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Geotextiles and Geomembranes xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

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Geotextiles and Geomembranes


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/geotexmem

Two and three-dimensional numerical analyses of geosynthetic-reinforced


soil (GRS) piers
Panpan Shena,1, Jie Hanb,∗, Jorge G. Zornbergc, Amr M. Morsyd, Dov Leshchinskye,
Burak F. Tanyuf, Chao Xua
a
Department of Geotechnical Engineering, College of Civil Engineering, Tongji University, Shanghai, 200092, China
b
The University of Kansas, CEAE Department, Lawrence, KS, 66045, USA
c
The University of Texas at Austin, Civil Engineering Department, Austin, TX, 78712, USA
d
Department of Civil Engineering, Cairo University, Giza, 12613, Egypt
e
ADAMA Engineering, Inc., Clackamas, OR, 97015, USA
f
Department of CEIE, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, 22030, USA

ARTICLE INFO ABSTRACT

Keywords: In this study, both two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) numerical analyses were carried out to
Geosynthetics evaluate the performance of geosynthetic-reinforced soil (GRS) piers. The numerical models were first calibrated
Geosynthetic-reinforced soil and verified against test results available in the literature. A parametric study was then conducted under both 2D
Reinforcement spacing and 3D conditions to investigate the influences of reinforcement tensile stiffness, reinforcement vertical spacing,
Finite difference analysis
and a combination of reinforcement stiffness and spacing on the performance of GRS piers under vertical
Pier
Tension
loading. Numerical results indicated that the effect of reinforcement spacing was more significant than that of
Two-dimensional reinforcement stiffness. The use of closely – spaced reinforcement layers resulted in higher global elastic
Three-dimensional modulus of the GRS pier, smaller lateral displacements of pier facing and volumetric change of the GRS pier,
lower and more uniformly-distributed tension in the reinforcement, and larger normalized coefficients of lateral
earth pressure. This study concluded that a 2D numerical model gave more conservative results than a 3D model.

1. Introduction geotextiles of different vertical spacing and tensile strengths as re-


inforcement layers. The results obtained from these tests indicated that
Geosynthetic-reinforced soil (GRS) structures consist of closely- the performance of the GRS mass was more dependent on reinforce-
spaced geosynthetic reinforcement layers (i.e., with vertical spacing ment spacing than on reinforcement strength. Pham (2009) conducted
usually smaller than 0.3 m) and have been increasingly used to support five large-scale generic soil-geosynthetic composite (GSGC) tests (one
bridges due to their rapid construction, low construction cost, and ef- unreinforced and four reinforced) under plane-strain conditions using
fectiveness in eliminating bumps at the ends of bridges. Adams et al. well-graded gravel as backfill and woven geotextiles of different tensile
(2011) reported that the use of closely-spaced geosynthetic layers and strengths and vertical spacing as reinforcement layers. Instead of using
high-quality compacted granular fill in GRS structures could provide facing blocks, Pham (2009) applied different confining pressures to the
direct load support for bridge components if designed and constructed two deformable sides of the GRS mass. Pham (2009) concluded that
properly. reinforcement vertical spacing had a greater influence on the perfor-
The US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recommends the mance of the GRS mass than reinforcement tensile strength. Based on
use of a GRS performance test (also referred to as the GRS mini-pier the test results of Pham (2009), Wu and Pham (2013) developed a W-
test) to evaluate the vertical load-deformation behavior of a GRS mass factor to account for the effect of reinforcement vertical spacing, which
with frictionally-connected facing units (Adams et al., 2011). Adams was used to develop a load-carrying capacity model for GRS compo-
et al. (2007) performed five large-scale mini-pier tests (one un- sites. The FHWA published a very comprehensive study (Nicks et al.,
reinforced and four reinforced) using well-graded silty gravel as back- 2013) that involved a series of square GRS mini-pier tests using com-
fill, Concrete Masonry Units (CMU) as facing blocks, and woven pacted granular soils of different gradations as backfill and woven


Corresponding author.
E-mail address: jiehan@ku.edu (J. Han).
1
Formerly the University of Kansas, USA.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geotexmem.2019.01.010
Received 31 August 2018; Received in revised form 18 December 2018; Accepted 4 January 2019
0266-1144/ © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article as: Panpan Shen, et al., Geotextiles and Geomembranes, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geotexmem.2019.01.010
P. Shen, et al. Geotextiles and Geomembranes xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

