Measured and predicted response of pile groups in soft clay subjected to cyclic lateral loading

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Journal Article
International Journal of Geomechanics, 2018, 18 (7)
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© 2018 American Society of Civil Engineers. Major offshore and onshore structures, including transport corridors and high-rise buildings, resting on soft compressible clays are often supported by pile foundations. Apart from the usual vertical loading from the superstructures, these piles are usually subjected to large cyclic loads arising from the actions of waves, ship impacts, or moving vehicles. Under such circumstances, vertical and lateral modes of cyclic loading are predominant and affect overall stability. Such repetitive loading on piles leads to reversal of axial stresses in the adjacent soft clay, initiating progressive degradation in soil strength and stiffness that deteriorates the pile capacity with unacceptable displacements. Although several studies have been carried out to investigate the response of a single pile, a detailed investigation on a pile group in soft soil subjected to cyclic lateral loading, which is of immense practical interest to field engineers, had yet to be conducted. In this paper, extensive laboratory model tests with steel-pipe-pile groups in soft cohesive soil were conducted followed by the development of a numerical model that was based on a two-dimensional (2D) dynamic finite-element (FE) approach. The degradation of both axial and lateral capacities of the pile group and the pattern of the degradation with variations in the cyclic-loading parameters were studied. Comparisons of the experimental data with the computed results validated the numerical analysis. The study indicates that both the axial and lateral pile capacities and displacements were significantly influenced by the cyclic-loading parameters (number of cycles, frequency, and amplitude). Relevant design recommendations are presented.
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