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Profiling of overconsolidation ratio in clays by field vane

Law Engineering, P.O. Box QQ, McLean, VA 22101, U.S.A.
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Department of Civil Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, U.S.A.
Received May 20, 1987
Accepted August 21, 1987

The field vane (FV) has traditionally been utilized to obtain profiles of undrained shear strength in soft to medium clays.
After some 40 years of experience with FV results, it has been suggested that empirical correction factors be applied to the FV
data to account for the effects of strain rate, anisotropy, and disturbance on measured shear strengths. As an additional use of
the device, the FV may be calibrated at each site to develop profiles of overconsolidation ratio (OCR) with depth. A data base
of oedometer test results and FV strengths from 96 different clays has been compiled to use as a basis for this calibration.
Key words: field vane, undrained strength, clay, overconsolidation ratio, preconsolidation pressure, shear strength, vane

La resistance au scissomktre (FV) a traditionnellement CtC utilisCe pour dCterminer les profils de la rksistance au cisaillement
non drainCe dans les argiles moyennes i molles. Aprks quelque 40 ans d'expCrience avec les rksultats de scissomktre, des
facteurs de correction empiriques ont CtC suggCrCs pour tenir compte des effets de vitesse de cisaillement, d'anisotropie, et de
For personal use only.

remaniement sur les rksistances mesurCes. Comme utilisation additionnelle de cet outil, la rksistance au scissombtre peut &tre
calibrke sur chaque site pour Ctablir des profils du rapport de surconsolidation (OCR) en fonction de la profondeur. Des
donnCes de rksultats d'essais oedomktriques et de rksistances au scissomktre pour 96 argiles diffirentes ont CtC compilkes pour
servir de base i cette calibration.
Mots clis : scissombtre de chantier, rksistance non drainCe, argile, rapport de surconsolidation, pression de prCconsolidation,
rksistance au cisaillement, resistance au scissomktre.
[Traduit par la revue]

Can. Geotech. J. 25, 150-157 (1988)

Introduction occurred after having been indicated to be stable using CuFV.

The field vane (FV) is perhaps the most popular tool for the For routine use, these correction factors were then cross-
direct in situ measurement of undrained shear strength (C,) in correlated with plasticity index (Bjermm 1972, 1973) and (or)
soft to medium clays. In addition to its simplicity, the vane liquid limit (Larsson 1980). Later, the correction coefficients
shear test (VST) can also be used to provide an in situ measure were related to the normalized undrained strength to over-
of clay sensitivity. Various sizes and shapes of vanes have burden ratios (Aas et al. 1986).
been developed, including some for the study of strength The original correlation proposed by Bjermm for estimating
anisotropy (Richardson et al. 1975). Generally, commercial the correction factor (denoted p ) is shown in Fig. 1. Larsson
vanes are square and have four blades and a height-to-diameter (1980) modified this relationship based on a larger and more
ratio (HID) of 2. Details concerning the geometry, test proce- recent number of back-calculated failures. A correction rela-
dures, and calculations of C, from torque may be found in ting the liquid limit was also proposed (Fig. la). Since routine
Schmertmann (1975) and Aas et al. (1986). In practice, the test studies utilize a two-dimensional stability model, Azzouz et a/.
is usually performed according to ASTM D-2573 (American (1983) reexamined the original cases of Bjermm to include end
Society for Testing and Materials 1986). Effects of shearing effects using a three-dimensional analysis. The revised correla-
rates have been studied by Perlow and Richards (1977). tion with plasticity index is shown in Fig. lb. The most recent
Much experience using FV data led to recommendations by evaluation of the field vane correction factors (Aas et al. 1986)
Bjermm (1972) for empirical corrections to CuFvvalues before considers the effects of preconsolidation on the results
their direct application to geotechnical problems involving (Fig. lc).
stability (Bjermm 1973). These correction factors are in the The uncertainty in correcting the FV data, with reduction
form of reduction coefficients, and are generally based upon coefficients based on plasticity indices (I,), led some
the results of back analyses of many failures of embank- researchers to question the continued use of the FV in practice
ments, foundations, and excavations in clays observed to have (Schmertmann 1975). Indeed, the practicing engineer must
also investigate the variation of I, with depth in order to correct
'Present address: Department of Civil Engineering, Cornell Uni- the FV strength profile.
versity, Hollister Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, U.S.A. The purpose of this paper is to show that CuFVvalues can
Printed in Canada 1 Imprim6 au Canada

also be used to profile the in situ overconsolidation ratio 1.2

(OCR) equal to (c$/u:,) of a clay deposit. As much as 30 years 1.0
ago, Hansbo (1957) suggested a correlation between o; and
CuFV,based on the liquid limit. This provides an alternative 0.8
means for determining the undrained strength for stability
analyses using an observed relationship between direct simple 0.6
shear (DSS) strengths and OCR (Jamiolkowski et al. 1985): 0.4
0 40 80 120 160
[I.] (C,,/U:,)~~~= 0.23 0CR0.' LIQUID LIMIT
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The actual effective stress path followed by a FV test is not a.

truly known and probably not directly relevant to stability
problems (Wroth 1984). However, the results of DSS tests
have been shown to provide a good average value of mobilized
strength along a potential failure surface (Kinner and Ladd
1973; Larsson 1980; Trak et al. 1980). Equally important is
the fact that knowledge of the OCR provides a basis for estima-
tion of the horizontal at-rest earth pressure coefficient, KO
(Ladd et al. 1977). This parameter is required for most
stress-deformation analyses.
Determination of OCR
Critical-state soil mechanics (Wroth 1984; Mayne 1980) and PLASTICITY INDEX
SHANSEP methods (Ladd et al. 1977) have shown that the
normalized undrained shear strength increases with overcon-
solidation ratio according to the general expression
For personal use only.

where (C,/a:,,) is shear strength to consolidation pressure ratio

for normally consolidated clay, A is plastic volumetric strain
ratio, and the overconsolidation ratio is defined in terms of
effective vertical stress (OCR = a;/a:,). The vertical precon-
solidation stress (ah) can be defined by the intersection of the
KO-stresspath with the yield envelope. Most commonly, ah is
determined from oedometer tests run on undisturbed tube or
block samples.
Rearranging [2], the OCR may be expressed as
[3] OCR =[ ]
(cu/a:o> 'IA

FIG.1. Empirical strength correction factors for FV based on corre-

If the specific reference values of (Cu/o:,,) and A are known lation with (a) liquid limit, (b) plasticity index, and (c) normalized
for a given clay, then the (CU/u{,) determined from FV tests undrained strength to overburden ratio.
could be used to index the profile of OCR with depth for the
deposit. A review of nine well-documented clays summarized field test (field vane, cone penetrometer, pressuremeter, etc.)
by Jamiolkowski et al. (1985) indicates typical values of should exhibit separate relationships between undrained
C,/a{,, range from 0.16 to 0.74 (mean = 0.28) and the param- strength and OCR (Mayne 1986).
eter A varies from 0.77 to 1.51 (mean = 1.03) for field vane
shear conditions. Field vane data base
Often, however, the specific reference values of C,/a:,, for Laboratory consolidation test data, index property values,
a particular clay deposit are not known prior to the geotechni- and field vane strengths from 96 clays were compiled for this
cal investigation and little guidance is available for their esti- study. The sites, data point symbols, and references are shown
mation. In the present study, a data base of FV strengths has in Table 1. The soil deposits included normally consolidated
been developed to define general relationships that can be used (OCR = 1) to heavily overconsolidated clays (OCR's up to
to estimate the OCR. 40). Plasticity indices varied from as low as 3 (Emmentad) to
The undrained strength of clay is not a unique soil property as high as 300 (Mexico). The measured vane strengths ranged
but a behavioral response to a particular type of load. Boun- from 1.6 kPa (Gullberg River) to 380 kPa (Corcoran). Sensi-
dary conditions, strain rate, and direction of loading affect the tivities measured by FV tests varied from 2 to indeterminately
response. The consequence is that every clay has a variety of high owing to remolded strength values too low to measure.
undrained shear strengths corresponding to different loading At each of these sites, companion series of one-dimensional
conditions, and each of the common laboratory test types, i.e., consolidation tests were also performed, generally on tube
triaxial compression and extension, simple shear, plane strain samples extracted from above or below the individual vane
active and passive conditions, gives a different value. In addi- tests or, alternatively, from adjacent borings. The values of a;
tion to unique values of CU/u{,, that are associated with each and (or) OCR were reported in each of the references cited. It
laboratory mode of testing, it should also be expected that each should be noted that the determination of from oedometer
152 CAN. GEOTECH. J. VOL. 25, 1988
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FIG.2. Observed trend between OCR and normalized field vane strength to overburden ratio.

curves may be difficult in some cases, especially in very stiff information was provided by the sources of data. Some of
to hard clays. In addition, sample disturbance tends to reduce these factors were size of vane, mineralogy, sand content, clay
the apparent value of a; (Ladd et al. 1977). fraction, anisotropy, and geological origins. Were they taken
A direct comparison between the laboratory-measured OCR into account appropriately, then the data scatter in Fig. 2 might
and the normalized field vane strength (Cu/a{o)Fvis presented be reduced.
as Fig. 2. The "average" trend may be found from regression
analyses on 262 data points, assuming a log-log relationship
(r = 0.80): Indexing of preconsolidation stress
Hansbo (1957) proposed that a; may be directly linked to
CuFV.Using the data base shown in Table 1, this hypothesis
which yields mean values of Cu/a{,, = 0.146 and A = 1.52 has been investigated and indicates the general trend shown in
for the FV test. These are quite different from typical param- Fig. 3. Regression analyses on 343 data points assuming a
eters derived from triaxial and simple shear data bases (Mayne log -log relationship (r = 0.89) give
1985). For example, isotropically consolidated triaxial com-
pression tests tend to have mean values of 0.33 and 0.71, [6] a; = 7 .@t(cuFv)0.83
respectively. or, by assuming that a direct arithmetic relation exists between
It is observed that [4] tends to underestimate OCR's in very a; and CuFV,regression analyses give a best-fit line with no
quick and sensitive clays. It could be that sampling disturb- intercept (r = 0.88):
ances caused reduction in a;, especially in lean clays.
If a forced value of the exponent term 11A = 1 is assumed [7] a;=3.45cUFv
and a direct relationship between OCR and normalized strength If for simplicity a value of A = 1 is assumed, then [5] may
is sought, the regression analyses give a best-fit line with no be generalized to
intercept (r = 0.81):
[81 OCR = ~FV(CUFV/~~O)
[5] OCR = 4.3 1(CuFv/a{,)
A similar formulation for [7] yields
It should be noted that many important factors were not
investigated during this study, primarily because incomplete

TABLE1. Field vane - a; data base

Data Data
point point
symbol Site and reference symbol Site and reference
@ Saint Alban (Roy et al. 1981) 0 Rio de Janeiro (Ramalho-OrtigC et al. 1983)
0 Porto Tolle (Jamiolkowski et al. 1982) $ Thunder Bay (Ng et al. 1986)
@ Trieste (Battaglio et al. 1981) @ Silty Holocene (Koutsoftas and Fischer 1976)
@ Boston blue (D'Appolonia et al. 1971) @ Plastic Holocene (Koutsoftas and Fischer 1976)
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83 Khor Al-Zubair (Hanzawa 1977) 0 Aby (Hansbo 1984)

CIl Daikoku-Cho (Hanzawa 1983) 8 Rissa (Gregersen 1980)
(> San Francisco (Duncan and Buchignani 1973) 0 Louisiana I (Quiros et al. 1983)
0 Sermide (Colombo et al. 1979) Louisiana 2 (Quiros et al. 1983)
8 Gullbergvass (Hansbo 1984) $ Louisiana 3 (Quiros et al. 1983)
A Olskroken (Hansbo 1984) (SI Fao, Iraq (Hanzawa 1983)
a Asrum, Oslo (Hoeg et al. 1969) Yorktown (Mayne et al. 1986)
D Launceston (Pany 1970) @ Shellhaven (Skempton and Hankel 1953)
b Rang du Fleuve (Trak et al. 1980) @ Sea Island (Konrad et al. 1985)
4 Rupert-7 (Trak et al. 1980) @ Soft Bangkok (Eide and Holmberg 1972)
B New Liskeard (Trak et al. 1980) O Drammen (Lacasse et al. 1981)
B Matagami (Trak et al. 1980) 0 Haga (Lunne et al. 1986)
A Ottawa (Bauer 1984) 8 Kars (Raymond 1972)
A Portsmouth (Ladd 1972) B Emmerstad (Lacasse et al. 1985)
v Vankleek (Bozozuk 1972) Z Ellingsrud (Lacasse et al. 1985)
r Heron Road (Mitchell et al. 1972) f3 Onsoy (Lacasse et al. 1985)
m Kalix (Holtz and Holm 1979) 4 Ska-Edeby (Massarsch et al. 1975)
n Rangsit (Moh et al. 1972) 4 Jarva-Krog (Massarsch et al. 1975)
A Gloucester (Bozozuk and Leonards 1972) b Ursvik (Massarsch et al. 1975)
v Lanester (Pilot et al. 1982) P Backebol (Massarsch et al. 1975)
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V Cubzac (Pilot et al. 1982) Trinidad (Watson el al. 1984)

P Natsushima (Hanzawa 1979) 8 Kars (Law et al. 1977)
O Kimola (Leonards 1982) @ Boundary Road (Law et al. 1977)
Roorkee (Mohan et al. 1978) E Coode lsland (Walker and Morgan 1977)
0 Pisa (Mitchell et al. 1977) m Helsinki (Broms and Boman 1977)
0 Manhattan (Parsons 1976) Fiumincino (Burghnigoli and Calabresi 1977)
0 Brunnsbo (Onje and Broms 1967) 0 Backa (Onje and Broms 1967)
8 Newport News (Mayne and Jones 1982) O Rang Est (Silvestri 1980)
Corcoran (Bara and Hill 1967) O Rang Ouest (Silvestri 1980)
8 Gullberg (Orrje and Broms 1967) @ Sundland (Berre and Bjermm 1973)
$ Lilla Mellosa (Larsson 1977) Vaterland (Berre and Bjermm 1973)
$ Joliette (Morin et al. 1983) Studenterlunden (Berre and Bjermm 1973)
Berthierville (Morin et al. 1983) East Bangkok (Berre and Bjermm 1973)
0 St. Cesaire (Leroueil et al. 1983) NRCC (Eden and Law 1980)
A Varennes (Leroueil et al. 1983) A Kent (Nicholson and Jardine 1982)
A Mascouche (Leroueil et al. 1983) 'L Ste. Catherine (Morin et al. 1983)
@ Fort Lennox (Leroueil et al. 1983) r;7 Rigaud (Morin et al. 1983)
Louiseville (Leroueil et al. 1983) Q Wallaceburg (Lo and Becker 1979)
B Batiscan (Leroueil et al. 1983) A Contrecoeur (Bozozuk et al. 1978)
V Belfast (Davies and Humpheson 1982) h New York (Leathers and Ladd 1978)
@ Maine (Ladd and Foott 1974) V Mexico (Marsal 1959)
@ Empire (Azzouz and Lutz 1986) \ Sumatra (Trenter 1980)
a Saugus (Jamiolkowski et al. 1985) o Omaha (Jamiolkowski et al. 1985)
D Connecticut (Jamiolkowski et al. 1985) James Bay (Jamiolkowski et al. 1975)

The parameter aFvwas calculated for 263 individual data [i 11 aFv = 22(1,)-0.~~
points from the 96 sites according to
The original correlation proposed by Hansbo (1957) for
OCR Swedish clays related IXFV to the liquid limit (wL in percent):
[lo1 u w =
(CU/~:O)FV [12] (YFV = 222/wL
Values of a ~ inv the data base generally range from 1.8 to 20, This relation was reviewed by Larsson (1980) to include
although data on Backa clay reported by 0j e and Broms Scandinavian clays, in general, and was alternatively expressed
(1967) indicated values as high as 33. Furthermore, as shown in terms of plasticity index (I, in percent):
by Fig. 4, aw decreases with increasing plasticity index of the
clay. Assuming a log - log relationship, regression analyses of 1
[13] C Y =~
the data in Fig. 4 indicated (r = -0.75) (0.08 + 0.00551,)
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FIG. 3. Observed relationship between apparent preconsolidation pressure from laboratory oedometer and FV strength.


FIG.4. Apparent trend between a! factor and plasticity index.


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FIG.5 . Measured OCR profiles at six sites as determined from oedometer tests (individual points) and estimated profiles from FV data (dashed

Essentially, [13] and [I 11 give identical results for I, > 5. that observed between OCR and normalized shear strength
An application of the proposed method in estimating the pro- determined by laboratory shear test methods. This difference
files of OCR in six different clay deposits is shown in Fig. 5 . can be explained by the different normalized shear strength
The values of I, range from 8 to 100. It may be seen that the ratios obtained from different test types. The preconsolidation
values of OCR, calculated using [8], agree well with those pressure (a;) and the measured field vane strength (CuFV)also
determined from the results of oedometer tests. In these correlate within definable limits, and appear to be partially
examples, aFvwas estimated from [ll.]. In practice, it is dependent on the index properties of the clay. Calibration
recommended that vane strengths actually be calibrated with and verification of these trends are recommended for each spe-
the results of consolidation data obtained from undisturbed cific site.
samples. In their simplest form, the proposed expressions adopted are
An interesting similarity also exists between the OCR adjust-
ment coefficient (aFv) and the empirical vane strength correc-
tion factor (y) proposed by Bjerrum (1973). Both decrease with
Ip at approximately the same rate. By comparing Fig. l b with
Fig. 4, it appears that, in general, in which aFvranges from - 2 to 20 and is related to the plas-
ticitv index.

possibly allowing y to be determined from oedometer tests
rather than Ip. Anne Bethoun and Ken Ellis are thanked for preparation of
the manuscript and figures.
AAS,G., LACASSE, S., LUNNE,T., and HOEG,K. 1986. Use of in
Based On a review data and vane situ tests for foundation design on clay. Proceedings, Use of In Situ
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relation exists between OCR and normalized undrained UP. 1-30.
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156 CAN. GEOTECH. J. VOL. 25, 1988

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