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Analysis of Laterally Loaded Pile in

Layered Soils

Rongqing Li

PhD candidate, State Key Lab. of Coastal and Offshore Eng.,
Dalian Univ. of Technol., Dalian, China
e-mail: lrq621@yahoo.com.cn

Jinxin Gong
Professor, State Key Lab. of Coastal and Offshore Eng.,
Dalian Univ. of Technol., Dalian, China
e-mail: gong_jx.vip@eyou.com
ABSTRACT
An analytical method is developed to predict the responses for single pile subjected to
lateral load in layered soils. The method uses fundamental basis of structural mechanics to
obtain the governing Equations of the soil and pile systems. Both free head and fixed head
piles are considered in this method. The pile deflection, bending moment and soil reaction
can be calculated using this method. This method is easy to understand for engineers and is
simple enough to be adapted for computer use. An example is included to demonstrate its
use. Deflections and bending moments calculated using this method are found to be in good
agreement with those obtained from finite element method, thus verifying the reliability of
the proposed method. This method can be used to predict the response of laterally loaded
pile in preliminary design and then help engineers to make informed engineering decisions.
KEYWORDS: laterally loaded pile; deflection; moment; layered soils
I NTRODUCTI ON
Piles have been widely used for supporting axial and lateral loads for a variety of civil
engineering structures such as high rise buildings, transmission lines, bridge piers and port
structures. In many cases, lateral loads govern the design of piles. Two aspects of interest which
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should be considered in the design of laterally loaded pile are the maximum deflection and the
bending moment in the pile.
Several methods have been published for predicting the response of single piles under
lateral loading (Hetenyi, 1946; Broms, 1965; Desai, 1974; Sun, 1994; and Hsiung, 2006). One
of these methods is called subgrade reaction method which considers the pile as a flexible
beam on the elastic foundation and replaces soil as a series of elastic, closely spaced but
independent springs. This method has the advantage of being relatively simple, and layered
foundation (Davisson and Gill, 1963; Dai, 2007) can be considered. The responses of pile can
be calculated by solving differential Equations of deflection curve or using finite difference
method or finite element method (FEM) (Poulos, 1971a; Poulos and Davis, 1980).
Compared with those solutions above, the procedure developed in this paper uses
fundamental basis of structural mechanics to obtain the governing Equations of the soil and
pile systems. The method is easy to understand for engineers and is simple enough to be
adapted for computer use. Both free head and fixed head piles are considered in the method.
The pile deflection, bending moment and soil reaction can be calculated using this method.
The proposed method has been validated by comparison of the results with those calculated
using FEM.
FREE HEAD PI LE
Modeling for t he pile- soil syst em
The interaction model for the pile-soil system is shown in Figure 1. The pile is assumed to
be a line of length L with constant flexibility EI , and to be fully embedded into soil.
Symbols
0
H and
0
M represent the horizontal load and moment applied at top of the pile
respectively; and
1 n
k k denote the stiffness of the springs. The deflections and moments in
the pile can be obtained from finite element analysis. In this analysis, an alternative procedure
for analyzing the response of laterally loaded pile is presented based on the model shown in
Figure 2. Substitute the springs for soil reactions represented by
1 n
p p as shown in Figure
2. Two virtual supports represented by B and D are set at the top and the tip of the pile,
respectively. The soil reaction and pile deflection at a point
i
x below the ground surface are
denoted by
i
p and
i
y , respectively.
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Based on field measurements of instrumented piles, different p y curves have been
developed for different soils and pile types by a number of investigators (Briaud, 1997; Gabr,
1994; and Ashour, 2000). Ye and Shi (2000) presented a nonlinear p y curve based on
lateral pile-load test for 39 piles in China. In addition, the linear p y curve was widely
used in engineering practice (Dai, 2007). Most of those p y curves in engineering practice
can be expressed in the general form:

1 2
sgn( )( )
n n
p y a mx y = +
(1)
where p is the pressure at a point (kN/m
2
); x is the depth below ground surface (m);
y is pile deflection (m) ;
1 2
, , , a m n n are model factors, which can be determined by
different p y curve;
1 0
sgn( ) 0 0
1 0
y
y y
y
>

= =

<

.
The soil reaction
i
p at a point can be computed by multiplying the pressure by the pile
width and the segment height:

1 2
sgn( )( )
n n
i i i i i
p y a mx y bd = + ( 1, , i n = ) (2)
where b is the pile width (m); d
i
is height (m) of the segment i.
The modulus of horizontal subgrade reaction can be expressed by:
Figure 1: Typical model for beam on elastic foundation Figure 2: Model used
k1
k2
ki
B
D
H0
M0
l
kn

B
D1 D

B1
x
y
i,p-i,M0
i
y
i
RB
RD
y
n
y
1
H0
M0
p
i
l
p
1
p
n
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1
( )
n
i i i
k a mx bd = + ( 1, , i n = ) (3)
then the soil reaction can be rewritten as:

2
sgn( )
n
i i i i
p y k y = ( 1, , i n = ) (4)
Deformat ion compat ibilit y and st at ic equilibrium
By using the method of superposition, the total loading system on the pile can be
subdivided into loading conditions that produce deflections which are already known. In
Figure 2, the pile deflection at a point is made up of three parts: (1) a deflection
i
caused
by the movement of the supports B and D, (2) a deflection
, i p
caused by the soil reactions,
and (3) a deflection
0
, i M
caused by the moment applied at point B. The superposition of all
three deflections gives the total deflection:\

0
, , i i i p i M
y = ( 2 , 1 i n = ) (5)
The first part of the deflection
i
can be expressed as follows:
( )
1
1
i i i n
r y r y = + ( 2 , 1 i n = ) (6)
where
1
y and
n
y represent movements of supports B and D, respectively;
i
i
x
r
l
= .
Deflections due to soil reaction
j
p can be calculated based on mechanics principle (Gere,
2004):

( )
2 2 2
,
3
2 2 3
( )
( ) ,
6
( )
( ) ,
6 ( )
j
j j i
i j
i p
j j
i j j i i
j
p l x x
l x l x i j
EIl
p l x
l
x x l l x x x i j
EIl l x

( + >
`



)

( 2 , 1 i n = ; 2 , 1 j n = ) (7)
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Using the method of superposition once again, one can get the deflections due to soil
reactions:

1
, ,
2
n
i p i j j
j
c p

=
=

( 2 , 1 i n = ) (8)
where
( )
2 2 2
,
3
2 2 3
( )
( ) ,
6
( )
( ) ,
6 ( )
j i
i j
i j
j
i j j i i
j
l x x
l x l x i j
EIl
c
l x
l
x x l l x x x i j
EIl l x

(

( + >
`



)

( 2 , 1 i n = ; 2 , 1 j n = )
(9)
The deflection due to
0
M can be calculated:

0
2 2 0
,
( )
( )
6
i
i M i
M l x
l l x
EIl


( =

( 2 , 1 i n = ) (10)
Substituting Equations (6) and (8) into Equation 5, one can get:
(11)
Substituting Equation (4) into Equation (11) yields:
(12)
When solving the Equation, the deflections
i
y will be transferred to the left-hand sides,
so that the Equation appears in the form:

( )
2
0
1
1 , ,
2
1 sgn( )
n
n
i i j i j j j i n i M
j
r y y y c k y r y

=
+ + =

( 2 , 1 i n = ) (13)
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Solving the Equations of static equilibrium 0
D
M =

and 0
B
M =

, respectively,
the support reactions
B
R and
D
R can be expressed as follows:

2 1
0
0
1
sgn( ) ( )
n n
i i i i
B
i
M y k y l x
R H
l l

= +

(14)

2 0
2
1
sgn( )
n
n
D i i i i
i
M
R y k y x
l l
=
=

(15)
Boundary condit ions
Since the supports B and D are not exist actually, reactions
B
R and
D
R should be
equal to zero. Thus, after rearranging Equations (14) and (15), one can get the following two
Equations of boundary conditions:

