Soil and rock form the foundation for all civil engineering structures. Being natural materials, their composition and properties vary significantly depending on the location leading to highly-unpredictable engineering behaviours. Abstract and practical understanding of the concepts of geotechnical engineering and rock mechanics is therefore crucial for civil engineers. This unit will provide students with practical knowledge and hands-on experience in advanced geotechnical engineering and rock mechanics that are essential for civil engineers.

The main topics covered under this unit include Shallow and deep foundation design, Reactive soils and their effects on structures, Rock mechanics and rock engineering, Slope stability for civil engineering and open-cut mine applications, Site investigation and reporting, Design of subsurface excavations and Ground improvement techniques. The students will gain first-hand experience with laboratory testing (e.g. Consolidation test, Shrink-swell index test, Point load index test, etc.), field demonstrations (e.g. site investigation) and numerical simulations (e.g. use of Rocscience software package) relevant to above topics. The relevant up-to-date Australian Standards will be followed during this unit where applicable. Overall, this unit will equip students with the necessary knowledge and skill to face 21st -century civil engineering challenges.

Unit details

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Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Critically analyse the engineering behaviour of various types of soils and rocks and appropriately incorporate them into geotechnical designs;  
  2. Analyse earth slopes following various techniques and determine the best-suited stabilisation technique for unstable slopes;  
  3. Design subsurface excavations under various in-situ conditions, determine and design appropriate ground improvement technique and carry out a site investigation and reporting following relevant Australian Standards;  
  4. Analyse requirements and design shallow foundations (including pad and strip footings and slabs) and deeper pile foundations for a range of common structures in different earth/rock profiles;  
  5. Conduct some key geotechnical laboratory tests, analyse data and interpret results to be used in a variety of geotechnical designs according to the relevant Australian Standards; and  
  6. Apply numerical simulation techniques to model geomechanics problems and characterize soil/rock mass behaviour under various in-situ conditions.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Assignment Team-based problem-solving exercise and report 15%
Project Group Project Report 20%
Laboratory Work Laboratory report (Individual) 15%
Test Tests (Individual) 50%
The tests focus upon the individual student's ability to demonstrate his or her in-depth understanding of specialist bodies of knowledge within the engineering discipline, apply established engineering methods to complex engineering problems, and the fluent application of engineering techniques, tools and resources, as defined in Engineers Australia competencies 1.1, 1.3 and 2.2.

Where to next?

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