Calibration of resistance factors for gravity retaining walls

Pengpeng He, Gordon A. Fenton, D. V. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Geotechnical design codes have been migrating from the traditional allowable stress design towards load and resistance factor design (LRFD). In this paper, calibration of the geotechnical resistance factors for sliding and overturning limit states of gravity retaining walls is performed using a reliability-based method. For each limit state, the LRFD approach is applied to design the gravity retaining wall, and its probability of failure is estimated using the Random Finite Element Method (RFEM). An example gravity retaining wall is analyzed using the described methodology, and the results suggest that for a given resistance factor the sliding failure probability is greater than the overturning failure probability, and a positive correlation between the soil effective internal frictional angle and unit weight random fields significantly reduces the failure probability. For reasonable ranges of the target maximum lifetime failure probability, the required resistance factor for the sliding limit state is close to that for the overturning limit state. In addition, the sliding resistance factor given by the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code seems slightly unconservative, while the recommended overturning resistance factor is slightly conservative. The current analysis can be used to guide the calibration of these geotechnical resistance factors used in design codes.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalGeorisk: Assessment and Management of Risk for Engineered Systems and Geohazards
Early online date2 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2022


  • gravity retaining wall
  • overturning failure mode
  • Reliability analysis
  • resistance factor
  • sliding failure mode

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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