Article Data Management

The Geotechnical Data Conference 2017: Speaker Presentations

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The Geotechnical Data Conference 2017: Best Practice, Challenges and Future Opportunities took place on Wednesday 20th September 2017 at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham and was well attended by 143 delegates.

Special thanks to the conference sponsors: Arup, Bachy Soletanche, Bentley Systems, CH2M, ESG, Geolabs, Geotechnics, i2 Analytical, Keynetix, Soil Engineering and Structural Soils.

The conference was divided into four sessions. The four sessions were ‘Client View’ chaired by Christopher Power (Mott MacDonald), ‘International’ chaired by David Entwisle (British Geological Survey), ‘Case Studies’ chaired by David Farmer (Arup) and ‘Digital Engineering and Building Information Modelling’ chaired by Simon Miles (Atkins).

Many thanks to all the speakers who presented at the conference. The speakers, who have given approval for their presentations to be featured can be viewed below:

Session 1 – Client View
1. Roger Chandler (Keynetix) – ‘Will the AGS Disrupt or be Disrupted?’
2. Tony Daley (Arup / AECOM) – ‘Highways England Geotechnical Information Improvements’
3. Roselyn Carroll (NGI) – ‘Experiences in Adopting AGS and Future Requirements’
4. Shawn Sismondi (FLO Joint Venture) – ‘Tideway Central Geotechnical Data Management’

Session 2 – International
1. David Entwisle (BGS) – ‘International Introduction’
2. Rodney Hutchison (KGA Geotechnical) & Brian Tracey (Datatran) – ‘Out of Adversity can come Good Things or a Tale of Two Corollaries’

Session 3 – Case Studies
1. Russell Jordan (RPS) – ‘Consultancy-led Ground Investigation Contracting on Large Infrastructure Projects’
2. Callum Irving (TSP) & Paul Chaplin (Central Alliance) – ‘TransPennine Route Upgrade – Value Engineering through Geotechnical Data Management’
3. Paul McMann (Fugro) – ‘Moorside Site Characterisation Project’
4. Craig Parry (Atkins) – ‘The Digital GI Workflow’
5. Ian Joyce (Bentley Systems) – ‘Information Modelling Systems – BIM and Geotechnical’
6. Rae Watney (WSP) – ‘Digital Data Journey Refinement’

Session 4 – BIM
1. Simon Miles (Atkins) – ‘BIM Introduction’
2. Nicholas Nisbet (buildingSMART UK & AEC3) – ‘The Future Role of Geotechnical Data in the BIM Process’
3. Gary Morin (Keynetix) – ‘Outcomes from the BIM for the Subsurface Project’
4. Garry Baker (National Geoscience Data Centre) – ‘Building an Open National AGS Data Store’
5. Neil Chadwick (Arup) – Closing Address – ‘Where do we go from here?’

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 Business Practice Executive

University Meets Industry

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Engineering Geology and Geotechnical Engineering MSc courses – what is the problem?

A recent meeting arranged by the AGS on behalf of The Ground Forum brought together academics and industry representatives in order to better understand the problems and pressures facing MSc courses and the impact that these will have on the ground engineering sector’s need for qualified and competent professionals.

There are currently 15 universities in the UK offering courses in subjects that would qualify as ground engineering.  Several courses have closed in the past few years – including courses in hydrogeology, even though experienced hydrogeologists are in short supply.

So what is the problem?

University Finance:  All courses are under pressure to diversify income, and Government support is now heavily biased  towards research and research degrees.  Most universities now have a strategy in place to improve research income and increase PhD recruitment.  MSc courses continue – but only if they are profitable.

Student Numbers:   To be self sustaining an MSc course needs 16 or more students.  In the past student numbers were limited by a shortage of students completing first degrees in civil engineering and geology.  This problem has been resolved to some extent in recent years but has been replaced by new difficulties:-

  • 4 year MEng and MSci Courses:  How likely is it that someone who has spent 4 years obtaining a Masters degree in civil engineering or geology will want to do a further year in order to qualify as an engineering geologist or geotechnical engineer?   Yet universities have confirmed that 4 year first degree courses do not contain sufficient ground engineering to make someone proficient in this area.
  • Increasing Fees:  The rise in undergraduate tuition fees is likely to have three effects relevant to this discussion:
    • decrease in undergraduate enrolment
    • increased levels of student debt
    • a corresponding rise in the cost of postgraduate course fees

      A survey by Birmingham University of students who enrolled for an MSc course but withdrew before it began (‘non-arrivals’) revealed that finance was a significant factor.  When Leeds University increased course fees to £5,000 this year, there was a 40% drop in enrolments.   MSc fees next year could rise to £12,000…..

