American Society of Civil Engineers

The Arch in Soil Arching

by Richard L. Handy, M.ASCE, (Prof. of Civ. Engrg., Iowa State Univ., Ames, Iowa 50011)

Journal of Geotechnical Engineering, Vol. 111, No. 3, March 1985, pp. 302-318, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Award Title: Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award, 1986
Discussion: by C. Gary Kellogg    (See full record)
Discussion: by James F. Quinlan    (See full record)
Closure:(See full record)
Abstract: Soil arching action or “bin effect” is usually quantified by use of a horizontal differential element whose support derives in part from Rankine theory. In the 1940’s, Krynine mathematically proved this incorrect. The present analysis substitutes a catenary arch describing the path of the minor principal stress, which thus is complementary to a structural arch, and dips downward instead of upward if supportive. Soil arching action develops in two stages: The first involves rotation of the principal stresses adjacent to a rough wall and causes horizontal wall pressures to significantly exceed those from classical theory, simulating a Ko pressure distribution even in loose backfill soil. The second stage reduces pressures on the lower wall to give a curvilinear distribution typically centered at a height 0.42 times the height of the wall and in close agreement with published data.

ASCE Subject Headings:
ASCE awards & prizes
Earth pressure
Retaining structures