geotextiles of different tensile strengths and vertical spacing as re- 2. Selected GRS pier tests
inforcement layers. Relatively large quantities of load tests (i.e., 19
tests) enabled the FHWA to establish a database of GRS material Nicks et al. (2013) conducted 19 GRS mini-pier tests to investigate
properties and evaluate the effects of reinforcement vertical spacing their axial load-deformation relationships. For each test, the GRS mass
and tensile strength on the behavior of GRS structures. height-to-width ratio was kept at approximately 2.0 to minimize
Large-scale loading tests are necessary to capture the real behavior boundary effects. CMU blocks were used as facing while woven poly-
of a GRS mass considering the aggregate size and reinforcement spacing propylene geotextiles were used as reinforcement. CMU blocks were
(Elton and Patawaran, 2004; Adams et al., 2014). However, Nicks et al. removed in 8 of 19 tests after construction completion and prior to
(2016) pointed out two major problems associated with large-scale GRS loading, leaving the remaining 11 tests loaded with CMU blocks. Two of
performance tests. First, these tests require specialized equipment and these tests with different reinforcement spacing, TF6 and TF9, were
knowledge to perform properly, thus resulting in only a limited number selected to calibrate and validate the numerical model developed in this
of such tests available in the literature. Second, a performance test is study. The reinforcement vertical spacing, Sv, was 0.19 and 0.38 m for
specific to the GRS mass tested (i.e., unique to the combination of pier TF6 and TF9, respectively.
geometry, backfill, reinforcement spacing and properties, and facing Both TF6 and TF9 were the GRS piers loaded with CMU blocks as
elements). In other words, test results may not be representative if the facing. Both piers were 1.9 m high and had a cross section of
geometry and/or materials change. Numerical simulations could over- 1.4 m × 1.4 m with CMU blocks. The CMU blocks had dimensions of
come these disadvantages since they are relatively easier to run and can 0.40 m (width) × 0.20 m (depth) × 0.19 m (height) and were weighed
incorporate the changes of components’ properties by using different approximately 19 kg each. Two hollow spaces existed in each CMU
constitutive models or model parameters. Helwany et al. (2007) con- block. The cross section of the GRS mass inside the CMU blocks was
ducted a two-dimensional (2D) plane-strain numerical analysis of two 1.0 m × 1.0 m. A square concrete slab of approximately 0.45 m thick
full-scale loading tests of GRS bridge abutments. They aimed to in- was placed on top of the GRS mass to serve as a footing for the loading
vestigate the performance of the GRS bridge abutments with increasing test. The width of the concrete slab was 0.9 m, which was slightly
static loads up to failure. Pham (2009) performed 2D finite element smaller than the width of the GRS mass inside the CMU blocks.
numerical analyses to simulate the GSGC tests and generate additional Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) 21A aggregate was
data with different confining pressures. Kaya (2016) conducted a 2D used as the backfill. Both TF6 and TF9 used woven geotextile re-
finite element analysis of GRS mini-pier tests and used the Mohr-Cou- inforcement with wide-width tensile strengths of 70 kN/m at 10%
lomb constitutive model to simulate CMU blocks since crushing of some elongation in the machine direction (MD) and 70 kN/m at 8% elonga-
CMU blocks was observed during the loading tests. Zheng et al. (2018a) tion in the cross-machine direction (XMD). The CMU blocks were fric-
performed a 3D numerical investigation of the deformation response of tionally connected to the geotextile layers (i.e., the reinforcement layers
GRS piers under service load conditions. extended to the outer edges of the CMU blocks).
The preceding literature review shows that numerical analysis
provides an alternative approach to study the behavior of the GRS mass 3. Numerical modeling
if the numerical model is well calibrated and/or validated. Both Kaya
(2016) and Zheng et al. (2018a) pointed out that GRS piers and GRS Finite difference-based programs FLAC2D and FLAC3D (Fast
abutments are 3D structures; therefore, 3D numerical modeling was Lagrangian Analysis of Continua) developed by Itasca (2011, 2012)
necessary to properly simulate their behavior. However, limited 3D were used to evaluate the behavior of the GRS piers. The numerical
numerical studies (Abu-Farsakh et al., 2018; Zheng et al., 2018a) have model included backfill soil, CMU blocks, concrete slab, geotextile
been published in the literature due to long computation time and layers, and different types of interfaces as shown in Fig. 1. A square GRS
difficulties in generating numerical meshes and interfaces under a 3D pier was adopted in the 3D numerical model with the same cross sec-
condition. Therefore, simplification of a 3D problem into a 2D plane- tional area as that of the physical GRS pier used by Nicks et al. (2013).
strain problem is more attractive in the practice because a 2D numerical On the other hand, a slice of the GRS pier was adopted in the 2D nu-
analysis greatly simplifies the simulation procedure and reduces com- merical model with a unit width in the out-of-plane direction. The
putation time. Several 2D numerical studies have previously been width of the 2D GRS pier in the in-plane direction was the same as that
conducted by researchers (Helwany et al., 2007; Pham, 2009; Kaya, of the 3D numerical pier. Both the 2D and 3D numerical GRS piers were
2016; Zheng and Fox, 2016; Ardah et al., 2017; Zheng and Fox, 2017; 1.9 m high. The width of the concrete slab was simplified to be the same
Zheng et al., 2018b,c) on this topic. However, comparisons of 2D and as the width of the GRS mass inside the CMU blocks.
3D numerical results for GRS piers under vertical loading have rarely Fig. 1(a) also shows that the 3D numerical model simulated the half-
been made. width offset of CMU blocks (i.e., a staggered pattern) during con-
In this study, 3D numerical modeling was carried out to evaluate the struction, which was identical to that in the physical GRS piers. The 2D
performance of GRS piers. The study was conducted as part of a com- numerical model as shown in Fig. 1(b), however, was not able to con-
prehensive effort to identify the overall impact of reinforcement ver- sider this pattern. Previous studies (Hatami and Bathurst, 2005;
tical spacing on the performance of geosynthetic-reinforced soil struc- Abdelouhab et al., 2011; Huang et al., 2013) simplified the staggered
tures (Zornberg et al., 2019). Special attention was paid to reasonably pattern of mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall facing blocks due to
model interfaces between different components since the performance difficulties in generating numerical mesh. In other words, the facing
of a GRS pier depends on complex interactions among various com- blocks were assumed to be in alignment in both vertical and horizontal
ponents (Helwany et al., 2007). The numerical model was first cali- directions. However, this simplification may not reasonably represent
brated and verified against the test results available in the literature. the real 3D condition of facing blocks and may over-predict the lateral
For the purpose of comparison, a 2D numerical analysis was also con- displacement of the facing, especially at the corners of the pier. The 3D
ducted using a GRS pier with a unit width in the out-of-plane direction. numerical model in this study considered the staggered pattern of fa-
A parametric study was then conducted under both 2D and 3D condi- cing blocks in the four sides of the GRS pier, which can better simulate
tions to investigate the influence of several key factors: reinforcement the real 3D condition of the pier.
tensile stiffness, reinforcement vertical spacing, and a combination of
reinforcement tensile stiffness and vertical spacing on the performance 3.1. Constitutive models
of GRS piers.
The backfill VDOT 21A was modeled as a linearly-elastic perfectly-
plastic material with the Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion. An elastic

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Fig. 1. Numerical model meshes.

modulus of 25 MPa and a Poisson's ratio of 0.25 were used based on the wide-width tensile stress of the geotextile at 2% elongation in XMD,
typical values and adjusted by numerical model calibration. A friction which was used for both MD and XMD. The thickness of the geotextile
angle of 53° and a cohesion of 5.5 kPa were adopted in the numerical was assumed to be 1 mm and its Poisson's ratio was assumed to be 0.33.
analysis based on large-scale direct shear test results (Nicks et al., In the 2D numerical model, on the other hand, the geotextile layers
2013). A dilation angle of 23° was used based on the empirical re- were modeled as elastic materials using “cable” structural elements in
lationship of = 30° from Bolton (1986). The density of the FLAC2D with zero moment of inertia (i.e., no bending stiffness). The
backfill soil was 2500 kg/m3 according to nuclear density gauge results properties of “cable” structural elements used in the 2D model were
(Nicks et al., 2013). Both the CMU blocks and the concrete slab on top assumed to be the same as those of “geogrid” structural elements used
of the GRS pier were modeled as elastic materials with an elastic in the 3D model.
modulus of 2 GPa and a Poisson's ratio of 0.15. A density of 2500 kg/m3
was used for the concrete slab and an equivalent density of 1230 kg/m3 3.3. Interfaces
was used for the CMU blocks to account for the two hollow spaces in the
actual blocks. Different types of interfaces were used in the numerical analysis.
They were represented by interface elements embedded in the software,
3.2. Reinforcement which are linearly-elastic perfectly-plastic springs with the Mohr-
Coulomb failure criterion. For the interface between backfill soil and
In the 3D numerical model, the geotextile layers were modeled as geotextiles, Goodhue et al. (2001) recommended that the interaction
elastic materials using “geogrid” structural elements in FLAC3D, which coefficient Ci typically ranges from 0.5 to 0.9 and the cohesion of the
are designed to resist only membrane loads. The “geogrid” structural soil should be ignored. In this study, an interaction coefficient Ci of 0.6
element was assumed to be isotropic in the numerical model, which was and zero adhesion were assigned to the geotextile–soil interfaces con-
different from the orthotropic geotextile reinforcement used in the tests. sidering the smooth surfaces of the geotextiles used in the GRS pier
In other words, the numerical model did not consider different behavior tests. Therefore, the interface friction angle was equal to
of the geotextile layers in MD and XMD. Nicks et al. (2013) reported = arctan(0.6 tan 53°) = 38.5°. For the interfaces between geotextile
that the geotextile layers used in the tests had the same ultimate tensile and CMU blocks, Awad and Tanyu (2014) conducted both direct shear
strength (i.e., 70 kN/m) but slightly different ultimate tensile strains in and pullout tests to estimate the connection strength between geotextile
MD and XMD (i.e., 10% and 8% in MD and XMD, respectively). During and facing blocks. They used the same geotextiles and facing blocks that
construction, the geotextile was placed in an alternating pattern with were used by Nicks et al. (2013) in the GRS mini-pier tests. Based on
each subsequent layer. In other words, each geotextile rotated 90° from their results, an interface friction angle δ of 16.2° and an adhesion of
the previous layer, thus balancing out the orthotropic behavior of a 9.5 kPa were assigned to the interfaces between the CMU blocks and
single geotextile layer and resulting in an overall isotropic behavior of geotextiles. The interface adhesion of 9.5 kPa used in this study ac-
all the geotextile layers. In addition, numerical analysis showed that the counts for the irregularities existing on the rough surfaces of the CMU
pier reinforced with isotropic geotextile reinforcement had similar be- blocks, which resulted in some shear resistance at the interfaces with
havior as the pier reinforced with orthotropic geotextile reinforcement. the geotextiles. Regarding the vertical interfaces between the CMU
Therefore, it is reasonable to use the simplified isotropic model to si- blocks and the backfill soil, an interaction coefficient Ci of 0.4 (i.e.,
mulate the geotextile reinforcement in the 3D numerical model. The interface friction angle = arctan(0.4 tan 53°) = 28.0°) and zero adhe-
tensile stiffness of the geotextile was estimated as 700 kN/m based on sion were used (Ling et al., 2014). Regarding the interfaces between