  • Withdrawal of Grants:  NERC and EPSRC funding ended some time ago.  There are now almost no grants available for MSc ground engineering students – and course fees must be paid at the door!

The problem is compounded by the relatively poor pay for ground engineers and the lower status of engineers in the UK (compared to Europe and elsewhere).

Can Industry Help?
The message that went back to Universities from Industry was – not much at present.  Companies already sponsor students and prizes; provide research projects and facilities for MSc dissertations and PhD research; make visiting lecturers available; contribute to industry sponsored bursaries; provide work experience.  Some do more than others, and some would do more if Universities were more adept at making and fostering relationships with companies. But the realities of the economic situation at present make increasing financial support a non-starter.

A number of universities offer flexible courses (eg part time, or block release courses and even distance learning).  These are welcomed and there is scope to increase them and make them more suited to employers requirements.  Closer liaison between academia and industry could improve both the suitability of courses (place, time, structure) and the usefulness of the courses (subject matter and research).

Where to go from here?

One of the most positive results from the meeting was that academics were brought together and agreed to form their own alliance for future contact with the ground industry.  This alliance is expected to meet regularly with representatives from The Ground Forum Members (eg AGS, BDA, BGA, FPS, GeolSoc, PJA, and others) to explore innovative ways to ensure that courses continue, and that they meet the needs of employers.

The Ground Forum will also consider whether there are ways of fulfilling its skills needs other than an MSc.  This would not be with the intention of abandoning the MSc as a qualification, but to widen the diversity of options available through training, very possibly delivered by Universities, but leading to certificates and diplomas rather than a second degree.

The Ground Forum has lobbied for Government recognition of the importance of ground engineering and the need for ground engineers.  It will continue to do so via a meeting of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee at the end of February 2012, and via an article in Science in Parliament that will emphasise the contribution that ground engineering makes to the economy and to emphasise the need for Government Departments that make use of ground engineering skills (eg DEFRA, DEC, BIS, etc) to also fund training and to understand the relationship between margins and industries ability to support its own professional development needs.

During the meeting it was agreed that both parties are missing opportunities to support each other and develop more effective communication. Universities have a communication network that includes both past and present students.  Industry has recruitment needs –for permanent positions but also for short term and temporary posts which could be facilitated by the university network.  Students benefit from work placements and work experience – and the company that provides it has an opportunity to assess them and their capabilities for future employment.  Similarly, companies providing dissertation projects benefit from cost effective research, and the possibility of future employees. Expect to hear more of this in 2012 …..

Article Business Practice Laboratories

Eurocode 7 the Attachments

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An update on progress

John Powell – Technical Director Geolabs and Independent Consultant
David Norbury – Independent Consultant

We trust that by now all readers are aware that, in addition to the two parts of Eurocode 7*, there are a number of other Standards which are required to make up the complete set for use in ground investigations and geotechnical design practice.  There are the National Annexes that go with the two parts, and then there are a number of attachments which are called up in Eurocode 7 Part 2.  These are not all yet available, and this article provides an update on the current position in 2011.

A number of the Standards have been published and implemented into UK practice, as listed in Table 1.  At the same time as implementation, the corresponding parts of any conflicting BS have been withdrawn, hence Clauses 3.2 and 3.3 of BS 1377 Part 9 no longer exist and should not be referred to in specification, practice or reporting and BS5930 has undergone two sets of amendments as highlighted in Table 1

Table 1                        Standards published and implemented at the time of writing

