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Earthworks during the construction of a federal highway

Earthworks includes all construction measures in which the soil is changed in terms of its location, shape and storage properties. It belongs to civil engineering . In earthworks, a distinction is made between the basic processes of loosening, loading, conveying, installing and compacting. Furthermore, a distinction can be made between the processes of removal and application of soil. What kind of soil the soil belongs to is irrelevant.

These include: soil removal, earth movement (in technical terms: earth mass movement), soil backfilling, backfilling and embankment, construction road construction, excavation of soil for trenches, excavation above and under water, excavation of foundations, construction of building pits, etc. Earthworks are part of the structural work.

Agricultural and horticultural tillage work, such as digging with spades, plowing or harrowing , sowing or planting bushes, trees, etc. does not count towards earthworks, however, the removal and application of soil in gardening and landscaping does.


The Railway Cut , by Paul Cézanne (1869–1871).

The most common earthworks are:

They are required for traffic routes such as canals, roads, railways, as well as for dams and landfills . Also, the leveling and compacting large areas, for example for airports is one of the earthworks. Another purpose can be the delivery of sand, gravel or topsoil or the disposal of soil masses.

Earthworks are carried out with earth-moving machines (see below), but also by hand with pickaxes , shovels , wheelbarrows and spades .

The calculations required for earthworks ( proof of stability ) belong to the geotechnical disciplines of earth statics , foundation engineering and soil mechanics ; material tests for specific construction projects are carried out in earthwork laboratories . Basic research is also carried out in the geosciences , in particular engineering geology and soil science . The planning of earthworks and the use of construction machines are the task of construction process engineering ( construction operations ).

A distinction is made according to the properties and thus the solvability of the soil in soil classes 1 to 7. In building contract law, the additional technical contract conditions ZTV , here the ZTV-E, are agreed for public contracts in Germany . On the one hand, they regulate definitions and minimum requirements for the processing of the earth materials in the construction contract. Subsoil laboratories and earthworks laboratories serve to determine the theoretical basis of the soil properties and to control the construction work.

Earthworks in hydraulic engineering

Spectacular examples of earthworks: harbors and an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree in Dubai

An essential part of hydraulic engineering such as harbor construction, canal construction, rock removal, land reclamation, coastal protection and keeping harbor basins and fairways free of sand and mud consists of earthworks.

Specialized companies such as B. Royal Boskalis Westminster , which has a fleet of 300 ships for this purpose, and Van Oord , moves billions of tons of sand and mud. In Dubai z. B. With the three ships Ursa, Taurus and Colbart, an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree with a coastline of 120 km is heaped up and secured ( Palm Island I), for which approx. 200 million cubic meters of sand and stones have to be moved. But mostly it comes to container ports , gas terminals , land reclamation for commercial buildings on the coasts of megacities etc.

Earthmoving machines

According to DIN EN 474-1, earth-moving machines are "self-propelled or pulled machines on wheels, caterpillars or support legs, with work equipment or work equipment (work tools), primarily designed for digging, loading, transporting, distributing, compacting or milling earth, rock or similar materials. " Earth-moving machines are listed in group D in the construction equipment list.

Earth-moving machines are classified in Germany according to DGUV rule 100-500 into

as well as their attachments (z. B. Backhoe loaders to, drilling equipment, pipe laying equipment, ramming equipment, destruction means, compressing means, ripper , work platforms).

The DGUV rule 100-500 prescribes (Section 2.12, Item 3.2, as of June 22, 2018):

"The independent operation or maintenance of earth-moving machines may only be employed by people who

1. have reached the age of 18,

2. are physically and mentally suitable,

3. have been instructed in the operation or maintenance of the earth-moving machine and have proven their ability to do so to the contractor, and by them

4. It is to be expected that they will reliably perform the tasks assigned to them.

They must be designated by the company to operate or maintain the earth-moving machine. "

To operate earth-moving machines as an employee, no certificate of competence ("driving license for earth-moving machines") is required, but this is required by some companies. Due to different course duration and quality, not all courses are accepted by all employers. For operation in the area of ​​application of the StVO , the possession of a corresponding driving license is necessary, depending on the weight and speed of the earth-moving machine.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl-Eugen Kurrer : History of the earth pressure theory , in: History of structural engineering. In search of balance , Berlin: Ernst & Sohn 2016, pp. 52-58 u. Pp. 274-379, ISBN 978-3-433-03134-6 .
  2. Boskalis: At home in the Middle East ( Memento of March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.1 MB)
  3. R. Amler / R. Hartdegen: The earth-moving machine operator. 7th ed .; Graefelfing: Resch-Verlag, 2015, p. 24
  4. DGUV rule 100-500 "Operation of work equipment" , Chapter 2.12
  5. Chris: Do I need an excavator license? ( [accessed on June 21, 2018]).