The behavior of drilled shaft retaining walls in expansive clay soils
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Drilled shaft retaining walls are common earth retaining structures, well suited to urban environments where noise, space, and damage to adjacent structures are major considerations. The design of drilled shaft retaining walls in non-expansive soils is well established. In expansive soils, however, there is no consensus on the correct way to account for the influence of soil expansion on wall behavior. Based on the range of design assumptions currently in practice, existing walls could be substantially over- or under-designed. The goal of this research is to advance the understanding of the effects of expansive clay on drilled shaft retaining walls. The main objectives of this study are to identify the processes responsible for wall loading and deformation in expansive clay, to evaluate how these processes change with time, and to provide guidance for design practice to account for these processes and ensure adequate wall performance. The primary source of information for this research is performance data from a four-year monitoring program at the Lymon C. Reese research wall, a full-scale instrumented drilled shaft retaining wall constructed through expansive clay in Manor, Texas. The test wall was instrumented with inclinometers and fiber optic strain gauges, and performance data was recorded during construction, excavation, during natural moisture fluctuations, and during controlled inundation tests that provided the retained soil with unlimited access to water. In addition to the test wall study, a field assessment of existing TxDOT drilled shaft retaining walls was conducted. The main process influencing short-term wall deformation was found to be global response to stress relief during excavation, which causes the wall and soil to move together without the development of large earth pressures or bending stresses. Long-term wall deformations were governed by the development of drained conditions in both the retained soil and the foundation soil after approximately eight months of controlled inundation testing. To ensure adequate wall performance, the deformations and structural loads associated with short- and long-term conditions should be combined and checked against allowable values.