The limits of limit equilibrium analyses

The 2001 R.M. Hardy Lecture: The limits of limit equilibrium analyses

Limit equilibrium types of analysis have been in use in geotechnical engineering for a long time and are now used routinely in geotechnical engineering practice. Modern graphical software tools have made it possible to gain a much better understanding of the inner numerical details of the method. A closer look at the details reveals that the limit equilibrium method of slices has some serious limitations. The fundamental shortcoming of limit equilibrium methods, which only satisfy equations of statics, is that they do not consider strain and displacement compatibility. This limitation can be overcome by using finite element computed stresses inside a conventional limit equilibrium framework. From the finite element stresses both the total shear resistance and the total mobilized shear stress on a slip surface can be computed and used to determine the factor of safety. Software tools that make this feasible and practical are now available, and they hold great promise for advancing the technology of analyzing the stability of earth structures.

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