Although its use has become more widespread, controlled low-strength material, or CLSM, has fallen through the crack between geotechnical engineering and materials engineering research. The National Ready Mix Association states that CLSM is not a low strength concrete, and geotechnical engineers do not consider it as a conventional aggregate backfill. The use of CLSM as a bridge abutment backfill material brings up the need to understand the passive force versus backwall displacement relationship for this application. To safely account for forces generated due to seismic activity and thermal expansion in bridge design, it is important to understand the passive force versus backwall displacement relationship. Previous researchers have pointed out the fallacy of designing skewed bridges the same as non-skewed bridges. They observed that as the bridge skew angle increases, the peak passive force is significantly diminished which could lead to poor or even unsafe performance. The literature agrees that a displacement of 3-5% of the wall height is required to mobilize the peak passive resistance. The shape of the passive force displacement curve is best represented as hyperbolic in shape, and the Log Spiral method has been confirmed to be the most accurate at predicting the peak passive force and the shape of the failure plane. All of the previous research on this topic, whether full-scale field tests or large-scale laboratory tests, has been done with dense compacted sand, dense granular backfill, or computer modeling of these types of conventional backfill materials. However, the use of CLSM is increasing because of the product's satisfactory performance as a conventional backfill replacement and the time saving, or economic, benefits. To determine the relationship of passive force versus backwall displacement for a CLSM backfilled bridge abutment, two laboratory large-scale lateral load tests were conducted at skew angles of 0 and 30°. The model backwall was a 4.13 ft (1.26 m) wide and 2 ft (0.61 m) tall reinforced concrete block skewed to either 0 or 30°. The passive force-displacement curves for the two tests were hyperbolic in shape, and the displacement required to reach the peak passive resistance was approximately 0.75-2% of the wall height. The effect of skew angle on the magnitude of passive resistance in the CLSM backfill was much less significant than for conventional backfill materials. However, within displacements of 4-5% of the backwall height, the passive force-displacement curve reached a relatively constant residual or ultimate strength. The residual strength ranged from 20-40% of the measured peak passive resistance. The failure plane did not follow the logarithmic spiral pattern as the conventional backfill materials did. Instead, the failure plane was nearly linear and the failed wedge was displaced more like a block with very low compressive strains.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





CLSM, backfill, passive force, abutment, backwall, residual strength