Geotechnical engineering is a civil engineering discipline concerned with the engineering behavior of earth materials. Geotechnical engineering includes the investigation of existing subsurface conditions and materials and the determinination of their physical/mechanical and chemical properties that are relevant to the project considered.
The above geotechnical data are then assessed for risks posed by site condition and used in designing earthworks, structure foundations. A proper geotechnical investigation will also aid in properly indentifying critical points to monitor during earthwork and foundation construction.
A geotechnical engineering project begins with the review of project needs to define the required material properties and the site tests. A site investigation of soil, rock, fault distribution and bedrock properties on and below an area of interest to determine their engineering properties including how they will interact with, on or in a proposed construction will follow. Geotechnical site investigations are almost always needed in major projects and help gain an understanding of the project area. Soil and rock samples are typically collected with a dril rig and appropriate samplers. The soil samples are then transported to a geotechnical laboratory where a number of geotechnical tests are carried out. In situ tests typically include the Standard Penetration Test and the Cone Penetrometer Test.
Investigations typically include the assessment of the risk to humans, property and the environment from natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, soil liquefaction, debris flows and rock falls.
Based on the test and in-site (in-situ) tests an engineer can design all required foundations, earthworks, pavement subgrades, etc. Such foundations may be constructed for various size structures such as deep basements, high-rise buildings, bridges, medium to large commercial buildings.
Foundations built for above-ground structures include shallow and deep foundations. Retaining structures include earth-filled dams and retaining walls. Earthworks include embankments, tunnels, dikes, levees, channels, reservoirs, deposition of hazardous waste and sanitary landfills.
Geotechnical engineering is also critical in the successful design and construction of wharves, marinas, and jetties. Ocean engineering can involve foundation and anchor systems for offshore structures such as oil platforms.
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Below, you can access more information about respective geotechnical engineering fields: