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Effect of ground borne vibrations on underground pipelines

Article · July 2006

DOI: 10.1201/NOE0415415866.ch108


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3 authors, including:

Indrasenan Thusyanthan Gopal Madabhushi

University of Cambridge University of Cambridge


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Effect of ground borne vibrations on underground pipelines
N. I. Thusyanthan, S. L. D. Chin & S. P. G. Madabhushi
Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Proceedings of the International Conference on Physical Modelling in Geotechnics 2006, Hong Kong.

Vibrations produced on the ground surface by engineering construction processes can damage underground
structures. At present, there is little knowledge on the level of surface vibrations that could result in such
damage. This paper presents experimental investigation on small scale model pipes buried in dry sand and in-
strumented with an array of miniature accelerometers. Experiments were conducted in a geotechnical centri-
fuge up to 4g. Impulse and harmonic surface loadings were generated by dropping a standard mass and by us-
ing an electric eccentric mass motor respectively. It was found that different pipe materials absorb different
amounts of energy. A relationship between the ratio of energy transferred and the impedance mismatch ratio
between the pipes and the soil has been proposed.

1 INTRODUCTION tained, or the frequencies at which these limits apply

with regard to underground structures.
Construction activities such as blasting, pile driving, In order to analyse vibration related problems
dynamic compaction and traffic loading such as train thoroughly, many factors such as the vibration
and vehicle loading generate vibrations to varying source characteristics, site characteristics, propaga-
degrees (Hope & Hiller, 2000; Kin & Lee, 2000). tion of body waves and response of the structure
The vibrations are transmitted through the ground in need to be considered. It is therefore important to
the form of stress waves. When these waves encoun- gain an understanding of how ground borne vibra-
ter an underground structure such as a pipeline, part tions are transmitted into underground pipelines.
of the wave is reflected and part of it is transmitted This paper discusses findings based on the behav-
into the structure. The cyclic nature of these vibra- iour of two different model pipes made of brass and
tions will induce changes in stress levels in the concrete under impulse and harmonic surface load-
pipes. This in turn may lead to fatigue related dam- ing at 1g and at varying g-levels up to 10g in a geo-
age such as crack propagation. Therefore it is impor- technical centrifuge (Schofield, 1980). This study is
tant to understand the magnitude of vibrations a continuation of research presented by Thusyanthan
transmitted into an underground pipeline. and Madabhushi (2003).
At present there is little knowledge on the level of
surface vibrations that could cause damage to under-
ground pipelines. Guidance on the levels of ground-
borne vibration that may cause damage to buildings
is given mainly in two British Standards, BS 5228 2 EXPERIMENTAL TECHNIQUES OVERVIEW
and BS 7385. Both of these give guidance on the
peak particle velocity (ppv) above which cosmetic The propagation of waves in the vicinity of under-
damage could occur in buildings. British Standards ground pipelines was studied using both impulse and
have very little reference to underground structures. harmonic surface loads placed in an 850mm tub
BS 7385 states: ‘Structures below ground are known filled with dry sand. Miniature accelerometers bur-
to sustain higher levels of vibration and are very re- ied at different locations were used to measure the
sistant to damage unless in very poor condition.’ BS vibration levels in the sand and model tunnels. All
5228 gives threshold ppv values for underground measurements were logged using DASYLab (Data
services: a maximum ppv of 30 mm/s for transient Acquisition System Laboratory) onto a computer.
and 15 mm/s for continuous vibrations. The standard The experimental apparatus is shown in Figure 1.
fails to state the basis on which these levels were ob-
3 SOURCES OF VIBRATIONS Peak particle acceleration = 2πf × ppv (1)
3.1 Impulse load where f = frequency; ppv = component peak particle
A 1kg standard mass was dropped onto the base velocity (ppv).
plate from a height of 60mm to simulate an impulse

The soil used was dry Hostun sand with a specific

gravity of 2.65 and a critical friction angle of 32o.
All models were prepared by pluviating the sand
through air with the aid of a hopper to ensure similar
void ratio and uniformly distributed packing. A sand
voids ratio of 0.75, which corresponds to a medium-
dense state, was used in the experiments.


