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Tutorial Manual TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 Introduction..................................................................................................1-1 2 Getting started .............................................................................................2-1
2.1 Installation .............................................................................................2-1
2.2 General modelling aspects .....................................................................2-1
2.3 Input procedures ....................................................................................2-3
2.3.1 Input of Geometry objects..........................................................2-3
2.3.2 Input of text and values..............................................................2-3
2.3.3 Input of selections ......................................................................2-4
2.3.4 Structured input..........................................................................2-5
2.4 Starting the program ..............................................................................2-6
2.4.1 General settings..........................................................................2-6
2.4.2 Creating a geometry model ........................................................2-8 3 Settlement of A circular footing on sand (lesson 1)...................................3-1
3.1 Geometry ...............................................................................................3-1
3.2 Case A: Rigid footing ............................................................................3-1
3.2.1 Creating the input.......................................................................3-2
3.2.2 Performing calculations ...........................................................3-13
3.2.3 Viewing output results .............................................................3-17
3.3 Case B: Flexible footing ......................................................................3-19 4 Submerged construction of an excavation (lesson 2) ................................4-1
4.1 Geometry ...............................................................................................4-2
4.2 Calculations .........................................................................................4-10
4.3 Viewing output results .........................................................................4-13 5 Undrained river embankment (lesson 3) ...................................................5-1
5.1 Geometry model ....................................................................................5-1
5.2 Calculations ...........................................................................................5-4
5.3 Output ....................................................................................................5-8 6 Dry excavation using a tie back wall (lesson 4) .........................................6-1
6.2 Calculations ...........................................................................................6-4
6.3 Output ....................................................................................................6-9
6.4 Using the hardening soil model ...........................................................6-11
6.5 Output for the hardening soil case .......................................................6-13
6.6 Comparison with Mohr-Coulomb ........................................................6-13 7 Construction of a road embankment (lesson 5).........................................7-1
7.2 Calculations ...........................................................................................7-4
7.3 Output ....................................................................................................7-5 i TUTORIAL MANUAL
7.4 Safety analysis ....................................................................................... 7-7
7.5 Updated mesh analysis ........................................................................ 7-10
8 Settlements due to tunnel construction (lesson 6) .....................................8-1
8.1 Geometry ............................................................................................... 8-2
8.2 Calculations ........................................................................................... 8-6
8.3 Output .................................................................................................... 8-7
8.4 Using the hardening soil model ........................................................... 8-10
8.5 Output for the hardening soil case ....................................................... 8-11
8.6 Comparison with the Mohr-Coulomb case .......................................... 8-11 Appendix A - Menu structure
Appendix B - Calculation scheme for initial stresses due to soil weight ii PLAXIS Version 8 INTRODUCTION
1 INTRODUCTION PLAXIS is a finite element package that has been developed specifically for the analysis
of deformation and stability in geotechnical engineering projects. The simple graphical
input procedures enable a quick generation of complex finite element models, and the
enhanced output facilities provide a detailed presentation of computational results. The
calculation itself is fully automated and based on robust numerical procedures. This
concept enables new users to work with the package after only a few hours of training.
Though the various lessons deal with a wide range of interesting practical applications
this Tutorial Manual is intended to help new users become familiar with PLAXIS. The
lessons should therefore not be used as a basis for practical projects.
Users are expected to have a basic understanding of soil mechanics and should be able
to work in a Windows environment. It is strongly recommended that the lessons are
followed in the order that they appear in the manual. The tutorial lessons are also
available in the examples folder of the PLAXIS program directory and can be used to
check your results.
The Tutorial Manual does not provide theoretical background information on the finite
element method, nor does it explain the details of the various soil models available in
the program. The latter can be found in the Material Models Manual, as included in the
full manual, and theoretical background is given in the Scientific Manual. For detailed
information on the available program features, the user is referred to the Reference
Manual. In addition to the full set of manuals, short courses are organised on a regular
basis at several places in the world to provide hands-on experience and background
information on the use of the program. 1-1 TUTORIAL MANUAL 1-2 PLAXIS Version 8 GETTING STARTED
2 GETTING STARTED This chapter describes some of the notation and basic input procedures that are used in
PLAXIS. In the manuals, menu items or windows specific items are printed in Italics.
Whenever keys on the keyboard or text buttons on the screen need to be pressed or
clicked, this is indicated by the name of the key or button in brackets, (for example the
For the installation procedure the user is referred to the General Information section in
2.2 GENERAL MODELLING ASPECTS
For each new project to be analysed it is important to create a geometry model first. A
geometry model is a 2D representation of a real three-dimensional problem and consists
of points, lines and clusters. A geometry model should include a representative division
of the subsoil into distinct soil layers, structural objects, construction stages and
loadings. The model must be sufficiently large so that the boundaries do not influence
the results of the problem to be studied. The three types of components in a geometry
model are described below in more detail. Points:
Points form the start and end of lines. Points can also be used for the
positioning of anchors, point forces, point fixities and for local refinements of
the finite element mesh. Lines:
Lines are used to define the physical boundaries of the geometry, the model
boundaries and discontinuities in the geometry such as walls or shells,
separations of distinct soil layers or construction stages. A line can have several
functions or properties. Clusters:
Clusters are areas that are fully enclosed by lines. PLAXIS automatically
recognises clusters based on the input of geometry lines. Within a cluster the
soil properties are homogeneous. Hence, clusters can be regarded as parts of
soil layers. Actions related to clusters apply to all elements in the cluster.
After the creation of a geometry model, a finite element model can automatically be
generated, based on the composition of clusters and lines in the geometry model. In a
finite element mesh three types of components can be identified, as described below.
2-1 TUTORIAL MANUAL Elements:
During the generation of the mesh, clusters are divided into triangular elements.
A choice can be made between 15-node elements and 6-node elements. The
powerful 15-node element provides an accurate calculation of stresses and
failure loads. In addition, 6-node triangles are available for a quick calculation
of serviceability states. Considering the same element distribution (for example
a default coarse mesh generation) the user should be aware that meshes
composed of 15-node elements are actually much finer and much more flexible
than meshes composed of 6-node elements, but calculations are also more time
consuming. In addition to the triangular elements, which are generally used to
model the soil, compatible plate elements, geogrid elements and interface
elements may be generated to model structural behaviour and soil-structure
A 15-node element consists of 15 nodes and a 6-node triangle is defined by 6
nodes. The distribution of nodes over the elements is shown in Figure 2.1.
Adjacent elements are connected through their common nodes. During a finite
element calculation, displacements (ux and uy) are calculated at the nodes.
Nodes may be pre-selected for the generation of load-displacement curves. Stress points:
In contrast to displacements, stresses and strains are calculated at individual
Gaussian integration points (or stress points) rather than at the nodes. A 15node triangular element contains 12 stress points as indicated in Figure 2.1a
and a 6-node triangular element contains 3 stress points as indicated in Figure
2.1b. Stress points may be pre-selected for the generation of stress paths or
stress-strain diagrams. Figure 2.1 Nodes and stress points 2-2 PLAXIS Version 8 GETTING STARTED
2.3 INPUT PROCEDURES
In PLAXIS, input is specified by a mixture of mouse clicking and moving, and by
keyboard input. In general, distinction can be made between four types of input:
Input of geometry objects (e.g. drawing a soil layer) Input of text (e.g. entering a project name) Input of values (e.g. entering the soil unit weight) Input of selections (e.g. choosing a soil model) The mouse is generally used for drawing and selection purposes, whereas the keyboard
is used to enter text and values.
2.3.1 INPUT OF GEOMETRY OBJECTS The creation of a geometry model is based on the input of points and lines. This is done
by means of a mouse pointer in the draw area. Several geometry objects are available
from the menu or from the toolbar. The input of most of the geometry objects is based
on a line drawing procedure. In any of the drawing modes, lines are drawn by clicking
the left mouse button in the draw area. As a result, a first point is created. On moving the
mouse and left clicking with the mouse again, a new point is created together with a line
from the previous point to the new point. The line drawing is finished by clicking the
right mouse button, or by pressing the <Esc> key on the keyboard.
2.3.2 INPUT OF TEXT AND VALUES As for any software, some input of values and text is required. The required input is
specified in the edit boxes. Multiple edit boxes for a specific subject are grouped in
windows. The desired text or value can be typed on the keyboard, followed by the
<Enter> key or the <Tab> key. As a result, the value is accepted and the next input field
is highlighted. In some countries, like The Netherlands, the decimal dot in floating point
values is represented by a comma. The type of representation that occurs in edit boxes
and tables depends on the country setting of the operating system. Input of values must
be given in accordance with this setting.
Many parameters have default values. These default values may be used by pressing the
<Enter> key without other keyboard input. In this manner, all input fields in a window
can be entered until the <OK> button is reached. Clicking the <OK> button confirms all
values and closes the window. Alternatively, selection of another input field, using the
mouse, will result in the new input value being accepted. Input values are confirmed by
left clicking the <OK> button with the mouse.
Pressing the <Esc> key or left clicking the <Cancel> button will cancel the input and
restore the previous or default values before closing the window.
The spin edit feature is shown in Figure 2.2. Just like a normal input field a value can be
entered by means of the keyboard, but it is also possible to left-click the ▲ or ▼ arrows 2-3 TUTORIAL MANUAL
at the right side of each spin edit to increase or decrease its value by a predefined
amount. Figure 2.2 Spin edits
2.3.3 INPUT OF SELECTIONS Selections are made by means of radio buttons, check boxes or combo boxes as
described below. Figure 2.3 Radio buttons Figure 2.4 Check boxes Figure 2.5 Combo boxes Radio buttons:
In a window with radio buttons only one item may be active. The active
selection is indicated by a black dot in the white circle in front of the item.
2-4 PLAXIS Version 8 GETTING STARTED
Selection is made by clicking the left mouse button in the white circle or by
using the up and down arrow keys on the keyboard. When changing the
existing selection to one of the other options, the 'old' selection will be
deselected. An example of a window with radio buttons is shown in Figure 2.3.
According to the selection in Figure 2.3 the Pore pressure distribution is set to
General phreatic level. Check boxes:
In a window with check boxes more than one item may be selected at the same
time. The selection is indicated by a black tick mark in a white square.
Selection is made by clicking the left mouse button in the white square or by
pressing the space bar on the keyboard. Another click on a preselected item
will deselect the item. An example of three check boxes is shown in Figure 2.4. Combo boxes:
A combo box is used to choose one item from a predefined list of possible
choices. An example of a window with combo boxes is shown in Figure 2.5. As
soon as the ▼ arrow at the right hand side of the combo box is left clicked with
the mouse, a pull down list occurs that shows the possible choices. A combo
box has the same functionality as a group of radio buttons but it is more
2.3.4 STRUCTURED INPUT The required input is organised in a way to make it as logical as possible. The Windows
environment provides several ways of visually organising and presenting information on
the screen. To make the reference to typical Windows elements in the next chapters
easier, some types of structured input are described below. Page control and tab sheets:
An example of a page control with three tab sheets is shown in Figure 2.6. In
this figure the second tab sheet for the input of the model parameters of the
Mohr-Coulomb soil model is active. Tab sheets are used to handle large
amounts of different types of data that do not all fit in one window. Tab sheets
can be activated by left-clicking the corresponding tab or using <Ctrl><Tab>
on the keyboard. Group boxes:
Group boxes are rectangular boxes with a title. They are used to cluster input
items that have common features. In Figure 2.6, the active tab sheet contains
three group boxes named Stiffness, Strength and Alternatives. 2-5 TUTORIAL MANUAL Figure 2.6 Page control and tab sheets 2.4 STARTING THE PROGRAM
It is assumed that the program has been installed using the procedures described in the
General Information part of the manual. It is advisable to create a separate directory in
which data files are stored. PLAXIS can be started by double-clicking the Plaxis input
icon in the PLAXIS program group. The user is asked whether to define a new problem or
to retrieve a previously defined project. If the latter option is chosen, the program lists
four of the most recently used projects from which a direct choice can be made.
Choosing the item <<more files>> that appears first in this list will give a file requester
from which the user can choose any previously defined project for modification.
2.4.1 GENERAL SETTINGS If a new project is to be defined, the General settings window as shown in Figure 2.7
appears. This window consists of two tab sheets. In the first tab sheet miscellaneous
settings for the current project have to be given. A filename has not been specified here;
this can be done when saving the project.
The user can enter a brief description of the problem as the title of the project as well as
a more extended description in the Comments box. The title is used as a proposed file
name and appears on output plots. The comments box is simply a convenient place to
store information about the analysis. In addition, the type of analysis and the type of
elements must be specified. Optionally, a separate acceleration, in addition to gravity,
can be specified for a pseudo-static simulation of dynamics forces.
2-6 PLAXIS Version 8 GETTING STARTED Figure 2.7 General settings - Project tab sheet Figure 2.8 General settings - Dimensions tab sheet
The second tab sheet is shown in Figure 2.8. In addition to the basic units of Length,
Force and Time, the minimum dimensions of the draw area must be given here, such
that the geometry model will fit the draw area. The general system of axes is such that
the x-axis points to the right, the y-axis points upward and the z-axis points towards the
user. In PLAXIS a two-dimensional model is created in the (x,y)-plane. The z-axis is used
2-7 TUTORIAL MANUAL
for the output of stresses only. Left is the lowest x-coordinate of the model, Right the
highest x-coordinate, Bottom the lowest y-coordinate and Top the highest y-coordinate of
In practice, the draw area resulting from the given values will be larger than the values
given in the four spin edits. This is partly because PLAXIS will automatically add a small
margin to the dimensions and partly because of the difference in the width/height ratio
between the specified values and the screen.
2.4.2 CREATING A GEOMETRY MODEL When the general settings are entered and the <OK> button is clicked, the main Input
window appears. This main window is shown in Figure 2.9. The most important parts of
the main window are indicated and briefly discussed below. Main Menu Toolbar (General) Toolbar (Geometry)
Ruler Ruler Draw area Origin Manual Input Cursor position indicator Figure 2.9 Main window of the Input program Main menu:
The main menu contains all the options that are available from the toolbars, and
some additional options that are not frequently used. 2-8 PLAXIS Version 8 GETTING STARTED Tool bar (General):
This tool bar contains buttons for general actions like disk operations, printing,
zooming or selecting objects. It also contains buttons to start the other
programs of the PLAXIS package (Calculations, Output and Curves). Tool bar (Geometry):
This tool bar contains buttons for actions that are related to the creation of a
geometry model. The buttons are ordered in such a way that, in general,
following the buttons on the tool bar from the left to the right results in a
completed geometry model. Rulers:
At both the left and the top of the draw area, rulers indicate the physical
coordinates, which enables a direct view of the geometry dimensions. Draw area:
The draw area is the drawing sheet on which the geometry model is created.
The draw area can be used in the same way as a conventional drawing program.
The grid of small dots in the draw area can be used to snap to regular positions. Origin:
If the physical origin is within the range of given dimensions, it is represented
by a small circle, with an indication of the x- and y-axes. Manual input:
If drawing with the mouse does not give the desired accuracy, then the Manual
input line can be used. Values for x- and y-coordinates can be entered here by
typing the corresponding values separated by a space. The manual input can
also be used to assign new coordinates to a selected point or refer to an existing
geometry point by entering its point number. Cursor position indicator:
The cursor position indicator gives the current position of the mouse cursor
both in physical units and screen pixels.
Some of the objects mentioned above can be removed by deselecting the corresponding
item from the View menu.
For both toolbars, the name and function of the buttons is shown after positioning the
mouse cursor on the corresponding button and keeping the mouse cursor still for about a
second; a hint will appear in a small yellow box below the button. The available hints
for both toolbars are shown in Figure 2.10. In this Tutorial Manual, buttons will be
referred to by their corresponding hints. 2-9 TUTORIAL MANUAL Go to calculation program Go to curves program Go to output program New Open Save Print Zoom out Selection Undo Geometry Hinge and
Geogrid Node-to-node Tunnel Rotation fixity
Load system A
designer Plate Standard
Interface Fixed-end Standard
Displacement Load system B Point Load
system A Point Load
system B Drain Material sets Well Generate
mesh Define initial
conditions Figure 2.10 Toolbars
Help can be obtained from the user interface by pressing <F1> on the keyboard. This
will provide background information on the selected part of the program.
For detailed information on the creation of a complete geometry model, the reader is
referred to the various lessons that are described in this Tutorial Manual. 2-10 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
3 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1) In the previous chapter some general aspects and basic features of the PLAXIS program
were presented. In this chapter a first application is considered, namely the settlement of
a circular foundation footing on sand. This is the first step in becoming familiar with the
practical use of the program. The general procedures for the creation of a geometry
model, the generation of a finite element mesh, the execution of a finite element
calculation and the evaluation of the output results are described here in detail. The
information provided in this chapter will be utilised in the later lessons. Therefore, it is
important to complete this first lesson before attempting any further tutorial examples.
3.1 GEOMETRY Figure 3.1 Geometry of a circular footing on a sand layer
A circular footing with a radius of 1.0 m is placed on a sand layer of 4.0 m thickness as
shown in Figure 3.1. Under the sand layer there is a stiff rock layer that extends to a
large depth. The purpose of the exercise is to find the displacements and stresses in the
soil caused by the load applied to the footing. Calculations are performed for both rigid
and flexible footings. The geometry of the finite element model for these two situations
is similar. The rock layer is not included in the model; instead, an appropriate boundary
condition is applied at the bottom of the sand layer. To enable any possible mechanism
in the sand and to avoid any influence of the outer boundary, the model is extended in
horizontal direction to a total radius of 5.0 m.
