An introduction to the new AGS Geotechnical Working Group

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© Daniel Imade (Arup)

The AGS’ Geotechnical Working Group (GWG) is the youngest of our committees, having been formed at Members’ Day 2017. Here the group’s Leader, Neil Chadwick, Associate, Geotechnics at Arup, introduces group, outlines their current focus areas and how to join;

Our Terms of Reference establish the overall aims of the AGS Geotechnical Working Group. These are as follows:

“To promote technical excellence to the wider geotechnical engineering professional community and to raise general awareness of the need for geotechnical engineering input to all construction projects and land asset management to clients and asset owners.”

As the name of the groups suggests, the subject area is potentially very wide. However, parts of it are already served by other industry groups, such as the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS). Where there is overlap with other bodies we will seek to supplement rather than duplicate, with the intention of establishing mutually beneficial relationships.

In practice we expect ground investigation and geotechnical design to feature prominently in our work. Having said that, geotechnical construction, monitoring and asset management will certainly be on our radar.

It is early days for the group with only three meetings held so far, but we have already identified some tasks for us to work on:

Should we test 3 x 38mm diameter specimens, or do a single test on a 100mm specimen? Or do both have their place? We have identified some possible inconsistency, confusion and conflicting opinions! We will look more closely at this with a view to producing definitive guidance.

We will be supporting the work of the Safety Working Group relating to trial pitting and, in particular, soakaway testing. For the latter we will be looking at the technical aspects, i.e. does the test provide good information, what alternatives are currently available and what alternatives could be developed in the future?

Are prevailing practices in ground investigation ‘fit for purpose’? This was a question posed in the recent AGS/BDA* Task Force survey and the response received compels us to consider it further. Cable percussion boring will inevitably be a topic of interest, but we will also be looking at sampling and testing generally. Our initial work will focus on the technical case: what do we need from our investigations, and do current techniques satisfy those needs?

We think it likely that this task will grow in size and complexity, requiring input from other AGS groups, especially Safety. We are well aware that this is a contentious and sometimes emotive subject and we will approach it accordingly. Watch this space!

We currently have a group of 13 which has been drawn from the AGS membership with both consultants and contractors of various sizes represented. The intention is to meet four times a year, generally in London, with members working on tasks individually or in small groups. We have received a few expressions of interest but we are still looking for additional members. If you are interested in joining the GWG please email us at

* British Drilling Association

This article was featured in the March/April 2018 issue of the AGS Magazine, which can be viewed here.