Simplified risk analysis chart to prevent slope failure of highway embankment on soft Bangkok clays

A. Sawatparnich & J. Sunitsakul
Bureau of Road Research and Development, Department of Highways, Ministry of Transport, Thailand

ABSTRACT: The soft Bangkok clay has been well known for high water content, low shear strength, high compressibility, and high sensitivity to geotechnical engineers for several decades. Due to high compressibility of the Soft Bangkok clay, the Prefabricated Vertical Drain (PVD) with preload embankment is introduced to accelerate the primary consolidation settlement during the construction of the new Bangkok-Chonburi highway. During preloading, embankment failures and surface cracks occurred on several sections. To investigate the slope failures, the deterministic and probabilistic approaches are performed to determine the overall factor of safety and their associated probability of failure (Pf ). It is found that the overall factor of safety which is normally used to check the stability of the slopes may not be the only key parameter for slope stability analysis especially where wide range of estimated engineering properties is found. Based on reliability analysis, the so-called ‘‘risk analysis chart for slope stability analysis’’ is proposed to prevent potential slope failure of embankment on soft Bangkok clays. The use of the proposed risk analysis chart is also presented.



The soft Bangkok clay has been well known for high water content, low shear strength, and high compressibility, to geotechnical engineers for several decades. For constructing highway embankment on the soft Bangkok clay, the main geotechnical concerns are excess settlement and potential stability failure. Thus, Department of Highways (DOH), Thailand, applies several soil improvement techniques, deep mixing cement column and preload with and without vertical drain, in order to increase their highway serviceability and lower their maintenance costs. Tourist attractions, seaports, and industrial estates are located in the east of Thailand. With the second international airport as part of national logistics, the demand for highways is increased dramatically in the area. Thus, Department of Highway (DOH), Thailand, proposed the construction of the new BangkokChonburi highway to connect the Bangkok and eastern part of Thailand and to alleviate the traffic congestion in the existing Bangna-Bangpakong highway. The new Bangkok-Chonburi highway is fully-controlled access with flyovers at intersections. Almost entire highway route is found to be sitting on the well-known ‘‘soft Bangkok clay’’. The soft Bangkok clay layer along highway route is about 8 to 15 meters in thickness. Severe settlement of the highway embankment is anticipated if it is constructed on the unimproved Bangkok clay; thus,

the Prefabricated Vertical Drain (PVD) technique with preload embankment was introduced to accelerate the primary consolidation settlement. Since their low shear strengths, stage of construction of the preload embankment with preload time is proposed for three loading stages. During the first and second loading preload stages, there is no slide occurring. However, during the third preload stage, stability failures of preload embankments occur on some sections as shown in Figure 1. On this study, an application of reliability analyses is introduced in order to be used as the pilot study of

Figure 1. Stability failures of the preload embankment during the construction of the new Bangkok-Chonburi highway (courtesy to Apimeteetamrong).

