Geotechnical Engineering

Subject CVEN90050 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 02-Mar-2015 to 31-May-2015
Assessment Period End 26-Jun-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 13-Mar-2015
Census Date 31-Mar-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 08-May-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 48 hours, comprising up to three hours of lectures per week, one 1-hour tutorial per week and 1 hour of laboratory work per semester
Total Time Commitment:

200 hours


Students must have completed BOTH of the following subjects, or equivalent to enrol in this subject:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:


Recommended Background Knowledge:

Learning in this subject will be assisted by knowledge gained in the following subject:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Non Allowed Subjects:

Students cannot gain credit for this subject and:

  • 421-306 Geotechnical Engineering
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Guillermo Narsilio


Dr Guillermo A. Narsilio

Subject Overview:


Soil and rock are among the most important civil engineering materials. They form the foundations of all structures, can be rearranged to provide a topography to suit particular needs like embankments for road and railways, can form a structure in its own right when used for levee banks or dam walls, or may need to be removed to allow access such as with tunnels and cuttings. Students completing this unit should understand how to make simplifications to complex soil conditions, how to establish strength/deformation characteristics of the soil and how to apply fundamental geomechanics knowledge learned in earlier units to solve problems involving the stability of an earth mass for these various situations. Graduates from this subject will be able to work under the guidance of a chartered engineer to design and supervise construction of a range of geotechnical structures such as foundations, roads, and retaining walls.

This subject builds directly on knowledge from a range of undergraduate and postgraduate subjects in the areas of mathematics, statistics, earth processes, soil mechanics and fluid mechanics. It also draws on knowledge of sustainability and management to provide context for problems.


Topics covered include a detailed review of pore-water pressures and effective stress, soil strength and compressibility (tri-axial testing, SPT, and others), consolidation, compaction and their applications to geotechnical design in selected areas, rigid and flexible earth retaining structures, reinforced soil walls, pavements, and introduction to geothermal energy.

Learning Outcomes:


Having completed this subject the student is expected to:

  1. Make simplifications to complex soil conditions
  2. Establish strength/deformation characteristics of soil
  3. Apply fundamental geomechanics knowledge learned in earlier units to solve problems involving the stability of an earth mass.

  • Three 1000 word assignments due throughout the semester (30%). Each assignment requiring approximately 13-15 hours of work. Two of these assignments use data from laboratory tests. Associated with Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) 1, 2 and 3.
  • One 3-hour examination, end of semester (70%), associated with ILOs 1, 2 and 3.

Hurdle requirement: Students must pass the final exam to pass the subject.

Prescribed Texts:

Course notes will be made available in LMS or for purchase from the University Bookroom.

Recommended Texts:


Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • Ability to apply knowledge of basic science and engineering fundamentals
  • Ability to communicate effectively, not only with engineers but also with the community at large
  • Ability to undertake problem identification, formulation and solution
  • Ability to utilise systems approach to design and operational performance
  • Ability to function effectively as an individual in multi-disciplinary and multicultural teams, with the capacity to be a leader or manager as well as an effective team member
  • Expectation of the need to undertake lifelong learning and the capacity to do so
  • Capacity for independent critical thought, rational inquiry and self-directed learning
  • Intellectual curiosity and creativity, including understanding of the philosophical and methodological bases of research activity.


The subject is based principally on lectures and tutorials; and the critical reading of prescribed textbooks, lecture notes, and selected papers. Depending on availability of site constructions with works related to the subject objectives, a site visit co-organised by lecturers and experienced industry professionals is also implemented to reinforce some concepts learnt in the classrooms. A laboratory session is used to complement the fundamentals of strength (tri-axial) and compressibility (consolidation) testing and analysis.


Course notes will be made available in LMS or for purchase from the University Bookroom, as well as selected journal articles, references to relevant AS/NZ and/or ASTM standards.


Experienced industry professionals and specialist contractors present during site visits and provide background material about the construction sites and projects (acting as case studies). These site visits are undertaken to enhance students understanding of typical geotechnical works, particularly in excavations and earth retaining structures.

Related Course(s): Master of Philosophy - Engineering
Ph.D.- Engineering
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: B-ENG Civil Engineering stream
Master of Engineering (Civil with Business)
Master of Engineering (Civil)
Master of Engineering (Environmental)
Master of Engineering (Structural)

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