Earthworks - Theory and Practice

Earthworks - Theory and Practice
This two day course has been specifically developed to provide designers, contractors and clients with a clear and comprehensive understanding of how to design and deliver successful earthworks projects.

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Earthworks are a key feature of most construction projects, and when delivered successfully are largely unseen. However, poorly designed or constructed earthworks have been consistently shown to be a major cause of delay and expense on projects often requiring complex and costly remedial measures.

The successful delivery of earthworks requires a clear understanding of a wide range of contributing factors including soil behaviour, compaction and placement processes, design standards, and the practical limitations of the material to meet the design challenge.

The Course

Earthworks - Theory and Practice will address three key areas:

  • The ground – how to investigate, quantify and understand its current and future behaviour.
  • The design – how to specify and design the key components of an earthworks project
  • The construction – the theory and reality of compaction and placement of earth fill.

Day one focuses on defining what information is needed to enable the design to be carried out. It considers ground behaviour, how to specify a site investigation to ensure that the correct information is obtained and identify the soil parameters needed to classify the soil and enable the design. Practical sessions will deal with how to specify an investigation and understanding the advantages and limitations of the various tests which can be carried out.

Day two focuses on the design of earthworks utilising the Highway Agency specification as a template. It considers the various methods of placement and control for an earthworks project. It also considers some of the more challenging soils met in the UK as well as soil improvement methods available to modify and improve the performance of natural soils.

Discussion sessions, tutorials and case studies are used throughout to reinforce and embed the learning.

Sessions begin at 9:00 and finish at 17:00. Morning and afternoon coffee breaks and lunch are included in the programme.
All timings, except the start time, are approximate and may be adjusted to suit natural breaks in the lesson.​

The sessions are held over two days - the structure is designed so that the tutor can spend as much time on each session as is needed to meet the delegates' requirements.

Session 1 - Introduction to Earthworks

  • Overview of earthworks in the UK
  • Earth moving and compaction plant

Session 2 - The Geotechnical Questions for Earthworks

  • Earthworks challenges - the ground, the design, and the construction
  • A questioning approach
  • Earthwork specification, guidance, and design codes

Session 3 - Site Investigation

  • Planning the site investigation
  • Desk study and walkover
  • Intrusive investigation
  • Sampling and sample quality
  • Laboratory and field testing

Session 4 - Engineering Behaviour

  • Behaviour of cutting and embankments
  • Settlement and bearing capacity
  • Pore pressure, seepage, and permeability

Session 5 - Earthworks Specification

  • Method, end product and performance specifications
  • Suitability criteria
  • Designing the specification
  • Construction monitoring and testing

Session 6 - Review and close


Dr Kieran Dineen
BEng (Hons) MSc DIC PhD

Kieran is the commercial and technical director of a specialist geotechnical practice providing contracting and consulting services across the construction industry. He spent 10 years of his career at Imperial College undertaking research into ground engineering, which led directly to the setting up of a spin-out company in 2000. He has particular expertise in geotechnical design and construction as well as wider experience across civil engineering infrastructure. He has also acted as an expert witness on a number of ground engineering related problems.

At the end of the course the delegates should have:

  • The ability to design, monitor and control earthworks
  • The ability to prepare earthworks specifications
  • Knowledge of the compaction process, key geotechnical parameters and characteristics of earthworks materials
  • Knowledge of effective placement and compaction of fill
  • Knowledge of earthworks plant and performance
  • Knowledge of site investigation for earthworks
  • Knowledge of current specifications and codes
  • Awareness of future changes to specifications and codes

This training course has been specifically developed for:

  • Civil engineers 
  • Structural engineers
  • Geotechnical engineers
  • Geologists
  • Engineering geologists
  • Project engineers
  • Project managers
  • Site-based engineers

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