Article Data Management

The Geotechnical Data Conference 2017: Best Practice, Challenges and Future Opportunities

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Geotechnical practitioners have been handling geotechnical and geoenvironmental data in digital form for many years, with the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) Data Transfer Format celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

This full-day conference will focus on the role of geotechnical and geoenvironmental data management within the wider context of digital engineering and BIM.  It will aim to showcase examples of best practice in geotechnical and geoenvironmental data management from all parts of the industry, including ground investigation specialists, designers and constructors.  There will be a focus on recent advances in the use of technology and the development of new processes. Future needs and trends will be identified, including potentially disruptive changes. All will be discussed in the wider context of digital engineering within construction generally, with particular emphasis on the role of geotechnical and geoenvironmental data management as part of the Building Information Modelling (BIM) process.

The programme for the conference can be viewed here.

Registration for this event is now closed.

Please see below for available abstracts to date.

Session 1: Client View

Improving Geotechnical Information – results from an HE Study, Tony Daly, Amageo

Highways England are one of the major asset owners in the UK. The geotechnical asset management processes that Highways England undertake involve the collection, analysis, storage and re-use of a significant quantity of information. Financial savings and decision making can be improved if the information is timely, appropriate, easy to understand and simple to retrieve. To this end Highways England have implemented a programme of information-improvement tasks one of which is looking at how geotechnical information could be improved in the future. The presentation shows the current position in Highways England and provides ideas that could help communicate information in a smarter way throughout its supply chain.

Experiences in Adopting AGS and Future Requirements, Roselyn Carroll, NGI

The geotechnical community face challenges to provide efficient and consistent collection, storage, transfer, analysis and reporting of geotechnical data to meet the evolving needs of clients and diminish inefficient work processes. The evolution of established and trusted work routines requires careful consideration to achieve a seamless transition to new standards. NGI are in the process of such a step and have realised the benefits of adapting to work with AGS formats as well as generate AGS data sets.

It is recognised that not all clients require or supply data in AGS format and so work routines must be robust enough to evolve to serve a variety of data formats and a wide range of geotechnical data. As a result, Geodata Integration for Offshore and Onshore is an area of data management that is of significant interest to NGI. Lessons have been learned in working with AGS data and work process standardised. The presentation will look at some experiences from working with ASG data, thoughts on areas for improvement to account for more specific data sets, e.g. laboratory cyclic test and the need to understand standard references, e.g. depth correction for CPTU. Important factors such as freedom to work with AGS data, for analysis, using alternative work routines to increase flexibility with data handling, reduce cost for programme licences and the need for increased exposure to AGS data will be discussed.


Session 2: International

Out Of Adversity Can Come Good Things or A Tale Of Two Corollaries, Rodney Hutchison & Brian Tracey, KGA

Looking back 25 years, PCs were in their early days and software was developing rapidly.  The geotechnical industry identified that, if our geotechnical data could be digitised, it was going to be much more useable.  Demand for data from testing houses in digital form became more frequent, with no consistency in how it was to be provided.  The plethora of spreadsheet and data file structures to be provided saw a rapid degeneration in quality and reliability, with a mild form of chaos ensuing.  Out of this came the AGS Data Transfer Format as we know it today.

Twenty years later, on the other side of the world, a series of earthquakes devastated New Zealand’s second largest city, Christchurch.  With highly variable, weak liquefiable soils underlying much of the city, the amount of geotechnical investigation data generated as part of the assessment and rebuild programme was enormous.  From the outset, a decision was taken to upload this data to an industry accessible citywide Canterbury Geotechnical Database (CGD).  The AGS Data Transfer Format again came into its own, allowing the data to be easily uploaded and thence to be universally accessible.  The outstanding success of this initiative has now led to a national NZ Geotechnical Database (NZGD), which is underpinned by the AGS Data Transfer Format.

Two adversities, two successes.

Very Large Data Sets – Challenges, Insights and Opportunities, Rory McCully, Sjoerd de Wit, Arup

The Groningen gas field is a natural gas field located in the north-eastern part of the Netherlands. Discovered in 1959, it is the largest natural gas field in Europe and the tenth-largest in the world. Due to the extraction of gas, induced-earthquakes have been observed recently in the Groningen area, resulting in the inspection and assessment of buildings within the affected area. The soils in the region comprise very soft clays, loose sands and organic materials, all of which have an impact on the seismic demand the buildings may be subject to in the future.

