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J K Murfitt1, J W Tattersal2 & Billy Siu3

Abstract: Hard Rock Tunnels in Hong Kong granite formations lend themselves well to temporary and permanent support application using the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) 6-parameter Q-System. Initial prediction of one of the 6 parameters, RQD, is often performed from borehole logging and mapping of rock outcrops. Well-documented pitfalls of RQD include directional bias and lack of sensitivity. Several methods exist to improve the ease of computation, including modification of the standard 0.1m threshold level and use of Volumetric Joint Ratio (Jv) as an estimate of RQD, as proposed by Palmstrm (1982). The various methods are discussed in this paper and the impact of the use of Volumetric Joint Ratio (Jv) compared to pre-tender RQD estimates based on borehole results is evaluated.

INTRODUCTION The Shatin Heights Tunnels are twin 3-lane 19m span tunnels excavated by conventional drill & blast methods. Tunnel temporary support was successfully applied following face mapping using the Q-System for tunnel support (Barton et al. 1974; 1994; 2002). One of the parameters used in the Q-System is Rock Quality Designation (RQD) first proposed by Deere (1963) and later clarified in more detail by Deere (1989), a parameter which has been used in both rock mass classification system and even as single index for tunnel support design in the USA (Deere and Deere 1988) prior to its inclusion as one of the parameters in a multi-parameter rock mass classification system. As observed by Marinos et al. (2005), it has been used successfully in hundreds of kilometres of Tunnels. In this paper, comparisons are made between the resultant percentiles (in terms of tunnel length) of Q-values estimated at tender stage from both vertical boreholes and horizontal boreholes. Support classes are not used as a reference as they both : (i) encompass a range of Q-values; and (ii) are tunnel-span dependent, which means that any design estimates for a smaller span must be recalculated for larger spans, although Q-values remain constant. RQD in its current form must continue to be used in the Q-System to ensure no departure from the case-histories that make up the Q-System charts, i.e. it cannot simply be replaced by another parameter which some authors argue better characterizes the overall rock mass properties, including block size and shape (Palmstrm 2001; Sen & Eissa 1991). As such the challenge is to determine the most consistent method of its determination in a large-span tunnel environment.

Resident Engineer (Geotechnical), Maunsell Consultants Asia Ltd. Associate, Maunsell Consultants Asia Ltd. 3 Assistant Resident Engineer (Geotechnical), Maunsell Consultants Asia Ltd.

SENSITIVITY OF AND DIFFICULTIES IN RQD ESTIMATION The sensitivity of and difficulties in RQD estimation are well established as discussed by Deere (1989), Palmstrm (2001; 2005) and Hack (2002). The main issues can be summarised as : (a) directional bias i.e. RQD is a vector quantity; (b) lack of sensitivity to large joint spacing (e.g. in large underground openings) due to abrupt threshold boundary at 0.1m; and (c) difficulties and influences in measurement. Directional Bias Palmstrm (2001; 2005) highlights in detail the problems associated with directional bias and the limited range of RQD with respect to block sizes and shapes. However while the extreme case of RQD estimates from a single directional joint (e.g. in a bedded sedimentary rock) can lead to severely skewed RQD estimates, estimates from boreholes in multi-jointed granites relate reasonably well to RQD estimates derived from tunnel face and sidewall mapping, using Volumetric Joint Ratio (Jv). It should be noted that raw RQD estimates from boreholes are tempered by a review of both the RQD profiles with depth and structural domains (faults, shear zones) and orientation of the tunnel with respect to horizontal cores along the tunnel alignment. Directional bias can also be reasonably well taken into account by taking vertical and horizontal scanlines, such as those taken in the Yucca Mountain Tunnel Project in Nevada, USA (Sandia 1995). In this project, fracture frequency was measured along vertical and horizontal scanlines taken on the walls, and a horizontal scanline on the face. Peacock et al. (2003) proposed a method of RQD mapping in a tunnel using single, but curved, scanlines along tunnel or borehole walls which allow RQD mapping to be performed directly, (or using Hudson & Priest (1979) fracture frequency definition) which mathematically removes directional bias. However there are practical difficulties in setting up scanlines in large openings in particular. Sensitivity One of the reasons for the sensitivity lies in the assumption of the threshold level of 0.1m (pieces of intact rock > 4 inches or 100 mm) used in Deere's (1963) original formulation and presented mathematically by Hudson & Priest (1979). Harrison (1999) observed that RQD values tend to be either high (say, above 85%) or low (often 10% or below). In practice this means that certain values of RQD are less frequently encountered, for example, 40% through to 60%. One method proposed by Hudson (1997) to increase the sensitivity, or provide a better correlation, of RQD is to revise the threshold level of 0.1 m to a larger value e.g. 1.0 m. AduAcheampong (2003) performed a comparison of resultant RQD values that were derived if the threshold values were revised from 0.1m to 1.0m and observed the resultant RQD values were reduced by half. The drawback is that any change in estimation of RQD would impact the empirical database if RQD (or its estimate Jv) is not derived in the same way as in the casehistories from the Q-System is comprised. Sen & Eissa (1991) investigated RQD as a function of block shape and determined that : (a) RQD was not related to Jv linearly, as per Palmstrms (1982) relationships; and (b) RQD is a function of block shape.

