Ground Risk Conference: Are you Managing Risks or Taking Risks?

22nd Nov 2023
One Great George Street, London [ View on map ]

Geotechnical engineering and geoenvironmental specialists deal with risk daily from commencement of a project through to final delivery. Working with the ground brings with it inherent risks and it can be a fine line between managing or taking risk. Our understanding of the ground is continually evolving and keeping up to date is important. 

This full day, CPD conference organised by the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists and brought to you by the Geotechnical and Contaminated Land Working Groups, will explore the management of risk across a variety of subjects, including updates to piling through layered ground guidance, underpinning and Cone Penetration Testing. We will also explore topics often not considered such as cognitive bias and learn about changes in environmental legislation and policy. 

Ground Risk Conference: Are you Managing Risks or Taking Risks? is aimed at attendees at any stage of their career, who are involved in development projects from concept and planning, through to implementation. Attendees will be provided with opportunities for networking and will have the chance to question our expert speakers.

Speakers for the event include Stephen Tromans (39 Essex Chambers), who is recognised as one of the leading practitioners in environmental law in the UK, Matthew Penfold (GEA), from the Underpinning Focus Group, Alex Lee (HKA), Chair of the National Brownfield Forum and AGS Chair Elect and Steve Wilson (EPG). 



Registration for this event is closed.



Foundation Risks & Problems; A Structural Engineer’s Perspective

Patrick Hayes, Technical Director at Institution of Structural Engineers

Patrick will draw on his own experience, member feedback and CROSS reports to highlight the most frequent and serious building foundation design issues, look at underlying causes and how structural and geotechnical engineers can work together to resolve them. The range of topics will cover shallow foundations, deep foundations and basements.


Piling Risk Assessment for Contaminated Sites

Steve Wilson, Technical Director at The Environmental Protection Group and Amy Juden, Associate at The Environmental Protection Group

The presentation will discuss the update of the Environment Agency guidance on piling in contaminated ground that is currently in progress. It will discuss some of the key contents of the new guidance.


Bias in the Delivery of Geo-Environmental Assessments

Alex Lee, AGS Chair Elect and Principal at HKA

In performing geotechnical and environmental assessments for example when we develop and deliver our models and designs then bias can and does on occasion arise. Such can bring both reputational damage and risks of litigation. Decision researchers1 have identified many biases in human judgment and decision-making. Most behavioral research addresses cognitive biases— faulty mental processes that lead judgments and decisions to violate commonly accepted normative principles. Equally important, but much less studied, are motivational biases, which include conscious or subconscious distortions of judgments and decisions because of self-interest, social pressures, or organizational context. In this presentation, the speaker will discuss several of the more common types of bias while making specific reference to examples from Geo-environmental investigations and assessments. He will also introduce how we may self-check and move towards debiasing our reports.


1 Cognitive and Motivational Biases in Decision and Risk Analysis, Gilberto Montibeller and Detlof von Winterfeldt, Risk Analysis, Vol. 35, No. 7, 2015


National Brownfield Forum Industry Review

Nicola Harries, Technical Director at CL:AIRE

Nicola will provide an overview of the National Brownfield Forum industry sector review, circulated across the brownfield sector.  The review has asked a series of questions across different themes to try and gather a national understanding of the obstacles and barriers that face Brownfield land development in the UK.  

New Challenges: New Risks

Stephen Tromans KC at 39 Essex Chambers

Stephen will take a look at the new challenges, opportunities, but most of all risks, facing practitioners.


Groundworks Litigation & Contracts

Jon Palmer, Technical Director at HKA Global 

The presentation will introduce to the scope and global distribution of engineering disputes drawn from the HKA database, with particular reference to the area of unforeseeable ground conditions, including:

  • The definition of “unforeseeable” and importance of site investigations.
  • The role of designers and contractors and difficulties determining liabilities.
  • How “unforeseeable” is addressed in conditions of contract.

The presentation comments on the common issues of geotechnical disputes, centring on areas where general principles are often overlooked. Also, an introduction to dispute resolution methods, and the role of the expert witness in these proceedings, concluding with illustrative case studies.

Basement underpinning: Are we ‘managing’ the risks?

Matthew Penfold, Principal Geotechnical Engineer at Geotechnical & Environmental Associates, Katharine Barker, Associate Geotechnical Engineer at CampbellReith, and Arash Azizi, Lecturer at University of Portsmouth

Underpinning is widely adopted in domestic basement construction with little or no (reported) impacts. However, current planning procedures often include a requirement for detailed assessment of the likely ground movements and predictions of damage. This has highlighted the lack of consensus on the likely range of movements around underpinned basements, as well as exposing the general lack of guidance and supporting literature available to practitioners and auditors alike.