2
1
0 0
1
sgn( ) ( )
n
n
i i i i
i
y k y l x M H l

=
= +

(16)

2
0
2
sgn( )
n
n
i i i i
i
y k y x M
=
=

(17)
Det erminat ion of moment s and deflect ions of t he pile
As previous discussion, the soil reaction in Equation (2) is expressed in a general form.
The linear p y curve and the nonlinear p y curve developed by Ye and Shi (2000)
were used in the following analysis.
For linear p y curve, the factors in Equation (2) are a =0,
1
n =1 and
2
n =1,
Equation (2) reduces to the following:

i i i
p k y = (18)
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where
i i i i
k m x bd = ;
i
m is constant of horizontal subgrade reaction.
Combining Equations (13), (16) and (17), one can get:

Solving Equations 19 for
i
y , and then substituting
i
y into Equation 18, soil reactions are
found. Finally, considering a free body diagram and using Equations 20 and 21, the shears and
bending moments in the pile can be calculated:
for moment: ( ) ( )
n
j j
j i
M x p x x
=
=

(20)
for shear: ( )
n
j
j i
Q x p
=
=

(21)
where i is the segment number of which depth is just greater than x.
When using the py curve developed by Ye and Shi (2000), factors in Equation 2 are a
=0,
1
n =2/3 and
2
n =1/3, then Equation 2 becomes:

1/ 3
sgn( )
i i i i
p y k y = (22)
where
2/ 3
i Ni i i
k k x bd = ;
Ni
k is coefficient of horizontal subgrade reaction.
Combining Equations 13, 16 and 17, one can get nonlinear Equations of
i
y . Using the
proposed method for solving nonlinear Equations (Poulos and Davis, 1980), one can get pile
deflections y
i
. The soil reaction and the internal forces in the pile can be calculated using the
previous procedure.
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FI XED HEAD PI LE
Model for fixed head pile
For fixed head pile, the rotation at top of the pile is restrained. After setting two virtual
supports at top and bottom of the pile, respectively, the fixed head pile becomes a statically
indeterminate structure to the first degree carrying loads
i
p and subjected to horizontal force,
as shown in Figure 3 (a). To obtain the governing Equation, the reaction moment at support B
is selected as the redundant and then the rotational restraint at B must be released; the
resulting released structure is a simple beam, as shown in Figure 3 (b). The reaction moment
at B consists of the moment due to the movement of supports B and D, and the moment due
to soil reactions, denoted by
B
M

and
Bp
M respectively in Figure 3 (b).











Similar to free head pile, the total pile deflection can be given using the method of
superposition:

, , ,
p
i i i p i M i M
y

= + + ( 1 , i n = ) (23)
where the former two terms in Equation (23) are the same as those for free head pile in
Equations (6) and (8), respectively; the latter two terms
, ,
,
p
i M i M

are deflections caused by


B
M

and
Bp
M , respectively, which are discussed as follows.
a) b)
Figure 3: Model for fixed pile head
MB
MBp

H0

B
D1 D

B1
x
y
i,p-i,M0
i
y
i
RB
RD
y
n
y
1
H0
p
i
l
p
1
p
n
B
D
x
y
l
p
i
p
1
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Pile deflect ion due t o
B
M


As shown in Figure 4, the value of
2
3 / EI l
of the fixed-moment will occur due to unit
movement at support B. Thus, the fixed-moment M
B
caused by the relative displacement
between B and D, (y
1
y
n
), is expressed by:

1
2
3 ( )
n
B
EI y y
M
l

=
(24)


Figure 4: Moment at top of the pile due to support movement

After getting the moment
B
M

, the pile deflection due to
B
M

can be calculated by
considering pile as a simple beam with applied moment at end of it:

2 2
,
( )
( )
6
B
B i
i M i
M l x
l l x
EIl


( =

(25)
Substituting Equation (24) into (25), Equation (25) can be rewritten as:

1
, 2
3 ( )
B
i n
i M
EIs y y
l

= (26)
where
2 2
( )
( )
6
i
i i
l x
s l l x
EIl

( =

.
Vol. 13, Bund. J 10


Pile deflect ion due t o
Bp
M
The moment
Bp
M can be characterized as the function of soil reaction by analyzing the
structure as shown in Figure 5 (a). By using the flexibility method, one obtains the following
Equation of compatibility:

i
11 B,p
M
+
1p

=0 (27)
where
11
is the deflection at point B due to
B,pi
M =1;
1p
is the deflection at location
B due to
i
p .












The bending moment diagrams for the released structure corresponding to
B,pi
M =1 and
i
p are shown in Figure 5(b) and Figure 5 (c), respectively. The deflections
11
and
1p
can
be found by using the unit-load method (Gere, 2004):
pi
11
d 3
MM
x l/ EI
EI
= =
}

1p
( )(2 )
d
6
i i i i
p l - x l - x x MM
x
EI EIl
= =
}

Substituting
11
and
1p
into Equation (27), one obtains:
(a) (b) (c)
Figure 5: Moment at pile head due to soil reaction:
(a) released structure; (b) moment curve due to
p
M (c) moment curve due to M
B
D
MB,Pi
p
i
l
x
i
B
D
p
i
B
D
MB pi =1
1
p
i
x
i
(l-x
i
)/l
x
y
Vol. 13, Bund. J 11



i
1p
B,p 2
11
( )(2 )
2
i i i i
p l - x l - x x
M
l

= =
(28)
Using simple superposition, the moment due to all soil reactions can be obtained:
(29)
The pile deflection due to
Bp
M at a point can be obtained based on mechanics principle:

2 2
,
( )
( )
6
p
Bp i
i M i
M l x
l l x
EIl


( =

(30)
Substituting Equation (29) into (30), Equation (30) can be expressed by:
(31)

Deformat ion compat ibilit y and st at ic equilibrium
Substituting Equations (6), (8), (26) and (31) into Equation (23) yields:

1
1 , 2
1 1
3 ( )
(1 )
n n
i n
i i i n i j j j j i
j j
EIs y y
y r y r y c p p e s
l
= =

= + + +

(32)
Transferring
i
y to the left-hand sides, and substituting Equation (4) into Equation (32),
the deformation compatibility Equation for head-fixed pile appears in the form:

2
1 , 2 2
1
3 3
(1 ) sgn( )( ) ( ) 0
n
n i i
i i j i j j i j j i n
j
EIs EIs
r y y y c e s k y r y
l l
=
+ + + =

(33)
Vol. 13, Bund. J 12


In Figure 3 (b), considering the conditions of static equilibrium 0
D
M =

and
0
B
M =

, respectively, the support reactions


B
R and
D
R can be expressed as follows:

2
1
0 1
1
1 3
sgn( ) ( ) ( )
n
n
B i i i i i n 3
i
EI
R H y k l x e y y y
l l

=
= +

(34)

2
1
1
1
1 3
( ) ( )
n
n
D i i i i n 3
i
EI
R k e x y y y
l l

=
= +

(35)
Boundary condit ions
Similar to free head pile,
B
R and
D
R should be equal to zero. Thus, after rearranging
Equations 34 and 35 yields:

2
1
1 0 2 2
1
3 3
sgn( ) ( )
n
n
i i i i i n
i
EI EI
y y k l x e y y H l
l l

=
+ + =

(36)

2
1 2 2
2
3 3
sgn( ) ( ) 0
n
n
i i i i i n
i
EI EI
y y k e x y y
l l
=
+ =

(37)
Combining Equations 33, 36 and 37, and then solving the equations for
i
y , the pile
deflection are obtained. The internal force can be further determined by procedure similar to
that for free head pile.
For the case where pile extends through ground to air or water, the procedure is similar to
that fully embedded in soil except that the modulus of horizontal subgrade reaction associated
with those segments above ground surface should be taken as zero.
I LLUSTRATI VE EXAMPLE
A typical pile of square cross section 650 mm650 mm in a four-layer soil profile is
loaded as shown in Figure 6. The pile length is 18 m, and the Youngs modulus for the
material is 3.2510
4
MPa. The soil profile from the top is clay, silty clay, silty sand, and
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coarse sand. The soil parameters are given in Table1. Free and fixed head piles are
considered. The analysis is carried out using the p y curve developed by Ye and Shi
(2000).








