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QUESTION ABOUT K modulus of subgrade

I read few articles and books that describe this soil property. I dont know if this could be even called soil property since its a mathematical model which tries to imitate soil behavior under pressure. Anyway the formula as we know it is k=pressure/settlement (kN/m2) / m. As I understood, "k" only represents elastic behavior of soil which only happens for small deformation (settlements). Now this is where I get confused. Small deformation (settlements)? How small? Many authors describe "k" as a tangent to pressure/settlement curve. Is this related to my previous question? I think it could be cause for small settlements the pressure/settlement curve is pretty much linear. But I could be wrong... Which field or laboratory test could most accurately predict "k" value? Ive seen many graphs from Plate Load Test which is basically pressure/settlement graphs. Are they reliable? I have many doubts here. First of all, the pressure bulb from small plate and foundation are VERY much different. If the soil properties dont change with depth, then its ok. Second, PLT is only for soils that dont undergo consolidation! So only reliable for soils that only undergoes instant settlement. No long term settlements! Ive found few formulas from "Bowels" that try to correlate bearing capacity and "k" value. Can these be safely used while designing? Ive read also few forum discussions where experts say that "k" value should vary under a raft foundation and that one value shouldnt be used under the whole plate. I dont understand this? Why? If "k" is used based on the elastic behavior I dont see any problem of using one value for design process.

ANSWERS 1. You are correct regarding the plate load test. The pressure distribution is very different from what you actually encounter under a foundation. You are also correct about kvalue being the result of a mathematical model. As with many things in our field, the value of this number comes from "empirical" correlations than anything else. Don't try too hard to understand it theoretically, as you'll find out that it's just numbers that appear in tables as a result of a lot of scattered data 2. Since K changes with the pressure (nonlinear trend), the point is to select the value corresponding to the applied pressure. This is simplified analysis that represents the soil foundation under the raft with appropriate design value. Now like any problem you can always go to more detailed analysis considering the facts you mentioned. 3. So basically one should define a value that will correspond to real future pressure that the structure will engage on the soil under the foundation?

This could also be the explanation of the fact that k value shouldnt be the same under the whole foundation, which some authors are saying. More k values should be defined which basically imitate different pressures under the foundations. What do you think? 4. It is fine to spend great effort fussing about the meaning k value. However, it does not make a big difference in the slab thickness. Philosophically, it's a spring constant representing the stiffness of the soil. As soil1999 pointed out, it's nonlinear with applied load. It also needs to be adjusted for the slab dimensions since tabulated values are normalized to 1 sq. ft plate load test. 5. I dont understand "does not make a big difference in the slab thickness"?! What you mean by this? Are you saying that slab thickness wont have impact on bending moment diagrams of the slab and necessary reinforcement? 6. For combined footings/mats and also for lateral piles, changing the k value (vertical or lateral subgrade modulus) by even 300% would do little to the maximum induced shear, moment, and deflection. Try it- get the Hetenyi equations and plot two cases - A mat foundation (or even a grade beam) and then laterally loaded pier. In cases, foundation geometry and compressive strength of concrete has more influence than the subgrade soil modulus value. 7. k value is the basis for the structural design of an industrial floor slab - something where there will be point loads, rack loads and the like. k value is not a proxy for bearing pressure. k is a surrogate to evaluate the elastic response of soil to applied loads. Problem is you are dealing with an elastic response in the very near surface of the soil profile (i.e., within the first couple of feet). I've always used correlations between CBR and k. I typically use the ACI guidance for k atop the sub-base, which allows some increase to the soil's k-value depending on the thickness of stone base atop the soil subgrade. Yes, there are crazy folks in structural engineering that love "k" so much they want to find such a value for deep seated soil behavior. Some even refer to "long-term" kvalues. This is poppycock! An industrial floor slab is designed as a beam on an elastic foundation (well that was prior to computer modeling). When a load is applied to this beam, there will be load spread within the beam and load transfer from the beam to the elastic soil. What happens in the soil? What happens in the beam, what reinforcing is needed? These are structurally controlled by the materials and the k-value. Foundation design includes some component of material strength and reinforcing for sure! It's just the load transfer from the foundation to the soil is not a point load, is uniformly distributed immediately below the foundation and the soil strength is mobilized to much greater depths. These depths may influence more than one soil material and these soil responses will vary. A simple "k" value cannot address these details - and shouldn't be used!

