AbstractGround improvement (GI) techniques have shown promise in effective liquefaction mitigation, but the physical mechanisms governing their three-dimensional (3D) response during dynamic loading are not yet fully understood. To evaluate the 3D performance of one GI technique, the rammed aggregate pier (RAP), in-situ site characterization, full-scale field test data, and calibrated baseline constitutive soil model parameters are combined to model the 3D fully coupled hydromechanical response of natural (unreinforced) and improved (reinforced) soil profiles. To the authors’ knowledge, this contribution represents the first 3D model of a columnar-reinforced soil profile being calibrated using full-scale field testing. The field observations from the comprehensive ground improvement testing (GIT) program in New Zealand and insights from two-dimensional (2D) finite-difference analyses using constitutive model parameters calibrated against the field measurements were used. The developed 3D models were subjected to dynamic loads simulating the excitation generated by a vibroseis truck at one of the in-situ test sites of the GIT program, as well as unidirectional and bidirectional earthquake ground motions from the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence events. The 3D simulations showed that the improved soil profiles experienced reduced excess pore pressures and reduced dynamically induced shear strains compared to the natural, unreinforced soil models. The developed 3D finite-element predictions were compared and validated vis-à-vis the field observations of the GIT program. Compared to 2D analyses, 3D analyses provide a more accurate description of actual field conditions, and, for instance, it was observed that multidirectional shaking has a significant effect on liquefaction triggering, particularly for natural soil profiles. Finally, it was shown that soil densification around the installed pier elements and the lateral earth pressure increase within the densified soil and are the primary ground improvement mechanisms contributing to the reduction of dynamically induced shear deformations and excess pore pressure generation during earthquake shaking. It was also found that the permeability and shear stiffness of the installed RAP piers did not have a significant influence on the pore pressure response and shear strains developed along the centerline of the improved area.

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