Assessment of numerical procedures for determining shallow foundation failure envelopes

Stephen K. Suryasentana, Helen P. Dunne, Christopher M. Martin, Harvey J. Burd, Byron W. Byrne, Avi Shonberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)


The failure envelope approach is commonly used to assess the capacity of shallow foundations under combined loading, but there is limited published work that compares the performance of various numerical procedures for determining failure envelopes. This paper addresses this issue by carrying out a detailed numerical study to evaluate the accuracy, computational efficiency and resolution of these numerical procedures. The procedures evaluated are the displacement probe test, the load probe test, the swipe test (referred to in this paper as the single swipe test) and a less widely used procedure called the sequential swipe test. Each procedure is used to determine failure envelopes for a circular surface foundation and a circular suction caisson foundation under planar vertical, horizontal and moment (VHM) loading for a linear elastic, perfectly plastic von Mises soil. The calculations use conventional, incremental-iterative finite-element analysis (FEA) except for the load probe tests, which are performed using finite-element limit analysis (FELA). The results demonstrate that the procedures are similarly accurate, except for the single swipe test, which gives a load path that under-predicts the failure envelope in many of the examples considered. For determining a complete VHM failure envelope, the FEA-based sequential swipe test is shown to be more efficient and to provide better resolution than the displacement probe test, while the FELA-based load probe test is found to offer a good balance of efficiency and accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-70
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Early online date9 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2020


  • bearing capacity
  • finite-element modelling
  • footings-foundations
  • limit state design/analysis
  • numerical modelling
  • offshore engineering
  • soil/structure interaction


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