Table1: Soil Parameters
Soil type
Top elevation of
layer
(m)
Bottom elevation
of layer
(m)
m

(kN/m
4
)
N
k

(kN/m
3
)
Clay 0.0 -9.0 4000 400
Silty clay -9.0 -10.9 6000 600
Silty sand -10.9 -13.5 8000 800
Coarse sand -13.5 -16.0 10000 1000

Using the method proposed in this paper, the calculated results are shown in Figure 7. For
free head pile, the deflection at the top of the pile is 0.9 cm, and the maximum bending
moment in the pile is approximately 250 kN m . For fixed head pile, the deflection is 0.12 cm,
and the maximum bending moment is 122.3 kN m . For verification, the response of the pile
was analyzed by finite element method (FEM) with software ANSYS (Moaveni, 2003). The
calculated results are shown in Figure 8. It can be seen that the deflections and bending
moments calculated using the proposed method and FEM are in good agreement.







Figure 6: Laterally loaded pile in a four-layer

2.0m

-9.0m

-10.9m

-13.5m

-16.0m

0.0m
Clay
Silty Clay
Silty Sand
Coarse Sand
100kN.m
50kN
Vol. 13, Bund. J 14

























CONCLUSI ONS
A new analytical method for calculating the response of laterally loaded pile in layered
soil is proposed based on mechanics principle. Both free head and fixed head piles are
considered in this method. The analysis for a laterally loaded pile embedded in a four-layer
soil profile is carried out. The results show that the calculated deflections and bending
moments using the proposed method agree well with those obtained from the FEM with
Figure 7: Response of pile subjected to laterally load: (a) For free head pile; (b) For fixed head pile
(b)
-16
-12
-8
-4
0
-150 50
Moment (kN.m)
E
l
e
v
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
)
-16
-12
-8
-4
0
-0.2 -0.1 0
Deflect ion (cm)
E
l
e
v
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
)
-16
-12
-8
-4
0
-4 -2 0 2 4 6
Soil React ion (kN)
E
l
e
v
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
)
-16
-14
-12
-10
-8
-6
-4
-2
0
2
-50 50 150 250
Moment (kN.m)
E
l
e
v
a
t
i
o
n
(
m
)
-16
-14
-12
-10
-8
-6
-4
-2
0
2
-1 0
Deflect ion (cm)
E
l
e
v
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
)
-16
-12
-8
-4
0
-8 -4 0 4 8
Soil React ion (kN)
E
l
e
v
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
)
(a)
(a) (b) (c) (d)
Figure 8: Deflection and moment calculated using FEM:
(a) Deflection for free head pile (m); (b) Moment for free head pile (kN.m);
(c) Deflection for fixed head pile (m); (d) Moment for fixed head pile (kN.m)
Vol. 13, Bund. J 15


software ANSYS. This method has the advantage over other procedures in that it is easy to
understand and is adaptable to simple computer programs by engineers. In addition, the
proposed method is especially useful when it is only need to approximately predict the
response of laterally loaded pile in preliminary design.
REFERENCES
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soilpile interaction, Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering,
ASCE, 126(5), pp 420428.
2. Briaud, J.L. (1997) Sallop: simple approach for lateral loads on piles, Journal of
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Vol. 13, Bund. J 16


14. Sun, K. (1994) Laterally Loaded Piles in Elastic Media, Journal of Geotechnical
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Chinese).

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