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On settlement prediction of soft clay reinforced by a group of stone columns

Article · December 2017

DOI: 10.1007/s41062-016-0049-0


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3 authors:

Tabchouche Seifeddine Mekki Mellas

Ferhat Abbas University of Setif Université de Biskra


Mounir Bouassida
University of Tunis El Manar


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Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1
DOI 10.1007/s41062-016-0049-0


On settlement prediction of soft clay reinforced by a group

of stone columns
Seifeddine Tabchouche1 • Mekki Mellas1 • Mounir Bouassida2

Received: 23 August 2016 / Accepted: 24 December 2016

 Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Abstract This paper studies the behavior of a foundation Introduction

on a soil reinforced by a group of end-bearing stone col-
umns in terms of settlement reduction in oedometer con- The need of construction on soft soils remains a big challenge
dition. The group of stone columns has been reduced to for geotechnical engineers. Several ground improvement
equivalent concentric crowns using a finite-difference techniques were developed to render soft soils able to support
FLAC3D modeling. The obtained numerical results were a variety of constructions with suitable stability conditions.
compared to existing analytical and numerical methods for The stone columns revealed one of those techniques that
the prediction of the settlement of reinforced soil. It was were widely practiced since the 70s.
found that the prediction of the settlement by the 3D The improvement by stone columns increases the
numerical modeling of equivalent concentric crowns is less bearing capacity of weak soils, decreases their settlement,
than that obtained by the actual 3D model of group of stone and accelerates their consolidation. Hence, the prediction
columns. These results have been validated through com- of performances provided by stone columns should be
parison between numerical, analytical, and in situ mea- addressed with respect to all those benefits.
surements collected from full-scale loading tests of stone The vibro displacement technique represents a process that
column from recent case history. contributes in the improvement of properties of soft clays
upon the installation of stone columns. The laterally expanded
Keywords Soft soils  Stone columns  Settlement stone material increases both the Young modulus and
reduction  Numerical method  Loading tests undrained shear strength of soft clays as a result of the induced
horizontal consolidation favored by enhanced permeability of
stone material [15, 16]. However, the applicability of stone
columns technique can be sometimes subjected to restrictions.
As an example, after Bowles [8], granular piles are prohibited
in thick deposits of pears or highly organic silts or clays due to
& Mounir Bouassida the low degree of stiffening achieved in those soils. Wood- ward [22] reported that the minimum undrained shear strength
Seifeddine Tabchouche of soft soil to be treated should equal 20 kN/m2. The design of foundation on soils reinforced by col-
Mekki Mellas umns, first, involves two verifications [5]:
– Bearing capacity To check if the allowable bearing
Faculty of sciences and technology, Laboratory of research in capacity of reinforced soil complies with the applied
civil engineering - LRGC, University of Biskra, BP 145, load.
07000 Biskra, Algeria – Settlement To check whether the predicted settlement
Université de Tunis El Manar, Ecole Nationale d’Ingénieurs of reinforced soil subjected to the applied load verifies
de Tunis, LR14ES03-Ingénierie Géotechnique, BP 37 Le the allowable settlement.
Belvédère, 1002 Tunis, Tunisia

