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Tanmay Gupta, Keller Ground Engineering India Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, +91-8828231006,
Madan K. Annam, Keller Ground Engineering India Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, +91-
Valluri Sridhar, Keller Ground Engineering India Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, +91-9967063113,


Earthquakes are one of the most disastrous natural event. It remains an area of research to predict the
earthquakes, but always there is room for learnings from the earthquakes. One such risk is the liquefaction
potential of soils in loose sand deposits with shallow ground water table. Addressing liquefaction mitigation
in foundation design is one of the greatest challenges for practicing foundation engineer. The mitigation of
liquefaction potential could be achieved by several methods predominantly with vibro compaction or
dynamic compaction and vibro stone columns etc. The work in this study highlights the liquefaction
evaluation procedure and its mitigation using vibro compaction. Soil investigation works using eCPTs were
conducted before the start of the works to evaluate the seismic vulnerability of soil in terms of liquefaction
potential. Field trials were conducted at site to arrive at optimum design of vibro compaction. High quality
control using computerized output was monitored to achieve the required compaction of the soil. The
amount of backfill required resulting from subsidence of surface was recorded to ensure the effectiveness
of vibro compaction work. After ground improvement, soil investigation works were conducted to assess
efficacy of vibro compaction. Subsequently, full size plate load tests were conducted to check the improved
load settlement characteristics of improved ground. Based on the findings of this study, vibro compaction
proved as an effective ground improvement technique to mitigate the liquefaction potential of soil,
especially in loose sandy deposits.

Keywords: Earthquake, Liquefaction, Vibro Compaction, Ground Improvement


Liquefaction is the phenomenon where soil loses its stiffness and starts to behave like a liquid. Cohesionless
soil deposits present in seismically active zone with shallow ground water table possess a risk of
liquefaction. Disastrous earthquakes like Niigata (1964), Christchurch (2011), Bhuj (2001), etc. have
prompted practicing engineers to address the stability of structure during and after the earthquakes.

The design of foundations in such areas shall address the mitigation of liquefaction potential. This paper,
in its first part addresses the methodology of evaluation of liquefaction potential of soil according to IS
1893: 2016, is covered. After evaluation of liquefaction potential, ground improvement using vibro
compaction is discussed to mitigate the liquefaction potential (Belani et al. 2003). Finally, a case study is
presented where liquefaction potential was evaluated and subsequently mitigated using vibro compaction.
The case study is selected from an industrial plant located in North Eastern India.


Liquefaction evaluation is a field of ongoing developments (Idriss et al. 2014, Seed et al. 2003). It is likely
to be triggered when loose saturated cohesionless soil experiences cyclic stresses. Liquefaction triggering
depends on intensity and duration of cyclic loading, soil in-situ density and the presence of ground water

337 © 2018 Deep Foundations Institute

The current study deals with the simplified procedure mentioned in IS 1893: 2016 for evaluation of
liquefaction potential. The liquefaction evaluation is based on the calculation of factor of safety. The factor
of safety against liquefaction is the ratio of resisting force to driving force. The resisting force is a function
of the soil stiffness and driving force is a function of earthquake characteristics.

The resisting force of soil is evaluated in terms of CRR (Cyclic Resistance Ratio). CRR is the ratio of soil’s
capacity against liquefaction to the initial effective stress. CRR is calculated from in-situ soil investigation
tests like cone penetration test (CPT), standard penetration test (SPT) with grain size distribution and shear
wave velocity test. This paper is focused on evaluation of liquefaction potential using cone penetration data.

The driving force is evaluated in terms of CSR (Cyclic Stress Ratio). CSR is the ratio of earthquake driven
shear stress to the initial effective stress. CSR is calculated for an expected ground acceleration (amax) and
earthquake magnitude. Following section presents stepwise procedure to evaluate the liquefiable depth
based on guidelines recommended by IS 1893 (2016).

