You are on page 1of 33


By. Rajesh S.Gujar

Compressibility and consolidation - Terzaghi's one dimensional consolidation theory pressure void ratio relationship preconsolidation pressure - Total settlement and time rate of settlement - coefficient of consolidation - curve fitting methods Correction for construction time.

When a compressive load is applied to soil mass, a decrease in its volume takes place. The decrease in the volume of soil mass under stress is known as compression and the property of a soil mass pertaining to its susceptibility to decrease in volume under pressure is known as compressibility. In a saturated soil mass having its voids filled with incompressible water decrease in volume or compression can take place when water is expelled out of the voids. Such a compression resulting from a long term static load and the consequent escape of pore water is termed as consolidation. According to Terzaghi : “every process involving a decrease in the water content of a saturated soil without replacement of the water by air is called a process of consolidation.” the opposite process is called

Compression of soil also takes place by expulsion of air from the voids. moving or vibratory loads such a compression is usually known as compaction. When a compressive load is applied to a laterally confined layer of sand. The rate at which this deformation can take place depends upon the permeability of soil and upon the distance the water must travelled to reach a drainage surface. . rapid vertical deformation occurs. under short duration.

on top of the spring. Figure (a) shows a spring inside a cylinder filled with water and a piston.Consolidation Analogy The mechanics of the one-dimensional consolidation process can be represented by means of a simple analogy. fitted with a valve. It is assumed that there can be no leakage between the piston and the cylinder and no friction .

The spring represents the compressible soil skeleton. This situation is shown in Figure (c). the water in the cylinder the pore water and the bore diameter of the valve the permeability of the soil. water will be forced out through the valve at a rate governed by the bore diameter. At . If the valve is now opened. with the result that no load can be transmitted to the spring. Suppose a load is now placed on the piston with the valve closed. the increase in pressure in the water being equal to the load divided by the piston area. This situation with the valve closed corresponds to the undrained condition in the soil. the piston will not move as long as the valve is closed. The cylinder itself simulates the condition of no lateral strain in the soil. the load will be carried by the water. This will allow the piston to move and the spring to be compressed as load is gradually transferred to it. as in Figure b above. Assuming water to be incompressible.

as shown in Figure (d). the load carried by the spring represents the effective normal stress in the soil. in which a . this corresponding to the drained condition in the soil. the process continuing until the excess pore water pressure set up by an increase in total stress has completely dissipated. The piston and spring analogy represents only an element of soil since the stress conditions vary from point to point throughout a soil mass. all the load will be carried by the spring and the piston will come to rest. The movement of the piston represents the change in volume of the soil and is governed by the compressibility of the spring (the equivalent of the compressibility of the soil skeleton). As explained above. the simplest case is that of one-dimensional consolidation. the pressure of the water in the cylinder the pore water pressure and the load on the piston the total normal stress. consolidation is the gradual reduction in volume of a fully saturated soil of low permeability due to drainage of some of the pore water.Eventually. At any time.

If the clay strata shown in Fig layer is compressed over B(a) is subjected to an excess pressure Ap due to a uniformly distributed load on the surface. the clay . In the laboratory this condition is simulated most closely by the confined compression or consolidation test. . The adhesion between the soft and stiff layers almost completely prevents the lateral movement of the soft layers. The theory that was developed by Terzaghi (1925) on the basis of this assumption is called the one-dimensional consolidation theory. The process of consolidation as explained with reference to a mechanical model may now be applied to a saturated clay layer in the field.One-Dimensional Consolidation In many instances the settlement of a structure is due to the presence of one or more layers of soft clay located between layers of sand or stiffer clay as shown in Fig.

and the effective vertical . the load is carried entirely by water in the voids of the soil. At the instant of application of the excess load Ap.Clay layer sandwiched between sand layers time and excess pore water drains out of it to the sandy layer. This constitutes the process of consolidation. As time goes on the excess pore water pressure decreases.

2B (a) gives a typical example of an observed distribution of excess pore water pressure during the consolidation of a soft clay layer 50 cm thick resting on an impermeable stratum with drainage at the top. the excess load at the top of the clay strata etc. Figure 7. Fig. It is clear from the figure that the time taken for the dissipation of pore water pressure may be . 7.The time taken for full consolidation depends upon the drainage conditions.2B(b) shows the compression of the strata with the dissipation of pore water pressure. the thickness of the clay strata.

4.200. Sandy samples are compressed in a relatively short time as compared to clay samples and the use of one day duration is common for the latter.THE STANDARD ONE-DIMENSIONAL CONSOLIDATION TEST The main purpose of the consolidation test on soil samples is to obtain the necessary information about the compressibility properties of a saturated soil for use in determining the magnitude and rate of settlement of structures. 1. and 16 tons/ft2 (25. 120. 2.2. 8. 1/2. 60. 480 and 1440 minutes from the time the new increment of load is put on the sample (or at elpased times as per requirements).400. . 100. 1/2. The load intensities commonly used being 1/4. The following test procedure is applied to any type of soil in the standard consolidation test. 800 and 1600 kN/m2). The dial readings are taken at elapsed times of 1/4. 240. is twice the preceding one. 15. 30. Loads are applied in steps in such a way that the successive load intensity. 50. 8. p.1. Each load is allowed to stand until compression has practically ceased (no longer than 24 hours).4.

