Week 15-16 : Consolidation and Settlement

Soil consolidation refers to the mechanical process by which soil changes volume gradually in response to a change in pressure. This happens because soil is a two-phase material, comprising soil grains and pore fluid, usually groundwater. When soil saturated with water is subjected to an increase in pressure, the high volumetric stiffness of water compared to the soil matrix means that the water initially absorbs all the change in pressure without changing volume, creating excess pore water pressure. As water diffuses away from regions of high pressure due to seepage, the soil matrix gradually takes up the pressure change and shrinks in volume. The theoretical framework of consolidation is therefore closely related to the diffusion equation, the concept of effective stress, and hydraulic conductivity.


• Many types of earth construction, such as dams, retaining walls, highways, and airport, require man-placed soil, or fill. To compact a soil, that is, to place it in a dense state.

The dense state is achieved through the reduction of the air voids in the soil, with little or no reduction in the water content. This process must not be confused with consolidation, in which water is squeezed out under the action of a continuous static load