Detailed distinct element modeling of a Utrecht wharf cellar for the assessment of the load-bearing capacity and failure mechanism

More Info


The city of Utrecht is famously known for the system of canals and the wharf cellars integrated to the heart of the city, whose construction dates back to the 1300s. Due to increased traffic volume which caused the increase in dead load and traffic load, it is important to assess the safety and state of maintenance of these historical structures. In this paper, a safety assessment framework for wharf cellars is introduced and the application to a wharf cellar as a case study in central Utrecht is provided. The geometry of the wharf cellar is parametrically generated and used for the numerical analysis using the distinct element method (DEM), where arch units and piers are modeled as discrete blocks separated by zero-thickness interfaces. Traffic load models in accordance with the Dutch guideline for emergency vehicles are calculated. Unlike traditional approaches, the three-dimensional load distribution through the soil is modeled. The structure’s compliance with this load is assessed, and the failure load
and mechanism are observed. The analysis result can be used to help engineers on providing insights into the safety and stability of the cellars in an effort to extend the lifespan of the historical structures.