72765 - Geotechnical Engineering

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The course is aimed at providing students with advanced knowledge of soil mechanics and geotechnical modelling, with special emphasis on their applications to the design of civil engineering structures. On successful completion of the course, the student will: know the characteristics and peculiarities of soil behaviour, be able to determine and compare physical and mechanical soil parameters, learn skills and develop methods for the design of main geotechnical structures.

Course contents


A prior knowledge and understanding of Continuum Mechanics, Hydraulics and Soil Mechanics is required to attend with profit this course. This knowledge is considered to be acquired after having passed the following undergraduate courses: Structural Mechanics, Hydraulics and Geotechnics.

Fluent spoken and written English is a necessary pre-requisite: all lectures and tutorials, as well as all study material will be in English.


Basic concepts of Soil Mechanics and Critical State. Stress paths: drained and undrained conditions; total and effective stress analyses.

Definition of the geotechnical model and parameters.Planning and execution of site investigations and geotechnical monitoring. Geotechnical characterization by in situ and laboratory tests. Characteristic and design values of relevant parameters.

Design of geotechnical works. Limit equilibrium methods; plasticity and limit analysis.

Earth retaining structures and slope stability. Types of earth retaining structures. Gravity retaining walls: criteria for design and stability analyses. Slopes and excavations: infinite slope and method of slices.

Shallow foundations. Undrained and drained bearing capacity. Combined loading and stratified soil. Serviceability limit states and settlement calculation.

Piled foundations. Pile types and installation methods, load and integrity tests. Design of single piles, under axial and horizontal loading. Pile groups and piled rafts.

For all topics the taught concepts are applied to practical problems through specific exercises and examples.



Lecture and exercise notes.


Renato Lancellotta: Geotechnical Engineering, Second Edition. Spon Text, Routledge.

Carlo Viggiani, Alessandro Mandolini, Gianpiero Russo: Piles and Pile Foundations, First Edition. Spon Press (2012).

Teaching methods

The course is divided in two modules.

The first module is taught by Professor Michela Marchi.

The second module is taught by Professor Guido Gottardi.

Lectures by invited foreign professors can be included.

Assessment methods

Assessment is based on a final exam, which aims at assessing the understanding of concepts covered in class. The exam consists of a preliminary written test, which requires the solution of numerical exercises, and a final oral session, which deals with more theoretical issues. The exam, in both written and oral parts, concern all the topics developed during the lessons, i.e. the geotechnical characterization of a site using laboratory and in situ tests and the design of simple geotechnical works.

Higher grades will be awarded to students who demonstrate an organic understanding of the subject, a capacity of presenting the course contents in a clear and concise way and an ability of critically discussing the results achieved. To obtain a passing grade, students are required to show their knowledge of at least the key concepts of the subject, some ability for their critical application and a correct use of technical language. A failing grade will be awarded if the student shows knowledge gaps in key-concepts of the subject, inappropriate use of language, and/or logic failures in the analysis of the subject.


Office hours

See the website of Guido Gottardi

See the website of Michela Marchi