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Bull Eng Geol Environ

DOI 10.1007/s10064-017-1011-x


Three-dimensional geotechnical modeling of the soils in Riyadh

city, KSA
Alaa A. Masoud1 • Ahmed Khalaf Abdel Aal2,3

Received: 14 December 2016 / Accepted: 15 January 2017

Ó Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Abstract A standard penetration test (SPT) was carried UCS and SPT 3D models clarified a regional southeastward
out for 700 samples from 143 boreholes in four districts in trend of increase. RQD 3D models showed poor to fair
Riyadh city, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Rock engineering quality of rocks (25–75%). The results pre-
quality designation (RQD) and unconfined compression sented here can help to establish geohazard zonation maps
strength (UCS) tests were also performed for 238 samples with construction favorability ratings for safe urban
from 154 boreholes in 15 districts of the city. Three-di- expansion.
mensional (3D) models of the SPT, RQD, and UCS were
produced using the Voxler 3 software package. Further, Keywords Alluvial soils  Geotechnical modeling  GIS 
333 soil samples collected from 106 boreholes in 11 dis- 3D models  Riyadh  KSA
tricts were examined to spatially model the distinctive
geotechnical patterns of the alluvial soils in two dimen-
sions. Tests were carried out to determine the soil grain Introduction
size distribution, natural water content (NWC%), Atter-
berg’s consistency limits [liquid limit (LL%), plastic limit Population growth and associated continuous urban
(PL%), and plasticity index (PI%)], and soil–water chem- development put much pressure on governments, which
ical components (pH Cl-, SO32-, and CO3-). Spatial maps face challenges in delivering public services to citizens in
of the geotechnical parameters were produced by applying many countries. Suppliers struggle to provide directions for
the geostatistical ordinary kriging implemented in ArcGIS. improving efficiency, while addressing issues of sustain-
Soil samples were classified according to the unified soil able resource management in order to support very high
classification system (USCS), and a thickness of the silty average human development indicators. Urban planning in
clay layer was produced. Plasticity charts indicated that the major rapidly growing cities with high anthropogenic
soils are inorganic cohesive clays with low and moderate pressure and significant socio-economic problems requires
plasticity (CL). Soil strength parameters showed wide an in-depth knowledge and accurate integrated multi-di-
ranges of UCS (average 220, range 21.3–618 kg/cm2), SPT mensional modeling of the geotechnical hazards and spatial
(average 39, 0–100 N), and RQD (average 44, 11–78%). variability of the geological and geotechnical properties of
the soils upon which cities are built (Kolat et al. 2012;
Donghee et al. 2012). Traditional geotechnical maps are
& Alaa A. Masoud restricted in their ability to depict the subsurface across a
range of depths and to chart the variations in geotechnical
Geology Department, Faculty of Science, Tanta University, properties underground; however, a three-dimensional (3D)
Tanta 31527, Egypt geological model has been shown to be a robust tool for
Geology Department, Faculty of Science, Al-Azhar representing and analyzing the conditions underground;
University, Assiut Branch, Assiut, Egypt see, for example, Royse et al. (2009), and Thierry et al.
Civil Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, (2009). Such models can help accurately identify, and thus
Najran University, PO Box 1988, Najran, Saudi Arabia avoid, future geotechnical hazards, and properly select and

