Geotechnical engineering can be defined as the study of the behaviour of the earth or different soils which are subjected to loading forces and soil-water interactions. This study is readily applied in the design of foundations, earth dams, retaining walls, geosynthetics for waste containment and clay liners. The objectives of this study range from the construction of foundations and temporary excavation support to the route selection process for highways and railways and even other important soil information like in the area of landfill disposal of wastes and groundwater contamination. This makes geotechnical engineer actively involved in fields and laboratory investigations to find out the engineering properties of soils to be used for construction finding out other geomaterials and their subsequent use in the analytical study of the relevant issue at hand. The entire great infrastructures you find around the world today are connected to the ground. Geotechnical engineering simply means understanding how this infrastructure connects and interacts with the ground.
Geotechnical engineers deal with the various types of infrastructure, from bridges to dams, tunnels, roads, ports. Railways, ports, and landfills. This is because all these are built to the ground. The earth has a very complicated behaviour and is very unpredictable. This makes the study of its behaviour very interesting and challenging. As geotechnical engineer discovers more about the earth, the various types of soil and rocks, they find out that no two problems are the same. With the recent technological development today, the study of the soil has been made easy using various computer systems. The ability to effectively predict the behaviour of the soil and soil water systems under various conditions have been made easier by the use of computer software and system. The employment opportunities that have been made available by this study include geotechnical engineering and consultants, public utilities, environmental agencies, specialized contractors, resource industry companies and government agencies.
Geotechnical engineers are responsible for the design of infrastructure that is safe and will fully serve its intended purpose, they are actively involved during the construction stage and also for a very long time into the future. These engineers collect all the information required for their design and all the analyses from site investigations which can be in the rural or urban areas. This information depends on the structure to be constructed.
As mention above, all construction happens on the ground, this makes it’s easy to see how important the field of geotechnical engineering is to all civil engineering projects. Before the start of any construction project, it is very important to carry out site investigations and determine the requisite construction method to be employed for such project. Failure to do so leads to catastrophic consequences of the project. Geotechnical engineers are also responsible for guarding and maintaining the earth’s physical environment during the development of major public and private projects. Using their knowledge of civil engineering, construction, and design, they safely carry out site investigations to find out the present and future stability of the earth surface that will be used for construction. This goes to tell how important this field of engineering is to the built environment.