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YRG: Practical implications of subsurface uncertainty - lessons from 25 years of "dirt engineering"

13 November 2019
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Event type:
Evening Meeting, Lecture, Regional Group
Organised by:
Yorkshire Regional Group
School of Civil Engineering, University of Leeds
Event status:

This is a joint meeting between the Yorkshire Geotechnical Group of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Yorkshire Regional Group of the Geological Society.

In an ideal geotechnical world, we would have subsurface risk-savvy clients and owners, good borehole coverage across our sites, and lots of in-situ and laboratory testing including high complexity testing.

However, competition for “lowest price engineering” – still common, despite experiential qualification and technical bid evaluation practices on some larger projects – frequently means that we have only Standard Penetration Tests, field vane shear strength tests, some limited index and classification testing, and a couple of piezometers (assuming competitive pricing doesn’t drive our industry colleagues to avoid these because of environmental regulatory costs related to sealing and decommissioning).

Glacial environments are chock-full of uncertainties due to depositional systems. Uncertainties in the absence of borehole coverage and testing drive conservatism to avoid being sued, leading to increased, yet masked, design and construction costs.

At the other end of the spectrum, environments dominated by hard/dense glacial till soils can promote a level of complacency or optimism that can surprise practitioners, potentially leading to challenges with health and safety, cost overruns associated with delays or changes in construction, increased maintenance costs related to poorly performing structures, and construction claims. So, what’s a ground engineer to do?


Lisa Coyne (Senior Geotechnical Engineer and Principal of Golder Associates, Canada)

Lisa graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Geological Engineering from Queen's University and has spent 25 years in geotechnical and foundation engineering, primarily for the transportation and infrastructure sectors in Canada. She currently services on Golder's global Board of Directors.


Registration is free and open now via the ICE website.


School of Civil Engineering
University of Leeds
Woodhouse Lane
Leeds LS2 9JT


6.30pm to 8.30pm, with refreshments from 6.00pm.