A. A. Masoud, A. K. A. Aal

design suitable surface and subsurface foundation systems The study area and its geotechnical problems
for successful and rational land use planning.
Factors related to geological and hydrogeological con- Study area
ditions, climatology, and human practices, either individ-
ually or combined, govern the geotechnical variability of Riyadh city (Fig. 1) was established on the alluvial plain of
soils (Phien-wej et al. 2006; Chrétien et al. 2007). The Wadi Batha, a tributary of Wadi Hanifah. The elevation is
ability of soils to swell or shrink, and hence to change below 550 m in the third industrial zone and Al-Kharj road
volume, makes alluvial clays that are most likely over- areas, and reaches its maximum of 1000 m to the west
consolidated (Dhowian et al. 1985) significantly hazardous (Fig. 2). The general slope of the area points southeast. The
to constructions, which can result in land subsidence, dif- climate is characterized by constant hot prevailing winds
ferential settlements, and building collapse (Stavridakis with low precipitation. Summer air temperatures reach
2006; Hyndman and Hyndman 2009). Changes in volume 45–50 °C. A daily variation of 15 °C in temperature is not
and hydrochemical content of these clays are significant in uncommon. Temperatures in winter average 20 °C, and
arid and semi-arid areas, justifying their close analysis to could well drop to below 5 °C. Such climatic conditions
disclose possible geotechnical hazards. In these areas, enhance evaporation, bringing the evaporation precipita-
changes in soil water content are often brought about by tion ratio to 1:30 (Dakhil and Al Gahtani 1982). Most years
local site changes, such as leakage from water supply pipes are very dry but rainfall occurs at intervals of 7–10 years
or drains, or can be associated with a pattern of short with high intensity in very short periods, creating flash
periods of rainfall followed by long dry periods resulting in floods and causing high salt concentration at the end of the
seasonal cycles of soil swelling and shrinkage (Cameron horizontal flow together with significant erosion of soil.
2006; Clayton et al. 2010). The population of the city was 40,000 in 1935 and
Clayey soils with high swelling potential undergo 83,000 in 1949 (Elsheshtawy 2008), and is now over 7
excessive volume change upon contact with water and million, according to the most recent sources. The planning
exert upward pressure under foundations, resulting in process in the city is still related directly to the urban limits
damage to structural elements, which induces heave policies to reduce the unplanned growth and urban dis-
cracking and breaking of foundations, slabs, and walls persal of the city. An unexpected and dynamic population
(Dhowian et al. 1988). Unraveling the accurate spatial growth took place between 1976 and 1990, associated with
geotechnical and geological constraints of these clays and the economic boom resulting from rising oil prices.
their spatial variability is therefore imperative when Government expenditure increased sharply and the rate of
investigating land suitability for construction, and for land urban development reached high levels that superseded the
use management on limited soil resources. Such analysis proposed plans. The first master plan (Doxiadis Company,
can play a decisive role in helping to efficiently prioritize approved in 1973) recommended expansion along the
areas with cost effective optimization of construction north–south direction, parallel to Wadi Hanifa, contrary to
times, efficient setting of hazard mitigation measures, and the traditional development corridor in the east–west
to design projects for safe extension with appropriate and direction, to avoid directing the city growth towards Wadi
reliable foundation systems to compensate for geotechnical Hanifa. Until 2011, the developed land in the city reached
risks or overspends (e.g., Parsons and Frost 2002; Hack 1219 km2, and is expected to expand to 2500 km2 in 2029.
et al. 2006; De Rienzo et al. 2008). However, current The area allocated for urban development is expected to
geotechnical tests that are widely performed to understand reach 2395 km2 in 2014, and 3115 km2 in 2029. This rapid
the potential problems of soils can be time-consuming, expansion beyond its original walls in 1950 has made it one
expensive, and limited. This call for the use of a multi- of the three largest metropolitan areas in the kingdom,
disciplinary approach that can integrate various multivari- together with Makkah and Jeddah. The future structure and
ate statistical and geostatistical techniques in a land use plan 2030 for the city recommends North–East
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) environment. extension, including many aspects of land use, such as
The present research therefore aimed to evaluate 2D and residential, commercial, public facilities, industrial, recre-
3D geotechnical models of the alluvial clays in Riyadh ation and resorts, open places and public utilities.
City, KSA. The goal was to enable prioritization of land
suitability of already settled areas, and to determine if Problematic soils in Riyadh
further precautions were needed for safer planning actions
or remediation. Such studies has been rarely addressed in Quaternary Wadi deposits of fluvial or aeolian origin,
KSA, despite the significant socio-economic impacts of including clay, silt, sand and gravel, cover about 30% of
geotechnical hazards, the catastrophic effects of which are the city, and are concentrated in the city center and its
often amplified by high anthropic pressure. eastern areas. Gravels inter-bedded with weathered

