Influence of Backfill Soil Saturation on the Structural Response of Buried Pipes

  • Saif AlzabeebeeEmail author
Technical Paper


The structural design of new buried pipes and the calculation of the remaining service life of in-service buried pipes are usually conducted assuming that the backfill soil is at the optimum moisture content using the unsaturated soil parameters published by Boscardin et al. (1990). These unsaturated soil parameters are also implemented in the CANDE software, which is a standard software developed for designing buried culverts/pipes. However, intense rainfall seasons, floods, or water table rise due to changes in local drainage conditions may change the state of the backfill soil from unsaturated to saturated conditions. The purpose of this paper is to study the robustness of using the unsaturated soil parameters in the design of new buried pipes and the calculation of the remaining strength of in-service buried pipes by comparing the response of buried pipes for unsaturated and saturated backfill conditions using three-dimensional finite element analysis. Cast iron, concrete, and unplasticized polyvinyl chloride pipes have been considered to address the aim of the study. The results have shown that the soil saturation increases the stresses of the pipe wall, displacement of the pipe, and the soil pressure applied on the pipe. Hence, there is a need to understand and consider the unsaturated/saturated soil mechanics in the design and the analysis of buried pipes/culverts.


Soil-structure interaction Underground structures Design Finite element method Saturated soil Unsaturated soil 



The author acknowledges the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, UK, for partially funding this research through the Assessing the Underworld project. The author also acknowledges the Higher Committee for Education Development in Iraq for funding his PhD study at the University of Birmingham, which has enabled him to do this research. Finally, the author wishes to state his appreciation and thanks to Prof. David Chapman and Dr. Asaad Faramarzi for their useful comments on the idea and the methodology of this study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Roads and Transport Engineering, College of EngineeringUniversity of Al-QadisiyahAl-QadisiyahIraq

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