Two model pipes made of concrete and brass were

used. Both pipes had the same outer dimensions of
length 320mm and outer diameter 55 mm. The brass
and concrete pipe had a mass of 0.720 kg and 0.670
kg corresponding to a density of 7500 kg/m3 and
Figure 1. Experimental setup for centrifuge experiments 1977 kg/m3 respectively. Ordinary Portland cement
and builder’s sand was used at a cement/sand ratio
of 1:4 for the concrete pipe. Two accelerometers
were fastened at right angles in the middle of each
pipe to measure the vibration of the pipe walls. Ex-
periments on plaster of Paris model pipes were also
conducted in a similar manner to the brass and con-
crete pipes. However, results obtained from this set
of experiments will not be described due to space
The cross section of the experimental setup for
the 1g experiments are shown in Figure 3. Twelve
accelerometers were used in the 1g experiments. Six
accelerometers were placed horizontally to measure
the horizontal acceleration while the other 6 were
placed vertically at mirror locations. Two sets of ex-
periments, A and B were carried out to measure the
accelerations in the model pipes.
Figure 4 shows the experimental setup for the
centrifuge experiments (set C). 20 accelerometers
Figure 2. Vibratory motor attached to base plate, with acceler- were used to measure both vertical and horizontal
ometers components of acceleration simultaneously. Centri-
fuge experiments were conducted at 1g, 1.1g, 2.0g
3.2 Vibrating Load and 4.1g respectively. At 4.1g, the corresponding
prototype would have a pipe diameter of 220 mm
A 50Hz electric eccentric mass a.c. motor was used buried at a depth of 492 mm below ground level.
to simulate a harmonic load as shown in Figure 2. These dimensions are representative of typical pipe-
The motor was attached to the same plate as was lines buried in the field. Figure 5 shows the plan sec-
used in the impulse load. Accelerometers were also tion of the model during the set C experiments.
attached to the plate to measure the input horizontal
and vertical accelerations. The base plate experi-
ences a peak particle acceleration of 3g and can be
approximated by a sinusoidal wave. Hence the com-
ponent peak particle velocity can be estimated by
equation 1 to be 93.7 mm/s.

All acceleration signals were recorded using DA-

SYLab software at a sampling frequency of 5 kHz.
Post processing of the data was done in MATLAB.
Any zero error in the signals were corrected and then
filtered to eliminate high frequency noise. The ac-
celeration signals were filtered using an 8th order
‘low pass’ Butterworth filter with a cutoff frequency
of 500Hz.


Figure 6 shows the horizontal and vertical accelera-

tion in the brass and concrete pipes under harmonic
loading. The concrete pipe experiences higher peak
accelerations compared to the brass pipe. This shows
that concrete absorbs a larger proportion of the vi-
brations compared to brass.
Velocity-time profiles of the signals were ob-
tained by integrating the acceleration signal using a
MATLAB routine and passing the signal through a
Figure 3. Cross-sectional view of the models used in the 1g ex-
periment. ‘low pass’ Butterworth filter to eliminate any zero
error. The peak particle velocity was then taken as
half the peak-to-peak velocity amplitude. Table 1
summarises the vertical ppv of the brass and con-
crete pipes under harmonic loading. The mean of the
ratio of vertical ppv in brass to that in concrete is
0.93 (standard deviation 0.12) . This implies that the
vertical ppv in the concrete pipe is 7% higher than
that in the brass tunnel.

Table 1. Vertical peak particle velocity of model pipes under

vibratory loading
Test Input Brass Concrete Ppv
ppv ppv ppv Brass/Concrete
mm/s mm/s mm/s
Figure 4. Cross-sectional view of the model used in the centri- AV1 132.1 1.37 1.87 0.73
fuge experiment. AV2 130.4 1.06 1.30 0.82
AV3 113.3 1.19 1.24 0.96
AV4 101.8 1.00 1.35 0.74
AV5 79.60 1.17 1.31 0.89
AV6 77.59 1.04 1.09 0.95
BV1 135.5 1.81 1.97 0.92
BV2 154.1 1.84 1.76 1.04
BV3 152.5 1.79 1.83 0.98
BV4 186.5 1.99 1.77 1.12
BV5 152.8 2.20 2.03 1.09
BV6 112.0 1.55 1.65 0.94