1 Page 2 of 12 Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1

Handling both the bearing capacity and settlement ver- ratio (g) and the settlement reduction factor (b) defined,
ifications, an optimized area ratio can be determined. respectively, as follows:
Second, adopting the optimized area ratio, the study of g ¼ Ac =A ð1Þ
the behavior of foundation on reinforced soil can be tackled
by considering the acceleration of consolidation provided b ¼ Sunreinf ðpÞ=Sreinf ðpÞ: ð2Þ
by the stone columns, which play the role of vertical drains Here, Ac denotes the total cross section of stone columns all
[4]. located under the loaded foundation of area A.
Using numerical codes, the prediction of long-term Sunreinf and Sreinf denote the settlement of the foundation
settlement, especially when reinforcement by floating col- on unreinforced soil and reinforced soil, respectively,
umns is decided, of unreinforced compressible layers is subjected to the same allowable surcharge load p.
crucial [7]. Several methods for predicting the settlements of a
In this paper, the prediction of settlement of a founda- reinforced foundation by stone columns have been devel-
tion resting on a soil reinforced by a group of end-bearing oped [4].
stone columns in oedometer condition is investigated. The The study of behavior of stone columns, with focus on
oedometer condition fairly applies for foundations having settlement prediction, has been investigated by several
dimensions (width and length) quite greater than the researchers in the literature, Balaam and Booker [2].
thickness of compressible layer(s). Barksdale and Bachus [3] carried out a series of scaled
The statement of the problem is presented with focus on laboratory tests conducted on an isolated stone column in
numerical modeling, the design parameters of reinforced undrained conditions from which the load-settlement
soil by columns, and enriched literature review from recent response was analyzed. This experimental investigation
contributions. evidenced that the bearing capacity and the settlement
First, the numerical modeling using FLAC 3D code of behavior of a single stone column are significantly influ-
soil reinforced by end-bearing stone columns at constant enced by the type of applied load and the support provided
area ratio are presented: the unit cell model (UCM) as by the surrounding soil.
reference case, the group of stone columns (GSC), and the Wehr [21] performed a finite-element analysis in plane
equivalent concentric crowns (ECC) with boundary con- strain condition to simulate the observed behavior from
ditions. Obtained results are presented and compared. The laboratory tests of loaded footing on soil reinforced by a
predictions made by the FLAC 3D code of settlement of a group of columns. The author suggested that beyond a
large tank diameter in oedometer condition are compared depth equals 1.5 the diameter of the footing, the expansion
to results obtained by existing methods of design. Their behavior of columns is noticed. Beneath that critical depth,
interpretation and synthesis are addressed in details. In central columns behave in punching failure, whilst edge
particular, due to their simple numerical implementation, columns behave in buckling failure.
compared to actual group of stone columns, it is aimed to Serridge [20] conducted a series of field trial of partially
quantify the efficiency of annular concentric approach, in penetrating dry bottom-feed vibro stone columns support-
oedometer condition, for the prediction of settlement of ing shallow narrow footings. The author investigated the
reinforced soil. behavior and the settlement performance of vibro stone
Second, the Algiers harbor case history is presented, columns installed within a deep soft clay deposit. In this
from which the recorded data are used for the validation of study, focus was made on the response of sensitive soft
numerical predictions by FLAC 3D code. clay to the method of installation of stone columns.
The effectiveness of two 3D modeling of column-rein- Killeen and McCabe [17] conducted a finite-element
forced foundation (CRF) is discussed by comparing analysis on small groups of stone columns loaded by pad
numerical predictions with measurements recorded from a and strip footings. Authors have studied the influence of the
full-scale load test carried out in the framework of Algiers column stiffness and strength on the settlement behavior of
harbor case history. small loaded areas.
Castro [9] proposed an approximated solution to predict
the settlement of rigid footings resting on soft soil improved
Statement of the problem by a group of stone columns. The proposed analytical solu-
tion converts the group of stone columns to equivalent single
The settlement of a reinforced soil by stone columns occurs column with the same cross-sectional area. The author aims
when the foundation is subjected to its final loading. The to convert the problem to be axially symmetric.
study of the behavior of foundations on a soil reinforced by McCabe and Killeen [19] studied the behavior of small
columns is carried out using two parameters, i.e., the area groups of stone columns. Authors indicate that the mode of

Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1 Page 3 of 12 1

deformation of a column-reinforced foundation is governed The reinforcement is controlled by an area ratio of

