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International Symposium on Ground Improvement Technologies and Case Histories (ISGI09)



6 Y.W. YEE * and C.G.CHUA*

7 Keller (M) Sdn. Bhd.,
8 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

11 The East Coast Expressway (Phase 2) is 190km long and when completed, will connect Jabur Interchange to
12 Kuala Terengganu. Ground treatment works were instituted where the highway passes through swampy ground
13 and soft alluvial, in particular where high fill embankments were constructed. The objectives are to ensure
14 embankment stability and restrict settlements to within acceptable limits. Several types of ground improvement
15 techniques were implemented such as vertical drains and surcharging; vibro sand and stone columns and
16 dynamic replacement. Typically, treatment depth ranged from 4 to 16m depth. This paper describes the design
17 and construction of the ground improvement methods including quality control measures and insitu tests. The
18 embankments were instrumented and monitored during construction to ensure performance was according to
19 design requirements.

20 Keywords: embankment; soft ground; ground improvement; prefabricated vertical drain; vibro stone
21 columns; vibro sand columns; dynamic replacement.

22 1.0 Introduction
23 The East Coast Expressway, Phase 2 (ECE 2) transverses 190 km long from Kuantan to
24 Kuala Terengganu. It complements Phase I of East Coast Expressway (ECE 1) which
25 connects Karak to Kuantan. When completed in 2011, it is expected to act as a catalyst to
26 stimulate the economic growth of east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, particularly the state
27 of Terengganu.
29 The ECE 2 was designed as a four-lane dual carriageway with an average width of about
30 32m. The finished level was required to be higher than the flood level of 100 year return
31 period as the east coast of Malaysia is often inundated by flood during the annual
32 monsoon season.
34 The structures of ECE 2 comprise of bridges, culverts, elevated structures, fill
35 embankments and cut slopes. For the areas where fill embankments crosses swampy
36 ground and soft alluvial sediments, various ground improvement techniques were
37 employed to ensure embankment stability and restrict post-construction settlements to
38 within acceptable limits.
1 The ECE 2 project was demarcated into 12 separate sub-packages under distinct work
2 contracts. This paper presents the application of various ground improvement techniques,
3 namely (i) Prefabricated Vertical Drain, (ii) Vibro Sand Column, (iii) Vibro Stone
4 Column and (iv) Dynamic Replacement in 6 packages (2, 3, 9, 10, 11 &12). The design
5 and construction of each ground improvement technique are described including relevant
6 quality control procedures and insitu tests. The performance of various ground
7 improvement techniques is explained from ground movement monitoring data.

8 Figure 1. Typical cross section for Vibro Stone Column (left) and Dynamic Replacement Column (right).

9 2.0 Fill Embankments Treated Using Ground Improvement Technique

10 Typical cross sections of embankment fill are shown in Figure 1. Generally, each fill
11 embankment has 32m width carriageway at the top and slopes with gradient 1(V):2 (H).

12 3.0 Subsoil Conditions

13 The treatment areas were generally located on swamps and soft alluvials. The geological
14 map shows that the bedrock comprise of sandstone or granitic formation.
16 Typically, soft ground comprises silty clay (cu = 10 to 15kPa) down to varying depths
17 (6m to 16m). In general, water content is 50 - 60% and plasticity index 20 - 30%.

18 4.0 Performance Criteria

19 The roadways in ECE 2 are required to comply to performance criteria set by the Public
20 Works Department (JKR) and Malaysian Highway Authorities (MHA). In general, the
21 maximum allowable differential settlement is 100mm over a length of 100m (1 in 1000)
22 along the centerline of embankment; and the overall embankment stability is required to
23 achieve a factor of safety of 1.5.

24 5.0 Application of Ground Improvement Schemes

25 Various ground improvement techniques were used i.e. Prefabricated Vertical Drain
26 (PVD), Vibro Sand Columns (VS), Vibro Stone Columns (VR) and Dynamic
27 Replacement (DR) Columns. The selection of suitable technique was dependant on
1 factors such as embankment height (weight), soil conditions (strength and depth) and
2 availability of material. Cost factor was a prime consideration as well.

