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Engineering Geology and Site Investigations

Purpose Documenting strengths and behavioural characteristics of rocks and engineering soils present (Solid and Drift Geology) Recognising potentially hazardous ground

Note Much of engineering practice involves Quaternary Deposits!

What skills/subjects are of importance? - Sedimentology - Glaciology - Soil Science - hydrogeology - engineering What is this information used for?

Engineering Geology and Site Investigations

Read: Hutchinson, J. N. 2001 Reading the Ground: Morphology and Geology in Site Appraisal. Q. Jn. Eng. Geol and Hydrogeol. V. 34 Fookes, P. G. 1997. Geology fo Engineers: The Geological Model, Prediction and Performance. Q. Jn. Eng Geol. V. 30, pp. 293-424

Engineering Geology and Site Investigations

What is this information used for?

? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Selection of construction sites Selection of transportation routes Establishing design specifications Choice of material Location of material Designing work program Evaluating QA/QC

Engineering Geology and the Law

There is a bigger issue in engineering geology than any other aspect of geo with liability. Even though oil and gas decisions often involve a much larger budget/cost rarely do decision have a life or death element. Construction usually does. As almost all construction relies on building on a site the site investigation is fundamental.

In Britain over 30% of all major civil engineering projects are delayed by poor ground conditions. What does poor mean? The fact that the initial site investigation did not properly classify the ground. This leads to over 50% of projects going over budget!!

Site Investigation

? Regional or Reconnaissance Site Investigation

? Site Documentation

? Material Evaluation

Site Investigation - Holistic in nature

Assess: Surface and near surface rocks, lithology, weathering, diagenesis rock structure and discontinuities climatic and sea-level changes resulting active and relict erosional fluvial and marine features hydrogeological features fluvial and coastal changes mass movements on slopes volcanic and seismic activity

Regional or Reconnaissance Site Investigation

This is done with the following objectives: 1. Establish Alternative Sites and Route Corridors Note in densely populated countries such as in Europe there may not be alternatives possible or other factors may predetermine the location of an engineering construction. 2. Terrain Evaluation Types of information acquired ? Geographic maps - geomporhological maps ? Geological maps - solid and drift ? Remote sensing ? Hazard maps ? Hydrogeological maps

Example Fookes et. al. 1985, Engineering Geology, v21, p18

Site Documentation

Two complementary phases are conducted here:

? Desk Study

? Field Study - including field and laboratory material analysis

Desk Study - Information Sources

Published data, unpublished data, memoirs, papers, miscellaneous maps such as cave systems, planning submissions to local government Historical maps showing rates of landscape change, mining history, previous hazard areas, previous landfill areas Topographic maps showing basic slope, drainage patterns, springs etc. Remote sensing maps, air photographs and satellite images Borehole logs - in Britain the BGS keeps logs for all data of this sort, water well information National surveys or databases, for example these are available for landslips, natural cavities, erosion, flooding Mining or other mineral exploitation records. Often of variable quality, in Britain only post-1947 information is available.


Land Use

Desk Study - Information Sources

Published data, unpublished data, memoirs, papers, miscellaneous maps such as cave systems, planning submissions to local government Historical maps showing rates of landscape change, mining history, previous hazard areas, previous landfill areas Topographic maps showing basic slope, drainage patterns, springs etc. (handout 1) Remote sensing maps, air photographs and satellite images Borehole logs - in Britain the BGS keeps logs for all data of this sort, water well information National surveys or databases, for example these are available for landslips, natural cavities, erosion, flooding Mining or other mineral exploitation records. Often of variable quality, in Britain only post-1947 information is available.

Topographic Maps Drainage etc.

Field Survey - Information Sources

Geological mapping - solid and drift, structures, structural weakness susceptible to failure on loading (O/H) Geomorphilogical mapping - soils conditions, vegetation cover and stabilisation, potential for mass movement Geophysical surveys - used to interpolate geological information between boreholes or as a recognisance tool for locating boreholes or test pits. Searching for hidden features. Search for unsuspected hazards such as sink holes, mine shafts. Trial pits and trenches - provide information on top 2-5m usually within soils and unconsolidated geology. Allow 3 dimensional facies analysis and provide good access for sampling for lab programme Boreholes - used to probe deeper into subsurface and recover samples. Sometimes further tests, geophysical and hydrogeological are conducted in the holes after drilling.

