I have found that this has been a pretty common question throughout my life.  What is a geotechnical engineer?  I tell people that it’s the engineering you need when you do work on, in or with earthen materials.  This doesn’t seem to help much.  It’s comprised of two main branches:  soil mechanics and foundation engineering.  They overlap a little.  Foundation engineering seems like it would be pretty easy to describe:  figuring out how to distribute a load from a building so that it doesn’t settle too much.  Pretty much the same for walls.  Soil mechanics is a little more difficult to describe in layman’s terms.  It’s about how earth materials react when you smash, stretch, shear or shake them (hey, four “esses”!) 

Whether it’s a dam (building on and with), an excavation (building in) or a levee (building with), you’re going to want a geotechnical engineer’s help. 

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Comments (2)

  1. Gordon Fellows

    August 31, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Umm… What about rock mechanics? OP & UG?

    • admin

      August 31, 2021 at 2:06 pm

      Absolutely! That’s for sure in the mix!

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