Geo-technical Engineers: Roles and Responsibilities
The geo-technical engineer must be able to handle a spectrum of duties on any given construction project. Primarily, geo-technical engineers are concerned with the earth, soil and rock on which a building or structure is to be erected - but their expertise must extend into a variety of fields.
Construction companies often retain geo-technical engineers from the outset, using their knowledge for the planning and design stages of their projects. A geo-technical engineer may be engaged to work in a wide variety of environments, from dense urban areas, to open rural landscapes. The position is demanding and diverse - entailing work in any weather, over long hours and with a huge potential for travel.
Before becoming a professional, a geo-technical engineer will need to undergo formal training in both an academic and professional context. Geo-technical engineering courses are competitive and may require an undergraduate degree in an associated discipline. Many geo-technical engineering courses incorporate practical elements - offering students hands-on experience to increases their chances of finding a job at a professional level. Beyond higher education, once geo-technical engineers move into the industry, professional accreditation may also be necessary.
Geo-technical engineering is part of the wider field of civil engineering and may take in elements of structural, petroleum and ocean engineering, along with associated scientific disciplines. The practical work of the geo-technical engineer may involve:
Investigation: The investigative part of the geo-technical engineering role can be divided into two stages. The first involves subsurface analysis - the collection of soil samples from the proposed construction site - in order to determine the capabilities of the environment. The second stage involves research into the surrounding physical landscape - determining whether geo-physical issues, like soil erosion, will affect building work.
Analysis: a large part of the geo-technical engineer's professional time is spent in a laboratory, analysing the results of subsurface and field investigations. Data harvested from these investigations will be used to model the future conditions of a construction project. In this capacity, geo-technical engineers should be able to use a variety of software programs - and produce reports for clients. Geo-technical engineers may also be required to develop solutions to the problems and challenges those results deliver.
Management: the role of the geo-technical engineer is more than an investigative and analytic one - it involves numerous meetings and interactions with clients for project evaluations and the management of both site personnel and materials. In this capacity, awareness of budget and time constraints is vital - and geo-technical engineers must be able to solve a spectrum of real-time challenges.
When you become a geo-technical engineer, you will be responsible for the structure and safety of the construction project. In a professional role, the geo-technical engineer must take into account significant risk and safety factors, like the potential for landslides, flooding, subsistence or even earthquakes at their proposed site. To ensure a firm grasp of industry happenings, geo-technical engineers should keep up-to-date with trade journals and other scientific developments.
The geo-technical engineer position is an on-going learning process - to take advantage of opportunities in the field, applicants should immerse themselves in the technical and societal aspects of their role.