The geological strength index: applications and limitations

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The geological strength index (GSI) is a system of rock-mass characterization that has been developed in engineering rock mechanics to meet the need for reliable input data, particularly those related to rock-mass properties required as inputs into numerical analysis or closed form solutions for designing tunnels, slopes or foundations in rocks. The geological character of rock material, together with the visual assessment of the mass it forms, is used as a direct input to the selection of parameters relevant for the prediction of rock-mass strength and deformability. This approach enables a rock mass to be considered as a mechanical continuum without losing the influence geology has on its mechanical properties. It also provides a field method for characterizing difficult-to-describe rock masses. After a decade of application of the GSI and its variations in quantitative characterization of rock mass, this paper attempts to answer questions that have been raised by the users about the appropriate selection of the index for a range of rock masses under various conditions. Recommendations on the use of GSI are given and, in addition, cases where the GSI is not applicable are discussed. More particularly, a discussion and suggestions are presented on issues such as the size of the rock mass to be considered, its anisotropy, the influence of great depth, the presence of ground water, the aperture and the infilling of discontinuities and the properties of weathered rock masses and soft rocks.

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