Geotechnical Engineering

CIVIL ENGINEERS ARE IN THE MIDST of a construction revolution. Heavy structures are being located in areas formerly considered unsuitable from the standpoint of the supporting power of the underlying soils. Earth structures are contemplated that are of unprecedented height and size; soil systems must be offered to contain contaminants for time scales for which past experience is either inadequate or absent. Designs must be offered to defy the ravages of floods and earthquakes that so frequently visit major population centers.
All structures eventually transmit their loads into the ground. In some cases this may be accomplished only after circuitous transfers involving many component parts of a building; in other cases, such as highway pavements, contact is generally direct. Load transfer may be between soil and soil or, as in retaining walls, from soil through masonry to soil. Of fundamental importance is the response that can be expected due to the imposed loadings. It is within this framework that geotechnical engineering is defined as that phase of civil engineering that deals with the state of rest or motion of soil bodies under the action of force systems.