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P. Shen, et al. Geotextiles and Geomembranes xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

CMU blocks, only horizontal interfaces between upper and lower CMU
facing blocks were considered in the 2D numerical model. A coefficient
of friction of 0.6 was used (ACI, 2002). Therefore, the interface friction
angle δ was equal to = arctan(0.6) = 31.0°. Zero adhesion was as-
signed to the horizontal interfaces between CMU blocks since no me-
chanical connection was used in the tests. The 3D numerical model, on
the other hand, considered both horizontal interfaces between upper
and lower layers of CMU blocks and vertical interfaces between CMU
blocks at the same layer. The vertical surfaces of the CMU blocks were
assumed to have the same roughness as the horizontal surfaces. The
interface between the backfill and the concrete slab was also considered
in this study by assuming that the interface friction angle equaled to the
friction angle of the backfill soil.
Apart from the interface friction angle and the adhesion, the relative
interface movement was also controlled by the interface normal stiff-
Fig. 2. Applied vertical stress-vertical strain curves of the GRS piers.
ness kn and shear stiffness ks. Itasca Consulting Group (2009) re-
commended the following equation for estimating the maximum
normal and shear interface stiffness values: concrete slab was put on top of the pier and a vertical stress was applied
in increments on the concrete slab according to the loading plan.
K + 3G
4
During the construction and the loading stage, the bottom of the nu-
kn = ks 10 × max merical model was fixed in all directions but no fixities were applied to
zmin
(1) the sides of the pier.
where Δzmin, K, and G are the smallest dimension in the normal di-
rection, the bulk modulus, and the shear modulus of the continuum 3.5. Calibration and validation
zone adjacent to the interface, respectively. Equation (1) was used to
estimate the initial input values for the interface stiffness and these The 3D numerical GRS pier model was calibrated and validated
values were subsequently adjusted by comparing the numerical results against test results. Fig. 2 shows the applied vertical stress-vertical
to the GRS mini-pier test data and minimizing excessive computation strain curves from the numerical models and the tests for both TF6 and
time. Table 1 summarizes the interface properties used in the numerical TF9 cases (i.e., Sv = 0.19 m and 0.38 m respectively). The vertical strain
model. In all cases, the shear stiffness was refined as 1/100 of the is an average strain, defined as the vertical displacement on the
normal stiffness to prevent the interface from penetrating into neigh- boundary (i.e., the concrete slab) divided by the height of the pier. In
boring zones, which is a numerical treatment. Hatami and Bathurst other words, the vertical strain is the overall compression of the pier
(2005, 2006) used the same approach in their numerical study to refine divided by the pier height. It is recognized that the strain may vary
the interface shear stiffness. The final stiffness values reported in locally along the height mainly due to the interfaces of the embedded
Table 1 are smaller than the values obtained with Eq. (1). geotextiles. Fig. 2 shows that for the case with Sv = 0.19 m (i.e., TF6),
the 3D numerical results agreed with the test results until the applied
vertical stress reached approximately 1500 kPa. For the case with
3.4. Modeling procedure Sv = 0.38 m (i.e., TF9), the 3D numerical results deviated from the test
results when the applied vertical stress was higher than 700 kPa. The
Numerical model was activated layer by layer to simulate the con- vertical strains calculated from the 3D numerical models in both cases
struction process. During construction, CMU facing blocks separated by were smaller than those measured in the tests when the applied vertical
interfaces were used to provide lateral confinement to the inside GRS stress reached a high value. One possible explanation for this difference
mass. Reinforcement layers were placed over the backfill based on the is that the “geogrid” structural elements in the numerical model had a
reinforcement plan. In the GRS mini-pier tests conducted by Nicks et al. linearly elastic behavior without a failure limit. In other words, the
(2013), the geotextile layers overlapped at least 85% of the widths of numerical model assumed that failure only occurred at the geotextile-
CMU blocks (i.e., coverage ratio ranged from 0.85 to 1.00). In the nu- soil interface whereas tensile failure of geotextile occurred in the tests
merical model, however, the reinforcement layers were assumed to (Nicks et al., 2013) thus causing larger vertical deformations of the GRS
overlap 100% of the widths of the CMU blocks (i.e., coverage ratio of piers. The linearly elastic behavior of the “geogrid” structural elements
1.00) to simplify the interface connection between CMU blocks and in the 3D numerical model also resulted in smaller lateral displace-
“geogrid” structural elements in FLAC3D or “cable” structural elements ments of the GRS pier as compared to the measured test results, which
in FLAC2D. After the construction of the GRS pier was completed, a will be discussed later in this paper. Fig. 2 also shows that the 2D nu-
merical model gave similar results to the 3D model with slightly larger
Table 1 vertical strains at a lower applied vertical stress.
Interface properties. Iwamoto (2014) reported the measured lateral displacements of
Interface kn ks Ci δ (°) cin (kPa) both TF6 and TF9 cases. Fig. 3 shows the lateral displacement profile of
(MPa/m) (MPa/m) the CMU blocks along the height of the GRS pier from the numerical
models and both TF6 and TF9 tests. For the TF6 case, Fig. 3(a) shows
Soil and geotextiles / 3 0.6a 38.5 0
CMU blocks and geotextiles / 210 / 16.2b 9.5b that the 3D numerical results matched well with the measured test data
Soil and CMU blocks 300 3 0.4c 28.0 0 under different applied vertical stresses. For the TF9 case, Fig. 3(b)
CMU blocks (vertical and 21000 210 / 31.0d 0 shows that, at the applied vertical stress of 894 kPa, the lateral dis-
horizontal) placement calculated by the 3D numerical model matched well with the
Soil and concrete slab 21000 210 1.0 53.0 0
measured data from the bottom to the mid-height of the GRS pier. At
Note: kn - interface normal stiffness; ks - interface shear stiffness; Ci - interface the top of the pier, however, the lateral displacements calculated from
interaction coefficient; δ - interface friction angle; cin - interface adhesion; the 3D numerical model were smaller than the measured ones. As dis-
a
Based on Goodhue et al. (2001); bBased on Awad and Tanyu (2014); cBased on cussed previously, the linearly elastic behavior of the “geogrid” struc-
Ling et al. (2014); dBased on ACI 318-02 (ACI, 2002). tural elements in the 3D numerical model resulted in smaller vertical