© 2008 Taylor & Francis Group, London, UK

4 EMBANKMENT FAILURES 25 50 75 100 125 Liquid Limit (%) 150 Figure 2. Summary of their basic properties soil properties is shown in Table 1.8 1. Thus. vane shear tests during preloading were performed. from case histories of embankment failures and proposed the correction factor versus plasticity index as shown in Equation 1 (as sited by Das.6 to 1. engineering property specifications of the preload materials is indicated in Table 2. the preload embankment is constructed into three steps as follows.6 to 1. however. To perform the vane shear test. Undrained shear strength of the soft Bangkok clay before and during PVD (after Lin.0 Water content (%) 40 to 60 70 to 160 40 to 60 – Before PVD During PVD Figure 3. medium stiff clay.8 1. London. during the third preload stage. moreover. the undrained shear strength by vane shear tests before and during PVD is shown in Figure 3. 2007).10.the reliability analysis for future highway construction projects in Department of Highways.75 R2 = 0. and stiff clay. the Bangkok clay is classified as CL or CH as shown in Figure 2. The Vane Shear Test (VST) is considered to be the most reliable tool to estimate undrained shear strength (Su ) throughout the world. In addition. most of the actual preload time is over one year (Lin 1999). All embankment sections performed well during the first and second preload stages without any slide or surface crack (Lin.8 to 2. 0 0 Undrained Shear Strength (tsm) 2 4 6 8 10 2 SITE CONDITIONS AND IN-SITU TESTS Depth (m) 5 10 15 20 25 Soil profile along the new Bangkok-Chonburi highway alignment can be classified to four layers as follows: weathered crust. Thailand. Depth (m) 0 to 1 1 to 16 16 to 20 20 to 22 Unit weight (kg/cm3 ) 1.5 1. two layers of four to six layers of the compacted fill material. 100 80 60 40 20 0 0 BKK Clay PI = 0.74LL . 2002). 1999). As part of another study in Road Research and Development Center. soft clay. Further information on the backfill materials are reported elsewhere in the final construction report by Lin (1999). a vane is pushed directly into soil layer and rotated until the soil fails. μ = 1. 1999). a correction factor is required to evaluate the undrained shear strength. Since vane shear time loading is.7 − 0. UK .54 log(PI) (1) Soil layer Weathered crust Soft clay Medium stiff clay Stiff clay 3 PRELOADED EMBANKMENT CONSTRUCTION 120 Plastic Index (%) .. fifty centimeter working platform sand blanket.4 to 1. stability failures and surface cracks 1972 © 2008 Taylor & Francis Group. In addition. Atterberg limit results are plotted in Casagrande’s soil classification chart. Total proposed preload time is one year. The torque required to fail the soil along the vertical and horizontal edges of the vane is a relatively direct measurement of the shear strength. respectively. However.93 U-Line A-Line Due to low undrained shear strength and high water content of the soft Bangkok clay beneath. Bjerrum (1974) evaluated the undrained shear strength Table 1. 1999 and Apimeteetamrong et al. Basic engineering soil properties of the soil layers (after Lin. 1999). Atterberg limit test results of the soft Bangkok clay in soil classification chart (after Lin.

’’ The three main sources of uncertainty are: (a) inherent variability. In some sections. – and less than 6% finer free from than 0. On this study. SU σVO = OC SU σVO OCR λ NC (2) (3) SU (mob) = 0. Clay 4 Figure 4. procedural/operator. The mean value of total unit weight along construction site is found in the range 1973 © 2008 Taylor & Francis Group. 5 STABILITY ANALYSIS One of the design criteria of highway embankment design on soft clay is to evaluate the stability of the highway embankment. 10 size of 3/8 inch free from clay lumps 12.0 Fill Material Clay 1 Clay 2 Clay 3 100% finer than 9. occur in several sections of embankments occurs. In geotechnical applications. and random testing effects. The commercial computer program named SLOPE/W is used to perform stability analyses. 1997). where OCR is overconsolidation ratio. the reliability index can be related to the probability of failure as shown in table 3 (USACE. reliability analyses typically assign probabilities or probability distributions to soil or rock engineering properties and propagate these probabilities through calculation models to obtain probabilities or probability distributions of engineering performance.075 mm clay lumps Fill Material Max Particle Nonplastic. Furthermore. Since the Bangkok clay along the constructed highway before preloading is slightly overconsolidated. stability of the preload embankment is followed the limit equilibrium method together with the Bishop’s simplified method. The number of repetitions for each simulation is trialed till the uniformly outcome reached. In soil mechanics the accuracy of computed results never exceeds that of a crude estimate. Natural soil is never uniform. and (c) transformation uncertainties. The second source is attributed to equipment. 1992). (1996) indicates that the relationship between the mobilized strength ratios for the stability analysis of the embankment is as indicated in Equation 3. London. 1998) ‘‘Unfortunately. Material type Drainage Material Gradation Plasticity CBR (%) Depth (m) 0 1. stability failure occurs where canal and shrimp farms existing beside the right of way (as shown in Figure 1). . Engineering properties with standard deviations of the Bangkok clay used in stability analyses are summarized in Table 4. Reliability analysis is a method that introduces uncertainties described by probabilities and probability distributions into calculations of engineering performance. Terzaghi et al. soils are made by nature and not by man.Table 2. the reliability analysis is performed thru the Monte Carlo simulation incorporated in the SLOPE/W. Its properties change from point to point while our knowledge of its properties are limited to those few spots at which the samples have been collected. Lin (1999) concluded that most of the embankments failures and surface cracks occurred where the soft Bangkok clay with high water content and very thick clay layer. 1999). λ is material constant. UK . On this study. Uncertainty in soil property estimates (after Kulhawy. respectively. the Bangkok clay beneath the preload embankment should be normally consolidated during preloading. and the principal function of theory consists in teaching us what and how to observe in the field. and precision of the correlation model.5 mm Nonplastic. For highway embankment construction of soft clay.5 7. The relative contribution of these sources to the overall uncertainty in the design soil property clearly depends on the site condition. The first source can be attributed to the natural geologic processes that are involved in soil formation.22σVO 6 RELIABILITY ANALYSIS Geotechnical variability is complex and results from various sources of uncertainties as also mentioned by Terzaghi (Goodman. The undrained shear strength of the Bangkok clay before and after preloading is evaluated by the vane shear test and the SHANSEP method by Ladd and Foott (1974) as Equation 2. the critical stage for the stability failure is at the end of the embankment construction. Engineering properties of the preloading materials (After Lin. . (b) measurement errors. degree of equipment and procedure control. and the products of nature are always complex. The analyses yield the outcome in term of the probability of failure of the slope failure. The third source is introduced when field or laboratory measurements are transformed into design soil properties using empirical or other correlation models.

