the settlements. Vibro-
Replacement with wet method was adopted to install the (c)
stone columns. Fig. 2: Arrangement of Trial Stone Columns
To confirm the design capacity and settlement of
selected stone columns, initial load tests were conducted
on single and group of three columns as per IS 15284
(Part 1): 2003.
Fig. 1 General
General Soil Profile Stone columns of 800 mm diameter have been installed for
The depths of stone columns are 11 m based on the initial tests. Three different spacings, viz., 1.6 m, 2.0 m
soil profile. Trial stone columns are installed at spacings and 2.5 m c/c in triangular pattern were tried. Pre and post
of 1.6 m, 2.0 m and 2.5 m c/c to ascertain the optimum installation SPTs had been done in the respective areas to
spacing, load carrying capacity and settlement evaluate the effect on the ground due to stone column
characteristics of the working/ main stone columns. The installation. The pre and post SPT N values are shown
arrangements of stone columns are shown in Fig. 2. SPT in Figure 3.
N values are measured before installation of stone
0 N 60 0 60 0 60
columns for various spacing, at each location (Fig. 2). After
installation of stone columns, the tributary area is cleared 0 0
and the surface of columns is exposed and post SPT values Be Before
Depth (m)

D e p th ( m )
Depth (m)

were measured. The effective spacing between stone After After

columns was finalized based on the comparison of pre and Bef
post SPT results for each spacing. ore

10 10

(a) (b) (c)

Fig. 3: Pre and Post SPT Results: (a) 1.5 m c/c (b) 2.0 m c/c
and (c) 2.5 m c/c
The stone columns @ 1.6 m c/c had shown appreciable
improvement in terms of the N value of the treated ground.
The improvement is of the order of nearly 100%.
Stone columns installed @ 2.0 m c/c spacing had
shown some improvement of N value at the top. However,
the N values in the strata immediately below did not show
significant gain mainly because the soil in this zone was
predominantly cohesive where no gain in N value would
be expected. The degree of improvement in the SPT values
of the ground is about 25%.
Evaluation of Optimum Spacing of Stone Columns 761

Stone columns @ 2.5 m c/c spacing did not show any

improvement (hardly 3%) of N values. Based on the results
obtained a spacing of 2.0 m c/c is adopted and design carried
The design data considered in design is as follows:
Tank Dimensions:
Diameter = 79 m
Height = 13.5 m
Diameter of Stone Columns = 800 mm
Fig. 4: Schematic of Single Column Test
Spacing of stone column = 2 m c/c
The Geotechnical profile with soil parameters for the
design considered is given in Table 1. The load carrying
capacity of stone column as per IS 15284 (part I):2003 is
123 kN/m2 while the maximum foundation pressure for
13.5 m high tank during hydro test after dispersion of load
through sand pad is 125 kN/m2.
Table 1: General Soil Profile
Zo Depth Description SPT C
ne (m) N kN/m3 kN/m2
I 0 to 3 Fill / Silty 6 20 0 2 Fig. 5: Schematic of Group Column Test
m Sand 8
II 3 to 6 Soft Silty 5 19 30 0 7. RESULTS
m Clay Tables 2 and 3 summarize the loading sequence with
III 6 to 10 Loose silty 10 19 0 3 corresponding settlements for single and group of three
m fine sand 0
stone columns.
IV 10 to Medium 35 20 35 0
18 m Silty Clay Table 2: Single Stone Column
V 18 to Dense Silty 60 22 35 0 Step Load % of Design Settlement
22 m Sand (Tons) Load (mm)
VI >22 m Stiff Silty 50 22 100 0
Clay 1 8.50 20% 1.14
2 17.0 40% 2.42
The settlements of untreated and ground treated with
3 25.50 60% 3.50
stone columns are estimated as 335 mm and 210 mm
respectively. Initial load tests had been conducted on single 4 34.00 80% 5.20
and group of three stone columns to confirm the efficiency 5 42.50 100% 6.13
of the treatment. 6 51.00 120% 7.55
7 59.50 140% 8.48
68.00 150% 10.07
After installation of stone columns, the tributary area is
cleared and the surface of columns exposed. Loading Table 3: Group of Three Stone Columns
platform is prepared for testing according to IS 15284 (Part Step Load (Tons) % of Design Load Settlement (mm)
I): 2003. The test setup for single and group of three stone 1 26.00 20% 7.04
columns is shown in Figures 4 and 5 respectively. Load 2 52.00 40% 9.40
was applied by means of jacking the steel plate against the 3 78.00 60% 10.14
reaction from the Kentledge. Stone column was tested to 4 104.00 80% 12.26
load intensity of 1.5 times the design load. The loads were 5 130.00 100% 14.89
decreased in installments and readings noted at each stage 6 156.00 120% 15.04
after reaching the maximum load. 7 182.00 140% 15.24
8 240.00 150% 15.62
762 L. Rao and M. Madhira