8. Could software like PLAXIS be used to predict modulus of subgrade reaction under raft foundations? Basically user would need to model raft geometry, load it and then analyze stresses under the raft with similar settlement which can then be grouped and then used for modulus estimation (i said grouped since K value is never the same under a raft) Can anyone respond maybe regarding PLAXIS usage? Questions to geotechnical experts. When testing soil samples is there any test that could be used to determine K value? An pressure-displacement diagram like in plate load test should be needed or this also isnt a good indication...

9. I think you might get some helpful answers if you gave a specific example that you were trying to analyze. Otherwise it's hard to give detailed advice because the questions are sort of jumping around and are very general. (Note: In my statements below, K is related to overall modulus such as for mat design......not K1 such as from plate load test used for pavement design). Regarding Plaxis, you could use load/deformation results like you discuss to help define a K value. But this would be going backwards......the point of a Plaxis analysis would be to get away from the over simplified modulus based analysis. Basically any test on soils that can correlate load to deflection can help with determining K. Most of these would be field tests (Pressure meter, dilatometer, SPT, etc) although various lab tests and empirical correlations could help. Not sure this will help but what I frequently do when thinking about what modulus to use for a mat, etc is: make a spreadsheet that has different square footing sizes going down the left column (ex. 2' square, 5', 10', 25', 50'). Then across the top, label different columns with different bearing pressures (100 psf, 200 psf, 500, 1000, 2000, etc). Run a bunch of settlement analyses (such as schmertmann using SPT, cone, dilatometer, etc) and fill in the cells of the excel table with the settlement that corresponds to each pressure/footing size combination. Then I create another duplicate set of columns for each bearing pressure and in each cell of the table calculate the associated modulus (i.e. pressure/settlement). This helps give me a good overall feel for the scatter in K value based on different pressures and different sized loading areas. Then I roll this around in my head to consider what value is appropriate and also provide the excel file to the structural for a discussion on what we should use.

10. "But this would be going backwards......the point of a Plaxis analysis would be to get away from the over simplified modulus based analysis." Yes agreed. This would basically be like an simulation of an loaded raft in Plaxis. One would first define structure geometry, material properties and then define soil properties (I think PLAXIS soil models use E modulus, Poisson ratio, consolidation

parameters...). Second step would be to load the raft geometry with loads determined from analysis and design software(software like ETABS, RISA, STAAD...) Third is running the analysis in PLAXIS and analyzing results (settlements, pressures...). With pressure-settlement values from PLAXIS users could define overall K modulus which varies under the raft (something that I recently found out reading some research papers). With these values user would go back to his analysis/design program and define K value under the raft, run the analysis and design raft together with its superstructure. You said:"But this would be going backwards......the point of a Plaxis analysis would be to get away from the over simplified modulus based analysis." I completely agree with you, but then how to design raft (required reinforcement) in PLAXIS? Another understanding problem that I have is that loads determined of foundation structure from programs like ETABS, STAAD all depend on the foundation behavior .

Q>I know this question might be funny but i do not know the exact difference between subgrade modulus and bearing capacity of soil. And how can we convert one to another. In safe program, the subgrade modulus should be inserted or bearing capacit of soil? A>Sometimes silly questions or questioning the status quo will produce great inventions. Think of the person who questioned why not we get the photos immediately from a camera-which resulted in Polaroid cameras-although it has become obsolete due to the invention of digital cameras. Coming to your question: Please note that the unit for bearing capacity is KN/m2, whereas the unit for Subgrade modulus is kN/m3. It is also called as soil spring constant k = Pressure/settlement. It is normally used to solve problems of beams on elastic foundation using Winkler Model. The allowable soil bearing capacity is the maximum pressure that can be permitted on foundation soil with adequate safety against soil rupture or excessive settlement. There is no reliable correlation between modulus of subgrade reaction and soil bearing capacity-because they are measurements of entirely different characteristics of a soil. The k-value used for floor-slab design reflects the response of the subgrade under temporary (elastic) conditions and small deflections, usually 1.25 mm or less. Soil bearing capacity value (normally used to predict and limit differential settlements between footings or parts of a foundation) reflect total permanent (inelastic) subgrade deformations that may be 20 to 40 (or more) times greater than the small deflections on which k-values are based.