000232 0.113 0.159 0.75 2.0 3.157 0.0 3.0 Service road No No No Yes No Yes Pond or canal besides No No No No Yes Yes Depth (m) 0 1. Reliability analysis of slope stability of highway embankment sitting on soft Bangkok clays of the case history number 3.00 2.5 to 5.55 1.00 4. FMLV 1.95 kPa with COV in the range of 14 to 35.18 1.49 0.0 3.5.38 1. (1995) is in the range of 15 to 50. Stability failure occurred where the thick soft Bangkok clay existed as well as canal and shrimp farms existing beside the right of way. Case number 1 2 3 4 5 6 Information of the case histories.0000034 0.65 1.09 1.85 1.34 1. Example of the critical surface from stability analysis is provided in Figure 5. Table 6. Case number 1 2 3 4 5 6 Stability and reliability analysis results.57 1.5 – 30 15 15 31 Unit kg/m3 kg/m3 kg/m3 kg/m3 kg/m3 degree kg/m2 kg/m2 kg/m2 kg/m2 12 Clay 4 Figure 5. The mean value of undrained shear strength by field vane shear tests (Su.34 to 1. stability analysis with the application of the reliability analysis yields results coincided with case histories notified in Lin (1999).00 1.85 to 1.5 7.00 3.2 49.14 1.75 3.50 1.127 0.0000003 Expected performance level Hazardous Unsatisfactory Poor Below average Above average Good High Table 5.0000142 (with associated reliability index of 4. The COV of unit weight presented published in USACE (1999) is in the range of 3 to 8.55 0. From Table 6.0000317 0. Reliability index (β) 1. It is shown that some values of factor of safety are less than 1 in which led to the failures of slope in some stations along the highway construction.00298 0.VST presented by Phoon et al.VST ) at the construction site is found in the range of 0.0 Fill Material Clay 1 Clay 2 Clay 3 Table 4.28 1. 1997).156 0.5 1.50 4.00142 3.17 0.01 1.25 1.0122 0. For case number 1.00 Probability of failure (pf = (−β)) 0. Based on Table 3. UK .103 Pf (%) 0.48 of 1.00621 0. it is implied that the expected performance level of the highway construction site is ‘‘Good’’ due to the uncertainty of the estimated soil properties (as shown in Table 4).17 0.5 39.60 kg/m3 with COV in the range of 1.95 COV (%) – 1. Moreover.28 σF 0.50 5.02 2. 7 STABILITY ANALYSIS RESULTS The stability analyses will be performed following the case histories indicated in Table 5.0228 0.106 0.18). The distribution of the factor of safety for the case number 6 is shown in Figure 6.5 5.57 0.3 1. The COV of Su.83 0.50 1.25 2. Statistical Engineering properties of soils. Soil type Fill Material Clay 1 Clay 2 Clay 3 Clay 4 Fill Material Clay 1 Clay 2 Clay 3 Clay 4 Soil Parameter Unit Weight Unit Weight Unit Weight Unit Weight Unit Weight Friction Angle Shear Strength Shear Strength Shear Strength Shear Strength Mean Value 2000 1.0668 0.0 3.48 1.0401 0. before preloading.53 FS (Max) 2.27 1.00135 0. the probability of failure (Pf ) of the highway construction is 0.0 4.5 4.60 35 1.77 0. Relationship between reliability index and probability of failure (USACE.121 0.87 1. London.Table 3.85 0.8 20. 1974 © 2008 Taylor & Francis Group.99 1.50 0. used in stability analysis. Counter weight embankment Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Fill height (m) 3.50 2.0 FS (Min) 0.03 β 4. results of the reliability analyses of the highway embankment for the new BangkokChonburi construction are presented in Table 6.