Three-dimensional geotechnical modeling of the soils in Riyadh city, KSA

Fig. 1 Location of boreholes

and physiographic features of
Riyadh city, KSA

limestone and solution-collapse breccia extend to 1 m The other common problematic soils in the Riyadh area
below Babnban, and increase gradually southeastward to are collapsing, shrinking, and loessal soils. Collapsing soils
9 m at the third industrial zone. A silty clay layer, 2 m are characterized as alluvial wadi deposits consisting pri-
thick, spreads widely in the central area in Al Malaz and Al marily of sand with varying amounts of gravel, silt and
Aziziyah areas, separating the weathered limestone from clay. Alluvial collapsing deposit in the east of Riyadh for
the underlying cavernous limestone (Fig. 3). Fragmented soil samples collected at depths of from 1.5 to 9 m are
limestone is encountered frequently. Solution-collapse of characterized by geotechnical properties with the following
less resistant soft and porous breccia of the slumping car- ranges: silt and clay size fraction (8–40%), natural water
bonate beds has resulted from the dissolution of near-sur- content (0–15%), liquid limit (20–40%), plasticity index
face anhydrites (Rahim 1981). These were deposited as a (5–20), and relative compaction (70–100%) (Dhowian and
conflux of numerous Wadi channels entering from the west Touma 1991). Shrinking soils in the Riyadh area (Zeleii
and north in a dynamic regime where the channel courses 1984) are characterized by a shrinkage limit of about 20%,
were subject to frequent changes over time during the late shrinkage of 4–6%, maximum dry density of 17.5 kN/m3,
Tertiary and Quaternary ‘‘wet’’ periods. This type of soil organic matter content of 19%, liquid limit of 25%, plastic
presents many problems during construction due to its high limit of 23%, and sand content of 89%. Al-Refai and Al-
permeability, particularly where sound rock bed underlies Ghamdy (1994) carried out shear strength and Plate-load
the soil. tests on undisturbed soil samples from the east of Riyadh in

A. A. Masoud, A. K. A. Aal

Fig. 2 Elevation map with

contours of Riyadh city

natural dry and soaked conditions. The behaviour of dry and collapsible potential, affects geotechnical practices in
soil was considered essentially elastic, and able to support Riyadh. Alternating wetting and drying increases salt
a large load with small settlement. The soaking process content, activates swell potential and causes collapse. To
considerably reduced soil cohesion, from 225 to 25 kPa, overcome these problems and avoid flash flood problems in
and hence reduced the bearing capacity. Wetting the soil washing out foundations, foundation type and level should
produced a significant reduction in soil modulus and void be selected with these problems in mind. Properly con-
ratio, and resulted in irrecoverable settlement. Loessal ducted site investigations with detailed elaboration and
soils, i.e., wind-blown deposits of very loose structure, identification of the particular problems encountered prior
have low density and are highly compressible. In the to design and foundation selection, would reduce risks
Riyadh area, these soils indicate significant collapse related to the subsurface conditions.
potential, exceeding 10% on saturation even at relatively
low pressure (Al-Solai 1983). They have a liquid limit of
17%, shrinkage limit of 15%, natural water content of 3%, Data and methodology
organic matter content (OMC) 9.6%, and maximum dry
density of 20 kN/m3. Geotechnical data analysis
The unstable and continuously changing soil profile
triggered by scarce but intense rainfall, severe climate A standard penetration test (SPT) was carried out on 700
conditions, rising salt, cavities, weathered rocks, expansive samples from 143 boreholes in four districts (Kharj Al