Standard number Coverage of Standard Comment
BS EN ISO 22475/1 Sampling and groundwater measurement Implemented. Changes incorporated in BS5930+A2
BS 22475/2 Qualification of enterprises and personnel Now published as normative British Standards.
BS 22475/3 Conformity assessment of enterprises and personnel
BS EN ISO 22476/2 Dynamic probing Implemented
Clauses 3.2 and 3.3 of BS 1377 Part 9 withdrawn. Changes incorporated in BS5930+A2
BS EN ISO 22476/3 Standard Penetration test
BS EN ISO 22476/10 (TS) Weight sounding test Implemented; not widely used in UK
BS EN ISO 22476/11 (TS) Flat dilatometer test
BS EN ISO 22476/12 Mechanical CPT Implemented but no action as no precedent BS
BS EN ISO 14688/1 Soil description Implemented. Changes incorporated in BS5930+A2
BS EN ISO 14688/2 Soil classification
BS EN ISO 14689/1 Rock description and classification

That is a total 11 standards to date that are available for use in the UK.  The implementation of these has not been straightforward and some key issues will require further work at national and European level.

However, the story does not end there as a number of other Standards listed in Table 2 have now been drafted, commented upon and have finalised text and are due to be published shortly, and possibly this year.

Table 2                        Standards that will shortly be published

Standard number Coverage of Standard
22476 – Field testing /1         Electrical Cone and piezocone penetration tests
/4         Ménard Pressuremeter
/5         Flexible dilatometer
/6         Self boring p/meter
/7         Borehole Jacking test
/8         Full displacement p/meter
/9         Field vane test
22282 – Geohydraulic tests /1         General rules
/2         Water permeability test in borehole without packer
/3         Water pressure test in rock
/4         Pumping tests
/5         Infiltrometer tests
/6         Closed packer systems

This list comprises a further 13 standards that will need to be implemented into national practice within 6 months of publication.  That will require a major effort by industry at a time of difficult trading conditions.  This is not a happy coincidence in timing.

There are also a number of other Standards, (20 or so) which are further from publication, but which are called up in EC7 Part 2.  The date of publication of these Standards is not known, but is likely to be within two to three years.

And that is still not the end of the story.  Work has begun in other areas of investigation and testing on Standards which are not, at this stage, referred to in Eurocode Part 2; that omission will be corrected as the Standards are published.
The UK mirror committee (B/526/3) is charged with the implementation of all these Standards in a timely manner, but we cannot do this alone.  We can publish news editorial as the above listed Standards come into circulation, but we need the help of industry.  In particular, we aim to encourage volunteers to digest and publish critical but helpful summaries of the new Standards.  This was carried out for those Standards already implemented (22476/2 and 22476/3, 14688/1, 14688/2 and 14689/1) and the relevant articles were published in Ground Engineering.  The take up of these was still slow, and we will all need to do better in the years to come.  The main reason for this is that if we do not implement smoothly and rapidly we will be operating parallel systems of old and new. This will be inefficient and cause errors and misunderstandings.

Finally, readers should note that there are maintenance and feedback systems in place for getting standards corrected and amended.  This is not an easy or rapid process, but if you have any critical comments please submit these officially to BSI (cc to authors) and they will find their way to B/526/3 for action.  It is not intended that the Eurocodes and the attachments will be fossilised as at the time of publication, and so UK industry can provide a positive lead in Europe to making these Standards better.

NOTE to READERS – amendments to the DP and SPT EN ISO Standards are shortly to be published; whilst the changes in these align closer to UK practice,keep your eyes open for these and other changes.
*Note that Corrigenda have been issued for both Part 1 (2009) and Part 2 (2010) of EC7

Article Contaminated Land Laboratories

BS 10175 Updated

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BS 10175:2011 (Investigation of Potentially Contaminated Sites – Code of Practice) was published in March 2011. It is much improved compared to the 2001 version both in content and the way that guidance and information is presented. It meets the initial brief for the revision and has also addressed a number of other issues (see Box). There have been many changes and those familiar with the old version should not assume that they know what the new version says. It must be read, pondered on, and digested.
Unfortunately, there is no reason to expect those who ignored the old version to pay any more attention to the new one unless induced to do so by regulators and informed potential clients. Contamination has been an issue for at least 35 years (the Greater London Council first published guidance in 1976) but we still see reports that would have been regarded as poor thirty years ago. The bottom end is as bad as it ever was. Some reports proudly announce that they have been done in accordance with BS 5930 with no mention of BS10175 thus revealing the writer’s ignorance of good practice.
There is a place for well crafted combined geotechnical and geoenvironmental investigations that properly address both aspects. However, there remain some geotechnical specialists who still think that a few samples taken from random depths from a few random locations and analysed for an unjustified suite of potential contaminants constitutes an adequate investigation for contamination. I should add here, that when I have checked, the culprits have not been AGS members – and that in itself says something about them.
PPS23 (Planning Policy Statement 23: Planning and Pollution Control – Annex 2: Development on Land Affected by Contamination) is about to be withdrawn. This currently indicates that site investigations for contamination should be in accordance with BS10175:2011. It seems likely to be replaced by a single phrase in the simplified planning guidance that the government is intending to introduce. This will make it all the more important for AGS to continue to try to educate both its members and clients about good practice.


