Reliability-based design of rock tunnel support

Abstract: Since 2009, design of rock tunnels can be performed in accordance with the Eurocodes, which allows that different design methodologies are applied, such as design by calculation or design using the observational method. To account for uncertainties in design, the Eurocode states that design by calculation should primarily be performed using the partial factor method or reliability-based methods. The basic principle of both of these methods is that it shall be assured that a structure’s resisting capacity is larger than the load acting on the structure, with sufficiently high probability. Even if this might seem straightforward, the practical application of limit state design to rock tunnel support has only been studied to a limited extent.The overall aim of this project has been to develop reliability-based methods for environmental and economic optimization of rock tunnel support, with a special focus on shotcrete support. To achieve this, this thesis aims to: (1) assess the applicability of the partial factor method and reliability-based methods for design of shotcrete support, exclusively or in combination with the observational method, (2) quantify the magnitude and uncertainty of the shotcrete’s input parameters, and (3) assess the influence from spatial variability on shotcrete’s load-bearing capacity and judge the correctness of the assumption that the load-bearing capacity of the support is governed by the mean values of its input parameters.The thesis shows that the partial factor method is not suitable, and in some cases not applicable, to use in design of rock tunnel support. Instead, the thesis presents a reliability-based design methodology for shotcrete in rock tunnels with respect to loose blocks between rockbolts and a design methodology for shotcrete lining based on a combination of the observational method and reliability-based methods. The presented design methodologies enable optimization of the shotcrete support and shotcrete lining by stringently accounting for uncertainties related to input data throughout the design process. The thesis also discusses the limited knowledge that we as an industry sometimes have in our calculation models and the clarifications that should be made in future revisions of the Eurocode related to target reliability and the definition of failure.