Three-dimensional geotechnical modeling of the soils in Riyadh city, KSA

Fig. 3 a Representative boreholes. b The drilling machine used. c Core samples

Riyadh Road, Babnban, 3rd Industrial Zone, and Tibrak). water chemical components (pH Cl-, SO32-, and CO3-),
Rock quality designation (RQD) and unconfined com- and grain size distribution. Soil samples were classified
pression strength (UCS) tests ware carried out on 238 according to the unified soil classification system (USCS),
samples from 154 boreholes in 15 districts. Three-dimen- and the thickness of the silty clay layer was produced. This
sional models of the UCS, RQD, and SPT were produced database enables users to examine the geotechnical data
using the Voxler 3 software package ( referenced by spatial coordinates, and to export these data and a 3D database was in the form of an ASCII or a DXF file that can be imported
built and visualized. This database comprised all the easily into other numerical GIS tools.
selected data for the city, adopting a procedure developed For the 3D models, the inverse distance weighing (IDW)
to predict more reliably the spatial geotechnical informa- gridding method was used, while the geostatistical ordinary
tion and their layers. Further, geological investigations, kriging implemented in ArcGIS was applied for the 2D
in situ, and laboratory-based geotechnical tests from 106 layers. Minimum error was achieved between measured
boreholes selected according to specific criteria have been and predicted values for both the 2D layers and 3D models.
homogenized, classified, and archived in a GIS database The Voxler 3 software package implements three methods,
thus far. Filtering criteria are based on selecting boreholes namely Inverse Distance Weighted (IDW), Data Metric,
with a reliable location, detailed measuring of stratigraphic and Local Polynomial for gridding. All three methods were
logs with continuous coring vertical profile up to a depth of examined. Model accuracy was also visually inspected by
20 m from the surface, and complete in situ and laboratory comparing the produced iso-surfaces and the scatterplot of
tests that are statistically homogeneous with the whole data the sampling points. Interpretation of the results with the
at a confidence level above 95%. aid of iso-surfaces enables the accuracy of the result to be
The selected boreholes have a set of geotechnical examined in a more objective way. This is quite helpful to
information comprising the soils’ natural water content ensure achievement of reliable results. The IDW grids and
(NWC %), Atterberg’s consistency limits [liquid limit (LL iso-surfaces produced proved efficient in simulating the
%), plastic limit (PL %), and plasticity index (PI %)], soil– real data with lowest error close to the sampling points. In

A. A. Masoud, A. K. A. Aal

Table 1 Descriptive statistics of the geotechnical parameters

NWC Atterberg limits % USCS Chemical analysis Grain size %
% LL PL PI pH Cl SO32- CO3 Gravel Sand Fines

Ash Shifa
Min 0.6 22 5 SM 7.72 0.024 0.075
Max 13.1 35 7 SC 7.88 0.03 0.092
Mean 4.83 30.00 6.00 7.80 0.03 0.08
Std 7.16 7.00 1.00 0.08 0.00 0.01
Counts 3 3 3 3 3 3
Min 0.3 22 9 13 SM 0 0 0
Max 30.1 48 18 39 CL 7.84 0.232 0.288
Mean 10.48 34.18 10.65 23.53 7.76 0.15 0.20
Std 9.18 7.64 3.02 8.05 0.06 0.05 0.05
Counts 39 17 17 17 8 8 8
Al Malaz
Min 0.90 16.00 14.00 2.00 SC-SM 7.47 0.01 0.04 0.70
Max 14.8 23 17 6 SM 7.58 0.024 0.086 7.54
Mean 8.43 18.60 16.00 4.00 ML 7.53 0.02 0.07 3.12
Std 4.75 3.21 1.41 2.00 GM 0.06 0.01 0.02 3.83
Counts 8 5 4 3 SP-SM 3 3 3 3
Al Murabba
Min 2.10 22.00 14.00 5.00 SM 7.70 0.02 0.08 0.00
Max 14 35 28 7 SC 7.88 0.03 0.092
Mean 8.38 30.00 23.00 6.00 7.77 0.03 0.08
Std 5.06 7.00 7.81 1.00 0.10 0.00 0.01
Counts 6 3 3 3 3 3 3
Ad Diriyah
Min 0.10 17.00 14.00 3.00 GC-GM 11.80 35.10 8.60
Max 1.1 30 25 9 GW-GM 53 46.3 43.6
Mean 0.54 23.43 17.71 5.71 SC 33.34 40.81 25.84
Std 0.36 3.95 3.45 2.06 SM 13.08 4.39 11.63
Counts 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Min 0.30 23.00 14.00 8.00 GC 26.10 13.30 33.50
Al Malqa
Max 10.9 28 16 12 50.1 35.9 45.4
Mean 3.30 25.33 15.00 10.33 36.25 24.85 38.90
Std 3.93 2.52 1.00 2.08 8.72 8.24 4.73
Counts 6 3 3 3 6 6 6
An Nuzhah
Min 2.10 24.00 18.00 5.00 SC-SM 7.43 0.01 0.04 0.54 29.00 30.00 4.30
Max 14 25 20 6 GM 7.58 0.024 0.086 7.54 44 55 35.2
Mean 8.38 24.50 19.00 5.50 GP 7.51 0.02 0.07 2.48 38.60 44.82 20.63
Std 5.06 0.71 1.41 0.71 SC 0.07 0.01 0.02 3.39 7.10 9.84 10.34
Counts 6 2 2 2 SM 4 4 4 4 6 6 6
Al Khalij-Alquwayiyah
Min 0.60 17.00 14.00 1.00 SP-SM 0.00 29.30 3.80
Max 19.9 35 28 10 SC-SM 43.4 94.4 70.7
Mean 10.27 22.35 18.29 4.06 SM 10.53 73.53 15.93
Std 4.01 4.99 3.37 2.11 SP 10.21 14.82 12.61
Counts 59 17 17 17 58 58 58

Three-dimensional geotechnical modeling of the soils in Riyadh city, KSA

Table 1 continued
NWC Atterberg limits % USCS Chemical analysis Grain size %
- 2-
% LL PL PI pH Cl SO3 CO3 Gravel Sand Fines

As Suwaidi
Min 1.20 22.00 18.00 4.00 SP-SM 14.00 14.40 2.40
Max 14 22 18 4 SW 77.8 76.4 21.6
Mean 7.67 22.00 18.00 4.00 SM 46.61 42.21 11.17
Std 2.77 SC-SM 18.95 18.16 5.46
Counts 15 1 1 1 GM 15 15 15
Al Aziziyah
Min 2.10 24.00 18.00 5.00 23.50 29.10 4.30
Max 14 25 20 6 43.7 58.9 35.2
Mean 8.38 24.50 19.00 5.50 33.75 45.62 20.63
Std 5.06 0.71 1.41 0.71 8.14 10.93 10.34
Counts 6 2 2 2 6 6 6
Al Qirawan
Min 0.30 23.00 14.00 8.00 26.10 13.30 33.50
Max 10.9 28 16 12 50.1 35.9 45.4
Mean 3.30 25.33 15.00 10.33 36.25 24.85 38.90
Std 3.93 2.52 1.00 2.08 8.72 8.24 4.73
Counts 6 3 3 3 0 0 0 0 6 6 6
Min 0.1 16 6 1 7.43 0.011 0.04 0.54 0 13.3 2.4
Max 21.9 46 28 39 7.88 0.118 0.18 7.54 77.8 94.4 70.7
Mean 8.15 24.28 16.76 7.77 7.64 0.04 0.10 2.75 23.20 57.93 19.11
Std 5.24 6.12 4.82 7.20 0.14 0.04 0.04 3.13 18.67 23.19 13.32
Counts 135 51 50 49 16 16 16 9 106 106 106

