Modeling Piles/Piers in FEM Software

When we use finite element software for analyzing deep foundations then it becomes important to model piles with accurate axial stiffness so that the load can distribute properly based on pile stiffnesses.

Some people suggests to calculate pile stiffness by AE/L formula. By doing this method the problem is that as you increase the length of the pile, the stiffness will reduce which is not accurate.

The best thing is to ask Geotech Engineer for the allowable loads and the allowable axial displacement on working loads. Most of the times this allowable displacement is ranged from ¼” to ½” which can be confirmed from geotech report.

Take your allowable load which will vary based on the depth of pile and divide it by the axial displacement, this will be the required pile stiffness.



k = Pile axial stiffness (kips/inch )

P = Allowable load (kips)

Δ = Allowable vertical displacement (inches)

Author: zstructures

I am structural Engineer working in a reputable firm in Los Angeles

2 thoughts on “Modeling Piles/Piers in FEM Software”

  1. Hi zstructures.

    Wouldn’t you have to consider both the effects of AE/L and the deflection given by the geotechnical engineers?

    To my knowledge, the geo engineers would only provide information on the socket displacement of the piles, unless stated otherwise (as they do not design the piles).

    The concrete will shorten linearly (ignoring shrinkage and creep) in the pile from the load as it is transferred into the ground, which would also displace.

    Looking forward to your opinion.



    1. Hi Carbon12,
      Thanks for your comments. With my experience you only need to consider the allowable capacities and the deflection provided by geotech.
      You are right that concrete will shorten linearly but that will not be too much and also for analysis purpose the information from geotech is sufficient.
      This is based on what I have seen.


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