3.2 CASE A: RIGID FOOTING
In the first calculation, the footing is considered to be very stiff and rough. In this
calculation the settlement of the footing is simulated by means of a uniform indentation
3-1 TUTORIAL MANUAL
at the top of the sand layer instead of modelling the footing itself. This approach leads to
a very simple model and is therefore used as a first exercise, but it also has some
disadvantages. For example, it does not give any information about the structural forces
in the footing. The second part of this lesson deals with an external load on a flexible
footing, which is a more advanced modelling approach.
3.2.1 CREATING THE INPUT Start PLAXIS by double-clicking the icon of the Input program. A Create/Open project
dialog box will appear in which you can select an existing project or create a new one.
Choose a New project and click the <OK> button. Now the General settings window
appears, consisting of the two tab sheets Project and Dimensions (see Figure 3.3 and
Figure 3.4). Figure 3.2 Create/Open project dialog box General Settings
The first step in every analysis is to set the basic parameters of the finite element model.
This is done in the General settings window. These settings include the description of
the problem, the type of analysis, the basic type of elements, the basic units and the size
of the draw area. To enter the appropriate settings for the footing calculation follow
• In the Project tab sheet, enter “Lesson 1” in the Title box and type “Settlements
of a circular footing” in the Comments box. • In the General box the type of the analysis (Model) and the basic element type
(Elements) are specified. Since this lesson concerns a circular footing, choose
Axisymmetry from the Model combo box and select 15-node from the Elements
combo box. 3-2 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1) Figure 3.3 Project tab sheet of the General settings window
• The Acceleration box indicates a fixed gravity angle of -90°, which is in the
vertical direction (downward). In addition to the normal gravity, independent
acceleration components may be entered for pseudo-dynamic analyses. These
values should be kept zero for this exercise. Click the <Next> button below the
tab sheets or click the Dimensions tab. • In the Dimensions tab sheet, keep the default units in the Units box (Unit of
Length = m; Unit of Force = kN; Unit of Time = day). • In the Geometry dimensions box the size of the required draw area must be
entered. When entering the upper and lower coordinate values of the geometry
to be created, PLAXIS will add a small margin so that the geometry will fit well
within the draw area. Enter 0.0, 5.0, 0.0 and 4.0 in the Left, Right, Bottom and
Top edit boxes respectively. • The Grid box contains values to set the grid spacing. The grid provides a
matrix of dots on the screen that can be used as reference points. It may also be
used for snapping to regular points during the creation of the geometry. The
distance between the dots is determined by the Spacing value. The spacing of
snapping points can be further divided into smaller intervals by the Number of
intervals value. Enter 1.0 for the spacing and 1 for the intervals. • Click the <OK> button to confirm the settings. Now the draw area appears in
which the geometry model can be drawn. 3-3 TUTORIAL MANUAL Figure 3.4 Dimensions tab sheet of the General settings window Hint: In the case of a mistake or for any other reason that the general settings need
to be changed, you can access the General settings window by selecting the
General settings option from the File menu. Geometry Contour
Once the general settings have been completed, the draw area appears with an indication
of the origin and direction of the system of axes. The x-axis is pointing to the right and
the y-axis is pointing upward. A geometry can be created anywhere within the draw
area. To create objects, you can either use the buttons from the toolbar or the options
from the Geometry menu. For a new project, the Geometry line button is already active.
Otherwise this option can be selected from the second toolbar or from the Geometry
menu. In order to construct the contour of the proposed geometry, follow these steps:
Select the Geometry line option (already pre-selected).
• Position the cursor (now appearing as a pen) at the origin of the axes. Check
that the units in the status bar read 0.0 x 0.0 and click the left mouse button
once. The first geometry point (number 0) has now been created. • Move along the x-axis to position (5.0; 0.0). Click the left mouse button to
generate the second point (number 1). At the same time the first geometry line
is created from point 0 to point 1. • Move upward to position (5.0; 4.0) and click again. • Move to the left to position (0.0; 4.0) and click again. 3-4 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
• Finally, move back to the origin (0.0; 0.0) and click the left mouse button
again. Since the latter point already exists, no new point is created, but only an
additional geometry line is created from point 3 to point 0. PLAXIS will also
detect a cluster (area that is fully enclosed by geometry lines) and will give it a
light colour. • Click the right mouse button to stop drawing.
Hint: Mispositioned points and lines can be modified or deleted by first choosing
the Selection button from the toolbar. To move a point or line, select the point
or the line and drag it to the desired position. To delete a point or a line, select
the point or the line and press the <Delete> button on the keyboard.
Unwanted drawing operations can be removed by clicking the Undo button
from the toolbar or by selecting the Undo option from the Edit menu or by
pressing <Ctrl><Z> on the keyboard.
Lines can be drawn perfectly horizontal or vertical by holding down the
<Shift> key on the keyboard while moving the cursor. The proposed geometry does not include plates, hinges, geogrids, interfaces, anchors or
tunnels. Hence, you can skip these buttons on the second toolbar.
Hint: The full geometry model has to be completed before a finite element mesh
can be generated. This means that boundary conditions and model parameters
must be entered and applied to the geometry model first. Boundary Conditions
Boundary conditions can be found in the centre part of the second toolbar and in the
Loads menu. For deformation problems two types of boundary conditions exist:
Prescribed displacements and prescribed forces (loads).
In principle, all boundaries must have one boundary condition in each direction. That is
to say, when no explicit boundary condition is given to a certain boundary (a free
boundary), the natural condition applies, which is a prescribed force equal to zero and a
To avoid the situation where the displacements of the geometry are undetermined, some
points of the geometry must have prescribed displacements. The simplest form of a
prescribed displacement is a fixity (zero displacement), but non-zero prescribed
displacements may also be given. In this problem the settlement of the rigid footing is
simulated by means of non-zero prescribed displacements at the top of the sand layer. 3-5 TUTORIAL MANUAL Figure 3.5 Geometry model in the Input window
To create the boundary conditions for this lesson, follow these steps:
Click the Standard fixities button on the toolbar or choose the Standard fixities
option from the Loads menu to set the standard boundary conditions.
• As a result PLAXIS will generate a full fixity at the base of the geometry and
roller conditions at the vertical sides (ux=0; uy=free). A fixity in a certain
direction appears on the screen as two parallel lines perpendicular to the fixed
direction. Hence, roller supports appear as two vertical parallel lines and full
fixity appears as crosshatched lines.
Hint: The Standard fixities option is suitable for most geotechnical applications. It
is a fast and convenient way to input standard boundary conditions.
Select the Prescribed displacements button from the toolbar or select the
corresponding option from the Loads menu. • Move the cursor to point (0.0; 4.0) and click the left mouse button. • Move along the upper geometry line to point (1.0; 4.0) and click the left mouse
button again. • Click the right button to stop drawing. 3-6 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
In addition to the new point (4), a prescribed downward displacement of 1 unit (1.0 m)
in a vertical direction and a fixed horizontal displacement are created at the top of the
geometry. Prescribed displacements appear as a series of arrows starting from the
original position of the geometry and pointing in the direction of movement.
Hint: The input value of a prescribed displacement may be changed by first clicking
the Selection button and then double-clicking the line at which a prescribed
displacement is applied. On selecting Prescribed displacements from the
Select dialog box, a new window will appear in which the changes can be
The prescribed displacement is actually activated when defining the
calculation stages (Section 3.2.2). Initially it is not active. Material data sets
In order to simulate the behaviour of the soil, a suitable soil model and appropriate
material parameters must be assigned to the geometry. In PLAXIS, soil properties are
collected in material data sets and the various data sets are stored in a material database.
From the database, a data set can be appointed to one or more clusters. For structures
(like walls, plates, anchors, geogrids, etc.) the system is similar, but different types of
structures have different parameters and therefore different types of data sets.
PLAXIS distinguishes between material data sets for Soil & Interfaces, Plates, Anchors
The creation of material data sets is generally done after the input of boundary
conditions. Before the mesh is generated, all material data sets should have been defined
and all clusters and structures must have an appropriate data set assigned to them.
Table 3.1 Material properties of the sand layer
Type of material behaviour
Soil unit weight above phreatic level
Soil unit weight below phreatic level
Permeability in horizontal direction
Permeability in vertical direction
Young's modulus (constant)
Dilatancy angle Name
° 3-7 TUTORIAL MANUAL
The input of material data sets can be selected by means of the Material Sets button on
the toolbar or from the options available in the Materials menu.
To create a material set for the sand layer, follow these steps:
Select the Material Sets button on the toolbar.
• Click the <New> button at the lower side of the Material Sets window. A new
dialog box will appear with three tab sheets: General, Parameters and
Interfaces (see Figure 3.6 and Figure 3.7). Figure 3.6 General tab sheet of the soil and interface data set window
• In the Material Set box of the General tab sheet, write “Sand” in the
Identification box. • Select Mohr-Coulomb from the Material model combo box and Drained from
the Material type combo box (default parameters). • Enter the proper values in the General properties box and the Permeability box
according to the material properties listed in Table 3.1. • Click the <Next> button or click the Parameters tab to proceed with the input
of model parameters. The parameters appearing on the Parameters tab sheet
depend on the selected material model (in this case the Mohr-Coulomb model). See the Material Models manual for a detailed description of different soil models and
their corresponding parameters.
3-8 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1) Figure 3.7 Parameters tab sheet of the soil and interface data set window
• Enter the model parameters of Table 3.1 in the corresponding edit boxes of the
Parameters tab sheet. • Since the geometry model does not include interfaces, the third tab sheet can be
skipped. Click the <OK> button to confirm the input of the current material
data set. Now the created data set will appear in the tree view of the Material
Sets window. • Drag the data set “Sand” from the Material Sets window (select it and hold
down the left mouse button while moving) to the soil cluster in the draw area
and drop it (release the left mouse button). Notice that the cursor changes shape
to indicate whether or not it is possible to drop the data set. Correct assignment
of a data set to a cluster is indicated by a change in colour of the cluster. • Click the <OK> button in the Material Sets window to close the database.
Hint: PLAXIS distinguishes between a project database and a global database of
material sets. Data sets may be exchanged from one project to another using
the global database. The data sets of all lessons in this Tutorial Manual are
stored in the global database during the installation of the program. To copy
an existing data set, click the <Global> >>> button of the Material Sets
window. Drag the appropriate data set (in this case “Lesson 1 sand”) from the
tree view of the global database to the project database and drop it. Now the
global data set is available for the current project. Similarly, data sets created
in the project database may be dragged and dropped in the global database. 3-9 TUTORIAL MANUAL Hint: Existing data sets may be changed by opening the material sets window,
selecting the data set to be changed from the tree view and clicking the
<Edit> button. As an alternative, the material sets window can be opened by
double-clicking a cluster and clicking the <Change> button behind the
Material set box in the properties window. A data set can now be assigned to
the corresponding cluster by selecting it from the project database tree view
and clicking the <Apply> button.
The program performs a consistency check on the material parameters and
will give a warning message in the case of a detected inconsistency in the
data. Mesh Generation
When the geometry model is complete, the finite element model (or mesh) can be
generated. PLAXIS allows for a fully automatic mesh generation procedure, in which the
geometry is divided into elements of the basic element type and compatible structural
elements, if applicable. Figure 3.8 Axisymmetric finite element mesh of the geometry around the footing
The mesh generation takes full account of the position of points and lines in the
geometry model, so that the exact position of layers, loads and structures is accounted
for in the finite element mesh. The generation process is based on a robust triangulation
3-10 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
principle that searches for optimised triangles and which results in an unstructured mesh.
Unstructured meshes are not formed from regular patterns of elements. The numerical
performance of these meshes, however, is usually better than structured meshes with
regular arrays of elements. In addition to the mesh generation itself, a transformation of
input data (properties, boundary conditions, material sets, etc.) from the geometry model
(points, lines and clusters) to the finite element mesh (elements, nodes and stress points)
In order to generate the mesh, follow these steps:
Click the Generate mesh button in the toolbar or select the Generate option
from the Mesh menu.
After the generation of the mesh a new window is opened (Output window) in
which the generated mesh is presented (see Figure 3.8).
• Click the <Update> button to return to the geometry input mode.
Hint: The <Update> button must always be used to return to the geometry input,
even if the result from the mesh generation is not satisfactory.
Hint: By default, the Global coarseness of the mesh is set to Coarse, which is
adequate as a first approach in most cases. The Global coarseness setting can
be changed in the Mesh menu. In additional options are available to refine the
mesh globally or locally.
At this stage of input it is still possible to modify parts of the geometry or to
add geometry objects. If modifications are made at this stage, then the finite
element mesh has to be regenerated. If necessary, the mesh can be optimised by performing global or local refinements.
Mesh refinements are considered in some of the other lessons. Here it is suggested that
the current finite element mesh is accepted. Initial Conditions
Once the mesh has been generated, the finite element model is complete. Before starting
the calculations, however, the initial conditions must be generated. In general, the initial
conditions comprise the initial groundwater conditions, the initial geometry
configuration and the initial effective stress state. The sand layer in the current footing
project is dry, so there is no need to enter groundwater conditions. The analysis does,
however, require the generation of initial effective stresses by means of the K0procedure.
The initial conditions are entered in separate modes of the Input program. In order to
generate the initial conditions properly, follow these steps:
Click the Initial conditions button on the toolbar or select the Initial
conditions option from the Initial menu.
3-11 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• First a small window appears showing the default value of the unit weight of
water (10 kN/m3). Click <OK> to accept the default value. The groundwater
conditions mode appears. Note that the toolbar and the background of the
geometry have changed compared to the geometry input mode. The initial conditions option consists of two different modes: The water pressures mode
and the geometry configuration mode. Switching between these two modes is done by
the 'switch' in the toolbar.
Since the current project does not involve water pressures, proceed to the
geometry configuration mode by clicking the right hand side of the 'switch'
(Initial stresses and geometry configuration). A phreatic level is automatically
placed at the bottom of the geometry.
Click the Generate initial stresses button (red crosses) in the toolbar or select
the Initial stresses option from the Generate menu. The K0-procedure dialog
Keep the total multiplier for soil weight, ΣMweight, equal to 1.0. This means
that the full weight of the soil is applied for the generation of initial stresses.
Accept the default values of K0 as suggested by PLAXIS and click <OK>. • Figure 3.9 Initial stress field in the geometry around the footing Hint: The K0-procedure may only be used for horizontally layered geometries with
a horizontal ground surface and, if applicable, a horizontal phreatic level. See
Appendix A or the Reference Manual for more information on the K0procedure.
The default value of K0 is based on Jaky's formula: K0 = 1-sinϕ. If the value
was changed, the default value can be regained by entering a negative value
for K0. 3-12 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
• After the generation of the initial stresses the Output window is opened in
which the effective stresses are presented as principal stresses (see Figure 3.9).
The length of the lines indicates the relative magnitude of the principal stresses
and the orientation of the lines indicates the principal directions. Click the
<Update> button to return to the Input program geometry configuration mode.
After the generation of the initial stresses, the calculation can be defined. After
clicking the <Calculate> button, the user is asked to save the data on the hard
disk. Click the <Yes> button. The file requester now appears. Enter an
appropriate file name and click the <Save> button. 3.2.2 PERFORMING CALCULATIONS After clicking the <Calculate> button and saving the input data, the Input program is
closed and the Calculations program is started. The Calculations program may be used
to define and execute calculation phases. It can also be used to select calculated phases
for which output results are to be viewed. Figure 3.10 The Calculations window with the General tab sheet
The Calculations window consists of a menu, a toolbar, a set of tab sheets and a list of
calculation phases, as indicated in Figure 3.10.
The tab sheets (General, Parameters and Multipliers) are used to define a calculation
phase. This can be a loading, construction or excavation phase, a consolidation period or
3-13 TUTORIAL MANUAL
a safety analysis. For each project multiple calculation phases can be defined. All
defined calculation phases appear in the list at the lower part of the window. The tab
sheet Preview can be used to show the actual state of the geometry. A preview is only
available after calculation of the selected phase.
When the Calculations program is started directly after the input of a new project, a first
calculation phase is automatically inserted. In order to simulate the settlement of the
footing in this analysis, a plastic calculation is required. PLAXIS has a convenient
procedure for automatic load stepping, which is called Load Advancement. This
procedure can be used for most practical applications. Within the plastic calculation, the
prescribed displacements are activated to simulate the indentation of the footing. In
order to define the calculation phase, follow these steps:
• In the Phase ID box write (optionally) an appropriate name for the current
calculation phase (for example “Indentation”) and select the phase from which
the current phase should start (in this case the calculation can only start from
phase 0 - Initial phase). • In the General tab sheet, select Plastic from the Calculation type combo box. • Click the <Parameters> button or click the Parameters tab. Figure 3.11 The Calculations window with the Parameters tab sheet
• 3-14 The Parameters tab sheet contains the calculation control parameters, as
indicated in Figure 3.11. Keep the default value for the maximum number of
PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
Additional steps (250) and select the Standard setting from the Iterative
procedure box. See the Reference Manual for more information about the
calculation control parameters.
• From the Loading input box, select Staged Construction. • Click the <Define> button. • The Staged Construction window appears, showing the currently active
geometry configuration. Select the prescribed displacement by double-clicking
the top line. A dialog box will appear. Figure 3.12 The Prescribed Displacements dialog box in the Staged Construction
• In the Prescribed Displacement dialog box the magnitude and direction of the
prescribed displacement can be specified, as indicated in Figure 3.12. In this
case enter a Y-value of –0.1 in both input fields, signifying a downward
displacement of 0.1 m. All X-values should remain zero. Click <OK>. • Now click the <Update> button to return to the Parameters tab sheet of the
calculations window. The calculation definition is now complete. Before starting the first calculation it is
advisable to select nodes or stress points for a later generation of load-displacement
curves or stress and strain diagrams. To do this, follow these steps: 3-15 TUTORIAL MANUAL
Click the Select points for curves button on the toolbar. As a result, a window is
opened, showing all the nodes in the finite element model.
• Select the node at the top left corner. The selected node will be indicated by 'A'.
Click the <Update> button to return to the Calculations window. • In the Calculations window, click the <Calculate> button. This will start the
calculation process. All calculation phases that are selected for execution, as
indicated by the blue arrow (→) (only one phase in this case) will, in principle,
be executed in the order controlled by the Start from phase parameter. Figure 3.13 The calculations info window Hint: The <Calculate> button is only visible if a calculation phase that is selected
for execution is focused in the list.
During the execution of a calculation a window appears which gives information about
the progress of the actual calculation phase (see Figure 3.13). The information, which is
continuously updated, comprises a load-displacement curve, the level of the load
systems (in terms of total multipliers) and the progress of the iteration process (iteration
number, global error, plastic points, etc.). See the Reference Manual for more
information about the calculations info window.
3-16 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
When a calculation ends, the list of calculation phases is updated and a message appears
in the corresponding Log info memo box. The Log info memo box indicates whether or
not the calculation has finished successfully. The current calculation should give the
message 'Prescribed ultimate state fully reached'.
To check the applied load that results in the prescribed displacement of 0.1 m, click the
Multipliers tab and select the Reached values radio button. In addition to the reached
values of the multipliers in the two existing columns, additional information is presented
at the left side of the window. For the current application the value of Force-Y is
important. This value represents the total reaction force corresponding to the applied
prescribed vertical displacement, which corresponds to the total force under 1.0 radian
of the footing (note that the analysis is axisymmetric). In order to obtain the total footing
force, the value of Force-y should be multiplied by 2π (this gives a value of about 1100
Hint: Calculation phases may be added, inserted or deleted using the <Next>,
<Insert> and <Delete> buttons half way the Calculations window.
Check the list of calculation phases carefully after each execution of a (series
of) calculation(s). A successful calculation is indicated in the list with a green
check mark (√) whereas an unsuccessful calculation is indicated with a red
cross (×). Calculation phases that are selected for execution are indicated by a
blue arrow (→).
When a calculation phase is focused that is indicated by a green check mark
or a red cross, the toolbar shows the <Output> button, which gives direct
access to the Output program. When a calculation phase is focused that is
indicated by a blue arrow, the toolbar shows the <Calculate> button. 3.2.3 VIEWING OUTPUT RESULTS Once the calculation has been completed, the results can be evaluated in the Output
program. In the Output window you can view the displacements and stresses in the full
geometry as well as in cross sections and in structural elements, if applicable.
The computational results are also available in tabulated form. To view the results of the
footing analysis, follow these steps:
• Click the last calculation phase in the Calculations window. In addition, click
the <Output> button in the toolbar. As a result, the Output program is started,
showing the deformed mesh (which is scaled to ensure that the deformations
are visible) at the end of the selected calculation phase, with an indication of
the maximum displacement (see Figure 3.14). • Select Total displacements from the Deformations menu. The plot shows the
total displacements of all nodes as arrows, with an indication of their relative
magnitude. 3-17 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• The presentation combo box in the toolbar currently reads Arrows. Select
Shadings from this combo box. The plot shows colour shadings of the total
displacements. An index is presented with the displacement values at the colour
boundaries. • Select Contours from the presentation combo box in the toolbar. The plot
shows contour lines of the total displacements, which are labelled. An index is
presented with the displacement values corresponding to the labels. Figure 3.14 Deformed mesh Hint: In addition to the total displacements, the Deformations menu allows for the
presentation of Incremental displacements. The incremental displacements are
the displacements that occurred within one calculation step (in this case the
final step). Incremental displacements may be helpful in visualising an
eventual failure mechanism.
• 3-18 Select Effective stresses from the Stresses menu. The plot shows the effective
stresses as principal stresses, with an indication of their direction and their
relative magnitude (see Figure 3.15).
PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
Hint: The plots of stresses and displacements may be combined with geometrical
features, as available in the Geometry menu. Figure 3.15 Principal stresses
Click the Table button on the toolbar. A new window is opened in which a
table is presented, showing the values of the Cartesian stresses in each stress
point of all elements.
3.3 CASE B: FLEXIBLE FOOTING
The project is now modified so that the footing is modelled as a flexible plate. This
enables the calculation of structural forces in the footing. The geometry used in this
exercise is the same as the previous one, except that additional elements are used to
model the footing. The calculation itself is based on the application of load rather than
prescribed displacements. It is not necessary to create a new model; you can start from
the previous model, modify it and store it under a different name. To perform this,
follow these steps: Modifying the geometry
Click the Go to Input button at the left hand side of the toolbar.
• Select the previous file (“lesson1” or whichever name it was given) from the
Create/Open project window. 3-19 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• Select the Save as option of the File menu. Enter a non-existing name for the
current project file and click the <Save> button. • Select the geometry line on which the prescribed displacement was applied and
press the <Del> key on the keyboard. Select Prescribed displacement from the
Select items to delete window and click the <Delete> button.
Click the Plate button in the toolbar. • Move to position (0.0; 4.0) and click the left mouse button. • Move to position (1.0; 4.0) and click the left mouse button, followed by the
right mouse button to finish the drawing. A plate from point 3 to point 4 is
created which simulates the flexible footing. Modifying the boundary conditions
Click the Distributed load - load system A button in the toolbar.
• Click point (0.0; 4.0) and then on point (1.0; 4.0). • Click the right mouse button to finish the input of distributed loads. Accept the
default input value of the distributed load (1.0 kN/m2 perpendicular to the
boundary). The input value will later be changed to the real value when the
load is activated. Adding material properties for the footing
Click the Material sets button.
• Select Plates from the Set type combo box in the Material Sets window. • Click the <New> button. A new window appears where the properties of the
footing can be entered. • Write “Footing” in the Identification box and select the Elastic material type. • Enter the properties as listed in Table 3.2. • Click the <OK> button. The new data set now appears in the tree view of the
Material Sets window. • Drag the set “Footing” to the draw area and drop it on the footing. Note that the
cursor changes shape to indicate that it is valid to drop the material set. • Close the database by clicking the <OK> button 3-20 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
Table 3.2. Material properties of the footing
Poisson's ratio Name
w ν Value
- Hint: If the Material Sets window is displayed over the footing and hides it, move
the window to another position so that the footing is clearly visible. Hint: The equivalent thickness is automatically calculated by PLAXIS from the
values of EA and EI. It cannot be entered by hand. Generating the mesh
Click the Mesh generation button to generate the finite element mesh. A
warning appears, suggesting that the water pressures and initial stresses should
be regenerated after regenerating the mesh. Click the <OK> button.
• After viewing the mesh, click the <Update> button.
Hint: Regeneration of the mesh results in a redistribution of nodes and stress points.
In general, existing stresses will not correspond with the new position of the
stress points. Therefore it is important to regenerate the initial water pressures
and initial stresses after regeneration of the mesh. Initial conditions
Back in the Geometry input mode, click the <Initial conditions> button.
Since the current project does not involve pore pressures, proceed to the
Geometry configuration mode by clicking the 'switch' in the toolbar.
Click the Generate initial stresses button, after which the K0-procedure dialog
• Keep ΣMweight equal to 1.0 and accept the default value of K0 for the single
cluster. • Click the <OK> button to generate the initial stresses. • After viewing the initial stresses, click the <Update> button. 3-21 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• Click the <Calculate> button and confirm the saving of the current project. Calculations
• In the General tab sheet, select for the Calculation type: Plastic. • Enter an appropriate name for the phase identification and accept 0 - initial
phase as the phase to start from. • In the Parameters tab sheet, select the Staged construction option and click the
<Define> button. • The plot of the active geometry will appear. Click the load to activate it. A
Select items dialog box will appear. Activate both the plate and the load by
checking the check boxes to the left.. • While the load is selected click the <Change> button at the bottom of the
dialog box. The distributed load – load system A dialog box will appear to set
the loads. Enter a Y-value of -350 kN/m2 for both geometry points. Note that
this gives a total load that is approximately equal to the footing force that was
obtained from the first part of this lesson. • (350 kN/m2 x π x (1.0 m)2 ≈ 1100 kN). • Close the dialog boxes and click <Update>.
Check the nodes and stress points for load-displacement curves to see if the
proper points are still selected (the mesh has been regenerated so the nodes
might have changed!). The top left node of the mesh should be selected. • Check if the calculation phase is marked for calculation by a blue arrow. If this
is not the case double-click the calculation phase or right click and select Mark
calculate from the pop-up menu. Click the <Calculate> button to start the
calculation. Viewing the results
• After the calculation the results of the final calculation step can be viewed by
clicking the <Output> button. Select the plots that are of interest. The
displacements and stresses should be similar to those obtained from the first
part of the exercise. • Double-click the footing. A new window opens in which either the
displacements or the bending moments of the footing may be plotted
(depending on the type of plot in the first window). • Note that the menu has changed. Select the various options from the Forces
menu to view the forces in the footing. 3-22 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
Hint: Multiple (sub-)windows may be opened at the same time in the Output
program. All windows appear in the list of the Window menu. PLAXIS follows
the Windows standard for the presentation of sub-windows (Cascade, Tile,
Minimize, Maximize, etc). See your Windows manual for a description of
these standard possibilities. Generating a load-displacement curve
In addition to the results of the final calculation step it is often useful to view a loaddisplacement curve. Therefore the fourth program in the PLAXIS package is used. In
order to generate the load-displacement curve as given in Figure 3.17, follow these
Click the Go to curves program button on the toolbar. This causes the Curves
program to start.
• Select New chart from the Create / Open project dialog box. • Select the file name of the latest footing project and click the <Open> button. Figure 3.16 Curve generation window
A Curve generation window now appears, consisting of two columns (x-axis and
y-axis), with multi select radio buttons and two combo boxes for each column. The
combination of selections for each axis determines which quantity is plotted along the
axis. 3-23 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• For the X-axis select the Displacement radio button, from the Point combo box
select A (0.00 / 4.00) and from the Type combo box Uy. Also select the Invert
sign check box. Hence, the quantity to be plotted on the x-axis is the vertical
displacement of point A (i.e. the centre of the footing). • For the Y-axis select the Multiplier radio button and from the Type combo box
select ΣMstage. Hence, the quantity to be plotted on the y-axis is the amount of
the specified changes that has been applied. Hence the value will range from 0
to 1, which means that 100% of the prescribed load (350 kN/m2) has been
applied and the prescribed ultimate state has been fully reached. • Click the <OK> button to accept the input and generate the load-displacement
curve. As a result the curve of Figure 3.17 is plotted in the Curves window.
Hint: The Curve settings window may also be used to modify the attributes or
presentation of a curve. Figure 3.17 Load-displacement curve for the footing 3-24 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENT OF A CIRCULAR FOOTING ON SAND (LESSON 1)
Hint: To re-enter the Curve generation window (in the case of a mistake, a desired
regeneration or modification) you can click the Change curve settings button
from the toolbar. As a result the Curve settings window appears, on which
you should click the <Regenerate> button. Alternatively, you may open the
Curve settings window by selecting the Curve option from the Format menu.
The Frame settings window may be used to modify the settings of the frame.
This window can be opened by clicking the Change frame settings button
from the toolbar or selecting the Frame option from the Format menu. Comparison between Case A and Case B
When comparing the calculation results obtained from Case A and Case B, it can be
noticed that the footing in Case B, for the same maximum load of 1100 kN, exhibited
more deformation than that for Case A. This can be attributed to the fact that in Case B a
finer mesh was generated due to the presence of a plate element. (By default, PLAXIS
generates smaller soil elements at the contact region with a plate element) In general,
geometries with coarse meshes may not exhibit sufficient flexibility, and hence may
experience less deformation. The influence of mesh coarseness on the computational
results is pronounced more in axisymmetric models. If, however, the same mesh was
used, the two results would match quite well. 3-25 TUTORIAL MANUAL 3-26 PLAXIS Version 8 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2)
4 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2) This lesson illustrates the use of PLAXIS for the analysis of submerged construction of an
excavation. Most of the program features that were used in Lesson 1 will be utilised here
again. In addition, some new features will be used, such as the use of interfaces and
anchor elements, the generation of water pressures and the use of multiple calculation
phases. The new features will be described in full detail, whereas the features that were
treated in Lesson 1 will be described in less detail. Therefore it is suggested that Lesson
1 should be completed before attempting this exercise.
This lesson concerns the construction of an excavation close to a river. The excavation is
carried out in order to construct a tunnel by the installation of prefabricated tunnel
segments. The excavation is 30 m wide and the final depth is 20 m. It extends in
longitudinal direction for a large distance, so that a plane strain model is applicable. The
sides of the excavation are supported by 30 m long diaphragm walls, which are braced
by horizontal struts at an interval of 5.0 m. Along the excavation a surface load is taken
into account. The load is applied from 2 meter from the diaphragm wall up to 7 meter
from the wall and has a magnitude of 5 kN/m2/m.
The upper 20 m of the subsoil consists of soft soil layers, which are modelled as a single
homogeneous clay layer. Underneath this clay layer there is a stiffer sand layer, which
extends to a large depth. 23 52 30 5 kN/m2/m 2 Strut 5 23 5 kN/m2/m 1
19 Clay to be excavated 10 Clay Diaphragm wall
Sand 10 Figure 4.1 Geometry model of the situation of a submerged excavation
The bottom of the problem to be analysed is taken at 40 m below the ground surface.
Since the geometry is symmetric, only one half (the left side) is considered in the
analysis. The excavation process is simulated in three separate excavation stages. The
diaphragm wall is modelled by means of a plate, such as used for the footing in the
previous lesson. The interaction between the wall and the soil is modelled at both sides 4-1 TUTORIAL MANUAL
by means of interfaces. The interfaces allow for the specification of a reduced wall
friction compared to the friction in the soil. The strut is modelled as a spring element for
which the normal stiffness is a required input parameter.
For background information on these new objects, see the Reference Manual.
To create the geometry model, follow these steps: General settings
• Start the Input program and select New project from the Create / Open project
dialog box. • In the Project tab sheet of the General settings window, enter an appropriate
title and make sure that Model is set to Plane strain and that Elements is set to
15-node. • In the Dimensions tab sheet, keep the default units (Length = m; Force = kN;
Time = day) and enter for the horizontal dimensions (Left, Right) 0.0 and 45.0
respectively and for the vertical dimensions (Bottom, Top) 0.0 and 40.0. Keep
the default values for the grid spacing (Spacing=1m; Number of intervals = 1). • Click the <OK> button after which the worksheet appears. Geometry contour, layers and structures
The geometry contour: Select the Geometry line button from the toolbar (this
should, in fact, already be selected for a new project). Move the cursor to the
origin (0.0; 0.0) and click the left mouse button. Move 45 m to the right (45.0;
0.0) and click again. Move 40 m up (45.0; 40.0) and click again. Move 45 m to
the left (0.0; 40.0) and click again. Finally, move back to the origin and click
again. A cluster is now detected. Click the right mouse button to stop drawing.
• The separation between the two layers: The Geometry line button is still
selected. Move the cursor to position (0.0; 20.0). Click the existing vertical
line. A new point (4) is now introduced. Move 45 m to the right (45.0; 20.0)
and click the other existing vertical line. Another point (5) is introduced and
now two clusters are detected.
The diaphragm wall: Select the Plate button from the toolbar. Move the cursor
to position (30.0; 40.0) at the upper horizontal line and click. Move 30 m down
(30.0; 10.0) and click. In addition to the point at the toe of the wall, another
point is introduced at the intersection with the middle horizontal line (layer
separation). Click the right mouse button to finish the drawing. 4-2 PLAXIS Version 8 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2)
The separation of excavation stages: Select the Geometry line button again.
Move the cursor to position (30.0; 38.0) at the wall and click. Move the cursor
15 m to the right (45.0; 38.0) and click again. Click the right mouse button to
finish drawing the first excavation stage. Now move the cursor to position
(30.0; 30.0) and click. Move to (45.0; 30.0) and click again. Click the right
mouse button to finish drawing the second excavation stage.
Hint: Within the geometry input mode it is not strictly necessary to select the
buttons in the toolbar in the order that they appear from left to right. In this
case, it is more convenient to create the wall first and then enter the separation
of the excavation stages by means of a Geometry line.
When creating a point very close to a line, the point is usually snapped onto
the line, because the mesh generator cannot handle non-coincident points and
lines at a very small distance. This procedure also simplifies the input of
points that are intended to lie exactly on an existing line.
If the pointer is substantially mispositioned and instead of snapping onto an
existing point or line a new isolated point is created, this point may be
dragged (and snapped) onto the existing point or line by using the Selection
In general, only one point can exist at a certain coordinate and only one line
can exist between two points. Coinciding points or lines will automatically be
reduced to single points or lines. The procedure to drag points onto existing
points may be used to eliminate redundant points (and lines).