The scale of the project has meant significant efforts have been made to develop a geotechnical database for the project in order to enable the assessment of existing buildings. As the database continued to grow, many shortcomings became apparent. Traditional approaches to engineering assessment were no longer sufficient for the problem at hand and alternative, more efficient methods were required. Having fundamentally changed the way data is processed, other bottlenecks in the process highlighted the need to change the way ground investigations are specified, how geotechnical data is received, stored and also the limitations of current tools and digital formats. Despite the difficulties encountered in developing and using the geotechnical database, many insights have been gained, resulting in savings to both programme and cost.


Session 3: Case Studies

Consultancy Led Ground Investigation Contracting on Large Infrastructure Projects, Russell Jordan, RPS

In 2016/17 RPS has worked on the three largest UK infrastructure projects with extensive AGS data capture and management requirements.  Exclusively utilising the AGS4 data format for the first time (including sample scheduling) has presented its own unique challenges and helped to improve the quality of data produced at all stages of the investigation, from on-site data capture and verification through to laboratory analysis.  This presentation will discuss the data management protocols and continual data improvement processes adopted to ultimately produce a consistent and error-free AGS4 file to the client whilst site activities were still ongoing.

TransPennine Route Upgrade – Value Engineering through Geotechnical Data management, Callum Irving TSP
Data is at the heart of every decision and can make or break any size of project. Poor data management can and will incur large costs and delay critical path decisions. Large engineering projects generate vast amounts of geotechnical information. Confidence in quality, accuracy and precision of information is an ongoing battle for designers.

Data Management allows information to be fully utilised at early stages, therefore, reducing the cost of repeat works and change. The most crucial element of this process is mapping the project “Data Life Cycle (DLC)” and “Level of Detail (LOD)”. The DLC informs the project reporting requirements, staging and LOD. It is important that data quality and processes are not constrained by a single users
requirements and the project as a whole is considered.

In September 2015 the Secretary of State for Transport announced a high level set of aims for the Transpennine railway route between Manchester and York. This included increased capacity, Electrification, and a decreased journey Time (TRUe). TSP Projects and Central Alliance have used the TRUe project to test an innovative approach to geotechnical data management. This presentation discusses the challenges and successes of implementing the first stages of the TRUe project Data Management process and DLC methodology.

Moorside Site Characterisation Project, Matt Waddicor, NuGen

By providing a centralised store of real-time data, FugroOnLine has significantly supported NuGen’s ability to make proactive and timely decisions, and greatly reduced the management overhead required for such a large and complex investigation.
The inclusion of a specific partner area has also allowed NuGen to control distribution of data within our supply chain, assisting in the early communication of technical, safety, environmental and site management aspects of the project.

Geotechnical Data Management for Thames Tideway Tunnel (Central Section), Shawn Sismondi, Ferrovial Agroman Laing O’Rourke JV
The Thames Tideway Tunnel is the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the UK water industry. At 25km long, up to 65m deep and running below the River Thames in London, means there are significant geotechnical hazards to be managed.

The Central section is to be constructed by a joint venture of Ferrovial Agroman and Laing O’Rourke and involves 2 TBM drives, eight shafts, several connection tunnels, culverts and interception chambers. Construction will involve tunnelling, deep excavations and construction of foundations through the London Clay Formation, the variable strata of the Lambeth Group, the Thanet Sand Formation and finally the Chalk.

Reducing the Amount of Non-Digital Data Recording/Collection/Scheduling, Craig Parry, Atkins
The way data is transferred in the UK ground investigation industry is almost the same today as it was over 50 years ago, with a small number of companies embracing the advances in technology that are so easily available to us. Why have a system requiring multiple people to effectively write the same information when the data can be collected once at source by the best person for the job, digitally, with no need for editing?

With growing requirements for projects to follow a BIM system, the initial collection and transfer of data is becoming more and more important to both contractors, consultants and clients. The technology and knowhow is there for our industry to do things cheaper, faster and smarter.

