Geotechnical engineering is a specialisation of civil engineering which deals with the study of subsurface materials. Principles of soil and rock mechanics are used to understand the properties of the subsurface materials. Geotechnical engineering deals with evaluation of slope stability, design of foundations and earthworks and soil stability. Risk mitigation which is related to earthquake, liquefaction, landslides, debris flows etc. is studies under geotechnical engineering. Geotechnical projects start with identifying project needs thereafter site investigation is done, wherein the properties of soil are found out after performing various lab and site experiments. The bearing capacity of the soil is evaluated and if any stabilising is required measures are taken accordingly. After all the analysis depending on the project foundations are designed by a geotechnical engineer. In general there are two types of foundations that are built for super structures, shallow foundations and deep foundations. Geotechnical engineering also deals with the retaining structures which includes earth filled dams and retaining walls. Other important structures where geotechnical engineering is used are embankments, tunnels, dikes and levees, channels, reservoirs. Environmental geology is a subject of geotechnical engineering which deals with deposition of hazardous waste and sanitary landfills. Soil mechanics considers soil as a three phase system which includes, soil particles, water and air. Soil particles are not in a closed packing therefore there are voids in between the particles which are filled with either water or air. Based on this soil arrangement system basic properties have been defined. Some of the important soil properties are unit weight, permeability, porosity, void ratio and shear strength. Atterberg’s limits are another set of important properties for clays. The main engineering work of geotechnical engineering revolves around foundation designs. The design of the foundation depends broadly on two parameters 1. Soil properties 2. Load imposed by the structure on the earth surface The challenge in front of a geotechnical design engineer is that a safe foundation design is to be made in the most economical manner. Bearing capacity of the soil, settlement and the shear failure are the most significant criteria for foundation designs. Some basic design outlines for general site conditions are elaborately explained in the building codes. Other than foundations, geotechnical engineering deals with lateral earth supporting structures also such as retaining walls and shoring walls. Primarily there are two types of retaining walls generally used, gravity walls and cantilever walls. Geotechnical engineering has a lot of application in ground improvement. The soil mass is treated in order to improve the engineering properties of the soil. Stiffness, bearing capacity and permeability is generally improved. Geo-synthetic materials are also used these days for a lot of applications related to geotechnical purposes. Geo-synthetic materials are plastic polymers which are used to improve the soil properties and are economical also. Geo-textiles, geo-membranes, geo-grids, geo-cells and geo-composites are different types of geo-synthetic materials used for different purposed in geotechnical engineering. Geotechnical engineering is not some absolute science and it has emerged over the years and the principles of mechanics and engineering have been applied to soil. Soil is an extremely heterogeneous material and the properties vary over very small distances. The field of geotechnical engineering has a lot of scope for research. A good geotechnical engineer can save a lot of capital on a project by proper geotechnical survey thereafter suggesting most efficient ground improvement technique.
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