The interfaces: Click the Interface button on the toolbar or select the Interface
option from the Geometry menu. The shape of the cursor will change into a
cross with an arrow in each quadrant. The arrows indicate the side at which the
interface will be generated when the cursor is moved in a certain direction.
• Move the cursor (the centre of the cross defines the cursor position) to the top
of the wall (30.0; 40.0) and click the left mouse button. Move to the bottom of
the wall (30.0; 10.0) and click again. According to the position of the 'down'
arrow at the cursor, an interface is generated at the left hand side of the wall.
Similarly, the 'up' arrow is positioned at the right side of the cursor, so when
moving up to the top of the wall and clicking again, an interface is generated at
the right hand side of the wall. Move back to (30.0; 40.0) and click again. Click
the right mouse button to finish drawing.
Hint: The selection of an interface is done by selecting the corresponding geometry
line and subsequently selecting the corresponding interface (positive or
negative) from the Select dialog box. 4-3 TUTORIAL MANUAL Hint: Interfaces are indicated as dotted lines along a geometry line. In order to
identify interfaces at either side of a geometry line, a positive sign (⊕) or
negative sign ( ) is added. This sign has no physical relevance or influence
on the results.
The strut: Click the Fixed-end anchor button on the toolbar or select the Fixedend anchor option from the Geometry menu. Move the cursor to a position 1
metre below point 6 (30.0; 39.0) and click the left mouse button. A properties
window appears in which the orientation angle and the equivalent length of the
anchor can be entered. Enter an Equivalent length of 15 m (half the width of
the excavation) and click the <OK> button (the orientation angle remains 0°).
Hint: A fixed-end anchor is represented by a rotated T with a fixed size. This object
is actually a spring of which one end is connected to the mesh and the other
end is fixed. The orientation angle and the equivalent length of the anchor
must be directly entered in the properties window. The equivalent length is
the distance between the connection point and the position in the direction of
the anchor rod where the displacement is zero. By default, the equivalent
length is 1.0 unit and the angle is zero degrees (i.e. the anchor points in the
Clicking the 'middle bar' of the corresponding T selects an existing fixed-end
The surface load: Click the Distributed load – load system A. Move the cursor
to (23.0; 40.0) and click. Move the cursor 5 m to the right to (28.0; 40.0) and
click again. Right click to finish drawing. Click the Selection tool and doubleclick the distributed load and select Distributed Load (System A) from the list.
Enter Y-values of –5 kN/m2. Boundary Conditions
To create the boundary conditions, click the Standard fixities button on the
toolbar. As a result, the program will generate full fixities at the bottom and
vertical rollers at the vertical sides. These boundary conditions are in this case
appropriate to model the conditions of symmetry at the right hand boundary
(center line of the excavation). The geometry model so far is shown in Figure
4.2. 4-4 PLAXIS Version 8 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2) Figure 4.2 Geometry model in the Input window Material properties
After the input of boundary conditions, the material properties of the soil clusters and
other geometry objects are entered in data sets. Interface properties are included in the
data sets for soil (Data sets for Soil & interfaces). Two data sets need to be created; one
for the clay layer and one for the sand layer. In addition, a data set of the Plate type is
created for the diaphragm wall and a data set of the Anchor type is created for the strut.
To create the material data sets, follow these steps:
Click the Material sets button on the toolbar. Select Soil & interfaces as the Set
type. Click the <New> button to create a new data set.
• For the clay layer, enter 'Clay' for the Identification and select Mohr-Coulomb
as the Material model. Since only long-term effects of the excavation are
considered here, we will not take into account the undrained behaviour. Hence,
the material type is set to Drained. • Enter the properties of the clay layer, as listed Table 4.1, in the corresponding
edit boxes of the General and Parameters tab sheet.
Click the Interfaces tab. In the Strength box, select the Manual radio button.
Enter a value of 0.5 for the parameter Rinter. This parameter relates the strength
of the soil to the strength in the interfaces, according to the equations: tan ϕinterface = Rinter tan ϕsoil and cinter = Rinter csoil
4-5 TUTORIAL MANUAL
where: csoil = cref (see Table 4.1)
Hence, using the entered Rinter-value gives a reduced interface friction and
interface cohesion (adhesion) compared to the friction angle and the cohesion
in the adjacent soil.
Table 4.1. Material properties of the sand and clay layer and the interfaces
Parameter Name Material model Model Type of material behaviour
Soil unit weight above phreatic level
Soil unit weight below phreatic level
Permeability in hor. direction
Permeability in ver. direction
Young's modulus (constant)
Strength reduction factor inter. Type γunsat
- • For the sand layer, enter 'Sand' for the Identification and select Mohr-Coulomb
as the Material model. The material type should be set to Drained. • Enter the properties of the sand layer, as listed Table 4.1, in the corresponding
edit boxes of the General and Parameters tab sheet. • Click the Interfaces tab. In the Strength box, select the Manual radio button.
Enter a value of 0.67 for the parameter Rinter. Close the data set. • Drag the 'Sand' data set to the lower cluster of the geometry and drop it there.
Assign the 'Clay' data set to the remaining four clusters (in the upper 20 m). By
default, interfaces are automatically assigned the data set of the adjacent
Hint: Instead of accepting the default data sets of interfaces, data sets can directly
be assigned to interfaces in their properties window. This window appears
after double-clicking the corresponding geometry line and selecting the
appropriate interface from the Select dialog box. On clicking the <Change>
button behind the Material set parameter, the proper data set can be selected
from the Material sets tree view. 4-6 PLAXIS Version 8 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2)
Hint: In addition to the Material set parameter in the properties window, the Virtual
thickness factor can be entered. This is a purely numerical value, which can
be used to optimise the numerical performance of the interface. Nonexperienced users are advised not to change the default value. For more
information about interface properties see the Reference Manual.
• Set the Set type parameter in the Material sets window to Plates and click the
<New> button. Enter “Diaphragm wall” as an Identification of the data set and
enter the properties as given in Table 4.2. Click the <OK> button to close the
data set. • Drag the Diaphragm wall data set to the wall in the geometry and drop it as
soon as the cursor indicates that dropping is possible. Table 4.2. Material properties of the diaphragm wall (Plate)
Type of behaviour
Poisson's ratio Name
w ν Value
- Hint: The radio button Rigid in the Strength box is a direct option for an interface
with the same strength properties as the soil (Rinter = 1.0).
• Set the Set type parameter in the Material sets window to Anchors and click the
<New> button. Enter “Strut” as an Identification of the data set and enter the
properties as given in Table 4.3. Click the <OK> button to close the data set. • Drag the Strut data set to the anchor in the geometry and drop it as soon as the
cursor indicates that dropping is possible. Close the Material sets window. Table 4.3. Material properties of the strut (anchor)
Type of behaviour
Spacing out of plane
Maximum force Name
kN 4-7 TUTORIAL MANUAL Mesh Generation
In this lesson some simple mesh refinement procedures are used. In addition to a direct
global mesh refinement, there are simple possibilities for local refinement within a
cluster, on a line or around a point. These options are available from the Mesh menu. In
order to generate the proposed mesh, follow these steps:
Click the Generate mesh button in the toolbar. A few seconds later, a coarse
mesh is presented in the Output window. Click the <Update> button to return
to the geometry input.
• From the Mesh menu, select the Global coarseness option. The Element
distribution combo box is set to Coarse, which is the default setting. In order to
refine the global coarseness, one could select the next item from the combo box
(Medium) and click the <Generate> button. Alternatively, the Refine global
option from the Mesh menu could be selected. As a result, a finer mesh is
presented in the Output window. Click the <Update> button to return. • Corner points of structural elements may cause large displacement gradients.
Hence, it is good to make those areas finer than other parts of the geometry.
Click in the middle of the lowest part of the wall (single click). The selected
geometry line is now indicated in red. From the Mesh menu, select the option
Refine line. As a result, a local refinement of the indicated line is visible in the
presented mesh. Click the <Update> button to return.
Hint: The mesh settings are stored together with the rest of the input. On re-entering
an existing project and not changing the geometry configuration and mesh
settings, the same mesh can be regenerated by just clicking the Generate mesh
button on the toolbar. However, any slight change of the geometry will result
in a different mesh.
The Reset all option in the Mesh menu is used to restore the mesh generation
default setting (Global coarseness = Coarse and no local refinement). Initial conditions
The initial conditions of the current project require the generation of water pressures, the
deactivation of structures and loads and the generation of initial stresses. Water
pressures (pore pressures and water pressures on external boundaries) can be generated
in two different ways: A direct generation based on the input of phreatic levels and
groundwater heads or an indirect generation based on the results of a groundwater flow
calculation. The current lesson only deals with the direct generation procedure.
Generation based on groundwater flow is presented in the second part of the Lesson 4
(see Section 6.2).
Within the direct generation option there are several ways to prescribe the water
conditions. The simplest way is to define a general phreatic level, under which the water
pressure distribution is hydrostatic, based on the input of a unit water weight. The
general phreatic level is automatically assigned to all clusters for the generation of pore
4-8 PLAXIS Version 8 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2)
pressures. It is also used to generate external water pressures, if applicable. Instead of
the general phreatic level, individual clusters may have a separate phreatic level or an
interpolated pore pressure distribution. The latter advanced options will be demonstrated
in the first part of Lesson 3 (see Section 5.2). Here only a general phreatic level is
defined at 2.0 m below the ground surface.
In order to generate the proper initial pore pressures, follow these steps:
Click the Initial conditions button on the toolbar.
Hint: When a project is newly created, the water weight is presented directly on
entering the Groundwater mode. On re-entering an existing project the input
of the water weight can be accessed by selecting the Water weight option
from the Geometry menu in the Groundwater mode.
Click <OK> to accept the default value of the unit weight of water, which is 10
kN/m3. The Groundwater conditions mode then becomes active, in which the
Phreatic level button is already selected. By default, a General phreatic level is
generated at the bottom of the geometry.
• Move the cursor to position (0.0; 38.0) and click the left mouse button. Move
45 m to the right (45.0; 38.0) and click again. Click the right mouse button to
finish drawing. The plot now indicates a new General phreatic level 2.0 m
below the ground surface.
Hint: An existing phreatic level may be modified using the Selection button from
the toolbar. On deleting the General phreatic level (selecting it and pressing
the <Del> key on the keyboard), the default general phreatic level will be
created again at the bottom of the geometry. The graphical input or
modification of phreatic levels does not affect the existing geometry.
To create an accurate pore pressure distribution in the geometry, an additional
geometry line can be included corresponding with the level of the
groundwater head or the position of the phreatic level in a problem.
Click the Generate water pressures button (blue crosses) on the toolbar. Now
the Water pressure generation window appears. • From the Water pressure generation window, select the Phreatic level radio
button in the Generate by box and click the <OK> button. • After generating the water pressures, the result is displayed in the Output
window. Click the <Update> button to return to Groundwater conditions mode. After the generation of water pressures and before the generation of initial effective
stresses, parts of the geometry that are not active in the initial state must be deactivated.
This option is used initially to deactivate geometry parts (clusters or structural objects)
that are to be constructed at later calculation stages. PLAXIS will automatically
deactivate loads and structural elements in the initial geometry configuration.
4-9 TUTORIAL MANUAL
In the current project, the diaphragm wall and the anchor are initially not present and
should be inactivate for the initial geometry. The K0-procedure for the generation of
initial stresses will not take into account the inactivate geometry clusters.
Proceed to Geometry configuration mode by clicking the 'switch' in the toolbar.
• Check that the wall and the strut in the geometry are inactive. Inactive elements
are coloured grey. Make sure that all soil clusters remain active.
Hint: Inactive clusters are white, just like the background, whereas active clusters
have the colour of the corresponding material set. Inactive structural objects
are grey, whereas active structures have the basic colour as used during the
creation of the geometry model.
Click the Generate initial stresses button in the toolbar. The K0-procedure
dialog box appears. • Keep the total multiplier for soil weight equal to 1.0. Accept the default values
for K0 and click the <OK> button. • After the generation of the initial effective stresses, the result is displayed in the
Output window. Click the <Update> button to return to the Initial
configuration mode. • Click the <Calculate> button. Select <Yes> in response to the question about
saving the data and enter an appropriate file name. 4.2 CALCULATIONS
In practice, the construction of an excavation is a process that can consist of several
phases. First, the wall is installed to the desired depth. Then some excavation is carried
out to create space to install an anchor or a strut. Then the soil is gradually removed to
the final depth of the excavation. Special measures are usually taken to keep the water
out of the excavation. Props may also be provided to support the retaining wall.
In PLAXIS, these processes can be simulated with the Staged construction calculation
option. Staged construction enables the activation or deactivation of weight, stiffness
and strength of selected components of the finite element model. The current lesson
explains the use of this powerful calculation option for the simulation of excavations.
Hint: The Staged construction option is not only intended to simulate excavations
or constructions, but it can also be used to change the water pressure
distribution, to change material properties (to simulate soil improvement, for
example) or to improve the accuracy of previous computational results.
The excavation, as considered in this example, is to be carried out in five phases. The
separation of the three excavation phases was taken into account during the creation of
4-10 PLAXIS Version 8 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2)
the geometry model by introducing geometry lines in the appropriate positions. In order
to define the five calculation phases, follow these steps: Phase 1: External load
• In addition to the initial phase, the first calculation phase has also been
automatically created. In the General tab sheet, accept all defaults. • In the Parameters tab sheet, keep the default values for Control parameters and
Iterative procedure. Select Staged construction from the Loading input box. • Click the <Define> button. The Staged construction window now appears,
showing the currently active part of the geometry, which is the full geometry
except for the wall, strut and load. Click the wall to activate it (the wall should
become blue). In addition, click the load to activate it. The load has been
defined in Input as –5 kN/m2. You can check this by clicking the <Change>
Hint: You can also enter or change the values of the load at this time by doubleclicking the load and entering a value. If a load is applied on a structural
object such as a plate, load values can be changed by clicking the load or the
object. As a result a window appears in which you can select the load. Then
click the <Change> button to modify the load values. • Click the <Update> button to finish the definition of the construction phase. As
a result, the Staged construction window is closed and the Calculations
window reappears. The first calculation phase has now been defined and saved. Phase 2: First excavation stage
• Within the Calculations window, click the <Next> button. A new calculation
phase appears in the list. • Note that the program automatically presumes that the current phase should
start from the previous one. • In the General tab sheet, accept all defaults. Enter the Parameters tab sheet and
click the <Define> button to define the next Staged construction step. The
staged construction window now reappears. The load and the wall should be
active and marked as blue elements. Click the top right cluster in order to
deactivate it and simulate the first excavation step. • Click the <Update> button to finish the definition of the first excavation phase. Phase 3: Installation of strut
• To enter the third calculation phase, click <Next> and proceed as described
above. Again click <Define> to enter the Staged construction window. Now
activate the strut by clicking the horizontal line. The strut should turn black to
indicate it is active.
4-11 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• Click <Update> to return to the calculation program and define another
calculation phase. Phase 4: Second (submerged) excavation stage
• Keep all default settings and enter the Staged construction window. This phase
will simulate the excavation of the second part of the building pit. Deactivate
the second cluster from the top on the right side of the mesh. It should be the
topmost active cluster. Go to <Update> and define the final stage.
Hint: Note that in PLAXIS the pore pressures are not automatically deactivated when
deactivating a soil cluster. Hence, in this case, the water remains in the
excavated area and a submerged excavation is simulated. Phase 5: Third excavation stage
• The final calculation stage is to simulate the excavation of the last clay layer
inside the pit. Deactivate the third cluster from the top on the right hand side of
the mesh. Click <Update> to return to the Calculations window. Figure 4.3 The Calculations window with the Parameters tab sheet 4-12 PLAXIS Version 8 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2)
The calculation definition is now complete. Before starting the calculation it is
suggested that you select nodes or stress points for a later generation of loaddisplacement curves or stress and strain diagrams. To do this, follow the steps given
• Click the Select points for curves button on the toolbar. • Select some nodes on the wall at points where large deflections can be expected
(e.g. 30.0;30.0) and click the <Update> button. • In the Calculations window, click the Calculate button. The calculation process should now start. The program searches for the first calculation
phase that is selected for execution, which is <Phase 1>.
Hint: To select the desired nodes, it may be convenient to use the Zoom in option on
the toolbar to zoom into the area of interest.
During a Staged construction calculation, a multiplier called ΣMstage is increased from
0.0 to 1.0. This parameter is displayed on the calculation info window. As soon as
ΣMstage has reached the value 1.0, the construction stage is completed and the
calculation phase is finished. If a Staged construction calculation finishes while
ΣMstage is smaller than 1.0, the program will give a warning message. The most likely
reason for not finishing a construction stage is that a failure mechanism has occurred,
but there can be other causes as well. See the Reference Manual for more information
about Staged construction.
Hint: The Staged construction window is similar to the Initial conditions window of
the Input program. The main difference is that Initial conditions is used to
create an initial situation, whereas Staged construction is used as a type of
In this example, all calculation phases should successfully finish, which is indicated by
the green check boxes in the list. In order to check the values of the ΣMstage multiplier,
click the Multipliers tab and select the Reached values radio button. The ΣMstage
parameter is displayed at the bottom of the Other box that pops up. Verify that this value
is equal to 1.0. You also might wish to do the same for the other calculation phase.
