How Do Problems Arises in Geotechnical Works?

Written by Gouw Tjie Liong, Ir., M.Eng, ChFC, PhD. Posted in Geotechnic, News and Opinion

The problems faced by engineers in dealing with soils lie not only on the fact soils are particulate material which have much more complex behavior compared to concrete and steel, but it is also lie to the attitude of those engineers who have no enough “respect” toward the soils they faced.

Soils need to be understood and to be well treated, just like we try hard to understand and to treat a lady. There are four aspects of geotechnic that we need to learn and to understand, those are:

– The soil profiles (type and distribution)

– The ground water table, i.e. , its position, indication of ground water flow, existence of perched water table and artesian water pressure.

– Characteristics and behavior of the existing subsoils

– The right soil model to be taken for designing the planned geotechnical structure.

For all the above, time and money need to be invested. Ask the rich and successful peoples, whether they “invested” time and money to chase for the ladies that eventually became their wives?
Like those ladies, in order to understand the soil behavior, time and money also need to be given (invested) to the soils,

If the engineers understand the above four aspects well, then “comfort” will be belong to the engineers, and ultimately will also belong to the owner and the end users of the said structures / buildings.

On the other hand, if we treat the soils badly, and only give the soils unreasonable amount of time and money, just like cruel parents treat their step children badly. Then: “just wait for the retaliation” of the step children.

You don’t believe me? Look back to the failure of Sano Tower at Pluit area, North Jakarta, in 1991; or to the current “failure” of “S tower” near Cawang, South Jakarta; or to the badly settled “GB tower” at Pluit, North Jakarta. Look back to the Nicoll highway deep excavation (for MRT station) failure in Singapore in 2004; and many other geotechnical failures.

One of the causes of the those failures is the attitude of IGNORANCE or DO NOT CARE or “ASSUMED” TO KNOW BETTER than any other engineers. The over insistence of saving money, all the owner know is only SAVE, SAVE and SAVE. They do not want to spend time and money for soil investigation, and the engineers involved failed to convince the owner to spend the money!! The owner even want to save more, by using bidding process, to suppress the consultant!!! They forgot the words: “You buy peanuts, you get monkeys!”. They feel they are so clever and so able to get cheap price!!! They only want to higher engineers with low fees!!! They forgot CHEAP is not the same as ECONOMICAL. Indirectly, they treat the soils, where their structures shall be built, as step children!!

Then, one day, the step children will retaliate, and when they do so, the retaliation can be so destructive and fatal!!

So, go and tell the owner of the money: 

Written by Gouw Tjie Liong(English version: April 12, 2015)


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Gouw Tjie Liong, Ir., M.Eng, ChFC, PhD

Dr. Gouw is a certified Professional Geotechnical Engineer. He has been working in the field of Geotechnical Engineering since 1984. His expertise covering geotechnical investigation, soil instrumentation, deep foundation and excavation for high rise buildings, pile load testing (Static and PDA), pile integrity testing (PIT), sonic logging test, vibration monitoring, slope stability, ground anchors, pumping test, dewatering, micropiles, tunnelling and ground improvement works, e.g. dynamic compaction, vertical drain, vibro-compaction, geosynthetic and grouting. The jobs cover more than 180 projects in Indonesia, Singapore and Srilanka. He has a great passion in the teaching and disseminating of geotechnical engineering knowledge. He serves as lecturer since late 1984. Currently, he serves as Associate Professor at Podomoro University, Jakarta for undergraduate study, and for post graduate students at Universitas Katolik Parahyangan, Bandung, Indonesia. He also conduct regular geotechnical training for engineers. He also chaired the Indonesian Chapter of International Geosynthetics Society since 2006. He has published 80 papers and 22 technical notes.

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