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Fig. 3. Lateral displacement profiles of the GRS pier at different applied vertical stresses (measured data reported by Iwamoto, 2014).

and lateral displacements of the GRS pier at high applied vertical displacements in all four sides rendering smaller lateral displacements
stresses as compared to the measured displacements from the tests at each side.
where tensile failure of the geotextile happened. Fig. 3 also shows that Fig. 4 shows a comparison between the deformed GRS pier after the
the 2D numerical model gave much larger lateral displacement than the completion of stage loading predicted by the 3D numerical model and
3D model. The 2D numerical model essentially assumed the GRS pier to that observed in the test for TF6 (Sv = 0.19 m). Fig. 4(a) shows that the
be infinite long in the out-of-plane direction and investigated the unit 3D numerical model captured the gaps and slippage developing be-
width of the GRS pier with no friction at the front and back sides. In tween CMU blocks, which are consistent with those shown on the photo
other words, the 2D model does not account for the 3D boundary ef- of the GRS pier after loading as shown in Fig. 4(b). As stated previously,
fects. That is, the 2D model behaves under a plane strain condition it was necessary to use different interfaces in the numerical model to
where the settlement of the concrete slab was compensated by lateral simulate the interaction between different pier components (e.g., the
displacements of CMU blocks in two sides only (i.e., left and right sides) slippage between the upper and lower layers of CMU blocks or gaps
while the settlement in the 3D model was compensated by lateral between two CMU blocks at the same layer). Fig. 4(b) shows that the

Fig. 4. Deformed GRS pier after the completion of stage loading for Case TF6 (Sv = 0.19 m).

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lowermost CMU block layer did not exhibit any significant outward Table 2
displacement, which supports the conclusion made earlier with regard Baseline model variables.
to the restraint effect of the concrete structural floor on the lateral Constitutive models and properties
displacement of the physical GRS pier.
The 3D numerical model was calibrated and validated against the Backfill soil Mohr-Coulomb, E = 25 MPa, υ = 0.25, ϕ = 38°,
ψ = 8°, c = 1 kPa, ρ = 2000 kg/m3;
test results (i.e., the applied vertical stress-vertical strain curve and the
CMU blocks Elastic, E = 2 GPa, υ = 0.15, ρ = 1230 kg/m3;
lateral displacement profile) and the deformed GRS pier after the Concrete slab Elastic, E = 2 GPa, υ = 0.15, ρ = 2500 kg/m3;
completion of stage loading. It was concluded that the 3D numerical Geotextile J = 700 kN/m (ε = 2%), t = 1 mm;
model developed in this study was able to reasonably predict the be- Interfaces properties
havior of GRS piers although some deviations were found at high ver- Soil and geotextiles ks = 3 MPa/m, Ci = 0.6, δ = 25.1°;
CMU blocks and geotextiles ks = 210 MPa/m, δ = 16.2°, cin = 9.5 kPa;
tical stresses. Adams et al. (2011) recommended a maximum allowable
Soil and CMU blocks kn = 300 MPa/m, ks = 3 MPa/m, Ci = 0.4,
bearing stress of 200 kPa for GRS abutments. The deviations found δ = 17.4°;
between numerical and test results at high vertical stresses were CMU blocks (vertical and kn = 21000 MPa/m, ks = 210 MPa/m, δ = 31.0°;
deemed not important for the behavior of GRS structures under the horizontal)
Soil and concrete slab kn = 21000 MPa/m, ks = 210 MPa/m, Ci = 1.0,
service limit state. On the other hand, the corresponding 2D numerical
δ = 38°;
model developed in this study using the same parameters and dimen-
sions as the 3D model yielded similar applied vertical stress – vertical Note: E – elastic modulus; υ – Poisson's ratio; ϕ – friction angle of soil; c –
strain curves to those of the 3D model. However, the 2D model pre- cohesion of soil; ρ - density; J – stiffness of geotextile; ε - tensile strain of
dicted larger lateral displacements of the CMU facing blocks than those geotextile; t – thickness of geotextile; kn – interface normal stiffness; ks - in-
predicted by the 3D model since the 2D model does not account for the terface shear stiffness; Ci - interface interaction coefficient; δ - interface friction
3D boundary effects as discussed earlier. angle; cin - interface adhesion.

4. Parametric study

After the validation of the numerical models, a parametric study


was conducted using both 2D and 3D numerical models to investigate
the influences of some key factors on the performance of GRS piers
under vertical loading. To make the results more comparable, a baseline
case with a typical configuration was selected. The parametric study
was carried out by changing one parameter at a time from the baseline
case to study its influence on the performance of GRS piers (i.e., the
applied vertical stress-vertical strain curve, lateral deformation, volu-
metric change, and reinforcement tension). The investigated influence
factors included the reinforcement tensile stiffness, reinforcement ver-
tical spacing, and a combination of reinforcement tensile stiffness and
vertical spacing.

4.1. Baseline case

The baseline case had the same geometry as the numerical model
discussed in Section 3. However, the backfill soil used in the baseline
case was different. A cohesionless soil with a friction angle of 38° was
selected in the baseline model. This friction angle is the recommended
minimum friction angle of backfill soil in design of GRS structures
(Adams et al., 2012) and also the commonly-used one. Cohesion of the
backfill soil should not be considered in design to be conservative in the
practice. The cohesionless soil with a friction angle of 38° used in the
baseline model represented the backfill soil with the lowest shear
strength that could be used to construct the GRS structures in the field.
A typical soil density of 2000 kg/m3 was selected for the backfill soil.
Other properties and constitutive models used for backfill soil, CMU
blocks, reinforcement, and interfaces were the same as those used in the
numerical model discussed in Section 3. The baseline case had nine
reinforcement layers placed at a vertical spacing Sv of 0.19 m, which is
within the typical range of reinforcement spacing for GRS structures
and is equivalent to the height of one layer of CMU facing blocks
commonly used in GRS structures. The backfill soil was modeled using
Fig. 5. Effect of reinforcement stiffness on the applied vertical stress-vertical
the Mohr-Coulomb model while the reinforcement layers were modeled
strain curves.
using “geogrid” structural elements in FLAC3D for 3D models and
“cable” structural elements in FLAC2D for 2D models. The interface
friction angle changed with the change of the friction angle of the 4.2. Effect of reinforcement tensile stiffness
backfill soil. Both normal and shear stiffness values of the interfaces
remained the same, as well as the boundary conditions and the mod- In the baseline model, the tensile stiffness of the reinforcement was
eling procedure. Table 2 provides the information of the baseline model 700 kN/m. Additional two cases with the reinforcement stiffness values
variables, including the constitutive models and the interface proper- of 350 and 1400 kN/m were studied.
ties. Fig. 5 presents the applied vertical stress-vertical strain curves for 2D