Geological mapping

Specific Mapping Targets: Type of Rock - geological description but based on strength properties - micro properties (Example, See Later Lab Testing) Continuity of Rock - structural integrity, primary and secondary weaknesses - faults and joints Fracture/joint evaluation (Handout 2) ? Fracture density ? Fracture clustering ? Fracture orientation with respect of slope ? Fracture fill type ? Weathering of fractures Geometry of Rock - layering, relations Weathering (handout 3)


Orogenic fronts and structural engineering trends

Geomorphologic mapping

Specific Objectives Mapping distribution of Drift/Unconsolidated deposits Mapping geometry of deposits Mapping surface features - runoff, drainage patterns, slope angles

Quaternary history depth and extent of permafrost periglacial solifluction of clayey materials periglacial and post-glacial landslides and rockfalls superficial valley disturbances (cambering and bulging)

Mapping by surveying field surveying, air photo, satellite

Geomorphologic mapping

Geophysical surveys - see applied geophysics honours course

Objectives Interpolate geological information between boreholes Recognisance tool for siting boreholes or test pits Searching for hidden features - search for unsuspected hazards such as sink holes, mine shafts.

Techniques - see web material for Applied Geophysics (table) and further lectures later Output examples - seismic and rippability, clay layer mapping

Geophysical surveys
Major Influence 104 (sea water) to 10-4 (dry sand) millimohs/m Typical Ranges



Electrical Electrical & Electromagnetic Conductivity (resistivity)

Gravity Lithology (mineral, porosity) Lithology (porosity, saturation, pressure) Lithology, watercontent, density


Lithology (clay content) Moisture (dissolved solids) Lithology (magnetic mineral)

0 (air filled void) to 1 (sediments) to 3 (massive rocks) gm/km 10-6 (sediments) to 102 (iron alloys) 102 (soil) to 104 (massive rocks) m/sec 10 (ice) to 102 (water)


Magnetic Susceptability


Seismic velocity/attentuation

Ground Penetrating Radar

Dielectric constant

In homogeneous, isotropic media the velocities of compression and shear waves can be described in simple terms of elastic modulii and density.

Factors influencing Strength and Geophysical Signatures

Vp ?

(4 ? ? k ) 3 ?

? Vs ? ?

Bulk Modulus (k)- incompressibility of the medium

?P k? ? v /V

Shear Modulus( ) - resistance to shearing; shear stress/shear strain. Note that from the above equations, it is implied that fluids and gases do not allow the propagation of S waves. ?

? ?

Any changes in the shear or bulk modulii or the density will therefore cause a change in shear and compression velocity

P-wave Velocity and Rippability

Direct Sampling

Trial Pits and Trenches (slides) Assess 3D nature of drift deposits (and sometimes rock) Obtain samples for testing Conduct insitu test

Borehole Spacing dependant on Project Type and ground conditions

Minimum Spacing 10m 30m Maximum Spacing


Project Type


Road Sections



Road sections in Hazard area



Typically boreholes should penetrate a depth to 1.5 times the building foundation width Plus if 'sound' bedrock (rockhead) is not encountered in this depth then at least one borehole should penetrate to rockhead

Drilling Type

Light Percussion Drilling Light A-frame rig usually trailer mounted Light frame and small motor to raise and lower hammer onto drill core Sampling is possible Air or water lubrication Penetration rates used to indicate rock strength - N value (See spt later and handout 5)

Drilling Type

Rotary Coring Truck mounted rig Rotary drill bit with tungsten carbide or diamond studded tip Core recovery in hollow drill bit Rock Probing Large rotary percussion rig with hammer action Tricone roller or drag bit Penetration >100m No core recovery only cuttings flushed out by drill fluid Borehole logging - example of engineering log Strength Properties

See handout 5

Drilling Types

Rotary Coring Gravity-coring Vibro-coring

Hard Rock Testing

Rarely is it necessary to test intact rock strength for bearing capacity as the strength envelopes are well know. (Example table Handout 4, Table 4-1) Also note some primary rock features that can influence strength such as:

Porosity, micro-porosity and saturation coefficient (Fig 4-3)

However, intact rock strength ignores macro features e.g. - Jointing - Faulting - Weathering Rock testing where required includes - Unconfined compressive testing - Cube loaded between two metal plates

Hard Rock Testing

Point load test Cylinder of rock loaded across their diameter between tow 60degree steel points with a tip radius of 5mm until failure. Can be done in field

Schmidt Hammer Hand-held, spring loaded hammer rebound of its tip from rock surface Stronger the rock greater the rebound

Unconfined and Confined Compressive Test (see later soil testing)

