Decision Theory Applied to Settlement Predictions

by Joseph I. Folayan, (A.M.ASCE), Staff Engr.; Dames and Moore, Consulting Engrs. in the Appl. Earth Sci., San Francisco, CA,
Kaare Höeg, (A.M.ASCE), Asst. Prof. of Civ. Engrg.; Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA,
Jack R. Benjamin, (F.ASCE), Prof. of Struct. Engrg.; Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA,

Serial Information: Journal of the Soil Mechanics and Foundations Division, 1970, Vol. 96, Issue 4, Pg. 1127-1141

Document Type: Journal Paper


Application of theory of probability permits a rational approach to an evaluation of the meaning of safety factors as used in soil mechanics. The Bayesian approach shows how the reliability of an engineering analysis depends on the amount and nature of the engineer's previous experience with similar problems. Furthermore, statistical decision theory is applied to determine a course of action which is logically consistent with the decision-maker's preferences. A case study is examined involving settlements of reclaimed marshland and the associated economic considerations. The reliability of settlement predictions for San Francisco Bay mud falling within ± 20% of the actual is shown to be on the order of 0.7. For the given set of circumstances the optimal sample size varied between 0 and 15 depending on the engineer's previous experience. Probabilistic procedures provide a framework that can assist the engineer to organize, accumulate, interpret, and evaluate experience.

Subject Headings: Probability | Bayesian analysis | Case studies | Permits | Safety | Statistics | Decision making | Economic factors

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