is the application of the geologic sciences to engineering practice for the purpose of assuring that the geologic factors affecting the location, design, construction, operation and maintenance of engineering works are recognized and adequately provided for. Engineering geologists investigate and provide geologic and geotechnical recommendations, analysis, and design. Engineering geologic studies may be performed during the planning, environmental impact analysis
, civil engineering design
, value engineering
and construction phases of public and private works projects, and during post-construction and forensic
phases of projects. Works completed by engineering geologists include; geologic hazards, geotechnical, material properties, landslide and slope stability, erosion, flooding, dewatering, and seismic investigations, etc. Engineering geologic studies are performed by a geologist
or engineering geologist
educated, professionally trained and skilled at the recognition and analysis of geologic hazards
and adverse geologic conditions. Their overall objective is the protection of life and property against damage and the solution of geologic problems.
Engineering geologic studies may be performed:
- for residential, commercial and industrial developments;
- for governmental and military installations;
- for public works such as a power plant, wind turbine, transmission line, sewage treatment plant, water treatment plant, pipeline (aqueduct, sewer, outfall), tunnel, trenchless construction, canal, dam, reservoir, building, railroad, transit, highway, bridge, seismic retrofit, airport and park;
- for mine and quarry excavations, mine tailing dam, mine reclamation and mine tunneling;
- for wetland and habitat restoration programs;
- for coastal engineering, sand replenishment, bluff or sea cliff stability, harbor, pier and waterfront development;
- for offshore outfall, drilling platform and sub-sea pipeline, sub-sea cable; and
- for other types of facilities.
Geohazards and adverse geo-conditions
Typical geohazards or other adverse conditions evaluated by an engineering geologist
- fault rupture on seismically active faults ;
- seismic and earthquake hazards (ground shaking, liquefaction, lurching,lateral spreading, tsunami and seiche events);
- landslide, mudflow, rock fall and avalanche hazards ;
- unstable slopes and slope stability;
- slaking and heave of geologic formations;
- ground subsidence (such as due to ground water withdrawal, sinkhole collapse, cave collapse, decomposition of organic soils, and tectonic movement);
- volcanic hazards (volcanic eruptions, hot springs, pyroclastic flows, debris flows, debris avalanche, gas emissions, volcanic earthquakes);
- non-rippable or marginally rippable rock requiring heavy ripping or blasting;
- weak and collapsible soils;
- shallow ground water/seepage; and
- other types of geologic constraints.
An engineering geologist or geophysicist may be called upon to evaluate the excavatability (i.e. rippability) of earth (rock) materials to assess the need for pre-blasting during earthwork construction, as well as associated impacts due to vibration during blasting on projects.
Methods and reporting
The methods used by engineering geologists
in their studies include
- geologic field mapping of geologic structures, geologic formations, soil units and hazards;
- the review of geologic literature, geologic maps, geotechnical reports, engineering plans, environmental reports, stereoscopic aerial photographs, remote sensing data, Global Positioning System (GPS) data, topographic maps and satellite imagery;
- the excavation, sampling and logging of earth/rock materials in drilled borings, backhoe test pits and trenches, fault trenching, and bulldozer pits;
- geophysical surveys (such as seismic refraction traverses, resistivity surveys, ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys, magnetometer surveys, electromagnetic surveys, high-resolution sub-bottom profiling, and other geophysical methods);
- deformation monitoring as the systematic measurement and tracking of the alteration in the shape or dimensions of an object as a result of the application of stress to it manually or with an automatic deformation monitoring system; and
- other methods.
The field work is typically culminated in analysis of the data and the preparation of an engineering geologic report, geotechnical report, fault hazard or seismic hazard report, geophysical report, ground water resource report or hydrogeologic report. The engineering geologic report is often prepared in conjunction with a geotechnical report, but commonly provide geotechnical analysis and design recommendations independent of a geotechnical report. An engineering geologic report describes the objectives, methodology, references cited, tests performed, findings and recommendations for development. Engineering geologists also provide geologic data on topograpic maps, aerial photographs, geologic maps, Geographic Information System (GIS) maps, or other map bases.
- Bates and Jackson, 1980, Glossary of Geology: American Geological Institute.
- The Heritage of Engineering Geology: The First Hundred Years: GSA Centennial Special Volume 3, 1991