Probabilistic Bearing Capacity Prediction of Square Footings on 3D Spatially Varying Cohesive Soils

Yajun Li*, Gordon A. Fenton, Michael A. Hicks, Nengxiong Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The bearing capacity of square and/or rectangular footings in geotechnical foundation designs traditionally is determined based on experimental observations and/or deterministic analysis assuming uniform soil profiles. However, soils are spatially varying, and this spatial variability can significantly affect the bearing capacity of the foundation soils. Probability-based design methods can address this problem explicitly. However, a full three-dimensional (3D) probabilistic simulation, such as that involving the random finite-element method, generally is prohibitive, because it involves numerous Monte Carlo runs of a complicated nonlinear elastoplastic algorithm. This paper developed and validated an approximate analytical method based on local averaging theory and geometric averages of soil properties directly under the footing. It was found that the theoretical prediction of the first two moments of a square footing bearing capacity agrees very well with crude Monte Carlo simulation. The analytical prediction of the probability of a design failure was validated through simulation and can be used directly in reliability-based designs against bearing failure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number04021035
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Bearing capacity
  • Probability of failure
  • Shallow foundation
  • Spatial variability
  • Square footing


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