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Tunnel Design Methods

Design Overview
Tunnel designs are very specific designs that we may design once or two three times in our life.
Generally, reservoirs or under ground roads are not constructed every day like other structures.
So may designers are not getting the opportunity to engage with such designs.

Mainly tunnels are designs for internal loads or external loads or both the loads. For example,
tunnel constructed for a highway is design for external loads which is applied from the rock cover
or any other overburden material. However, tunnels carry water are design for both external and
eternal loads. When tunnel carry water with a large head, it exert water head on the surrounding
area. Specially when a rock cover is smaller we have to check the whether the overburden is
sufficient to take that load when tunnel is unlined. When tunnel is line we have to consider the
loads on the tunnel and it should be design considering those factors. In addition, area around
the tunnel can be collapse in the the tunnel. Depending on the type of surrounding material, a
design can be carried out.

Generally, tunnels with having good quality rock cover are not lined by reinforced concrete in
addition to the shotcreating. However, at the outlet, tunnel has to be lined by steel liner or
concrete liner if there is no adequate rock cover. Most of the tunnels designers come across with
this situation. They normally find the distance that unlined section can be continued and rest of
the length is lined.

Design of a Section with adequate rock cover

When a adequate rock cover is presents, we can do the design the tunnel with lining or without
lining. If we have good quality rock, we can have unlined tunnel. But if the rock is weak we have
to consider the rock quality for the design.

Design for External Loads

When adequate rock cover is present, we need not to worry about the total collapse of the
tunnel. However, it can be fail locally. If the rock is not fairly good or it can not be stabilized with
shotcreeting(reinforced or un-reinforced), we have to have a lining that can bear the external

Lining design is done considering the type of the rock. Rock quality and the type of rock shall be
inspected at the site and then the design should be carried out. In tunnel designing books or
design standards, it can be found the load that need to be considered for the lining design
depending on the rock type.

"EM 1110-2-2901 Tunnels and Shafts in Rock" on of most commonly used standard that can be
reffed for our designs. If provides a guide line to design a tunnels depending on different ground
Above figure is extracted form EM 1110-2-2901. Depending on the rock condition, fracture
spacing and RQD value, rock load can be selected. For example, consider massive moderately
jointed rock, rock load is 0.5B.

Hp = 0.5 B x (density of rock)

Assume tunnel diameter(B) as 2.5 m

Rock density 25 kN/m3

Hp = 0.5 x 2.5 x 25
= 31.25 kN/m2

This load can be applied on tunnel as a gravely load. Finite element analysis or equations given
in codes for different shapes of tunnels, can be used to find the stresses of the tunnel.

In addition to the rock loads, external water pressure should be considered for the design. If
proper drainage system is not provided, water head or part of the head should be considered for
the design. When proper drainage system is provided, external pour water pressure can be
reduced or nearly eliminate for the design. However, design water pressure may be taken as the
lesser of 25 percent of the full pressure and a pressure equivalent to a column of water three
tunnel diameter high.

Loads should be factored when analyzing the tunnel. EM 1110-2-2901 provides a table that can
be used to create load combinations.
Load combinations can be created by considering the factors given in the above table.

If there is a lateral deformation, it increases the bending and shear forces of the tunnel. When
large rock cover is exist, tunnel can not deform laterally. This can be considered in the analysis
and rock can be considered as a support to the tunnel.

Rock support can be model depending on the type of the rock. Sub grade reaction of the rock
can be calculated for the equations given in the EM 1110-2-2901.

Depending on the arc angle, element size, position reaction and modulus of rock, sub grade
reaction can be calculated in radial and tangential directions.
Above figure shows the graphical representation of subgrade reaction. We should apply the
subgrade reaction as show in the figure. Depending on the design requirements, we may omitted
the tangential subgrade reaction. In addition, if we model the tunnel with a software, springs
should not allowed to take any tension. Compression only condition should be considered as
rock can not take any tension load.

Design for Internal Loads

When there is a adequate rock cover, internal load generated from the water head can be bared
by the surrounding rock. Also when a large rock cover is exist, it does not allowed the tunnel to
deform. Therefore, stresses are not generated due to the internal water load.

Design of a Section with inadequate rock cover

Good quality rock can be fond in the areas where the tunnels are constructed. However, there
are instances we meet with poor quality rock or soils on the top of the tunnel. Even if we have the
quality rock, it should be adequate to take the internal load exerted by the water head on the
surrounding rock.

Design for external loads

When the rock cover is not adequate, we have to have a either steel lining or concrete lining to
carry the internal loads. When the tunnel is not carry any water, it does not have internal
pressure on the surrounding rock. External loads applied on the tunnel lining should be
considered when designing it.

Technical paper "Big Tunnels in Bad Rock 2000 Terzaghi Lecture by Evert Hoek" can be refer
for the design. It is very good guide to design such cases. However, there are different
techniques that have been proposed by researches/books for calculating rock load.

EM 1110-2-2901 provides a guide line to find position that required line section. Beyond this
position, section can be constructed as a unlined section if required. Following figure extracted
from EM 1110-2-2901 can be referred to find the distance that lined section is required.

Figure 9-2 shows the requirement of rock cover for unlined pressurized waterway. It is the
Norwegian criterion for confinement of rock. This concept is commonly used method by the
design engineers. This is a very simple technique and tool to find the minimum rock cover for a
unlined tunnel. Weight of the rock mass or the overburden material is balanced by the internal
head of the tunnel. Attention should be paid to the surface condition when find the rock
cover(hs). For example, if the top cover is soil or weathered rock, these type of material can be
washout when water is flowing along the surface. In addition the safety factor should be
considered adequately. It may vary 1.05 - 3 and may be referred from the design intent.

Figure 9.1 shown bellow, also can be used for designing the tunnels. We can select a method,
and then design can be started. Most commonly used method and simplest method is Norwegian
criterion for confinement.

Once we select a criteria, we can calculated the section that required the lining from the equation
given in the guide line.

External load need to consider for the design is weight of rock cover or weight of overburden
material. We can apply that weight as a gravity load for the analysis. If there is large rock cover
in lateral direction, we can consider rock as support against the lateral deformation. However, if
there is no sufficient rock cover in lateral direction, it is advisable to not to consider it as a

Design for Internal Loads

When sufficient rock cover is not present, tunnels should be lined as discussed above. Water
head can be considered as the internal load while the weight of the overburden material can be
considered as load applied from the top of the structure as gravity load. It should be very careful
with the weight of the overburden material depending on the value of the load and the
deformation of the tunnel. Some times it may acts as beneficial but it could be a adverse load as
well. For example, if we apply a factor when creating a load combination, it generate a weight
that is more than that of existing weight of overburden material. If may increase hogging moment
and may reduce sagging moments. Actually this purely depends on the analysis we do. So it is
better to be very careful with weight of the overburden material if we intend to apply to the model.