Pile caps are used in foundation design to aid multiple single piles to act as a pile group to resist lateral forces that may cause overturning moments. The pile cap and pile group resist these forces by pile-soil-pile interaction, base and side friction along the pile cap-backfill interface, and passive earth resistance. Passive earth resistance has been neglected in design due to a limited amount of full-scale testing. This research presents the results of a combination of hydraulic actuator and eccentric-mass shaker full-scale testing of a pile cap with loose silty sand backfill to quantify the contribution of the passive earth resistance to the lateral force resistance. The test cap is 1.12 m tall and 5.18 x 3.05 m in plan view, connecting 12 steel pipe piles (324mm O.D) placed in a 4 x 3 pattern with center-to-center spacing of 4.4 and 3.3 pile-diameters in the long and short dimensions, respectively. The hydraulic actuator applied a static load to the system (backfill + pile group) while the eccentric-mass shaker introduced cyclic and dynamic loading to the system. The passive earth resistance accounted for approximately 22% of the total system resistance, with piles contributing approximately 78%. Furthermore, the results produce general correlations between cyclic and dynamic effects on degradation of the backfill provided by the testing and soil characteristics obtained, including target (static) displacement, dynamic displacement amplitude, stiffness, and damping. The dynamic displacement amplitudes during the eccentric mass shaker tests typically ranged between .4 and 2 mm for frequencies between 5 and 9.5 Hz representing behavior under reloading conditions rather than virgin loading conditions. Generally, the presence of the loose silty sand backfill nearly doubled the dynamic stiffness of the pile cap. The stiffness of the backfill and pile cap combined was typically between 100 and 200 kN/mm for frequencies between 4 and 8 Hz, while the stiffness for the backfill alone was typically a decreasing trend between 100 and 40 kN/mm for the same frequency range. The overall isolated loose silty sand damping ratio shows a general increasing trend with values from 32% to 55% for frequencies 3 and 8 Hz.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





cyclic, dynamic, pile cap, silty sand, load-deflection, dynamic displacement amplitude, damping, stiffness