4.3 VIEWING OUTPUT RESULTS
In addition to the displacements and the stresses in the soil, the Output program can be
used to view the forces in structural objects. To examine the results of this project,
follow these steps: 4-13 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• Click the final calculation phase in the Calculations window. • Click the <Output> button on the toolbar. As a result, the Output program is
started, showing the deformed mesh (scaled up) at the end of the selected
calculation phase, with an indication of the maximum displacement (Figure
4.4). The loads shown inside the excavation represent the remaining water
pressures. Figure 4.4 Deformed mesh after submerged excavation
• Select Total increments from the Deformations menu. The plot shows the
displacement increments of all nodes as arrows. The length of the arrows
indicates the relative magnitude. • The presentation combo box in the toolbar currently reads Arrows. Select
Shadings from this combo box. The plot should now show colour shadings of
the displacement increments. From this plot a zone of intense shearing is
visible behind the wall. • Select Effective stresses from the Stresses menu. The plot shows the magnitude
and direction of the principal effective stresses. The orientation of the principal
stresses indicates a large passive zone under the bottom of the excavation and a
small passive zone behind the strut (see Figure 4.5). 4-14 PLAXIS Version 8 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2) Figure 4.5 Principal stresses after excavation
To plot the shear forces and bending moments in the wall follow the steps given below.
• Double-click the wall. A new window is opened showing the bending moments
in the wall, with an indication of the maximum moment (see Figure 4.6). Note
that the menu has changed. Figure 4.6 Bending moments in the wall
4-15 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• Select Shear forces from the Forces menu. The plot now shows the shear
forces in the wall.
Hint: The Window menu may be used to switch between the window with the forces
in the wall and the stresses in the full geometry. This menu may also be used
to Tile or Cascade the two windows, which is a common option in a Windows
environment. • Select the first window (showing the effective stresses in the full geometry)
from the Window menu. Double-click the strut. A new window is now opened
showing the strut force in kN/m. This value must be multiplied by the out of
plane spacing of the struts to calculate the individual strut forces (in kN). • Click the Go to curves program button on the toolbar. As a result, the loaddisplacement curves program is started. • Select New chart from the Create / Open project dialog box and select the file
name of the excavation project from the file requester. • In the Curve generation window, select for the X-axis the Displacement radio
button and point A (e.g. 30.0;30.0) and from the Type combo box select the
item |U|. Select for the Y-axis the Multiplier radio button and from the Type
combo box ΣMstage. • Click the <OK> button to accept the input and generate the load-displacement
curve. As a result the curve of Figure 4.7 is plotted.
1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0
0.0 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.1 |U| [m] Figure 4.7 Load-displacement curve of deflection of wall
4-16 PLAXIS Version 8 SUBMERGED CONSTRUCTION OF AN EXCAVATION (LESSON 2)
The curve shows the construction stages. For each stage, the parameter ΣMstage
changes from 0.0 to 1.0. The decreasing slope the curve of the last stage indicates that
the amount of plastic deformation is increasing. The results of the calculation indicate,
however, that the excavation remains stable at the end of construction. 4-17 TUTORIAL MANUAL 4-18 PLAXIS Version 8 UNDRAINED RIVER EMBANKMENT (LESSON 3)
5 UNDRAINED RIVER EMBANKMENT (LESSON 3) River embankments may be subjected to varying water levels. The change in water level
and the resulting change in the pore pressure distribution influences the stability of the
embankment. PLAXIS may be used to analyse the influence of pore pressure changes on
the deformation and stability of geotechnical structures. This feature is used here to
study the behaviour of the river embankment during the increase of the water level, as
shown in Figure 5.1. A special problem related to such a situation is the possible uplift
of the lowlands behind the embankment. This is due to the fact that the light soft soil
layers cannot sustain the high pore pressures that arise in the permeable sand layer
below. This effect may reduce the stability of the embankment.
The embankment in Figure 5.1 is 5 m high and consists of relative impervious clay. The
upper 6 m of the subsoil consists of soft soil layers, of which the top 3 m is modelled as
a clay layer and the lower 3 m as a peat layer. The soft soil layers are nearly
impermeable, so a short-term variation in the river water level hardly influences the pore
pressure distribution in these layers. Below the soft soil layers there is a deep permeable
sand layer, of which the upper 4 m are included in the finite element model. It is
assumed that the water in the sand layer is in contact with the river, which means that
the hydraulic head in the sand layer follows the river water level variation closely. Figure 5.1 Geometry of the river embankment subjected to a changing water level 5.1 GEOMETRY MODEL
The geometry of Figure 5.1 is modelled with a plane strain geometry model. The finite
element mesh is based on the 15-node elements. The units used in this example are
meters for length, kiloNewton for force and day for time. The dimensions of the
geometry are 65 m in horizontal direction and 15 m in vertical direction. The full
geometry can be created using the Geometry line option. The Standard fixities option is
used to define the boundary conditions. The suggested geometry model is shown in
Figure 5.2. 5-1 TUTORIAL MANUAL 20 5 20 20 5
4 Figure 5.2 Geometry model of the river embankment project Material sets
Three material layers are adopted for the soil. The properties are given in Table 5.1.
Table 5.1. Material properties of the river embankment and subsoil
Type of behaviour
Soil unit weight above p.l.
Soil unit weight below p.l.
Dilatancy angle Name
Eref ν cref ϕ
° Open the material data base and create three data sets named 'Clay', 'Peat' and 'Sand'
with the model parameters as listed above. The interface properties are not relevant in
this example. Note that the Material type of the clay and peat layers is Undrained, 5-2 PLAXIS Version 8 UNDRAINED RIVER EMBANKMENT (LESSON 3)
whereas the sand layer is Drained. Drag the data sets to the respective layers in the
geometry model (see Figure 5.1). Mesh generation
This example, in which an uplift situation is modelled, is sensitive to the degree of
refinement of the mesh. Therefore the Global coarseness is set to Medium in the Mesh
menu. In addition, larger displacement gradients may be expected at the right hand
embankment toe. In order to model that part of the geometry more accurately, select the
geometry point of the embankment toe and select Refine around point from the Mesh
menu. As a result, the element size around the embankment toe is modified to half the
average element size. The generated mesh is shown in Figure 5.3. Figure 5.3 Finite element mesh of river embankment project Initial conditions
The geometry contains a non-horizontal soil surface. Therefore the K0-procedure
cannot be used to calculate the initial stress field. Instead the initial stresses must be
calculated by means of 'Gravity loading'. This is a calculation option that will be
explained in Section 5.2. The activation of water pressures is always done together with
the soil weight, but the generation of water pressures may be done in advance. In order
to generate the proper initial water pressures, follow these steps:
• Click the <Initial conditions> button. • Accept the default value of the water weight (10 kN/m3). • Enter a general phreatic level from point (0.0; 10.0) to point (65.0; 10.0). • Generate the pore pressures from the phreatic level by clicking the Generate
water pressures button and subsequently clicking the <OK> button. • In the Output window, check the pore pressure distribution and click the
<Update> button. • Back in the Input window, click directly on the <Calculate> button. Do not
generate the initial stresses according to the K0-procedure. • Save the input under an appropriate name. 5-3 TUTORIAL MANUAL
Hint: If initial stresses were generated by mistake, they can be reset by entering the
K0-procedure, entering a value of ΣMweight = 0 and pressing the <Generate>
button. 5.2 CALCULATIONS
The calculation consists of two phases. First the initial stress field has to be calculated
since this has not been done during the input of the initial conditions. The calculation of
the initial stresses can be done in a plastic calculation where the multiplier for the soil
weight is increased from 0.0 to 1.0. A calculation of this sort is called Gravity loading.
This procedure is recommended when the soil surface, the layering or the phreatic level
is non-horizontal. Gravity loading always results in an equilibrium stress state, whereas
the K0-procedure does not in the case of a non-horizontally layered subsoil. During
Gravity loading both the soil weight and the pore pressures (that were generated
previously) are activated.
Hint: Since the initial stresses are not subject to undrained behaviour, it is important
that undrained behaviour is disabled during gravity loading. This can be done
by selecting Ignore undrained behaviour in the Parameters tab sheet of the
In contrast to the K0-procedure, the calculation of initial stresses by means of
gravity loading results in displacements. These displacements are not realistic,
because the embankment is modelled as it appears in reality and the
calculation of the initial stresses should not influence the displacements
computed later in the analysis. These unrealistic displacements can be reset to
zero at the start of the next calculation phase by selecting Reset displacements
to zero in the next phase.
The second calculation phase is the increase of the river water level, and the pore
pressure, in the sand layer. This is done in the Staged construction mode. In order to
define the two calculation phases correctly, follow this procedure: Phase 1: Gravity loading
• For the first calculation phase, accept all default values of the General tab sheet
and advance to the next tab sheet. • In the Parameters tab sheet, select Ignore undrained behaviour in the Control
parameters box. Select Total multipliers in the Loading input box and click the
<Define> button. • In the Multipliers tab sheet, enter a value of 1.0 for ΣMweight (the multiplier
for the soil weight). 5-4 PLAXIS Version 8 UNDRAINED RIVER EMBANKMENT (LESSON 3) Phase 2: Raising the water level
• Click the <Next> button to create the next calculation phase. In this phase the
'Ultimate' situation as indicated in Figure 5.1 will be defined. • In the General tab sheet, accept all default values. The default setting is such
that the current phase starts from the results obtained from the previous phase. • In the Parameters tab sheet, select Reset displacements to zero in the Control
parameters box. This will eliminate the non-physical displacements resulting
from the first calculation phase. This operation, however, does not affect the
stresses. • Select Staged construction in the Loading input box and click the <Define>
button. • In the Geometry configuration window, click the left button of the 'Switch' to
arrive in the water pressure mode. • Enter a general phreatic level through the points (0.0; 15.0), (20.0; 15.0), (45.0;
10.0). This general phreatic level is only meant to generate the external water
pressures on the left side of the embankment (see also Figure 5.4). Individual
water conditions will now be assigned to the different layers. Figure 5.4 General phreatic level for generation of external water pressures
• Click the Selection button and select the cluster of the clay layer (including the
embankment). • While the clay layer cluster is marked, click the Phreatic level button and draw
a phreatic level through the points (0.0; 10.0), (65.0; 10.0). This 'Cluster
defined' phreatic level only applies to the indicated cluster (see Figure 5.5).
Figure 5.5 has been edited to only show the phreatic level for the clay layer.
The general phreatic level is not indicated. 5-5 TUTORIAL MANUAL Figure 5.5 Phreatic level for clay layer
• Click the Selection button and select the cluster of the sand layer. • While the sand layer is marked, click the Phreatic level button and draw a
phreatic level through the points (0.0; 15.0), (65.0; 13.0). This phreatic level
only applies to the sand layer cluster. Figure 5.6 only shows the phreatic level
for the sand layer; other phreatic levels are not indicated. Figure 5.6 Phreatic level for sand layer
• Click the Selection button and double-click, or click using the right mouse
button, the intermediate peat layer. As a result, a Cluster Pore pressures
distribution window appears. In the Pore pressure distribution box, there are
five radio buttons. By default the General phreatic level is selected. The other
options are Cluster phreatic level, Interpolate from adjacent clusters or lines,
Cluster dry and User defined pore pressure distribution. The Cluster phreatic
level option is automatically selected if a separate phreatic level is entered, as
described above. For the current cluster (the peat layer) you should select the
option Interpolate from adjacent clusters or lines (see also Figure 5.7). This
will result in a linear distribution from the pressure at the bottom of the upper
clay layer to the pressure at the top of the sand layer. Click the <OK> button to
close the window.
Hint: The phreatic level corresponding to a particular cluster is indicated in red as
soon as the cluster is selected. Clicking outside the geometry results in an
indication of the general phreatic level. If a cluster is selected where the
Interpolate... option applies, no phreatic level is indicated. 5-6 PLAXIS Version 8 UNDRAINED RIVER EMBANKMENT (LESSON 3) Figure 5.7 Definition of pore pressures for peat layer
• Click the Generate water pressures button to generate the water pressures
according to the ultimate situation. • The pore pressure distribution is presented as principal stresses (by means of
crosses) in the Output window. Click the Cross section button and draw a
vertical line through the top of the embankment to the bottom of the geometry.
As a result, the pore pressure distribution over all three layers is displayed in a
separate window. In addition to the hydrostatic part of the pore pressure
distribution in the clay and sand layers, the plot shows the linear increase in
pore pressure through the peat layer.
Hint: A cross section can be drawn perfectly horizontal or vertical by holding down
the <Shift> key while drawing the cross section. • Click the <Update> button to return to the geometry configuration. • In the geometry configuration, click the <Update> button to return to the
Calculations window. • Click the Select points for curves button. In the Output window, select suitable
points for load-displacement curves (for example the toe and crest points of the
embankment) and click the <Update> button. 5-7 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• In the Calculations window, click the <Calculate> button to start the
calculations. 5.3 OUTPUT
After the calculation has finished, click the <Output> button to view the results of the
second calculation phase. The Output program will now display the deformations of the
embankment due to the change of the water level. The plot clearly shows the uplift of
the soft soil layers behind the embankment and the movement of the embankment itself.
This becomes even clearer if you select Total increments from the Deformations menu
(see Figure 5.8). Figure 5.8 Displacement increments due to the change in water level
On selecting Effective stresses from the Stresses menu, it can be seen that at the top of
the sand layer at the right hand side of the model the effective stresses are nearly zero
(see Figure 5.9). This is due to the increase in pore pressures in the sand layer. From the
stress plot it can also be seen that the movement of the embankment causes a passive
stress state in the clay layer behind the embankment. Figure 5.9 Effective stresses in embankment after the increase of the water level
The undrained behaviour in the clay and peat layers causes excess pore pressures to
develop. The excess pore pressures can be viewed by selecting Excess pore pressures
from the Stresses menu (see Figure 5.10).
5-8 PLAXIS Version 8 UNDRAINED RIVER EMBANKMENT (LESSON 3) Figure 5.10 Excess pore pressures after the increase of the water level 5-9 TUTORIAL MANUAL 5-10 PLAXIS Version 8 DRY EXCAVATION USING A TIE BACK WALL (LESSON 4)
6 DRY EXCAVATION USING A TIE BACK WALL (LESSON 4) This example involves the dry construction of an excavation. The excavation is
supported by concrete diaphragm walls. The walls are tied back by pre-stressed ground
anchors. PLAXIS allows for a detailed modelling of this type of problem. It is
demonstrated in this example how ground anchors are modelled and how pre-stressing is
applied to the anchors. Moreover, the dry excavation involves a groundwater flow
calculation to generate the new water pressure distribution. This aspect of the analysis is
explained in detail.
The excavation is 20 m wide and 10 m deep. 15 m long concrete diaphragm walls of
0.35 m thickness are used to retain the surrounding soil. Two rows of ground anchors
are used at each wall to support the walls. The upper anchor has a total length of 14.5 m
and an inclination of 33.7° (2:3). The lower anchor is 10 m long and is installed at an
angle of 45°. On the left side of the excavation a surface load of 10 kN/m2 is taken into
account and on the right side a surface load of 5 kN/m2.
10 2 20 2 5
5 kPa 10 kPa
fill sand 3 Excavation level ground
5 loam Figure 6.1 Excavation supported by tie back walls
The relevant part of the soil consists of three distinct layers. From the ground surface to
a depth of 3 m there is a fill of relatively loose fine sandy soil. Underneath the fill, down
to a minimum depth of 15 m, there is a more or less homogeneous layer consisting of
dense well-graded sand. This layer is particular suitable for the installation of the ground
anchors. In the initial situation there is a horizontal phreatic level at 3 m below the
ground surface (i.e. at the base of the fill layer). Below the sand layer there is a loam
layer, which extends to large depth. 6-1 TUTORIAL MANUAL Geometry model
The problem can be modelled with a geometry model of 80 m width and 20 m
height. The proposed geometry model is given in Figure 6.2. A ground anchor
can be modelled by a combination of a node-to-node anchor and a geogrid
(yellow line). The geogrid simulates the grout body whereas the node-to-node
anchor simulates the anchor rod. In reality there is a complex three-dimensional
state of stress around the grout body. Although the precise stress state and
interaction with the soil cannot be modelled with this 2D model, it is possible
in this way to estimate the stress distribution, the deformations and the stability
of the structure on a global level, assuming that the grout body does not slip
relative to the soil. With this model it is certainly not possible to evaluate the
pullout force of the ground anchor.
The diaphragm walls are modelled as plates. The interfaces around the plates are used to
model soil-structure interaction effects. They are extended under the wall for 1.0 m.
Interfaces should not be used around the geogrid that represent the grout body.
Hint: In general, it is a good habit to extend interfaces around corners of structures
to allow for sufficient freedom of deformation and to obtain a more accurate
stress distribution. When doing so, make sure that the strength of the extended
part of the interface is equal to the soil strength and that the interface does not
influence the flow field, if applicable. The latter can be achieved by switching
off the extended part of the interface before performing a groundwater flow
The excavation is constructed in three excavation stages. The separation between the
stages is modelled by geometry lines. Create the basic geometry model as presented in
Figure 6.2. The standard fixities can be used to generate the proper boundary conditions.
18 10 2 20 25 23 3 3
(21.0; 11.0) 13 (18.0; 9.0) (59.0; 11.0) (26.0; 9.0) (62.0; 9.0)
(57.0; 6.0) (23.0; 6.0) 4 Geogrid (30.0; 4.0) (50.0; 4.0) 4
5 Figure 6.2 Geometry model of building pit 6-2 PLAXIS Version 8 DRY EXCAVATION USING A TIE BACK WALL (LESSON 4) Material properties
The soil consists of three distinct layers. Enter three data sets for soil & interfaces with
the parameters given in Table 6.1.