Factor of safety (FOS) is calculated as CRR/CSR. The final output from liquefaction evaluation is the
liquefiable depth of soil deposit. Liquefiable depth is defined as the depth beyond which FOS is greater
than or equal to 1. The detailed flowchart for evaluation of liquefaction potential is presented in Fig. 1.
After evaluation of liquefiable depth based on these guidelines, next challenge is to mitigate the liquefaction
potential of soil.

Step 1: Calculation of Step 2: Calculation of Cyclic Resistance Step 3: Calculation

Cyclic Stress Ratio Ratio (CSR) of Factor of Safety

2a: Calculaiton of normalized

cone resistance
2b: Calculation of soil
behaviour type index
2c: Calculation of grain size
corrected cone resistance
2d: Calculation of CRR for
Magnitude 7.5 Earthquake
2e: Calculation of CRR
corrected for Magnitude other
Fig. 1. Flow chart for evaluation of liquefaction potential

Mitigation of Liquefaction

There are three key terms in definition of liquefaction as described earlier. These are loose, saturated and
earthquake loading (cyclic stress on soil). The mitigation of liquefaction could be achieved by addressing
any one of these three parameters (Ground Improvement Committee 2013; Belani et al. 2013; Seed et al.

• Densification of loose deposit to required level shall mitigate the liquefaction potential (Baez et al.
1993; Annam et al. 2012)

• Providing drainage path in form of earthquake drains shall inhibit the build-up of pore pressure.
Pore water pressures in saturated cohesionless soils when become equal or close to applied stress,
causes zero or very low effective stress which is termed as liquefaction. These drainage paths will
not allow pore water pressure to rise up beyond certain level which shall mitigate the liquefaction
potential of soil (Baez et al. 1992; Murali Krishna et al. 2018; Seed et al. 1976).

• Reinforcing the soil with higher stiffness elements. These higher stiffness elements will share
certain part of earthquake stress resulting in reduced earthquake stress on soil (Priebe 1995; Kirsch
et al. 2017).

This paper deals with the densification of the loose sand deposits to mitigate the liquefaction potential. One
of the means to achieve densification is vibro compaction which is discussed in detail in next section.


As discussed in previous section, one of the measures to mitigate the liquefaction potential of soil is to
densify the loose sand deposits. The target densification requirement shall be based on factor of safety
evaluated from the liquefaction evaluation procedure. The soil is said to be non-liquefiable if factor of safety
post improvement is greater than or equal to 1.

Ground improvement using vibro compaction increases the resistance of the soil towards liquefaction. This
process causes the rearrangement of soil particles in denser configuration. Unlike surface compaction, vibro
compaction generates horizontal forces at required depth. This is particularly advantageous when design
depth is more than the influence zone of surface compaction. In this process, a vibrating probe is penetrated
in the ground which generates strong lateral forces. The rearrangement of soil particles in denser
configuration is possible only when these lateral forces imparted by vibrator exceeds the interparticle
friction of soil. Water jets are used in this process to assist the penetration of vibrator to required depth. Use
of water also causes generation of excess pore water pressures which reduces interparticle friction. This
technique, also called as vibro floatation, was first developed in 1930s in Germany.


Vibro compaction is ideally suited for soils having fines less than 20 % (preferably less than 10%). The
clay content shall be less than 2-3 % (Saito 1977). Figure 2 shows applicability of vibro compaction for
different soil types based on gradation.

Particle Size (mm)

0.0006 0.02 0.06 0.2 0.6 2 20
Silt Sand Gravel
Medium Coarse Fine Medium Coarse Fine Medium
Percentage Passing

Zone D Zone C Zone B Zone A


Fig. 2. Suitability of vibro compaction (redrawn from Woodward, 2005)

Zone A: Vibro compaction appropriate, but penetration difficult

Zone B: Most suitable for vibro compaction
Zone C: Vibro compaction feasible, but longer time required
Zone D: Vibro compaction not feasible – use stone columns (Kirsch et al. 2017)


Vibro compaction depends not only on the soil characteristics but also on the vibrator power, time of
compaction and confinement around the compaction zone. The soil properties which influence the
efficiency of vibro compaction are initial density, grain size, depth of compaction and permeability. The
vibrator characteristics affecting vibro compaction are frequency, amplitude and acceleration of vibrations.
The duration of vibrations also affects the degree of compaction achieved (Han 2015).

