Seismic stability analysis of a hunchbacked retaining wall under passive state using method of stress characteristics


The potential use of a hunchbacked retaining wall over a conventional retaining wall under the seismic passive state is emphasised in this study employing the method of stress characteristics coupled with the modified pseudo-dynamic approach. Unlike the available studies established with the limit equilibrium or the limit analysis method where a predefined failure mechanism is assumed prior to the analysis, the failure surface is continuously traced in due course of the present analysis. The seismic stability of a hunchbacked retaining wall under the passive condition is found to be affected greatly while considering the effect of damping of the soil-wall and the phase difference of the seismic waves. A detailed parametric study is conducted considering the influence of different soil and wall parameters such as soil-wall inertia, soil friction angle, wall inclination and roughness. The present results are obtained from a rigorous computational effort without assuming a failure mechanism and found to be in good agreement with the previous studies available in the literature.

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ah, av :

Horizontal and vertical seismic accelerations

B, H :

Width and height of the wall

DS, DW :

Constant damping ratio of the soil and the wall

FN, FT :

Normal and tangential components of forces acting at the base of the wall

FS S :

Factor of safety against sliding

g :

Acceleration due to gravity

H1, H2 :

Height of upper and lower part of the wall

kh, kv :

Horizontal and vertical seismic acceleration coefficients

Kpq1, Kpq2 :

Passive earth pressure coefficients for upper and lower part of the wall due to surcharge

Kpγ1, Kpγ2 :

Passive earth pressure coefficients for upper and lower part of the wall due to unit weight of the soil

Ppe1, Ppe2 :

Lateral thrusts acting on upper and lower part of the wall due to surcharge and unit weight of the soil

Ppq1, Ppq2 :

Lateral thrusts acting on upper and lower part of the wall due to surcharge only

q :

Uniformly distributed surcharge


Horizontal and vertical inertial forces in the backfill soil


Horizontal and vertical inertial forces in the wall

t :


T :

Period of lateral shaking

VpS, VsS :

Primary and shear wave velocities in the soil

VpW, VsW :

Primary and shear wave velocities in the wall

W S :

Weight of the backfill soil

W W :

Weight of the wall

x, y :

Axes in two-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system

α1, α2 :

Inclination angle for upper and lower part of the wall

δ1, δ2 :

Wall roughness at upper and lower part of the wall

ϕ :

Angle of internal friction of the soil

γ, γc :

Unit weight of the soil and the wall material

μ b :

Coefficient of base friction for the wall

σ :

Distance on the Mohr stress diagram, between the centre of the Mohr circle and a point where the Coulomb’s linear failure envelope intersects the σ-axis

θ :

Angle made by σ1 in a counter-clockwise sense with the positive x-axis

θ g :

Magnitude of θ along the ground surface

θ W1 , θ W2 :

Magnitude of θ along upper and lower part of the wall


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Santhoshkumar, G., Ghosh, P. Seismic stability analysis of a hunchbacked retaining wall under passive state using method of stress characteristics. Acta Geotech. (2020).

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  • Earthquake
  • Earth pressure
  • Hunchbacked retaining wall
  • Method of stress characteristics
  • Modified pseudo-dynamic approach