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Fig. 6. Effect of the reinforcement stiffness on the lateral displacement of pier facing under the applied vertical stress of 200 kPa.

and 3D GRS piers with reinforcements of different tensile stiffness. The vertical loading.
stage loading was terminated at an applied vertical stress of 200 kPa Fig. 7 shows the schematic of the deformed 2D or 3D GRS pier
since the FHWA guideline recommended a maximum allowable bearing predicted by the numerical simulation. It should be noted that the 2D
stress of 200 kPa for GRS abutments (Adams et al., 2011). To evaluate numerical model simulated a slice of the GRS pier with a unit width in
the performance of GRS piers under vertical loading, a secant global the out-of-plane direction. In other words, the 2D GRS pier was not
elastic modulus, EGRS, was used in this study, which is defined as the allowed to deform in the out-of-plane direction and therefore the vo-
applied vertical stress divided by the corresponding average vertical lumetric change of the 2D GRS pier only included the lateral de-
strain of the GRS pier. The moduli EGRS of the 3D GRS piers at the applied formation in the in-plane direction. The 3D numerical model, on the
vertical stress of 200 kPa were 9.4, 12.0, and 14.1 MPa for the cases with other hand, simulated a square GRS pier. Therefore, the volumetric
reinforcement tensile stiffness of 350, 700, and 1400 kN/m, respectively. change of the 3D GRS pier included the lateral deformations in all three
On the other hand, the moduli EGRS of the 2D GRS piers at the applied dimensions. In conclusion, different boundary conditions between the
vertical stress of 200 kPa were 7.8, 10.3, and 12.2 MPa for the cases with 2D and 3D numerical models significantly affected the calculated lat-
the reinforcement tensile stiffness of 350, 700, and 1400 kN/m, respec- eral expansion of the GRS pier under vertical loading.
tively. As expected, the modulus EGRS of the GRS pier increased with the Under the vertical load, the concrete slab settled and the GRS pier
increase of the reinforcement tensile stiffness. The modulus ratio of a 2D expanded laterally. The vertical volumetric change due to the vertical
GRS pier to a 3D GRS pier ranged from 0.82 to 0.86. Adams et al. (2014) compression of the GRS pier can be calculated as ΔVv = -δv∙As, where δv
investigated the modulus ratio of a strip footing (i.e., a 2D condition) on is the settlement of the concrete slab, as shown in Fig. 7(b), and As is the
top of a GRS wall to a 3D GRS pier and found that the ratio ranged from cross-sectional area of the GRS pier without CMU blocks (As = 1 m2/m
0.75 to 3.00 depending on the ratio of the footing width to the wall and 1 m2 for the 2D and 3D numerical models, respectively). The ne-
height. In this study, the ratio of the footing width to the wall height was gative sign in front of δv indicated that the vertical compression was
0.5 and the modulus ratio was approximately 0.83 according to the deemed as negative during the volumetric change calculation. The
figure provided by Adams et al. (2014). This value is close to the ratio normalized vertical volumetric change is defined as ΔVv/V0 where V0 is
predicted by 2D and 3D numerical models in this study. the original volume of the GRS pier (V0 = 2.66 m3/m and 3.72 m3 for
Fig. 6 presents the lateral displacement profile of pier facing along the 2D and 3D numerical models, respectively). The lateral volumetric
pier height under the applied vertical stress of 200 kPa with reinforce- change due to the lateral expansion of the GRS pier can be calculated by
ment of different tensile stiffness. As expected, the increase of the tensile integrating the lateral displacement of the CMU blocks δli at the ith
stiffness reduced the lateral displacement of pier facing since the re- layer over the whole height. The whole GRS pier was composed of 10
inforcement layers with higher tensile stiffness provided more lateral layers of CMU blocks. Assuming that the lateral displacement of the
confinement to the surrounding soil by reinforcement-soil interaction. CMU blocks was equally distributed along the height of each CMU block
The 3D numerical model again predicted smaller lateral displacements of layer, the lateral volumetric change of the 2D GRS pier can be calcu-
10
pier facing than the 2D numerical model due to 3D boundary effects as lated as Vl = 2 1 li h where h is the height of each CMU block
discussed earlier. The maximum lateral displacement of pier facing in the (h = 0.19 m). For the 3D numerical model, on the other hand, the lat-
2D model was approximately twice that in the 3D model. In addition, the eral displacements of the CMU blocks at the same elevation were not
lateral displacement profiles predicted by the 3D model were more uniformly distributed. Based on the numerical calculation, the move-
uniformly-distributed than those predicted by the 2D model. ment of the CMU blocks at the corner of the GRS pier was very small
Adams et al. (2002) reported the results of large-scale GRS pier tests and could be ignored. In other words, the lateral displacements of the
and suggested that a zero volumetric change assumption be used to CMU blocks were assumed to have a triangular distribution, as shown
describe the relationship between the vertical and lateral deformations in Fig. 7(b). Therefore, the lateral volumetric change of the 3D GRS pier
of the GRS pier under vertical loading. This study also investigated the
influence of different boundary conditions between the 2D and 3D
10 1
( ) 10
can be calculated as Vl = 4 1 2 li Btotal h = 2Btotal h 1 li where
Btotal is the GRS pier width with CMU blocks (Btotal = 1.4 m). The
numerical models on the volumetric change of the GRS piers under

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Fig. 7. Schematic of the deformed GRS pier.

normalized lateral volumetric change is defined as ΔVl/V0. The total Fig. 8 shows the volumetric change curves of the GRS piers with
volumetric strain of the GRS pier is defined as εv = (ΔVv + ΔVl)/V0. If reinforcement layers of different tensile stiffness. Both the 2D and 3D
there is no volumetric change of the pier, εv = 0. numerical models show that the use of geotextile reinforcement with
high tensile stiffness reduced the lateral expansion of the CMU blocks as
well as the vertical compression of the GRS pier under the same applied
vertical stress. Although the volumetric change of the GRS pier did not
exactly follow the zero volumetric change line, the total volumetric
strain was smaller than 1% for all the cases under the applied vertical
stress of 200 kPa. Therefore, the zero volumetric change assumption is
still reasonable for the GRS pier under vertical loading. Fig. 8 also
shows that the 2D numerical model predicted larger lateral expansion
and vertical compression of the GRS pier than the 3D numerical model
under the same applied vertical stress. This is because the 2D numerical
model ignored the 3D boundary effect and did not consider the non-
uniform distribution of lateral displacements of CMU blocks at the same
elevation as shown in Fig. 7(b). However, the total volumetric strain of
the 2D GRS pier was close to that of the 3D GRS pier.
Fig. 9 presents the maximum tension in each reinforcement layer
under the applied vertical stress of 200 kPa with reinforcement of dif-
ferent tensile stiffness. Both 2D and 3D numerical models showed that
the maximum tension in the reinforcement increased from the top of the
pier to the mid-height and then decreased to the bottom of the pier. Fig. 9
also shows that the reinforcement tensile stiffness did not have much
effect on the maximum tension in the reinforcement, except near the
bottom of the pier with the reinforcement tensile stiffness of 1400 kN/m.
For the case of reinforcement tensile stiffness of 1400 kN/m, the stag-
gered pattern of the CMU blocks in the 3D numerical model caused some
uneven lateral deformation of the pier. As a result, the geosynthetic re-
inforcement might develop additional tension to resist the uneven lateral
deformation. For the 2D numerical model, however, the staggered pat-
tern of the CMU blocks was not considered. Therefore, no obvious dif-
ferences of Tmax in the reinforcement was found between different cases.
Under the same tensile strain, the increase of the tensile stiffness would
result in higher tension in the reinforcement. The maximum tension in
the reinforcement predicted by the 2D numerical model was higher than
that predicted by the 3D numerical model. This is because the 2D model
allowed more lateral displacement (i.e., lateral strain) than the 3D model
due to the 3D boundary effects as discussed earlier.
The coefficient of lateral earth pressure within the GRS mass, Kr,
was estimated using the maximum tension in the reinforcement, Tmax,
Fig. 8. Effect of the reinforcement stiffness on the volumetric change of the GRS from the numerical results based on the following equation (AASHTO,
piers. 2012):

