Geotechnology is a very human science, because it is all about making the earth habitable, taking into account the natural risks to habitation such as storms, landslides, earthquakes, subsidence and earth movement. It is also applicable to coastal and ocean engineering, so affects onshore and offshore developments.
Geotechnical engineering or geotechnology is the science that looks at the engineering properties of earth materials. Engineers consider the soil and bedrock below a site so that they can understand the implications for engineering and how this might affect the construction that can take place. The geotechnology engineer thinks about the foundations and pavements that might e required when structures or buildings are going to be put on a site, and this is particularly important when it comes to large or high rise buildings, or where the soil or earth conditions mean that special engineering challenges will be present, and therefore special measures need to be taken. Karl Terzaghi is regarded as the originator of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering.
Foundations might be shallow footings, or deep foundations that include driven pilings and drilled piers, and the engineer also considers the need to retain soil and rock with walls. Bridges, roads and tunnels also present special challenges to the geotechnology engineer. Geosynthetics describes synthetic products that address geotechnical problems and includes geotextiles, geonets, geogrids, geomembranes and geocomposites.
Subsurface Exploration enables the geotechnical engineer to understand the environment that they are researching so they use a number of techniques including trenching, test pits, fault location, slide plane location and boring. They analyse the earth using geophysical methods such as seismic waves, crosshole and downhole method research, surface waves, seismic reflection and refraction, radar, optical and acoustic televiewer surveys. Soil sampling is another way to analyse ground conditions, using a simple device like a shovel, or more advanced techniques such as a standard penetration test, modified California samplers, pistons, and pitcher barrel samplers. The results are then analysed using laboratory tests.