They noted however that for moderate Jv values, Palmstrms (1982) approximation is adequate. Published charts of RQD based on Jv for various block shapes are presented in Sen and Eissa (1992). RQD measurement on underground exposed faces The procedure for RQD estimation (but not the definition), was reviewed by Deere and Deere (1988). This procedure improves repeatability and makes observations about mechanical fractures and other variables, such as core size. Mitigation against difficulties in measurement on exposures (rather than from borehole core) can be achieved by a number of methods. The main methods include: (a) recording the overall distribution of RQD values using a histogram to record a range of RQD values (Barton 1974; 1994). This is particularly useful in tunnels with large spans, or longer mapped lengths; (b) using (multiple) scanlines measuring fracture frequency as proposed by Hudson & Priest (1979); (c) using weighted values based on number of observations as discussed by Vardakos & Gutierrez (2005), similar to Bartons histograms. This principle can also be applied to Jv (easier to estimate); and (d) using Jv which is generally a lower-bound fit, and thus slightly conservative. Recent work by Palmstrm (2005) has resulted in a revised volumetric joint ratio relationship Jv intended to more closely fit observations of RQD in boreholes while remaining within the original overall range of common variations. It does not however address extreme limits of RQD. The old and new correlations are : RQD = 115 3.3 Jv, Palmstrm (1982), for Jv < 4.5, Jv > 35 RQD = 110 2.5 Jv, Palmstrm (2005)

Alternatives to RQD within Rock Mass Classification Systems Hack (2002) reviewed a number of rock mass classification systems for slope stability works, some of which have a background in tunnelling works, e.g. Bieniawskis (1989) Rock Mass Rating (RMR) and Bartons Q-System (1974). Hack (2002) discussed the most sensitive parameters in each system, of which RQD was highlighted as being one of the most subjective to evaluate. As a result, there have been a number of proposals for replacement of the parameter RQD, including within the framework of the Q-System, with alternative and more readily measurable rock mass quality parameters. These include : (a) Palmstrm (1995), with recent improvements detailed in Palmstrm (2000), proposed the Rock Mass Index (RMI) system, in which the block volume (Vb) and joint orientations are measured and used in place of RQD; and Maerz & Germain (1996) observed that the rock mass classification process is highly subjective and requires experienced personnel. They propose a simulation technique for block size determination and noted that this could introduce the possibility of replacing the estimated parameter RQD/Jn completely, with a measurable parameter that is less subjective than RQD and with no limitation on block size.


While not an alternative to RQD, Marinos et al. (2005) noted that the Geological Strength Index (GSI), which is a rock-mass characterization system and not a replacement for RQD, was proposed in part because RQD so poorly represents the degree of jointing, especially high degree of jointing in poor rock, and that it is open to different interpretations depending on the experience and level of conservatism of the observer.

