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Elisa Atrya

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S t r e s s Distribution in Soils due to Surface Loads 175

that I B has a maximum value of 0.48 at r/z = 0, i.e., indicating thereby that the stress is a
m a x i m u m b e l o w th e point load.

6.3 W E S T E R G A A R D ' S F O R M U L A F O R P O IN T L O A D S
Boussinesq assumed that the soil is elastic, isotropic and homogeneous for the development of a
point load formula. However, the soil is neither isotropic nor homogeneous. The most common
type of soils that are met in nature are the water deposited sedimentary soils. When th e soil particles
are deposited in water, typical clay strata usua lly have their lenses of coarser materials w i t h i n t h e m .
The soils of this type can be assumed as laterally reinforced by numerous, closely spaced,
horizontal sheets of negligible thickness but of infinite rigidity, which prevent the mass as a whole
from undergoing lateral movem ent of soil grains. Westergaard, a British Scien tist, proposed (1938)
a form ula for the com putation of vertical stress o by a point load, Q , at the surface as z

cr, -' ,3/2 2

in w h i c h f j, is Poisson's ratio. If fj, is taken as zero for all practical purposes, E q. (6.2) simplifies to

Q 1 Q
2 3 2 (6.3)
[l 2(r/z) ] '

( I I a)
where /,,, = 2 3/2
is the Westergaard stress coefficient. T h e variation of / with th e
[l + 2 ( r / z ) ]
ratios of (r/z) is shown gra phically in Fig. 6.2 along with the Bous sinesq's coefficient I B . The value
of I w at r/z = 0 is 0.32 w hich is less tha n that of I B by 33 per cent.

or 7
h w
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5

r/ z 1.5


Figure 6. 2 Values of IB or /^for use in the Boussinesq or Westergaard formula

176 Chapters

Geotechnical engineers prefer to use Boussinesq's solution as this gives conservative

results. Further discussions ar e therefore limited to Boussinesq's method in this chapter.

Example 6.1
A concentrated load of 1000 kN is applied at the ground surface. Compute th e vertical pressure (i )
at a depth of 4 m below th e load, (ii) at a distance of 3 m at the same depth. U se Boussinesq's

The equation is

Q 3/2;r
_ _ —/ w h e r e /„ = f rrj^-
Z i
7 if' ti 9 p/Z
[l + ( r / z ) \

Q 1000 2
(i) When B = 3/2 n = 0.48, az
r/z = 0, /„ = 0.48^-
2 = 0.48 x —— = 30 kN/m
z 4x4
(ii) W h e n r/z = 3/4 = 0.75

3/27T 0.156x1000
R=~T ^T = 0.156, a = — = 9.8k N / m
B 2 2 z 4x4
l + (0.75) f

E x a m p l e 6 .2
A concentrated load of 45000 Ib acts at found ation level at a depth of 6.56 ft below ground surface.
Find the vertical stress along the axis of the load at a depth of 32.8 ft and at a radial distance of
16.4 ft at the same depth by (a) Bo ussine sq, and (b) Westergaard form ulae for n = 0. Neglect the
depth of the foundation.

(a ) Boussinesq Eq. (

z 2 B B 2
z ' 27 1 l + (r/z)

Substituting the known values, and simplifying

I B = 0.2733 for r/z = 0.5

= _45000x027 33 ^n431b/f t2
z 2

(b) Westergaard (Eq. 6.3)

Q 1
l +2 ( r / z )

Substituting th e k n o w n v a l u e s an d simplifying, w e have,

/ = 0 . 1 7 3 3 f o r r / 7 = 0.5

S t r e s s Distribution in Soils due to S u r f a c e L o a d s 177


a = x 0.1733 = 7.25 lb/ft

E x a m p l e 6.3
A rectangular raft of size 30 x 12 m founded a t a depth of 2.5 m below th e ground surface is
subjected to a uniform pressure of 150 kPa. Assume the center of the area is the origin of
coordinates (0, 0). and the corners have coordinates (6, 15). Calculate stresses at a depth of 20 m
below th e foundation level by the methods of (a) Boussinesq, and (b) Westergaard a t coordinates of
(0, 0), (0, 15), (6, 0) (6, 15) and (10, 25). Also determine the ratios of the stresses as obtained by the
tw o methods. Neglect the effect of foundation depth on the stresses (Fig. Ex. 6.3).


