This paper aims to investigate the failure mechanism of a shallow foundation on poorly cemented sandstone and to propose an upper bound solution for the bearing capacity of the foundation. A series of laboratory material and load-bearing model tests with specimens made of artificial rock mimic undisturbed natural poorly cemented sandstone.
Based on a series of load-bearing model tests, bearing behavior and progressive failure mechanisms are investigated. It was found that the bearing behavior on poorly cemented sandstone is distinct from the cases on hard rock or on soil, and exhibits both plasticity and brittle characteristics. It is noted that the bearing capacity formulas for a shallow foundation commonly used for soil or hard rock are not appropriate for the case of poorly cemented soft sandstone. Based on the observed failure mechanism, a simplified plastic collapse mechanism is proposed and an upper-bound solution on the basis of a multi-block translation mechanism is formulated. It is shown that the upper bound solution agrees well with the experimental bearing capacity as long as a proper non-associated flow rule is adopted.