COMMON PRACTICES IN RQD ESTIMATION FOR TUNNELS The review of common practice for RQD estimation included personal communication with a number of authors of publications on RQD evaluation, the Q-System, rock-mass classification systems and tunnelling. Comments from these authors are summarised in the following table, and highlight some of the different approaches considered most appropriate. Author Prof. John A Hudson Imperial College and Rock Engineering Consultants, UK Comment I recommend measuring the RQD directly in the tunnel along scanlines. Even the RQD is a derived property and so I prefer to start with fracture frequency of the fracture sets, then the fracture frequency in any direction can be calculated. I recommend measuring the RQD directly in the tunnel along scanlines to imagine cores or lines in different directions through the rock mass. But even the RQD is a derived property and so I prefer to start with fracture frequency of the fracture sets, then the fracture frequency in any direction can be calculated. (Engineering Rock Mechanics Illustrated Worked Examples by Harrison and Hudson, Elsevier, 2000). Because the fracture sets have specific directions, the overall fracture frequency through the rock mass will be a function of the orientation of the scanline being considered. Similarly for the RQD, which is also a directionally dependent parameter. If the RQD is explicitly required in certain directions, then that can be measured along scanlines. Alternatively, one can also estimate the RQD and hence its variation in all directions from the fracture frequency and its variation (see Harrison and Hudson). The problem with estimating RQD from Jv is that it will give the RQD as a single scalar value; whereas RQD is a type of vector (although always positive) because it is a function of direction. Think of the errors that could be made in estimating RQD from vertical boreholes when the information is required for a horizontal tunnel. Hudson (2005). Dr. Nick Barton, Nick Barton & Associates I have never personally used volumetric joint count except when giving lectures. I have never set up a scanline either in a tunnel situation. I just use my brain to do the scan and come up with an approximate figure with never a decimal place, nor a 62, but in a range e.g. 55-65 etc always on a histogram logging sheet for the last 17-18 years. I always give a range of opinions the statistics takes care of the doubts and real variations. I have never used the Hudson and Priest formula either. Your classic core box picture 0 (10) or 100 dilemma sometimes nearly arises, or actually arises in mudrocks etc. But it doesnt cause me to doubt the validity of any data base re. RQD, nor question the general applicability of Q. I have never experienced John Harrisons above 85, 10 or below syndrome. RQD shows, invariably, the widest range of the 6 parameters. That is why it has survived so long it is very sensitive and could be used alone for tunnel design in the USA for some years before RMR and Q arrived. Barton (2005).

Author Dr. Doug Milne, Assoc. Prof. of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Saskatchewan Dr. Arild Palmstrm (Norconsult )

Comment I would stick with Jv measurements when underground. I would not change the threshold level for RQD. It's true that large openings may be more sensitive to a larger threshold value, but you'd lose the empirical data base associated with RQD if you changed the threshold. I don't know a relationship between different RQD threshold values and block size, but I imagine it would be feasible. Milne (2005). I am of the opinion that the block volume is theoretically the best measurement where it is possible to observe it. Palmstrm (2005).

LITERATURE REVIEW A limited literature review also shows several different approaches are used to determine RQD for tunnelling work. (a) Barton et al.s (1974) paper gave an example of Q-estimation using RQD derived from Jv, however as noted by Barton above, Barton has rarely used it rigorously in a tunnel. Barton (2001) in his letter to the December 2001 ISRM news journal also observed that Jv may be used in the absence of core data, and that the ratio RQD/Jn remains a sensitive indicator of block size. Note that Barton et al.s (1974) paper quotes a private communication with Palmstrm in 1974 regarding Jv, however Palmstrm did not publish his correlation between RQD and Jv until 1982. (b) Hudson & Priest (1979) show RQD can be derived from scanline joint frequency using : RQD = 100e 0.1 * (0.1 + L), which for L = 6 -16 can be simplified to RQD = 3.68 * 110.4. (c) Milne et al. (1998) observed that RQD in Tunnels can be estimated using the Volumetric Joint Ratio (Jv). (d) Choi & Park (2004) conducted an analysis of the effect of RQD on scanline orientation for tunnelling and concluded it could be in error by as much as 24% where vertical drillholes were used for estimation of RQD in a sub-horizontal tunnel. Their review also determined that optimal RQD estimates for their data were achieved when the threshold level was increased from 0.1m to approx. 0.5m for simulated RQD values based on scanline lengths ranging from 0.2 to 5.0m. (e) Edelbro (2004) observes that for large-sized tunnels RQD is of questionable value as it is unlikely that all defects found in boreholes would be significant to rock mass stability. Note however, that support of the large span 60m span Govik Cavern in Norway was actually based on RQD estimates. (f) Loset (1999) observes that in weak competent rock, joints may be more or less missing i.e. according RQD = 10. Loset also observes that rock as weak as 1 to 3 MPa should be defined as incompetent and the RQD set to 0 (i.e. 10 in the Q-System) whatever the jointing. This agrees with Deere and Deeres (1989) guidelines to use only pieces of hard and sound rock in RQD logging. However Loset also notes that if the stress level is low, weak competent rock may behave almost in the same way as strong rock (RQD=100) i.e. is stress-dependant, and related to SRF, also a QSystem parameter.

