Drilled displacement columns, constructed in the form of unreinforced or reinforced concrete elements, are currently a very commonly used method of improving soft subsoil, creating an alternative to more expensive pile foundations. A frequently used solution for improving soft soils of road or railway embankments is to design a regular pattern of columns of relatively small diameter. Columns along the perimeter of the improved area are reinforced with rigid steel profiles, while the internal ones are made as concrete elements. Column heads are usually covered with a load transfer platform (layer of compacted granular fill) which is additionally reinforced with geosynthetics. The application of soil improvement with displacement columns is not always successful. It is due to the errors and shortcomings occurring at the design stage, including simplifications in modelling, to construction faults, which may include insufficient experience of contractors and/or improper supervision. Referring to the real object that failed, the article provides the results of numerical parametric analyses taking into account the influence of the key design parameters such as: the stiffness of the load transfer layers, the amount and stiffness of the geosynthetic reinforcement as well as the column spacing. The article presents comparisons of numerical results obtained with the finite element analyses for various approaches to geometry modelling (axisymmetric, 2D and 3D). The simulations indicate that the use of the axisymmetric model of a single column in routine design may lead to the deformations exceeding the serviceability limit states.
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