Centrifuge modelling of the effect of base slab stiffness on long-term heave and swell pressure
Long-term heave of basement slabs is a significant problem in cities with over-consolidated clay, such as London. There is a dearth of data to calibrate the methods commonly used by designers to predict heave displacement and swell pressure. This paper presents results from two centrifuge tests aimed at reproducing the phenomenon of long-term basement heave. Reduced scale models of rectangular basements with different slab thicknesses underlain by over-consolidated clay were tested, to investigate the effect of base slab stiffness on heave behaviour. The centrifuge tests provided measurements of the profiles of vertical displacement, bending moments in the slab, and contact pressure at the slab-soil interface. This is the first geotechnical centrifuge study to provide simultaneous measurements of vertical displacement and swell pressures during long-term basement heave. Whereas the flexible basement underwent significant differential heave and almost complete relaxation of swell pressures, the stiff basement generated large swell pressures and consequently large bending stresses. These results confirm that the prediction of high heave pressures is a self-fulfilling prophecy: a basement slab with high stiffness will beget large swell pressures. The experimental measurements of swell pressure and heave were compared to predictions by a simplified non-linear method of heave calculation. The simplified non-linear method produced acceptable predictions of total heave.