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Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering 21 (2001) 735740

Simplied transverse seismic analysis of buried structures

L.M. Gil a,*, E. Hernandez a, P. De la Fuente b

Department of Mechanics of Structures, University of Granada, E.T.S.I. de Caminos, 18071 Granada, Spain
Department of Mechanics of Structures, U. P. of Madrid, E.T.S.I. de Caminos, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Accepted 29 May 2001

This paper presents a simplied method for the analysis of square cross-section buried structures (tunnel) subjected to seismic motion.
Finite element analyses are performed to assess the fundamental modes of vibration of the soil layer with and without the tunnel. The
inuence of the tunnel on the modes of vibrations is taken into account by comparing the modal deformations in the free-eld to those in the
presence of the tunnel. From this comparison the zone of inuence of the modal displacements due to the presence of the structure is
determined. The resulting model is subjected to horizontal and vertical excitation of statistically independent accelerograms compatible with
the response spectra of the Regulatory Guide 1.6 of the Nuclear Energy Commission. The free-eld displacement is introduced at the
boundaries of the zone of inuence. The proposed simplied static analysis yields a state of stresses similar to that obtained from a full
dynamic analysis of the complete soiltunnel system. Several examples are solved to corroborate the validity of the method. q 2001 Elsevier
Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Dynamic response; Simplied static model; Buried structures; Seismic motion

1. Introduction
The nite element method (FEM) is the most widely used
numerical method for structural analysis. Its accuracy depends
primarily on the element type and mesh density. The main
deciency of this method when applied to dynamic problems
stem from the fact that a semi-innite medium needs to be
represented by a nite size model. Consequently, a considerable effort has been devoted towards obtaining non-reecting,
or transmitting boundaries, that are placed at the limits of a
mesh to allow for energy radiation.
The use of the boundary element method (BEM) in
underground structures is also attractive. This technique is
based on the numerical solution of the integral equations
that result from the application of Green's theorem to the
partial differential equation governing wave motion in the
continuum, in conjunction with the use of the fundamental
solution. The procedure results in an exact representation of
the wave scattering phenomena for media exhibiting linear
material behavior, provided all boundaries of the problem at
hand are conveniently discretized. A mixed approach
consists of modeling the structure and a portion of the
surrounding soil by the FEM, and the remaining soil stratum
by the BEM [1].

Constantopoulus [2] developed a simplied method to

analyze a tunnel cross-section considering the soil pressures
against the tunnel walls, roof and oor caused by the different
seismic waves. The main feature of this methodology is that
the required analysis is static, and uses a set of loads that are
equivalent to the dynamic actions. This quasi-static approach
was re-developed by Navarro and Samartin [3], and then
extended by Navarro [4] to include underground structures
of arbitrary conguration. When the buried structure is exible
enough as to fully conform to the deformations imposed by the
surrounding soil, no soilstructure interaction effect need be
considered, and the dynamic action of the soil on the tunnel
may be obtained from the soil free-eld pressure values.
In this paper, an alternative method is proposed to
approximate the seismic stresses of a buried reinforced
concrete structure. The stresses are obtained from a simplied static model that is subjected to the action of shear and
compression waves propagated vertically. The values of
these actions are obtained from a dynamic analysis of the
soil prole under the assumption of free-eld conditions.
2. Proposed method
2.1. Modeling of the system

* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (L.M. Gil).
0267-7261/01/$ - see front matter q 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0267-726 1(01)00039-2

A two-dimensional model under plane strain conditions


L.M. Gil et al. / Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering 21 (2001) 735740

Fig. 1. Parameters of the model.

enables us to nd the mode shapes and their frequencies.

The horizontal dimension of the static model is obtained by
comparing the displacements associated to the fundamental
modes of vibration, horizontal and vertical, of the free-eld
and the soilstructure systems, respectively. From these
comparisons, a distance d from the axis of the buried structure is determined, which denes an inuence zone due to
the presence of the structure. The criterion established for
the determination of this inuence zone is that the presence
of the structure will not affect the motion at point P in the
surrounding soil provided that:

dt 2 dFF
# 0:05
where d t is the modal displacement at point P when the
structure is present, and d FF is the modal displacement
under free-eld conditions.
For the problem at hand, we consider a reinforced
concrete tunnel (Fig. 1), with square cross-sections of
sides, L 2, 3, 4 and 5 m; buried at different depths, p, in
a horizontal layer of constant thickness, H 12, 16 and
20 m, resting on bedrock. It is assumed that the granular
soil is viscoelastic with non-linear behavior. The shear
modulus and damping ratio depend on the shear deformation as Hardin and Drnevich [5] suggested for granular
materials. The buried structure is always placed at the center
of the model.
The surrounding soil has been discretized using four node
rectangular elements with 2 translational degrees of freedom
per node. The cross-section of the buried structure has been
represented by beam elements with a thickness of L/10 of
the larger beam dimension. The material properties of the
reinforced concrete are: modulus of elasticity of 2.7 10 6 N/
cm 2; Poisson's ratio of 0.2, and mass density equal to
2500 kg/m 3.
The full model has been analyzed by the nite element
method using the well-known soilstructure interaction
program FLUSH [6]. With this program, the structure and
the soil media is modeled as a portion of constant thickness.
This plane strain representation is made equivalent to a fully
three-dimensional model. This is due to the fact that geometry and material properties remain unchanged along the
length of the longitudinal axis. In addition, the seismic

loads lack out-of-plane components, and the soil strata

rest on a rigid base.
Because of the FLUSH code characteristics, horizontal
and vertical excitations must be considered separately.
This computer code has been widely used in many seismic
soilstructure interaction problems in spite of its intrinsic
limitations: approximate consideration of the non-linear soil
behavior, two-dimensional analysis which approximate
three-dimensional simulation and seismic excitation due to
vertical propagation of shear and compression waves. This
program accurately represents the real radiation damping by
means of transmitting elements that absorb any wave effects
emanating from the structure. These elements are placed
along all the boundaries of the problem (except on the
free surface), and allow to simulate the behavior of a large
soil prole.
2.2. Seismic input
The seismic action to be considered on the soilstructure
system is the effect of two articial accelerograms, one
horizontal and the other vertical. Both of them are statistically independent with a broad frequency content. The input
accelerograms are specied on the surface of the soil and at
rock level, to account for the amplication effects of the
backll layer and its inuence on the results. In the rst
case, a deconvolution process in the free-eld is used to
obtain the input motion.
The analyses are carried out for different seismic excitation levels. The response spectra of the accelerograms used
in the analysis are those proposed in the Regulatory Guide
1.60 [7] for horizontal and vertical excitation.
2.3. Length of inuence
The variation of d/(L/2) over E is shown graphically in
Fig. 2(a) and (b), for horizontal vibrations, and in Fig. 3(a)
and (b), for vertical vibrations. In Figs. 2 and 3, d signies the
length of the zone of inuence, L the side dimension of the
buried structure, E the modulus of elasticity of the granular
backll layer, H the thickness of the granular stratum, and p the
depth at which the structure is located. It is assumed that the
modulus of elasticity is constant throughout the whole stratum.

L.M. Gil et al. / Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering 21 (2001) 735740


Fig. 2. Distances of inuence for horizontal motion.

The values considered in the analysis vary between 30 and

700 MPa.
Careful consideration to the values of the length of inuence for vertical vibrations must be given because of the
following reasons.
1. When the stiffness of the soil is high, the soilstructure
system vibrate as a whole, thus, the lengths of inuence
values illustrated in the graphs are real because they
reect the inuence of the structure in the modal displacements.
2. When either the soil is soft or the structure is deep, the
soilstructure system does not vibrate as a whole. It is
the soil above the structure the one that vibrates, and the
structure itself behaves as a rigid base. In this case the
values of d obtained from the graphs are high and they

are somehow unreal because they are not associated with

the vibration of the structure.
3. When the soil is soft but the structure is placed close to
the surface of the layer, the buried structure and the
surrounding soil vibrate as a whole. Consequently,
large lengths of inuence are obtained.
It may be seen from Figs. 2 and 3, that higher values of d
are obtained as the structure is placed deeper. This is consistent with the fact that the dynamic response is more
pronounced when the structure is closer to the surface.
3. Analysis procedure
The analysis procedure is performed in two stages: rst, a


L.M. Gil et al. / Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering 21 (2001) 735740

Fig. 3. Distances of inuence for vertical motion.

dynamic analysis of the free-eld system and then a static

analysis, as follows.
3.1. Dynamic analysis
Using the FLUSH program, a frequency domain analysis
is performed and the maximum displacements at each node
for free-eld conditions are obtained, for both horizontal
and vertical vibrations.
3.2. Static analysis
Once the inuence zone, d, is dened for a specic case, a
static model is dened. The new model is composed of a
section of the surrounding soil whose horizontal dimension
is 2d, and the vertical dimension is the thickness of the
stratum. The base of the model is xed and the buried
structure is placed in the center of the model. The displacements obtained under the free-eld conditions comprise the

only actions that are imposed on the model as shown in

Figs. 4 and 5.
4. Validation of the proposed method
Three cases have been tested to prove the validity of the
proposed methodology. These cases are dened in Table 1,
following the notation of Fig. 1. The three soilstructure
systems are subjected to vertical propagation of P and S
In each case a complete dynamic analysis has been
performed rst using the FLUSH program, and then the
proposed simplied static analysis. The modulus of elasticity of the soil is supposed to be constant throughout the
layer, and its value is obtained from the last iteration of the
FLUSH program at the middle position of the structure (see
rst column in Tables 2 and 3).
In order to verify the accuracy of the results obtained by

L.M. Gil et al. / Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering 21 (2001) 735740


Fig. 6. Two-barrel stucture and two-layered soil.

Fig. 4. Static model for horizontal motion.

s s is the maximum normal stress obtained from the

proposed static approximation.
Tables 2 and 3 summarize the maximum internal loads
(bending moment M, and axial force A) at the most unfavorable point of the cross-section as well as the value of k
for each case.
5. Extension of the method

Fig. 5. Static model for vertical motion.

the proposed static analysis, the bending moments (N z m),

and axial forces (N) are compared. Given the small size of
these structures, reinforcement is usually uniform. Therefore, we will compare the most unfavorable point of the
cross-section (in these cases the lower corners).
A coefcient k has been dened as


where, s d is the maximum normal stress obtained from the

complete dynamic analysis with the program FLUSH, and
Table 1

Case A
Case B
Case C

H (m)

L (m)

p (m)

Acelerogram dened in





In order to extend the proposed method to other types of

buried structures, we have analyzed a different model from
that considered above. In [8] Navarro compares internal
loads acting on a tunnel structural elements obtained from
the FLUSH analysis with those calculated using the simplied methodology proposed by Constantopoulos. This example has been analyzed here using the proposed method.
The structure is a symmetric concrete rectangular twobarrel tunnel 5 m wide and 3.3 m high. The thickness of the
perimeter walls is 0.4 m, that of the roof and oor is 0.5 m,
and the internal wall is 0.3 m thick. The material properties
of reinforced concrete are: modulus of elasticity of
3 10 6 N/cm 2, Poisson's ratio equal to 0.2, and mass
density of 2500 kg/m 3.
The structure lies on a granular backll layer resting on a
thin soft layer which, in turn, lies on a rock half-space. All
layers are horizontal and of constant thickness (Fig. 6).
The geometric characteristics and dynamic properties of
each soil type are summarized in Table 4. The system is
excited in the horizontal direction. The articial accelerogram is dened at ground level with a peak acceleration of
0.2174 g.
The horizontal dimension of the static model is obtained
by comparing the displacements associated with the fundamental horizontal mode of vibration. In this case the distance
of inuence is about 23 m. Free-eld displacements are
obtained from the dynamic analysis of the soil prole.

Table 2
Horizontal vibrationsmaximun acceleration: 0.15 g

Case A
Case B
Case C

Estatic (MPa)

Mdynamic (Nm/m)

Mstatic (Nm/m)

Adynamic (N/m)

Astatic (N/m)








L.M. Gil et al. / Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering 21 (2001) 735740

Table 3
Vertical vibrationsmaximum acceleration: 2/3 z 0.15 g

Case A
Case B
Case C

Estatic (MPa)

Mdynamic (Nm/m)

Mstatic (Nm/m)

Adynamic (N/m)

Astatic (N/m)







Table 4
Dynamic properties of soils

Granular backll
Fractured and altered graywacke
Graykacke half-space

Shear wave velocity(m/s)

Poisson's ratio

Density (T/m 3)

Thickness (m)

Tunnel roof depth (m)

Undeformable behaviour





Table 5
Results of FLUSH analysis vs simplied methodologies. Horizontal excitation
Structural element

External walls
Central wall

Bending moment (Tm/m)

Normal stress s (T/m 2)

Axial force (T/m)



















The internal loads acting on tunnel structural elements,

obtained from the FLUSH analysis are compared in Table 5
with those calculated using the simplied methodology
proposed by Constantopoulus (CM), and with those obtained
using the method proposed herein (PM). We conclude that the
proposed method leads to a good approximation.
6. Conclusions
A simplied method for the transverse analysis of buried
structures under seismic P and S waves is presented. This
method is an extension of that proposed by Constantopoulos
et al. [2]. The main advantage of this procedure is that only a
static analysis is necessary. The dimensions of the model are
determined by the analysis of modal displacements corresponding to the fundamental modes of vibration, horizontal
and vertical, respectively.
In order to impose the dynamic excitation on the model,
Constantopoulos [2] prescribed a set of forces or pressures
against tunnel walls, roof and oor (inertial boundary conditions). In the proposed methodology, the only actions to be
considered are the displacements of free-eld conditions that
are imposed on a given set of nodes on the static model (kinematic boundary conditions [9]).
Once the free-eld displacements are obtained, many different structures can be easily analyzed. Consequently, this new
method can be used as the rst step in a design problem of
buried structures, prior to the complete nal analysis.

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