What Is Geotechnical Engineering?

Geotechnical engineering plays an enormously important role in the building of any structure. The soil and rock the building sits atop will form the all-important foundation, and needs to be solid enough to support whatever is being built upon it. Without a proper foundation, a building could soon collapse and cause catastrophic damage or loss of life. 


Do I Need Geotechnical Engineering?

What is geotechnical engineering, exactly? Essentially, it’s a process that analyzes the rock and soil of a given site to determine if there is a sound base for the weight of the building, retaining walls, dams, or a variety of other projects. It will determine if there are any flaws in the subsurface that can cause problems during and after construction. It makes no sense to commit tremendous resources to constructing a new building (and populating it with people) unless the builders have the utmost assurance that the site is viable for construction. That’s where geotechnical engineers come in handy.


Saving Money

Geotechnical engineering can potentially save vast sums of money by streamlining the building foundation and providing an accurate assessment of the site. Most buildings are “over-designed”, and with the use of geotechnical engineering, the footing may not have to be so large or complex. This can translate into a faster and more economical building process.


Building Near Waterways

Rivers, beaches, and other waterways can be potential markers of an unstable building site. Geotechnical engineers will determine if the water-adjacent site you want to build on is safe. Building on an unsafe site near water can cause a building to shift over time… and even possibly collapse. Geotechnical engineering in Los Angeles can be especially useful because of the variety of geological features in our city. Particularly when you consider the seismic activity our region is known for, there is no room for cutting corners when building construction or assessment is at hand.


Other Uses

Geotechnical engineering is also used in the planning of roads and railways. For example, tunnels will have to be analyzed before being bored out. If the soil is too weak, it could cause the collapse of the tunnel. The same is also true for bridges over both land and waterways. The soil and underlying rock will need to be able to support not only the weight of the bridge, but all the traffic it will carry.


Designing Ports and Docks

Geotechnical analysis is also a requirement before the construction of a port. Before dredging can begin, the type of sand, sediment, and silt needs to be known. The type of soil at the subsurface needs to be known before any concrete can be poured. These are basic, pragmatic safety considerations that simply may not be skimped on.


Site Selection

After selecting the site of any project, the very first step will require a thorough survey using geotechnical engineering. Whether building a skyscraper, dam, of a large house on a cliff overlooking the ocean, it needs to be known if it will be stable in all manner of incremental weather conditions. Areas prone to earthquakes like LA will also benefit massively from these types of surveys. Knowing what kind of reinforcing is needed before construction begins will help with cost consideration.


As construction of new projects continue to be built on new or existing sites, knowing the long-term effects is absolutely vital. Having a building start to lean shortly after being built, or even during the construction process, can ultimately lead to a disaster. Take the time to have a proper geotechnical survey done before starting on your next project, and contact AES Soil to ensure your site analysis is totally accurate.

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