COVSu = 30%.4 Reliability Index ( ) 6 4 2 0 0.8 ton/m2 and the unit weight of embankment of 2 t/m3 .8 1 1.. 50 45 Probability of Failure (%) COV = 10% COV = 20% COV = 30% COV = 40% 8 SIMPLIFIED RISK ANALYSIS CHART TO PREVENT EMBANKMENT SLOPE FAILURE 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 0. The risk analysis chart to prevent embankment slope failure is then simply constructed by plotting the reliability indices versus the maximum height of the embankment on the same range of COV of Su in which so-called ‘‘Su -line’’. Figure 7.2 0 0. 5. COVSu = 20%. Risk analysis chart to prevent embankment slope 2. 10 8 COV = 10% COV = 20% COV = 30% COV = 40% 0.8 0. London. It is demonstrated herein that the reliability analysis for slope stability of highway embankment is essential to be preformed especially for highway embankment sitting on soft Bangkok clays. COVSu = 40%.5 3 Embankment Height (m) Figure 8. Determine the Standard Deviation (S. SLOPE/W. Distribution of Factor of Safety (F. The simplified risk analysis chart to prevent embankment slope failure sitting on Bangkok clays is presented as shown in Figure 7 and Figure 8. failure. Define the target reliability or the allow probability of failure associated with the reliability level describe in Table 3. Construct the risk analysis chart from probabilistic slope stability analysis (e.1 Probability of Failure (Pf). Calculate COV of Su .5 1 1.) for from site investigation along the construction route.5 Simplified risk analysis chart to prevent embankment slope failure presented herein is adopted from the philosophy of risk analysis chart to prevent damage of building-foundation systems caused by adjacent tunneling in soils presented by Sawatparnich (2003). 1975 © 2008 Taylor & Francis Group. In the design procedure on highway embankment. 3. Risk analysis chart to prevent embankment slope failure: New Bangkok-Chonburi highway project.5 3 Embankment Height (m) Figure 6. respectively.4 0. Determine the mean value of Su of existing ground along the route of highway construction.5 2 2. X-axis is embankment height. The COV of Su shall be categorized into COVSu = 10%. 1 1.) for case history number 6.D.S.6 0. 4.2 Factor of Safety 1. input soft Bangkok layer is simplified to one layer with the undrained shear strength of 0. one can utilize the chart in the selection of maximum height by taking into account on the uncertainty of estimated soil properties in more rational way as follows: 1. etc) in which Y-axis is either probability of failure or reliability index. The proposed chart is the practical methodology to take into account of sources of uncertainty associated in geotechnical engineering to prevent potential slope failure as the case. Since the failure surface of the highway embankment is in the soft Bangkok clay layer.5 2 2. The Su -line introduced herein are COVSu between 10% and 40%.6 0.g. UK .