by the column spacing and length rather than the number of g = 20% that was adopted after the method of design of
columns. Authors also discussed the influence of a critical column-reinforced foundations proposed by Bouassida and
length on the settlement performance of a CRF. Carter [5]. This reinforcement is kept constant, while the
Consider the effect of stone column installation by lat- number of stone columns (modeled by a stone crown) and
eral expansion, Ellouze et al. [12] reported that an the area of loaded foundation are varied. The settlement of
improvement in the Young’s modulus of the initial soil reinforced soil is, first, predicted by the unit cell model
takes place due to the horizontal consolidation owed to the (UCM) and, then, by the group of stone columns modeling.
presence of stone columns. Then, prior to the final loading Then, the load-settlement curves are predicted using
due to the construction of oil tank, the averaged improve- different reinforcement configurations where the number of
ment in Young’s modulus of loose silt sand can attain by stone columns and equivalent concentric stone crowns is
30% around each stone column over a horizontal distance increased.
of about 1.5 times its diameter. The predictions obtained by the reinforcement using the
In the following, focus is made on numerical settlement concentric crowns are compared to the one predicted by the
predictions by the FLAC 3D code in oedometer condition actual group of columns modelings.
and their assessment with data collected from the very
recent Algiers harbor stone columns project. Unit cell model (UCM)
The improvement in Young’s modulus of the initial soil
due to the installation of stone columns is not considered. According to Bouassida [4], the UCM is built from the
distribution of a group of columns installed in a regular
pattern. Geometrically, the UCM is a reproducible volume
Investigated 3D numerical modeling which includes a single column with a circular cross sec-
tion surrounded by a given volume of the initial soil. In
Three modeling in oedometer condition of soil reinforced case the columns are installed in squared pattern, the
by stone columns is investigated by performing a three- periodic volume of UCM corresponds to a parallelepiped
dimensional explicit finite-difference method (FDM), cylinder. The axisymmetric condition is, then, adopted by
incorporated in Fast Lagrangian Analysis of Continua an equivalent unit cell with circular cross section. The area
(FLAC). Those numerical models are considered for the ratio is written as follows:
study of the behavior of loose sandy silt layer reinforced by 4a2
a group of end-bearing stone columns subjected to an oil g¼ : ð3Þ
tank uniform load of 120 kPa having large diameter. The
properties of the initial soil and constitutive material of The diameter of unit cell model, Deq, is expressed as a
end-bearing column are taken from a real stone column function of the axis-to-axis spacing between columns ‘‘Sp’’,
project built at Zarzis terminal (Tunisia). The column’s ‘‘a’’ denotes the stone column’s radius, [1].
diameter is equal to 1.2 m and length of Hc = 7 m. As Figure 1 shows the considered UCM with zero hori-
reported by Bouassida and Hazzar [7], the related data of zontal displacement at the lateral border as required in
this case history are given in Table 1. oedometer condition.
Under the central axis of the loaded foundation, it is
Table 1 Geotechnical parameters of the stone columns reinforced obvious to assume that horizontal displacement within the
foundation described by the Mohr–Coulomb model reinforced soil layer(s) is almost zero, in particular when
Parameter Unit Soft soil Stone column end-bearing columns are designed. Consequently, in the
central zone of loaded foundation, the settlement is quasi
ch kN/m3 17 18 uniform as usually assumed in the design of column-rein-
u Degree 0 42 forced foundations [4].
C kPa 25 0 The study of the behavior of the UCM is undertaken
E kPa 3600 36,000 using the FLAC 3D code by assuming the elastic perfectly
v – 0.33 0.33 plastic Mohr–Coulomb model for the initial soil. This
G MPa 1.35 13.53 model is still current to describe approximately the
K MPa 3.53 35.29 behavior of granular soils (sands), cohesive soils (clay and
Dc m – 1.2 silt soils), and rocks. In very recent numerical investiga-
ch unit weight, u friction angle, C cohesion, E Young’s modulus, m tions conducted by the FLAC 3D code, the Mohr–Coulomb
Poisson’s ratio, G shear modulus, K bulk modulus, Dc stone column behavior model revealed satisfactory when predicting the

1 Page 4 of 12 Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1

The settlement predicted by the GSC modeling UCM

and the analytical variational approach [6] appears identi-
cal. In turn, the French method [13] led to lower prediction
of the settlement of reinforced soil. Indeed, by this method,
the oedometer Young modulus of the initial soil is adopted
which provides more settlement reduction.
It is worth mentioning that Chow’s method [11] predicts
the lowest settlement, because it assumes the composite
ground deforms in one-dimensional compression condition,
i.e., horizontal deformation is zero, and therefore, the
oedometer Young modulus is both used for the initial soil
and column material.
The UCM was also adopted to predict the consolidation
of soft soil reinforced by stone column. Guetif and
Bouassida [14] and Castro and Sagaseta [10] used different
constitutive laws for the constituents of reinforced soil to
predict the evolution of settlement due to horizontal con-
solidation as the stone column behaves like vertical drains.

