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Underwater Embankments on Soft Soil

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Ground improvement is probably the oldest but, from a technical point of view, still the most intriguing technique of all common execution methods in foundation engineering. Indeed, ground improvement was already in use more than 3000 years ago. 

In recent decades, the modern methods of ground improvement are making use of explosives, impact energy, thermal treatment of the soil, vacuum consolidation, vibratory compaction technologies, stabilization and solidification of soft soils, as well as combined systems of ingenious grouting systems, deep mixing techniques, etc. Throughout the world, deep mixing techniques today are of utmost importance in dealing with more and more demanding foundation problems.

This tendency has been noticed in Belgium already at a very early stage; with inventive new developments of soft soil deep mixing technologies and various advanced high pressure mixing methods.

 Some initial experiences onshore and offshore have proved already some years ago that successful solutions can be attained. The present work illustrates a challenging example of design and construction of a quite important large underwater embankment on very soft soil.

 Throughout the design staged construction and ground improvement by deep mixing combined with geotextile reinforcement were proposed to assure the safety as well as allowable deformations of the construction. 

The outcome of monitoring excess pore water pressures and displacements during the construction shows that when taking account of key aspects of advanced soil stress-strain behavior, it is possible to appropriately model such complex problem and even to make rather simple attempts to reach some of the “type A” foundation behavior predictions. We may expect this work to be recognized as a valuable reference case history for the geotechnical engineer, both from the academic as well as from the practitioner’s point of view, in order to contribute to the art of building on soft soils. Our acknowledgments go to the contractors DEME and J. DE NUL, to the teams of geotechnical experts of Dredging International NV, HydroSoil Services, to the Geotechnical Division and Maritime Access Division of the Flemish Ministry, all actively contributing to the satisfactory result of this uncommon foundation engineering problem.