NWC Natural water content, LL liquid limit, PL plastic limit, PI plasticity index, USCS unified soil classification system

contrast, local polynomial gridding results in a smooth iso- largest averages of 10.48%, 34.18%, and 23.53%, and
surfaces. In the case of the Data Metric method, the created largest maximum values of 30.1%, 48%, and 39%,
models differ greatly from the real data. Therefore, IDW respectively. Riyadh soils are dominated by sand (averag-
was the most suitable gridding method given the available ing 57.93%), followed by gravel (averaging 23.20%), and
set of the irregularly spaced data points of relatively low fines (averaging 19.11%). Gravels dominated in As
density in Riyadh. Suwaidi, with an average of 46.6% and a maximum of
77.8%. Sands prevailed in Al Khalij-Alquwayiyah, with
mean of 73.5% and a maximum of 94.4%. Fines dominated
Results and discussion with average of 38.9% in Al Qirawan, and reached its
maximum in 70.7% in Al Khalij-Alquwayiyah.
Geotechnical properties
Plasticity characteristics
The geotechnical parameters (Table 1) showed the fol-
lowing ranges: NWC (0.1–21.9%), LL (16–46%), PL A Casagrande (1932) plasticity chart (Fig. 4) showed that
(6–28%), PI (18-78.6%), pH (7.43–7.88 m), CO3- the majority of the soil samples were clay with low or
(0.54–7.44), UCS (21.3–618 kg/cm2), SPT (0–100 N), and moderate plasticity (CL). All samples are plotted above the
RQD (11–78%). Such wide ranges suggest that multiple A-line, except for three samples located in the organic or
sources and/or complex geological/hydrogeological pro- inorganic silts of medium compressibility (MH-OL). The
cesses affect the spatial variability of these geotechnical soils tend to show a general increase in PI, which can be
properties. For NWC, LL, and PI, the Sajir site attained the best determined linearly at R2 = 0.71 against LL.

A. A. Masoud, A. K. A. Aal

Fig. 4 Plasticity chart of the


Fig. 5 Unconfined compressive strength (UCS) three dimensional (3D) models with a sample distribution, b 3D model, and c, d iso-surfaces
from two opposite directions

Three-dimensional geotechnical modeling of the soils in Riyadh city, KSA

Table 2 Descriptive statistics of the N values of the standard penetration test (SPT)
Samples/no. of Elevation Depth SP Samples/no. of Elevation Depth SP
boreholes (m) boreholes (m)

3rd Industrial zone Babnban

Min 71/16 6 0 17 Min 237/47 6 0 0
Max 20 10.5 100 Max 8 10.50 61
Mean 8 5.25 64 Mean 6.61 5.23 27
Std 4.43 3.45 22 Std 0.92 3.43 17
Counts 16 128 71 Counts 47 374 237
Tibrak Al Kharj Ryadh Road
Min 8/5 6 0 23 Min 384/75 3 0 5
Max 10 10.5 69 Max 8 10.5 100
Mean 6.80 5.25 51 Mean 6.73 5.25 42
Std 1.79 3.48 18 Std 1.07 3.44 18
Counts 5 40 8 Counts 75 600 384
Min 700/143 3 0 0
Max 20 10.5 100
Mean 7 5 39
Std 1.6 3 21
Counts 1119 1132 700

Fig. 6 Standard penetration test (SPT) 3D models with a sample distribution, b 3D model, and c, d iso-surfaces from two opposite directions

A. A. Masoud, A. K. A. Aal

Table 3 Descriptive statistics of the rock quality designation (RQD) parameters

District No. of boreholes Depth UCS (kg/cm2) RQD % District No. of Depth UCS (kg/cm2) RQD %

