Response of building adjacent to stiff excavation support system in soft clay

Richard J. Finno*, L. Sebastian Bryson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


A three-story school supported by shallow foundations was affected by an adjacent 12.2-m-deep excavation in soft clay in which the excavation support system was a 0.9-m-wide secant pile wall braced by both cross-lot struts and tiebacks. The school is a reinforced concrete frame structure with exterior reinforced concrete foundation walls. This paper summarizes the conditions at the site and presents correlations among construction activities, measured deformations and distortions, and attendant damage in the school. The lateral ground movements associated with the excavation were monitored with four inclinometers placed around the school. The building movements were monitored with optical survey points established on interior columns, exterior walls and on the roof, and with tiltmeters installed on the exterior foundation walls. The damage to the school mainly consisted of 300 to 500-mm-long hairline cracks in nonload bearing walls. Only a few cracks had widths greater than 6 mm. The school deformed such that the portion closest to the excavation sagged and the remainder hogged. Damage was first observed in the area of sagging when angular distortions reached 1/940 and the excavation was approximately 5.5-m deep. Angular distortions as large as 1/300 were observed at the end of the project. The data suggest that angular distortions had to be less than 1/1000 to preclude any damage to the school.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-20
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Performance of Constructed Facilities
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2002


  • Distortion
  • Excavation
  • Foundation settlement
  • Shallow foundations
  • Soft clay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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