3 5.1 Design of Ground Treatment

4 5.1.1 Prefabricated Vertical Drain (PVD)
5 This technique was widely used because of its relatively low cost and quick installation.
6 Application was mainly for low embankments up to 4 to 5m high. The embankments
7 were built slowly using staged construction to allow the underlying soil to consolidate
8 and gain strength. A surcharge of about 1m is normally placed to accelerate consolidation
9 over a period of 3 to 6 months and limit long term settlement. Spacing between PVD
10 points are typically 1 to 1.2m c/c triangular grid.
12 In certain locations, embankments up to 8m were constructed with PVD in combination
13 with VR (VR below the embankment slope and PVD across the carriageway). Basically,
14 VR was designed to ensure stability and PVD to accelerate settlements. Such an
15 application achieves greater economy but has a drawback of slower construction time.
17 5.1.2 Vibro Sand Columns (VS)
18 This technique was employed mainly where sand supply was freely available to stabilize
19 embankment fill between 5m and 10m high. The VS design was based on Priebe’ (1995)
20 method to work out the improvement factor in terms of settlement estimates and to derive
21 composite parameters for slope stability analysis. The diameter of VS is 0.9m and typical
22 spacing ranged between 1.6m c/c and 2.0m c/c. Surcharge period of 2 to 3 months are
23 typical.
25 In certain locations, combinations of VS and VR were used to stabilize embankment fill
26 to maximum height of 13m, where VS was specified across the carriageway to reduce and
27 accelerate settlement and VR was specified at embankment slope to ensure slope stability.
29 5.1.3 Vibro Stone Columns (VR)
30 Vibro Stone Columns were designed to support high embankment fill over very soft
31 ground. The design methodology adopted Priebe’s (1995) method. The diameter of VR is
32 1.0m and typical spacing ranged between 1.8m c/c and 2.4m c/c, depending on
33 embankment height. High embankments up to 13m have been designed for this project.
34 Rest period for such high embankments are typically less than 1 month.
36 5.1.4 Dynamic Replacement Columns (DR)
37 Dynamic Replacement is basically an extension of the Dynamic Compaction method
38 which is generally applied in granular soils. As soft fine grain soils cannot be compacted,
39 the DR method is an improvisation to use the tamper to install granular columns in the
40 ground. The depth of installation is limited to 6m (as explained in paragraph 6) and
41 hence, is suitable for soft soils of shallow depths only. The columns are irregular shaped,
42 typically 2.5m in diameter and spaced at 5.5m centres. Since the clear spacing between
1 columns is generally 3m apart (compared to 1m for PVD and VR), staged construction or
2 a longer surcharging period of about 4 to 6 months is normally required.
4 For soft soils deeper than 6m, consideration was given to design DR in combination with
5 PVD but site trials showed that ground movement was very high in all directions. It is
6 therefore probable that PVDs installed would suffer excessive movement (kinking and
7 creasing) that their functionality would be questionable. Hence, this hybrid solution was
8 not accepted by the engineers involved.

9 Figure 2. “Dry” Vibro Stone Column Rig Figure 3. Dynamic Replacement Rig

10 6.0 Execution

11 6.1 Prefabricated Vertical Drain (PVD)

12 The execution of Prefabricated Vertical Drain was carried out using conventional stitches
13 mounted on light cranes. PVD was designed to be installed to medium stiff / to stiff layer.

14 6.2 Vibro Sand Columns (VS)

15 The execution for Vibro Sand Columns was similar to Vibro Stone Columns as described
16 in literature (BS EN 14731: 2005, Yee & Raju (2007)). The challenges in the execution
17 of Vibro Sand Columns were delivery of sand material to the tip of vibrator and
18 achieving the required compaction effort. Site trials concluded that well-graded dry sand
19 material having fines content not exceeding 10% was required to ensure properly
20 compacted columns. Regulated air-pressure was incorporated during the construction
21 process to avoid any heaving of adjacent vibro sand columns.

