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Unit information: Soil-Structure Interaction in 2020/21

Unit name Soil-Structure Interaction
Unit code CENGM0076
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Mylonakis
Open unit status Not open

Design of Geotechnical Structures (CENG30005) or equivalent



School/department Department of Civil Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


Soil-structure interaction (SSI) is central to the design and performance of a variety of structures including building foundations, retaining walls, tunnels and axially/laterally loaded piles, under both static and dynamic loads. In such problems earth pressures depend on structure movements or deflections, and structure movements or deflections depend on earth pressures. The unit will be primarily coursework based and will provide an opportunity for students to use state-of-the-art geotechnical software that is employed by leading consultants worldwide.

Students will use PLAXIS, a finite element package intended for the two-dimensional analysis of deformation and stability in geotechnical engineering, that is well suited to modelling the interaction between a structure and the soil. After working through example problems contained in the introductory tutorial manual, students will use Plaxis in the analysis of some basic foundation engineering problems involving footings and retaining walls. Parallel analyses will be undertaken using structural analysis software, such as GSA and ABAQUS. Approximate analysis of piles and retaining walls on Matlab will also be covered. Comparisons will be made between the computer solutions and closed form analyses, and students will be encouraged to evaluate limitations of each approach

With reference to experimental testing, two main elements are covered: 1) Background theory for experimental design, vibration monitoring methods, soil element testing, instrumentation and basic data processing, 2) Laboratory sessions in the geotechnics laboratories. The unit will enable student to understand the basic principles behind soil element testing and be able to setup experiments, collect, analyse and interpret the data.

Students will present and discuss their findings in an individual report. To facilitate early feedback to the students, the report will be submitted in two phases (e.g., end of 12th week (formative), end of 24th week (summative)).


  • To introduce students to the use of finite element software in analysing geotechnical engineering problems;
  • To develop students' awareness of the limitations of such analyses;
  • To enhance students' understanding of the factors that influence soil-structure interaction;
  • To provide insight as to the differences between static and dynamic soil-structure interaction phenomena in geotechnical engineering.
  • To introduce students to geotechnical experiments

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, successful students will:

1. Have some understanding of the response of structures to ground deformations and of soil-structure interaction,

2. Have developed a capability in modelling geotechnical problems with commercial and in-house finite element software and interpreting the results,

3. Have undertaken a detailed study of some foundation and retaining wall problems and written up their findings in a report,

4. Have developed basic understanding on certain dynamic soil-structure interaction problems involving earthquake loads.

5. Learn how to construct soil sample and manipulate various fabrication procedures

6. Learn how to set up a series of soil element testing apparatus, understand the involved physical variables and their reduction

7. Be able to characterise soil behaviour over a wide range of strains from small to large strains.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures, practical activities supported by drop-in sessions, problem sheets and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Details

Single Coursework Submission (100%)

Reading and References

CEN, 2004. European Standard EN 1998-1. Eurocode 8: Design of structures for earthquake resistance, Part 1: General rules, seismic actions and rules for buildings”, Committee for Standardisation (Book), Design.

European Committee for Standardization, Brussels, Belgium.

Chopra, A.K., 2014. Dynamics of Structures—Theory and applications to Earthquake Engineering, Pearson.

Kramer S.P., 1995. Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering, Prentice Hall

Mylonakis, G. Electronic Class Notes (available on BB together with miscellaneous reading material)

Towhata I., 2008. Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering, Springer

Wolf, J.P., 1985. Dynamic Soil-Structure Interaction, Prentice Hall