Al Aziziyah An Nuzhah
Min 5 3.75 200 23 Min 7 0.85 104.4 23
Max 9.5 321 65 Max 10 322 65
Mean 5.20 239.28 42.20 Mean 5.78 226.09 37.11
Std 2.49 48.66 17.22 Std 2.71 66.78 12.21
Counts 5 5 5 Counts 18 18 18
Ad Diriyah Al Malqa
Min 7 3 165 43 Min 5 3 233 23
Max 6 343 76 Max 6 343 27
Mean 4.00 246.14 54.86 Mean 4.00 283.40 24.20
Std 1.15 64.73 12.44 Std 1.22 55.46 1.79
Counts 7 7 7 Counts 5 5 5
As Suwaidi Al Murabba
Min 6 0.75 251 23 Min 7 1.5 213 23
Max 9.5 618 54 Max 9 432 54
Mean 4.87 365.93 41.60 Mean 4.50 281.33 37.22
Std 3.20 102.38 10.22 Std 2.60 73.30 10.88
Counts 15 15 15 Counts 9 9 9
Al Qirawan Al Malaz
Min 5 3 122 44 Min 5 4.5 200 45
Max 6 312 76 Max 23 342 66
Mean 4.00 233.20 57.40 Mean 11.82 269.22 57.73
Std 1.22 77.91 13.74 Std 5.75 54.42 7.39
Counts 5 5 5 Counts 11 11 11
Hittin Ash Shifa
Min 5 0.85 41 36 Min 6 1.5 232 44
Max 9 435 77 Max 9 451 77
Mean 4.40 262.69 52.12 Mean 4.50 365.30 58.00
Std 2.68 82.91 13.13 Std 2.45 66.80 10.00
Counts 18 18 17 Counts 10 10 10
Hijrat Laban Namar
Min 4 0.85 106.1 11 Min 79 0.75 21.3 11
Max 9.5 245.4 54 Max 17.25 326 65
Mean 5.20 161.98 27.92 Mean 3.86 157.71 37.24
Std 2.25 41.23 16.37 Std 2.73 58.37 12.02
Counts 13 13 13 Counts 80 80 79
Khanshalilah Al Hada
Min 4 0.85 41 32 Min 5 0.85 98 34
Max 9 452 77 Max 9.5 253.4 78
Mean 3.86 300.50 51.92 Mean 5.00 166.59 54.50
Std 2.35 114.87 15.42 Std 2.30 53.43 10.13
Counts 14 14 13 Counts 18 18 18
As Safah Riyadh
Min 4 0.85 98 49 Min 154 0.75 21.3 11
Max 9.5 245.4 78 Max 23 618 78
Mean 5.06 158.91 59.90 Mean 4.78 220 44
Std 2.55 51.18 8.65 Std 3.18 97.27 15
Counts 10 10 10 Counts 238 238 235

Three-dimensional geotechnical modeling of the soils in Riyadh city, KSA

Three-dimensional strength properties of soils Standard penetration test

The UCS along with RQD and the N values of the SPT are SPT N-values are used to estimate consistency, strength
important soil strength parameters. The 3D models of these and, in some cases, soil compressibility. The city revealed
parameters are described below. an average N value of 39, with values, recorded at an
average depth of 5–6 m below the ground surface, being
Unconfined compressive strength largest for the 3rd industrial zone (64), Tibrak (51), Al
Kharj-Al Riyadh road (42), and Babnban (27). A south-
The UCS determines the bearing capacity of foundations eastward trend of increase was confirmed for SPT N val-
and is related to the consistency of the soil, where the ues, which reached a maximum of 100 at the Al Kharj-Al
harder the soil, the higher the UCS and the shear strength. Riyadh road and the 3rd industrial zone, followed by
Successful stabilization of expansive soils rely greatly, Tibrak (69), and then Babnban (61) (Table 2). SPT
therefore, on increasing the compressive strength by N values then generally decreased northwestward (Fig. 6)
reducing the PI and hence the swelling potential (e.g., with a local high that exceeded 50 indicating very dense
ASTM 2005). The UCS clarified a regional southeastward soil or rock occurs at the surface in the 3rd industrial
increase to reach 380 kg/cm2 in Ash Shifa, and decreases zone, Namar, As Shifa, Al Aziziyah, and Khanshaliyah;
southwestward to about 280 kg/cm2 (Fig. 5). lowest values were observed in Babnban district. The

