The design of shallow foundations relies on bearing capacity values calculated using empirical procedures that are based in part on solutions obtained using the method of characteristics, which assumes a soil that is perfectly plastic following an associated flow rule. In this paper the problem of strip and circular footings resting on the surface of a sand layer is analysed using the finite-element method. Analyses are performed using a two-surface plasticity constitutive model that realistically captures the aspects of the mechanical response of sands that are relevant to the bearing capacity problem. In particular, the model accounts for non-associated flow, strain-softening, and both stress-induced and inherent anisotropy. Based on the results of the analyses, the paper examines the validity of the bearing capacity factors N γ and shape factors s γ used in practice. A relationship for determining appropriate values of friction angle for use in bearing capacity calculations is also proposed.


sands; bearing capacity; anisotropy; numerical modelling; plasticity; footings/foundations

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