BS10175:2011 What has changed?

BS10175  gives recommendations for, and guidance on the investigation of land potentially affected by contamination and land with naturally elevated concentrations of potentially harmful substances, to determine or manage any risks.

The brief for the revision was to:

  • align BS 10175 with International Standards (e.g. ISO 10381 series) especially those adopted as British Standards
  • update in relation to legislation and authoritative guidance
  • update technically
  • include additional guidance on sampling uncertainty
  • extend guidance on application of on-site analytical methods (align with draft BS ISO 12404)

All these issues have been properly addressed during the revision. In addition, a number of other significant “general” changes have been made:

  • clearer separation between “Normative text” (i.e. guidance) and informative text
  • clarification of some terminology, e.g. “contamination”
  • emphasise on the importance of early consultation with regulators and including provision of information on the role of local authority “contaminated land officers”
  • tightened reporting requirements
  • introduction of  a requirement concerning the qualification of drillers etc. (as in CP 5930 as amended 2010).

The importance of the conceptual model is emphasised and the process of investigation is characterised as one that seeks to reduce the uncertainty in the conceptual model.

The definition of “contamination” has been amended to:

  • Presence of a substance or agent, as a result of human activity, in, on, or under land, which has the potential to cause harm or cause pollution.

There is no assumption in this definition that harm results from the presence of contamination.
The change aligns BS10175 more closely with the definition in “BS ISO 11074 Soil quality – Vocabulary” and helps to make it clear that the definition in Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 has only a narrow application. It should also help to discourage the use of the oxymoron “natural contamination”.

Requiring Planning Conditions or similar regulatory requirements to be noted in the introduction to reports will, hopefully, discipline consultants to get proper briefing from their clients and to consult regulators when they are required to do so (the potential benefits of consultation with regulators when there is no formal requirement is also emphasised). It will be clearer whether regulatory concerns have been addressed and proper consultations carried out.


Article Safety

Be On Your Guard

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During recent years our industry has made great progress in providing rig guarding for piling and drilling rigs. Responding to the well publicised campaign from the HSE, it is now the case that we can expect that the rigs that are deployed for applications from well-drilling and SI through to heavy foundation work will be guarded. Specifically, this means that fixed or interlocked guards are normally practicable extending from 0.5m to 2m above ground level.

Of course, this is designed to protect the workforce and anyone who passes nearby to a rotating auger or drill string; and rightly so. But the responsibility does not rest entirely with the contractors.

To quote the CDM regulations, “Every designer shall in preparing or modifying a design…avoid foreseeable risks to the health and safety of any person carrying out construction work”.

But how does this apply to rig guarding, something which must seem esoteric when designing a piled basement or grouting project or even a site investigation?

It is HSE guidance that if the piling or drilling equipment cannot be operated with sufficient guarding then it is likely that the designer has not adequately considered the health and safety of those constructing the works. In other words the designer has failed to allow adequate working space for the piling rig to be operated safely.

This places a wide responsibility on our geotechnical professionals. Given the huge range and constantly changing equipment that is available to contractors, this obligation is hard to meet without specialist advice.

Frequently there is no single answer to a particular set and combination of conditions. Furthermore the industry continues to innovate. Contractors are now able to offer “wing-guards” that permit working very close to a wall or obstruction. Solutions can be found to safely drill or pile in corners and even electronic guarding is available on some machines, obviating the need for physical barriers altogether. Whilst this is of benefit to the project, it is essential that the designer considers all of this at design stage.

