Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment

, Volume 78, Issue 8, pp 5889–5903 | Cite as

A comparative study of GSI chart versions in a heterogeneous rock mass media (Marão tunnel, north Portugal): a reliable index in geotechnical surveys and rock engineering design

  • Cláudio Santa
  • Luís Gonçalves
  • Helder I. ChaminéEmail author
Original Paper


The rock mass quality in underground excavations and or tunnelling is a key issue in the design of the most suitable support to ground stability. This work aims to discuss the applicability of the latest version of the geological strength index (GSI|2013) in an anisotropic media during ongoing deep underground excavation by drilling and blasting. The study encompasses a comprehensive geological, geotechnical and geomechanical characterisation and evaluation of the excavation faces in the Marão tunnel (north Portugal). In addition, 305 m (two underground sections) of tunnel were mapped in 74 consecutive face underground excavation advances. Geological, geotechnical and geomechanical data relating to the site investigation were collected and computed in each new face advance. The scanline sampling technique was applied on exposed rock surfaces, a geotechnical analysis of the discontinuities was performed, and the block size of the rock mass was determined. Geotechnical and geomechanical zoning of the studied sections were continuously carried out considering the knowledge of the site rock mass characteristics and behaviour. In addition, a comparison was performed between the version of GSI|2013 and its earlier version (namely, GSI|98) and correlated with rock mass rating. The study will contribute to a better understanding of GSI|2013 and its applicability in geoengineering projects in design or excavation work stages.


GSI Quantification chart index Rock masses Underground excavations Marão road tunnel 



The authors are grateful to EPOS SA for its full support in several stages of the research and “Infraestruturas de Portugal SA” for authorising the publication of the study. Special thanks are due to L. Freitas, A. Nogueira, J. Almeida, R. Luís, C. Baião, C. Coke, R.S. Pistone and R.L. Nagano for support and input in several stages of the research. This study was carried partially out under the framework of the Labcarga|ISEP re-equipment program (IPP-ISEP|PAD’2007/08) and Centre GeoBioTec|UA (UID/GEO/04035/2013). We are thankful the anonymous reviewers for the constructive comments that helped to improve the focus and clarity of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Cartography and Applied Geology (Labcarga), Department of Geotechnical Engineering, School of Engineering (ISEP)Polytechnic of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.EPOS – Empresa Portuguesa de Obras Subterrâneas SAOeirasPortugal
  3. 3.Centre GeoBioTec| UA (Georesources, Geotechnics and Geomaterials Research Group)AveiroPortugal

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