Earth pressure in narrow cohesive-fictional soils behind retaining walls rotated about the top: An analytical approach

Dayu Yang*, Fengwen Lai*, Songyu Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


There is currently a lack of an available design approach to estimate the earth pressure in narrow backfills behind retaining walls rotated about the top (RT). The considerations of some significant factors, primarily load transfer mechanisms (soil arching effect and horizontal shear stress in soils), failure mechanisms (shape and number of slip surfaces) and soil cohesion are often neglected for brevity in routine design. Such simplifications may lead to significant deviations from reality. This paper first uses the finite element limit analysis (FELA) technique to identify the underlying failure mechanisms and load transfer mechanisms. The results observed in FELA models indicate that active rotation of walls about the top develops one curved slip surface, which can be approximated by the log-spiral function. Under the soil arching effect, the upper intermediate passive zone with major principal stress rotation trajectory and the lower active zone with minor one can be defined. The arched differential element method (ADEM) is then introduced to formulate the earth pressure calculation. The results from newly published tests, existing analytical approaches, and FELA are compared to validate the accuracy of the proposed approach in both purely-frictional and cohesive-frictional soils. Parametric studies are further conducted to thoroughly understand the earth pressure problems, considering the effects of sensitive design variables (e.g. aspect ratio, soil strength parameters, and wall-soil interface friction angle). The analytical approach presented here would be a great extension to the design guidelines for the retaining structures with narrow backfills.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104849
Number of pages18
JournalComputers and Geotechnics
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Arched differential element method
  • Earth pressure
  • Finite element limit analysis
  • Narrow soil
  • Soil arching effect


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