Fig. 7 RQD 3D models with a sample distribution, b 3D model, and c, d iso-surfaces from two opposite directions

A. A. Masoud, A. K. A. Aal

Fig. 8 Fines, sand, and gravel distribution

southern local high disappears at 3 m, where the soils southeastwards SPT N values increase is related mostly to
become generally dense (about 40) in the south, and the the silty clay layer thickness increase, which, in such arid
soil materials become loose (about 10) in the northern areas, follows the flow direction of the runoff, which,
parts. The local high appears again at 6 m and continues accordingly, enhances the natural cementation and hence
downward to 7.5 m below the ground surface. The soil strength.

Three-dimensional geotechnical modeling of the soils in Riyadh city, KSA

Fig. 9 Thickness (m) of the

silty clay layer

Rock quality designation Al Malqa, and Al Aziziyah showed poor (25–50%) RQD
values, while the other districts showed fair RQD
Deere (1964) defined the RQD as the ratio (in percent) (50–75%) (Fig. 7).
of the total length of sound core pieces 4 inches
(10.16 cm) in length or longer to the length of the core Two-dimensional models of soil properties
run. RQD therefore indicates the significant geologic
features that influence the homogeneity of the rock mass, Spatial distribution 2D maps of soil properties were
such as discontinuity surfaces of fracturing and differ- produced including grain size distribution, silty clay
ential hardness zones where weathering is accounted for layer thickness, Atterberg’s limits, and soil–water
indirectly. The city averaged 44% RQD, with the largest chemistry. Contents of gravels and fines increases
averages exceeding 57 being recorded in the soils of As southward associated with the gradual decrease of the
Safah, Ash Shifa, Al Qirawan, and Al Malaz (Table 3). sand content (Fig. 8). The silty clay layer thickness
Favorability for construction is high in areas with high (Fig. 9) ranges from 1 m to 11 m, and increases south-
RQD values, while measures to alleviate risks from eastward then eastward to reach 11 m close to the Kharj-
instability should be considered in low RQD soils. RQD Riyadh road. Atterberg’s limits showed a northeastward
can reveal poor to fair engineering quality of rocks increase of the PI and a southeastward increase of the
(25–75%). According to the engineering quality of rocks NWC, LL, and PL (Fig. 10). Soil–water chemistry
(Deere 1989), Namar, Tibrak, Hijrat Laban, An Nuzhah, showed an eastward decrease of alkalinity, where the pH

A. A. Masoud, A. K. A. Aal

Fig. 10 Natural water content and Atterberg’s limits of Riyadh soils

exceeded 8 in the west and decreased to reach 7.4 at An Cl- at Al Murabba district. The carbonate content
Nuzhah boreholes (Fig. 11). Contents of chlorides and decreases eastward, whereas it was highest in Hittin and
sulfates clarified an eastward increase with local high Ad Diriyah districts.

Three-dimensional geotechnical modeling of the soils in Riyadh city, KSA

Fig. 11 Soil-water chemistry (pH, Cl-, SO-2 -

3 , and CO3 contents)

Summary and conclusions and increases gradually southeastward to 9 m at the third

industrial zone. A silty clay layer, 2 m thick, extends
The unstable soil profile of Riyadh city is composed of widely in the central area in Al Malaz and Al Aziziyah
gravels inter-bedded with weathered limestone and solu- areas, separating the weathered limestone from the
tion-collapse breccia that extend to 1 m below Babnban underlying cavernous limestone. This type of soil

A. A. Masoud, A. K. A. Aal

presents many problems during construction due to its Cameron DA (2006) The role of vegetation in stabilizing highly
high permeability, particularly where sound rock bed plastic clay subgrades. In: Ghataora GS, Burrow MPN (eds)
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