SOIL MECHANICS - 2018/9

Module code: ENG2104

Module Overview

This module is designed to introduce the basic concepts of soils in terms of soil properties, states, behaviour, mechanics, and some preliminary design through lectures and laboratory work. The behaviour of soils,e.g. sands and clays, will be reviewed and considered in relation to their engineering use in design of foundations, slopes etc.

Module provider

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Module Leader

CUI L Dr (Civl Env Eng)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

JACs code: H250

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

Completion of the progress requirements of FHEQ Level 4 on a Civil Engineering Degree Programme.

Module content

Indicative content includes:

Effective Stress:

Definition and nature of effective stress; principle of effective stress; short-term and long-term cases

Pore-water pressure regimes:

Hydrostatic, artesian and underdrained cases; effect of capillary rise

Shear strength:

Nature of shear strength; drained and undrained shear strength; loose, dense and critical states; contraction and dilation; influence of volume change and generation of pore-water pressure; shear box apparatus; triaxial apparatus, Mohr’s circle, stress paths; residual strength, ring shear apparatus; field methods, shear vane; factors affecting measured values of shear strength

Compressibility and consolidation:

Compressibility characteristics of normally- and over-consolidated soils; classical theory of one-dimensional consolidation; pore-water pressure isochrones; secondary effects

Earth pressure:

Types of earth-retaining structure, coefficients of earth pressure - active, passive and at rest; Rankine theory; Coulomb wedge analysis; short-term and long term problems; analyse of gravity walls, anchored walls and strutted excavations   

Laboratory work:

Unconsolidate Undrained triaxial test, odometer test, Heath & Safety in soil laboratory 

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination EXAMINATION (2 HOURS) 60
School-timetabled exam/test CLASS TEST (1 HOUR) 20
Practical based assessment LABORATORY WORK 20

Alternative Assessment

Alternative instrument of assessment: coursework related to the class test. [Learning outcomes assessed 1, 2, f] Alternative instrument of assessment, lab report related to triaxial test. [Learning outcomes assessed 3, 5, a-f] Alternative instrument of assessment, lab report related to oedometer test. [Learning outcomes assessed 2, 5, a, b]

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate


Knowledge and understanding of the principles of effective stress and shear strength (LO’s 1, 2) are partially assessed through 1 hour class test.
Knowledge and understanding of the principles of effective stress, shear strength, earth pressure and retaining structure, compressibility and consolidation theory (LO’s 1, 2, 3, 4,) is through a 2 hour unseen examination.
Practical skills in triaxial test and oedometer test are assessed through laboratory work and subsequent reporting and interpretation of results (LO’s 2, 4, 5).


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:


Examination [Learning outcomes assessed 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, a, b, f] (2 hours) {60%}
Class test [Learning outcomes assessed 1, 2] (1 hours) {20%}
UU triaxial Laboratory report [Learning outcomes assessed 2, 5, a-f] (3 + 14 hours) and Oedometer Laboratory report [Learning outcomes assessed 4, 5, a, b] (2 + 2 hours). Submission deadline for the UU report on the third Monday following the laboratory class and deadline for the Oedometer report at the end of the day of the laboratory class {20%}


Formative assessment and feedback

Formative assessment will be through a range of self assessment exercises provided on SurreyLearn. These excersises will provide automatic feedback where necessary. Feedback will also be given in tutorial sessions.

Students will receive written feedback on the laboratory work as well as verbal feedback.

Module aims

  • To interest students in the broad area of geotechnical engineering
  • To provide students with the fundamental understanding of the properties, states, behaviour and mechanics of soils
  • To introduce basic geotechnical design

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Compute in situ stresses for soil profiles - including for different water conditions and surface loadings KCT
002 Explain shear strength - the methods of testing, Mohr's circle, total and effective stress path and use of parameters in a field situations. KCPT
003 Describe the process of one-dimensional consolidation and be able to predict consolidation settlement and compressibility. KCT
004 Analyse simple earth-retaining structures, and be aware of options of sustainable design. KCP
005 Conduct the fundamental geotechnical laboratory tests to determine soil parameters; understand the hazards and risks in the laboratory and wear proper PPE when undertaking the laboratory work. KCPT
006 Synthesis of data T
007 Graphical presentation of data T
008 Use of word processer and spreadsheet T
009 Technical report writing T
010 Information retrieval skills T
011 Independent learning skills T

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 110

Lecture Hours: 27

Tutorial Hours: 8

Laboratory Hours: 5

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

This module forms to foundation to all the modules in Geotechnical Engineering at FHEQ Levels 6 and 7 on the BEng and MEng programmes in Civil Engineering. It provides a basic principles and theory of engineering soils.

The module is delivered principally by lectures supported by tutorials. It also includes laboratory work in triaxial test and oedometer test.

The learning and teaching methods include:


Effective stress lectures (6 hours)
Shear strength Lectures (8 hours)
Earth pressure and retaining structure Lectures (8 hours)
Compressiblity and comsolidation lectures (5 hours)
Tutorials (8 hours)
Triaxial laboratory class (3 hours)
Odeometer laboratory class (2 hours)
Directed and guided reading (including revision ad preparation for lab classes) (91 hours)
Report writing (16 hours)

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Reading list for SOIL MECHANICS : http://aspire.surrey.ac.uk/modules/eng2104

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Liberal Arts and Sciences BA (Hons)/BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Civil Engineering MEng 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Civil Engineering BEng (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2018/9 academic year.