Shallow foundation stiffness: continuous soil and discrete spring models compared

M. J. Pender, L. M. Wotherspoon & J. M. Ingham
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Auckland.

A. J. Carr
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury.

2006 NZSEE Conference

ABSTRACT: In this paper we compare two ways of modelling shallow foundation stiffness. One method assumes that the soil beneath the foundation can be idealised as an elastic continuum and the other that the soil can be represented as a bed of independent springs. The essential difference is that the elastic material is continuous so that a displacement or load at one location induces changes elsewhere, while in the case of springs there is no interaction so that what happens at one spring has no effect on other springs. Modelling with springs is simpler than using a continuous medium and also leads to a simple method for handling progressive uplift of the foundation under moment loading. The question addressed in the paper is how appropriate is the spring model. 1 INTRODUCTION This paper is one link in a programme of work intended to develop integrated design methods for structure-foundation systems. To date one facet of this has considered framed structures founded on shallow foundations. The usual practice is to design such a structure with moment resisting connections between the shallow foundations and the bottom storey columns. Thus in design we need to consider the vertical, horizontal and rotational stiffness of the shallow foundations. Of particular importance is the possibility that at some stage during earthquake loading the moments induced at the foundation–column connection might lead to uplift of the edges of the footing with consequent reduction in stiffness. A simple way of handling this eventuality is to represent the soil beneath the foundation as a bed of independent springs, although it is recognized that, as soil is a continuous medium, the elastic continuum model might be more appropriate. The main thrust of this paper is concerned with the vertical and rotational stiffness of shallow foundations. The stiffnesses obtained using the two models are compared. The main conclusion is that, for given dimensions of a rigid rectangular foundation resting on the ground surface, the rotational stiffness of a bed of springs is less than that of a continuous elastic material. Furthermore, when the soil is modelled as a nonlinear material the ratio of rotational to vertical stiffness gradually decreases as bearing failure is approached. 2 SHALLOW FOUNDATIONS ON AN ELASTIC SOIL Gazetas (1990) and his co-workers have developed a set of expressions giving vertical and rotational stiffness of rigid shallow foundations of arbitrary shape and embedment condition. In this paper we consider only foundations on the ground surface. The vertical stiffness of a rectangular foundation is given by:

K V _ elastic continuum

0.75 ö GL æ ç0.73 + 1.54 æA b ö ÷ ç ÷ ÷ ç = ç 2÷ ÷ çL ÷ ÷ ç è ø ÷ 1- n2 ç è ø

(1)

where: KV_elastic continuum is the vertical stiffness of the foundation, G is the shear modulus of the soil, ν is the Poisson’s ratio, L is the length of the foundation, and Ab the contact area between the underside of the foundation and the soil below.

Paper Number 27

NL_springs is the number of rows of springs (assumed to be even) in the longitudinal direction of the footing (= L/s). and Afs is the area of the foundation associated with each row of springs (=Bxs). Figure 1 makes very clear that the rotational stiffness of a shallow foundation on a bed of springs is considerably less than that when the foundation is on a continuous elastic material. for a uniform elastic foundation material and the foundation represented as a bed of discrete springs. 3 SHALLOW FOUNDATIONS ON A BED OF SPRINGS The vertical stiffness of a rectangular foundation on a bed of springs is given by: K V _ springs = A b k s (3) where: KV_springs is the vertical stiffness of the foundation on a bed of springs and ks is the spring stiffness per unit area of the foundation.The rotational stiffness about an axis through the centroid of the foundation is given by: K q _ elastic continuum 3GI0.1) j= 1 2 (4) where: ks is the vertical stiffness of the bed of springs per unit area of the foundation. and B is the breadth of the foundation. These calculations were done by setting the spring stiffness for the bed of springs so that. s is the spring spacing (assumed to be the same in the length and breadth directions). the vertical stiffness was the same for both models.15 (2) where: Kθ_elastic continuum is the rotational stiffness of the foundation. The rotational stiffness of the rectangular foundation on a bed of springs is given by: K q _ springs 1 = A fs k ss 2 2 N L _ springs / 2 å (2j . The explanation of this difference is apparent if one considers the reaction pressure distribution beneath these foundations. 100 Ratio of rotational to vertical stiffness 80 60 Elastic continuum 40 20 Discrete springs 0 0 5 10 15 Footing length (m) 20 Figure 1 Ratio of the rotational to vertical stiffness of square rigid shallow footings. In Figure 1 the ratio of the rotational stiffness to the vertical stiffness of square foundations resting on the ground surface is plotted for both the elastic soil and the bed of springs.n çB ø 0. Iaxis is the second moment of area of the shallow foundation about the axis of rotation. For the bed of springs at every point the reaction pressure depends only on 2 .75 æL ö axis ç ÷ = ç ÷ è ÷ 1. j is a counter. for a given foundation dimension.

3 . The vertical load applied to the foundation resting on saturated clay with an undrained shear strength of 100 kPa is such that the ultimate limit state LRFD inequality is satisfied (in out-of-date terminology we would say that the bearing capacity factor of safety at this vertical load is 3). If one is concerned only with elastic modelling this can be remedied by adding an additional rotational spring beneath the footing. Thus for both vertical and moment loading of rigid shallow square foundations on elastic soil the reaction pressure distribution is far from constant. So for uniform vertical displacement of a rigid foundation there will be a uniform reaction pressure. Clearly this is not possible. We have tried both of these approaches (Wotherspoon et al 2004. However. However for a rigid foundation on an elastic material the reaction pressure distribution is not uniform for a uniform settlement. The reason for this is that the strains imposed on the soil are very large at the edges of a rigid foundation. If we examine the distributions of reaction pressure beneath the square foundation in Figures 2a and 3a with respect to the ultimate bearing pressure (qu = 5. that is the edge of the foundation is about to start pulling on the soil below.the displacement at that point.14x1. as is catered for in the majority of software packages for the analysis of structures. Pender et al 2006). or alternatively adding additional width to the footing and adjusting the spring stiffnesses so that the vertical and rotational stiffnesses of the footing are the same as that given by equations 1 and 2. Furthermore the pressure at any point beneath the foundation influences the pressure at every other point beneath the foundation. The magnitude of the moment in this case is such that one edge of the foundation is at the point of generating negative contact pressure. Similarly for a rotational displacement of a foundation on the bed of springs the reaction pressure distribution will be linear following the spring displacements. The quest to achieve a correct ratio of vertical to rotational stiffness is so that any progressive uplift from the edges of the footing is modelled realistically. This becomes most apparent when one considers the ratio of the rotational stiffness to the vertical stiffness – a bed of elastic springs giving a smaller rotational stiffness than a continuous elastic medium. or linear. The distribution when the foundation is subject to moment superimposed on the vertical loading is plotted in Figure 3a. the stiffness of which is adjusted so that the vertical stiffness of the foundations is the same. The pressure tends to be very large at the edges.2xsu ≈ 617 kPa) we find that there are some locations where the elastic pressure exceeds this value. In Figures 2b and 3b the pressure distributions are replotted with any values in excess of 617 kPa clipped. It is the concentration of the reaction towards the edge of the foundation that is the explanation for the rotational stiffness of the foundation on the elastic soil being so much larger than the rotational stiffness of the same sized foundation on a bed of springs. and concentrated towards the edges. and the underside will start to detach from the soil. It is apparent that only a small number of locations near the edges of the footing are clipped because of local bearing failure. The underlying reason is that for the spring foundation there is no interaction between the springs so that what happens at one point has no communication with what happens at the other points. The attraction of the bed of springs is simply that it allows modelling of the progressive uplift of the shallow foundation under moment loading. In a similar manner the pressure distribution when the foundation is subject to moment can be calculated. We have calculated the pressure distribution for uniform vertical displacement of a rigid square footing and is plotted in Figure 2a. So far we have found that for a rigid shallow foundation there is an incompatibility between the stiffness modelling on a continuous material and on a bed of springs. one can ask why go to all this trouble? Surely the correct foundation stiffness can be obtained by using separate discrete springs for the rotational and vertical stiffness of the footing. The calculation was done using the well-known solution for the vertical displacement of the surface of an elastic half-space when a pressure loading is applied over a rectangular area (reproduced by Poulos and Davis 1974).

