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The assessment of the risk of damage to

buildings due to tunnelling and excavations –


John Burland
i l College
C ll London
L d

Routine guides on limiting distortion and

• Classic work of Skempton and MacDonald (1956)

• Examined records of nearly 100 buildings – mainly

infilled steel or reinforced concrete framed, but a few
load bearing wall

• Damage was correlated with angular distortion – δ/L

• Concluded that cracking occurs when δ/L > 1/300

and recommended designing to ≤ 1/500

• Structural damage occurs when δ/L > 1/150

Skempton and MacDonald (1956)

Definition of angular distortion with no rigid body tilt

Note: This measure of foundation distortion implicitly

assumes that the superstructure is deforming in shear

Skempton and
analysis of field
evidence of damage
on traditional frame
buildings and load-
bearing brick walls

Bjerrum (1963) supplemented the guidance with
the following recommendations for δ/L :

• Difficulties with machines sensitive to settlement > 1/750

• Danger for frames with diagonals > 1/600
• Buildings must not crack ≤ 1/500
• First cracks occur > 1/300
• Tilting of high buildings noticeable > 1/250
• St t l damage
Structural d may occur > 1/150

Limitations to the routine guidelines:

• Based mainly on indirect evidence from the literature
• Deals only with traditional buildings and structural
• Though presented by Skempton as tentative, often
stated as ‘rules’
• ‘Damage’ not objectively defined or classified
• Evidence for masonry walls very suspect
• Angular distortion δ/L implicitly assumes that the
building is deforming in shear
• It does not distinguish between hogging and sagging
• It is sometimes difficult to define – o.a. rotation

Slowly we began to accumulate clear evidence
that buildings do not only deform in shear

For example the measurements that we made at the

Palace of Westminster during the construction of the
underground car park in New Palace Yard

Underground car park at the Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster

Cracking in the south wall of the Annexe due to

hogging - δ/L « 1/300

Palace of Westminster

Cracking in the west wall of Westminster Hall due to

sagging and hogging

Burland and Wroth (1974)

It became clear that a more fundamental

f ndamental approach was as
needed in assessing limiting deformations and that
angular distortion was unsatisfactory in a number of

It was fi
firstt necessary tto sett outt definitions
d fi iti off
foundation movement which do not make assumptions
about the mode of deformation of the superstructure

Definitions of ground and foundation movement

Burland and Wroth (1974)

• (a) Rotation or slope, θ,

and angular strain, α.

• (b) Relative deflection, Δ,

and deflection ratio, Δ/L.

• (c) Tilt, ω and relative

rotation, β (angular

Tensile strain as a parameter giving rise to
• Burland and Wroth argued that there was a need to move away
from empirical deflection criteria and study the fundamental
causes of damage
• They noted that buildings usually become unserviceable before
there is a risk of structural collapse
• Most damage to walls, cladding and finishes manifests as
cracking which results from extensional (tensile) strain
• They
Th therefore
th f carried
i d outt a study
t d off the
th workk carried
i d outt att
the Building Research Establishment on the behaviour of
masonry and blockwork when subjected to a variety of loading

The concept of Critical Tensile Strain εcrit

• They noted that the locally determined tensile strains at
which cracking became visible was reasonably well defined
and independent
p both of the tensile strength
g of the masonryy
and blockwork and of the form of loading of the wall i.e.
whether it was subjected to racking in shear or in-plane
• They concluded that the value of εcrit varied between about
0.05% and 0.1% and suggested using an average value of
• They stressed that εcrit is significantly larger than the strain
at which tensile failure occurs. It is also an average strain
measured over a gauge length of about a metre

BRE large scale tests on composite action between
masonry walls and their supporting beams

Burhouse, 1969

BRE tests on the stiffness and strength of

masonry infilled frames

Mainstone 1971

The cracking of simple beams in bending and

• Burland and Wroth then applied the concept of

critical tensile strain to evaluating the limiting
displacements of simple weightless elastic beams of
length L and height H.

• Even though real buildings are much more complex

thi study
this t d hhas hhelped
l d tto illustrate
ill t t a numberb off
important features that control limiting values of Δ/L

Cracking of a simple beam in bending and in shear

• actual building

• equivalent deep beam

• deflected shape of soffit

• bending deformation

• shear deformation

Centrally loaded beam with both bending and
shear stiffness

Extreme fibre strain εb max :

  L 3I E 
     b max
L  12 t 2 yLH G 

Maximum diagonal
g strain εd max

  HL2 G 
 1    d max
L  18 I H 

Burland and Wroth (1974)

Limiting relationships between Δ/L and L/H for a uniform load and a central point load.

Conclusion: The relationship between εmax and Δ/L is

insensitive to the form of loading

Burland and Wroth (1974) and Burland et al (1977)

Influence of mode of deformation and E/G on limiting

values of Δ/L for a simple beam

Burland and Wroth
Frame buildings and
Loadbearing walls
undergoing sagging and

Relationship between
Δ/L and L/H for various
degrees of damage

Comparison with simple

elastic beams with
εcrit = 0.075%

Classification of damage, Burland et al (1977)

• In 1975 and 1976 the UK, like much of Europe was subject to
severe droughts. As a consequence many buildings on clay
soils experienced damage.
• In 1976 the claims for subsidence damage against household
insurers amounted to over £100m
• An investigation by the BRE revealed that in the early 70s the
insurance companies introduced a subsidence clause (aimed at
protecting householders against landslip)
• Nowhere in this clause was damage defined.
• As a result claims escalated year by year and 1976 reached
disaster proportions
• It became clear that an objective system of classifying damage
was needed

Three broad categories of damage
• Aesthetic: affects only the appearance of the property
• Serviceability: cracking and distortion which impairs
the weathertightness or other functions (eg sound
insulation, fracturing of service pipes, jamming of
doors and windows)
• Stability: there is an unacceptable risk that some part
of the structure will collapse unless preventative
i isi taken
• It is only a short step from these to the more detailed
classification proposed by Burland et al (1977) and
given in Table 1 of the paper

Classification based on ease of repair

• The classification is based on ease of repair and is developed from a
large number of other studies

• It applies only to masonry and blockwork

• It relates to visible damage at a given time and not its cause or

possible progression – these have to be considered separately

• Classification is NOT based on crack width alone – it is ease of repair

which is the key factor

• More stringent criteria may be necessary where cracking could lead to

corrosion, penetration of harmful liquids or gasses or structural failure

• Categories 0, 1 and 2 represent aesthetic damage; categories 3 and 4

serviceability damage and 5 stability damage


Example of Category 1

Fine cracks which are

easily treated during
normal decoration

The house was

d i d att a costt off
about 15,000 Euros in

The division between categories 2 and 3 damage

• The dividing line between category 2 and 3 damage is
particularly important and is based on many case
records of building damage assembled by the BRE.
• Damage up to category 2 can result from a variety of
causes (e.g. shrinkage, thermal effects, corrosion,
ground movement etc). Identification of the cause is
usually very difficult.
• If damage exceeds category 2 the cause is usually
much easier to identify and is frequently associated
with ground movement.
• Thus the division between categories 2 and 3 is an
important threshold

Example of Category 3
damage - Moderate

Repointing of external
brickwork. Some
brickwork required
replacing above and below

Example of Category 4 damage - Severe

Gable wall leaning outwards with some loss of bearing of beams

Example of Category 5 damage – Very severe

Danger of instability

Progression to the concept of limiting tensile

• Burland et al (1977) noted that the critical tensile strain causing the
onset of visible crackingg is not a fundamental material pproperty.
p y The
onset of visible cracking represents a level of damage of about
Category 1.
• It would be better to think of the tensile strain as a serviceability
parameter the magnitude of which can be chosen to take account of
different materials and serviceability limit states.

• Hence
H th
they replaced
l d εcrit by
b εlim – limiting
li iti tensile
t il strain
t i
• It is also necessary to consider the likely progression of damage after
the initiating of visible cracking

The influence of building stiffness
• If realistic estimates are to be made of allowable relative
deflections of buildings it is necessary to take some account of
their stiffness
• Burland et al drew attention to the work of Fraser and Wardle
(1976) who published some very useful charts showing the
influence of the relative stiffness of rectangular rafts on their
relative deflections
• It was shown that a quite small change in stiffness can change
a raft from being relatively very flexible to very stiff.
• By representing the global stiffness of a building as a raft it is
possible to make some simple but valuable calculations on the
extent to which the stiffness of a building is likely to reduce
the calculated relative deflections

Fraser and Wardle (1976)

The influence of relative foundation stiffness on the differential

settlement of a rectangular raft

Movements above tunnels and around excavations

• The ground movements resulting from tunnelling and

from excavations often include significant horizontal
components of displacement

• These have to be taken account of in assessing

impacts on buildings and services

Surface settlement trough above an advancing


Horizontal displacements
• point sink assumption

• resultant vector of
di l
displacement points
towards tunnel axis

• allows horizontal
displacements to be

• differentiate to obtain
horizontal strain, εh

Observed and
predicted ground
around the New
Palace Yard car

The work of Boscardin and Cording (1989)
Boscardin and Cording introduced two important
1. The influence of horizontal ground strain εh was added
to the beam model of Burland and Wroth by simple
superposition. They then developed an interaction
diagram relating angular distortion β and εh for
different categories of damage. This interaction
diagram strictly relates only to L/H = 1 for a hogging
mode of deformation
2. From their work it is possible to assign a range of
values of limiting tensile strain εlim to the different
categories of damage defined by Burland et al (1977)

Boscardin and Cording (1989)

Interaction diagram between εh and β for L/H=1 and neutral

axis at one edge assuming that β ≈ 2Δ/L

Relationship between category of damage and
limiting tensile strain (εlim)
(after Boscardin and Cording 1989)

Categor of damage
Category Limiting tensile strain (%)
0 0 – 0.05

1 0.05 – 0.075

2 0.075 – 0.15

3 0.15 – 0.3

4 to 5 > 0.3

A methodology for assessing the risk of damage

Burland (1995)
• The key objective of the assessment of potential
damage is to make an assessment of the maximum
tensile strain in the simplified building.
• Burland
B l d (1995),
(1995) using
i the
th approachh off Boscardin
B di andd
Cording of superimposing the horizontal ground
strains, developed the equations for the resultant
bending or diagonal strains as given in the paper (10)
and (11).
• These equations can be used directly is assessing the
potential for damage using the relationship between
level of tensile strain and damage category.
• The equations can also be used to develop simple
interactive diagrams of Δ/L versus εh for a variety of
geometries and deformation modes.

