At a Glance – GeoTech

With increasingly ambitious projects, geotech is more important than ever

Geotechnical Engineering, or GeoTech for short, is a branch of civil engineering that analyses information about soil and rocks. Geotechnical engineers aim to investigate the chemical properties of subsurface materials to assess the risk posed by construction projects. This can include earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, debris flow and other occupational hazards. The task is to work out what foundations are needed to stop these hazards from happening. GeoTech is also used in coastal and ocean engineering to design marinas, wharves, and oil platforms.

Geotechnical Engineering has a vital part to play in light of increasingly ambitious construction projects. Innovative building projects, including vertical farms and compact 3D printed houses, are putting unprecedented amounts of pressure on soil and rock mechanics. It’s up to GeoTech experts to determine if these projects should go ahead, and flag up environmental and safety concerns. Elon Musk’s The Boring Company, for instance, will rely heavily on the work of GeoTech engineers in order to construct a subsurface freeway. At the end of October, the company’s first test tunnel was 500ft long. Musk hopes that in a year, the tunnel with stretch along Route 101. Geotechnical support will also be integral to the development of smart cities.

The growing significance of GeoTech has been reflected in a recent UK initiative by Her Majesty’s Land Registry, in partnership with Ordnance Survey. Three GeoTech companies received a £100,000 investment and 20 hours of dedicated time to help them launch their respective projects. Explaain is developing real time, data driven articles about geospatial sites, FlowX is working on a solution for traffic congestion, and Safe & the City is pioneering a crowdsourced geotagging app to build safer communities. Each of these applications show that GeoTech is moving out of construction and towards connectivity, using location data to inform geographical decisions that aren’t just about building tunnels.