Given the progress that is being made designers (and for that matter CDM Co-ordinators) need to involve the specialist supply chain at an early stage. Advice should be sought and then taken into account in the design of the works. These discussions are likely to take place months if not years before actual construction takes place. For this and other reasons any specialist input should be recorded, preferably in writing and it should certainly form part of the CDM risk assessment.

Professionals need to be diligent and careful in identifying the risks associated with geotechnical work. By seeking advice from specialists, up-to-date techniques and methods can be incorporated into the safe execution of the project and into the relevant risk assessments. Only by doing so can we ensure that the protection offered by physical guarding extends to us all.

Article Business Practice Executive

Apprentices – back in vogue

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Equipe Training Limited has delivered its’ first courses in September from their newly established Drilling AcademyTM near Banbury, Oxfordshire.  The courses were delivered on behalf of the British Drilling Association and comprised Module 5 – Site Management and Module 6 – Drilling and Grouting of the Land Drilling Sector Apprenticeship Scheme.
Brian Stringer, National Secretary of the British Drilling Association, said that “the BDA were delighted and impressed with the courses’ delivery and the very professional arrangements, content of the courses and the manner in which they were delivered”.

The courses were attended by apprentices from leading UK drilling companies and incorporated theory sessions provided from the Drilling AcademyTM as well as a site visit to an operational site managed by M&J Drilling. Keith Spires, Operational Director of Equipe Training, said that “the apprentices were being given a unique opportunity to experience all aspects of their trade”.

The apprenticeship modules, in their current format, were developed in 2007 by the British Drilling Association working with ConstructionSkills (formerly CITB) in response to UK Government initiatives for improving adult learning and establishing a skilled workforce. It is reported that ConstructionSkills, which oversees training within the construction industry, has secured £133m from government for a three year skills delivery plan which includes over 2,000 specialist apprentice starts.

The BDA and Equipe will be working together to encourage the geotechnical and drilling industry to provide new Apprentices for courses starting in early 2009 and welcomes any enquiries.


EQUIPE have applied to join the AGS and course information will be circulated to Members when available.

Article Data Management

Diggs ploughs on in quest for improved data handling

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The DIGGS (Data Interchange for Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists) working group is continuing.  DIGGS is an international initiative to extend the data transfer format not only to other countries, but also to other parts of the geotechnical industry, such as piling and infrastructure management. It has been based on the AGS data format, which is the only truly international data transfer format in use. At the same time the opportunity has been taken to implement modern IT technology such as XML and GML.

DIGGS is promoted by:

  • The United States Federal Highways Administration
  • The United Kingdom Highways Agency
  • Twelve US Departments of Transport
  • The United States Geological Survey
  • The United States Army Corps of Engineers
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • CIRIA (the UK Construction Industry Research and Information Association)
  • AGS (the UK Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists)
  • COSMOS (Consortium of Organizations for Strong-Motion Observation Systems)
  • The University of Florida

Further details of DIGGS can be found at  and

DIGGS will be implemented through a group of SIGs, (Special Interest Groups) who will look after the national and disciplines within the geotechnical industry.   In the UK this will be the AGS and the next version of the AGS data format, which has the development title of “AGS4”, will be DIGGS compliant.  Work is underway to ensure that this version is thoroughly integrated with the interests of the UK Ground Industry, including the provision of specifications and contract clauses for its use.     Documentation for the users, developers and managers of companies using the format is in preparation.

Before it can be adopted, it is essential that the relevant software is available to implement this new format.  Whilst specialist software will be required to obtain maximum advantage, the fact that the format is in the universal XML language will open up the possibilities of using many other software packages directly.  This will govern the release date of the format, and it is inevitable and intentional that AGS3 will continue for some time into the future. It is intended that software to convert AGS3 files to AGS4 will be made available.

DIGGS will build on the AGS data format and be an opportunity to promote the work carried out by the Ground Investigation industry, to raise the profile of work and provide the means to streamline the work process. It provides the next steps for improved handling of data at all stages of a project from investigation through to construction and completion.  It will include geotechnical, geo-environmental, construction and asset management information within one system.



A Workshop will take place on 18 June, 2008 at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, the spiritual home of the AGS Data Format group.  The Workshop is provisionally entitled “Site Investigation to Piling, and the availability of Electronic data”.