Superposition of horizontal strain εh

• Resultant extreme fibre strain in bending:

 br   b max   h

• Resultant maximum diagonal strain in shear:

 1   2  1  
 dr   h     h     2
d max
 2   2 

Relationship between (Δ/L)/εlim and L/H for rectangular

isotropic beams with the neutral axis at the bottom edge (using
elastic beam theory)

Influence of horizontal strain on (Δ/L)/εlim for (a)
bending strain controlling, (b) diagonal strains
controlling and (c) combinations of (a) and (b)

Relationship of damage category to deflection ratio

and horizontal strain for hogging (L/H = 1)

Building deformation: partitioning between
sagging and hogging

The influence of building stiffness

Parametric FE analyses by Potts and Addenbrook (1997)

Geometry for Potts and Addenbrooke parametric study

• building length, L
• depth to tunnel axis, z0
• t
tunnell diameter,
di t D
• eccentricity, e

Influence of relative bending stiffness on settlement

profile (Potts and Addenbrooke, 1997)

Bending stiffness modification factors
(Potts and Addenbrooke, 1997)

• sagging

• hogging

Comparison of observed and greenfield site settlements of

the Mansion House from driving a 3.05 m diameter tunnel at
15 m depth (Frischmann et al., 1994)

Methodology for assessing the risk of damage
• The concepts described previously may be combined
to provide a rational approach to the assessment of
risk of damage due to tunnelling and excavation
• ‘The risk’ means the possible level of damage in
terms of the 6 Categories.
• Most buildings are considered to be at ‘low risk’ if
the predicted category of damage falls into categories
0 to 2.
• A major objective of design and construction is to
maintain the level of risk below this threshold.
• Special consideration may have to be given to certain
buildings of particular sensitivity for various reasons

A three stage approach (Burland, 1995)

Stage 1 – Preliminary assessment
g number of buildings
• Often in an urban situation a large g
are located within the settlement trough of a tunnel.
• According to Rankine (1988) a building experiencing a
maximum slope θ of 1/500 and a settlement of less than
10mm has negligible risk of damage.
• Byy drawingg ground
g surface contours of settlement alongg
the route it is possible to eliminate all buildings having
negligible risk.
• Particularly sensitive buildings may be retained for the
next stage of assessment.

A three stage approach (Burland, 1995)
Stage 2 – second stage assessment
• The façade of any building is represented by a simple beam
whose foundations follow the ‘greenfield site’ displacements
causedd by
b the
h tunnell or excavation.
• The maximum tensile strains are calculated from the equations
and an appropriate category of damage is assigned to the
• Though much more detailed than the stage 1 assessment, this
approach is still very conservative in that the stiffness of the
building is neglected.
• Sometimes the approach of Potts and Addenbrooke is included
at this stage.
• Particularly sensitive buildings may be retained for the next
stage of assessment.

A three stage approach (Burland, 1995)

Stage 3 – Detailed evaluation
• Detailed evaluation is carried out on those buildings that
remain as being at risk of category 3 damage or greater.
Also any buildings of particular sensitivity.
• Each building has to be considered in its own right and
requires a detailed expert inspection.
• Particular attention has to be paid to: (1) tunnelling and
excavation sequence, (2) structural continuity, (3) the
foundations, ((4)) orientation of the building,
g ((5)) pprevious
movements and existing cracking.
• Following detailed evaluation, which usually results in a
reduced category of damage from stage 2, consideration
has to be given as to whether protective measures need to
be adopted.

Protective measures
• Before considering surface measures, tunnelling
procedures should be examined. These tackle the root
cause of the problem and may prove much less costly and
ti than
th near surface
f measures.
• The paper summarises a range of surface or near surface
measures including strengthening the ground, structural
jacking, underpinning and strengthening the building.
• Recently compensation grouting has been used with great
success on
o very
ve y prestigious
p est g ous or
o sensitive
se s t ve structures.
st uctu es.
However it is a very expensive measure and should not be
used as a substitute for good quality tunnelling or
excavation procedures.

• The methodology described here draws together a number of
related studies including:
• The objective definitions of foundation movement
• The concept of limiting tensile strain and its simple application
to identify key aspects of behaviour
• The objective categorisation of damage which plays a key role
in bringing realism to emotive discussions on damage
• The importance of building stiffness in modifying
• The need for a staged approach to assessing the risk of damage
• As ever there, is a need for carefully monitored case studies of
the progressive development of building response which are
then rigorously analysed. We took this opportunity during the
construction of the Jubilee Line Extension

Cross-section through Westminster station box and
the Palace of Westminster

Protection of the Big

Ben Clock Tower by
means of