The relative amount of energy transferred into the

pipes can be quantified by the ratio of the vertical
peak particle velocity in the brass model pipe to that
in the concrete pipe which is 0.93. The energy trans-
ferred into the pipes is proportional to the square of
the peak particle velocity in the model tunnel and
can be obtained by Equation 2.
Figure 5. Plan section of Experiment C
Energy tra nsferred into brass model pipe
= 0.93 2 (2)
Energy tra nsferred into concrete model pipe
= 87%
The brass model pipe absorbs only 87% of the en- Concrete Plastic Plaster n=0.1
ergy absorbed by the concrete model pipe. The im- 1.2
pedance mismatch appears to be the main parameter

Energy transferred to Brass /

Energy transferred to pipe
which determines the amount of vibration energy
transferred into the model pipe. Table 2 shows the Concrete 0.8
impedance mismatch of several media. An expres- Plastic
Plaster (0.19, 0.87)
(0.060, 0.76) 0.6
sion relating the impedance mismatch ratio to the (0.021, 0.71)

square of the ppv ratio was proposed by Thusyan- 0.4

than & Madabhushi (2003) as 0.2
n 2
IT − I s Brass ppv 0
= (3) 0.01 0.1 1
Ib − I s T ppv Impedance mismatch of pipe /
Impedance mismatch of Brass

where IT, Is and Ib are the impedances of the pipe, Figure 7. Ratio of energy transferred vs ratio of impedance
sand and brass respectively. Brass is used as the con- mismatch
trol experiment and IT refers to any other material.
Figure 7 shows the above relationship plotted for
the concrete pipe. Also shown is the data point for 8 RESULTS FROM CENTRIFUGE
plastic from Thusyanthan & Madabhushi (2001) and EXPERIMENTS
plaster of paris from present experiment. A best fit 8.1 Variation of peak particle velocity with g-level
line corresponding to n=0.1 in Equation 3 appears to
agree well with experimental results. Figure 7 can be Table 3 shows the vertical ppv of brass and concrete
used to predict the energy transferred into a material at different g-levels. At all g-levels, the concrete
T at shallow depths (low soil stresses). pipe experienced a higher peak particle velocity than
the brass pipe. However the ratio of vertical ppv in
Table 2. Impedance of several media brass to that of concrete reduces with increasing g-
Material Den- Young’s Velocity of Impedance, level as evident in Figure 8. PPV ratios from the 1g
sity, Modulus, pressure I= Vp experiments are also plotted on the same figure. At
E wave, Vp 1g, the spread of the vertical ppv ratio is quite large.
kg/m3 GPa m/s kg/m2s × 103
The spread of the data narrows at higher g-levels.
Sand 1499 - 159 238
Brass 7500 110 4440 33300 This is because at higher stress levels in the sand,
Concrete 1997 25 4105 8198 there is more consistent coupling between the model
Plaster 1222 3.0 1825 2230 pipes and the surrounding soil. As the g-level in-
Plastic 950 0.7 996 946 creases, the vertical ppv ratio decreases until it fi-
nally bottoms out at about 4g. A best-fit line through
the mean of all the data points can be modeled by
Equation 4.

PPV Brass
= g − 0.58 (4)
PPV Concrete
where g is the g-level.

