Surface foundation subjected to strike-slip faulting on dense sand: centrifuge testing versus numerical analysis

The paper studies strike-slip fault rupture propagation through dense sand and its interaction with surface foundations, combining physical and numerical modelling. A series of centrifuge tests is conducted using a three-section split-box, which allows the modelling of two strike-slip faults per test. A free-field test is initially conducted, followed by four interaction tests. Eight different foundation configurations are studied, varying the foundation location, surcharge load, aspect ratio and rigidity. The experiments are numerically simulated employing three-dimensional finite-element modelling, combining periodic boundaries and a relatively simple yet efficient constitutive model, developed as part of this study. Based on a Mohr–Coulomb yield criterion, the model incorporates post-yield isotropic frictional hardening and softening (MC–HS). Carefully calibrated on the basis of triaxial tests, the model is validated against the centrifuge model tests, and exploited to derive further insights. The MC–HS model covers the entire range from elastic to fully softened response, capturing the deviatoric and volumetric behaviour of dense sand, and especially its pre-softening volumetric response, which is proven to be crucial for the simulation of the complex mechanisms of strike-slip faulting. Both physical and numerical modelling reveal the formation of diagonal shear ruptures at the ground surface (Riedel shears). These are complex helicoidal structures, formed due to the spatial variation of shear stresses. Foundation response is mainly governed by the kinematic constraint offered by its presence. Fault rupture locations close to its sides typically lead to a translational mechanism, whereas locations close to its centreline lead to a rotational one. Foundation rigidity is proven to be a prerequisite for the development of both mechanisms, which rely on the ability of the foundation to resist the developing normal and shear stresses.

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