Geotechnical Engineering - Civil and Natural Resources Engineering - Universityof Canterbury

Geomechanics and geotechnical engineering

What is it?

Every structure, whether it be a building, a bridge, a dam, a canal, a pipeline, or pavement, are founded on soil or rock.

Geomechanics and geotechnical engineering study the mechanical properties of soil and rock materials, the mechanics of soil and rock enmass, and the technology associated with building in, on, and with soil and rock.

Where can you find it?

A wide variety of problems are covered - ranging from foundations for large structures on soft ground to preventing harmful earth slips and soil liquefaction during earthquakes. The largest man-made structures built out of soil and rock materials, earth dams, need sophisticated design and testing by specialised engineers. Retaining walls, road embankments, deep excavations, tunnels, offshore oil rigs, and harbour breakwaters and jetties all require significant geotechnical engineering. Every project begins with a careful investigation of the surface and subsurface soil and rock properties using increasingly sophisticated technologies.

Who does it?

Geotechnical engineers are specialist civil engineers who have gained significant practical experience and usually a postgraduate qualification. More than any other area of civil engineering, geotechnical engineering relies heavily on experience and individual judgement making it a rewarding and satisfying career.


The following departmental academic staff members are teaching and researching in this area: