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# GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS

DESIGN GUIDANCE
Preferred Design Procedure
There is no standard FHWA design procedure for the use of Geotextile Encases Columns
(GECs). Currently, three existing design procedures are used in practice: a unit cell analytical
model, a numerical method, and a method based on bearing capacity and predicted settlement.
See the Design Guidance document for column supported embankments for recommended
design procedures for the arching/load transfer mechanism from the embankment to the
columns.
Table 1 at the end of this document lists typical inputs and outputs for design and analysis
procedures.

## Reference(s): Alexiew et al. (2003)

Raithel et al. (2005)
Wu et al. (2009)

This design procedure uses the stresses on a single column (unit cell) and surrounding soil to
design the entire grid. The stresses in the model are based on stresses developed in models for
granular piles. Figure 1 from Raithel et al. (2005) shows the different stresses (or loads) acting
on the column and soil.

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
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GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE

Figure 1. Unit cell or calculation model for GECs (Raithel et al. 2005; With permission
from ASCE).

The total additional load applied onto the unit cell is shared by the column and the surrounding
soil, which can be expressed in the following equation:

where,
= additional stress in the column
= additional stress in the surrounding soil
= cross-sectional area of the column
= cross-sectional area of the unit cell

These vertical stresses (pressures) cause horizontal stresses given by the following equations:

where,
= horizontal stress in the column
= horizontal stress in the soil
= lateral active earth pressure coefficient

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
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= lateral at-rest earth pressure coefficient (excavation method)
= enlarged lateral at-rest earth pressure coefficient (displacement
method)
= initial vertical stresses in the column and the soil if the excavation
method is used

To determine the horizontal stress (σh,geo) in the geotextile casing, the following equations can be
used:

where,
= the ring tensile force
= radius of the geotextile casing
= stiffness of the geotextile

Finally, to determine the differential horizontal stress (σh,diff) due to the geotextile encased
column, the following equation is used:

This differential stress causes an expansion and settlement of the column. The magnitude of the
column expansion can be determined from the following iterative equation:

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
AND STABILIZATION OF PAVEMENT WORKING PLATFORM
GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE

where,
Δrc = horizontal deformation
νs = Poisson’s ratio of the soil
Eoed,s = oedometric modulus of the soil

This horizontal deformation is then used to determine the settlement of the column.
Preliminary design charts shown in Alexiew et al. (2003) provide settlement estimates for
embankments constructed over geotextile encased columns based the embankment height, the
oedometric modulus of the soil, the percentage of the embankment foundation taken up by
columns and the tensile stiffness of the geotextile. For these calculations, Ringtrac™ with a
tensile stiffness ranging from 1,000 kN/m to 4,000 kN/m was used as the geotextile. These
charts also compare estimates using both a simplified unit cell analysis and a more complex
numerical model.
Settlements were calculated for embankment heights of 4, 8, and 12 meters and for area
replacement ratios of 10, 15, and 20%. With an embankment height of 12 meters and a soil
oedometric modulus of 0.5 MPa, the settlement can be reduced from 4.5 to 0.5 meters by using
columns totaling 20% of the embankment foundation and a geotextile casing with a tensile
stiffness of 4,000 kN/m. If an area replacement ratio of 10% is used with a Ringtrac™ tensile
stiffness of 1,000 kN/m, the settlement can be reduced from 4.5 meters to just over 2 meters.
Other settlements in a 12-meter high embankment with an oedometric modulus of 0.5 MPa range
between these values. For a 12-meter high embankment with an oedometric modulus of 1.5
MPa, the settlement can be reduced from 1.5 meters to between 0.5 and 0.9 meters. For an
8-meter high embankment with an oedometric modulus of 0.5 MPa, the settlement can be
reduced from 3.0 meters to between just over 0.2 and 1.4 meters. For an 8-meter high
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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
AND STABILIZATION OF PAVEMENT WORKING PLATFORM
GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE
embankment with an oedometric modulus of 1.5 MPa, the settlement can be reduced from 1.0
meter to between just under 0.2 and 0.6 meters. For a 4-meter high embankment with an
oedometric modulus of 0.5 MPa, the settlement can be reduced from 1.5 meters to between 0.05
and 0.5 meters. For a 12-meter high embankment with an oedometric modulus of 1.5 MPa, the
settlement can be reduced from 0.5 meters to 0.25 meters.

