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  This problem has been resolved to some extent in recent years but has been replaced by new difficulties:-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.
Article Business Practice

AGS data: improving the flow

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Mark Shaw of the Business Practise Working Group recently attended a meeting of the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) Technical Committee to further explore areas of common ground with respect to IT and e-Commerce.

Three main issues were discussed:

  • Online Bidding
  • Electronic Tendering Protocol
  • The use of AGS data format

Online Bidding

Both the AGS and FPS have now published position papers concerning the use of on-line bidding for the procurement of geotechnical contract.  Both organisations have expressed some reservations. The full position papers can be found on the AGS and FPS websites ( and

Electronic Tendering Protocol  

A survey of AGS members carried out in 2003 revealed that nearly 75% of those who responded had tendered for contracts based upon electronic information and of those 75% indicated that tendering based upon electronic information had not saved them any time. The main reasons highlighted for this were:

  • Poor Indexing (Can’t find the right information).
  • Too much irrelevant information (Information Overload)
  • Fixed formatting (Not able to manipulate the data provided)

In an attempt to address this situation, the FPS and AGS have prepared a joint protocol for the presentation of electronic data when provided for tendering purposes. The purpose of the protocol is to encourage good practice with respect to indexing, the provision of relevant information, and the use of open electronic formats when inviting tenders based upon electronic information.

The AGS and FPS are seeking to promote the protocol within standard specifications for geotechnical works such as the new specifications for Site Investigation and the specification embedded walls.  A copy of the protocol is provided below.  If you have any comments to make on the protocol or how and where it should be promoted please contact Dianne Jennings at

AGS Data  

The AGS data format is long established as the preferred format for exchanging electronic geotechnical and geo-environmental data within the UK and increasingly in many other countries around the world. The advantages in rapidly sharing data in a universal format between different organisations are clear and yet there are still many organisations still not using the format. The “cry” from the site investigation contractors is that AGS data is not being demanded by their clients. The “cry” from end users, such as FPS members, is that the data is not available.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that most site investigation contractors are both willing and able to produce AGS data and equally many sub-contractors and sub-consultants are keen to use AGS data.  There seems to be some blockage in the chain preventing the data getting from source to user (see diagram).

The FPS and AGS have agreed jointly to attempt to clear this blockage, focusing in the first instance on the use of AGS data by piling contractors.

This problem is trying to be addressed from both ends:

  • The FPS has requested its members to routinely ask for AGS data when tender invitations are received without it. Although this may not always elicit data, the regular request should help build awareness that there is a need for the data.
  • The AGS is seeking to encourage site investigation contractors to promote the need for AGS data and to make it readily available. Simple actions make include :
  • Using the AGS data format logo on boreholes and reports to indicate that AGS data is available.
  • Making AGS data available on request either free, or for a very nominal charge (giving due consideration to their contractual obligations).
  • Being aware that when requested the AGS data is needed rapidly, typically within half a day from receipt of the request, for tendering piling contractors.

Quite understandably site investigation contractors may feel it inappropriate to provide the information to an organisation that is not their client.  This difficult issue is still being considered further by the Business Practice working group.  In the meantime, a questionnaire is being prepared to gather the thoughts and views from site investigation contractors and this will be distributed later in the year.

If you have any comments or thoughts on any of the issues raised please contact Dianne Jennings who will put you in contact with the relevant working Group member.

Article Business Practice Data Management Executive

The site investigation industry is launching a series of initiatives to improve client awareness, says Jim Cook.

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The need, quality and sufficiency of site investigations has been of paramount importance since the early 1960s and the issue of client awareness of the benefits of site investigation have been well-discussed within construction industry.

In the late 1950s, Foundation Engineering produced the film “The problem below” to address this issue. The film described and projected the need and benefits of carrying out site investigations. A project in Boness in Scotland was selected for filming.

I recently saw this film again for the first time in about 20 years. Although the aircraft at Glasgow Airport was a Viscount turbo prop and the drilling rig a Conrad “slip rope” rig (with square boring rods and tools), the requirements for quality, sufficiency, client understanding and “buy-in” were well portrayed and appeared to be well understood.

Today’s clients are more likely to develop a project and move on as fast as possible to the next one, with many (if not all) the responsibilities and liabilities being devolved down the supply chain to architects, consultants and builders, by the use of sometimes onerous terms of engagement, including multi-assigned warranties. In dealing with these clients, the ground is generally taken for granted. When projects involve the redevelopment of brownfield sites the concerns of contamination and perceived high risk associated with this seem to become more evident, however.

Local planning authorities’ requirements and stipulations for such sites generally ensure the client and their team consider the geoenvironmental issues at pre-planning submission stage. The desire to obtain planning permission and the need to tackle contamination risk issues act as drivers for undertaking geoenvironmental investigations. In many instances however, the initial site investigation ignores some of the main geotechnical issues. How often is a geoenvironmental site investigation – which usually does not even include the most basic insitu geotechnical tests such as a standard penetration test – offered to a piling contractor for them to design, price and carry out foundation work?

When clients are in the early stages of conceiving a project they need to establish a funder, insurer and a project management team as well as the usual engineering consultancy service providers. The consultancy service providers called upon in the initial stages are generally architects and structural engineers, who usually may only see the above ground structure. The introduction of the geotechnical adviser into a project team at an early stage has been strongly advocated over the past ten years by the Institution of Civil Engineers and Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) but in many cases this is not happening.

The structural engineers in some instances see themselves as capable of undertaking this geotechnical role or are unaware of the good practice guidelines laid down by AGS and others. To address the situation and develop more client awareness, the industry needs access to the commercial team. To this end, AGS will shortly be completing its project benchmarking scheme, which will provide an assessment and score for each project where there is ground engineering site investigation input.

The scoring system is based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the particular geotechnical activities undertaken within ten selected groupings, including one for client satisfaction. This initiative is likely to eventually provide a substantial database of assessed projects, which can then set the norm for good, moderate and poor site investigation input. Information from project benchmarking and KPI scoring can also be developed to provide the client’s commercial team with a simple “traffic light” risk assessment of the project. It will then be simple to show the benefits of carrying out a full ground engineering site investigation service – desk study, phased intrusive ground study, associated supervision, laboratory testing and ground engineering advice.

The AGS and Federation of Piling Specialists recently had discussions concerning the quality and sufficiency of site investigation reports provided to foundation contractors, and agreed to consider a joint advisory paper, likely to be called “Guide to foundations”, published as part of the AGS Clients Guides. CDM regulations are also expected to be included. AGS members recognise the need for the Site Investigation Steering Group (SISG) series of publications to be redrafted and published as soon as possible, as the 1993 editions are well out of date. There are plans within the fraternity to arrange for the SISG Specification (Yellow book) to be redrafted within the next year or so.

Jim Cook is chairman of the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists and director of Buro Happold’s Ground Engineering group.

The following article originally appeared as a ‘Talking Point’ in Ground Engineering, June 2005.