Papers are invited, in particular case histories are always welcome

Article Laboratories

Classification and testing in BS 5930 and BS 1377-9

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The BSI Committee for Geotechnical Testing has been working to help provide guidance on the changes to geotechnical testing methods introduced by new EN ISO standards.

The National Forewords to the following standards have been changed and now provide clause by clause details of where the new standards impact on BS 5930 and BS 1377-9:

Geotechnical investigation and testing. Identification and classification of soil. Identification and description

Price £72*  Member Price £36     ISBN 0 580 40481 1

Geotechnical investigation and testing. Identification and classification of soil. Principles for a classification

Price £72*  Member Price £36     ISBN 0 580 47508 5

Geotechnical investigation and testing. Identification and classification of rock. Identification and description

Price £102*  Member Price £51     ISBN 0 580 43574 1

Geotechnical investigation and testing. Field testing. Dynamic probing

Price £118*  Member Price £59  ISBN 0 580 47636 7

Geotechnical investigation and testing. Field testing. Standard penetration test

Price £102*  Member Price £51     ISBN 0 580 47637 5

These amended documents are now available.

The relevant sections in the BS documents are now superseded and BS 5930 and BS 1377-9 are being amended in the short term to remove those conflicting sections.

In the long term a much broader revision of the British Standards is necessary, not only to cater for further European test methods, but particularly following the publication of BS EN ISO 22475-1 Geotechnical investigation and testing which was implemented in March 2007.

It is important to note that where conflict arises between British and European standards the BS EN ISO documents take precedence and should be used.

Ways to order:
Contact BSI’s Customer Services team quoting reference 5390D-SA
Call + 44 (0)20 8996 9001
Fax + 44 (0)20 8996 7001

*P&P: Charge of £5.95 UK (inclusive of VAT) added to subtotal.


Article Business Practice Data Management

Drilling competence – what’s the current proof?

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BDA Driller Accreditation is dead and buried. Its passing away went largely unannounced but it no longer exists. The British Drilling Association (BDA) has rolled out a new model, more fit for present and ongoing times. It’s called BDA AUDIT and features many improvements over its predecessor, being more embracing, inclusive and rigorous. With CDM 2007 making greater demands on the assessment of competence prior to workforce engagement, new BS EN geotechnical standards for auditing of drilling personnel and CSCS requirements, BDA Audited drilling operatives will supply the necessary third party proof of competence.

There’s been a sea change since the BDA Driller Accreditation Scheme came into being during 1991, some 16 years ago. The Scheme was originally introduced because of concerns about drilling quality, expressed principally by the Department of Transport and the Property Services Agency. The BDA was essentially charged, by those major clients of ground investigation, to produce a driller competence assessment system and ongoing auditing of competence. BDA Driller Accreditation was the result, becoming widely accepted by the geotechnical community and specified in contract documentation.

The same quality concerns exist today. Even more so because of the dependence on obtaining representative samples for more sophisticated laboratory testing, less experienced site supervision because of the skills shortage amongst clients and engineers to meet the volume of work, and commercial pressure. Rubbish in, rubbish out will always apply!

While BDA Driller Accreditation halted any further declines in quality, it had limitations in how far it could go to improve standards. This was partly a funding matter. Contractors were solely being asked to pay fees for their drillers to become accredited in the expectation that their drilling workforce would be employed. The reality was that non BDA Accredited drillers continued to be employed by industry clients. A company will only pay additional to an external body if it believes that a further benefit can be gained.

However the main reasons for moving on from BDA Driller Accreditation were to do with what was happening nationally. National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs, and in Scotland , SVQs) were becoming the measure of competence. NVQ assessment, conducted properly, is a far more rigorous and time involvement process. It is a government qualification and far more recognisable than any single industry sector award. The BDA grasped the opportunity in 2001 to develop and introduce NVQ Land Drilling, level 2, for all drilling operatives whatever their drilling discipline or position in the drilling crew. Since then the BDA has worked with ConstructionSkills (formerly CITB) to try and ensure consistency of assessment.

NVQ Land Drilling qualification, while supported by the BDA as a first step, is not sufficient. Any qualification is held for life, but without revisiting cannot be regarded as current competence. The ability to do a job today is not proven because of qualification in the past. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) evidence is required to maintain an individual’s status. The recent introduction of BS EN ISO 22475, part 3, on geotechnical sampling, requires that drilling operatives are audited regularly, post initial assessment – this is a European endorsement that ongoing auditing by an independent agency is required.

