Geotechnical engineering is the practice of designing and building foundations for subsurface structures, including dams, tunnels, subways, and drainage systems. Professionals investigate ground conditions, determine the best strategies for excavation, and oversee the construction process. A successful building project requires the cooperation of skilled workers in many different specialty geotechnical jobs, including geologists, engineers, site managers, and construction workers. Most geotechnical jobs are found with municipal government organizations, private consulting and engineering firms, and specialized excavation companies.
Geologists play a vital role in the planning stages for geotechnical engineering projects. A scientist will visit the planned building site to survey the ground, determining its contents and stability. He or she will take soil and rock samples to see if it will be safe to build in a certain area. The geologist considers a number of risk factors, such as the danger of earthquakes, landslides, and flooding. After confirming a site safe for construction, he or she usually writes a formal report to submit to landowners and engineers.
Engineers who hold geotechnical jobs are responsible for designing new structures and systems with the recommendations put forth by geologists. Most engineers have expert knowledge of both civil engineering and Earth science. Many projects require a team of engineers to design certain elements and phases. Under the supervision of a senior geotechnical engineer, the team determines the best types of materials to use and the potential costs of a project. Experts also draw detailed blueprints and create computer simulations to test the soundness of a structure in hypothetical situations.
When all design plans are solidified, engineers submit funding proposals to the appropriate government committees or landowners. Once a proposal is accepted, project managers can begin acquiring the materials and equipment necessary for the build. Geotechnical jobs in project and site management are held by construction experts who set deadlines and direct workers. They monitor overall progress during construction and work to solve any problems that may occur.
Many essential geotechnical jobs are held by excavators and construction workers. Excavators are usually highly skilled professionals who operate heavy equipment and vehicles used for digging. They remove and haul away dirt and rocks, and level the ground according to the site manager's instructions. Cement masons, ironworkers, and other construction experts then lay foundations and begin building the structure. Depending on the type of construction project, electricians, plumbers, and other technical specialists may also be involved in completing a job.