RQD AND ROCK STRENGTHS IN WEAK ZONES Intact Rock Strength Barton (1994) observed that the Q System in the Norwegian Method of Tunnelling (NMT) was essentially for rock with c = 3 MPa to 300 MPa, with clay bearing zones. Two of the QSystem parameters could be considered to be indirectly related to strength as follows : (a) The parameter Jn : A high degree of jointing implies higher rates of water infiltration, leading to greater depths of weathering, leading ultimately to lower rock mass strength; The parameter SRF : This parameter is related to observations of stress condition, and type and magnitude of deformations, which is also indirectly related to strength.


Weak Zones Neither RQD (nor Jv) is a measurement of degree of weathering or strength, simply the degree of jointing. Loset (1999), in regard to the use of the Loset Formula, recommends that : (a) (b) in practice the formula should only be used for weakness zones with a width ranging from 0.5 m up to a few metres. the maximum value of Qsb should be two times the boundary Q value for support/no support, where Qsb = the Q value of the surrounding rock.

THE SHATIN HEIGHTS RQD ESTIMATES A comparison of RQD recorded from boreholes vs. tunnel mapping has been conducted for the Shatin Heights Tunnel. While as close a comparison as possible has been made, a direct comparison is not possible as : (a) RQD derived from Jv was not used to estimate RQD for the entire tunnel length, however where RQD is estimated from scanlines, or visual interpretations, Jv has been back-calculated from the estimated RQD; the original estimates for RQD were based on both vertical and horizontal boreholes. The horizontal boreholes were bored in a straight line (horizontal alignment) whereas the actual alignment is curved. However the horizontal RQD values have been correlated as closely as possible to tunnel chainage.


Pre-tender boreholes comprised two horizontally drilled boreholes, one from each portal, and a series of boreholes along the alignment, with a cluster of boreholes at each portal. The horizontally drilled cores (HDC) were straight (in plan) and while the initial part of the coring captured rock core within the tunnel domain, the ends of the HDC core runs departed from the tunnel alignment, as they were not drilled along the same (curved) alignment as the tunnel itself. RQD PERCENTILES The pie-charts (Figure A) below shows the estimated expected percentiles of RQD, based on RQD values interpolated from: (a) (b) horizontal boreholes only, with proportions of RQD within each range weighted for length of that range cored. vertical plus horizontal boreholes, assuming discrete depth ranges of 0~6 m, 6~12 m, 12~20 m, 20~50 m and 50~100 m, for the section of borehole drilled in the depth range that the tunnel was excavated. The proportions are again weighted for the

length of core, over the total length of core retrieved, within the depth ranges. This ensures any clusters of boreholes (e.g. at the tunnel portal) do not artificially skew RQD values. From Figure A it is clear that in general, the results of the RQD ranges do not differ greatly from the results of the combined vertical and horizontal core. The small graphic markers in the middle graph of Figures B and C show the raw logged Q values vs. tunnel chainage. These markers indicate : (a) a large variation in RQD with tunnel chainage; and (b) do not correlate particularly well against the mapped RQD values. The large variations are likely to come about as a result of : (a) possible mis-interpretation of drilling breakages during core-logging; (b) not including only pieces of sound and hard rock; (c) short sections of core with very low RQD; and (d) natural pessimism in recording RQD values during site logging.

Figure A Weighted RQD-Range Percentages from (a) Horizontal Core and (b) Vertical and Horizontal Core divided into discrete depth ranges.

Figure B Variation of Q values and RQD values along Southbound Tunnel T2 A slightly better distribution is derived on the same (middle graphs) in Figures B and C by weighting the RQD core percentages within the same tunnel lengths as was actually mapped. These are represented by the large diamond markers. Notwithstanding this manipulation of the RQD values, the distribution is still some way below actual mapped RQD values in the tunnel. Some possible reasons for this may include : (a) scale effects. Logging < 100mm core in 1.5m sections compared to mapping a 19m span tunnel in up to 5m sections;

(b) (c) (d)

anisotropy of the core (essentially a vector quantity) vs. the more 3-dimensional tunnel space; natural visual weighting when mapping, resulting in an average RQD; and natural optimism in recording RQD values during tunnel mapping. Small variations in mapped parameters can maintain the Q values such that support remains within a desired support classes.