## Reference(s): Raithel et al. (2005)

Design of a GEC can be performed with finite element modeling. This can be completed with
PLAXIS or other numerical modeling programs. This modeling program is well suited for GECs
because a number of different soil models can be used. The Soft Soil Model, which is a model
based on the Cam-Clay type, is used for the softest soils. For the column material which is made
up of sands and gravels, the Hard Soil Model is used. This model is based on the Duncan/Chang
model.
In PLAXIS, the columns are modeled in a plane model. Using this model, the columns are
replaced by shear walls of the same size. These walls have a coating based on a substitute shear
parameter that is used to model the geotextile material. This coating is modeled using substitute
shear parameters derived based on the following figure:

Figure 2. Mohr’s circles of stress for the coated column and the column with substitute
parameter a) substitute cohesion b) substitute angle of friction (Raithel and Henne 2000).

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
AND STABILIZATION OF PAVEMENT WORKING PLATFORM
GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE
where,
σ3,C and σ1,C = horizontal and vertical stresses in the column
Δσ3,geo = horizontal stress in the geotextile
σ3,S,tot = horizontal stress in the soft soil layer
cSub = substitute cohesion
’Sub = substitute friction angle

The following equations can also be used to calculate the substitute cohesion and friction angle:

When using a substitute coating to model the geotextile casing, either the substitute cohesion or
the substitute friction angle should be used but not both. Using the substitute friction angle
generally provides better results and the substitute cohesion should only be used in cases where
only slight changes to the ring tensile forces are expected.

## Reference(s): Ayadat and Hanna (2005)

(1) Determine the collapse potential of the soil based on the following equation:

where,
CP = collapse potential
ΔH = settlement of the foundation, with and without a stone column
H0 = thickness of the collapsible layer

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
AND STABILIZATION OF PAVEMENT WORKING PLATFORM
GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE
(2) Determine soil unit weight, γ, angle of shearing resistance, , cohesion, c’, and coefficient of
earth pressure at rest, k0. k0 can be determined using the equation k0 =1- sin because the
soil is normally consolidated after collapse. These parameters are used to estimate the
settlement and bearing capacity of the soil using the following equations:

where,
σ’vmax = bearing capacity of the soil
σ’h0 = effective lateral stress of the soil before installing the column
α = reduction factor that ranges from 0 to 1
τa = tensile strength of the geotextile
t = thickness of the geotextile
r0 =initial radius of the column

[ ( )]

where
Δ = settlement of the soil
L = length of the column
Ep = modulus of elasticity of the column
Ap = cross-sectional area of the column
q = surcharge applied at the ground surface
d = diameter of the column
QR = correction factor used when full pile-soil slip does not occur
QT = correction factor for the effects of delayed installation
ΔP = internal pressure on the column due to the strain in the geotextile
E = modulus of elasticity of the geotextile

(3) Determine the applied load, Pa, on the stone column and the surcharge, q, applied to the
surrounding soil. The effective diameter of the column, de, can be approximated by 1.05
times the spacing of the columns for a triangular arrangement and 1.13 times the spacing for
a square arrangement.
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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
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GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE
(4) Specify that columns of approximately 0.75 to 1.5 meters in diameter should be placed over
the entire depth of the collapsible layer. The strength of the geotextile should be determined
based on the expected loads and the tolerable settlement using the above settlement equation.
Slip between the column and the soil should also be considered.

(5) Using the above bearing capacity equation, verify that the column will hold the required

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
AND STABILIZATION OF PAVEMENT WORKING PLATFORM
GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE

## Liquefaction Potential Assessment

Geotextile encased columns may be used (but have not been to date) at sites with in-situ soils
that may be susceptible to liquefaction during earthquakes. Saturated sands, silty sands, sandy
silts, and silts are likely to be in this category. When GECs are used for the support of
embankments and structures or to reduce settlements, it is also necessary to confirm that there
will not be a risk of liquefaction or other ground disturbance that could lead to loss of support
and lateral spreading. The initial assessment of whether the soil at a site will liquefy in an
represented as a Cyclic Resistance Ratio (CRR), is less than the cyclic shear stress that will cause
liquefaction, termed the Cyclic Stress Ratio (CSR).
Combinations of CSR and strength of the soil layer, usually determined in-situ by means of
penetration tests and shear wave velocity1 measurements, have been found that define the
boundary between liquefaction and no liquefaction over a range of peak ground motion
accelerations. This boundary has been determined through extensive analyses of case history
data from many earthquakes. Standard Penetration Tests (SPT), Cone Penetration Tests (CPT),
and Becker Penetration Tests for soils containing gravel and cobbles (BPT) are used to determine
the CRR. Values of CRR are defined by the points on the boundary curve that separates
liquefaction and no liquefaction zones on a plot of CSR vs. penetration resistance or shear wave
velocity corresponding to the measured and corrected in-situ property. An example of such a plot
for liquefaction analysis using the SPT is shown in Figure 3.

1
Owing to the lack of precision and uncertainties associated with shear wave velocity - liquefaction correlations,
this method is not considered further herein.
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Figure 3. SPT liquefaction chart for magnitude 7.5 earthquakes (Youd et al. 2001; with
permission from ASCE).

Thus, if a site underlain by saturated clean sand has a corrected blow count (N1)60 of 10 blows
per foot and the anticipated cyclic stress ratio under the design earthquake is 0.25, the soil will
liquefy unless the normalized penetration resistance (N1)60 is increased to greater than 22 blows
per foot by densification, or the cyclic stress ratio is reduced by transferring some or all of the
dynamic shear stress to reinforcing elements. Similar plots are available in terms of normalized
CPT tip resistance qc1N. In each case the penetration resistance is normalized to an effective
overburden stress of 1 atmosphere.
Although straightforward in concept, the liquefaction potential analysis is complex in
application, because (1) the CSR depends on the input motions within the soil layer which, in
turn, depend on such factors as earthquake magnitude and intensity, distance from the epicenter,
geologic setting, rock conditions, and soil profile characteristics, (2) the CRR depends on such
factors as overburden stress, fines content of the soil, and static shear stress, and (3)
determination of normalized values of the penetration resistance involves several corrections to
the measured values, especially in the case of the SPT.
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Information about input ground motions can be obtained from local experience and recorded
ground motions near the site, if available, or from seismicity information obtainable from the
United States Geological Survey Ground Motion Calculator at:
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/hazards/designmaps/javacalc.php
which can be used to obtain peak rock accelerations for the site, and the USGS Interactive
deaggregation website:
http://eqint.cr.usgs.gov/deaggint/
which enables determination of the magnitude and site-to-source distance earthquake scenario
that contributes the most to the seismic hazard at the site; i.e., it enables estimation of what
magnitude to use to obtain the appropriate magnitude scaling factor needed to adjust the actual
ground accelerations to a magnitude of 7.5, which is the value assumed for the available chart
correlations.
Widely used liquefaction correlation diagrams for SPT and CPT, along with discussions of how
to make the necessary computations to obtain the CSR, (N1)60, qc1N, and the CRR are given in
Youd et al. (2001) and Idriss and Boulanger (2008).
If GECs are used in potentially liquefiable soils in a seismic area for support of embankments or
structures, or for stabilization of slopes, the cyclic stresses caused by ground shaking will be
shared between the columns and the untreated matrix soil. By virtue of their greater stiffness, the
columns will attract a greater proportion of the cyclic shear stresses than given simply by the
replacement ratio (the ratio of the treated area in plan to the total plan area). To maintain
structural integrity and ensure satisfactory performance requires a design that prevents horizontal
shear failure in aggregate columns or combined shear and bending failures in cemented columns
and walls. Analysis of this complex soil-structure problem is usually site and project specific and
requires input from someone with prior knowledge and experience.
Whether the matrix soil will liquefy with the supporting elements in place can be assessed in
terms of the reduced shear stress and strain that it is subjected to after accounting for that carried
by the columns. A very approximate, but conservative, means for estimating the reduced shear
stress is as follows.
If the simplifying assumption is made that the shear strains in the columns are the same as the
shear strains in the soil, then the ratio of the shear stress in the soil to the average stress can be
expressed as:

