Module code: ENG3175

Module Overview

Just about all civil engineering structures are in contact with the ground. Sometimes the ground exerts a force to be carried by the structure (e.g. retaining walls, tunnels), or provides a reaction which helps support the structure (e.g. a foundation). In some cases the ground is the structure and must be designed to support itself (e.g. embankments and slopes).

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.  It builds on students’ knowledge acquired previously in module ENG1075 Engineering Geology and Geomechanics (Level 4) and ENG2104 Soil Mechanics (Level 5), and applies it to geotechnical 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 6

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 90

Tutorial Hours: 24

Guided Learning: 14

Captured Content: 22

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Foundation Engineering:

  • Foundation types and construction methods

  • Limit states, safety, and drainage conditions

  • Bearing capacity of shallow and deep foundations

  • Stress distributions, theory of elasticity

  • Settlement of shallow and deep foundations

  • Sustainability in foundation design

  • Practical design issues and case histories

Soil Slope Stability:

  • Slope types, limit states and drainage conditions

  • Translational, circular and non-circular failure mechanisms

  • Force and moment equilibrium

  • Total and effective stress analysis

  • Practical design issues

Site Characterization: 

  • In-situ testing

  • Determination of parameters


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination EXAM (2 HOUR) 75

Alternative Assessment


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 coursework assignment integrating foundation design and soil slope stability [LO1 – LO8] 

  • a 2-hour compulsory examination paper [LO1 – LO6] 


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 [LO1 – LO6] 

  • 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 classes 

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

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

Module aims

  • Provide the 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
  • Develop 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 in-situ testing methods for determining geotechnical parameters for design purposes
  • Establish an understanding of some fundamental design issues through case studies and assignment work
  • Promote an awareness 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
006 Devise appropriate drainage measures to improve the stability of a slope KC
007 Identify appropriate site exploration and field and laboratory testing techniques relevant to the analysis and design of foundations and soil slopes KP
008 Evaluate design and construction options for foundations and soil slopes, including sustainability considerations KCP
001 Calculate the bearing capacity of a shallow (spread) foundation, distinguishing between drained and undrained loading conditions KC
002 Calculate the load capacity of a deep (pile) foundation, distinguishing between drained and undrained loading conditions KC
003 Compute stress distributions in the ground resulting from foundation loading KC
004 Estimate the settlement of a shallow or deep foundation during its working life, distinguishing between immediate and long-term settlement KC

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 assist students to acquire the knowledge and understanding required for the safe, economic and sustainable design of foundation and soil slopes.

The module is delivered through pre-recorded videos (captured content) and written materials (guided learning) supported by problem-solving classes (tutorials). Independent learning (directed reading, tutorial sheets, coursework assignment, and revision) supports and underpins the core delivery.

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

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: Students will be required to develop and submit spreadsheets as part of the coursework and will receive feedback on correctness, layout, and verification.   Using the SurreyLearn virtual learning environment to manage their learning and assessment will prepare them for lifelong CPD as professional engineers, where online provision will increasingly be the norm.

Resourcefulness & Resilience: Students will develop problem-solving abilities in order to provide viable solutions in geotechnical design. They will build on knowledge obtained in previous modules (ENG1075 and ENG2104), and learn how to make judgements when faced with the uncertainty and incomplete information inherent in ground investigation.  This will enable them to propose and evaluate solutions, and build confidence in tackling open-ended questions related to geotechnical engineering.

Sustainability: Students will acquire the tools for checking the capacity of existing foundations with a view to their reuse, avoiding expensive exhumation, disposal and replacement. There will be a focus on sustainable ways to improve slope stability that minimise excavation, transport and disposal of soil.

Employability: Geotechnical engineering is fundamental to all civil engineering projects and this module equips students to deal with the two key areas of foundations and slopes

Global and cultural capabilities: The module not only uses British Standards and Eurocodes, but refers also to international practice (e.g. American). Case studies are drawn from around the world, featuring soil and rock conditions encountered not only within the UK.

As well as building on modules ENG1075 and ENG2104, this module supports ENG3183 Integrated Design 3 (Semester 2) and a number of geotechnical modules at Level 7 on the MEng programme.

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.