Geotechnical Failures: More Common Than You May Think

Geotechnical failures of various types are a common occurrence in construction projects as well as in long-ago-built structures. They are particularly common in seismically active regions and in areas of high relief. If you have any ground for concern on this topic, it’s best to obtain geotechnical commercial help.

Major Types of Geotechnical Issues

Engineering problems caused by ground instability are common and often costly issues. For the layperson, the costs associated with geotechnical remediation are often learned via costly personal experience. Commonly, these problems affect foundations, roadways, railroads, utilities, and mining operations. Homeowners can be affected as well.

Here is a partial list of some of the situations conducive to ground instability:

  • Soft and marginal soils and substrates
  • Slopes above the angle of repose of constituent materials
  • Excessive stresses placed on non-horizontal slabs and other constructs
  • Groundwater invasion and solifluction
  • Liquefaction and freeze-thaw cycles
  • Micro-seismicity

Of course, a major earthquake will cause extensive and wide-ranging ground failures.

Landslides and Slope Failure Specifically

Landslides and other types of slope failures can be particularly destructive. They can be particulate destructive to roadways and rail lines built in areas of high topographical relief. The layman’s term “landslide” actually covers a wide variety of dry and wet slope failures including, rock falls, lahars, slurry flows, debris flows, mass movements, soil creep, scarp failures, slumps, debris falls, slides, and avalanches. Main factors that contribute to these dangerous occurrences include:

  • A seismic event, even a small one
  • Heavy precipitation and poor drainage
  • Weathering that softens originally hard ground and rock
  • Improper or sub-code construction
  • Clay-rich or unconsolidated substrates
  • High slopes with steep angles

Geotechnical Expertise

Good engineering geological studies are crucial for preventing and remediating problems cause by moving ground. High-quality fieldwork and attention to detail are very important. Professional and competent assistance is almost always required.