Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

Columbia University

New York City



Role of Soil Modeling in Geotechnical Predictions

Andrew J. Whittle

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


November 21, 2006 
2:30-3:30 pm
InterSchool Laboratory, Schapiro Center



ABSTRACT:  This Lecture reviews briefly some contributions in the development of soil models that are capable of describing realistically the measured effective stress-strain-strength behavior of soils.  The role of these advanced, relatively complex models in geotechnical predictions will then be critically evaluated  in the context of extensive research to investigate the performance of driven pile foundations and deep excavations in clay.  Soil modelling plays an essential role on predictions of near field stresses and pore pressures around driven piles, while far field  ground movements may be well estimated by much simpler analytical methods.  Soil modelling appears to play little role in the deflection mode shapes of braced walls in soft clay, but controls predictions surface settlements and helps to explain arching mechanisms in the retained soil.  Other simpler stability analyses may be sufficient for assessing basal stability. 

In light of these findings, the talk will then consider effects of soil modelling in predicting the effects of soft ground tunnel construction and give a brief overview of current research on this topic.

[Acknowledgment: The 2006 Burmister Lecture is Sponsored by the Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers]
Check also the ASCE Mueser-Rutledge Lecture

Prof. Andrew Whittle is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a specialist in the field of geotechnical engineering.  Much of his research work deals with constitutive modeling of soil behavior and applications in predicting the performance of foundations and underground construction projects.  His research has been widely used in the design of foundation systems for deepwater oil production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.  He has worked extensively on problems of soil-structure interaction for urban excavation and tunneling projects including the Central Artery-Third Harbor Tunnel (CA/T) and MBTA South Piers Transitway projects in Boston, and Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Most recently he has led research efforts in the application of wireless sensor networks for monitoring underground water supply systems and construction projects.

Dr Whittle is a Co-Editor of the International Journal of Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics, and is an editorial board member for the ASCE Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering and the Canadian Geotechical Journal.  He is an active consultant who has worked on more than 25 major onshore and offshore construction projects.  In 2004 he was an expert witness for the Land Transport Authority in Singapore investigating the Collapse of the Nicoll Highway.  He currently serves on the National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering (NRC/NAE) Committee on New Orleans Hurricane Protection Projects.  This panel is responsible for reviewing the investigations of the US Army Corps of Engineers into the performance of the hurricane protection systems during Hurricane Katrina.  He is also concurrently serving on an Independent Saftey Review Advisory Panel for the Governor of Massachusetts.  This panel has been set-up as part of a Stem-to Stern safety audit of the Metropoltian Highway System in Boston following a series of structural accidents in the CA/T tunnels.

Dr Whittle received his Sc.D in Geotechnical Engineering from MIT in 1987, where he was also a John F. Kennedy Scholar (1982-1984), and his B.Sc(Eng.) with First Class Honors in Civil Engineering from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London in 1981.  He joined the MIT faculty in 1988 and was promoted to full Professor in 2000. Dr Whittle has published more than 100 papers in refereed journals and conferences, and received several awards for his work from the American Society of Civil Engineers, including the Casagrande Award (1994), the Croes Medal (1994), Middlebrooks Prize (1997, 2002, and 2005) and Huber Research Award (1998).  He is a licensed professional engineer in  New York State.

ASCE Mueser-Rutledge Lecture  (Nov 21 at CUNY Graduation Center, 6 pm)

What Caused the Collapse of the Nicoll Highway, Singapore?

Andrew J. Whittle

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


In April 2004, the catastrophic failure of a 30m deep braced excavation for the new Circle Line in Singapore led to the collapse of the adjacent Nicoll Highway and the deaths of four construction workers.  This lecture will summarizes the forensic investigations that have been carried out to understand the underlying causes of the failure.  Contributing factors include details of the structural connections for the bracing system, and original design errors in the evaluation of lateral earth pressures.  The lecture will provide a personal view of the lessons learned from this investigation and the consequences for future design of deep excavations.

Questions: Hoe I. Ling
Tel: 212-854-1203