There is insufficient data to conclude what the actual

ppv ratio is at high g’s since the source motor
stopped operating above 4g. This is evident from
Figure 9, which shows the variation of the vertical
input ppv of the motor with g-level. However the
data gives a vertical ppv ratio of brass to concrete of
Figure 6. Accelerations in model pipes under vibratory loading 0.44 at 4g. If we assume that the rate of decrease in
the ppv ratio levels out at higher g’s, this implies
that the final vertical ppv in the concrete pipe is ap-
proximately 27% higher than in the brass pipe.
The ratio of energy transferred into the brass pipe
to the concrete pipe can then be calculated as per
Equation 2 to be 19% at 4g. This value is 4.6 times
lower than the value of 87% obtained from the 1g
experiments. This implies that under higher stresses,
much more energy is absorbed by the concrete pipe 8.2 Wavelet analysis
than the brass pipe.
The peak particle velocity experienced by the pipes
indicates the amount of energy transferred into the
Table 3. Vertical peak particle velocity in model pipes
structure but does not provide the frequencies at
Test g- Input Brass Con- Ppv which this energy is transferred. Wavelet analysis
set level ppv ppv crete Brass/Concrete (Newland, 1993a,b&c, 1995) shows both the fre-
ppv quency content of the signal and time duration of its
mm/s mm/s mm/s occurrence. Wavelet analysis of the vertical accel-
C1 1.0 130.0 1.18 1.89 0.63 eration signals in brass, concrete and the vibrating
5.1 6.20 1.52 4.00 0.38
9.9 3.79 0.78 2.87 0.27
source was carried out using a MATLAB routine.
C2 1.0 94.8 0.92 1.01 0.91 Results show that the energy distribution in brass is
1.1 97.5 3.66 4.05 0.90 very different from that of concrete and may not
2.0 45.0 2.14 3.22 0.66 necessarily occur at the same frequencies as the
4.1 6.40 1.33 3.01 0.44 source frequencies (Fig.10).
7.2 4.84 0.92 2.97 0.31 Figure 10 shows the results of this analysis at 2g
9.9 5.12 0.82 3.10 0.26
C3 1.0 99.0 1.54 1.34 1.16 during steady state harmonic loading. The input en-
1.3 115.0 2.83 3.53 0.80 ergy has peaks at the first 5 harmonics of the input
2.8 35.7 2.03 3.56 0.57 frequency of 50Hz. However, the brass pipe selec-
5.3 7.14 1.18 3.32 0.36 tively absorbs the most energy at 30 Hz, 150 Hz,
7.2 5.25 0.98 3.44 0.28 180Hz and 400 Hz while the concrete pipe absorbs
9.9 5.33 0.98 3.56 0.28
the most energy at 50Hz and 200 Hz.

C1 C2
PPV Brass / PPV Concrete

C3 A The material of the pipe plays an important role in
B Trendline deciding the amount of vibrations transferred into
the pipe. Under both impulse and vibratory loading
ppv brass / ppv concrete = g(-0.58) (R = 0.98)
at 1g, the concrete pipe experiences a higher level of
0.6 vibration compared to the brass tunnel. The mean
0.4 vertical peak particle velocity ratio of brass to con-
crete was shown experimentally to be 0.93. Hence
0.2 the ratio of energy transferred into the concrete pipe
0 compared to brass which is proportional to the
0 2 4 6 8 10 square of the peak particle velocity was 0.87. The
g-level / g higher the impedance mismatch between the pipe
Figure 8. Vertical ppv ratio of brass to concrete vs g-level and the sand, the lower the energy transferred into
the pipe.
As the g-level increases, the vertical ppv ratio of
brass to concrete shows a decreasing trend. Under
vibratory loading at 4g, the ppv ratio decreases to
C1 C2 C3 0.44. This means that the concrete pipe now absorbs
100 nearly five times as much energy as a brass pipe.
Input PPV (mm/s)

80 Wavelet analysis indicates that the energy-

frequency distribution is different for different pipe
materials. Under vibratory loading at 2g, vibrations
40 transmitted into the brass pipe at higher frequencies
20 than those transmitted into the concrete pipe. At the
start of the load application, most of the energy in
0 2 4 6 8 10
the brass pipe is in the 140Hz to 180Hz range which
-20 changes to include a concentration around 50Hz as
g-level / g the vibration progresses. The concrete pipe has most
Figure 9. Vertical input ppv of source motor vs g-level of its energy at 50Hz throughout the load applica-
The results shown provide preliminary design
guidance for estimating the level of vibrations trans-
mitted into buried pipelines from ground-borne vi-
brations. However, the conclusions reached need to REFERENCES
be validated by further centrifuge experiments, pos-
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Figure 10. Wavelet plot of steady state harmonic loading verti-

cal acceleration signals in: (a) source input: (b) brass pipe: (c)
concrete pipe

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