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A Quantitative Seismic Behavior Assessment of Buried Structures


This dissertation is focused on quantitatively investigating the nonlinear seismic behavior assessment of underground structures, by performing high-fidelity SSI analyses. Specifically, several computer codes are developed for forward simulation of wave propagation in both two- (plane-strain) and three-dimensional semi-infinite heterogeneous solid media. (i) a multi-axial bounding surface plasticity model is implemented, calibrated and validated through centrifuge test data, to consider the soil nonlinearities (ii) the domain reduction method (DRM) is implemented for both 2D and 3D domains, homogeneous and heterogeneous media, vertical and inclined incident SV waves, to consistently prescribe the input motions in a truncated domain and (iii) perfectly matched layer (PML) is implemented for both 2D and 3D domains, to absorb the outgoing waves super efficiently.

By using the aforementioned numerical tools, multiple studies on seismic behavior assessment of underground structures are performed.

1. Development of validated methods for soil-structure analysis of buried structures. State-of-the-art versions of these simplified methods of seismic analysis for buried/embedded structures were most recently articulated in the “NCHRP 611” report, and comparisons of their predictions to experimental data are made in the present study in order to establish the validity (or lack thereof) of this method. Experiments comprises centrifuge tests on two specimens—one relatively- stiff rectangular and one relatively-flexible circular culvert—embedded in dense dry sand. Comparisons of experimental data are also made with predictions from a calibrated two-dimensional (plane-strain) finite element (FE) model. Predictions made using this FE model are superior and exhibits acceptable errors.

2. Parametric studies of buried circular structures and a proposed improvement of the NCHRP 611 method. The NCHRP 611 method has been widely adopted as a guideline in the analysis design of buried/embedded structures due to its computational simplicity and broadly accepted accuracy for simple soil-structure configurations. However, the method is not without shortcomings. In particular, the NCHRP method is not sensitive to the inherently broadband frequency content of seismic input excitations, soil heterogeneities, and potential kinematic interaction effects. The present study seeks to quantitatively assess the brackets of the validity of the NCHRP 611 method—specifically, for soil-structure analyses of buried circular structures, and offers an improvement that is simple to implement. This is achieved through parametric studies using detailed nonlinear finite element simulations involving a broad range of ground motions, and soil and structural properties. The simulations are carried out with a model that has been validated in a prior centrifuge testing program on embedded structures. A refined version of the NCHRP 611 method, which uses maximum shear strains obtained through one-dimensional site response analyses, is shown to produce fairly accurate results for nearly all of the different cases considered in the parametric studies.

3. Fragility-based seismic performance assessment of buried structures. Fragility-based seismic performance assessment and design procedures are being refined and adopted for many civil structures. With recent advances in computational capabilities as well as broad improvements in ground motion characterization and inelastic modeling of structural and geotechnical systems, large-scale direct models for underground structures—e.g., tunnels, water reservoirs, etc.—can now be devised with relative ease and deployed in engineering practice. In this study, a fragility-based seismic performance assessment of a large buried circular culvert is presented. Existing documents/codes are used to define the performance criteria and develop fragility functions through a Probabilistic Seismic Demand Analysis (PSDA) procedure. The analyses incorporate nonlinear behavior of soils and structural components, various soil layer profiles and account for uncertainties in the expected ground motions.

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