Given the variable nature of the geology, management of geotechnical data will be critical to the success and safe completion of the project. It is therefore proposed that all geological and geotechnical data is to be collected digitally and stored in an AGS compatible format. The method of digital data collection to be employed on site and how the data will be integrated into 3D geological models will be discussed as well as a proposed extension for tunnels to the existing AGS data transfer format.  In particular the potential benefits with regards to improving safety for SCL tunnels will be discussed.

Information Modelling Workflows for Using Geotechnical Data in Civil Engineering -Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Subsurface Data, Katie Aguilar,Bentley
Many organisations that rely on subsurface information fail to integrate this information in to an information model for lack of tools to easily transfer and integrate the data to the model.

This disconnect is caused primarily by the fact that the geotechnical industry is still a report driven industry.  This means that geotechnical data often ends up isolated and not part of the information modelling warehouse. Moreover, this data is usually available only on a transactional basis (when a report is finalised and handed over to owner operator), rather than being a constant data flow or “plugged in” data source.

This disconnect also causes huge challenges in collaboration between disciplines and sometimes a level of mistrust to use and analyse data for multiple purposes. To bridge this gap in the geotechnical area, two actions must be taken: working with digital data, and allowing the geotechnical information to be displayed in proper context.


Digital Innovations at WSP – a system-wide single digital platform solution and lessons learned, Rae Watney, WSP
Innovation is ingrained into the way we work, now, more than ever, as over the past year we have been rolling out the use of a new digital platform. This journey has taken 5 years of internal development. Our platform allows us to collate real time data, report ground conditions, schedule chemical testing, report accurate GPS locations and produce reports more efficiently for clients, saving both time and money. No other such system is available within the UK inclusive of the needs of all aspects of our field staff. However it is the processing of this data where even greater efficiencies are being made. All of our data streams are fed into a package that can spatially plot data, analyse and compare the results against health and environmental standards. Specific data queries have been created enabling staff to map and see the data incredibly quickly. Furthermore with a button press the data may be post processed directly into a Microsoft Word template including formatted summary tables, appendices, drawings and statistical assessment. Our aim has been to reduce transcription errors and inconsistences; increase both field and office efficiencies and improve reporting presentation. Most importantly our aim has been to enable our staff to spend more time understanding the data as opposed to spending their time engaged in simple processing and formatting.
This talk will comprise a brief introduction to our system those lessons learned including the successes and the failures. It will furthermore discuss our planned future improvements and digital journey.

Session 4: BIM

The future role of Geotechnical data in the BIM process, Nicholas Nisbet, AEC3 UK

This presentation will address one of the themes of the conference, namely the role of geotechnical data in the wider BIM process. It will include an introduction to the work of buildingSMART, and international organisation dedicated to developing open data standards for BIM. These include the standards for Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), which is an open standard for structuring the data of the built environment. This is increasingly used for exchanging and sharing building or infrastructure model information as part of the BIM process. The potential for its extension to cover geotechnics, as recommended in the Government’s ‘Digital Built Britain’ strategy will be discussed, including how this might relate to the AGS data format.

Outcomes from the BIM for the Subsurface project, Gary Morin, Keynetix
In May 2015 a consortium of Keynetix, BGS and Atkins started the Innovate UK funded BIM for the Subsurface project as part of the Digitising the Construction Industry initiative.
The project was aimed at researching and developing tools to help incorporate geotechnical data in BIM and to enable collaborating partners to create, visualise and share geotechnical data both with geotechnical professionals and the wider construction team.
The research focused around a number of key areas, these included the easy access to BGS geotechnical datasets and new BGS services to allow both the upload and download of AGS files, develop geotechnical modelling capabilities within AutoCAD Civil 3D and cloud based repository for storing, sharing & re-use of subsurface data throughout the supply chain
This talk will cover the results of the project, which completed in April 2017, and the future benefits to the geotechnical industry.

National Geoscience Data Centre: Building an Open National AGS Data Store, Garry Baker, BGS
In a similar fashion to all commercial or public sector organisations we need to be able to use and access data more efficiently and effectively than ever before.  The robust AGS data standard, strongly supported by a forward thinking geo-environmental and geotechnical community, presents a fantastic opportunity to efficiently enhance and expand our national geological, geotechnical and geo-environmental datasets within the NGDC. The ambition is for ‘open’ use by all in the community while also being an effective template for other geoscientific data types and disciplines.

