Geotechnical Engineering and Structural Foundations

All manner of infrastructure, including houses, high rise office towers, roads, bridges, dams and tunnels need their proposed site, and sometimes the surrounding areas, to be analyzed to ensure their construction plans meet required engineering standards. The foundations of any piece of infrastructure transmit the weight bearing load from the structure to the earth. As you can imagine, it is critical that the foundations are strong enough to hold the weight of the building, even under irregular conditions like flood and earthquakes. The primary considerations for foundation support are bearing capacity, settlement, and ground movement beneath the foundations. Bearing capacity is the ability of the site soils to support the loads imposed by buildings or structures.

Geotechnical Engineers

Geotechnical Engineers are the people who analyse the geotechnical conditions on a site and the way they will interact with a building, to determine the structural engineering requirements of construction projects. Geotechnical engineers a design the foundations of structures based on the load characteristics of the structure and the properties of the soils and/or bedrock on the site. They are responsible for ensuring that the structural foundations are within prescribed engineering tolerances. To do this they take soil and rock samples, analyse these, and when they have completed their analysis, write reports that provide advice to civil and structural engineers, architects, construction personnel and landscapers on the most appropriate methods and materials to use when undertaking construction in an area.

Geotechnical Project Considerations

Geotechnical engineering project begins with a review of a project needs, to define the required material properties of construction materials, followed by an investigation of soil, rock, and bedrock and how these properties will interact with the proposed structure.
This usually involves a geotechnical investigation and requires a Geotechnical engineer to:
•    Calculate the magnitude of the loads to be supported;
•    Perform Geotechnical investigations to explore the subsurface of the proposed construction site;
•    Identify soil parameters through field and lab testing and, on the basis of the findings;
•    Design, or make recommendations about the design of building foundations, so they are constructed in the safest and most economical manner possible.
Subsurface Geotechnical Investigation
To obtain information about the soil, rock and groundwater conditions below the surface, some form of subsurface exploration is required. For this to happen, geotechnical engineers use various methods to obtain relevant samples so they can determine the physical properties of the soils and rocks at the site.

Laboratory Testing

Laboratory testing is performed on site samples, for example the soils and building materials(e.g. concrete) to measure a wide variety of its properties, and these results are then used by geotechnical engineers to make appropriate recommendations about building materials and construction methods.