The use of critical state soil mechanics to characterise Christchurch soil in relation to liquefaction susceptibility


  • Jeremy Tan AECOM Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand
  • Rolando P. Orense University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Andy O’Sullivan Arup Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand



The majority of current procedures used to deduce liquefaction potential of soils rely on empirical methods. These methods have been proven to work in the past, but these methods are known to overestimate the liquefaction potential in certain regions of Christchurch due to a whole range of factors, and the theoretical basis behind these methods cannot be explained scientifically. Critical state soil mechanics theory was chosen to provide an explanation for the soil’s behaviour during the undrained shearing. Soils from two sites in Christchurch were characterised at regular intervals for the critical layers and tested for the critical state lines (CSL). Various models and relationships were then used to predict the CSL and compared with the actual CSL. However none of the methods used managed to predict the CSL accurately, and a separate Christchurch exclusive relationship was proposed. The resultant state parameter values could be obtained from shear-wave velocity plots and were then developed into cyclic resistance ratios (CRR). These were subsequently compared with cyclic stress ratios (CSR) from recent Christchurch earthquakes to obtain the factor of safety. This CSL-based approach was compared with other empirical methods and was shown to yield a favourable relationship with visual observations at the sites’ locations following the earthquake.


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How to Cite

Tan, J., Orense, R. P., & O’Sullivan, A. (2016). The use of critical state soil mechanics to characterise Christchurch soil in relation to liquefaction susceptibility. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 49(4), 319–333.