Group of stone columns (GSC)

The prediction of settlement is investigated by three

Fig. 1 Numerical FLAC3D modeling of adopted UCM
equivalent numerical modeling of soil reinforced by a
group of end-bearing stone columns. The 3D finite-differ-
ence analysis has been carried out by the FLAC 3D code to
behavior of loose silt soil reinforced by stone column, Klai analyze the variation of settlement reduction factor b ver-
et al. [18] and Bouassida [4]. sus the applied load using different configurations of stone
The numerical FLAC 3D model, sketched in Fig. 1, columns in triangular pattern. Figure 3 displays the three
comprises 672 finite-difference zones and 735 grid points numerical 3D modeling 1a, 2a, and 3a performed by FLAC
(at cycle 6609). 3D code.
The settlements of unreinforced soil and reinforced soil The same area ratio adopted for the UCM is considered:
were predicted, by different methods, as a function of the g = 20%; the stone columns of diameter Dc = 1.2 m are
applied surcharge load at the surface of UCM. Figure 2 installed along an average depth of Hc = 7 m in a trian-
displays the variation of settlements as a function of the gular pattern with an axis-to-axis spacing of 2.06 m
applied load. (Fig. 3). The characteristics of generated meshes for the
three numerical FLAC3D modeling are summarized in
Working Load (kPa) Table 2.
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
0 Figure 4 shows the settlement reduction predicted by the
Chow and French methods which adopt the UCM and the
three modeling performed by FLAC 3D code and Bouas-
sida et al. [6] method which adopt the 3D modeling of soil
reinforced a group of stone columns.
Settlement (cm)

The installation of stone columns with an area ratio

g = 20% provides a settlement reduction in the range of
3.5–3.9 times, this relatively significant reduction of set-
tlement is affected by the oedometer condition as consid-
ered by the studied three numerical FLAC 3D modeling.
The predicted settlement reduction by the numerical
Chow's method (1996) modeling of soil reinforced by a group of 7, 19, and 37
French method - CFMS (2011)
Bouassida et al. (2003) stone columns appears almost identical with negligible
8 FLAC 3D - Unit Cell Model
Unreinforced soil
relative difference, of ±2.5%, of the settlement reduction
factor. Analytical predictions made by Bouassida et al. [6]
Fig. 2 Settlement predictions by the UCM method fit well with those obtained from modeling 3a

Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1 Page 5 of 12 1

Triangular pattern z
Sp = 2,06 m y
Dc = 1,2 m x
η = 20 %

14 m
6m 10 m
6m 14 m
10 m

7m 7m

Modeling 1a Modeling 2a Modeling 3a

Fig. 3 Finite-difference discretization of a group of 7, 19, and 37 stone columns

Table 2 Characteristics of numerical modeling of group of stone using the reinforcement by a group of 37 columns. As
columns as implemented by the FLAC 3D code shown from the settlement predictions in Fig. 2, it is well
Modeling of group of stone FD Grid Cycle noted the significant overestimation of settlement reduction
columns zones points by the Chow’s method.
Therefore, in oedometer condition, it is concluded that
1a 1680 1575 2722
increasing the number of stone columns, as shown in
2a 4592 4215 3146
Fig. 3, for the generated 3D numerical modeling does not
3a 8960 7815 5926
significantly affect the settlement prediction of reinforced
soil up to surcharge loads of 120 kPa.

