Module code: ENG1075

Module Overview

Engineering geology and geomechanics is of fundamental importance to civil engineering construction and permanent works.  Why? Because, unless they float or fly, all structures are in contact with the ground (e.g. foundations), require excavation through the ground (e.g. tunnels), and/or make use of the ground as a construction material (e.g. embankments).

This module explains the processes by which rocks and soils are formed, how they behave as engineering materials, and how they provide a valuable non-renewable resource for construction.  It emphasizes the importance of groundwater – where it is located, how it flows through the ground, and how it affects soil and rock properties. The hazards that geological features can pose to construction are also considered. 

This module is developed further in ENG2104 Soil Mechanics (Level 5), and together they underpin ENG3175 Geotechnical Engineering (Level 6), where the theory and principles developed are applied to design and analysis.

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader

WOODS Rick (Sust & CEE)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 99

Tutorial Hours: 12

Laboratory Hours: 4

Guided Learning: 17

Captured Content: 18

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Recognition, nature and origin of common geomaterials:   

Basic recognition characteristics and classification of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.  Description common soil and rocks according to BS EN ISO 14688 & 14689 and BS5930:1999.  Characterisation and classification of engineering soils. Natural construction materials and associated sustainability issues in terms of reserves and environmental impact of extraction from the ground.

Soil phase relationships and index properties:   

Phase / block diagrams, mass-volume and weight-volume relationships, particle size distribution, sieving analysis, hydrometer analysis, relative density, consistency, Atterberg limits.

Permeability and seepage:   

Bernoulli’s equation; Darcy’s law, discharge and seepage velocity, coefficient of permeability and its determination, permeability in layered soils; Laplace equation for 2D and 3D flow and its solution (e.g. with flow nets); unconfined flow, the Dupuit assumption and applications.


Occurrence of groundwater (unconfined and confined aquifers, artesian and under-drained conditions); groundwater flow through soil and rock; the importance of groundwater and potential problems related to it.

Stresses in soils:   

Total stress, pore water pressure, effective stress; distribution of stress with depth, the effect of surface loads; the importance of effective stress.


The hazards to construction and permanent works associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, landslips, shrinkable soils, collapsing soils and subsidence; geotechnical hazards relating to climate change.


Where construction materials come from, why sustainability matters; mineral extraction, sources of aggregate, cement production, rock as a building material, recycling.

Site investigation:   

Desk study, site reconnaissance, exploration and sampling, borehole logging; constructing a simplified geotechnical model of the ground.

Practical work:   

Recognition and description of geomaterials; classification of coarse-grained soil (mechanical sieving) and fine-grained soil (plastic limit, liquid limit).

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Practical based assessment PRACTICAL PORTFOLIO 30
Examination 2-HOUR (INVIGILATED) EXAM 70

Alternative Assessment

Alternative assessment for practical portfolio: coursework assignment

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate the full range of learning outcomes. 


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of: 

  • a practical portfolio comprising reports on two laboratory practicals (soil and rock description, and soil classification) and a geology assignment [LOs 1, 2, 8] (30%) 

  • a 2-hour (invigilated) compulsory examination paper [LOs 1-7] (70%) 


Formative assessment takes the form of  

  • tutorial sheets for which the full solutions are provided after students have had an opportunity to try solving the questions independently [LOs 1-8] 

  • past exam questions for which numerical answers are provided, and some are worked through in revision sessions 


Feedback is given: 

  • verbally during the weekly tutorial and laboratory classes 

  • online via responses to questions posted on the SurreyLearn Discussion forum 

  • in writing, through detailed individual feedback on the geology assignment 

Module aims

  • Introduce the nature and range of geological features and hazards, and their occurrence
  • Develop the ability to recognise and describe common geomaterials and characterise soils based on their physical properties
  • Explain how water can exist within the ground and what governs its flow through soil and rock
  • Establish an understanding of total stress, pore water pressure and effective stress and how to calculate them
  • Explain the potential impact of geological and geotechnical hazards on civil engineering construction
  • Describe the sources of the principal type of construction materials and to consider their sustainability
  • Provide an overview of the methods used to establish a geotechnical model of the ground

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Recognise and describe a range of commonly occurring geomaterials and geological structures KCPT
002 Characterise engineering soils in terms of their physical properties CPT
003 Evaluate one- and two-dimensional steady-state flow problems associated with soils KCPT
004 Understand the concept of stress in soils and be to perform the relevant calculations KCPT
005 Determine the compaction characteristics of soil KPT
006 Describe a range of ground related hazards and risks and explain their significance for civil engineering construction KT
007 Recognise the sustainability issues associated with the use of geomaterials in engineering construction K
008 Use borehole logs and other field observations to construct a basic geotechnical model of a site KCPT

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 provide students with basic knowledge and practical understanding of engineering geology and geomechanics.

The module is delivered through pre-recorded videos (captured content) and written materials (guided learning), supported by problem-solving classes (tutorials) and practical work with engineering soils and rocks (laboratory sessions). Independent learning (directed reading, tutorial sheets, lab reports, geology coursework, and revision) supports and underpins the core delivery.

The knowledge and understanding acquired in ENG1075 is directly relevant to and is built on in Level 5 by ENG2104 Soil Mechanics and in Level 6 by ENG3175 Geotechnical Engineering.   ENG1075 complements ENG1063 Materials & Statics and also supports the Integrated Design modules (ENG1077, ENG2107 and ENG3183).

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: ENG1075

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Digital capabilities:  This module introduces students to the online digital resources available from the British Geological Survey, the United States Geological Survey, and others.

Resourcefulness & Resilience:  Because soil and rock are very different to the manufactured materials that civil engineers deal with, students will begin to appreciate the uncertainty and variability associated with natural ground, and the need for judgement based on incomplete information when assessing the impact on the construction and permanent works.

Sustainability:  This module will develop the student’s awareness of how many materials used in construction derive from geomaterials and, because they are a non-renewable resource, how engineering geology and geomechanics plays a vital role in sustainable development is.  (NB: there is a strong link between the knowledge, skills and activities of engineering geologists and the delivery of all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))

Employability:  This module will develop an awareness of soil and rock from an engineering perspective, and as this is fundamental to civil engineering projects, it will increase the student’s employability at an early stage, ahead of summer vacation and professional training placements.

Global and cultural capabilities:  The module makes reference to not only British Standards, but also to international standards (ISO, ASTM etc); examples of geological features and geomaterials are drawn from around the world.

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 2025/6 academic year.