In Figures 2b and 3b we simply showed the effect of clipping the pressure distribution at any position where the ultimate bearing pressure was exceeded. 2 and moment applied subsequently. (a) uniform elastic soil. 4 NONLINEAR SOIL STRESS-STRAIN BEHAVIOUR What we have touched upon only briefly so far is the fact that the reaction pressure beneath our footing is limited by the ultimate bearing pressure of the soil beneath. (b) results in (a) clipped when the ultimate bearing pressure of the soil exceeded. (a) uniform elastic soil.a 1000 800 600 400 1000 800 600 400 200 10 8 6 Y (m) 4 2 0 0 2 4 6 X (m) 8 200 10 v (kPa) b 1000 800 600 400 v (kPa) 1000 800 600 400 200 10 8 6 Y (m) 4 2 0 0 2 4 6 X (m) 8 200 10 Figure 2 Pressure distribution beneath a vertically loaded square rigid shallow foundation. a b 2000 1500 (kPa) 1000 500 10 0 8 2 X 2000 1500 (kPa) v 1000 500 10 0 v 0 6 (m ) 8 2 X 0 6 (m 4 ) 4 2 0 10 8 6 Y ( 4 m) 4 2 0 10 8 6 Y (m ) Figure 3 Pressure distribution beneath a square rigid shallow foundation. subject to the same vertical load as in Fig. This is too simple because underlying it is the nonlinear stress-strain 4 . (b) results in (a) clipped when the ultimate bearing pressure of the soil exceeded.

03 0.04 0. (b) decreasing ratio of rotational to vertical stiffness as bearing failure is approached. Footing displacement zero 250 250 a 200 Footing action (kPa) (kPa) 150 150 200 b Footing actions v 100 v 100 50 50 0 Footing width 0 Footing width Figure 5 Bearing pressure distribution beneath a shallow rigid strip foundation on a nonlinear soil. 5 .01 0.4 100 0.2 50 0 0 0. The basis of this work is an implementation in FLAC (Fast Lagrangian Analysis of Continua.03 0. The average bearing pressure – settlement curve calculated for a rigid strip foundation subject to gradually increasing vertical load on a saturated clay (undrained shear strength of 50 kPa) produced by this model is shown in Figure 4a.8 0.6 0. Ratio of rotational to vertical stiffness 1 Average bearing stress / qu a 250 b 200 150 0.05 0 0 0. We will present some results along these lines in the remaining parts of this paper. Itasca 2005) of a simplified stress-strain model for soil. (a) pressure distribution under a vertical load corresponding to a bearing capacity factor of safety of 3.behaviour of the soil.02 0.02 0. (b) bearing pressure distribution under the vertical load in (a) with moment superimposed (the magnitude of the moment is such that the vertical displacement of the right hand edge of the footing just reaches zero).04 0. but at this stage for strip foundations rather than the square footings discussed above.01 0.05 Settlement / foundation width Settlement / foundation width Figure 4 (a) Average bearing pressure – settlement curve for a rigid strip foundation on a nonlinear soil.14su = 257 kPa). We are then presented with the possibility that the elastic calculations discussed at the beginning of the paper might be totally misleading and that nonlinear soil behaviour will eliminate the peaks in the pressure distribution at the edges of the foundation. Pender (1999). If this was the case then the linear pressure distribution of the bed of springs might be found to be a more realistic pressure distribution not only because of computational convenience but also because it represents more adequately the actual behaviour of the soil structure interaction. It is apparent that the numerical result approaches the theoretical ultimate bearing pressure (qu = 5.

Figure 5b. This means that the correct stiffness ratio could be achieved in the “elastic” region. for values of the vertical load on the footing. calibrated so that the vertical stiffness is correct. and that the undrained shear strength of the soil in Figure 2 is 100 kPa and that of Figure 6 is 50 kPa) it is apparent that the nonlinear stress-strain behaviour of the soil means that although the concentration of vertical stress at the edge of the footing is still apparent it is not as sharp as in the elastic case. the rotational stiffness for the initial application of moment with the vertical load held constant and the vertical stiffness for an additional vertical load increment with no moment. but zero vertical movement at the centre. while keeping the vertical load constant. We found that when nonlinear soil behaviour occurs the nonlinearity has a more significant effect on the rotational than on the vertical stiffness. The above discussion shows that when considering foundation stiffness the simple representation of the soil beneath a shallow foundation as a bed of springs is unlikely to be fully satisfactory. Figure 4b. Comparing Figures 2a and 5a (and making due allowance for the fact that Figure 2 is for a square footing whilst Figure 5 is for a strip foundation. What we present here is the ratio of rotational to vertical stiffness at various points around the average bearing pressure . even if this is achieved the model would not give the 6 . but the peak at the edge is not as severe as that for the elastic model. This is an interesting demonstration of how the simple spring model does not represent what is occurring beneath the footing – if the spring model was used then the reaction pressure at the edge of the foundation at that moment would be zero. or in other words as nonlinear soil behaviour becomes more significant. However. Despite these difficulties it may be possible to get the approximately correct stiffness behaviour for the footing if a bed of nonlinear springs is coupled with a nonlinear rotational spring at the centre of the footing.settlement curve (Figure 4a). is not fully satisfactory as the pressure at the footing edge is still not zero when the displacement is zero. Like the linear springs this spring would need to be nonlinear with a decreasing rotational stiffness as the rotation increases. Consequently. Because of the nonlinearity this is not as simple as the ratio plotted in Figure 1. now it depends on the vertical load applied to the foundation. under predicts the rotational stiffness of the foundation. nonlinear soil behaviour appears to lead to an improvement as the stiffness ratio decreases with increasing nonlinearity. even then the simple spring approach. First the footing is taken to the “working” vertical load and then. That is we evaluate. However. The easiest way to apply these loads is by imposing displacements at the nodal points and evaluating the applied actions from the nodal forces. It is of note that at this point the vertical displacement of the footing edge is zero (that is the upward rotational displacement is equal to the downward vertical displacement at the commencement of the moment loading).In Figure 5a the distribution of vertical pressure beneath the footing is plotted at a vertical load for which the LRFD inequality is satisfied under static loading (roughly equivalent to a bearing capacity factor of safety of 3 using older terminology). we apply some moment to the footing. When the soil behaves as an “elastic” material (a common representation when the loads on the foundation are considerably less than the bearing strength) the bed of springs. Therefore as the footing load increases the stiffnesses of the footing decrease but the decrease in the rotational stiffness is more rapid than the decrease in vertical stiffness. from initial points with “elastic” behaviour to points approaching bearing failure. The next step in the FLAC modelling is to apply some moment loading. whilst for the subsequent moment loading we superimpose an additional linear distribution of displacement profile which has a linear downward displacement on one side of the footing and an upward displacement on the other. with nonlinear springs. It was commented earlier that the distribution of bearing pressure shown in Figure 5b is not linear. The decreasing stiffness ratio plotted in Figure 4b indicates that as bearing failure of the footing is approached it is likely that the bed of springs model represents the rotational stiffness of the footing more effectively. We are now in a position to compare the rotational and vertical stiffness of the foundation on the nonlinear soil. For the vertical loading of the rigid footing we impose uniform vertical displacements. The pressure distribution beneath the foundation on a nonlinear soil at the point where one side is about to lift off is shown in Figure 5b. This ratio is found to decrease as the load on the footing increases. In this way it might be possible to develop a suitable nonlinear spring configuration that represents the foundation stiffness.

Approach to design of shallow foundations for low-rise framed structures. but certainly more than a simple bed of springs is needed. J. J.correct bending moment and shear force distribution in the footing. L. and Ingham. In other words nonlinear soil behaviour has a greater effect on the rotational stiffness than the vertical stiffness. pp. Fast Lagrangian Analysis of Continua Version 5. 475-482. and Davis. Foundation Vibrations. Balkema. Ingham. the rotational stiffness of the foundation on the springs is less than that of the foundation on a uniform elastic soil. M. Proceedings of the Symposium: FLAC and numerical modelling in Geomechanics. L. H. Ed. 6 REFERENCES Gazetas. M. 7 . Fang. M. Implementing a soil stress strain model with hysteretic damping in FLAC.. M. Considering a strip foundation on a nonlinear soil we found that the stiffness ratio decreases as the vertical load is increased. So obtaining a valid stiffness model for a shallow foundation is fraught with difficulties. J. 5 CONCLUSIONS We have demonstrated that when modelling the soil beneath a shallow foundation as a bed of discrete elastic springs. J. Proc. The nature of the pressure distribution beneath the foundation on an elastic soil provides the explanation for the differing rotational stiffnesses – in the case of the elastic soil the reactions are concentrated towards the edges of the foundation. G. Vancouver. G. M.0. Itasca Consulting Group. 100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference Commemorating the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 1991. 1974. Wotherspoon. A. Wiley. New York Wotherspoon. Minneapolis Pender. J. Elastic solutions for soil and rock mechanics. E. J. Pender. Combined modelling of structural and foundation systems. 13th World Conference on EQ Engineering. 2005. 553-593. M. pp. H. & Carr.. EERI Poulos. Pender. Minneapolis. In Foundation Engineering Handbook. M. Y. 2006.. The most important conclusion from the work presented herein is that the simple bed of springs may not represent adequately uplift at the edge of shallow foundations caused by earthquake induced moments. 2004. 1999. Proc. Van Nostrand. with the spring stiffness set so that the vertical stiffness of the foundation on the bed of springs is the same as that for a footing on an elastic soil. H.