Effective Rock Mass Strength

Combination of fracture/joint pattern and extent of weathering together with rock type Holistic view of rock strength combines a number of parameters (sheet 8) ? Intact rock uncombined compressive strength (MPa) ? RQD (%) - Quality Designation gives the fracture density in a core. The maximum length of unfractured core material - shorter the length the poorer the rock quality. (>70 good rock) ? Mean fracture spacing ? Fracture conditions ? Groundwater state ? Fracture orientation Components are given different ratings

Use of Rock Strength/Engineering Properties

Aggregate Crushing Value (AGV) handout 6 Measure the percentage of fines (<2.36mm diameter) left after application of 400kN load for 10 min. Aggregate Impact Value (AGI) Measure the fines after dropping a hammer onto a sample of aggregate Aggregate Abrasion Value (AAV) Measure of mechanical abrasion through comparison of the weight of an aggregate sample before and after it has been abraded (Fig 4-8)

Soil Testing

Routine part of all investigations includes both insitu, field testing and laboratory analysis on samples taken from boreholes, test pits and the surface. Engineering soil is defined as any unlithified (unconsolidated) material (sediment) Description follows Section 8 of BS 5930 Aim - Measure Strength - Determine sensitivity to Failure Initial classification of material based on: ? Grain size ? Mineralogy ? Grain arrangement ? Water content

Atterberg Limits

Measure of consistency of soil - this is the moisture content at which soil behaves in a plastic or liquid fashion As water content increases soil goes from solid to plastic to liquid Plastic Limit (PL) - minimum water content at which soil is rolled into a 3mm diameter cylinder (approximate shear strength of 100kPa) Liquid Limit (LL) - minimum moisture content at which soil will flow under own weight Plasticity Index (PI) - difference between PL and LL, indicates the amount of moisture required to go from liquid to plastic Liquidity Index (LI) - mobility of the soil at a particular moisture content (W) LI=(W-PL)/PI The higher the liquidity index the more unstable a soil is.

Mohr Circles and Soil Shear Strength/Failure

Shear strength expressed by Coulomb Failure Envelope

? ? c ? (? ? P ) tan ?

Changes/differences in Shear Strength (?) can result from Changes in normal stress (? ) porewater pressure (P) changes due to drainage (porosity) differences in the angle of internal friction (? ) due to interparticle roughness and cohesion (c) weathering reducing cohesion and angle of internal friction remoulding of the sediment

(Slide of anisotropy and clay particle preferential orientation)

Handout 7

Consolidation of Soil


Degree of subsidence a function of porosity and load

Change in subsidence

B Time

A - Water expulsion B - reorientation/restructuring of clay particles

Measurement of Shear Strength

Uniaxial Test (typically lab test) Cube or cylinder loaded axially with unconfined conditions Triaxial Test (typically lab test) Cube or cylinder loaded axially while pressure maintained around the sample Experiment repeated for different loads and pressures.

Measurement of Shear Strength

Cone Penetration Test (typically lab test) Steel cone 60 degree cone, 36mm in diameter driven into soil. Penetration depth measures strength

Measurement of Shear Strength

Standard Penetration Test - SPT (typically field test) Test 19 of BS 1377:1975 A 51mm split tube is driven into sediment for 150mm. 64kg weight hammer dropped onto it over a distance of 760mm Number of blows recorded to drive tube a further 300mm

Measurement of Shear Strength

Cone Penetrometer Test - CPT Cone pushed into ground at steady rate Measure of cone resistance, Sleeve friction Porewater pressure Seismic values

Measurement of Shear Strength

Measurement of Shear Strength

Shear vane Shear vane placed in soil and torque applied. Torque at failure along cylindrical failure plane measure shear strength

Measurement of Shear Strength

Shear box Cube of soil loaded vertically and sheared along horizontal plane. Force to shear measures shear strength Ring Shear Circular shear over ring of sediment

Engineering behavior of unconsolidated deposits and unconsolidated fabrics

Engineering Behaviour

Sediment structure and fabric

Depositional History

Stress History


Deposit Type

Depo. Environment


Grain Type

Grain Size








Fresh Dispersed

Saline Flocculated




Reporting - Site Reports and Engineering Geology Maps

- Synthesis of observations and measurements (handout 8) - Based on the aims of the site investigation and its scale - Engineering Geology Maps - Landsystem Map - thematic map used to classify larger areas of land based on broad engineering classification, somewhat follows OS drift maps - Detailed Site Plan - geomorph, geology, topo, point engineering data, groundwater, hazards


What is critical to Engineering Geology?

