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About Soil Engineering

written by: Raunekk • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 5/17/2010

Soil engineering is an integral part of any type of construction work today. Understanding soils and soil engineering helps in finding out whether the proposed construction site is fit for construction work or not. Read inside to find more about this engineering discipline in the article inside.

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    Introduction

    Soil Engineering is a stream of geotechnical engineering which exclusively deals with understanding the characteristics and mechanics of soil. Soil engineering helps in analyzing the structure and composition of the soil of the proposed construction site, thus helping in deciding whether the soil of the proposed construction site or building is worth exploiting. Apart from this, soil engineering also deals with providing optimized design concepts and construction techniques according to the composition and physical properties of the soil.

    Soil engineering, a specialized discipline, also helps in understanding the soil behavior and the basic concepts that govern it. It also deals with taking various soil tests that helps in correctly interpreting what field conditions are safe or unsafe for construction works and for the personnel working there.

    Soil engineering 

    Image Credits : Soil engineering at butlering website (http://www.butlerengr.com/engineering.jpg)

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    Why Soil Engineering?

    Technically, soil is a mixture of rock or mineral particles, water, and air. It is on the basis of these constituents that the properties of soil differ from one area to another. Moreover, different types of soils behave differently to the construction works. The type of soil for a construction site has a huge influence on the design and expenses of the building to be constructed. Thus, the analysis of the soil helps in determining whether extra work will be required for preparing the site of construction.

    Also, different type of soil requires different foundations to ensure a stable construction process. For example, sandy soils will require construction of containing walls for the building foundation in order to ensure that the sand stays in place; whereas clay sand requires additional materials in the foundation as the clay might swell or shirk, depending on the water content in the foundation, thus leading to cracks in the walls and foundation of the construction building.

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    Methods Involved

    Soil engineering mainly deals with analyzing the density and moisture content in the soil. However, qualities of soils such as composition, characteristics, physical properties, moisture content, and drainage are also analyzed. The weight bearing capacity of the soil is checked to ensure if the building will stay or shift over time. This analysis is generally done by taking soil samples and sending them to laboratories for performing various tests. Some other properties of soil that are checked in laboratories are unit weight, porosity, permeability, sheer strength, etc.

    It is to note that the properties of the topmost layer of the soil might differ from the surface below it. It is for this reason that samples are taken by subsurface exploration to understand the soil conditions below the topmost surface. Subsurface exploration is done by using various methods such as digging pits, trenches, borings and cone or standard penetration tests, which allow continuous recording and testing of soil properties that change with depth.

    Some of the common works of soil engineering includes landslide repairs, constructing seawalls, shoring and underpinning.

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