The vibratory forces are attenuated as the radial distance from the vibrator increases. At acceleration of
about 0.5g, the dynamic stresses induced by vibrator overcomes the interparticle friction and the structure
of granular soils is destroyed. Soil becomes fluidized at acceleration more than 1.5g and acceleration of
more than 3.0g causes soil dilation. Rodger (1979) idealized the response of granular soils to vibration as
shown in Fig. 3.

1 Dilatory Zone
2 Fluidized Zone
3 Compaction Zone
Soil density

1 2 3
Initial Density

Distance from vibrator

Particle acceleration




Distance from vibrator

Fig. 3. Idealized response of cohesionless soil around vibrating probe (redrawn from Rodger 1979)

In fluidization zone of soil around the probe, the shear strength of soil is reduced but doesn’t reach zero
value. Thus, the vibrations are transmitted from soil particles’ contact which are continuously made and
broken. With use of water or below water table, pore water pressures are generated which when exceeds
the rate of dissipation, results in fluidization of soil.

The plastic (dilatory and fluidized) zone is followed by compaction zone. The boundary between plastic
and compaction zone is where maximum densification happens. The compaction zone extends to the point
where no further densification happens.

Surface Manifestation

During vibro compaction process, there is substantial reduction in void ratio of soil owing to rearrangement
of soil particles in denser configuration. This reduction in void ratio and subsequently volume of soil is
evident at ground surface in form of conical crater. The depth of this crater is maximum close to the probe
point and reduces radially from probe point. The subsidence of this ground level is accounted for by
continuously feeding coarse graded sand at ground level. The addition of sand helps in maintaining the
ground level uniform and assists in compaction efficiency at shallow depths.


This section deals with application of vibro compaction technique for one of the project site situated in
North East India. An industrial plant was proposed to be constructed at the project location. Based on the
geographic location, the site falls under Zone V as per IS 1893 (2016). Soil at proposed project location
was essentially sand having percentage fines less than 10 percent. Ground water table was observed at an
average depth of 1m below the ground level. This section describes the details of the project structures, soil
characterization, performance criteria and successful implementation of vibro compaction.

Site Details

The industrial plant is in a public-sector refinery. The site falls under earthquake Zone V as per IS 1893
(2016). Structures proposed at this industrial plant includes compressor room, substation building, admin
building etc. The performance criteria for this plant is summarized in Table 1:

Table 1. Performance criteria for proposed industrial plant

A. Loading Intensity
• Isolated foundations : 25 T/m2
• Raft foundations : 20 T/m2
B. Post Construction Long term total permissible Settlements
• Isolated foundations : 25mm
• Raft foundations : 40mm
C. Liquefaction mitigation
• Seismic zone : Zone V
• FOS to mitigate Liquefaction : 1.0
• Peak ground acceleration for Liquefaction Analysis : 0.36g
• Earthquake Magnitude : 7.5

The peak ground acceleration was taken as per IS 1893 guidelines. The earthquake magnitude was
considered as 7.5 based on the severity of the location.

Soil Details

The soil investigation works were conducted using eCPTs. The eCPTs were penetrated till dense sand strata.
Based on eCPT data and interpretation (Robertson 2016), the soil is observed to fall in sandy silt to silty
sand zone. The layout of eCPTs is presented in Fig. 4 and typical eCPT plot is presented in Fig. 5.

The liquefiable depth as calculated from previous sections was observed to be varying from 11m to 12m
below the existing ground level. Following the evaluation of liquefaction potential, ground improvement
using vibro compaction was proposed to mitigate the liquefaction potential of soil.

Mitigation of Liquefaction

Vibro compaction densifies the soil and mitigates the liquefaction potential of soil. A trial grid with design
spacing of 2.75m c/c triangular was first executed and site. The results from before and after vibro
compaction were compared and FOS was evaluated. FOS evaluated from trial locations was found to be
greater than 1 post vibro compaction works.