There are variations in the quality of NVQ assessment. Despite the BDA being involved it does not have control of the process. The BDA is highly critical that certain individuals may have become NVQ qualified through fast-track procedures, often through no fault of their own but because of lack of awarding body vigilance. This is a specialist industry and certain NVQ Assessors / Centres may not have the necessary experience to assess to the industry’s high standards.

The BDA AUDIT requirements are that any applicant is in possession of NVQ Land Drilling and a valid / current CSCS card (Construction Skills Certification Scheme card). This proves to the BDA that the individual has obtained an NVQ and passed the ConstructionSkills basic Health & Safety Test. An on-site audit is conducted on the individual by a BDA Auditor before Audited status is awarded. This initial audit covers competence, safety and equipment. Should non-conformances be identified they have to be closed off before the issue of a BDA Audited card. The card is the only proof of their status other than enquiry to the BDA office. The process repeats itself every 12 months.

The BDA took a real risk, on behalf of both sides of the industry, some 6 years ago, in deciding that NVQ / CSCS was the way forward and that a new BDA Auditing process would establish itself with the demise of BDA Driller Accreditation. It wasn’t easy giving up a completely in-house process. We do encourage AGS members to adopt this highest proof of drilling operative competence by specifying BDA Audited drilling personnel. Model clauses for insertion into tender documents are suggested below.

  1. All drilling operatives (Lead Drillers and Drillers) employed on the Contract shall hold a valid and current Audit card of competence applicable to the work and specific drilling operation on which they are engaged, as issued by the British Drilling Association Limited under its BDA Audit or an equivalent body in a State of the European Union.
  2. All drilling operatives (Lead Drillers and Drillers) employed on the contract shall hold a valid and current CSCS blue skilled (Land Drilling) card as issued by Construction Skills Certification Scheme Limited or an equivalent body in a State of the European Union.

We can assist with further guidance as to definitions and application of the model clauses.

Brian Stringer, National Secretary, BDA.            Tel: 01327 264622

Email:                  Fax: 01327 264623


Article Laboratories

Soil Classification

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BS EN ISO 14688-2, together with BS EN ISO 14688-1, establishes the basic principles for the identification and classification of soils on the basis of those material and mass characteristics most commonly used for soils for engineering purposes. The relevant characteristics may vary and therefore, for particular projects or materials, more detailed subdivisions of the descriptive and classification terms may be appropriate.

The classification principles established in standard permit soils to be grouped into classes of similar composition and geotechnical properties and, with respect to their suitability for geotechnical engineering purposes, such as:

  • Foundations Ground improvements
  • Roads Embankments
  • Dams Drainage systems

BS EN ISO 14688-2 is applicable to natural soil and similar man-made material in situ and redeposited, but it is not a classification of soil by itself.


Identification and description of rock are covered by BS EN ISO 14689-1

BS EN ISO 14688-2:2004 partially supersedes BS 5930:1999, which remains current.


ISBN 0 580 47508 5

Member Price £34

ISBN 0 580 40481 1

Price £68*
Member Price  £34

Contact BSI’s Customer Services team

Tel: 44 (0)20 8996 9001
Fax: 44 (0)20 8996 7001

When ordering please quote marketing reference 14688G-N

Article Data Management

Electronic tendering protocol for geotechnical works

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  • All electronic information provided on an extranet shall be properly indexed and organised with all information relevant to the geotechnical works being easily identifiable.
  • All electronic information provided on a CD or DVD, or similar, shall be properly indexed and organised with all information relevant to the geotechnical works being easily identifiable.
  • It is preferable that only information specifically relating to the geotechnical works is provided.
  • All electronic information shall be provided in .pdf format that is easy to read and locked so that no unauthorised amendments can be made.  This information may include:
  1. Contract conditions
  2. Specifications and schedules
  3. Site investigation reports, including the borehole logs
  4.  Drawings
  • Drawings shall also be provided unlocked in AutoCAD .dwg format
  • Relevant forms shall also be provided unlocked in MS Word or Excel format.
  • All schedules shall also be provided unlocked in MS Excel format.
  • Site Investigation data shall also be provided in AGS format.