Module code: ENGM048

Module Overview

Geotechnical engineers and structural engineers tend to approach soil-structure interaction problems quite differently.  On the one hand, geotechnical engineers take great care over the representation of the soil, but then often assume the structure to be either perfectly flexible or perfectly rigid.  Structural engineers, on the other hand, may spend a great deal of time ensuring the structure is modelled as realistically as possible, but then often assume that the supporting soil behaves like a bed of linear elastic springs.  For routine design, either approach may be sufficiently accurate – and, in any event, it may be difficult to justify the cost of more rigorous modelling.

When the situation demands, it will be necessary to create models that take into account the real behaviour of both soil and structure, and this module will provide you with some of the tools for doing this.  A range of soil-structure interaction models and solution methods will be covered, ranging from the simple to the complex.  At the conclusion of the module, you will be in a better position to judge what level of model may be appropriate for a given situation, and what information will be required in order to set up the analysis.  In addition, you should be able to evaluate the analysis output with a clearer understanding of the strengths and limitations of the chosen representation.

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader

WOODS Rick (Civl Env Eng)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 90

Tutorial Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 20

Captured Content: 18

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

A knowledge of soil mechanics and structural mechanics to FHEQ Level 5, and foundation engineering to FHEQ Level 6 

Module content

Indicative content includes:

Analytical Models

subgrade reaction (Winkler spring) models

continuum models

constitutive models for soils

Solution Methods

semi-analytical methods

finite difference methods

finite element methods

Applications and Case Histories

continuous footings and raft foundations

embedded walls and laterally-loaded piles

pile groups and piled rafts

tunnels and culverts

deep basements

Practical Content

in-house (spreadsheet-based) software for soil-structure interaction analysis

            commercial software for soil-structure interaction analysis

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

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

Through coursework assignments, the ability to use

·         a closed-form analytical solution to a simplified SSI model to investigate a multiple loading case, being consistent with sign conventions when using superposition [LOs 3, c]

·         a rigorous numerical (finite element) method to model a classic SSI problem [LOs 3, d] – demonstrating an understanding of the strengths and limitations of the method [LOs 1, 4], the selection           of material parameters [LOs 2, a], and the importance of independent checks [LOs 5, b]

Through written examination, those aspects of LOs 1-4, a,b not fully covered by the coursework.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

·         coursework : analytical modelling of a beam on elastic foundation [Learning outcomes assessed 3, c] (5 hours, 5%)

·         coursework : continuum and Winkler modelling comparison [Learning outcomes assessed 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 a,b,c,d] (20 hours, 20%)

·         examination [Learning outcomes assessed 1, 2, 3, 4] (2 hours, closed book)

Formative assessment and feedback

Feedback will be given on both coursework assignments, in the form of generic comments through SurreyLearn and more detailed and individualised feedback given on the marked assignments within the time allowed for marking coursework. Formative assessment will be through solving problems in class (and getting feedback on the correct solution there and then) 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

  • An understanding of how real structures interact with the surrounding soil
  • A knowledge of the different idealisations of soil-structure interaction (SSI) that have been devised, including their strengths and limitations
  • Familiarity with some SSI modelling software
  • An appreciation of the role of SSI analysis in practical design

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Select the most appropriate SSI model for a given application K
002 Determine the data required for a given SSI model KC
003 Set up and analyse SSI models of continuous footings, rafts, laterally-loaded piles, and embedded retaining walls KCPT
004 Compare and contrast discrete spring and continuum models of SSI KCPT
005 Validate the solutions obtained from commercially available software packages KCPT
006 Synthesis of data T
007 Reviewing, assessing, and critical thinking T
008 Use of spreadsheets T
009 Use of commercial software T

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Build on students’ knowledge of soil mechanics, structural mechanics and foundation engineering and extend it to situations where the structure cannot be considered perfectly flexible or rigid, and/or the soil cannot be considered to provide rigid support.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • combined lectures/problem-solving/software demonstration classes (3hrs per week for 11 weeks)

  • independent learning (reading, tutorials, coursework assignments, and revision) (115hrs)

  • unseen written examination (closed book) (2hrs)

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: ENGM048

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Advanced Geotechnical Engineering MSc 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Bridge Engineering MSc 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Structural Engineering MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Infrastructure Engineering and Management MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Civil Engineering MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Civil Engineering MEng 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% 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.