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Deterioration of geotechnical infrastructure: the influence of asset aging through environmental cycling

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ross Stirling, Professor Stephanie Glendinning, Dr Paul Hughes, Rose Hen-Jones, Dr Peter Helm


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This paper sets out to establish the combined effect of weather driven deterioration processes acting within infrastructure earthworks and its implication on their long-term performance. With particular reference to UK transport network slopes, the work presented centres on their sustainable management and assessment of resilience to climate change. An extensive campaign of investigation has been undertaken consisting of (1) laboratory scale testing under wetting-drying conditions, (2) field site monitoring and observation and (3) unsaturated finite difference numerical simulations. By varying the unsaturated state of engineered fill samples through temperature and humidity control, the cyclic behaviour of several material properties and their progressive deterioration has been established in the laboratory, including shear strength, tensile strength (related to desiccation crack initiation), electrical resistivity (proxy for moisture content) and the Soil-Water Retention Curve (SWRC). Full-scale investigation at the BIONICS trial embankment has provided field evidence of seasonal processes behind fundamental changes in material behaviour e.g. the development of desiccation cracking, the influence of vegetative cover and slope-scale hydrology (evapotranspiration and recharge). Lastly, the sensitivity of negative pore-water pressure generation has been evaluated via input of in situ SWRCs into a coupled hydrological-mechanical model. The ability to accurately model these deterioration processes is crucial if we are to fully understand the implications of our changing climate on the long-term stability of our infrastructure. The holistic view taken in this work demonstrates the need to adopt a new understanding of infrastructure aging for sustainable management of our geotechnical assets.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stirling RA, Glendinning S, Hughes PN, Hen-Jones R, Asquith JD, Helm P

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 19th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering

Year of Conference: 2017

Acceptance date: 16/05/2017