Foundation, Concrete and Earthquake Engineering

What is Factors of Safety?

Factors of safety represent reserve capacity which a foundation or structure has against collapse for a given set of loads and design conditions. Uncertain design parameters and loads, require a higher factor of safety than required when the design parameters are well known. For most hydraulic structures, designers should have a high level of confidence in the soil and pile parameters and the analysis. Therefore, uncertainty in the analysis and design parameters should be minimized rather than requiring a high factor of safety. For less significant structures, it is permissible to use larger factors of safety if it is not economical to reduce the uncertainty in the analysis and design by performing additional studies, testing, etc. Also, factors of safety must be selected to assure satisfactory performance for service conditions. Failure of critical components to perform as expected can be as detrimental as an actual collapse. Therefore, it is imperative that in choosing a design approach, the designer consider the functional significance of the project, the degree of uncertainty in the design parameters and the analytical approach, and the probability of failure due to both collapse and functional inadequacy.

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