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Fig. 9. Effect of the reinforcement stiffness on the maximum tension in the reinforcement Tmax under the applied vertical stress of 200 kPa.

Kr =
Tmax the same configuration adopted by Nicks et al. (2013) in their GRS
Sv v (2) mini-pier tests with the same reinforcement spacing of 0.10 m. The
reinforcement layers frictionally connected to the CMU blocks were
where Sv is the reinforcement vertical spacing and σv is the vertical
considered as primary reinforcement while the unconnected re-
stress on the reinforcement. A normalized coefficient of lateral earth
inforcement layers were considered as secondary reinforcement.
pressure is defined as Kr/Ka where Ka is the Rankine active earth
Fig. 11 presents the vertical stress-vertical strain curves for 2D and
pressure coefficient. This method was adopted by AASHTO (2012), Luo
3D GRS piers constructed with different reinforcement vertical spacing.
et al. (2015), and Jiang et al. (2016) to develop the Kr/Ka profile with
When the reinforcement spacing was 0.38 m, stage loading stopped at
depth. The calculated Rankine active lateral earth pressure coefficient
160 kPa because the vertical strain of the 3D GRS pier exceeded 10%
was 0.24 for the case of the backfill soil with a friction angle of 38° used
(considered as failure). Fig. 11 shows that the reinforcement spacing
in the parametric study. The vertical stresses on the reinforcement, σv,
had a significant effect on the vertical stress-vertical strain curves. The
at different depths from the top of the pier were determined from the
moduli EGRS of the 3D GRS piers at the applied vertical stress of 200 kPa
numerical results. Fig. 10 presents the normalized coefficients of lateral
were 12.0 and 15.4 MPa for the cases with the reinforcement spacing of
earth pressure Kr/Ka under the applied vertical stress of 200 kPa for 2D
0.19 m and 0.10 m, respectively. The moduli EGRS of the 2D GRS piers at
and 3D GRS piers with reinforcement of different tensile stiffness.
the applied vertical stress of 200 kPa were 10.3 and 14.1 MPa for the
Fig. 10 shows that similar to the distribution of the maximum ten-
cases with reinforcement spacing of 0.19 m and 0.10 m, respectively. A
sion in the reinforcement along depth, the normalized coefficient of
slight increase in the modulus of the GRS pier was found when the
lateral earth pressure was maximum near the mid-height of the pier and
reinforcement spacing decreased from 0.19 to 0.10 m. This was due to
decreased towards the top and the bottom of the pier. The normalized
the fact that the secondary reinforcement layers were not mobilized as
coefficients of lateral earth pressure predicted by the 3D numerical
much as the primary reinforcement layers, which will be proven later
model were smaller than those predicted by the 2D numerical model. In
when reinforcement tension is analyzed. However, the modulus of the
addition, the normalized coefficients of lateral earth pressure were
GRS pier increased significantly when the reinforcement spacing de-
mostly smaller than 1.0 for all cases, indicating that the assumption of
creased from 0.38 to 0.19 m. Since the vertical load capacity of the GRS
Kr/Ka = 1.0 adopted by AASHTO (2012) is conservative in design.
pier with the reinforcement spacing of 0.38 m did not reach 200 kPa,
the following analyses were conducted at the applied vertical stress of
4.3. Effect of reinforcement vertical spacing 160 kPa.
Fig. 12 presents the lateral displacement profiles of pier facing along
In the baseline case, the reinforcement vertical spacing Sv was the pier height under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa for 2D and
0.19 m and nine reinforcement layers were used. Additional two re- 3D GRS piers with different reinforcement vertical spacing. For the two
inforcement vertical spacing were considered in this study: 0.38 m and cases with reinforcement spacing smaller than 0.3 m, the lateral dis-
0.10 m. When the reinforcement spacing was 0.38 m, the GRS pier only placements of pier facing were close to each other. The maximum lat-
had four reinforcement layers. When the reinforcement spacing was eral displacement occurred near the mid-height of the pier and de-
0.10 m, the GRS pier contained 19 reinforcement layers. Since the GRS creased towards the top and the bottom of the pier. Again, the slight
pier was composed of ten CMU block layers, only nine out of 19 re- difference between the two cases with reinforcement spacing smaller
inforcement layers were frictionally connected to the CMU blocks, than 0.3 m was due to the fact that the unconnected secondary re-
leaving the remaining ten reinforcement layers placed above the inside inforcement layers were not mobilized as much as the primary re-
backfill soil without connection to the CMU blocks. Note that this was inforcement layers. When the reinforcement spacing was 0.38 m,

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Fig. 10. Effect of the reinforcement stiffness on the normalized coefficient of lateral earth pressure Kr/Ka under the applied vertical stress of 200 kPa.

however, the lateral displacements of pier facing were much larger as


compared to the other two piers with smaller reinforcement spacing. In
addition, both 2D and 3D numerical models showed that the maximum
lateral displacement occurred at the top of the pier for the case with
reinforcement spacing of 0.38 m, which was different from the piers
with smaller reinforcement spacing.
Fig. 13 shows the volumetric change curves of the GRS piers with
different reinforcement vertical spacing. Fig. 13 shows that smaller
reinforcement spacing resulted in the total volumetric strain closer to
the zero-volume change line. For the case of Sv = 0.38 m, the lateral
expansion of the GRS pier was significantly larger than the vertical
compression, thus causing the total volumetric strain farther away from
the zero-volumetric change line. Wu et al. (2014) pointed out that the
closely-spaced GRS mass usually shows a higher strength due to sup-
pression of dilation. As a result, the suppression of dilation reduced
both the lateral expansion and the volumetric change of the pier. The
2D numerical model again predicted larger lateral expansion and ver-
tical compression of the pier as compared to the 3D numerical model,
thus resulting in larger total volumetric strain.
Fig. 14 presents the maximum tension in each reinforcement layer
under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa for 2D and 3D GRS piers
with different reinforcement vertical spacing. The 2D numerical model
showed a similar trend as the 3D numerical model. Both 2D and 3D
numerical models showed that the maximum tension in the primary
reinforcement for the case with Sv = 0.1 m was close to that for the case
with Sv = 0.19 m at corresponding elevations. For the case with the
reinforcement spacing of 0.10 m, the maximum tension in the sec-
ondary reinforcement was much lower than that in the primary re-
inforcement since the secondary reinforcement was not connected to
the CMU blocks. This implies that the tension generated in a re-
inforcement layer can be divided into two components: (1) the first
component due to the soil-reinforcement interaction as the reinforce-
ment restrains the soil from lateral spreading under increasing vertical
stress on its top; and (2) the second component due to the facing con-
nection as the reinforcement restrains the facing blocks from lateral
Fig. 11. Effect of reinforcement spacing on the applied vertical stress-vertical displacement under increasing lateral earth pressure on their back
strain curve.
surfaces. The primary reinforcement layers connected to the facing

