A novel tier-based numerical analysis procedure for the structural assessment of masonry quay walls under traffic loads

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Historical quay walls constructed in unreinforced masonry are integral elements of many cities. Originally designed as gravity retaining walls, they are nowadays often subjected to the action of traffic loads as a result of vehicles travelling on roads constructed on their backfill. This paper presents a numerical analysis procedure for carrying out the structural assessment of quay walls under traffic loads. The procedure simulates the non-linear dynamic response of the quay wall under the effect of the passage of a vehicle. Non-linear dynamic calculations are performed not only to be representative of the actual nature of loading but also to produce realistic estimations of structural safety, load redistribution capacities and displacements. Adopting a tier-based approach, the computational burden typically associated with such simulations is significantly reduced. This is obtained by adopting simplifications which allow for the modelling the 3D soil block comprising the backfill of the quay wall only in the first tier of the procedure. To demonstrate the implementation of the procedure, a detailed application to an existing quay wall in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is presented. Different foundation damage scenarios are also considered. Though the procedure is presented in this paper for a specific typology of quay walls, it has conceptual and methodological value. With appropriate modifications it can be used for the structural assessment of other earth retaining structures as well, under the effect of vehicular traffic on their backfills.