To better understand these issues, a focus group was set up by members of the Geotechnical Working Group with the University of Portsmouth with the aim to take the first steps to better understand and provide predictive tools for ground movements associated with underpinned basements.

How Misunderstood CPT Data, Processes and Specifications Can Lead to Ground Risk

William Bond, CPT & Geotechnical Account Manager at Royal Eijkelkamp

Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) is a soil investigation technique that was developed some 90 years ago and is now utilised all around the world to establish soil behaviour and stratigraphy. The technique’s rapid nature, instantaneous data, multiple geotechnical measurements and high level of sensitivity make it a powerful tool for building detailed ground models. When correctly performed, processed and analysed CPT is an ideal tool to minimise ground risk. However, as a technologically advanced method, a lack of understanding can lead to erroneous and misleading data which, if unfamiliar, can be hard to identify.


Eijkelkamp Fraste UK

Eijkelkamp Fraste UK are the distributors for Royal Eijkelkamp and Fraste, covering the UK and Ireland. Eijkelkamp Frase UK supply products and services to support Soil and Water research proudly offering a one-stop solution, from Conventional & Sonic Drilling Rigs, tooling and sampling & monitoring solutions. We are innovative, forward thinking and committed to offering a wealth of knowledge, unrivalled after sales service & support.

In Situ Site Investigation

In Situ Site Investigation is a specialist geotechnical and geo-environmental site investigation company carrying out all aspects of Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) techniques as well as all methods of Pressuremeters. Our expanding array of rigs and equipment enable us to work on any site across the UK and worldwide.


HUESKER is a market leader in the manufacture of geosynthetics. Its products and services provide solutions for earthworks and foundations, roads and pavements, environmental and hydraulic engineering. We pride ourselves on constantly innovating to create more sustainable solutions and reduce the risks associated with ground engineering.


Groundsure Insights provides detailed data for every site. Built on decades of GIS and data expertise, our library includes the largest historical land use data, unique datasets, current and historic mapping delivered in a clear simple format. Our data comes as slick PDF reports or customizable GIS data, backed by superb customer support, ensuring that we lead the market in delivering certainty and clarity on environmental risk.


Element‘s UK leading ISO17025/MCERTS laboratory offers testing of soils, waters, soil vapours and ambient air. Our analysis includes Dioxins & Furans, TPH, PAH, VOC, SVOC, Inorganics, PFAS, TOPs & BARGE. Element’s other environmental businesses offer the management of hazardous materials, stack emissions monitoring and occupational hygiene services.


Envirolab is an BS EN ISO/IEC 17025 and MCertS accredited laboratory, based in Hyde, UK. Providing analytical services on soil and water for over 25 years. Envirolab do not negotiate on quality, the highest standard is set every time. Contact us on 01613684921 or


Igne enables a project’s success through the provision of integrated or stand-alone solutions to geo-environmental, site investigation, testing, UXO, geothermal energy and water supply challenges. Igne was formed in 2023 through the consolidation of Allied Exploration & Geotechnics, DTS Raeburn, Raeburn Drilling & Geotechnical, SafeLane Global (UK UXO), Terra Tek and WB & AD Morgan.


Fugro is the world’s leading Geo-data specialist, collecting and analysing comprehensive information about the Earth and the structures built upon it. With expertise in site characterisation and asset integrity, our clients are supported in the safe, sustainable and efficient design, construction and operation of their assets throughout the full lifecycle.


At Landmark Geodata, we understand that geospatial data is an invaluable asset that unlocks value in every industry. By providing property and environmental insight, our data solutions help you make informed decisions for your clients with confidence. Our extensive range of data products and expert-led services are backed by decades of experience and designed to provide clarity, enabling you to drive every land and property project forward with precision.




Alex Dent (Co-Chair)
AGS Geotechnical Working Group Leader and Associate Director at WSP

Alex is a Chartered Geologist with over 25 years’ experience in the ground engineering sector. He has both UK and international experience covering a wide range of ground conditions, market sectors and deliverables, along with associated ground investigation works. Alex is the current chair of the AGS Geotechnical Working Group.

Geraint Williams (Co-Chair)
Associate at ALS Laboratories

Geraint is an Associate at ALS’s laboratory, acting as technical lead for Europe.  Geraint is Working Group Leader of the CLWG and Chair of NICOLE’s PFAS Analytical Working Group.  He acts as AGS’s representative for the National Brownfield Forum and serves on EH/4, British Standard’s technical committee on soil quality.

Alex Lee
AGS Chair Elect and Principal at HKA

Dr Alexander Lee has over 25 years in ground risk and remediation and specialises as an expert witness. He is a Chartered Geologist and Scientist. He is a regular chair and presenter at both domestic and international conferences and is chair of the National Brownfield Forum. He sits on the NQMS Steering Group, was a former Chair of the Society of Brownfield Risk Assessors and is a Accredited Risk Assessor.

Katharine Barker
Associate Geotechnical Engineer at CampbellReith

Kat has a master’s degree in Geology from Bristol University and over 15 years’ experience in the geotechnical industry. She is a chartered geologist and provides geotechnical consultancy services for a range of ground engineering projects, including low- and high-rise buildings, slope stability analyses and ground movement assessments. Kat currently manages CampbellReith’s longstanding appointment as auditors of Basement Impact Assessments for the London Borough of Camden.

Matthew Penfold
Principal Geotechnical Engineer at Geotechnical & Environmental Associates

With a master’s degree in Engineering Geology from Imperial College and nearly 20 years’ experience in geotechnical and geo-environmental investigation and consultancy, Matthew has been involved with numerous ground investigations for a wide variety of developments in a range of geological conditions.

Matthew specialises in complex ground investigations and ground movement assessments and is a member of the AGS Geotechnical Working Group. He is involved with the recently established Underpinning Focus Group, which is working with the University of Portsmouth to better understand the ground movements associated with underpinned basements.

Amy Juden
Associate at The Environmental Protection Group

Amy Juden is an Associate of the Environmental Protection Group. She is a Chartered Geologist with extensive experience of the risk assessment and remediation of contaminated sites. She has considered the effects of piled foundations on both gas and groundwater risk on many sites. Recently she has been undertaking research on the effects of stone columns on creating preferential pathways for gas migration.

Steve Wilson
Technical Director at The Environmental Protection Group

Steve is the Technical Director of the Environmental Protection Group. He is a Chartered Civil Engineer and his early career involved the supervision of foundation works on large highway and bridge schemes. This involved supervision of many different types of pile construction including through contaminated land. He was site geotechnical engineer an a large bridge project that used deep barrette foundations drilled with bentonite support fluid using a hydrofraise. He has also worked extensively on the risk assessment and remediation of contaminated sites, including groundwater and gas risk assessments. He has undertaken research into the effects of piled foundations on gas migration from the ground.

Nicola Harries
Technical Director at CL:AIRE

Nicola Harries is a chartered geologist and chartered scientist and has 30 years’ experience within the environmental industry. She is a Technical Director at CL:AIRE and has responsibility for managing a number of projects and CL:AIRE’s training portfolio. Nicola co-ordinates the National Brownfield Forum, the National Quality Mark Scheme for Land Contamination Management Steering Group, the Sustainable Remediation Forum UK and the International Sustainable Remediation Alliance.

Stephen Tromans
KC at 39 Essex Chambers

Stephen has been for many years recognised as the UK’s leading barrister in environmental law.  He has been involved in many of the most high profile cases in this field in recent years.  He is the author of the leading textbooks on Contaminated Land, Nuclear Law and Environmental Assessment.

Jon Palmer
Technical Director at HKA Global

Jon Palmer is an Engineering Geologist with 35 years’ experience principally in structural/civil engineering consultancy based in the UK and Hong Kong prior to becoming a full-time expert witness over the past 5 years. He is currently the geotechnical lead in the Forensic Technical Services division at HKA, providing advisory and expert witness services to legal proceedings worldwide relating to construction disputes, geotechnical failures, and accidents.

Patrick Hayes
Technical Director at Institution of Structural Engineers

Patrick is a chartered structural engineer with over thirty years experience in building design.

Patrick is Technical Director at the Institution of Structural Engineers.  He leads in the areas of climate action, computational design and structural safety. He oversees the management of the CROSS-Reporting Scheme on structural and fire safety.

Arash Azizi
Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth

Arash is a lecturer in Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Portsmouth. With research and work experience in ground engineering, he specialises in experimental study and modeling of hydromechanical behaviour of soils that form or interact with infrastructure.

William Bond
CPT & Geotechnical Account Manager at Royal Eijkelkamp

William Bond is a specialist in Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) with a keen focus on data quality. William is currently the CPT & Geotechnical Account Manager at Royal Eijkelkamp and has previously worked as a Project Manager, a Technical and Regional Manager and an independent consultant specialising in the acquisition and analysis of high-quality CPT data.