In the past year, we have built a data workflow to ingest, validate, accession (with metadata) and loaded AGS data received at the NGDC into an AGS version agnostic data store, followed by the delivery of the data via web services.  This represents a growing open, freely available data resource, which provides many benefits for the entire user communities, be they local or regional authorities, agencies, the industry or scientific researchers. Local and national stakeholders have been strongly receptive, and several are now including open access AGS data donation to NGDC as part of contractual frameworks.

The presentation will outline our AGS data solution, the challenges and issues we faced, the technology and applications used in our solution to ingest, store and deliver AGS data, and the work we are actively progressing to support and encourage further community open data donations, data collaborations or partnerships.  We are hoping this will provide a springboard to the community to explore the benefits of open data usage and future developments that can be driven by the AGS user community and the standard.

Article Data Management

How AGS Data Makes Organisations More Efficient?

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A series of short presentations about advances in the use of capturing and using Geotechnical Data from site, through the laboratories to report and beyond. The talks will discuss the use of AGS through the process and will include a number of case studies to show how it works for real projects.

For further information and to register to the event, please visit

Report Data Management

Data Management Group Report – 19 February 2015

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Jackie Bland, Chair, Data Management Group writes:

Following our split of the committee to focus ourselves on both the Format and the marketing of the format, we have had one meeting which was entirely focussed on Ground Modelling / AGSi.

Ground Modelling – AGSi

AGS ground model objectives

  • Transfer of derived data
  • Contain only the content of geotechnical investigation report (GIR) – as defined by BS5930 / EC7
  • Characteristic values (GDR) not in scope
  • Purpose of interpretation must be clear


  • Publish as AGS4.1 (for public consultation) – as AGS format CSV
  • Develop and publish an XML version
    • Consider including GML
    • Release as beta version (2016-17)
    • Publish as AGS5 alongside a CSV version (2020)
  • Interface with other projects – BGS/Keynetix
    • Liaise with BuildingSmart / IFC class – open dialog with committee to establish method to progress collaboration

Conference at Geotechnica in July 2015

Julian Lovell has very kindly offered us a 2 hour slot at the exhibition which we will use as a marketing/educational opportunity for AGS4, BS8574, BIM and a workshop for AGS4i.

AGS Website

Following on from the last AGS main committee meeting in November, the website redevelopment will not include any change to the AGS Format web-pages. Instead, it will be left in its current state as a sub-site of the main website. Hilary Derbyshire will continue to maintain the pages (providing she doesn’t retire!) until more funding can be found to move it to the new platform.

Article Data Management

AGS 3.1 publication now available for download

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Tags: data format

The AGS Data Format committee wishes to announce the publication of Revision 1 to the third edition of the AGS Data transfer format.

The AGS Data Format subcommittee has monitored the use of the format within the industry since the launch of AGS 3 in 1999. The committee considers that it is now appropriate to issue AGS 3.1 to include the developments which have occurred over the last few years. In accordance with section 9 of the AGS 3 publication the majority of this document includes format additions requested by the industry.

There are no major changes from AGS 3 and therefore the committee have decided to call this Revision 1 of the AGS 3 format (AGS 3.1) rather than AGS 4. The changes in this revision are new fields, groups and pick list items all sitting within the AGS 3 framework.

AGS 3.1 is compliant with the rules in AGS 3 and therefore the ? remains in all new headings and groups even though these are now in common use.

This revision brings together AGS 3, the “The AGS-M Format – for the electronic transfer of monitoring data ” published by AGS and CIRIA in 2002 and other groups and headings, which have been suggested on the AGS website and used by the industry.

A complete list of all additions, revisions and their history is available on the AGS web pages ( The AGS data format website has been updated to display all the additions in this document together will the appropriate guidance notes. The website also allows the visitor to view the field version history and an appropriate discussion threads that have contributed to the changes

It is expected that all registered users will be able to use these additional headings for projects starting after March 2005 but this is solely up to the relevant project members to agree.