the critical height shall be 2. For example. Draw the horizontal line along the X-axis to their COVSu .5 (corresponded Pf of 0. Comparison between Deterministic Approach and ‘‘Risk Analysis Chart’’ to Prevent Potential Slope Failure of Highway Embankment. The use of risk analysis chart to determine the maximum height of highway embankment with target reliability of 2. London.10 Reliability Index ( ) 8 6 4 2 0 0. the critical slip surface is first determined by deterministic analysis with the mean input values of engineering soil properties in SLOPE/W. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors would like to express the profound gratitude to Dr. 7.5 with COVSu of 10% and 20%.00621). In addition. modification or additional support structure/berms may be employed to limit potential slope failures along the highway during the construction • For the case of preloading construction technique. Table 7. berms or ground modification techniques shall be considered for particular section for highway embankment construction. reliability-based methodology can be used as the more rational and consistent approach in stead of the deterministic analysis in the assessment the potential slope failure for highway embankment in Bangkok clays. Six Case studies during the construction of New BangkokChonburi Motorway were evaluated with the Monte Carlo simulation method (MCS) in SLOPE/W in order to demonstrate the capabilities of methodology. UK . Slope stability evaluation is based on method of slices with Bishop method in this study. if COVSu is about 20% and the target reliability index (in which can be selected from Table 3) is 2. the director of 1976 © 2008 Taylor & Francis Group. For the case of preloading construction technique. Draw the vertical line from their COVSu along Y-axis to determine the critical height on the chart. the risk assessment shall be performed such that the stage of construction (each preloading embankment height) will not exceed the critical height at each stage of construction. the risk assessment shall be performed such that the stage of construction (each preloading embankment height) will not exceed the critical height at each stage of construction In this study.15 meters. The six cases with different variables of geological conditions of preloaded highway embankments on this project were performed. If the critical support structure/ height of highway embankment berms to reduce the is less than the required height potential slope failure from geometric design. the maximum height in which the Pf of the slope failure is not exceed the target probability of failure (Pf ) is 1. ground of embankment. If CovSu is equal to 10 percent. of slope stability in considered • No statistic explicitly in the highway evaluation embankment design of estimated process soil properties. If the critical embankment height is less than the required embankment height from highway geometric design.45 meters as shown in Figure 9.5 Embankment Height (m) 3 Figure 9. from the chart in figure 7. The illustration was shown that the risk analysis chart for assessing slope failure on highway embankment could be represented as the tool for practical engineers to check the potential slope failure of the highway embankment with their designs. Traditional Risk analysis chart for highway deterministic approach embankment • Soil properties are • Uncertainty of soil properties adopted as are considered in the prediction deterministic • The propagation of quantities uncertainties in the soil (uncertainties are properties into the prediction neglected).5 2 2. 9 CONCLUSIONS 1.5 1 COV = 10% COV = 20% 6. Pichit Jamnongpipatkul. • Embankment height (critical • No explicit criteria height) can be adjusted to to assess the need achieve a specified target for ground reliability index for slope modification or stability analysis. Comparison between deterministic approach and ‘‘Risk Analysis Chart’’ to prevent potential slope failure of highway embankment are shown in Table 7. Monte Carlo simulation is then performed on the predetermined critical slip surface.

Factors of Safety and Reliability in Geotechnical Engineering. U. Special thanks are extended to Assistant Prof.D. & Sawatparnich A. Karl Terzaghi: The Engineer As Artist. & Foott R.H. 100(7): 763–786. 95–115. 1999. F. Journal of Geotechnical Engineering Division. Ithaca. Cornell University. Electric Power Research Institute. 1998. Ladd C. Peck R. Kulhawy. London.M. Goodman R. ASCE. 126(4): 307–316. Sompote Youwai. M.C. ETL 1110-2-556. UK . Department of the Army. A. Department of Civil Engineering. F. Army Corps of Engineers. for providing the commercial software SLOPE/W in this study. Department of Highways. 2003.B. 1997. 1995. King Mongkut’s University of Technology. Bangkok. 2007.M.K.S. REFERENCES Apimeteetamrong S. 406p.D. Reliability Based Design of Foundations for Transmission Line Structures. New York. Bangkok. Lin P. 1999.H. Final Report of Ground Improvement Work for Construction Supervision of Bangkok-Chonburi New Highway Project. Engineering and Design. Das B. U. ETL 1110-2547... In Thai.. California. 1977 © 2008 Taylor & Francis Group.C. Report TR-105000. John Wiley & Sons.. In: Stability and Performance of Slopes & Embankment II. Army Corps of Engineers. Introduction to Probability and Reliability Methods for Use in Geotechnical Engineering. Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering. Brooks/Cole. 2000. Department of the Army. Duncan J.C. Department of Highways for his guidance and support throughout the study and Mr. New York. Sawatparnich. Deterministic and Reliability-Based Assessment of Existing Building-Foundation Systems Adjacent to Tunneling In Soils. Inc. Sunitsakul J. Kulhawy. Palo Alto. 1992. GSP 31. Engineering Soil Properties of the Soft Bangkok Clay by Piezoncone Tests. & Mesri G. Terzaghi K. & Grigoriu.S. K. Risk-Based Analysis in Geotechnical Engineering for Support of Planning Studies Engineering and Design. 2002. Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice. Washington D. On Evaluation of Statistical Soil Properties. Ph.Bureau of Road Research and Development. New Design Procedures for Stability of Soft Clays. ASCE. New York. Principles of Geotechnical Engineering. 1974. Satipong Apimeteetamrong for providing some valuable background on the stability failure of the preload embankment and engineering soil properties of the Bangkok clay along the constructed highway. Washington D. Dr. Phoon. Dissertation.. 380p. 1996.

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