Figure C Variation of Q values and RQD values along Northbound Tunnel T1. Figure D shows the same data as Figure A, but includes the distribution of RQD within each depth range. In general the proportions of better rock quality improve with depth range, as expected of improved rock quality with depth below rockhead.

Figure D Weighted RQD-Range percentages from both Vertical and Horizontal Core for discrete Depth Ranges. A significantly better correlation with mapped RQD can be derived as follows : (a) split up all the available SI into lengths of core (incl. HDC) at various depths below rockhead. (0 6 m, 6 12 m, 12 20 m, 20 50 m, 50 100 m). This assumes that weathering and RQD is uniform to the same depth, provided all the SI is from the same general area (Shatin Heights Tunnel). (b) at a cross-section of the tunnel, measure the depth from rockhead to the tunnel crown, and assign one of those five depth ranges (or a fault, where RQD is assumed to = 10) to the tunnel chainage; (c) a single weighted average RQD is then chosen within each depth range. This value is presented on the lower graph in Figures B and C and clearly shows a better correlation with the mapped data. The above approach should be used with caution; all structural domains identified from Geological Survey Maps, photo-lineaments and any known fault zones should first be added. The assignment of a single average RQD to a large chainage interval can miss short sections of poor ground within that interval. A similar exercise with average Q values has been performed for comparison with the mapped Q values, which are shown in the top chart of each of Figures B and C.

Figure E. The lower charts show the actual Mapped RQD distribution. A comparison of mapped RQD (based on the volumetric joint ratio (Jv) or simply from scanline data) and RQD re-calculated from Palmstrm (2005) new Jv relationship is also shown in the middle charts of Figures B and C. At the values of RQD mapped, there is little difference between the Palmstrm (2005) relationship and the original definition of Jv, albeit the new relationship results in slightly higher RQD values. Pie chart results of the actual mapped RQD percentages are shown in the lower two charts in Figure E. Clearly there is a significant departure from the proportions in Figure A above. The upper charts in Figure E represent the weighted average RQD.

IMPROVEMENT OF RQD ESTIMATION IN TUNNELS Improvement of RQD estimation in tunnels can be made by : (a) Bartons (2003) suggested use of a histogram with a range of RQD values (and indeed all 6 Q-parameters) for estimation of the Q parameters is practical and sound advice; (b) use of weighted RQD or weighted Jv values as suggested by Vardakos & Gutierrez (2005) are recommended for large tunnel faces/sidewalls based on a frequency count of observations, rather than a visual assessment resulting in a single parameter for RQD;


longer (and more frequent) scanlines for large discontinuity spacing if scanline mapping is used. The greater the discontinuity spacing, the longer the scanline lengths required to reduce errors in RQD (Sen and Kazi 1984). Recent research has been conducted into performing this electronically (Lemy and Hadjigeorgiou 2004; Antony and Dove 2006), however as noted by Maerz and Germaine (1996), there is no simple replacement for a visual inspection by experienced personnel.

CONCLUSIONS RQD estimates from boreholes in the Shatin Heights Tunnel have tended to underestimate actual RQD values mapped in the tunnel itself. RQD distributions alone are not often identified as they generally become lost in the entire process of deriving Q values. Further research would involve reviewing the core in the box against the mapped features in the tunnel as low RQD can represent simply a "minor shear" and not a regional fault. Use of Volumetric Joint Ratio (Jv) is a quick method of checking RQD in large tunnels and has recently been revised to a slightly less conservative relationship than the earlier expression. The orientation of mapped joints, if not adverse to stability during excavation (e.g. semiperpendicular to alignment) and on a macro scale, may result in optimistic RQD values not entirely representative of the more micro-scale borehole core values. Horizontally drilled cores are along the tunnel alignment but the critical dimension for stability is often transverse the tunnel direction. When reviewing core at pre-tender stage, care is required to follow the guidelines for RQD mapping and to temper the large variation in results with a review of structural features and joint orientations. A mathematical distribution can help define, but not replace, an experienced overall view. Any misinterpretation of the RQD value, whether it be of the borehole core or in a tunnel itself, even as much as 50%, is not as major a contributor to errors in resultant Q values as some of the other more sensitive Q-System parameters, such as Ja or SRF which vary logarithmically with change in joint condition.

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