Structures and Geotechnics Projects

Module aims


  • To provide an opportunity for the students to assimilate their knowledge of structural mechanics from years 1–3 in a structural design exercise that requires a detailed design to be built in the workshop and tested to failure.
  • To provide an opportunity for students to appreciate and interpret some of the various forms of structural failure – geometric, material, global, local and modes that are combinations of these.
  • To provide the students with experience in an engineering workshop environment and the importance of communication between the design and build processes, manufacturing tolerances and the general buildability of designs alongside assessing risk and general health and safety concerns.


  • To provide the students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge and understanding of soil mechanics, geology and geotechnical engineering to a realistic design problem.
  • To give the students an opportunity to use and interpret realistic data sets and make decisions about the parameters to use in design.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this course unit, students will be able to: 

  • Appreciate the different functional requirements of a structural component.
  • Conduct local and global structural stability and material checks for design strength purposes.
  • Convert and realise a design concept into a real prototype.
  • Analyse forensically how structures respond under loading.
  • Appreciate health and safety issues and write a risk assessment for working in a structures laboratory.
  • Predict flow rates and pore pressures in simple seepage conditions.
  • Derive appropriate design parameters for soil strength, compressibility, consolidation and permeability from laboratory test data.
  • Decide whether design problems involve drained or undrained loading.
  • Design a basic geotechnical site investigation that accounts appropriately for the geological context.
  • Apply the limit equilibrium method on practical slope stability problems
  • Appreciate the role of fundamental landslide remediation methods

Module syllabus

Structures: Design, Build and Test Project (DBT)

  • The third year Structures Project reinforces several aspects of the Structural Mechanics curriculum from Years 1–3 in a memorable way. The project is conducted in the second half of the autumn term, and in the early to mid-part of the spring term. It will involve students working in groups. Students are required to design, build and test a simply-supported aluminium girder to minimum cost, for which a design loading, material elements and connectors are provided.
  • Although the task is, at first sight, straightforward, it requires the application of bending theory, stress analysis, structural stability theories for beams, columns and plates, and a thorough appreciation of nonlinear behaviour. A minimum and maximum design loading is specified with the aim that over-engineered solutions are discouraged. Students then build their girders in the workshop, for which an efficient process requires an aptitude for clear communication within the teams, maintaining safe practices within the workshop, and an appreciation of manufacturing tolerances. After the girders are tested to failure, students then interpret the actual response and compare it to their predicted behaviour and suggest improvements in the structural efficiency or strength depending on the individual outcome.

Geotechnical Design Projects

  • The geotechnical design project draws upon the material presented in the Year 3 Soil Mechanics module (CI1-150), and also on the students’ earlier studies in soil mechanics, geology and geomorphology (CI2-250, CI3-350). Over four sessions the students will consider designing a foundations and slope stabilisation based on realistic design scenarios. The students need to apply a range of analytical techniques to establish sound and fully dimensioned designs that address the key technical requirements, while also considering economics, environmental, and human factors. The key objective is for the students to learn how to apply their analytical work in a creative, flexible, and practical manner that also integrates other, broader, aspects of their Civil Engineering training.





DBT: Tutorial 1 Overall beam design (global checks): 1.5 hours per group



DBT: Tutorial 2 Optimization of beam (local checks): 1.5 hours per group



DBT: Tutorial 3 Surgery session with Coordinator: (all groups combined: 4 hours in total)



DBT: Lab 1 Beam construction (up to 6 hours per group)

MAW, Lab Technicians, GTAs


DBT: Lab 2 Beam testing (all groups combined: 3 hours in total)

MAW, Lab Technicians, GTAs


DBT: Presentations Post-testing presentations (all groups combined: 4 hours in total)



DBT: Return of reports and feedback session (1 hour)



Foundation design 1 Shallow foundation design: 4 hours



Foundation design 1 Piled foundation design: 4 hours



Slope stability tutorial Commercial slope stability software tutorial: 3 hours



Slope stability design of landslide remediation using commercial software: 3 hours



CI1-130, CI1-131, CI1-150, CI2-231, CI2-250, CI3-331, CI3-350

Teaching methods

The Structures project will be run through a combination of small-group tutorials and laboratory sessions. The Geotechnics mini-projects will be tutorial based. Staff and GTAs will be available to assist with all these activities.


Assessment information will be provided separately.

Reading list

Module leaders

Professor Ahmer Wadee