Engineering geology is geologic work that is relevant to engineering, environmental concerns, and the public health, safety, and welfare. “Engineering geology” is defined by the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG) as the discipline of applying geologic data, techniques, and principles to the study both of a) naturally occurring rock and soil materials, and surface and subsurface fluids, and b) the interaction of introduced materials and processes with the geologic environment, so that geologic factors affecting the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of engineering structures (fixed works) and the development, protection, and remediation of ground-water resources, are adequately recognized, interpreted, and presented for use in engineering and related practice.
The engineering geologist utilizes specialized geologic training and experience to provide quantitative geologic information and recommendations based on it, as well as judgmental recommendations.
In recent decades the scope of engineering geology practice has grown beyond its original close connection to civil engineering practice. Engineering geologists now work with and for land-use planners, environmental specialists, architects, public policy makers, and property owners to provide geologic information on which they base decisions. Descriptions of Engineering Geology, Environmental Geology, and Hydrogeology areas of practice are available by clicking on the links in the menu to the left.
Some of the major activities of engineering geologists include the following:
- Investigation of foundations for all types of major structures, such as dams, bridges, power plants, pumping plants, airports, large buildings, and towers.
- Evaluation of geologic conditions along tunnel, pipeline, canal, railway, and highway routes.
- Exploration and development of sources of rock, soil and sediment for use as construction material.
- Investigation and development of surface and ground water resources; ground-water basin management; protection and remediation of ground-water resources subject to toxic and other chemical degradation of quality of ground-water resources.
- Evaluation of geologic hazards such as landslides, faults and earthquakes, radon, asbestos, subsidence, expansive and collapsible soils, expansive bedrock, cavernous rock, and liquefaction.
- Evaluation of geologic conditions (including ground water) affecting residential, commercial, and industrial land use and development.
- Construction geology, including slope stability, dewatering, subdrains, grouting considerations, and excavatability.
- Safe siting and geologic design considerations for waste management and disposal facilities and to assist in establishing the bases for remedial actions for mitigation of related environmental threats from unengineered and uncontrolled waste disposal.
- Engineering geologists participate in land use planning, environmental impact report research, mined land reclamation, timber harvest planning, and insurance and forensic investigations.
The above three photos show the progression of a Marin County, California landslide from slope failure through mitigation and re-vegetation. Photos courtesy of UMR
The engineering geologist, in cooperation with the civil engineer, bears an important share of the responsibility for the public health, safety, and welfare insofar as engineering works are affected by geologic factors. The engineering geology profession has distinctively and effectively met its responsibility to the public through state registration laws throughout the United States. AEG has published a Suggested Geologists Practice Act to assist in achieving professional registration for geologists.
AEG is devoted to developing a spirit of professional responsibility on the part of engineering geologists,environmental geologists, and hydrogeologists. Through AEG, attention is focused on environmental geology and engineering geology and its expanding role. AEG seeks to maintain high professional standards and enhance awareness of the responsibility of the Environmental and Engineering Geologists to the public in general.
In the final analysis, environmental and engineering Geology are people geology. Engineering geology exists because people want to modify the geologic environment for their use and convenience, want to live in harmony with it, and occasionally manage to come into conflict with it. Helping people understand their geologic environment, accommodate themselves to it, and correct their geo-environmental mistakes, is what engineering geologists do.