What is Geotechnical Engineering?

Engineers often are given credit for the ability to fix anything, be it plumbing, mechanical, or computer-based. While we’re happy to be recognized as problem solvers, it can be difficult to explain the particulars of our engineering ability – and not very fun to admit our limitations. While some of us would like to know and do everything, all engineers are forced to choose a discipline to focus on, explore, and develop so we can be effective in the professional world. This article will explore the particular discipline of Geotechnical Engineering, a branch of Civil Engineering relating to the Earth, and the numerous materials that make up her crust.

Geotechnical Engineering is quite literally the foundation of all other engineering disciplines. Its main goal is to harness the abundant natural materials available on Earth’s surface to build useful structures like dams, levees, roads, bridges, and buildings of all kinds. A Geotechnical Engineer will also evaluate the numerous geological hazards that arise from natural processes, including earthquakes, fault rupture, liquefaction, settlement, flooding, corrosion, and many more. Until floating cities become the norm, Geotechnical Engineers will stay busy figuring out how to support everything we build, and how to prevent geologic hazards from bringing harm to the public.

With these lofty goals in mind, let’s drill down on the specifics of soil engineering and discuss why nearly every construction project requires a Geotechnical Engineer to investigate, evaluate, and test the site before anything is built.

A lot can go wrong when you build with natural materials. Part of a Geotechnical Engineer’s job is to think of all the ways something can fail. Then, solutions are created to address each of those cases, hopefully resulting in a long-lasting, safe structure. Some ways that geologic processes can cause the loss of life, limb, and property include:

  • Settlement
  • Soil Expansion
  • Slope Failure
  • Bearing Failure
  • Flooding
  • Seepage
  • Seismic Shakedown
  • Liquefaction
  • Lateral Spreading
  • Surface Fault Rupture
  • And Many More…

CTE Cal’s engineering professionals have academic and practical experience in evaluating and mitigating these hazards using modern geotechnical and geological professional standards of practice. If your project lies on a plot of land with any of these hazards, a CTE Cal engineer can help investigate, evaluate, and mitigate the risks that come from building on our planet’s crust.

Contact us at [email protected] if you’d like to hear more about our professional services. Send us your resume at [email protected] if you’d like to be involved in our mission to mitigate mother earth’s hazards.