I first heard about Geotech Tools through a TRB Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) publication titled Geotechnical Solutions for Soil Improvement, Rapid Embankment Construction, and Stabilization of the Pavement Working Platform. The final version of the report was released in February of this year. The report is one of the project deliverables for the SHRP 2 Project R02.
The primary deliverable of the project and the subject of this review is Geotechtools.org, a web-based tool for geotechnical engineers, structural engineers and pavement engineers. This website is a “toolkit of geotechnical information to address all phases of decision making from planning to design to construction.” What does that mean exactly? Great question. In this article I will give you an overview of the site and its resources and how it might help you on your next project.
To start with, you need to create a login for the site. It’s a totally free resource, so don’t be shy. If you are an experienced geotechnical engineer, you can jump right to potential technologies that you are interested in. If you are a structural or pavement engineer or not sure where to start, you can use the wizard type interface to walk through a series of questions to lead you to viable technologies for your project.
The system was meant to assist with three primary project elements:
- Construction of new embankments and roadways over unstable soils,
- widening and expansion of existing roadways and embankments, and
- stabilization of the working platform
The site has information on forty-six ground improvement and geoconstruction technologies, listed below.
- Aggregate Columns
- Beneficial Reuse of Waste Materials
- Bio-Treatment for Subgrade Stabilization
- Blasting Densification
- Bulk-Infill Grouting
- Chemical Grouting/Injection Systems
- Chemical Stabilization of Subgrades and Bases
- Column-Supported Embankments
- Combined Soil Stabilization with Vertical Columns
- Compaction Grouting
- Continuous Flight Auger Piles
- Deep Dynamic Compaction
- Deep Mixing Methods
- Drilled/Grouted and Hollow Bar Soil Nailing
- Excavation and Replacement
- Fiber Reinforcement in Pavement Systems
- Geocell Confinement in Pavement Systems
- Geosynthetic Reinforced Construction Platforms
- Geosynthetic Reinforced Embankments
- Geosynthetic Reinforcement in Pavement Systems
- Geosynthetic Separation in Pavement Systems
- Geosynthetics in Pavement Drainage
- Geotextile Encased Columns
- High-Energy Impact Rollers
- Hydraulic Fill with Geocomposite and Vacuum Consolidation
- Injected Lightweight Foam Fill
- Intelligent Compaction
- Jet Grouting
- Lightweight Fill
- Mechanical Stabilization of Subgrades and Bases
- Mechanically Stabilized Earth Wall System
- Onsite Use of Recycled Pavement Materials
- Partial Encapsulation
- Prefabricated Vertical Drains and Fill Preloading
- Rapid Impact Compaction
- Reinforced Soil Slopes
- Sand Compaction Piles
- Screw-in Soil Nailing
- Shoot-in Soil Nailing
- Shored Mechanically Stabilized Earth Wall System
- Traditional Compaction
- Vacuum Preloading with and without Prefabricated Vertical Drains
- Vibro-Concrete Columns
Interactive Technology Selection
The interactive selection system is very user friendly. It leads you through a series of questions regarding what your objective is, what soil conditions you have, and other pertinent questions. Once you select the issues you are dealing with, it provides a list of possible technologies that could be applied. The site even ranks them on factors such as degree of establishment of the technology, rapid renewal, minimal disruption and long-lived facilities. I am sure there is a report somewhere that describes how the team came up with these rankings, but I haven’t researched that myself.
Next – Commence Downloading
Once you find a technology or technologies you are interested in, Geotechtools has eight different types of products you can download:
- Technology Fact Sheets
- Case Histories
- Design Procedures
- Quality Control/Quality Assurance Procedures
- Cost Estimating Tools
- Specification Guidance
I was really impressed with the quality and quantity of practical and usable information available for each technology. There is a two page Fact Sheet for each technology with information such as a basic description and construction methods, advantages and disadvantages and geologic applicability.
The photos document provides a few photos of the technology and the equipment to install it. I think they could stand to beef these up a bit, based on what I’ve looked at so far.
There is usually at least one and often several case studies. They are always open to receiving more case studies as well, there is more information on that at the site. The design procedures document highlights more than just the basics of the design of the technology, referring you to more detailed design guidance where appropriate.
The QC/QA document is very useful and something you don’t always find in design manuals. I looked at the one for Deep Soil Mixing, and it was 23 pages long, describing a number of different QC methods, referencing specs and providing other commentary.
The bibliography documents are perhaps some of the most useful documents for these technologies. The creators of Geotech Tools have gone through a great amount of effort to compile a comprehensive list of references on the state of the art and practice in each technology. These lists are multiple pages long (23 pages for Deep Soil Mixing), and each reference list ends in a grid that indicates what type of information is contained in the reference, saving you the trouble of gathering references that don’t contain what you are looking for.
Cautions and Disclaimers
People may be tempted to think that Geotechtools can allow you to solve your geotechnical problems through a wizard interface with little effort. That’s obviously not the case. This resource is no replacement for sound engineering judgment and experience with the techniques being described. Although they provide excellent guidance on design and implementation, it’s still up to the engineer to decide if it’s the best solution and to implement it correctly.
Summary and Conclusion
Geotechnical engineers who have been around a while know that many of the best technical resources in our profession come out of transportation applications and from transportation agencies. But that doesn’t mean their usefulness is limited to these sectors, you could just as easily apply these technologies in mining, energy, industrial, or vertical markets.
The Geotechtools.org website by TRB’s SHRP 2 is one of the best and most useable geotechnical resources I’ve come across. I suspect that it is going to become a go-to resource for geotechnical engineers around the world, and not just for transportation projects.