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Problems With Rock Classification For Empirical And Numerical Design; Proceedings Of The International Workshop On Rock Mass Classification In Underground Mining
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    Most empirical and numerical approaches to design in rock mechanics incorporate rock mass classification. Numerical design methods generally use classification values to calculate input parameters for stress-based failure criteria. Empirical methods use classification to allow comparisons between similar rock mass conditions, generally based on a graphical design technique that differentiates stable and failed opening geometries. Classification systems are the best tool available for assessing rock mass properties; however, there are problems with classification systems that should be high-lighted. Rock mass performance can only be realistically estimated by coupling a unique description of the rock mass with known loading conditions. Current classification systems cannot provide a unique classification value. The weightings applied to quantify rock mass properties for classification can result in significantly different rock masses having the same classification values. These weightings have been proven effective for tunnel design and support, but classification systems are now used for many more applications. Rock classification systems evolved from a quick and easy field tool for estimating tunnel stability and support requirements. The need for a rapid field tool means that rock mass classification is relatively insensitive to improved methods of measuring rock mass properties. Problems with classification systems and their application are highlighted in this paper. These problems must be recognized and documented before improvements can be made. An understanding of the evolution of classification systems and their application for both numerical and empirical design approaches is invaluable in highlighting current shortcomings.
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