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Fig. 12. Effect of the reinforcement spacing on the lateral displacement of pier facing under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa.

blocks can mobilize both components under a vertical load while the
secondary reinforcement layers can only mobilize the first component,
thus resulting in much lower maximum tension developing in sec-
ondary reinforcement layers.
Fig. 14 also shows that for the case with reinforcement spacing of
0.38 m, the maximum tension in the reinforcement was much higher
than those in other two cases at corresponding elevations. When the
reinforcement spacing was 0.19 m, the maximum tensions in the re-
inforcements were 10.3 and 5.8 kN/m for the 2D and 3D GRS piers,
respectively. When the reinforcement spacing was 0.38 m, the max-
imum tensions in the reinforcement layers were 32.6 and 21.4 kN/m for
the 2D and 3D GRS piers, respectively. Therefore, the maximum tension
in the reinforcement was increased more than twice when the re-
inforcement vertical spacing was doubled from 0.19 to 0.38 m for both
2D and 3D GRS piers. In other words, a decrease in reinforcement
spacing did not result in a proportional decrease in the maximum
tension in the reinforcement.
Fig. 15 presents the normalized coefficients of lateral earth pressure
along pier height under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa for 2D and
3D GRS piers with different reinforcement vertical spacing. Both 2D
and 3D numerical models showed that the decrease of reinforcement
spacing resulted in increased normalized coefficients of lateral earth
pressure in the primary reinforcement. For the case with the re-
inforcement spacing of 0.10 m, the normalized coefficients of lateral
earth pressure showed a zig-zag distribution because the maximum
tension in the secondary reinforcement was much lower than that in the
primary reinforcement. The calculation of Kr using Eq. (2) assumes that
each reinforcement layer is responsible for sustaining all the load in-
duced by lateral earth pressure within a corresponding tributary area,
which is an area with a height of reinforcement vertical spacing Sv. For
the case with reinforcement spacing of 0.10 m, the lower maximum
tension in the secondary reinforcement indicated that the secondary
reinforcement was not mobilized as much as the primary reinforce-
ment. In other words, the lateral loads sustained by the primary re-
inforcement were larger than those calculated using Eq. (2) while the
Fig. 13. Effect of the reinforcement spacing on the volumetric change of the lateral loads sustained by the secondary reinforcement were smaller
GRS piers.
than those calculated using Eq. (2), thus resulting in the normalized

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Fig. 14. Effect of the reinforcement spacing on the maximum tension in the reinforcement Tmax under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa.

coefficients of lateral earth pressure greater than 1.0 in the primary 4.4. Combined effect of reinforcement stiffness and spacing
reinforcement layers at multiple locations. The normalized coefficients
of lateral earth pressure predicted by the 2D numerical model are Yang (1972) considered the contribution of geosynthetic re-
greater than those predicted by the 3D numerical model due to the 3D inforcement as providing an apparent confining pressure 3 to the soil
boundary effects. within a tributary area as shown in Eq. (3):

Fig. 15. Effect of the reinforcement spacing on the normalized coefficients of lateral earth pressure Kr/Ka under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa.

12
P. Shen, et al. Geotextiles and Geomembranes xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

Tf
3 =
Sv (3)

where Tf is the tensile strength of the reinforcement and Sv is the re-


inforcement vertical spacing.
Schlosser and Long (1974), on the other hand, concluded that the
presence of geosynthetic reinforcement results in an apparent cohesion
in the soil. Based on the concepts of apparent cohesion and apparent
confining pressure, Wu and Pham (2013) suggested that Eq. (4) be used
to evaluate the apparent cohesion cR due to the existence of geosyn-
thetic reinforcement:

Tf Kp
cR = +c
2Sv (4)

where Kp is the Rankine passive earth pressure coefficient and c is the


cohesion of the soil.
Both Eq. (3) and Eq. (4) imply that the increase in the reinforcement
strength Tf has the same effect as a proportional decrease in the re-
inforcement spacing Sv. This is a fundamental assumption made in the
current design methods (e.g., FHWA and AASHTO) for geosynthetic-
reinforced soil structures (Wu and Pham, 2013). The “geogrid” struc-
tural elements used to simulate the reinforcement in FLAC3D for 3D
models or the “cable” structural elements in FLAC2D for 2D models had
constant tensile stiffness J. Since the reinforcement strength Tf is pro-
portional to the reinforcement stiffness J (Tf = J∙εf), it is appropriate to
use the ratio of reinforcement stiffness J to spacing Sv to evaluate the
effect of the reinforcements at working stress levels (Morsy, 2017).
To check whether the increase in the reinforcement tensile strength
Tf or stiffness J has the same effect as a proportional decrease in the
reinforcement spacing Sv, this section discusses the effect of different
combinations of reinforcement stiffness and spacing on the perfor-
mance of GRS piers with the same J/Sv ratio. Two cases were con-
sidered in this study: Case 1 (J = 700 kN/m, Sv = 0.38 m) and Case 2
(J = 350 kN/m, Sv = 0.19 m). In both cases, the ratio of reinforcement
stiffness to vertical spacing was the same J/Sv = 1842 kN/m/m.
Fig. 16. Effect of the combination of reinforcement stiffness and spacing on
However, the first case used larger reinforcement vertical spacing with
GRS pier vertical stress-vertical strain curve.
higher reinforcement tensile stiffness while the second case used
smaller reinforcement vertical spacing with lower reinforcement tensile
stiffness. pier. For the case with smaller reinforcement vertical spacing (i.e., Case
Fig. 16 presents the vertical stress-vertical strain curves for 2D and 2), however, the top of the pier was restrained by more reinforcement
3D GRS piers with different combinations of J and Sv but same J/Sv layers, resulting in the maximum lateral displacement occurring below
ratio. Both 2D and 3D numerical models showed that Case 1 and Case 2 the top of the pier. The lateral displacement profile was approximately
had different results under vertical loading. The ultimate bearing ca- uniform along the pier height in the case of smaller reinforcement
pacity of the 3D GRS pier in Case 1 was lower than the FHWA re- spacing compared to the case of larger reinforcement spacing where the
commended service vertical stress of 200 kPa (Adams et al., 2011). The lateral displacement increased with elevation.
influence of reinforcement spacing was much more significant than that Fig. 18 presents the volumetric change curves of the GRS piers with
of reinforcement tensile stiffness. Case 2 with smaller reinforcement different combinations of reinforcement stiffness and spacing. Both the
spacing had more reinforcement layers and the soil-reinforcement in- 2D and 3D numerical models show that the curves for Case 2
teraction provided higher confinement to the surrounding soil, re- (J = 350 kN/m and Sv = 0.19 m) were much closer to the zero-volu-
sulting in an increase in the bearing capacity of the GRS mass. However, metric change line than those of Case 1 (J = 700 kN/m and
for Case 1 with larger reinforcement spacing, there were fewer re- Sv = 0.38 m), indicating that the use of closely-spaced reinforcement
inforcement layers so that the required connection force of each re- significantly reduced the volumetric change of the GRS pier.
inforcement to maintain the stability of the pier became higher. The Fig. 19 presents the distributions of tension in each reinforcement
confinement to the soil provided by the reinforcement was limited by layer under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa for 2D and 3D GRS
its connection force, which will be discussed later when the tension in piers with different combinations of reinforcement stiffness and spa-
the reinforcement is analyzed. cing. Fig. 19(a) and (c) show that the maximum tension in the re-
Fig. 17 presents the lateral displacement profiles of pier facing along inforcement in Case 1 (J = 700 kN/m and Sv = 0.38 m) was much
pier height under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa for 2D and 3D higher than that in Case 2 (J = 350 kN/m and Sv = 0.19 m) at corre-
GRS piers with different combinations of reinforcement tensile stiffness sponding elevations in both 2D and 3D numerical models. This is be-
and vertical spacing. Similar to the vertical stress-vertical strain curves, cause these piers had different numbers of reinforcement layers. For the
these two cases had different lateral displacement profiles of pier fa- case with reinforcement vertical spacing of 0.38 m (i.e., the pier with
cing. Lateral displacements predicted in Case 1 (J = 700 kN/m and fewer reinforcement layers), each reinforcement layer carried more
Sv = 0.38 m) were much larger than those predicted in Case 2 load. For the case with reinforcement spacing of 0.19 m (i.e., the pier
(J = 350 kN/m and Sv = 0.19 m) in both 2D and 3D numerical models. with more reinforcement layers), however, each reinforcement layer
For the case with larger reinforcement vertical spacing (i.e., Case 1), the carried less and more uniform load. In the 3D numerical model, the
maximum lateral displacement of pier facing occurred at the top of the required total maximum tension in the reinforcement was

