Geotechnology: An Environment of Change

by Jean-Yves Perez, (M.ASCE), President and CEO; Woodward-Clyde Group, Inc., Denver, CO,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1991, Vol. 61, Issue 12, Pg. 44-45

Document Type: Feature article


Today's contaminated materials—soil and water—have been investigated and analyzed by geotechnical engineers for a long time. No other branch of engineering is better positioned, from a knowledge and experience viewpoint, to help clean and protect the earth's surface. Granted, when our work was almost exclusively related to infrastructure construction, we were more interested in the mechanical behavior of these materials; our concerns were generally with shear strength and compressibility. However, the increasing concern over toxic contamination of soil and ground water has led many of us to expand our practice to contribute to the cleanup of the earth's surface and subsurface. Our field has broadened beyond the original scope of soil mechanics and foundation engineering. Yet some geotechnical engineers look at this growing geo-environment field with reluctance, even with disdain. They treat this new practice as somehow less noble, perhaps because it is driven by regulations. However, the technical challenges are every bit as tough as those we have faced when designing foundations for heavy structures, large water impoundments, deep excavations, or earthquakes-resistant structures. Because we have expanded into the restoration and protection of the environment, we must improve our understanding of other soil properties.

Subject Headings: Groundwater pollution | Soil pollution | Construction materials | Shear strength | Compressive strength | Foundation design | Geotechnical investigation | Infrastructure

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