Equations (a) Boussinesq: = — IB, IB =
l+ <r/^f

Q 0.32
(b ) Westergaard:

Th e ratios of r/z at the given locations for z = 20 m are as follows:

Location r/z Location r/z

(0,0) 0 (6, 15) f 15 )/20 = 0.81
(6,0) 6/20 = 0.3 (10, 25) ( V i o " + 252 )/20 = 1.35

(0, 15) 15/20 = 0.75

The stresses at the various locations at z = 20 m may be calculated by using the equations given
above. The results are tabulated below for the given total load Q = qBL = 150 x 12 x 30 = 54000 kN
acting at (0, 0) coordinate. Q/z =135.

(6,15) (6,0) (6,15)

.(0,0) (0,15)

(6,15) (6,0) (6,15)


Figure Ex. 6.3

178 Chapter 6

Location r/z Boussinesq Westergaard a/a, w

I0 crJkPa) w

(0,0) 0 0.48 65 0.32 43 1.51

(6,0) 0.3 0.39 53 0.25 34 1.56

(0, 15) 0.75 0.16 22 0.10 14 1.57

( 6, 1 5 ) 0.81 0.14 19 0.09 12 1.58

(10, 25 ) 1.35 0.036 5 0.03 4 1.25


The basic e q u a t i o n u s e d fo r c o m p u t i n g a, a t a n y p o i n t P i n a n e l a st i c s e m i - i n f i n i t e m a s s is
E q. (6.1) of Bo ussinesq. By a pply in g the princ iple of his theory, the stresses at an y poi nt in the
mass due to a line load of i n f i n i t e extent acting at the surface may be obtained. The state of stress
e n c o u n t e r e d in this case is t h a t o f a p l a n e s t r a i n c o n d i t i o n . The strain a t a n y p o i n t P in the
F-direction parallel to the lin e load is assumed equa l to zero. The stress cr n o r m a l t o t he XZ-plane
(Fig. 6.3) is the s a m e at all s e c t i o n s and the shear stresses o n these sections a re zero. B y a p p l y i n g
the theory of elasticity, stresses at any point P (Fig. 6.3) may be obtained either in polar
c o o r d i n a t e s or in r e c t a n g u l a r c o o r d i n a t e s . The vertical stress a a t p o i n t P m a y b e w r i t t e n in
rectangular coordinates as

a = 2 2 z (6.4)
z [1 + U / z ) ] z

where, / is the i n f l u e n c e f a c t o r e q u a l to 0.637 at x/z - 0.

r — \i x •" • + z

cos fc) =

Figure 6.3 S t r e s s e s due to vertical line load in rec tangular c oordinates

Stress Distribution in Soils due to Surface Loads 179


The state of stress encountered in this case also is that of a plane strain condition. Such conditions
ar e found fo r structures extended very much in one direction, such as strip an d wall foundations,
foundations of retaining walls, embankments, dams and the like. For such structures the distribution
of stresses in any section (except for the end portions of 2 to 3 times the w idths of the structures from
its end) will be the same as in the neighboring sections, provided that the load does not change in
directions perpendicular to the plane considered.
Fig. 6.4(a) shows a load q per unit area acting on a strip of infinite length and of constant
width B . Th e vertical stress at any arbitrary point P due to a line load of qd x acting at jc = x can be
written from Eq. (6.4) as

~ 2 2 (6.5)
n [(x-x) +z ]
Applying the principle of superposition, the total stress o ~ z at point P due to a strip load
distributed over a width B (= 2b ) m ay be written as


2 2 2 dx
[(x-x) +z }

2 2 2
q 1, z 2bz(x -b -z )
or a 1 = — tan" tan" (6.6)
n x-b x+ b

The non-dimensional values of cjjq are given graphically in Fig. 6.5.Eq. (6.6) can be
expressed in a more conv enient form as

= — [/?+sin/?cos(/?+2£)] (6.7)

x O

(a) (b)

Figure 6.4 Strip load

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