Strength variability in lime-cement columns and its effect on the reliability of embankments

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Ground improvement by deep mixing (DM) is a generic term used for a number of methods in which a binding agent, often lime and/or cement, is mechanically mixed with the soil to increase its engineering properties. The inherent variability with respect to the engineering properties of the improved soil is high due to the variations in geology and the complex mixing process. High variability introduces uncertainty in estimating improved soil properties and the performance of the structure.Current design methodology deals with soil properties deterministically and the uncertainties involved are incorporated in a single value represented by a total factor of safety (FS). The chosen FS is highly dependent on the engineer’s judgment and past experience, in which both of these factors vary between different geotechnical designers. Therefore, current design methodology used in practice for DM does not deal with uncertainties in a rational way. In order to design a geotechnical system with the desired level of confidence, the uncertainties involved must be integrated in the DM design. This can be achieved by using reliability-based design (RBD) methods.The research work in this thesis is presented as a collection of three papers. In the first paper, a comprehensive statistical analysis of cone penetration test (CPT) data is described. The objective was to make a contribution to empirical knowledge by evaluating the strength variability of lime-cement columns within the group of tested columns. In the second paper, the effect of the spatial variability and statistical uncertainty with regard to the embankment’s reliability was investigated within the framework of RBD. The study in the third paper investigated the strength variability in lime-cement columns based on two test methods, namely CPT and column penetration test (KPS). In this study, the effect of different test methods on the evaluation of the design value was addressed.The main conclusions from this study can be summarized as follows. First, the probability distribution function (PDF) for the undrained shear strength of lime-cement columns can be modeled in RBD as normal or log-normal distributions. However, the use of log-normal distribution is recommended for RBD analyses. Second, the evaluated scales of fluctuation indicate ranges of 2 to 4 m and 0.2 to 0.8 m in the horizontal and the vertical directions respectively. This means that in order to fulfill the requirements of independent/uncorrelated samples for assessment of the design value, the spacing between samples must exceed the horizontal scale of fluctuation. It is therefore proposed that the spacing between individual samples should be at least 4 meters. Third, the design values evaluated using CPT and KPS were approximately the same. However, the inherent variability evaluated differs due to the larger volume tested with the KPS probe than with the CPT probe. However, this difference was not significant between the two tests. Fourthly, due to the limitation in the deterministic design in terms of dealing with uncertainties, it is recommended that RBD design should be used in parallel with the deterministic design of lime-cement column.