Geological Engineering

Geological engineering (or engineering geology) services are the scientific assessment of a project’s local geology, in order to identify and mitigate any potential hazards upon new structures. For instance, a geologist may perform an investigation of a project area that’s within proximity to a strike-slip fault, in order to disclose seismic risk hazards and assure the integrity of a proposed structure. Together, geological services, along with geotechnical engineers, can provide precise conclusions and recommendations for a safe, practical, and feasible structure. Updated April 9, 2024.

The Importance of Engineering Geology Today

Today, geological engineering is an essential service for all structural projects. In fact, it’s a necessity that’s a matter of public health and safety. As history shows, erecting any structure without a preliminary engineering geology report endangers the occupants of that structure, as well as the surrounding populations. For instance, the failure of the St. Francis Dam in 1928 was due to unknown and unmitigated geologic hazards. To illustrate, the concrete gravity dam was built directly over an active thrust fault and also abutted a translational landslide. And it’s placement and construction were without the consultation of a professional geologist. As a result, the failure of the dam caused over 55 miles of flooding, over 400 deaths and millions of dollars of property damage.

Geological Engineering Services

A geotechnical investigation or soil engineering report is prepared for use by architects, developers, and structural engineers to properly design building foundations, retaining walls, roadways, sewage systems, and more. Each geotechnical investigation includes a report comprised of site-specific laboratory data, as well as a review of public records.  Conclusions and recommendations are made for architects and engineers to properly prepare a job site for development, and design a proposed structure with consideration to any seismic, hydrogeologic, or geologic conditions.

Geo Forward provides geology services for a variety of structure projects. The following is a list of typical engineering geology services:

California Modified Split Spoon Sampler for Geological Engineering and Geotechnical Engineering Projects - Photo By: Geo Forward.
California Modified Split Spoon Sampler for Geological Engineering and Geotechnical Engineering Projects – Photo By: Geo Forward.

Findings & Conclusions

Much like the environmental due diligence process, engineering geology services occur in phases. For instance, a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment report provides background information using available agency records. Whereas a preliminary geological engineering report covers the local geology using available data and documents. And Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments entail geologists drilling on-site, collecting samples, and directly analyzing them for possible contamination. Whereas the second phase of geologic investigation includes a geologist drilling or excavating on-site, collecting samples, and directly observing and testing the lithology for structural integrity decisions.

Recommendations for Designers and Builders

Geological engineering reports provide conclusions and recommendations that designers rely upon for a proper build. The data from these reports lead to conclusions and recommendations, in the form of design criteria for architects and structural engineers. Moreover, the information helps developers with feasibility studies on projects.