U.S.—New Zealand— Japan International Workshop, Liquefaction-Induced Ground Movement Effects, University of California, Berkeley, California, 2-4 November 2016, PEER Report 2017-02


There is much to learn from the recent New Zealand and Japan earthquakes. These earthquakes produced differing levels of liquefaction-induced ground movements that damaged buildings, bridges, and buried utilities. Along with the often spectacular observations of infrastructure damage, there were many cases where well-built facilities located in areas of liquefaction-induced ground failure were not damaged. Researchers are working on characterizing and learning from these observations of both poor and good performance.

The “Liquefaction-Induced Ground Movements Effects” workshop provided an opportunity to take advantage of recent research investments following these earthquake events to develop a path forward for an integrated understanding of how infrastructure performs with various levels of liquefaction. Fifty-five researchers in the field, two-thirds from the U.S. and one-third from New Zealand and Japan, convened in Berkeley, California, in November 2016. The objective of the workshop was to identify research thrusts offering the greatest potential for advancing our capabilities for understanding, evaluating, and mitigating the effects of liquefaction-induced ground movements on structures and lifelines. The workshop also advanced the development of younger researchers by identifying promising research opportunities and approaches, and promoting future collaborations among participants.

During the workshop, participants identified five cross-cutting research priorities that need to be addressed to advance our scientific understanding of and engineering procedures for soil liquefaction effects during earthquakes. Accordingly, this report was organized to address five research themes: (1) case history data; (2) integrated site characterization; (3) numerical analysis; (4) challenging soils; and (5) effects and mitigation of liquefaction in the built environment and communities. These research themes provide an integrated approach toward transformative advances in addressing liquefaction hazards worldwide.

The archival documentation of liquefaction case history datasets in electronic data repositories for use by the broader research community is critical to accelerating advances in liquefaction research. Many of the available liquefaction case history datasets are not fully documented, published, or shared. Developing and sharing well-documented liquefaction datasets reflect significant research efforts. Therefore, datasets should be published with a permanent DOI, with appropriate citation language for proper acknowledgment in publications that use the data.

Integrated site characterization procedures that incorporate qualitative geologic information about the soil deposits at a site and the quantitative information from in situ and laboratory engineering tests of these soils are essential for quantifying and minimizing the uncertainties associated site characterization. Such information is vitally important to help identify potential failure modes and guide in situ testing. At the site scale, one potential way to do this is to use proxies for depositional environments. At the fabric and microstructure scale, the use of multiple in situ tests that induce different levels of strain should be used to characterize soil properties. The development of new in situ testing tools and methods that are more sensitive to soil fabric and microstructure should be continued.

The development of robust, validated analytical procedures for evaluating the effects of liquefaction on civil infrastructure persists as a critical research topic. Robust validated analytical procedures would translate into more reliable evaluations of critical civil infrastructure iv performance, support the development of mechanics-based, practice-oriented engineering models, help eliminate suspected biases in our current engineering practices, and facilitate greater integration with structural, hydraulic, and wind engineering analysis capabilities for addressing multi-hazard problems. Effective collaboration across countries and disciplines is essential for developing analytical procedures that are robust across the full spectrum of geologic, infrastructure, and natural hazard loading conditions encountered in practice

There are soils that are challenging to characterize, to model, and to evaluate, because their responses differ significantly from those of clean sands: they cannot be sampled and tested effectively using existing procedures, their properties cannot be estimated confidently using existing in situ testing methods, or constitutive models to describe their responses have not yet been developed or validated. Challenging soils include but are not limited to: interbedded soil deposits, intermediate (silty) soils, mine tailings, gravelly soils, crushable soils, aged soils, and cemented soils. New field and laboratory test procedures are required to characterize the responses of these materials to earthquake loadings, physical experiments are required to explore mechanisms, and new soil constitutive models tailored to describe the behavior of such soils are required. Well-documented case histories involving challenging soils where both the poor and good performance of engineered systems are documented are also of high priority.

Characterizing and mitigating the effects of liquefaction on the built environment requires understanding its components and interactions as a system, including residential housing, commercial and industrial buildings, public buildings and facilities, and spatially distributed infrastructure, such as electric power, gas and liquid fuel, telecommunication, transportation, water supply, wastewater conveyance/treatment, and flood protection systems. Research to improve the characterization and mitigation of liquefaction effects on the built environment is essential for achieving resiliency. For example, the complex mechanisms of ground deformation caused by liquefaction and building response need to be clarified and the potential bias and dispersion in practice-oriented procedures for quantifying building response to liquefaction need to be quantified. Component-focused and system performance research on lifeline response to liquefaction is required. Research on component behavior can be advanced by numerical simulations in combination with centrifuge and large-scale soil–structure interaction testing. System response requires advanced network analysis that accounts for the propagation of uncertainty in assessing the effects of liquefaction on large, geographically distributed systems. Lastly, research on liquefaction mitigation strategies, including aspects of ground improvement, structural modification, system health monitoring, and rapid recovery planning, is needed to identify the most effective, cost efficient, and sustainable measures to improve the response and resiliency of the built environment.

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Jonathan D. Bray
Ross W. Boulanger
Misko Cubrinovski
Kohji Tokimatsu
Steven L. Kramer
Thomas O’Rourke
Ellen Rathje
Russell A. Green
Peter K. Robertson
Christine Z. Beyzaei
Publication date: 
March 1, 2017
Publication type: 
Technical Report
Bray, J. D., Boulanger, R. W., Cubrinovski, M., Tokimatsu, K., Kramer, S. L., O’Rourke, T., Rathje, E., Green, R. A., Robertson, P. K., & Beyzaei, C. Z. (2017). U.S.—New Zealand— Japan International Workshop, Liquefaction-Induced Ground Movement Effects, University of California, Berkeley, California, 2-4 November 2016, PEER Report 2017-02. Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, University of California, Berkeley, CA. https://peer.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/jonathan-d-bray-ross-w-boulanger-2017_02.pdf