- Know your rocks and soils - Know their properties as a whole and as constituent parts - Know the conditions/properties within the rocks and soils - moisture content etc. - Know what processes they have undergone and are undergoing - e.g. weathering, diagenesis - Know how they are used - loaded, stressed etc


hydrology - the study of water hydrogeology - inter-relationship of geologic materials and processes with water (c.f. geohydrology)

The Hydrologic System and the Hydrologic Cycle (fig) inflow = outflow +/- changes in storage

Hydrogeologic units

aquifer - a geologic unit that can store and transmit water at resource development rates (>10-2 darcy) aquifuge - impermeable unit aquitard - low permeability unit that slow water movement aquiclude - confining unit consisting of an aquitard

Further Terminology

Porosity - the ratio of the aggregate volume of the interstices in a rock or soil to its total volume.

Factors influencing porosity - primary and secondary porosity Fabric - packing, sorting, grain shape, size etc Cements

Permeability - The permeability of a rock is its capacity for transmitting a fluid.

Hydrogeology - terminology

Primary Porosity - the porosity that represents the original pore openings when a rock or sediment was formed (fig)

Secondary Porosity - the porosity that has been caused by fractures or weathering in a rock or sediment after it has been formed (fig)

Effective Porosity - the volume of rock or sediment through which water can travel divided by the total rock volume

Factors influencing Porosity - fabric

100Vv n? Vt ? ?b ? n ? 100?1 ? ? ? d ? ?
Where Vv - void volume Vt - total volume b - bulk density d - particle density

Porosity = 47.65%

Density (rock type) is important

Porosity = 25.95%

Factors influencing Porosity - fabric


mixed grain sizes reduce porosity

Fabric (rock type) is important

Factors influencing Porosity - cements & fracturing

Secondary Porosity NB these diagenetic changes also affect the material strength


Cementation e.g. calcite, dolomite, silica

Diagenesis (rock type) is important

Hydrogeological factors of geophysical interest

Specific yield - ratio of the volume of water that drains from a saturated rock owing to attraction of gravity, to the total rock volume (Sy) Specific retention - ration of water retention to total rock volume (Sr)
specific retention specific yield


n = Sy + Sr, also remember

? ?b ? 100Vv , n ? 100?1 ? n? ? ? Vt d ? ?

Hydraulic Conductivity and Specific Yield

Specific Yield in % (after Fetter)

Minimum 0 3 3 10 15 20 21 13 12 Average 2 7 18 21 26 27 25 23 22

Material Clay Sandy Clay Silt Fine sand Medium sand Coarse sand Fine gravel Medium gravel Coarse gravel

Maximum 5 12 19 28 32 35 35 26 26

Darcys Law

Henry Darcy, mid 1800 in Dijon experimented with water flow in tubes and filters of sand Hydraulic Gradient difference in hydraulic head
distance, d

v ? ( h1 ? h2 ) / d

water flows faster through coarser material

Darcys Law

v? K


v ? K ( h1 ? h2 ) / d

Darcys Law cont.

We can also take into account the amount of pore space (n) through which flow is taking place

v ? K ( h1 ? h2 ) /( d ? n)
h1 h2

This equation can be used to estimate how long it takes for water to travel in the ground and so also the time for pollution migration

Darcys Law cont.

Sand Example: Permeability/transmisivity 60m per day Porostiy - 30% Hydraulic gradient - 1 m per 1000m

v ? K ( h1 ? h2 ) /( d ? n)

Clay Example: Permeability/transmisivity 0.0001 per day Porostiy - 20% Hydraulic gradient - 1 m per 10m h1


Biological Pollutants and Ground Water

Smaller the grain size smaller the pore size smaller the microorganisms that can be filtered

Major cause of contamination is biological contamination e.g. bacterial diseases such as bubonic plague in 17thcentury

Hydrogeology - Groundwater flow

hydraulic gradient - with all other factors constant the rate of ground water movement is the hydraulic gradient or change in head per unit of distance in a given direction. potentiometric surface - surface to which water will rise in well cased to an aquifer. potentiometric map - contour map of potentiometric surface of a particular hydrogeologic unit. Usually measured using a piezometer water table is the potentiometric head (surface) for an unconfined aquifer, here pore water pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure.

Sewage Plume Cape Cod, MA

Contamination from Sewage Treatment Plant, 1936-1986 2.5 billion gallons into outwash sand and gravel Porosity 35% Permeability/ transmisivity 116m per day!! (ground water flow velocity of 0.3-0.5m per day plume contaminated 7 million m3 of aquifer

Desk Study - Practical Class Glenrothes Town Expansion

Specific objectives Expansion of Glenrothes Town - where is the best place for development to take place

Future Patterns