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
AND STABILIZATION OF PAVEMENT WORKING PLATFORM
GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE

where,
= Area replacement ratio
= Shear modulus of the column
= Shear modulus of the soil
The equal strain assumption means that the stress concentration ratio, n = col/soil, will be given
by Gc/Gs. Owing to various types of compliance in the system, however, the actual stress
concentration ratio would be less than Gc/Gs for most situations. One source of guidance is the
stress concentration that occurs in a column-soil system subjected to vertical compressive
loading. For aggregate columns in soft soil this ratio is typically in the range of about 2 to 5 or 6,
and the ratio can be higher for cemented columns. When isolated columns are used to resist
shear deformations, the values of n can be smaller than for axial loading because there are more
potential sources of compliance, including column rotation and bending, than for axial loading.
Nevertheless, the values for axial loading can serve as a useful guide. If continuous panels are
used, the stress concentration for shear deformations can be higher than for isolated columns
because the rotation and bending deformation modes are inhibited.
Substituting n for Gc/Gs in the above expression gives:

## and if as = 0.3, then:

which represents a 38% reduction in the seismic shear stress applied to the soil. A reduction of
this magnitude could provide a significant decrease in the liquefaction potential.
The appropriate value of n in any case depends on the relative stiffness of the column and soil,
the slenderness ratio of the columns for unconnected column arrangements, the use of grids
formed of continuous shear panels instead of isolated columns, and the overall height-to-width
and height-to-length ratios of the treated zone, among other factors. As mentioned above, if the
columns are arranged in a grid of overlapping continuous panels it would be expected that n
would be higher than if isolated columns are used.

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
AND STABILIZATION OF PAVEMENT WORKING PLATFORM
GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE
Table 1. Typical inputs and outputs for design and analysis procedures.
Minimum factor of safety values
Allowable settlements
Performance Criteria/Indicators Allowable lateral deformations
Reliability
Drainage
Time
Stratigraphy
Ground water level
Particle size distribution
Plasticity
Unit weight
Relative density
Subsurface Conditions
Water content
Strength
Compressibility
Chemistry
Organic content
Variability
Embankment pressure
Earthquake acceleration and duration
Water pressure
Unit weight
Water content
Particle size distribution
Internal friction angle
Shear strength
Inclusion dimensions
Compressive strength
Material Characteristics GEC tensile strength
Compressibility
Modulus
Stiffness
Interface friction angle
Permeability - soil
Permittivity - GEC
Equivalent opening size
Vibration densification
Construction Techniques
Impact densification
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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
AND STABILIZATION OF PAVEMENT WORKING PLATFORM
GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE
Table 1. Typical inputs and outputs for design and analysis procedures.
Column diameter
Spacing
Depth
Geometry
Thickness
Length
Slope

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
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GEOTEXTILE ENCASED COLUMNS
DESIGN GUIDANCE
References
Alexiew, D., Horgan, G.J. and Brokemper, D. (2003). “Geotextile encased columns (GEC): Load
capacity & geotextile selection.” BGA International Conference on Foundations; Innovations,
Observations, Design and Practice, 81-90.
Idriss, I.M. and Boulanger, R.W. (2008). Soil Liquefaction During Earthquakes, Earthquake
Engineering Research Institute Monograph MNO-12, 235 pp.
Raithel, M., Kirchner, A., Schade, C., and Leusink, E. (2005). “Foundation of constructions on
very soft soils with geotextile encased columns- State of the art.” Geotechnical Special
Publication, Innovations in Grouting and Soil Improvement, 136, 1867-1877.
http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/40783%28162%2920
Raithel, M. and Henne, J. (2000). “Design and numerical calculation of a dam foundation
withgeotextile coated sand columns.” Paper no. G11. Proc. 4th International Conference on
Ground Improvement Geosystems, Helsinki, Finland, Building Information Ltd.,
www.rakennustieto.fi
Youd, T.L., Idriss, I.M., Andrus, R.D., Arango. I., Castro, G., Christian, J.T., Dobry, R., Finn,
W.D.L., Harder, L.F., Hynes, M.E., Ishihara, K., Koester, J.P., Liao, S.S.C., Marcuson, W.F.,
Martin, G.R., Mitchell, J.K., Moriwaki, Y., Power, M.S., Robertson, P.K., Seed, R.B., and
Stokoe, K.H. (2001). “Liquefaction Resistance of Soils: Summary Report from the 1996
NCEER and 1998 NCEER/NSF Workshops on Evaluation of Liquefaction Resistance of
Soils”, J. of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, ASCE, Vol. 127, No. 10, pp.
817 - 833. http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/%28ASCE%291090-
0241%282001%29127%3A10%28817%29

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G02 GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL IMPROVEMENT,
RAPID EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION,
AND STABILIZATION OF PAVEMENT WORKING PLATFORM