I fully agree with the comments given by Er. drsmani over Modulas of Subgrade of Soil and Bearing Cpacity of Soil. If Unit of Bearing capacity of soil is Kg/cm2 then Unit of K value will be kg/cm2/ cm.

Bearing Capacity of soil means after the said value no increase of pressure will be sustained and it is total faluire of strata. Graph totally break there. Hence safe bearing capacity is always considered in design with a factor of safety over ultimate Bearing Capacity. For load bearing structures like Column footings or any deep or shallow foundations which recieve pressure of wider area and transfer to the soil through a rigd structure over a rather smaller area. Modulus of reaction is a pressure sustained by a surface with respect to a unit settelment in its top crust. Here no total faluire causes but with respect to a standard settlment pressure is measured. and this value is used to measure the behaviour direct over the surface of structures like pavemnets, subgrades , subbases of roads. It is very much may corelate with the CBR values but not with the Bearing Capacity of Soil.

The modulus of subgrade reaction is a conceptual relationship between soil pressure and deflection. Recall from the plate load test being done during geotechnical engineering subject and available in almost all soil reports. The modulus of subgrade reaction k is slope of P vs. Delta graph. Where, P = load applied (kN/sqm) and Delta = deformation (m). Hence, unit of k is (kN/sqm)/(m). This is nothing but the stiffness of soil (Pressure required for unit deformation) Many people give unit as kN/cu.m. which many times confuses. Hence, using k in stiffness term always helps better understanding. Though, modulus of subgrade reaction and bearing pressure is related to each other, there is no definite relationship between them. The reason, soil and its properties vary from place to place, there is significant effect on the type of soil in layers below etc. However, J E Bowles has attempted to give a relationship which is k = 40 x FOS x Qa, where FOS is factor of safety considered in Bearing pressure calculation and Qa is allowable bearing pressure. Hope this explanation will help you.

Some times silly questions or questioning the status quo will produce great inventions. Think of the person who questioned why not we get the photos immediately from a camera-which resulted in Polaroid cameras-although it has become obsolete due to the invention of digital cameras. Coming to your question: Please note that the unit for bearing capacity is KN/m2,

whereas the unit for Subgrade modulus is kN/m3. It is also called as soil spring constant k = Pressure/settlement. It is normally used to solve problems of beams on elastic foundation using Winkler Model. The allowable soil bearing capacity is the maximum pressure that can be permitted on foundation soil with adequate safety against soil rupture or excessive settlement. There is no reliable correlation between modulus of subgrade reaction and soil bearing capacity-because they are measurements of entirely different characteristics of a soil. The k-value used for floor-slab design reflects the response of the subgrade under temporary (elastic) conditions and small deflections, usually 1.25 mm or less. Soil bearing capacity value (normally used to predict and limit differential settlements between footings or parts of a foundation) reflect total permanent (inelastic) subgrade deformations that may be 20 to 40 (or more) times greater than the small deflections on which k-values are based.

The modulus of subgrade reaction is a conceptual relationship between soil pressure and deflection. Recall from the plate load test being done during geotechnical engineering subject and available in almost all soil reports. The modulus of subgrade reaction Where, P = load applied (kN/sqm) and Delta = deformation (m). k is slope of P vs. Delta graph.

Hence, unit of k is (kN/sqm)/(m). This is nothing but the stiffness of soil (Pressure required for unit deformation) Many people give unit as kN/cu.m. which many times confuses. Hence, using k in stiffness term always helps better understanding. Though, modulus of subgrade reaction and bearing pressure is related to each other, there is no definite relationship between them. The reason, soil and its properties vary from place to place, there is significant effect on the type of soil in layers below etc. However, J E Bowles has attempted to give a relationship which is k = 40 x FOS x Qa, where FOS is factor of safety considered in Bearing pressure calculation and Qa is allowable bearing pressure. In SAFE program, you have to supply modulus of subgrade reaction as you are suppliying the stiffness properties of soil. Hope this explanation will help you.