Figure 6 compares the test results of single and group diameter of stone columns as too close a spacing i.e. less
of three stone columns. In single column test maximum than 2 times the diameter is not feasible from construction
load applied is only 68 Tons, which is 1.5 times the design point of view.
load. Similarly in group column test, the maximum load Load tests were carried for single and group of stone
applied 240 tons which is 1.5 times the design load. In columns for chosen effective spacing of 2 m c/c. The results
both the cases, tests show very small settlements compared have shown that the settlements very well with in the limits
to the theoretical predicted values (Table 4). at test loads. It is recommended to conduct initial trials to
obtain the most effective spacing and initial load test on
L o a d (T o n s)
100 200 stone columns to economize the cost of the project.
Ambily, A.P. and. Gandhi, S.R. (2006). Effect of sand pad
S in g le thickness on load sharing in stone column, IGC 2006,
em G ro u p 555-556.
S Greenwood, D.A. (1970). Mechanical improvement of soils
below ground surfaces, proc. Ground Engineering
Conf., Institution of Civil Engineers, London, 11-22.
Hughes, J.M.O. and Withers, N.J. (1974). Reinforcing of
soft cohesive soils with stone columns, Ground
Engineering, Vol. 7, No.3, 42-49.
IS 15284 (Part 1): 2003. Design and Construction for
Fig. 6 Load vs Settlement of Single and Group of Columns
Ground Improvement Guidelines, Part 1 Stone
Table. 4 Predicted vs Observed Settlements Columns.
Madhav, M.R. (2000). Granular piles recent contributions.
Predicted Single Group A Short Term Course on Ground Improvement and Deep
Value Column Test Column Test
Foundations, IIT Madras, Dec , MRM1-MRM38.
Settlement 210 mm 10.07 mm 15.62 mm
Malavizhi, S. N. and Ilamparuthi, K. (2004). Load verses
8. CONCLUSIONS settlement of clay bed stabilized with stone and
reinforced stone column. Proceedings of 3rd Asian
Initial trials were carried for spacings of 1.6 m, 2.0 m and Regional Conference on Geosynthetics, GEOASIA,
2.5 m c/c to obtain the optimum spacing of stone columns Seoul, Korea, 322 - 329
for a chosen diameter of 800 mm and length of 11 m. SPT
Saha, A. and Das, S.C. (2000). Interaction analysis of stone
were conducted before and after installation of stone
column groups in foundations, Indian Geotechnical
columns for each spacing to evaluate the most optimum
Conference. Bombay, 279 284.
Results of 1.6 m c/c spacing have shown very good Saha, S, and Saha. S, (1999). Optional design of ground
improvement while those for 2.5 m c/c spacing have shown improvement for large oil storage tanks, Proc. Indian
no improvement at all. The preferred effective spacing Geotechnical Conference. Kolkata., Vol.1, 163-166.
between stone columns should be between 2 to 3 times the