Geotechnical Engineering

Hello all!foundation-failure

If you recall from my first post, my original task was to post videos onto this blog. I’m very excited to say that I’ve finally had the chance to set up some interviews with professors. You can expect videos about professors and their research within the next few weeks!

In addition – I’ve obtained two more interviews for this week! Hopefully, I can get a co-op or an internship for the summer!

In continuation of the “Sub-disciplines of Civil Engineering” segment, I will be writing about geotechnical engineering on this post. Same as the posts before, I’ll be covering mainly about the history and current projects.

Geotechnical EngineeringHistory

Humans have employed geotechnical engineering for millennia. Dating to as early as 2000 BCE, there have been activities of irrigation and flood controls in the form of dykes, dams, and canals. These are the earliest forms of geotechnical engineering. Found in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent, as well as settlements of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa in the Indus valley, these engineering marvels allowed cities to expand. However, there are probably no theoretical bases for soil design and these projects were more of an art than a science, relying on past experience.

Without a proper and sound foundation, structure may fail.

Without a proper and sound foundation, structure may fail.


Geotechnical is a major field of civil engineering. It is actually the branch of civil engineering that connects directly with engineering behavior of earth materials. Aside from civil engineering, geotechnical engineering is also used by military, mining, petroleum, or any other engineering concerned with construction on or in the ground. Geotechnical engineering is also related to coastal and ocean engineering.

Responsibilities of geotechnical engineers include: investigation of subsurface conditions and materials; determination of relevant physical/ mechanical and chemical properties of these materials; evaluate stability of natural slopes and man-made soil deposits; assess risks posed by site conditions; design earthworks and structure foundations; and minor site conditions, earthwork and foundation construction.

A Typical Project

Tunnels are obvious geotechnical engineering projects!

Tunnels are obvious geotechnical engineering projects!

Typical project for geotechnical first begins with a review of project needs to define the required material properties. It is followed by a site investigation of the soil, rock, fault distribution and bedrock properties. This step is particularly important in order to see whether the ground would be a risk to humans, property and the environment from natural hazards (earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, soil liquefaction, debris flows, rockflass).

Next, ground improvement is implemented. This improvement adds shear strength, stiffness, and permeability to the ground. The engineer then determines the type of foundations, earthworks, or pavement required for the intended structure to be a built. Foundations are crucial larger structures such as bridges and buildings.



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