Module code: ENG3175

Module Overview

Virtually all civil engineering structures are in contact with the ground. Sometimes the ground exerts a force which must be carried by the structure (e.g. retaining walls, tunnels), or provides a reaction which helps support the structure (e.g. through a strip footing or a piled raft). In some cases the ground is the structure and must be designed to support itself (e.g. embankments and cuttings). This module deals with the latter two categories and applies the basic principles of soil mechanics to the safe and sustainable design of foundations and soil slopes.

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader

WOODS Rick (Civl Env Eng)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

JACs code: H250

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 96

Tutorial Hours: 12

Guided Learning: 20

Captured Content: 22

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

The module is divided into two main parts - foundation engineering and soil slope stability - which are taught in parallel.  

Foundation Engineering includes the following topics:

  • Foundation types and construction methods

  • Limit states, safety, and drainage conditions

  • Bearing capacity of shallow and piled foundations

  • Stress distributions, theory of elasticity

  • Settlement of shallow and piled foundations

  • Sustainability in foundation design

  • Practical design issues and case histories

Soil Slope Stability includes the following topics:

  • Slope types, limit states and drainage conditions

  • Planar, circular and non-circular failure mechanisms

  • Force and moment equilibrium

  • Total and effective stress analysis

  • Practical design issues

Site Characterization is relevant to both of the above and includes: 

  • Exploration and sampling

  • In-situ testing

  • Interpretation of test data

This module is within the core subject of Geotechnics, and the threads of Design (especially foundations and soil slopes), Health and Safety Risk Management, and Sustainability (especially in the coursework assignments).

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination Online ONLINE 24 HOUR (OPEN BOOK) EXAM 75

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is centred on two units of assessment.

  1. The coursework assignment assesses the ability to choose appropriate strength parameters and drainage conditions, and carry out the necessary computations to assess the load bearing capacity and resultant settlement of a foundation, and the stability of an adjacent soil slope.  The assignment also calls for issues of risk and sustainability to be considered in the context of the overall design (Learning outcomes 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, 006, 007 and 008).

  2. The end-of-semester examination provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of fundamental concepts in the analysis and design of soil slopes and foundations, focussing on assessing those aspects not fully covered by the coursework assignments (Learning outcomes 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, 006, and 007).

Feedback will be given on the coursework assignment, in the form of generic comments through SurreyLearn and more detailed and individualized feedback given on the marked assignments.  Formative assessment will be through solving problems in class (and receiving immediate feedback on the correct solution) and also through tackling tutorial sheets – for which feedback takes the form of full worked solutions posted on SurreyLearn after the student has had an opportunity to try the problems for him/herself.

Module aims

  • Provide students with basic analytical tools for designing both shallow and deep foundations, cut slopes and embankments – satisfying relevant stability and deformation criteria, and distinguishing between short and long-term conditions
  • Impart an understanding of why foundations and slopes become unsafe, what the possible consequences are, and how the risk of failure can be managed
  • Introduce relevant site investigation and in-situ testing methods for identifying ground conditions and determining geotechnical parameters for design purposes
  • Provide students with an understanding of some fundamental design issues through case studies and assignment work
  • Provide students with an understanding of health and safety, and of sustainability issues in foundation and slope design and construction

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
005 Calculate the stability of a fill or cut slope, using an appropriate failure mechanism and drainage conditions and compare with suitability criteria KCT SM1B/M, EA1B/M, P6
006 Devise appropriate drainage measures to improve the stability of a slope KCP SM1B/M, EA1B/M, P6
007 Identify appropriate site exploration and field and laboratory testing techniques relevant to the analysis and design of foundations and soil slopes KP D3B/M, P2B/M
008 Evaluate design and construction options for foundations and soil slopes, including sustainability considerations KP D2, P2B/M, P4, P6
001 Calculate the ultimate and safe bearing capacity of a shallow (spread footing) foundation, distinguishing between drained and undrained loading conditions KC SM1B/M, EA1B/M, P6
002 Calculate the ultimate and safe working capacity of a deep (pile) foundation, distinguishing between drained and undrained loading conditions KC SM1B/M, EA1B/M, P6
003 Compute stress distributions in the ground resulting from foundation loading KC SM1B/M, EA3B/M
004 Predict the likely settlement of a shallow or deep foundation during its working life, distinguishing between immediate and long-term settlement KC SM1B/M, EA1B/M, P6

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The module is delivered principally through combined lectures / problem-solving classes, supported by independent learning (reading, tutorial sheets, coursework assignments, and revision).  It builds on students’ knowledge of geology and soil mechanics acquired in FHEQ Levels 4 and 5 and helps them to apply it to the design and analysis of foundations and soil slopes.

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
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ENG3175

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Civil Engineering BEng (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Civil Engineering MEng 1 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 2021/2 academic year.