10 Equivalent concentric crowns (ECC)

Chow's method (1996)
Settlement reduction factor 

French method - CFMS (2011) The group of stone columns has been reduced to equivalent
Bouassida et al. (2003)
FLAC 3D - Group of 07 columns concentric crowns (ECC) using a full 3D finite-difference
FLAC 3D - Group of 19 columns
6 FLAC 3D - Group of 37 columns
FLAC3D modeling. The equivalent co-centric crowns
(ECC) modeling can be adopted, in case the reinforcing
columns are located in a regular pattern as investigated by
Ellouze and Bouassida (2009) and Ellouze et al. [12].
Major advantage of this geometrical transformation con-
2 sists in carrying numerical computations in axisymmetric
condition that is timeless consuming than 3D modeling.
0 Equaling between the area of columns, located at equal
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
distance from the axis of loaded foundation, and the area of
Applied load (kPa) ECC, then the equivalent thickness of ECC, eCr, is calcu-
Fig. 4 Estimation of settlement reduction factors lated from Eq (4):

1 Page 6 of 12 Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1

Fig. 5 Finite-difference
discretizations generated using
the FLAC 3D code-A zoomed
view: a group of stone columns;
b equivalent concentric stone

eCrðiÞ ¼ ðNðiÞ  Ac Þ=ð2p  Sp Þ: ð4Þ obtained by the three modeling 1a, 2a, and 3a of a
group of stone columns. From Fig. 6, when the
Sp spacing between columns. N(i) number of columns applied load is equal to or greater than 100 kPa,
located on the circumference of the crown i. Modeling 1a (7 stone columns) overestimates the
Figure 5 illustrates the finite-difference discretization of settlement of reinforced soil by 14.6–15% compared
group of stone columns and its equivalent concentric to predictions by Modeling 2a and 3a (19 and 37 stone
crowns as generated by the FLAC 3D code. columns). The difference in predictions by Modeling
Table 2 presents the characteristics of three numerical 2a and 3a remains insignificant (less than 5%).
modeling implemented by the FLAC 3D code when the
group of stone columns is adopted.
Table 3 Characteristics of numerical modeling of equivalent con-
Table 3 presents the characteristics of three numerical centric crowns as implemented by the FLAC 3D code
modeling implemented by the FLAC 3D code when
Modeling of equivalent concentric FD Grid Cycle
adopting the ECC. crowns zones points
The interpretation of numerical predictions by the FLAC
3D code is given below. 1b 3136 3375 5644
2b 4928 5295 6237
(a) Group of stone columns (GSC)
3b 8512 9135 8560
Figure 6 compares between the settlement predictions

Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1 Page 7 of 12 1

0 20 40
Load (kPa)
60 80 100 120 140
a Load (kPa)
0 20 40 60 80 100 120
Unreinforced soil
group of 07 columns
2 1 concentric crown
Settlement (cm)

Settlement (cm)

6 8

group of 37 columns 10
8 group of 07 columns
group of 19 columns

Fig. 6 Soil behavior of columns reinforced foundation with a group

of 7, 19, and 37 stone columns b Load (kPa)
0 20 40 60 80 100 120
(b) Equivalent concentric crowns (ECC) 0
Unreinforced soil
Figure 7 compares between the settlement predic- group of 19 columns
tions when adopting the three ECC modeling. From 2 2 concentric crowns
Fig. 7, the predictions of settlement of reinforced
soil are quasi similar by Modeling 2b and 3b (2 and 3 4
Settlement (cm)

ECC), up to load of 130 kPa. Whilst the use of

modeling 2a (1 ECC) significantly overestimates the 6

settlement prediction from load of 60 kPa.

From Fig. 7, it is also noted the settlement prediction 8

by one ECC modeling is greater than those predicted

by the 2 and 3 ECC modeling. 10

(c) Comparing between GSC and ECC modeling

First, it is worth noted that the GSC represents the 12
more realistic modeling as the columns are usually
installed in regular pattern to cover the completely c Load (kPa)
loaded area. 0 20 40 60 80 100 120
Unreinforced soil
Load (kPa) group of 37 columns
2 3 concentric crowns
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
Settlement (cm)


Settlement (cm)



10 1 concenrtric crown
Fig. 8 a Variation of applied load versus settlement using a group of
2 concenrtric crown
3 concenrtric crown
07 stone columns and ECC. b Variation of applied load versus
12 settlement using a group of 19 stone columns and two ECC.
c Variation of applied load versus settlement using a group of 37
Fig. 7 Soil behavior of columns reinforced foundation with 1, 2, and stone columns and three ECC
3 equivalent concentric crowns (ECC)

