KB7015 - Geotechnical Instabilities

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What will I learn on this module?

Within this module you will explore the challenges of collecting, analysing, interpreting and presenting data on existing, complex geotechnical assets. The module themes include setting the context for and implications of geotechnical instabilities (using both a UK and a global focus); concepts of failure processes, classifications and surface and sub-surface characterization schemes and techniques. You will learn about how to monitor and quantify changes affecting geotechnical structures including rock and soil change and the parameters influencing failure; how to model critical conditions; and assess the effectiveness of management solutions. In this module you will also learn about recent research-led innovations that have provided new data on geotechnical environments and study practitioner-based case studies through seminars. Finally, you will learn how to apply all you have learnt to collect, analyse and interpret your own investigation into geotechnical instability, specialising in aspects which interest you most, presenting your findings in the form of a professional report.

How will I learn on this module?

This module will emphasise the relevance and range of geotechnical instability issues through lectures that detail historical precedents and real world case studies, guest lectures from professionals dealing with geotechnical instabilities, workshops and practical sessions. You will learn about the tools and techniques used to quantify geotechnical environments and how they inform the way in which we manage them. Your learning will be further developed and consolidated in field trips to collect and analyse your own data and to see first-hand the real-world issues and research led developments in the local area. The field trips will be preceded by workshops aimed equipping you with a carefully designed and planned approach for the collection and analysis of the data, extending to the completion of adequate health and safety risk management considerations. You will also explore the sensitivity of geotechnical environments to climate change and inheritance (within both the built and natural environment), sustainability and long term planning provide a core and unifying theme throughout the module. The module culminates in group based presentations and then individual reports that encompass the planning, collection, analysis and interpretation of slope data, resulting in design suggestions for the effective management of your chosen area.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will benefit from formal academic support delivered through both lectures and regular, progressive practical sessions in which you will be introduced to complex problems through novel physical modelling and technical workshops and seminars based on focused aspects of characterization, assessment, monitoring and prediction of soil and rock behaviour in geotechnical structures. In each practical element you will be supported with clearly structured notes, enabling you to undertake independent and self-paced learning, although academic support will also be available throughout the tasks. You will be further supported through online material and data collection and processing guides that provide you with a valuable reference resource for later in your professional life.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. To analyse complex geotechnical problems and assess their stability using established techniques.
2. To critically evaluate the spatial and temporal scales over which geotechnical structures change and their sensitivity to environmental drivers.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. To effectively interpret and critically evaluate complex multidisciplinary geotechnical problems and draw reasoned outcomes.
4. Communicate; defend and justify their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. Develop and apply teamwork, communication and leadership in order to complete group tasks and address problems solving issues.

How will I be assessed?

The module will be (100%) assessed by a range of course works designed to simulate the stages in industry consultancy practice. Students will conduct group projects centred on the design, planning, collection, analysis and interpretation of geotechnical datasets.

Semester 1: Students will be given an introduction to the field site and access to existing datasets, which they will analyse (and supplement with other available datasets) and use to design a data collection project. A series of workshops will support the analysis and interpretation of the existing datasets.

Working in groups students will present their site analysis and their proposed method of data collection, as if to a commercial client in a bid to become the chosen consultant for the study, in a ‘proposal presentation’ (weighted at 10% and addressing MLOs 1&5). Feedback on the ideas presented will feed forwards into the project design critique report.

A group ‘project design critique report’ (3000 words, weighted at 30% and addressing MLOs 1&2) will formally set out the full detail of the proposed study and methodology with a critical evaluation of the techniques involved. A detailed risk assessment is also required. Feedback on the report will feed forwards into the onsite data collection and the further study.

Semester 2: Students will conduct their proposed data collections on site and subsequently will work as a group, supported by a series of workshops, to analyse and interpret their data. The results of this work will be presented in a group ‘completion presentation’, as if reporting the study findings back to the commercial client (weighted at 10% and addressing MLOs 4&5). Feedback on the completion presentation will feed forward into the consultancy report.

The final assessment will take the form of an individual ‘consultancy report’ (4000 words, weighted at 50% and addressing MLOs 1,3&4) that includes change analysis, a model of geotechnical behaviour, a forecast of future development and detailed management/design recommendations based on their findings. Written feedback will be provided.

Additional formative assessment

Skills-based practicals on aspects of slope monitoring and modelling will be marked and is designed to prepare students for the summative analysis.





Module abstract

Geotechnical instability is a global problem that affects a wide range of built and natural environments. It poses major challenges to construction and infrastructure and threatens human lives and livelihoods, although the true extent and costs associated with slope-based problems are often masked by other geohazards. This module examines the diverse and cutting edge tools and techniques used to assess and mitigate the impact of the failure of existing geotechnical structures, for example debris flows into transport corridors, the devastation caused by landslides following intense rainfall and rock falls from cliffs and cuttings, the collapse of excavations and tunnels and the failure of foundations due to geotechnical issues. The applied and research-led focus to this module will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of geotechnical instabilities, learning and applying practical engineering survey, geotechnical and modelling skills. The module will include research projects investigating and reporting on a chosen site of geotechnical instability where you will put into practice all you have learned to produce professional outputs. The assessment is designed to simulate real world consultancy work where presentations are used to secure the work followed by the submission of technical reports to convey the detail and recommendations.

Course info

UCAS Code H201

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 4 years full-time or 5 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Mechanical and Construction Engineering

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020

Fee Information

Module Information

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