Kermit the frog may not have found it easy being green, although I’m sure the royalties from his song sweetened the blow. But I do not believe that the ground engineering industry can have the same lament.
There are many initiatives that I have seen on schemes within this sector that are driven by cost or programme that often result in a more sustainable solution – while not all are easy, some certainly are.
The need for sustainable solutions to manage the impact of climate change and prevent further adverse effects was the main focus of a lecture delivered by Loughborough University professor of
geotechnics Neil Dixon in October. I had the chance to interview him about the lecture and discuss the issues around the topic. Although geosynthetics have been around for more than 30 years, one challenge Dixon believes the industry must overcome to deliver the potential environmental benefits is the fact it is not new.
Geosynthetic materials have been successfully used on a multitude of projects, such as the record-breaking 74m high soil reinforced wall for India’s Sikkim Airport, yet they are still viewed as unproven.
Nonetheless, they can help marginal soils become engineering materials – for this issue’s piling feature I visited a new housing development where re-use of Chalk as fill for a soil reinforced wall was saving over £1M in construction costs.
Using the material may not have been straightforward, but it was possible.
What struck me is that geosynthetics have delivered innovative solutions but Dixon said that they are often not a primary solution and are only considered when “traditional” approaches are not viable. This left me to wonder how much greener ground engineering solutions could be if “unconventional” solutions were considered earlier or from the outset.
Elsewhere in this issue is news about this year’s Géotechnique Lecture which will look at how plant roots could form part of slope stabilisation schemes. For many this certainly fits in the “unconventional” bracket but it could offer a greener solution compared to conventional approaches.
Making the unconventional conventional could not only save money and time but it could also benefit the environment – what is there to lose?