1 Page 8 of 12 Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1

The predictions of settlement using the three ECC Algiers harbor case history—full-scale load tests
modeling and respective GSC modeling are com- on a column-reinforced foundation
pared from Fig. 8a–c.
Local ground conditions of Algiers Harbor area
Figure 8a shows that quasi-identical predictions of the
settlement of reinforced soil are obtained by adopting
In the framework of the Algiers Harbor extension project,
either the modeling using a group of seven columns or the
the consolidation of the quays and creation of new docks
respective one ECC modeling. The maximum difference of
were recently launched at the end of 2015. After the
settlement prediction between the two modeling equals
Algerian seismic standards RPA 2003, Algiers City
0.49 cm that is negligible for predicting the settlement
belongs to zone 1 that is classified with high potential
under surcharge load of 120 kPa.
seismic risk. Furthermore, the soil profile of Algiers Harbor
In turn, Fig. 8b, c clearly shows that when the number of
comprises an intermediate sand layer that might be sub-
stone columns increases, as well as for the number of
jected to the liquefaction phenomena. Hence, a ground
respective ECC, the difference between the settlement
improvement solution of existing soil layers was decided to
predictions also increases, especially when the surcharge
mitigate the liquefaction risk and to reduce settlements of
load exceeds 80 kPa. Furthermore, an opposite trend is
compressible soil layers.
marked for the difference between the two settlement
The investigation of underground conditions at the site
predictions, i.e., the two ECC modeling provides lower
of project showed the ability in using the improvement by
settlement than that obtained by a group of 19 columns.
the deep vibro-techniques. After Fig. 9, the grain size
Figure 8 shows that Modeling 3b (three ECC) predicts
distribution of the soil layers matches well with the known
less settlement than that obtained by Modeling 3a (37 stone
recommendations in regard to the limits of applications of
columns) especially when the applied load is beyond or equal
deep vibro-techniques.
to 100 kPa. Such prediction is explained by the fact that the
The soil profile illustrated in Fig. 10 shows a 1-m-thick
ECC, as continuous walls having much higher stiffness than
clay layer sandwiched between silt clayey sand and fine
that of soft soil, provides much better confining effect within
sand layers. Several undisturbed samples were extracted
the surrounding soil in particular in the central part of the
within the soil profile at various depths and then subjected
loaded foundation. Hence, the settlement prediction by the
to laboratory tests.
group of columns, which provides lesser confining effect, is
higher than that predicted by the 3 ECC modeling.

Fig. 9 Grain size distribution Clay Silt Fine Sand Coarse Sand Gravel Cobbles
curves of the different layers in 100 100
Algiers harbor region
90 90
Percentage passing [by weight] (%)

80 80

70 70
limits of application for stone columns technique
60 60

50 50

40 40

30 Depth 3,50m-3,95m
Depth 5,85m-6,30m
20 Depth 9,45m-9,90m 20
Depth 11,50m-12,10m
Depth 12,10m-12,55m
10 Depth 14,55m-15m 10
Depth 18,20m-18,65m
0 0
0,001 0,01 0,1 1 10 100
Particle size (mm)

Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1 Page 9 of 12 1

(b) stone columns were installed in triangular pattern with

axis-to-axis spacing equals to 1.8 m. The area ratio of this
trial test is 100%. The length of the installed stone columns
was 7.5 m. About the properties of sand layers and marl
stone layer underneath, the installed stone columns are of
end-bearing type.
The plot tests included the installation of 28 stone
columns, a single column is loaded. The column subjected
to the loading test is located at the center of area where the
28 SCs were installed. The full-scale loading test consisted
of incremental applied load with measurement of settle-
ment using three sensors. As such, the loaded stone column
surrounded by the 27 installed stone columns is assumed to
behave in oedometer condition due to the confinement
provided by those columns.
Load-settlement curves drawn from those loading tests
represent the best indicator to assess the predictions by the
FLAC 3D code to simulate the real behavior of CRF. The
unit cell model was, first, investigated by the finite-differ-
ence method implemented by the FLAC 3D code. The soil
layers and column material have been modeled by the
Mohr–Coulomb constitutive law with the properties sum-
marized in Table 4.
Figure 12a–c shows the respective numerical predic-
tions by the FLAC 3D code compared to measured load-
settlement data. It should be noted that the two numerical
modeling do not consider the improvement of mechanical
characteristics of the initial soil due to the installation of
stone columns.
Fig. 10 Typical ground cross section of Algiers harbor area In a second attempt, the simulation of numerical mod-
eling that comprises 28 installed stone columns with loaded
Full-scale loading tests on soil reinforced by stone central stone column has been studied (Fig. 12b). Two
columns numerical models generated by the FLAC 3D code have
been tested to predict the load-settlement curve. Fig-
A series of full-scale load tests was undertaken to capture ure 12b, c shows that the real behavior of loaded single
the behavior of soil layers reinforced by stone columns. stone column belonging to a group of stone columns is
Figure 11 displays: (a) the excavation at the top side of much better predicted than the behavior of an isolated
installed stone columns confirms a diameter of 84 cm; column.

