Contact US

Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Students Click Here




Could someone please explain how to evaluate bearing capacity using ULS? (I'm in Canada, if that makes a difference.) I have tried finding answers and reading reports, but I never clearly understand how ULS and SLS are calculated.
1) Is ULS a factored ultimate bearing capacity? If so, why do some geotechnical reports mention "Factored ULS"? Isn't that double factoring?
2) Is ULS the same as the allowable bearing capacity? Is ULS calculated as ULS = q_ult/FS where FS = factor of safety?
3) How do you determine SLS to limit settlement to x mm?

Thank you.


The terminology is confusing you may need to check with the Geotech.

How I see it, you have 3 bearing capacities:

1. What you get out of the bearing capacity equation (this is the largest value)
2. A factored bearing capacity (usually value 1. times 0.3-0.5) - this is what you compare to structural loads i.e. Factored up structural load must be less than factored down bearing capacity
3. An allowable bearing capacity (1. divided by 3 or 4) - in modern practice you really shouldn't be using this any more.

Unfortunately the terminology isn't really agreed on and some people will call 1. 'Ultimate limit state bearing capacity' and 2. 'factored ultimate bearing capacity'. I prefer to call 1. Geotechnical Ultimate Bearing Capacity and 2. Factored Bearing Capacity.


I'm in New Zealand so YMMV. Here's how we sorta approach it (sorta, as it's still a clusterfuck of different terminologies)
I am a Structural Engineer primarily but I also have a lot of geotechnical field testing/reporting experience so that shapes my interpretations

There's demand, and there's capacity
Ultimate Limit State and Serviceability Limit State are demand terminologies
ULS > SLS in general terms as that's the obvious intention of calculating these loads
SLS is day-to-day type loads - dead load + occupancy live loads, moderate winds and earthquakes, etc
ULS is the "oh shit" load case - house crowded to the brim, mega earthquake, hurricane, whatever

When undertaking design verification we obviously need to show that our capacity exceeds our demand
In NZ we begin with 'Geotechnical Ultimate Bearing Capacity' (GUBC) which can be calculated in various ways but is general estimated from Scala penetrometer correlations
This gives us a number - say 300kPa - that is the theoretical ultimate bearing capacity of the soil
We then modify this according to the parameters of the foundation (Strip vs Pad, width, bearing depth, etc) to get a design Ultimate Bearing Capacity
This is the theoretical 1:1 capacity to demand ratio number

Now we apply reduction factors
Common practice here is to use a strength reduction factor (phi factor) of 0.5 for gravity, maybe higher for earthquake
So 300kPa * 0.5 = 150kPa - compare this directly against your ULS bearing demand
For serviceability we deviate from LRFD to working stress and use a FOS of 3 - as you put in your post, we divide 300kPa by 3 = 100kPa
We then compare this against our SLS bearing demands

The basis for using working stress for SLS is the answer to your 3rd question, sort of - the guy who did all the testing in the 70s to calculate the Scala penetrometer calculations did a bunch of work to conclude that a FOS of ~3 was sufficient to limit deflections to 25mm
So, 50 years later, we haven't shaken that demon as no one has bothered to investigate any more
Seems to work though

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members! Already a Member? Login


Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close