A smeared crack model, based on non-linear fracture mechanics, was developed which allows for either linear or bilinear softening and assumes shear retention dependent on the strain normal to a crack. A mesh objectivity verification study proves that the proposed crack modelling method is mesh objective. The crack model and its computational procedure is verified for a benchmark concrete gravity dam model and an existing concrete gravity dam by comparing the results with those of numerical investigations obtained by other researchers.
Furthermore, an existing concrete gravity dam in South Africa is analysed and evaluated with regard to dam safety in terms of the maximum overflow level. A higher imminent failure flood is predicted in the analysis than that obtained by classical strength-based methods. The study proves the usefulness and applicability of the proposed crack model and implementation procedure in predicting crack response and evaluating the safety of concrete gravity dams. A sensitivity study on the material fracture properties and fracture parameters is included for the purpose of investigating the uncertainties often encountered in this type of analysis. The influence of the fracture properties and parameters on the cracking response and the overall structural behaviour is discussed.