Fig. 11 Stone column viewed

after installation

1 Page 10 of 12 Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1

Table 4 Geotechnical
Parameters Unit Soil 1 Soil 2 Soil 3 Soil 4 Stone columns
parameters of soil layers at
Algiers harbor region c kN/m2 16.68 16 17.66 15.20 21
u Degree 32 0 32 15.04 40
C kPa 0 4.325 0 298 0
Pressure meter modulus EM MPa 10.27 13.39 44.1 62.9 60
v – 0.27 0.27 0.27 0.30 0.33
Constitutive model – Mohr
Dc m – – – – 0.84


(b) (c)
Fig. 12 Load vs settlement of the full loaded stone column: a FDM—isolated SC; b FDM—group of SC; c predicted vs measured settlement of
the loaded stone column

The two FLAC 3D well illustrates the importance of the concentric crowns. As seen from this figure, the two gen-
group effect on the settlement reduction that results from erated FLAC 3D numerical modelings (GSC and ECC)
the installation of a group of stone columns. predict similar results up to uniform load of 120 kPa. In
Figure 13 shows the settlement predictions obtained this range of applied load, it is agreed that the ECC mod-
from the 3D group of stone columns and the equivalent eling is favored because of its simplest numerical handling

Innov. Infrastruct. Solut. (2017)2:1 Page 11 of 12 1

Load (kPa) • Predictions obtained by the UCM showed that the

0 50 100 150 200 settlement by Bouassida et al. [6]’s linear elastic
0 0 method fits well with predicted results by the GSC
modeling 3a.
-1 -1
• By comparing 3D settlement predictions, a good
agreement has been shown between the reduced
Settlement (mm)

-2 -2
equivalent concentric stone crowns and the group of
-3 -3 vibro-replacement end-bearing stone columns. Indeed,
the maximum relative error of 9, 27, and 20% has been
-4 -4
registered in the case of 7, 19, and 37 stone columns
-5 -5 equivalent to 1, 2, and 3 concentric stone crowns,
Group of stone columns
-6 Equivalent Concentric crown -6 • From the Algiers harbor case history, the measurements
Full loading test
-7 -7
of settlement during the full-scale load test conducted
0 50 100 150 200 on soil reinforced by stone columns permitted the
validation of predicted settlement by the three equiv-
Fig. 13 Settlement predictions of the full loaded stone column—
GSC vs ECC alent concentric crown FLAC 3D modeling.

about that required by the GSC modeling. However, for all Acknowledgements The authors would like to appreciate Professor
applied loads, the predictions made by the GSC modeling Ali Bouafia (University of Blida, Algeria) for his kind support in
fit well with full-scale load test measurements from the providing the data of stone columns project at Algiers Harbor.
Algiers harbor case history.

Summary and conclusions
1. Balaam NP, Booker JR (1981) Analysis of rigid rafts supported
by granular piles. Int J Numer Anal Methods Geomech
The settlement prediction of a foundation on a soil rein- 5:379–403
forced by stone columns has been investigated in 2. Balaam NP, Booker JR (1985) Effect of stone column yield on
oedometer condition. Three numerical modelings were the settlement of rigid foundations in stabilized clay. Int J Numer
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