Last Updated S012019


Unit Name Geotechnical Engineering
Unit Code BCS303S
Unit Duration 1 Semester

Bachelor of Science (Engineering)

Duration 3 years    

Year Level Three
Unit Creator / Reviewer N/A
Pre/Co-requisites BCS207S
Credit Points


Total Course Credit Points 81 (27 x 3)

Mode of Delivery Online or on-campus. 
Unit Workload (Total student workload including “contact hours” = 10 hours per week; 5 hours per week for 24 week delivery)
Pre-recordings / Lecture – 1.5 hours
Tutorial – 1.5 hours
Guided labs / Group work / Assessments – 2 hours
Personal Study recommended – 5 hours

Unit Description and General Aims

The objective in presenting this unit is to provide students with an introduction to advanced geotechnology. Knowledge of geotechnology is required in civil, environmental, and mining engineering, and on a smaller scale, in domestic building construction.

The subject matter covered in this unit will include the physics and mechanics of soil and rock and the underlying principles and theory The unit covers the engineering aspects or geotechnology including the application to typical problems ranging from studying the dynamics of groundwater flow to assessing the stability of different kinds of earthworks and from soil analysis for various possible applications to designing advanced soil retaining structures and deep foundations.

Geotechnical components that will be covered in detail will include: lateral earth pressures and their computation using Rankine, Coulomb, and curved failure surface methods; the design of earth retaining structures; ultimate bearing capacity of shallow foundations; drained and undrained slope stability and justifying solutions for these using the method of slices, design charts, and applicable computer software. Practical application of various geotechnical principles to particular soil structures such as landfill liners is also covered.

At the conclusion of this unit, students will have been provided with the knowledge and skills to manage a variety of geotechnical issues on a practical level, by being able to conduct various analyses using a number of software packages, and on a theoretical level by assisting them to apply this information to possible scenarios.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this Unit, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Express lateral earth pressures using Rankine, Coulomb and curved failure surface methods and justify the selection of methods to design appropriate earth retaining structures and prove the ultimate bearing capacity of shallow foundations.
    Bloom’s Level 5
  2. Evaluate and resolve drained and undrained slope stability problems using appropriate methods of slices, design charts and applicable computer software to determine the stability of slopes.
    Bloom’s Level 5
  3. Justify and apply a practical application of various geotechnical principles to particular soil structures such as landfill liners, and etc.
    Bloom’s Level 5
  4. Conduct geotechnical practical experiments and consolidate results.
    Bloom’s Level 3

Student assessment

Assessment Type When assessed Weighting (% of total unit marks) Learning Outcomes Assessed

Assessment 1

Type: Multi-choice test / Group work / Short answer questions / Practical / Remote Lab / Simulation

Example Topic: Fundamentals & Retaining Walls.

Students may complete a quiz with MCQ type answers and solve some simple equations to demonstrate a good understanding of the fundamental concepts

Due after Topic 3 15% 1

Assessment 2

Type: Multi-choice test / Group work / Short answer questions / Practical / Remote Lab / Simulation

Example Topic: Slope Stability.

Students may provide solutions to simple problems on the listed topics

Due after Topic 6 20% 2

Assessment 3

Type: Multi-choice test / Group work / Short answer questions / Practical / Remote Lab / Simulation / Project / Report

Example Topic: Slope Stability and Foundations – simulations using Strand 7 or SpaceGas.

Students may complete a quiz with MCQ type answers or solve some simple problems or using software to complete a practical.

Due after Topic 9 20% 3, 4

Assessment 4

Type: Examination

Example Topic: All topics

An examination with a mix of detailed report type questions and/or simple numerical problems to be completed in 3 hours

Final Week 40% 1 to 4

Attendance / Tutorial Participation

Example: Presentation, discussion, group work, exercises, self-assessment/reflection, case study analysis, application.

Continuous 5% 1 to 4


Prescribed and Recommended Readings

Required textbook(s)

Das, B.M. (2017), Principles of Geotechnical Engineering, SI version, 9th Edition, Cengage Learning, Stamford, Conn. - ISBN: 978-1305970953

Reference Materials

Budhu, M., 2011. Soil Mechanics and Foundations, 3rd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., USA - ISBN: 978-0470556849

Craig, R.F., 2012. Craig's Soil Mechanics, 9th Edition. Taylor & Francis - ISBN: 978-0415561266

Unit Content

One topic is delivered per contact week, with the exception of part-time 24-week units, where one topic is delivered every two weeks.


Topic 1


• Outline & Introduction
• Fundamentals of Geotechnical Engineering

Topics 2 and 3

Retaining Walls

• Lateral earth pressure and retaining walls
• General retaining wall design – Culmann Method

Topics 4, 5 and 6

Slope Stability

• Modes of failure, factors of safety, and critical height
• Finite slopes
• Mass procedures – drained and undrained
• Method of slices
• Stability analysis of seepage
• Slope stabilisation

Topics 7, 8 and 9


• Ultimate soil-bearing capacity – shallow foundations
• Bearing capacity safety factors
• Plate-load test
• Pile foundations
• Pile foundation load capacity

Topic 10

Soil Construction Materials

• Steel, Concrete, Timber
• Geotextiles


Topic 11

Geotechnical Site Investigation

Topic 12

Unit Review

In the final week, students will have an opportunity to review the contents covered so far. Opportunity will be provided for a review of students’ work and to clarify any outstanding issues.

Software/Hardware Used


  • Software: N/A

  • Version: N/A

  • Instructions:  N/A

  • Additional resources or files: N/A


  • N/A