Hint: The extended part of an interface is not used for soil-structure interaction and
should therefore have the same strength as the surrounding soil. This can be
achieved with a strength reduction factor Rinter = 1.0, which is automatically
adopted in the Rigid selection. If necessary, a separate material data set must
be created for the extended part of an interface. In addition, the extended part
of an interface should not influence the flow field. This is achieved by
deactivating the interface when generating the pore pressures.
The properties of the concrete diaphragm wall are entered in a material set of the Plate
type. The concrete has a Young's modulus of 35 GPa and the wall is 0.35 m thick. The
properties are listed in Table 6.2.
Table 6.1. Soil and interface properties
Type of material behaviour
Soil unit weight above p.l.
Soil unit weight below p.l.
Interface reduction factor Name
- Table 6.2. Properties of the diaphragm wall (plate)
Type of behaviour
Poisson's ratio Name
6-3 TUTORIAL MANUAL
For the properties of the ground anchors, two material data sets are needed: One of the
Anchor type and one of the Geogrid type. The Anchor data set contains the properties of
the anchor rod and the Geogrid data set contains the properties of the grout body. The
data are listed in Tables 6.3 and 6.4.
Table 6.3. Properties of the anchor rod (node-to-node anchor)
Type of behaviour
Spacing out of plane
Maximum force Name
kN/m Table 6.4. Property of the grout body (geogrid)
Type of behaviour
Normal stiffness Name
EA 1⋅105 Mesh generation
For the generation of the mesh it is advisable to set the Global coarseness parameter to
Medium. In addition, it is expected that stress concentrations will occur around the two
grout bodies, and so a local refinement is proposed here. Select the four geogrids
simultaneously (use the <Shift> key) and select Refine line from the Mesh menu. This
process results in a mesh of approximately 590 elements. Initial conditions
In the initial conditions, a water weight of 10 kN/m3 is entered. The initial water
pressures are generated on the basis of a horizontal general phreatic level at y = 17 m
(through points (0; 17.0) and (80.0; 17.0).
Initially, all structural components are inactive. Hence, make sure that the plates, the
node-to-node anchors and the geogrids are deactivated. The surface loads are also
initially inactive. The initial stress field is generated by means of the K0-procedure using
the default K0-values in all clusters.
The calculation consists of six phases. In the first phase the walls are constructed and the
surface loads are activated. In the second phase the first 3 m of the pit is excavated
without connection of anchors to the wall. At this depth the excavation remains dry. In
6-4 PLAXIS Version 8 DRY EXCAVATION USING A TIE BACK WALL (LESSON 4)
the third phase the first anchor is installed and pre-stressed. The fourth phase involves
further excavation to a depth of 7 m, including the de-watering of the excavation. This
involves a groundwater flow analysis to calculate the new pore water distribution, which
is a part of the definition of the third calculation phase. In the fifth phase the second
anchor is installed and pre-stressed and the sixth phase is a further excavation (and dewatering) of to the final depth of 10 m.
All calculation phases are defined as Plastic calculations using Staged construction as
Loading input and standard settings for all other parameters. The instructions given
below are limited to a description of how the phases are defined within the Staged
construction mode. Phase 1:
• Activate the walls. • Activate the surface loads and assign a load value. Enter a Y-value = –10 kPa
for the load on the left side and –5 kPa for the load on the right side of the
excavation. Phase 1 Phase 2:
• De-activate the upper cluster of the excavation. Phase 2 Phase 3:
• Activate the upper geogrids
6-5 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• Double-click the upper node-to-node anchors. A node-to-node anchor
properties window appears with the anchor pre-stress options. Select the Adjust
pre-stress force box and enter a pre-stress force of 120 kN/m. Click <OK> to
close the window. Phase 3
Hint: A pre-stress force is exactly matched at the end of a finished staged
construction calculation and turned into an anchor force. In successive
calculation phases the force is considered to be just an anchor force and can
therefore further increase or decrease, depending on the development of the
surrounding stresses and forces. Phase 4:
• head=13m head=17m head=17m Deactivate the second cluster of the excavation. Closed boundary
Now the boundary conditions for the groundwater flow calculation have to be entered.
At the side boundaries, the groundwater head remains at a level of 17.0 m. The bottom
boundary of the problem should be closed. The flow of groundwater is triggered by the
fact that the pit is pumped dry. At the bottom of the excavation the water pressure is
zero, which means that the groundwater head is equal to the vertical level (head = 13.0
m). This condition can be met drawing a new general phreatic level and performing a
groundwater flow calculation. Activating the interfaces during the groundwater flow
calculation prevents flow through the wall.
6-6 PLAXIS Version 8 DRY EXCAVATION USING A TIE BACK WALL (LESSON 4)
In order to prescribe correctly these boundary conditions, follow these steps:
Click the 'switch' to go to the water pressures mode.
• Select the Closed flow boundary button (black line) from the toolbar. Click the
lower left point of the geometry; proceed to the lower right point and click
again • Click the Selection button. • The interfaces on both sides of the wall should be activated by default in the
water pressures mode, marking them as impermeable. Clicking an interface in
the water pressures mode activates or deactivates the interface during
groundwater calculations. An active interface is marked with an orange circle
and is considered impermeable during groundwater calculations. Do not switch
the interfaces below the walls to impermeable, those should remain permeable
(inactive during the groundwater flow calculation). • Click the General phreatic level button and draw a new phreatic level. Start in
(0.0; 17.0) and draw the phreatic level through (30.0; 13.0), (50.0; 13.0) and
end in (80.0; 17.0). • Click the Generate water pressures button. Select Groundwater calculation
from the Generate by box and click <OK> to start the groundwater flow
calculation (the Iterative procedure can remain at the Standard setting). • After the groundwater calculation has finished, click the <OK> button in the
calculation window. The window closes and the flow field is presented in the
Hint: The results of a groundwater calculation can be viewed as Pore pressures,
Flow field and Groundwater head. These options are available from the Stress
menu. Figure 6.3 Active pore pressure contours resulting from groundwater calculation
• Click the <Update> button to return to the staged construction mode. • Within the staged construction mode, click the <Update> button to return to the
6-7 TUTORIAL MANUAL Phase 5:
• Activate the lower geogrids • Double-click the lower node-to-node anchors. In the Anchor window, select the
Adjust pre-stress force box and enter a pre-stress force of 200 kN/m. Click
<OK> to close the window. Phase 5 Phase 6:
• Click the 'switch' to go to the water pressures mode. • The boundary conditions were already defined in phase 3. They are still valid
for the current groundwater calculation. However it is now necessary to lower
the water level within the excavation to the new construction depth. In order to
do this, draw a new General phreatic level from (0.0; 17.0) through points
(30.0; 10.0), (50.0; 10.0) and (80.0; 17.0). Click the Generate water pressures
button and select Groundwater flow from the Generate by box and click <OK>
to start the groundwater flow calculation. • After the groundwater calculation has finished, click the <OK> button in the
calculation window and view the results in the Output window. Click the
<Update> button to return to the staged construction mode. head=10m head=17m Deactivate the third cluster of the excavation. head=17m • Closed boundary
6-8 PLAXIS Version 8 DRY EXCAVATION USING A TIE BACK WALL (LESSON 4)
After all calculation phases have been defined, some points for load-displacement
curves should be selected (for example the connection points of the ground anchors on
the diaphragm wall). Start the calculation by clicking the <Calculate> button.
Figure 6.4 (a) to (e) show the deformed meshes at the end of calculation phases 2 to 6.
In the final situation, the walls have moved about 8 cm forward and the excavation
bottom has risen just over 5 cm. Behind the wall there is a small settlement trough. (a) phase 2 (b) phase 3 (c) phase 4 6-9 TUTORIAL MANUAL (d) phase 5 (e) final stage
Figure 6.4 Deformed mesh stages (a) to (e) Figure 6.5 Effective stresses, final stage
Figure 6.5 shows the principal effective stresses in the final situation. The passive stress
state beneath the bottom of the excavation is clearly visible. It can also be seen that there
are stress concentrations around the grout anchors.
Figure 6.6 shows the bending moments in the left diaphragm wall in the final state. The
two dips in the line of moments are caused by the anchor forces.
The anchor force can be viewed by double-clicking the anchor. When doing this for the
results of the third and the fifth calculation phase, it can be checked that the anchor force
is indeed equal to the specified pre-stress force. 6-10 PLAXIS Version 8 DRY EXCAVATION USING A TIE BACK WALL (LESSON 4) Figure 6.6 Bending moments in the left diaphragm wall in the final stage 6.4 USING THE HARDENING SOIL MODEL
In the previous example the Mohr-Coulomb model was used to model the soil
behaviour. Although the Mohr-Coulomb model is often used it lacks particular aspects
of soil behaviour such as the difference in stiffness between virgin-loading and
unloading-reloading. Such aspects are taken into account in more advanced models like
the Hardening Soil model. In the excavation modelled here the soil below the excavation
is mainly subjected to unloading and subsequently shows a relatively stiff behaviour.
The soil next to the wall is mainly subject to shear stresses and subsequently shows a
less stiff behaviour. Though this soil behaviour could be captured by creating different
clusters with different soil parameters below and next to the excavation pit, it is easier
and more reliable to use the Hardening Soil model. Therefore, the same project is now
modified so that all soil layers are modelled using the Hardening Soil model instead of
the Mohr-Coulomb model. It is not necessary to create a new model; you can start from
the previous model, modify it and store it under a different name.
In order to modify the soil material sets take the following steps:
• In PLAXIS Input open the previous file (“lesson4” or whichever name it was
given) and save it under a different name. 6-11 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• Open the material sets database and double-click the first material data set
“Fill”. This will open the material data set window. From the Material model
combo box select Hardening Soil and proceed to the Parameters tab sheet.
Enter values for Eoed ,E50 ,E ur , m and in the Advanced model parameters
window for pref, νur and K 0 c according to Table 6.5. Please note that the
Advanced model parameters can be found by clicking the <Advanced> button
on the Parameters tab sheet. The value of K 0nc is equal to 1-sin(ϕ) and will be
automatically calculated by PLAXIS after entering a value of “-1” in the
K 0 c input box. • Repeat this for all material data sets according to Table 6.5. • Continue to the initial conditions and regenerate the initial stresses. Though the
initial stresses remain the same the regeneration is needed in order to generate
the isotropic pre-consolidation stresses pp. Please note that it is not necessary to
regenerate the mesh or the initial pore pressures. • After regenerating the initial stresses save the project and continue to PLAXIS
Calculations. • In PLAXIS Calculations make sure all phases are selected for calculation (blue
arrows) and calculate the project.
Hint: The Hardening Soil parameters have been derived from the Mohr-Coulomb
parameters by setting the E50 of the Hardening Soil model in the midpoint of
each layer to the Eref of the Mohr-Coulomb model and deriving E50 from this
at the reference level pref=100 kPa (see eq. 5.2 of the Material Models
manual). Eoed and Euref are assumed to be equal to E50 and 3E50 respectively. Table 6.5. Soil and interface properties
Type of material behaviour
Soil unit weight above p.l.
Soil unit weight below p.l.
Secant stiffness for CD triax.
Tangent oedometer stiffness
Power for stress depend. stiffn.
pref νur Fill
- PLAXIS Version 8 DRY EXCAVATION USING A TIE BACK WALL (LESSON 4)
Lateral stress coefficient
Interface reduction factor Name
- 6.5 OUTPUT FOR THE HARDENING SOIL CASE
Figure 6.7 shows the deformed mesh at the end of the final calculation phase. The walls
have moved in approximately 7 cm and the excavation bottom has risen 3 to 4 cm. Figure 6.7 Deformed mesh final stage 6.6 COMPARISON WITH MOHR-COULOMB
A detailed comparison of the results from the Mohr-Couloumb and the Hardening Soil
cases yields some important differences:
• The excavation bottom rises less in the HS case than in the MC case; this is due
to unloading behaviour of the Hardening Soil model. The Hardening Soil
model behaves much stiffer in unloading than the Mohr-Coulomb model does,
as the Mohr-Coulomb model has only a single stiffness. • The inward movement of the walls is less in the HS case than in the MC case;
again this is due to the different unloading behaviour. • The settlement trough is larger in the HS case than in the MC case. This is due
to the difference in vertical movement of the walls for both cases; for the
Mohr-Coulomb model the excavation bottom rises more due to the softer
unloading behaviour and pushes up the walls, which in turn influences the
settlement trough. • The structural forces in the walls are higher in the HS case than in the MC case. 6-13 TUTORIAL MANUAL
Practical cases have proven that for excavations, where the unloading behaviour of the
soil is very important, the Hardening Soil model gives more realistic results than the
Mohr-Coulomb model. 6-14 PLAXIS Version 8 CONSTRUCTION OF A ROAD EMBANKMENT (LESSON 5)
7 CONSTRUCTION OF A ROAD EMBANKMENT (LESSON 5) The construction of an embankment on soft soil with a high groundwater level leads to
an increase in pore pressure. As a result of this 'undrained behaviour' the effective stress
remains low and intermediate consolidation periods have to be adopted in order to
construct the embankment safely. During consolidation the excess pore pressures
dissipate so that the soil can obtain the necessary shear strength to continue the
This lesson concerns the construction of a road embankment in which the mechanism
described above is analysed in detail. In the analysis three new calculation options are
introduced, namely a consolidation analysis, an updated mesh analysis and the
calculation of a safety factor by means of phi/c-reduction. Figure 7.1 Situation of a road embankment on soft soil 7.1 INPUT
Figure 7.1 shows a cross section of a road embankment. The embankment is 16.0 m
wide and 4.0 m high. The slopes have a slope of 1:3. The problem is symmetric, so only
one half is modelled (in this case the right half is chosen). The embankment itself is
composed of loose sandy soil. The subsoil consists of 6.0 m of soft soil. The upper 3.0
m of this soft soil layer is modelled as a peat layer and the lower 3.0 m as clay. The
phreatic level coincides with the original ground surface. Under the soft soil layers there
is a dense sand layer, which is not included in the model. Geometry model
The embankment shown in Figure 7.1 can be analysed with a plane strain model. For
this example 15-node elements are utilised. The standard units for Length, Force and
Time are used (m, kN and day). A total width of 40 m is considered in the geometry
model, starting from the embankment centre. The full geometry can be drawn using the
Geometry line option. The deformations of the deep sand layer in Figure 7.1 are
assumed to be zero. Hence, this layer is not included in the model and a fixed base is
used instead. 7-1 TUTORIAL MANUAL
The Standard fixities can be used to define the boundary conditions. The geometry
model is shown in Figure 7.2. Figure 7.2 Geometry model of road embankment project
Table 7.1. Material properties of the road embankment and subsoil
Type of behaviour
Soil unit weight above
Soil unit weight below
Dilatancy angle Name Clay Peat Sand Unit Model
16 kN/m3 18
ψ Material sets and mesh generation
The properties of the different soil types are given in Table 7.1. Three material sets are
to be created, containing the data according to the table. The clay and the peat layer are
undrained. This type of behaviour leads to an increase of pore pressures during the
construction of the embankment. Assign the data to the corresponding clusters in the
geometry model. After the input of material parameters, a simple finite element mesh
may be generated using the Medium coarseness setting. Generate the mesh by clicking
the Generate mesh button. 7-2 PLAXIS Version 8 CONSTRUCTION OF A ROAD EMBANKMENT (LESSON 5) Initial conditions
In the Initial conditions the water weight is set to 10 kN/m3. The water pressures are
fully hydrostatic and based on a general phreatic level through the points (0.0; 6.0) and
In addition to the phreatic level, attention must be paid to the boundary conditions for
the consolidation analysis that will be performed during the calculation process. Without
giving any additional input, all boundaries are draining so that water can freely flow out
of all boundaries and excess pore pressures can dissipate in all directions. In the current
situation, however, the left vertical boundary must be closed because this is a line of
symmetry, so horizontal flow should not occur. The right vertical boundary should also
be closed because there is no free outflow at that boundary. The bottom is open because
below the soft soil layers the excess pore pressures can freely flow into the deep and
permeable sand layer (which is not included in the model). The upper boundary is
obviously open as well. In order to create the appropriate consolidation boundary
conditions, follow these steps:
Click the Closed consolidation boundary button (yellow line) in the toolbar.
• Move to the upper point of the left boundary (0.0; 10.0) and click this point.
Move to the lower point of the left boundary (0.0; 0.0) and click again. Click
the right mouse button to finish this closed boundary. • Move to the upper point of the right boundary (40.0; 6.0) and click. Move to
the lower point (40.0; 0.0) and click again. Finish this closed boundary. • Click the Generate water pressures button to generate the water pressures and
the consolidation boundary conditions. After the generation of the water pressures, click the 'switch' to modify the initial
geometry configuration. In the initial situation the embankment is not present. In order
to generate the initial stresses therefore, the embankment must be deactivated first.
Hint: Closed consolidation boundaries can only be defined by clicking existing
geometry points. The program will automatically find intermediate geometry
Consolidation boundary conditions must be generated in the boundary nodes
of the mesh. This is done together with the generation of water pressures.
Hence, after introducing or changing consolidation boundaries, always click
the Generate water pressures button.
Click once in the two clusters that represent the embankment, just like in a staged
construction calculation. When the embankment has been deactivated (the
corresponding clusters should have the background colour), the remaining active
geometry is horizontal with horizontal layers, so the K0-procedure can be used to
calculate the initial stresses. The suggested K0-values of the clay and peat layer (based
on Jaky's formula: K0 = 1-sinϕ) can be accepted. After the generation of the initial
stresses the input is complete and the calculations can be defined.