3. 4.After the greatest load required for the test has been applied to the soil sample. Moisture content and weight of the soil sample before the commencement of the test. The temperature of the room where the test is conducted. The specific gravity of the solids. the load is removed in decrements to provide data for plotting the expansion curve of the soil in order to learn its elastic properties and magnitudes of plastic or permanent deformations. The following data should also be obtained: 1. 2. . Moisture content and weight of the sample after completion of the test.

WS. of the solids. 2. The dry weight. of the soil sample. h. The cross-sectional area of the sample A. The specific gravity. 4. The sample thickness. 3.PRESSURE-VOID RATIO CURVES The pressure-void ratio curve can be obtained if the void ratio of the sample at the end of each increment of load is determined. GS. at any stage of the test . which is the same as that of the brass ring. Accurate determinations of void ratio are essential and may be computed from the following data: 1.


Change in void ratio .

. 7. a fairly horizontal initial portion and a nearly straight inclined portion.Typical pressure-void ratio curves for an undisturbed clay sample are shown in Fig.5. The curve on the log scale indicates clearly two branches. plotted both on arithmetic and on semilog scales. The coordinates of point A in the figure represent the void ratio eQ and effective overburden pressure pQ corresponding to a state of the clay in the field as shown in the inset of the figure.

the field curve is to be used. the water content of the clay does not change significantly. In reality the curve always passes below point A. The curve that passes through A is generally termed as afield curve or virgin curve. the e-log p curve should pass through the point A unless the test conditions differ in some manner from those in the field.When a sample is extracted by means of the best of techniques. because even the best sample is at leastpoint slightly disturbed. Hence. . In settlement calculations. the void ratio eQ at the start of the test is practically identical with that of the clay in the ground. When the pressure on the sample in the consolidometer reaches p0.

Pressure-void ratio curves .

2.DETERMINATION OF PRECONSOLIDATION PRESSURE Several methods have been proposed for determining the value of the maximum consolidation pressure. . the only remaining procedure for obtaining an approximate value of pc is to make an estimate based on the results of laboratory tests or on some relationships established between pc and other soil parameters. Usually the geological estimate of the maximum consolidation pressure is very uncertain. Field Method The field method is based on geological evidence. The overburden pressure in the clay structure with respect to the original ground level may be taken as the preconsolidation pressure pc. Graphical procedure based on consolidation test results. In such instances. They are 1. The geology and physiography of the site may help to locate the original ground level. Field method. They fall under the following categories.

on the laboratory e-log p curve of an undisturbed sample as shown in Fig. 7. The angle between these two lines is then bisected. The abscissa of the point of intersection of this bisector with the upward extension of the inclined straight part corresponds to the preconsolidation pressure/^. The method involves locating the point of maximum curvature. a tangent is drawn to the curve and a horizontal line is also constructed. 5.8. From B..Graphical Procedure There are a few graphical methods for determining the preconsolidation pressure based on laboratory test data. The earliest and the most widely used method was the one proposed by Casagrande (1936). . No suitable criteria exists for appraising the relative merits of the various methods.

Method of determining p by Casagrande method .



. independent of time. 8 There is a unique relationship. 3 The solid particles and water are incompressible. 4 Compression and flow are one-dimensional (vertical). 5 Strains are small. 6 Darcy’s law is valid at all hydraulic gradients. 2 The soil is fully saturated.TERZAGHI’S THEORY OF ONE-DIMENSIONAL CONSOLIDATION The assumptions made in the theory are: 1 The soil is homogeneous. between void ratio and effective stress. 7 The coefficient of permeability and the coefficient of volume compressibility remain constant throughout the process.

3 The time (t) from the instantaneous application of a total stress increment . for small stress increments assumption 7 is reasonable. However. 1 The excess pore water pressure (μe). The theory relates the following three quantities. 2 The depth (z) below the top of the clay layer.Regarding assumption 6. The main limitations of Terzaghi’s theory (apart from its one-dimensional nature) arise from assumption 8. the coefficient of permeability decreases as the void ratio decreases during consolidation. The coefficient of volume compressibility also decreases during consolidation since the relationship is nonlinear. Regarding assumption 7. there is evidence of deviation from Darcy’s law at low hydraulic gradients. Experimental results show that the relationship between void ratio and effective stress is not independent of time.

Elements within a clay layer .




A layer for which both the upper and lower boundaries are free-draining is described as an open layer.17.The progress of consolidation can be shown by plotting a series of curves of μe against z for different values of t. Examples of isochrones are shown in Figure 7. a layer for which only one boundary is free-draining is a half-closed layer. Such curves are called isochrones and their form will depend on the initial distribution of excess pore water pressure and the drainage conditions at the boundaries of the clay layer. In part (a) of the figure the initial distribution of ui is constant and for an open layer of .

the direction of flow changes over certain parts of the layer. with a triangular distribution ofμi. . In part (c) the lower boundary is impermeable and for a time swelling takes place in the lower part of the layer. In parts (b) and (c) of the figure.The upper half of this diagram also represents the case of a half-closed layer of thickness d. The slope of an isochrone at any depth gives the hydraulic gradient and also indicates the direction of flow.