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23 - Stone Column Drainage

This tutorial introduces the Ground Improvement feature in Settle3 that allows users to specify regions where they want to improve the ground using the Stone column technique, specifically related to drainage option.

The stone column drainage feature along with its theory is provided more in details here: Stone column drainage.

By the end of this tutorial, you will be able to use stone columns with permeability parameters to accelerate consolidation process with any types of load in different stages.

Topics Covered in this Tutorial:

  • Ground improvement
  • Stone columns drainage

Finished Product:

The initial/final model of this tutorial can be found in the Stone column drainage_initial.s3z, and Stone column drainage_final.s3z. All tutorial files installed with Settle3 can be accessed by selecting File > Recent Folders > Tutorials Folder from the Settle main menu.

1.0 Introduction

The model used in this tutorial is the modified version of the example in Jie Han (2012) chapter 5.3.5 Consolidation of stone columns.

Our model will consist of a 40 m wide x 18 m length load with total stress of 162 kPa. The following soil properties are shown. (𝛾 = 15 kN∕m3, Es = 1.1 MPa, kr = 3.47 × 10−9 m∕s, and kv = 1.16 × 10−9 m∕s).

We will be examining the consolidation occurs after 1 month of construction for embankment with the stone column drainage.

2.0 Model

First, open the initial file in the tutorial folder Stone column permeability_initial.s3z. You will see the load already has been applied and soil properties defined in the file. We will check the project settings to see the model.


Project Settings

Project settings icon Select: Analysis > Project Settings

In the General tab, make sure Boussinesq as the Stress Computation Method.

Set Units for Stress as Metric, Stress as kPa and Units for Settlement as Millimeters.

Under Time-dependent consolidation analysis, Time Units should be in Years, and permeability units in meters/second.

Note: this permeability units are applied to soil properties (k, cv) and also in stone column permeability.

In the Stages tab, there should be two stages with first stage at initial stage, and second stage with 0.081 years (1 month).

Project Settings

In the Soil Profiles tab, select 'Depth below Ground Surface' option.

In the groundwater tab, make sure the ground water analysis is selected. Keep the default values.

Project Settings

Select OK to close the dialog.


We next see the soil properties used in the model using the Soil Properties dialog.

Soil properties icon Select: Soils > Soil Properties

There should be soft clay with the properties defined below:

Soil Properties dialog

the mv is parameter converted from Elastic Modulus of 1.1 Mpa. Unit weight of soil, and permeability of soil (k) are all defined from the paper example. The example outlines there is stiff clay layer but it's very small in thickness and does not provide the properties, so we will assume the model has homogeneous soil of soft clay.


We also want to make sure the groundwater is in the model. Select: Groundwater > Edit Piezometric line.

Edit Piezometric line

We have assigned groundwater 1m below ground surface.

2.4 LOAD

Right click on the load and select: Load properties.
You should see the load applied below with pressure defined from the paper which is installed in first stage.

The 162 kPa is the load applied by the embankment in the paper: (1.8*18)*5 = 162 kPpa .

 Load properties

Select OK to close the dialog.

3.0 Ground improvement

3.1 Assign Stone columns

Next, we assign stone columns to the model using the Ground improvement.

Add Ground Improvement Region Icon Select: Soils > Ground improvement > Add Ground improvement Region.

Select: Stone columns and enter the following properties.

Top Depth: 0 m

Bottom depth: 6 m

Spacing: 2.4 m

Pattern: Square

Diameter: 0.8 m

Elastic Modulus: 30,000 kPa

Installation stage = initial stage (Stage 1 = 0y).

Ground improvement Region Dialog

Select OK.

Select the region right underneath the load. Select each vertices of the load. Now we will compute the model.

Compute Icon Select: Compute.

You will see the results shown below. You will see around ~80mm with stone column ground improvement at the initial stage.

 Compute results

Note that at stage 2 = 0.083 years, the maximum consolidation settlement reached is around 0.2 m without drainage.


Now we will apply stone column drainage properties to the model.

Ground Improvement Editor Select: Soils > Ground improvement > Ground improvement Editor

 Ground improvement Editor

Select Edit on the ground improvement 1. Select Allow drainage.

Enter the following properties:

ds/dc: 1

kr/ks: 1

permeability of stone columns (m/s): 3.67e-7 m/s.

Stage In: Stage 1 = 0 y.

The inputs should look as the following:

Select OK to exit the dialog.

Now we will compute the model with drainage option.

Select: Compute.

Select Stage 2 and see the consolidation settlement below:

Ground Improvement Region compute

As you can see, the consolidation settlement as progressed much faster with addition of drainage option in stone columns. Also note that before the drainage, the consolidated settlement after 1 month was 24 mm, as opposed to 54 mm after 1 month with drainage option.

We can also see the difference in the result when the single drainage path option is enabled. Select: Soil > Ground Improvement > Ground improvement region editor.

Select Edit and select the option to use the single drainage path.

Ground Improvement Region Dialog

You will see the displacement has reduced slightly after one month with single drainage path.

Figure with Results

Thus, the drainage option provide significant improvement in process of accelerating consolidation. We will demonstrate this using time query in next step. Before we create the time query point, we'll modify the model so that double drainage path is used. Unselect the use single drainage path option.

4.0 Results


Now we will add time query to see how long it takes for 95% of primary consolidation to occur.

Add Time point Icon Select: Query > Time Points > Add Time Point.

Enter the following properties:

Degree of consolidation to reach: 95%

Time from Stage: Stage 1 = 0 y.

Depth = 0 m.

The dialog should look as below:

Time Point Properties

Select OK.

Place anywhere within the load and you will see the time query created in first stage.

With drainage:

Time Point Properties w/ drainage
In comparison, for case without drainage, you can select: Soils > Ground improvement > Ground improvement Editor. Simply turn off the drainage option and recompute. You will see that it takes much longer time to consolidate to 95% of consolidation as shown below.

Without drainage:

Time Point Properties w/o drainage

Thus, this feature allows you to see the significant impact of accelerated consolidation by adding drainage in stone columns.

5.0 References

  1. Han, J. (2012) "Principles and practice of Ground improvements” John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-25991-7. ,165-167

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