Contaminated Land Client Guide

Client Guide: The Purpose and Use of a Ground Condition ‘Desk Study’

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Published August 2022. This version replaces ‘Client’s guide to desk studies’, which was published in December 2006.

This guide is for clients to understand the value to them of a well-executed Ground Condition “Desk Study”.  It provides an overview of the purpose and use of a Desk Study[1].  Additional guidance on other relevant reports can be found in the AGS ‘Client Guide: The Purpose and Use of Geo-environmental Reports’[2].

NB The terminology used by professionals for a Desk Study can vary depending on the primary guidance being cited[3]. The term ‘Desk Study’ is used here and includes site reconnaissance when this is required.

[1] It does not attempt to provide definitive advice to ground condition specialists on how to deliver a Desk Study nor does it provide an exhaustive catalogue of the potential resources that can be consulted.


[3] For example, British Standards BS 10175 and BS 8576 use the term ‘preliminary investigation’ to encompass ‘desk study and site reconnaissance’ (also used in BS ISO 18400-202) while BS 5930:2015+A1:2020 uses the term ‘“Desk study and field reconnaissance”. Under development planning guidance, a Desk Study is the first stage data collection element of a Ground Conditions Assessment (GCA).  When undertaken under such a planning context, a Desk Study may, on occasion, be referred to as Stage 1 Preliminary Risk Assessment (PRA) and a preliminary appraisal of stability.