Acta Geotechnica

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 1081–1099 | Cite as

Laboratory evaluation of buried high-density polyethylene pipes subjected to localized ground subsidence

  • Min Zhou
  • Fei WangEmail author
  • Yan-Jun DuEmail author
  • Martin D. Liu
Research Paper


The serviceability loss of buried high-density polyethylene (HDPE) double-wall corrugated pipes caused by localized ground subsidence has been reported all over the world. Beam-on-nonlinear spring model is widely used to analyze the structural responses of buried pipes to the localized ground subsidence underneath the pipe. However, the pipe–soil separation is not considered by the beam-on-nonlinear spring model which assumes bonded interaction between the pipe and soil. This is because the spring stiffness could not be assigned as zero. The bonded interaction between pipe and soil is not able to capture the pipe behavior and characteristics of load distribution around the pipe when pipe–soil separation occurs. This study presents a series of large-scale model tests aiming to investigate the performance of buried HDPE double-wall corrugated pipes subjected to the localized ground subsidence. Movable plates installed at the bottom of the model test box are lowered down to simulate the localized ground subsidence. Earth pressures, pipe vertical displacements, and settlements at the backfill surface are monitored. For comparison purpose, free field condition (i.e., without pipe) is also tested. The test results demonstrate that soil settlement troughs above buried pipes are shallower and wider than those at the same elevation in the free field condition. Earth pressures at the top of the pipe are found to increase due to the negative soil arching, i.e., earth pressure is greater than the overburden pressure. It is suggested that three-dimensional soil arching, i.e., soil arching effects in both the transverse and longitudinal directions of the tested pipe, should be considered in calculating the earth pressures at the pipe top. The pipe–soil separation is substantiated by the observation that earth pressure measured at the bottom of the pipe is zero. Finally, empirical equations are proposed to correlate the volume of pipe displacement profile with the volume of settlement trough at the backfill surface to facilitate evaluation of the performance of the pipes subjected to the localized land subsidence.


HDPE pipe Large-scale physical model test Localized ground subsidence Three-dimensional soil arching 

List of symbols


Gross area of pipe wall per unit length of pipe (m2/m)


Diameter of the pipe (m)


Elastic modulus of pipe material (kPa)


Burial depth to the axis of the pipe (m)


Soil cover thickness (m)


Trough width parameter corresponding to the distance from the centerline of the subsidence trough to the point of inflection (m)


Trough width parameter of settlement profile at the free field soil (m)


Trough width parameter of pipe displacement profile (m)


Parameter to ensure Smax remain the maximum soil settlement


Constrained soil modulus (kPa)


Parameter to ensure i remain the distance from the centerline of the subsidence trough to the inflection point


Dimensionless factor


Earth pressure at the top of the pipe (kPa)


Maximum resistance force (kN/m)


Radius from center of pipe to centroid of pipe profile (m)


Hoop stiffness factor


Maximum settlement of the free field soil (m)


Maximum vertical displacement of the pipe (m)


Vertical arching factor


Volume of the free field settlement trough at the level of pipe axis (m3)


Volume of the pipe displacement profile (m3)


Distance to the centerline of the ground subsidence zone (m)


Depth of settlement plates (m)


Parameter influencing the shape of the curve


Unit weight of the backfill (kN/m3)


Internal friction angle of the soil (°)


Resistance factor for soil stiffness



American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials


American Society of Civil Engineers


High-density polyethylene



The authors are grateful for the financial support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 51108078 and 41472258), Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (Grant No. BK20131294), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, Colleges and Universities in Jiangsu Province Plans to Graduate Research and Innovation (Grant No. KYLX_0144) and the Scientific Research Foundation of Graduate School of Southeast University (Grant No. YBJJ1632). The authors also express their gratitude to graduate students Q. You and D.D. Dong at Southeast University for their assistance in conducting the model tests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geotechnical EngineeringSoutheast UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.RTE Technologies, Inc.Overland ParkUSA
  3. 3.Faculty of Engineering and Information SciencesUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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