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Technical paper: Soils - the key to structural integrity

By Noel E Simons, University of Surrey

This paper was first published in GE’s 10th anniversary issue in December 1978


Developments during the past ten years in the field of soil mechanics and ground engineering have been extensive and, in selecting topics for brief discussion in this paper, the author has inevitably had to use subjective judgment. An attempt has been made to highlight topics which may well have further significant impact on geotechnical engineering practice during the next few years.

The finite element method is a powerful and versatile analytical tool, which is comparatively easy to use. Given this immense analytical power there may be a temptation to believe that geotechnical engineering will soon become an exact predictive science. That temptation must be firmly resisted, as nature has far too many surprises in store.

The future development of geotechnical engineering must be based on accumulating further reliable case records, properly back analysed using, for example, the finite element method, with the necessary parameters determined from in situ testing, backed by sophisticated laboratory methods. Of course, many jobs in practice will continue to be handled on the basis of routine site investigation and laboratory procedures, but, in general, this requires the use of fudge factors, which can only be obtained from case records. 

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