For purpose of liquefaction mitigation, it was recommended to treat the area surrounding the footing for
confinement purpose. The lateral confinement extent was taken as two thirds the depth of liquefaction
beyond the footing edge (Kirsch et al. 2017).

Fig. 4. Location plan of eCPT

Fig. 5. Soil summary for the industrial plant

Quality Assurance and Control

M4 Graph

Quality control using M4 graphs provides real time monitoring for vibro compaction process. This graph
gives output in form of depth vs time, depth vs compaction effort, time taken at each depth and total time
taken for each probe point. These graphs are continuously reviewed during field trials and parameters are
frozen to be followed for main works. Each soil type responds to vibration effect in different time. The time
for which vibrator shall be hold at constant depth is fixed during these field trials. A typical M4 graph is
presented in Fig. 6.

Backfill Monitoring

The subsidence of ground surface is observed in form of conical crater. Coarse graded sand is continuously
fed from the ground level at probe point to compensate for the volume reduction. At this site, around 10 to
11 percent of sand volume in terms of complete volume of treatment was compensated on account of
decrease in soil volume. The backfill monitoring also serves in visualization of efficiency of vibro

Fig. 6. Typical M4 graph used for quality control

Pre and Post Soil Investigation

Post soil investigation using eCPTs were conducted to observe the efficacy of vibro compaction process.
The post eCPTs were conducted in shadow zone or least influential zone which is the centroid of the triangle
formed by the triangular grid pattern.

As evident from the eCPTs in Figs. 7-8, improvement in range of 1.5 to 2 times was observed after vibro
compaction. It shall be noted that at some depths, friction ratio close to 1 percent was observed which
signifies presence of silt/clay in sand deposit. This presence of silt/clay traces is evident around 6m depth
where low improvement factor is observed. The post eCPT data was then used to evaluate the liquefaction
potential of the improved ground.

The factor of safety as calculated for post eCPTs was greater than 1 for most of the depths. This increase
in cone resistance positively shows that vibro compaction is effective in mitigation of the liquefaction
potential of soil.

Fig. 7. Before improvement eCPT plot and comparison of pre and post cone resistance (qc) for trial

Fig. 8. Before improvement eCPT plot and comparison of pre and post cone resistance (qc) for main

Plate Load Test

One of the geotechnical concerns to be addressed in design of vibro compaction was to improve the soil
bearing capacity and reduce the settlements. Plate load tests were conducted at site after vibro compaction
works to demonstrate the improved load settlement behavior of soil. As observed from plate load test
results, the settlements from the test plate were well within permissible limits as tabulated in Table 2.

Fig. 9. Plot of load settlement curve from plate load tests

Table 2. Summary of plate load test results

Plate Design Load Settlement @ Test Load Settlement at Net
Load Intensity, Design Load, Intensity, Test Load, Settlement,
Test kPa mm kPa mm mm
Initial 250 kPa 7.11 375 kPa 10.75 4.23 6.52
Cyclic 250 kPa 4.33 275 kPa 5.51 0.78 4.73


This paper presents an approach for practicing geotechnical engineers on mitigation of liquefaction
potential of soil. Liquefaction evaluation procedure was discussed in detail according to latest Indian
Standard guidelines. Based on the liquefaction analysis and soil conditions, ground improvement using
vibro compaction was proposed to mitigate the liquefaction potential of soil.

High standard quality procedures were adopted before and after ground improvement works. Soil
investigation works were conducted after ground improvement to demonstrate the efficacy of the treatment
technique. Post eCPTs were analyzed and factor of safety greater than 1 was obtained. Plate load tests were
then conducted at site to observe the load settlement behavior of improved ground. Results from plate load
test successfully verified the intended performance criteria for the structures.

Based on the post improvement liquefaction evaluation and observed load settlement graph, it is concluded
that vibro compaction was effectively employed to achieve required densification. The results from this
study establishes that similar soil could be treated using vibro compaction.


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