7-3 TUTORIAL MANUAL
The embankment construction consists of two phases, each taking 5 days. After the first
construction phase a consolidation period of 200 days is introduced to allow the excess
pore pressures to dissipate. After the second construction phase another consolidation
period is introduced from which the final settlements may be determined. Hence, a total
of four calculation phases have to be defined.
A consolidation analysis introduces the dimension of time in the calculations. In order to
correctly perform a consolidation analysis a proper time step must be selected. The use
of time steps that are smaller than a critical minimum value can result in stress
oscillations. The consolidation option in PLAXIS allows for a fully automatic time
stepping procedure that takes this critical time step into account. Within this procedure
there are three main possibilities: Either consolidate for a predefined period, including
the effects of changes to the active geometry (Staged construction), consolidate until all
excess pore pressures in the geometry have reduced to a predefined minimum value
(Minimum pore pressure) or consolidate for a given number of steps, using incremental
multipliers to globally increase load systems in time or to apply rate loading
(Incremental multiplier). The first two possibilities will be used in this exercise.
To define the calculation phases, follow these steps:
• The first calculation stage is a Consolidation analysis, Staged construction. In
the General tab sheet select Consolidation from the Calculation type combo
box. In the Parameters tab sheet, enter a Time interval of 5 days. Select Staged
construction for the Loading input and click the <Define> button. Activate the
first part of the embankment in the Geometry configuration window and click
the <Update> button. Back in the Calculation window, click the <Next> button
to introduce the next calculation phase. • The second phase is also a Consolidation analysis, Staged construction. This
time no changes to the geometry are made as only a consolidation analysis to
ultimate time is required. Enter a time interval of 200 days and click the
<Next> button to introduce the next calculation phase. • The third phase is once again a Consolidation analysis, Staged construction.
After selecting Staged construction in the Parameters tab sheet enter a Time
interval of 5 days. Click the <Define> button and activate the second part of
the embankment. Click <Update> and enter the next phase. • The fourth phase is a consolidation analysis to a minimum pore pressure. In the
Parameters tab sheet, select Minimum pore pressure from the Loading input
box and accept the default value of 1 kN/m2 for the minimum pressure. Before starting the calculation, click the Select points for curves button and select the
following points: As Point A, select the toe of the embankment. The second point (Point
B) will be used to plot the development (and decay) of excess pore pressures. To this
end, a point somewhere in the middle of the soft soil layers is needed, close to (but not
actually on) the left boundary. After selecting these points, start the calculation. 7-4 PLAXIS Version 8 CONSTRUCTION OF A ROAD EMBANKMENT (LESSON 5)
During a consolidation analysis the development of time can be viewed in the upper part
of the calculation info window. In addition to the multipliers, a parameter Pmax occurs,
which indicates the current maximum excess pore pressure. This parameter is of interest
in the case of a Minimum pore pressure consolidation analysis, where all pore pressures
are specified to reduce below a predefined value.
After the calculation has finished, select the third and the fourth phase simultaneously
(hold the <Ctrl> key on the keyboard while selecting these phases) and click the
<Output> button. The Output window now shows the two deformed meshes, one after
the undrained construction of the final part of the embankment and one after full
consolidation. Figure 7.3 Displacement increments after undrained construction of embankment Figure 7.4 Excess pore pressures after undrained construction of embankment Figure 7.5 Excess pore pressure contours after consolidation to Pexcess < 1.0 kN/m2
7-5 TUTORIAL MANUAL
Considering the results of the third phase (undrained construction), the deformed mesh
shows the uplift of the embankment toe and hinterland due to the undrained behaviour.
On evaluating the total displacement increments, it can be seen that a failure mechanism
is developing (see Figure 7.3). In addition, Figure 7.4 shows the excess pore pressures
distribution. It is clear that the highest excess pore pressure occurs under the
It can be seen that the settlement of the original soil surface and the embankment
increases considerably during the fourth phase. This is due to the dissipation of the
excess pore pressures, which causes consolidation of the soil. Figure 7.5 shows the
remaining excess pore pressure distribution after consolidation. Check that the
maximum value is below 1.0 kN/m2.
The Curves program can be used to view the development, with time, of the excess pore
pressure under the embankment. In order to create such a curve, follow these steps:
• Click the Go to curves program button in the upper left corner of the Output
window. • Select New chart and select the current project from the file requester. • In the Curve generation window, select Time for the x-axis. For the y-axis,
select Pore pressure – Excess pore pressure and select the point in the middle
of the soft soil layers (Point B) from the Point combo box. After clicking the
<OK> button, a curve similar to Figure 7.6 should appear. Figure 7.6 clearly shows the four calculation phases. During the undrained construction
phases the excess pore pressure increases with a small increase in time while during the
consolidation periods the excess pore pressure decreases with time. In fact,
consolidation already occurs during construction of the embankment, as this involves a
small time interval. From the curve it can be seen that more than 700 days are needed to
reach full consolidation.
Excess PP [kN/m2]
0 -10 -20 -30 -40 0 200 400 600 800 Time [day] Figure 7.6 Development of excess pore pressure under the embankment
7-6 PLAXIS Version 8 CONSTRUCTION OF A ROAD EMBANKMENT (LESSON 5)
7.4 SAFETY ANALYSIS
In the design of an embankment it is important to consider not only the final stability,
but also the stability during the construction. It is clear from the output results that a
failure mechanism starts to develop after the second construction phase.
It is interesting to evaluate a global safety factor at this stage of the problem, and also
for other stages of construction.
In structural engineering, the safety factor is usually defined as the ratio of the collapse
load to the working load. For soil structures, however, this definition is not always
useful. For embankments, for example, most of the loading is caused by soil weight and
an increase in soil weight would not necessarily lead to collapse. Indeed, a slope of
purely frictional soil will not fail in a test in which the self weight of the soil is increased
(like in a centrifuge test). A more appropriate definition of the factor of safety is
Safety factor = S maximum available
S needed for equilibrium Where S represents the shear strength. The ratio of the true strength to the computed
minimum strength required for equilibrium is the safety factor that is conventionally
used in soil mechanics. By introducing the standard coulomb condition, the safety factor
Safety factor = c − σ n tan ϕ
cr − σ n tan ϕ r Where c and ϕ are the input strength parameters and σn is the actual normal stress
component. The parameters cr and ϕr are reduced strength parameters that are just large
enough to maintain equilibrium. The principle described above is the basis of the
method of Phi/c-reduction that can be used in PLAXIS to calculate a global safety factor.
In this approach the cohesion and the tangent of the friction angle are reduced in the
cr = tan ϕ
tan ϕ r The reduction of strength parameters is controlled by the total multiplier ΣMsf. This
parameter is increased in a step-by-step procedure until failure occurs. The safety factor
is then defined as the value of ΣMsf at failure, provided that at failure a more or less
constant value is obtained for a number of successive load steps.
The Phi/c-reduction calculation option is available in PLAXIS from the Calculation type
list box on the General tab sheet. If the Phi/c-reduction option is selected the Loading
input on the Parameters tab sheet is automatically set to Incremental multipliers. 7-7 TUTORIAL MANUAL
To calculate the global safety factor for the road embankment at different stages of
construction, follow these steps:
• Click the Go to calculations program button to focus the Calculations window. • We first want to calculate the safety factor after the first construction stage.
Therefore introduce a new calculation phase and select Phase 1 in the Start
from phase list box. • In the General tab sheet, select a Phi/c-reduction calculation. • In the Parameters tab sheet the number of Additional steps is automatically set
to 100 (instead of the default value of 250). In order to exclude existing
deformations from the resulting failure mechanism, select the Reset
displacements to zero option. The Incremental multipliers option is already
selected in the Loading input box. Click the <Define> button to enter the
Multipliers tab sheet. • On the Multipliers tab sheet, check that the first increment of the multiplier that
controls the strength reduction process, Msf, is set to 0.1. The first safety
calculation has now been defined.
Hint: The default value of Additional steps in a Phi/c-reduction calculation is 100.
In contrast to an Ultimate level calculation, the number of additional steps is
always fully executed. In most Phi/c-reduction calculations, 100 steps are
sufficient to arrive at a state of failure. If not, the number of additional steps
can be increased to a maximum of 1000.
For most phi/c-reduction calculations Msf = 0.1 is an adequate first step to
start up the process. During the calculation process, the development of the
total multiplier for the strength reduction, ΣMsf, is automatically controlled by
the load advancement procedure. • We now want to define the calculation of the safety factor after the second
construction stage. Therefore introduce a new calculation phase and select
Phase 3 as the phase to start from. This can be done in the General tab sheet of
the Calculation program by clicking the combo box start from phase and
choosing Phase 3. • In the General tab sheet select Phi/c-reduction from the Calculation type
combo box. • In the Parameters tab sheet select the Reset displacements to zero option, select
Incremental multipliers and click the <Define> button. • In the Multipliers tab sheet check that Msf is set to 0.1. • Finally we want to know the final safety factor of the embankment. Therefore
introduce one more calculation stage and let it start from the fourth calculation
phase. 7-8 PLAXIS Version 8 CONSTRUCTION OF A ROAD EMBANKMENT (LESSON 5)
• In the General tab sheet select Phi/c-reduction as the calculation type. • In the Parameters tab sheet select the Reset displacements to zero option. In
addition select the Ignore undrained behaviour option because in this case the
long term behaviour is considered. Select Incremental multipliers and click the
<Define> button. • In the Multipliers window, check that Msf is set to 0.1. Before starting the calculations, make sure that only the new calculation phases are
selected for execution (→); the others should be indicated with the √-sign. Evaluation of results
Additional displacements are generated during a phi/c-reduction calculation. The total
displacements do not have a physical meaning, but the incremental displacements in the
final step (at failure) give an indication of the likely failure mechanism. In order to view
the mechanisms in the three different stages of the embankment construction, select the
phases 5, 6 and 7 simultaneously (use the <Ctrl> key) and click the <Output> button.
Select for all windows the Total increments from the Deformations menu and change
the presentation from Arrows to Shadings. The resulting plots give a good impression of
the failure mechanisms (see Figure 7.7). The magnitude of the displacement increments
is not relevant. Figure 7.7 Shadings of the total displacement increments indicating the most
applicable failure mechanism of the embankment in the final stage
The safety factor can be obtained from the Calculation info option of the View menu.
The Multipliers tab sheet of the Calculation information window represents the actual
values of the load multipliers. The value of ΣMsf represents the safety factor, provided
that this value is indeed more or less constant during the previous few steps. 7-9 TUTORIAL MANUAL
1.4 Safety factor (long term) 1.34 1.3 1.2 Safety factor (first construction stage) 1.11 1.1 Safety factor (second construction stage) 1.03
1.0 0 100 200 300
|U| [m] 400 500 Figure 7.8 Evaluation of safety factor for three stages of the construction process
The best way to evaluate the safety factor, however, is to plot a curve in which the
parameter ΣMsf is plotted against the displacements of a certain node. Although the
displacements are not relevant, they indicate whether or not a failure mechanism has
developed. In order to evaluate the safety factors for the three situations in this way,
follow these steps:
• Click the Go to curves program button to start the Curves program. • Select a New chart and select the road embankment file from the file requester. • In the Curve generation window, select the total displacement of the
embankment toe (Point A) for the x-axis. For the y-axis, select Multipliers and
select ΣMsf from the Type combo box. As a result, the curve of Figure 7.8
appears. The maximum displacements plotted are not relevant. It can be seen that for all curves a
more or less constant value of ΣMsf is obtained. Hovering the mouse cursor over a point
on the curves, a box showing the exact value of ΣMsf can be obtained.
7.5 UPDATED MESH ANALYSIS
As can be seen from the output of the Deformed mesh at the end of consolidation
(stage 4), the embankment settles over half a metre within two years of the start of
construction. Part of the sand fill that was originally above the phreatic level will settle
below the phreatic level. As a result of buoyancy forces the effective weight of the soil
that settles below the water level will change, which leads to a reduction of the effective
overburden in time. This effect can be simulated in PLAXIS using the Updated mesh and 7-10 PLAXIS Version 8 CONSTRUCTION OF A ROAD EMBANKMENT (LESSON 5) Updated water pressures options. For the road embankment the effect of using these
options will be investigated.
Open the current project in the Input program and select Save as from the File menu.
Save the project under a different name. Now click the Go to Calculation program
button and open the new project. All phases will be marked for calculation. To change
the calculation to an Updated mesh analysis, do the following:
• Select Phase 1 and click the Advanced button below the Calculation type list
box. Check the Updated mesh and Updated water pressures options in the
Advanced general settings window. Click <OK> to return to the calculation
window. • Repeat this step for all calculation phases 2, 3 and 4. • Delete phases 5, 6 and 7. • Start the calculation. When the calculation has finished, open the Curves program to compare the settlements
for the two different calculation methods.
• Select a New chart and select the road embankment calculation using updated
mesh from the file requester. • In the Curve generation window select time for the x-axis and select the total
displacement of the embankment toe (Point A) for the y-axis. To compare those with the displacements from the calculation without the updated mesh
option, add a curve from the previous calculation, without the updated mesh option.
• From the File menu, choose to Add curve, from another project. • From the file requester, select the road embankment calculation without
updated mesh. • In the Curve generation window, select the same point (Point A), for which
deformation versus time will be plotted. Click <OK> to add the curve. The default graph generated also includes the displacements calculated during the Phi/creduction stages. These displacements are not of interest at the moment and can be
removed from the curve.
• Select Curve from the Format menu and click the <Phases> button. • In the Select phases window, deselect the Phi/c-reduction phases, i.e. phases 5,
6 and 7. Click <OK> to return to the Curve settings window and click <OK>
again to update the graph. Now only the displacements during the construction and consolidation phases are
plotted. To change the vertical scale of the graph:
• Select Graph from the Format menu and change the Scaling of the Y-axis to
Manual. Enter a maximum value of 0.5. Click <OK> to update the graph. 7-11 TUTORIAL MANUAL
In Figure 7.9 it can be seen that the settlements are less when the Updated mesh and
Updated water pressures options are used. This is partly because the Updated mesh
procedure includes second order deformation effects by which changes of the geometry
are taken into account, and partly because the Updated water pressures procedure
results in smaller effective weights of the embankment. This last effect is caused by the
buoyancy of the soil settling below the (constant) phreatic level. The use of these
procedures allows for a realistic analysis of settlements, taking into account the positive
effects of large deformations.
0.5 0.4 0.3 Normal mesh
0.2 Updated mesh
0.1 0 0 200 600 400 800 1000 Time [day] Figure 7.9 Settlements of the toe of the embankment using updated mesh calculation 7-12 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENTS DUE TO TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION (LESSON 6)
8 SETTLEMENTS DUE TO TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION (LESSON 6) PLAXIS has special facilities for the generation of circular and non-circular tunnels and
the simulation of a tunnel construction process. In this chapter the construction of a
shield tunnel in medium soft soil and the influence on a pile foundation is considered. A
shield tunnel is constructed by excavating soil at the front of a tunnel boring machine
(TBM) and installing a tunnel lining behind it. In this procedure the soil is generally
over-excavated, which means that the cross sectional area occupied by the final tunnel
lining is always less than the excavated soil area. Although measures are taken to fill up
this gap, one cannot avoid stress re-distributions and deformations in the soil as a result
of the tunnel construction process. To avoid damage to existing buildings or foundations
on the soil above, it is necessary to predict these effects and to take proper measures.
Such an analysis can be performed by means of the finite element method. This lesson
shows an example of such an analysis.
5m 10 m 15 m +3.0 m
-10.0 m sand -12.0 m
-22.0 m Figure 8.1 Geometry of the tunnel project with an indication of the soil layers
The tunnel considered in this lesson has a diameter of 5.0 m and is located at an average
depth of 20 m. The soil profile indicates four distinct layers: The upper 13 m consists of
soft clay type soil with stiffness that increases approximately linearly with depth. Under
the clay layer there is a 2.0 m thick fine sand layer. This layer is used as a foundation
layer for old wooden piles on which traditional brickwork houses were built. The pile
foundation of such a building is modelled next to the tunnel. Displacements of these
piles may cause damage to the building, which is highly undesirable. Below the sand
layer there is a 5.0 m thick deep loamy clay layer.
8-1 TUTORIAL MANUAL
This is one of the layers in which the tunnel is constructed. The other part of the tunnel
is constructed in the deep sand layer, which consists of dense sand and some gravel.
This layer is very stiff. As a result only 5.0 m of this layer is included in the finite
element model; the deeper part is considered to be fully rigid and modelled by
appropriate boundary conditions. The pore pressure distribution is hydrostatic. The
phreatic level is located 3 m below the ground surface (at a level of y = 0 m). Since the
situation is more or less symmetric, only one half (the right half) is taken into account in
the plane strain model. From the centre of the tunnel the model extends for 30 m in
horizontal direction. The 15-node element is adopted for this example.
The basic geometry including the four soil layers, as shown in Figure 8.1 (but excluding
the tunnel and the foundation elements), can be created using the geometry line option.
Since the ground surface is located at 3.0 m above the reference level, the Top parameter
is taken at +3.0 m in the General settings and the Bottom at -22.0 m. For the generation
of the tunnel we will use the tunnel designer, which is a special tool within PLAXIS that
enables the use of circle segments (arcs) and lines to model the geometry of a tunnel.
