Every building, bridge, dam, pipeline, or road, is founded on soil (or rock). Geotechnical engineering is an essential discipline of civil engineering that focuses on the mechanical properties of soils, and technologies associated with building in, on, and with soils. The objective is relatively simple: to transfer the loads from the structure, including those from earthquakes, wind or human activities (e.g. traffic) to the ground in a controlled manner, so that the building or particular structure performs as desired, for safe and normal use.
Geotechnical engineers deal with what nature provides (soils at the construction site). The ground conditions at every site are unique, making geotechnical engineering one of the most challenging, but also one of the most interesting engineering disciplines. Every project begins with a careful investigation of the subsurface soil properties using sophisticated technologies and interpretive methods. Geotechnical engineering covers a wide variety of problems - from assessment of residential land, design and construction of man-made earth structures (e.g. earth dams, landfills, or reclaimed land), and design of foundations for large structures on soft ground, to preventing harmful earth slips and soil liquefaction during earthquakes. Earth dams, buildings, urban infrastructure, and critical lifelines need sophisticated testing, analysis, and design by specialised geotechnical engineers. Retaining walls, road embankments, deep excavations, bridges, tunnels, offshore oil platforms, and waterfront structures also require significant geotechnical engineering input to their design and construction.
Geotechnical engineers are specialist civil engineers who have gained significant practical experience and often a postgraduate qualification. More than any other area of civil engineering, geotechnical engineering combines modern technologies with personal skills and experience making it a rewarding and satisfying career.
Academic and technical staff
The following academics are teaching and researching in this area:
For more information about our specific research interests and publications, please follow the links above to our respective individual webpages.
The following technical staff contribute to our teaching and research activities:
- Siale Fiatotonu
- Nicole van de Weerd
Our research approach
We believe that an integrated approach provides the best basis for solving geotechnical problems. Hence we have excellent laboratory facilities, field testing equipment, computational tools and conduct field observations to support our research and contribute to the advancements and leadership in the profession.
Understanding how liquefaction resistance of Christchurch soils is altered by the degree of saturation.
Examining the importance of geologic processes in determining how the ground behaves during an earthquake.
Validation and verification of 3D-1D effective stress site response analysis models (1D wave propagation, 3D motion and soil variability).
Undergraduate students carried out a collaborative project in the UK to examine the deformation characteristics of earth dams.
International conference in Christchurch
On the 1st November 2015, our group was proud to host the 6th International Conference on Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering here in Christchurch. This conference brought together over 500 researching academics and professionals from 37 countries to showcase the latest efforts in geotechnical earthquake engineering. The complete set of technical papers are available for download through the conference website, www.6icege.com
The 25 invited lectures at the 6th International Conference on Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering have recently been published as a special issue in the journal of Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering.
News, events and seminars
In a world-first, University of Canterbury Hydrological and Ecological Engineering researchers have filed a patent ...
The University of Canterbury has signed an agreement with one of China’s top ranked research universities to collaborate ...