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Geotechnical engineering is a collective term that has evolved over time for aspects of civil engineering disciplines that deal with the determination and description of the technical properties of the subsoil when building on, in or with soil or rock.

Origin of the term

The term "geotechnics" was introduced by a Swedish commission set up in 1913 by the State Railway Administration to investigate embankment failures. The first chairman of the commission was Wolmar Fellenius . The term geotechnics is becoming more and more popular in Germany due to its international understanding.

For some years now, several chairs and institutes at universities and technical colleges have also been using the term “geotechnical engineering” in their name. In the past, these were named exclusively after their individual disciplines: earthworks and foundation engineering, soil mechanics, rock mechanics, rock and tunnel construction, etc.

In Germany, geotechnics is represented by the DGGT (German Society for Geotechnics), which is divided into three specialist sections (rock mechanics, soil mechanics and engineering geology).

Content of the discipline

The primary individual disciplines are: Earthworks and foundation engineering , soil mechanics , foundation technology, groundwater hydraulics, rock mechanics , engineering geology , rock and tunnel construction , mining , cavity construction, special civil engineering , traffic route construction, hydraulic engineering, mass movements, geothermal energy, repository and landfill construction.


In the past, geotechnical engineering was viewed as a sub-area of ​​civil engineering ( structural engineering ), but nowadays it goes beyond that as an independent subject. Geotechnical engineering is offered either as an independent subject or as a specialization in civil engineering. Geotechnical graduate engineers are trained in natural science and geoscientific subjects in addition to engineering subjects. You get special knowledge in the disciplines of soil mechanics , groundwater and rock engineering , Erdstatik , engineering geology , rock and rock mechanics .

Graduated geologists are also active in the field of geotechnical engineering and complement the above-mentioned sub-disciplines with their scientific training.

In addition to asphalt technology and mortar and concrete technology, geotechnical engineering is a specialty in vocational training for building material inspectors .

Areas of activity

Geotechnics is a young, interdisciplinary engineering science that has essentially developed from civil engineering and combines elements from civil engineering, geosciences , especially geology , and mining. She deals with the mutual influence of structures and the building site.

  • When building in the subsoil, geotechnical engineering deals with the interaction of forces and deformations, for example between a tunnel structure and the surrounding rock, between the subsoil and the building standing on it, as well as their influence through technical measures.
  • When building with the subsoil, it is used as a building material , for example for dykes or dams. Here geotechnical engineering deals with the calculation of its stability and usability, among other things.

This results in the following core tasks:

  • Investigation and assessment of the subsoil and the groundwater conditions ( soil expertise , better "subsoil and foundation reports ")
  • Foundation of structures, e.g. buildings, bridges, tunnels and roads, i.e. with the introduction of forces from the structure into the subsoil, the determination and improvement of its load-bearing capacity, the effects (deformations) in the environment and the effects of deformations in the subsoil on a building.
  • Foundation of hydraulic structures, for example locks , weirs , culverts
  • Securing terrain jumps, for example in construction pits and quay walls
  • Stability of embankments and slopes, bank reinforcements and dams
  • Manufacture and structural safety of structures made of soil, for example dams, dykes and landfills
  • Investigation and assessment of sealed, sealing or flow-through earthworks such as canal side embankments
  • Measurement, monitoring, assessment and prognosis of dynamic loads such as hammer vibrations, explosions and traffic loads
  • Soil and groundwater protection ( environmental geotechnics )

Well-known geotechnicians

Well-known geotechnicians are or were:


See also

  • Geotechnik is the only German-language magazine for geotechnics.
  • Géotechnique is a leading English-language geotechnical magazine.
  • The Rankine Lecture is an award for achievements in geotechnical engineering by the British Geotechnical Association.
  • The Grundbau-Taschenbuch mainly contains articles about geotechnics.


  1. Hall of Fame
  2. ^ Hall of Fame
  3. ^ Karl-Eugen Kurrer : History of the earth pressure theory . In: History of structural engineering. In search of balance . 2nd, greatly expanded edition. Ernst & Sohn, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-433-03134-6 , pp. 274-379 .
  4. Geotechnics Ernst & Son .