22 6.3 Vibro Stone Columns (VR)

23 Vibro Stone Columns (VR) were installed using bottom feed method (BS EN
24 14731:2005, Yee & Raju (2007)). Stones were fed at the top of vibrator and discharged
25 directly to its tip through a special delivery tube attached to the vibrator. This method was
26 pure displacement method where no soil is removed. A “dry” system (without water
27 jetting) was specified by the authorities as an environmental protection requirement.
1 6.4 Dynamic Replacement Columns (DR)
2 Dynamic replacement columns were installed by inserting granular material into the
3 ground from ground surface via repetitive pounding (BRE 458, (2003)). As illustrated in
4 Figure 4, 15 tons to 25 tons tamper was repeatedly lifted between 10 to 15m by a
5 specialised Dynamic Compaction crane and freely dropped onto the ground to form a
6 crater which was then filled up by granular material. This process was repeated until
7 sufficient amount of granular material was pushed into the ground or the ground surface
8 has shown significant swelling which means that subsequent tamping would only push
9 granular material sideways rather than downwards. From site observations, columns built
10 using DR method were limited to between 4 and 6m.
12 Some aspects of construction that should be taken into account in the design are
13 described herein. Firstly, installation of the column is by extreme displacement of the
14 insitu soils, within an instantaneous time frame. Hence the surrounding soil will be
15 displaced sideway, upwards (heave) and downwards which means that there is no
16 improvement to the surrounding soil. The soft soils displaced downwards imply that there
17 is a layer of soft soils (about 1 to 1.5 m thick) below the toe of the column. This layer
18 needs to be consolidated by surcharging. Figure 5a shows the soft layer formed below the
19 toe of DR columns as detected by the post treatment CPT.

21 Figure 4. Schematic granular column formed by dynamic replacement method
Tip Resistance Qc [MPa]
Tip Resistance Qc [MPa]
0.0 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 8.0 9.0 10.0
2 0.0
0.0 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 8.0 9.0 10.0
0.5 0.5 Post-treatment CPT
1.0 1.0
0m, 0.5m & 1m from
3 Pre-treatment the centre of column
Post-treatment 1.5

2.0 2.0

4 2.5 2.5

3.0 3.0
D e p th [M ]

5 4.0

Depth [M]
Remoulded 4.5 Post-treatment CPT
Zone 5.0 Remoulded 1.5m from the centre
6 5.5 Zone
5.0 of column
7 6.5
8.0 7.5

9 5a. Pre and Post treatment CPT indicating 5b. Post treatment CPT from centre of
10 remoulded zone below DR column DR column to prove 2.5 m dia. column

11 7.0 Quality Assurance and Quality Control

12 7.1 Prefabricated Vertical Drain (PVD)

13 The QA/QC plan implemented on site comprised of 3 stages, namely pre-treatment,
14 during execution and post-treatment. Pre-treatment testing (e.g. CPT and DPT) were
15 carried out to establish the depths of soft soil. During the execution stage, the depth of
16 installation was monitored independently and cross checked with material delivered to
17 site on a daily basis to ensure sufficient depth as required by design was achieved.
18 Finally, the embankment was monitored during construction to ensure that consolidation
19 was occurring as per design requirement.

20 7.2 Vibro Sand Columns (VS)

21 The QA/QC plan for Vibro Sand Columns covers the construction methodology, material
22 use, termination criteria and compaction effort to ensure desired diameter were achieved.
23 Appropriate vibrator with sufficient centrifugal force (about 15 tons) was used. Material
24 delivered to site was tested for specified grading at every 2,000 tons interval. The volume
25 of bucket used to transfer sand into the ground was calibrated. The construction process
26 was recorded in real time basis by a computer to ensure sufficient compaction of sand to
27 build desired column diameter. Pre-treatment S.I. was used to calibrate the responding
28 power consumption by the vibrator when a medium stiff to stiff layer was encountered
29 for the first column installed. Subsequent installation would then be terminated at a depth
30 where the agreed power usage was achieved. During compaction of column, each meter
31 of column built was checked to achieve the required power usage in real time. At the
32 completion of installation, CPTs were carried out at the center of column to ensure
33 continuity and columns of adequate density (qc>5MPa). Staged construction was adopted
34 for areas treated with VS. The embankment construction was monitored to ensure
1 stability and consolidation was occurring as per design requirement. Figure 6 shows the
2 settlement versus time plot of a typical embankment on VS. In general, the
3 compressibility of the VS treated soil is halved compared with soil treated with PVD.
Monitoring Works for East Coast Expressway - LPT2



