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Technical paper: Lateral earth pressures - a reconsideration

By T S Ingold, Ground Engineering

This paper was first published in GE’s May 1980 issue.


Field and laboratory measurement of lateral earth pressures on both full scale and model retaining walls has shown conclusively that the magnitude and distribution of lateral earth pressure is not that predicted by the classical theories of Coulomb or Rankine. Similar conclusions apply to rigid walls and abutments where large discrepancies are observed between the theoretical “at rest” pressures and those actually measured.

It is generally asserted that the effects of compaction are the major cause of this discrepancy. This article presents a simple alternative earth pressure theory which makes allowance for the effects of compaction. Predictions made using this theory are compared with the results taken from several case histories. 

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