The tunnel considered here is the right half of a circular tunnel and will be composed of
four sections. After generating the basic geometry, follow these steps to design the
Click the Tunnel button in the toolbar. The Tunnel designer window appears,
with a number of options in its toolbar for creating tunnel shapes. Select Half
tunnel - Right half from the toolbar.
• The tunnel designer will show a default (half) tunnel shape composed of three
sections of which the lower one (Section 1) is selected, as indicated in Figure
8.2. The right side of the window shows some geometrical values. • Keep the Type of tunnel on the default value of a Bored tunnel. Make sure that
the lower tunnel section is selected (if not, select it by clicking with the mouse
in the lower section). • The values in the table represent the properties of the first tunnel section. For a
circular (bored) tunnel the radius can be entered here. Enter a radius of 2.5 m.
The result of this action is directly visible in the drawing. • The value below the radius represents the angle over which the section extends.
Enter an angle of 90 degrees (which is the maximum angle of one section). • The local x- and y-coordinates of the first arc centre point is always located at
the local origin (x=0; y=0) for a bored tunnel. • Make sure that the options Shell and Interface are selected for this section. • Proceed to the next section (2) by clicking the right arrow at the bottom of the
window. Alternatively, you may click the second tunnel section in the designer
window. 8-2 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENTS DUE TO TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION (LESSON 6)
• Enter an angle of 90 degrees. It is not necessary, nor possible, to enter the
radius of the second tunnel segment. This value is automatically adopted from
the first tunnel segment in case of a circular tunnel. • Make sure that the Shell and Interface options are selected for section 2. Figure 8.2 Tunnel designer with current tunnel model Hint: A shell and interface can be assigned directly to all tunnel sections by clicking
the corresponding buttons at the top of the tunnel window.
A tunnel lining consists of curved plates. The lining properties can be
specified in the material database for plates. Similarly, a tunnel interface is
nothing more than a curved interface.
In the tunnel as considered here the sections do not have a specific meaning as
the tunnel lining is homogeneous and the tunnel will be constructed at once.
In general, the meaning of sections becomes significant when:
It is desired to excavate or construct the tunnel (lining) in different stages.
Different tunnel sections have different lining properties.
One would consider hinge connections in the lining (hinges can be added after
the design of the tunnel in the general drawing area).
The tunnel shape is composed of arcs with different radii (for example NATM
tunnels). 8-3 TUTORIAL MANUAL
• In the Shape group box there are two parameters. The Symmetric tunnel
parameter can be selected for whole tunnels. The Circular tunnel option is
automatically selected for bored tunnels. • The tunnel has now been completely defined. Click the <OK> button to close
the tunnel designer. • Back in the draw area, the tunnel must be included in the geometry model. This
is done by entering the global position of the origin of the local tunnel axes.
Click the existing point at position (0.0; -17.0) (5.0 m above the bottom of the
geometry model). The tunnel will be drawn with its centre at this location. The wooden piles below the building are end bearing piles. Only a small part of the total
bearing capacity results from skin friction. To correctly model this behaviour, the piles
will be modelled using a combination of plates and node-to-node anchors. The building
itself will be represented by a stiff plate founded on the node-to-node anchors.
• Draw three separate plates from (5.0;-10.0) to (5.0;-11.0), from (15.0;-10.0) to
(15.0;-11.0) and from (5.0;3.0) to (15.0;3.0). • Connect the top of the pile toes to the foundation plate using node-to-node
anchors, as indicated in Figure 8.1. Boundary conditions
• Click the Standard fixities button to apply the appropriate boundary conditions.
In addition to the standard displacement fixities, fixed rotations are introduced
to the upper and lower point of the tunnel lining.
Hint: In the Standard fixities option, a plate that extends to a geometry boundary
that is fixed in at least one direction obtains fixed rotations, whereas a plate
that extends to a free boundary obtains a free rotation. Material properties
The material properties for the four different soil layers are listed in Table 8.1. For all
layers the material behaviour is set to drained since we are interested in the long term
For the upper clay layer we use the advanced option to let the stiffness increase with
depth. Therefore a value of Eincrement is entered in the Advanced parameters window. The
value of Eref becomes a reference value at the reference level yreference. Below yreference the
actual value of E increases with depth according to: E(y) = Eref + Eincrement (yreference - y).
The data sets of the two lower soil layers include appropriate parameters for the tunnel
interfaces. In the other data sets the interface properties just remain at their default
values. Enter four data sets with the properties as listed in Table 8.1 and assign them to
the corresponding clusters in the geometry model. To enter the advanced parameters for
the Clay data set, click the <Advanced> button in the Parameters tab sheet. 8-4 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENTS DUE TO TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION (LESSON 6)
Table 8.1. Material properties of soil in the tunnel project
Soil unit weight
above phreatic level
Soil unit weight
below phreatic level
Interface strength Name
16.5 Dp. Clay
kN/m3 γsat 18 20 18.5 21 kN/m3 kx
Rinter In addition to the four data sets for the soil and interfaces, three plate and one anchor
data set have to be created. The properties for those plates are listed in Table 8.2 and
Table 8.3. Assign the Lining data set to the tunnel lining and the Pile toe data set to the
two pile toes. The building data set is assigned to the foundation plate representing the
building. The weight of this beam also represents the load of the entire building. Assign
the Pile data set to the two node-to-node anchors.
Table 8.2. Material properties of the plates
Type of behaviour
Poisson's ratio Name
0.15 Pile toe
- 8-5 TUTORIAL MANUAL
Table 8.3. Material properties of the anchors
m Mesh generation
In this example the 15-node element is used as the basic element type. This means that
the mesh is more accurate than when using the 6-node element. The global coarseness
parameter can remain at its default value (Coarse). It can be expected that stress
concentrations occur around the tunnel and the pile toes. Therefore the mesh should be
refined in these areas. Select the two clusters inside the tunnel and use the Refine cluster
option in the Mesh menu. Select the two plates representing the pile toes and select
Refine line from the Mesh menu. Initial conditions
The water weight should be taken 10 kN/m3. The water pressures can be generated on
the basis of a general phreatic level at a level of y = 0.0 m.
Before generating the initial stresses, make sure that the building, piles, pile toes and
tunnel lining are deactivated. The K0-procedure can be used to generate the initial
effective stresses with the appropriate values of K0.
To simulate the construction of the tunnel it is clear that a staged construction
calculation is needed in which the tunnel lining is activated and the soil clusters inside
the tunnel are deactivated. Deactivating the soil inside the tunnel only affects the soil
stiffness and strength and the effective stresses. Without additional input the water
pressures remain. To remove the water pressure inside the tunnel the two soil clusters in
the tunnels must be set to dry in the water conditions mode and the water pressures
should be regenerated. To create this input, follow these steps.
• The first calculation phase is used to activate the building. Select a Plastic
calculation using Staged construction. Within staged construction mode
activate the pile toes, anchors and the foundation plate. Click <Update> to
return to the calculation window. • The second calculation phase is a plastic calculation, Staged construction. On
the Parameters tab sheet, select the reset displacements to zero checkbox.
Click the <Define> button and activate the tunnel lining and deactivate the two
soil clusters inside the tunnel. 8-6 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENTS DUE TO TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION (LESSON 6)
• Click the 'switch' to proceed to the water pressures mode. Click the Selection
button and select both soil clusters inside the tunnel simultaneously (using the
<Shift> key). Double-click one of the clusters while holding the <Shift> key.
This will show the Cluster pore pressure distribution window. In this window
select Cluster dry and click <OK> to return to the water pressure mode. • Click the Generate water pressures button to generate the water pressures. In
the resulting plot it can be seen that there are indeed no water pressures inside
the tunnel. Click the <Update> button to return to the water pressures mode. • Within the water pressures mode, click the <Update> button to return to the
calculations window. In addition to the installation of the tunnel lining, the excavation of the soil and the dewatering of the tunnel, the volume loss is simulated by applying a contraction to the
tunnel lining. This contraction will be defined in a staged construction calculation phase:
• Click the <Next> button to introduce a next calculation phase. • Select a plastic calculation, Staged construction and click the <Define> button. • Double-click the centre of the tunnel to open the Tunnel contraction window.
Enter a contraction of 2% and click <OK> to return to the geometry mode and
<Update> to return to the calculations window. • Select some characteristic points for load-displacement curves (for example the
corner point at the ground surface above the tunnel and the corner points of the
building). • Start the calculations.
Hint: The contraction of the tunnel lining by itself does not introduce forces in the
tunnel lining. Eventual changes in lining forces as a result of the contraction
procedure are due to stress redistributions in the surrounding soil or to
changing external forces. 8.3 OUTPUT
After the calculation, select the last two calculation phases and click the <Output>
button. The Output program is started, showing the deformed meshes at the end of the
As a result of the second calculation phase (removing soil and water out of the tunnel)
there is some settlement of the soil surface and the tunnel lining shows some
deformation. In this phase the axial force in the lining is the maximum axial force that
will be reached. The lining forces can be viewed by double-clicking the lining and
selecting force related options from the Force menu (see Figure 8.3). 8-7 TUTORIAL MANUAL Figure 8.3 Axial forces and Bending moments in the lining after the second phase.
The third calculation phase shows the results due to the simulation of the volume loss.
The deformed mesh indicates a settlement trough at the ground surface, which is
influenced by the presence of the building. (see Figure 8.4). The plot of effective
stresses, Figure 8.5, shows that arching occurs around the tunnel. This arching reduces
the stresses acting on the tunnel lining. As a result, the axial force in phase is lower than
that after the second calculation phase. The bending moments, however, are larger (see
Figure 8.6). The influence of the tunnel contraction on the foundation can be seen in a
plot of the relative shear stresses or plots of the displacements of the pile toes. Figure 8.4 Deformed mesh after construction of the tunnel
8-8 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENTS DUE TO TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION (LESSON 6) Figure 8.5 Effective stresses after construction of the tunnel Figure 8.6 Axial forces and bending moments in the lining after the third phase 8-9 TUTORIAL MANUAL
8.4 USING THE HARDENING SOIL MODEL
During both the tunnel boring and the contraction phase the soil around the tunnel is
unloaded. The tunnel exercise will now be calculated using the Hardening soil model as
this model incorporates a difference in stiffness behaviour between unloading or
reloading and virgin loading.
In order to change the project take the following steps:
• Open the previously calculated tunnel project in PLAXIS Input and save it under
a different name. • Open the material sets database and change the four soil material sets from
Mohr-Coulomb to Hardening Soil using the parameters given in Table 8.4. • Go to the initial conditions and regenerate the initial stresses using OCR=1 and
POP=0 for all clusters. • Save the project and continue to PLAXIS Calculations. Make sure all phases are
selected for calculation and recalculate the project.
Hint: The Hardening Soil parameters have been derived from the Mohr-Coulomb
parameters by setting the E50 of the Hardening Soil model in the midpoint of
each layer to the Eref of the Mohr-Coulomb model and deriving E50 from this
at the reference level pref=100 kPa (see eq. 5.2 of the Material Models
manual). Eoed and Euref are assumed to be equal to E50 and 3E50 respectively. Table 8.4. Material properties of soil in the tunnel project
Soil unit weight
above phreatic level
Soil unit weight
below phreatic level
Secant stiffness CD
Power for stress law
16.5 Dp. Clay
kN/m3 γsat 18 20 18.5 21 kN/m3 kx
E oed 9700 98000 10000 120000 kN/m3 Eurref
kN/m2 PLAXIS Version 8 SETTLEMENTS DUE TO TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION (LESSON 6)
Lateral stress coeff.
Interface strength Name νur
rigid Dp. Clay
- 8.5 OUTPUT FOR THE HARDENING SOIL CASE
Output results show the same tendencies as when the Mohr-Coulomb model was used,
which is described in Section 8.3. Figure 8.7 Deformed mesh after construction of the tunnel 8.6 COMPARISON WITH THE MOHR-COULOMB CASE
After the tunnel construction phase there are some clear differences between both cases:
• In the HS case the tunnel is less deformed due to the stiffer soil behaviour; this
results in approximately 20% smaller bending moments in the HS case while
the axial forces remain the same. • Due to the stiffer soil behaviour underneath the tunnel in the HS case the tunnel
experiences significantly less uplift. This results in a deeper settlement trough
at ground level compared to the Mohr-Coulomb model. 8-11 TUTORIAL MANUAL
During the tunnel contraction phase both cases show similar displacements around the
tunnel but there is a distinct difference in the displacements at a distance of the tunnel.
• With the Hardening Soil model the soil around the tunnel is subject to lower
strain levels so that the soil behaves more like a rigid block and the
displacements around the tunnel due to contraction are therefore still fully
noticeable at ground level. This causes a deeper settlement trough and also up
to 10% higher structural forces in the foundation plate of the existing building. Finally it should be noticed that the bending moments at the top of the lining reduce
considerably in case of Hardening Soil compared to Mohr-Coulomb, due to the reduced
deformation of the lining. 8-12 PLAXIS Version 8 Grid Axes Snap to grid Point numbers Chain numbers General settings (Recent projects) Exit Cross hair Work directory Import Rulers Pack Project Table Print Zoom out Save as Copy Open Zoom in Reset view Undo New View Save Edit File INPUT MENU Distributed load system A Prescribed displacements Rotation fixity (plates) Horizontal fixities Vertical fixities Total fixities Standard fixities Loads Well Drain
Point load system B Point load system A Hinge & rotation spring Distributed load system B Tunnel Interface Fixed-end anchor Node-to-node anchor Geogrid Plate Geometry line Geometry Anchors Geogrids Plates Soil & interfaces Materials Generate Reset All Refine around point Refine line Refine cluster Refine global Global coarseness Basic element type Mesh APPENDIX A - MENU TREE APPENDIX A - MENU TREE A.1 INPUT MENU A-1 A-2 Reset view Rulers Cross hair Save as Print General settings Exit Chain numbers Point numbers Snap to grid Grid Zoom in Zoom out Save View File INITIAL CONDITIONS MENU Initial stresses Water pressures Generate Closed consolidation boundary Closed flow boundary Phreatic level Water weight Geometry About Help topics Help TUTORIAL MANUAL PLAXIS Version 8 Edit Insert phase Delete phase(s) Copy to clipboard Select all Open Save Pack project Print Work directory Exit (Recent projects) Next phase File CALCULATION MENU Select points for curves Calculation manager View Multiple projects Current project Calculate About Help topics Help APPENDIX A - MENU TREE A.2 CALCULATIONS MENU A-3 A-4
Nodes Title Legend Grid Exit Deformations Phase displacements Vertical displacements Horizontal displ. (x) Total displacements Deformed mesh Node numbers
Stress point numb. Load info Material info Calculation info Cluster numbers Material set numb. Stress points
Element numbers General info Elements Connectivity plot Increm. cartesian strains Incremental strains Cartesian strains Total strains Vertical increments Hor. increments (x) Presc.displacements Total increments Fixities Loads (Recent projects) Cross section Phreatic level Materials Pack project Print Reset view Zoom out Table Scan line Close all Geometry
Structures Rulers Interval Close View Zoom in Work directory Scale Open Report generation Edit Copy File OUTPUT MENU (1) Stresses Tile Cascade Window Degree of saturation Flow field Groundwater head Excess pore pressures Active pore pressures Plastic points Overconsolidation ratio Cartesian total stresses Cartesian effective stresses Total stresses Effective stresses (Active window) About Help top. Help TUTORIAL MANUAL A.3 OUTPUT MENU PLAXIS Version 8 Cross section:
Plates: Deformations Total increments Total normal stresses
Cartesian effective stresses
Cartesian total stresses
Effective mean stresses (p')
Total mean stresses (p)
Deviatoric stresses (q)
Active pore pressure
Excess pore pressure
Degree of saturation Horizontal displacem. (x) Vertical displacements Phase displacements Total increments Horizontal increments (x) Vertical increments Normal strain Shear strain Cartesian strains Normal strain increments Shear strain increments Cartesian strain increments Interfaces: Effective normal stresses Total displacements Relative increm. Relative displ. Vertical increments Horiz. increments Vertical displ. Horiz. displ. (x) Total displacements Deformations Vertical increments Horizontal incr. (x) Total increments Phase displacements Vertical displ. Horizontal displ. Total displacements Phase displacements Stresses Deformations OUTPUT MENU (2) Excess pore pressures Active pore pressures Relative shear stresses Shear stresses (z) Shear stresses Effective normal stresses Stresses Force envelopes Hoop forces Bending moments Shear forces Axial forces Forces APPENDIX A - MENU TREE A-5 A-6 Legend Value indication Add curve Delete chart Exit (Recent projects) Print Work directory Close all Close Table Save Zoom in Recet view Copy New View Open Edit File CURVES MENU Chart Curves Format (Active windows) Tile vertically Tile horizontally Cascade Window About Help topics Help TUTORIAL MANUAL A.4 CURVES MENU PLAXIS Version 8 APPENDIX B - CALCULATION SCHEME
APPENDIX B - CALCULATION SCHEME
FOR INITIAL STRESSES DUE TO SOIL WEIGHT
Start Yes Horizontal
surface No Gravity loading K0-procedure Plastic calculation
Σ-Mweight = 1 Initial stresses
Σ-Mweight = 1 Ready Examples of non-horizontal surfaces, and non-horizontal weight stratifications are: B-1 TUTORIAL MANUAL B-2 PLAXIS Version 8 ...
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This note was uploaded on 03/26/2012 for the course CEEN 641 taught by Professor Travisgerber during the Fall '10 term at BYU.
- Fall '10