What is Geotechnics?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden
Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

Geotechnics is a field that aims to apply knowledge of earth sciences to engineering problems involving the Earth's crust, soil, stones, and related materials. The overall goal of the field is to make the Earth and its resources more accessible to and usable by people. Most of the people who are involved in the field of geotechnics are either geologists or geotechnical engineers; usually, people from both disciplines will work together on any given problem. The field of geotechnics is often applied to architecture, as an understanding of the Earth is important to crafting strong foundations in any conditions, especially in areas that are prone to earthquakes or other geological disturbances.

One of the major concerns of the field is avoiding or minimizing the damage that can be caused by natural disasters such as landslides, earthquakes, and other natural disasters involving the Earth. A large part of the job of avoiding such disasters is prediction. Engineers must be able to accurately predict the movements of the Earth's plates, groundwater, soil, and rock. A failure to do so because of poor understanding of the Earth and its ever-shifting surface could lead to a collapsed bridge or a broken dam. Because of these risks, experts in geotechnics are very important to many different fields.

Geotechnical engineering is widely considered to be a branch of civil engineering and is concerned with applying knowledge of geotechnics to specific problems, which usually involve construction. Before any kind of construction can begin, a geotechnical engineer must conduct a detailed investigation of the area in question to ensure that it is safe and to determine the best way to go about building the structure in question. A geotechnical engineer is responsible for assessing the unique risks posed by any given area and is usually also responsible for helping to design earthworks and foundations to use in a given set of conditions.

Much of the work done in geotechnics and in geotechnical engineering is not done at the site of construction, as computers have offered much more effective and accurate methods for analyzing the site. Computer modeling allows engineers to run tests and simulations of an area based on information they gather and program into the computer. From this mathematical modeling and simulation, they can predict such things as slope stability and earthquake potential, which are very important things to know before building any kind of structure.

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      Scientist with beakers