13
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Fig. 17. Effect of the combination of reinforcement stiffness and spacing on the lateral displacement of pier facing under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa.

ΣTmax = 62.7 kN/m for Case 1 while Case 2 required the total max-
imum tension ΣTmax = 36.7 kN/m. In the 2D numerical model, the re-
quired total maximum tension in the reinforcement was
ΣTmax = 97.8 kN/m for Case 1 while Case 2 required the total max-
imum tension ΣTmax = 65.1 kN/m. When the total tensile stiffness va-
lues of all reinforcement layers were equal (i.e., J/Sv was same), the
reduction of the reinforcement vertical spacing by 50% resulted in a
reduction of the total maximum tension in the reinforcement by 41%
and 33% in 3D and 2D GRS piers respectively.
Fig. 19(b) and (d) present the ratios of the connection force to the
maximum tension in the reinforcement in the 3D and 2D numerical
models, respectively. For the case with small reinforcement vertical
spacing (i.e., Case 2), the connection force was much closer to the
maximum tension in the reinforcement and the T0/Tmax ratios ranged
from 0.6 to 0.8. For the case with large reinforcement vertical spacing
(i.e., Case 1), however, the ratios were much smaller in both 2D and 3D
numerical models except for the layers near the bottom of the 3D GRS
pier as shown in Fig. 19(b). The tension in the reinforcement with small
reinforcement spacing was more uniformly distributed than that with
large reinforcement spacing. In other words, closely-spaced reinforce-
ment layers mobilized more connection force in the reinforcement near
facing blocks to provide lateral confinement to the soil, thus resulting in
a higher modulus of the GRS pier and smaller lateral displacements of
pier facing. For Case 1 with large reinforcement spacing, however,
lower connection force developed in the reinforcement near facing
blocks as compared with its tensile strength, thus resulting in higher
reinforcement tension in the center (i.e., higher Tmax in Case 1), larger
lateral displacement of pier facing, and lower bearing capacity of the
GRS mass.
Fig. 20 presents the normalized coefficients of lateral earth pressure
under the applied vertical stress of 160 kPa for 2D and 3D GRS piers
with different combinations of reinforcement tensile stiffness and ver-
tical spacing. Both 2D and 3D numerical models showed that the nor-
malized coefficients of lateral earth pressure predicted in Case 1
(J = 700 kN/m and Sv = 0.38 m) were smaller than those predicted in
Fig. 18. Effect of the combination of reinforcement stiffness and spacing on the Case 2 (J = 350 kN/m and Sv = 0.19 m). As discussed previously, clo-
volumetric change of the GRS piers.
sely-spaced reinforcement (i.e., Case 2) had a more uniform tension

14
P. Shen, et al. Geotextiles and Geomembranes xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

Fig. 19. Effect of the combination of reinforcement stiffness and spacing on the distribution of tension in the reinforcement under the applied vertical stress of
160 kPa.

distribution in the reinforcement and provided more lateral restraint to using the calibrated numerical models to investigate the effect of re-
the surrounding soil, thus resulting in larger normalized coefficients of inforcement tensile stiffness, reinforcement vertical spacing, and the
lateral earth pressure. For Case 1 with large reinforcement spacing, combined effect of reinforcement tensile stiffness and vertical spacing
however, larger tension in the reinforcement was mobilized in the on the performance of GRS piers under vertical loading. In addition,
center while lower connection force developing behind facing. The non- this study compared the numerical results obtained from 2D and 3D
uniform tension distribution in the reinforcement in Case 1 resulted in models. Based on the results of this study, the following conclusions can
more backfill soil deforming laterally and reduced the contribution of be drawn:
the reinforcement, thus resulting in smaller normalized coefficients of
lateral earth pressure as compared to those in Case 2. (1) It is conservative to use a 2D numerical model to simulate a 3D GRS
pier. The 2D numerical model predicted lower global elastic mod-
ulus of the GRS pier, larger lateral facing displacements, higher
5. Conclusions
maximum tension in the reinforcement, and larger normalized
coefficients of lateral earth pressure as compared to the 3D nu-
In this study, both two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional
merical models.
(3D) numerical analyses were carried out to evaluate the performance
(2) The increase in reinforcement tensile stiffness resulted in higher
of geosynthetic-reinforced soil (GRS) piers. The numerical models were
global elastic modulus of the GRS pier and smaller lateral facing
calibrated and verified against test results available in the literature. A
displacements. However, the influence of the reinforcement tensile
parametric study was then conducted under both 2D and 3D conditions

15
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Fig. 20. Effect of the combination of reinforcement stiffness and spacing on the normalized coefficient of lateral earth pressure Kr/Ka under the applied vertical stress
of 160 kPa.

stiffness on the maximum tension in the reinforcement was insig- References


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conditions. Transportation Geotechnics 15, 70–83.
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