Dear drnsmani and sspawar, Let me first express my best gratitude to you and all the other sefinda friends for helping us by giving good and clear responses to our questions. Related to the previous question I have got another question. In CSI SAFE program, the soil property defined must be subgrade modulus or bearing capacity. If subgrade modulus is needed to be defined there, so how does the program calculates the bearing capacity needed for design since as you said there is not a reliable correlation between these two. With warm regards, Motahare

Dear Er. Motahare, In SAFE, you are supplying the stiffness of soil in terms of subgrade modulus. At each node, the program then calculate the linear spring value (based on tributary area) to perform the analysis. Since, the entire founation is now resting on set of spring in both the directions, based on the loading applied, the springs will deform. This deformation value is calculated. Based on this value, the program will further calculate the bearing pressure below soil based on soil spring stiffness and deformation obtained. Hence, in SAFE, you need not supply any input related to allowable bearing pressure. In the graphical output, you can very well see the pressure induced below the slab elements. This bearing pressure you shall check with allowable bearing pressure of soil. Regards, Jignesh Chokshi

Dear All, The bearing capacity is calculated based on shear failure criterion and also based on settlement criterion and lesser of two is adopted as alowable sbc with a FOS. In most soils ,I think it is the settlement criterion which decides the SBC vis-a vis Local/General shear failure criterion Kindly enlighten about: i) IF Net SBC of soil is 10 T/m2 for isolated footings (permissible settlement=50mm)

FOS for SBC computation = 2.5 Value of subgrade modulus as per definition ,k= 10/0.050 = 2000 T/m3 As per Bowels k= 40*2.5*10 = 1000 T/m3 There seems difference in the two computations ii) If shear criterion governs for deciding the SBC, then k canot be taken = Net SBC/settlement kindly enlighten regards vikramjeet

Dear member In SAFE No where you have an option of giving SBC of the soil, In fact it is provided as Subgrade Modulus or Ks (stiffness of the soil) This Ks is given by SBC by Settlement, in whick settlement is calculated by the the plate load Test MODULUS OF SUBGRADE REACTION (Ks) The Modulus of sub-grade reaction is a conceptual relationship between soil pressure and deflection that is widely used in the structural analysis of foundation members. It is used for continuous footings, mats, and various types of pilings. The basic equation for Ks when using the plate load test data is given by Ks = q / d The plot of q versus d from load tests shows non-linear variation. If this plot of curve is used to obtain Ks, the value of Ks depends on whether it is a tangent or secant modulus and location of the coordinates of q and d. However, the other earliest method suggested by Terzaghi (1955) to evaluate the Ks for full sized footings from plate load tests for different types of soil are 1) For footings on clay: Ks = k1 B 2) For footing on sand (including size effects): Ks = k1 [(B+1)/2B]2 3) For a rectangular footing on sand of dimensions B x mB: Ks = k1 [(m+0.5m)/1.5m]

Where, Ks = desired value for full-sized footings and k1 = value from a 1 x 1 ft. square plate load test. Vesic (1961) proposed that the Modulus of sub-grade reaction could be computed using the stress strain modulus Es as, Ks = Es / [B (1-m2)] Comprehensive accounts of the evaluation of Modulus of sub-grade reaction from plate load tests are given by Terzaghi (1955), Bowles (1977) and summarized by Nair (1974). It is observed that ks is not a unique property of the soil medium and the following factors can affect the determination of Ks from a plate loading test.

a) b) c)

Size of plate Shape of plate Embedded depth of plate

Vesic and Johnson (1963) have suggested an expression for the evaluation of ks in terms of Modulus of Elasticity Es and Poissons ratio ms as ks = [0.65Es / B(1- ms2)] [EsB4 / EIf]1/12 However, it has been found that the bending moments and the computed soil pressure are not very sensitive to what is used for Ks.This is because the structural member stiffness is usually 10 or more times as great as the soil stiffness as measured by Ks. Recognizing this, based on the suggestion given by Bowles (1977), the following method is presented on the assumption that the allowable soil pressure is based on some maximum amount of deformation (Si) including on a factor of safety (Fs).

Thus, the Modulus of subgrade reaction is Ks = [(Fs)qa]/SI For a settlement of 0.254m and factor of safety 3, Ks can be taken as Ks = 120 qa kN/m3 Over the contract area, the value of Ks can be assumed to constant.The use of constant value of Ks beneath mats and other footings (spread and combined) is usually adequate owing to the effect of superstructure rigidity contributing to the foundation element and the fact that the element Flexural rigidity (EI) decidedly predominates.

For some foundations such as those of oil and water tanks resting on ground the foundation rigidity is often very low and it may be necessary to vary the ks values over the contract area to obtain results consistent with field measurements (Bowles 1977).