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Ground Improvement Methods: Selection, Design, Construction, and Monitoring/Inspection

1.4 CEUs | Monday–Tuesday, September 26–27


Jerry A. DiMaggio, P.E., D.GE, M.ASCE

Purpose and Background

When difficult ground conditions are encountered, there are a number of alternatives that can be employed to achieve project objectives (cost, schedule, and performance). These alternatives include: (1) completely abandoning the project; (2) bypassing the poor soil through relocation of the project to a more suitable site or through the use of a deep foundation; (3) removing and replacing the unsuitable soils; (4) designing the planned structure to accommodate the poor/marginal soils; or (5) modifying (improving) the existing ground conditions, either in-place or by removal, treatment, and replacement of the existing materials. Through a wide-variety of modern ground improvement and geoconstruction technologies, marginal sites and unsuitable in-situ geomaterials (soil/rock) can be improved to meet project requirements, making the latter alternative a technically and economically preferred solution in many cases. In essence, the modern builder has the option to fix the poor ground conditions and to make them suitable for the project’s needs. A variety of terms are used to describe this fixing of the ground: soil improvement, ground improvement, ground treatment, or ground modification.

Within this course, ground improvement is defined as the alteration of site foundation conditions or project earth structures to provide better performance under design and/or operational loading conditions. Ground modification objectives can be achieved using a large variety of geotechnical construction methods or technologies that alter and improve poor ground conditions where soil replacement is not feasible for environmental, technical, or economic reasons. Ground improvement has one or more of the following primary functions, to:

  • increase shear strength and bearing resistance
  • increase density
  • decrease permeability
  • control deformations (settlement, heave, distortions)
  • improve drainage
  • accelerate consolidation
  • decrease imposed load
  • provide lateral stability
  • increase resistance to liquefaction
  • transfer embankment loads to more competent layer

The instructor presents the critical knowledge and skills you need in order to take advantage of the cost-effective use of ground improvement methods for infrastructure, commercial, and industrial development. From start to finish - from selection design to construction -the instructor will lead you through the myriad of commonly used ground improvement methods from which you can choose.

Ground improvement methods have been found to provide benefits in the following five major areas:

  • Utilization of less costly foundation system
  • Reduction in right-of-way acquisition
  • Less environmental disturbance
  • Reduction in construction time
  • Improved traffic control through construction zones

The impetus for ground improvement has been both the increasing need to use marginal sites for new construction purposes and to mitigate risk of failure or potential poor performance. During the past several decades, ground improvement has come of age and reached a high level of acceptance in the geotechnical community. Its use is now routinely considered on most projects where poor or unstable soils are encountered, especially on sites underlain by suspect or uncontrolled fills. From the geotechnical design engineer's point of view, ground improvement means the increase in soil shear strength, the reduction of soil compressibility, and the reduction of soil permeability the modification of the relevant engineering property. From the contractor’s point of view, ground improvement may mean a reduction in construction time and/or a reduction in construction costs. Both points of view are valid reasons to consider the use of ground improvement techniques.

During this two-day program, the instructor presents a logical sequence of topics and activities to allow participants to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. These activities include: lecture, instructor lead example problems, and discussion periods. All participants will receive a PDF copy of the lesson PowerPoint files.

The course material provides standard of practice design and construction guidance for all civil engineering applications for application on structural foundations, engineered earthworks, and earth retaining structure for new and rehabilitated infrastructure facilities.

Seminar Benefits and Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize potential applications for ground improvement methods used in civil engineering applications
  • Select the most technically appropriate and cost-effective ground improvement method for your application
  • Examine and select appropriate material properties, soil/rock design, and construction parameters
  • Prepare conceptual and basic designs using appropriate design methods, factors of safety, and field verification methods
  • Evaluate and review contractor submitted designs and construction installation plans
  • Select appropriate specification/contracting method(s) and prepare contract documents
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of ground improvement methods construction, inspection, and performance

Assessment of Learning Outcomes

Learning objectives are achieved through class participation, discussions, and a short post-test.

Who Should Attend?

  • Geotechnical specialists
  • Construction engineers
  • Contractors
  • Structural engineers
  • Owners
  • Professionals involved in the design, construction, inspection, testing, and specification of infrastructure facilities including buildings, energy facilities, and transportation features

Course Outline

Time: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm PT each day

Day one

  • Introductions, learning outcomes, and course overview
  • Introduction to ground improvement methods, their functions, applications, and selection
  • Soil and rock parameters (tests and soil and rock parameter selection)
  • GeoTechTools 
  • Subgrade and foundation improvement using geosynthehics
  • Prefabricated vertical drains
  • Lightweight fill materials
  • Dynamic compaction and vibro-compaction

Day two

  • Mechanically stabilized earth walls and reinforced soil slopes
  • Stone columns, geopiers, and controlled modulus and load transfer platforms
  • Soil nailing wall
  • Deep soil mixing
  • Grouting techniques and applications
  • Course summary and closure

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