Foundation settlement prediction is a challenging task due to the difficulties associated with
the quantification of the soil stiffness and the abundance of available analysis methods. Of the
different soil stiffness moduli that may be measured, the initial small-strain stiffness is important
since it can be measured both in the field and the laboratory, and settlement prediction
methods using this parameter are becoming more common. The objective of this paper is to
present a settlement prediction method for shallow foundations that only uses small-strain
stiffness as input parameter.
The method was developed by conducting physical modelling in the geotechnical
centrifuge at the University of Pretoria to quantify the behaviour of shallow foundations on
sand. Bender and extender elements were used to obtain the small-strain stiffness profile below
the foundation before it was vertically loaded and the load-settlement curve determined. The
tests were conducted on different density sands corresponding to loose, medium-dense and
dense sand. A non-linear stepwise analysis approach was used in conjunction with a softening
function, with variables calibrated to obtain the best fit solution for the different sand densities.
Results indicate that the accuracy of the proposed method decreases as the sand density
increases, but that load-settlement behaviour can be predicted with reasonable accuracy.