Embankment Heights (m)










Settlement (mm)







0 25 50 75 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 275 300 325 350 375 400

4 Figure 6. Typical settlement versus time plot on VS at East Coast Expressway

5 7.3 Vibro Stone Columns (VR)

6 The QA/QC plan implemented for VR was similar as per VS. Stone material used for VR
7 was tested for specified grading and strengths. The embankment was constructed at
8 specified rate of filling and was monitored during the construction to ensure the stability
9 and consolidation was occurring as per design. Generally the compressibility of the
10 treated area was half of that of the area treated using vertical drains, besides a much
11 shorter consolidation time.

12 7.4 Dynamic Replacement Columns (DR)

13 A stringent quality plan was implemented since this method is less frequently employed
14 for soft ground treatment. Firstly, pre-treatment soil investigations (CPT and PMT) were
15 carried out to establish that the depths of soft soil were less than 6m. Where the soils
16 were deeper than 6m, alternative treatment methods were specified by the consultant (e.g.
17 stone column). Secondly, site trials were carried out to ascertain that 2.5m diameter could
18 be formed to 6m depth (see Figure 5b).
20 During execution, the tamper drop height and number of blows were measured by an on
21 board computer. Pre-programmed computer sequencing allowed consistent repeated
22 drops without reliance on the operator’s reflexes to adjust lift heights and apply brakes.
23 This enhances not only the quality of the product but safety on site.
2 Post-treatment CPT and PMT tests were carried out to ascertain column quality. The CPT
3 was found to be more effective QA/QC tool than the PMT as it measures soil
4 characteristics (strength and pore water pressure) continuously. The results are also found
5 to be more repeatable and easier to interpret.
7 The embankment was also monitored during construction to ensure that consolidation
8 was occurring as per design requirement.

9 8.0 Conclusion
10 Ground improvement techniques applied as foundation for highway projects are widely
11 accepted and are increasing in application in Malaysia. This paper presents the
12 application of ground improvement techniques (i) Prefabricated Vertical Drain (ii) Vibro
13 Sand Column (iii) Vibro Stone Column and (iiii) Dynamic Replacement in ECE 2. The
14 concepts behind each technique are discussed, as well as their respective design
15 methodology, execution, and QA/QC plan. Generally, ground improvement techniques
16 were found to be adequate in supporting high embankments without instability and
17 settlement issues. The selection of suitable method is dependant on factors such as
18 embankment height, soil condition (strength and depth), availability of material and costs.

19 Acknowledgments
20 The authors wish to thank the Public Work Department and Malaysia Highway
21 Authorities for allowing us to participate in this important project. We would also like to
22 acknowledge the management and staff of the Main Contractors and Consultants (MTD
23 Capital Berhad, GPQ-Bukit Puteri JV Sdn Bhd, Tidal Marine Sdn Bhd, TSR Bina Sdn
24 Bhd, Cergas Murni Sdn Bhd, HSSI Integrated Sdn Bhd, Minconsult Sdn Bhd, Terratech
25 Consultants Sdn Bhd and WNA Consultant Sdn Bhd) for their valuable contribution in
26 the implementation of the ground improvement works. Colleagues in Keller who
27 contributed immensely in the design and construction, in particular: Dr. V.R. Raju, Mr.
28 Saw Hong Seik and Mr. Sreenivas are also appreciated.

29 References
30 Priebe, H.J., The Design of Vibro Replacement, Ground Engineering: p.31–37, (1995)
32 British Standard: BS EN 14731:2005, Execution of special geotechnical works – Ground treatment
33 by deep vibration., 2005.
35 Building Research Establishment, Specifying dynamic compaction. BRE458. Garston, BRE
36 Bookshop, 2003.
38 Yee, Y.W. and Raju, V.R., Ground Improvement Using Vibro Replacement (Vibro Stone Columns)
39 – Historical Development, Advancements and Case Histories in Malaysia, 16th Southeast Asian
40 Geotechnical Conference, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2007.