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CIVL5451: Numerical and Computer Methods in Geotechnical Engineering (2014 - Semester 1)

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Unit: CIVL5451: Numerical and Computer Methods in Geotechnical Engineering (6 CP)
Mode: Normal-Day
On Offer: Yes
Level: Postgraduate
Faculty/School: Civil Engineering
Unit Coordinator/s: Dr Alonso-Marroquin, Fernando
Session options: Semester 1
Versions for this Unit:
Campus: Camperdown/Darlington
Pre-Requisites: None.
Brief Handbook Description: Objectives and Outcomes

1. To introduce students to major computer modelling techniques used to solve boundary-value and initial-value problems in geotechnical engineering.

2. To develop students’ skills at using computer modelling software to solve stress and flow problems in geomechanics.

3. To developed students ability at critically assessing assumptions behind computer models and critically evaluating the quality of numerical results.
Assumed Knowledge: None.
Timetable: CIVL5451 Timetable
Time Commitment:
# Activity Name Hours per Week Sessions per Week Weeks per Semester
1 Lecture 2.00 1 13
2 Tutorial 1.00 1 13

Attributes listed here represent the key course goals (see Course Map tab) designated for this unit. The list below describes how these attributes are developed through practice in the unit. See Learning Outcomes and Assessment tabs for details of how these attributes are assessed.

Attribute Development Method Attribute Developed
The students will develop the ability of formulating mathematical solutions to Geomechanics and geotechnical problems, as well as using computer software to solve such problems and critically appraise the quality of the analytical framework underlying the solution. Design (Level 3)
The student will develop an in-depth knowledge of state-of-the-art numerical methods, (finite element method, the finite differences method, discrete element method etc.), their strengths and limitations as they apply to problems of Geomechanics and geotechnical engineering. Engineering/IT Specialisation (Level 4)
Students will be required to communicate the findings of all their assignments in writing and those of at least one assignment as a verbal presentation. This will contribute to the development of their communication skills. Communication (Level 3)
At least one assignment will be conducted as group work and will hence contribute to developing the teamwork ability of students. Project and Team Skills (Level 2)

For explanation of attributes and levels see Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table.

Learning outcomes are the key abilities and knowledge that will be assessed in this unit. They are listed according to the course goal supported by each. See Assessment Tab for details how each outcome is assessed.

Design (Level 3)
1. Critically appraise the strengths and limitations of the various numerical techniques listed under point 4, as they apply to the solution of Geomechanics problems.
2. Use computer software to solve mechanical and hydrological problems in Geomechanics and critically appraise the quality of the solutions obtained.
3. Identify and characterise problems where coupling between mechanical and hydrological fields occurs, conditions under which coupling is important, as well as ways of assessing the strength of coupling.
Maths/Science Methods and Tools (Level 4)
4. Critically appraise the strengths and weaknesses of experimental vs numerical investigations of Geomechanics problems and the design of geotechnical engineering solutions.
5. Derive the mathematical formulation for a numerical algorithm such as finite difference or finite element method to solve mechanical and hydrological problems in Geomechanics.
6. Derive the mathematical formulation for a numerical algorithm such as finite difference or finite element method to solve consolidation problems in Geomechanics.
7. Understand the fundamentals of other numerical techniques not covered in learning outcomes 2 or 3 (finite difference method, finite element method, discrete elements method).
Assessment Methods:
# Name Group Weight Due Week Outcomes
1 Constitutive Modelling in Geomechanics No 20.00 Week 3 (Thursday, 6 pm) 4, 5,
2 Seepage & Slope Instability No 20.00 Week 5 (Thursday, 6 am) 5, 6, 7,
3 Consolidation No 20.00 Week 7 (Thursday, 6 pm) 1, 2,
4 Geotechnical Engineering Project No 20.00 Week 9 (Thursday, 6 pm) 2, 7,
5 Discrete Element Modelling Yes 20.00 Week 13 (Friday, 6 pm) 1, 2, 3,
Grade Type Description
Standards Based Assessment Final grades in this unit are awarded at levels of HD for High Distinction, DI (previously D) for Distinction, CR for Credit, PS (previously P) for Pass and FA (previously F) for Fail as defined by University of Sydney Assessment Policy. Details of the Assessment Policy are available on the Policies website at . Standards for grades in individual assessment tasks and the summative method for obtaining a final mark in the unit will be set out in a marking guide supplied by the unit coordinator.
Policies & Procedures: See the policies page of the faculty website at for information regarding university policies and local provisions and procedures within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies.
Recommended Reference/s: Note: References are provided for guidance purposes only. Students are advised to consult these books in the university library. Purchase is not required.
  • Finite Element Modelling for Civil Engineering
  • Numerical Analysis
  • Soil Mechanics Course Notes

Note that the "Weeks" referred to in this Schedule are those of the official university semester calendar

Week Description
Week 1 Lecture: Introduction to constitutive modelling
Lab: constitutive modelling of geomaterials
Week 2 Lab: Numerical solution of constrained and progressive landslides
Lecture: Constrained and progressive landslides
Week 3 Lecture: The Finite Element Method
Lab: Finite Element Modelling
Assessment Due: Constitutive Modelling in Geomechanics
Week 4 Lab: Finite Element Analysis of Seepage
Lecture: Seepage analysis
Week 5 Lecture: Slope Stability
Lab: Analysis of Slope stability using XSLOPE
Assessment Due: Seepage & Slope Instability
Week 6 Lecture: Time-dependent consolidation
Lab: Numerical solution of the consolidation equation
Week 7 Lab: Discrete Element Modelling
Lecture: Particle-Based Modelling in Geomechanics
Assessment Due: Consolidation
Week 8 Lab: Introduction to SPOLY
Lecture: Particle-Based Models in Geomechanics
Week 9 Lecture & lab: overview of tools, principles and analysis in geotechnical projects (Dr. Jason Surjadinata et al. GHD Geotechnics )
Assessment Due: Geotechnical Engineering Project
Week 10 Lecture: Computer methods in piled-raft foundations (Prof. John Small, Coffey Geotechnics)
Week 11 Lecture: Computational methods in highways and rail lines project (Dr. Kim Chan, Douglas & Partners)
Week 12 Lecture: Computational methods in industrial and residential development projects (Dr. Geoffrey Young, Douglas & Partners)
Week 13 Lecture: Oral presentations
Assessment Due: Discrete Element Modelling

Course Relations

The following is a list of courses which have added this Unit to their structure.

Course Year(s) Offered
Master of Engineering (Geotechnical) 2011, 2012
Master of Professional Engineering (Geomechanical) 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Master of Engineering 2013, 2014
Master of Engineering (Civil Engineering) 2012
Master of Professional Engineering (Civil) 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Master of Professional Engineering (Fluids) 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Master of Professional Engineering (Structural) 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

Course Goals

This unit contributes to the achievement of the following course goals:

Attribute Practiced Assessed
Design (Level 3) Yes 50%
Engineering/IT Specialisation (Level 4) Yes 0%
Maths/Science Methods and Tools (Level 4) No 50%
Communication (Level 3) Yes 0%
Professional Conduct (Level 2) No 0%
Project and Team Skills (Level 2) Yes 0%

These goals are selected from Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table which defines overall goals for courses where this unit is primarily offered. See Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table for details of the attributes and levels to be developed in the course as a whole. Percentage figures alongside each course goal provide a rough indication of their relative weighting in assessment for this unit. Note that not all goals are necessarily part of assessment. Some may be more about practice activity. See Learning outcomes for details of what is assessed in relation to each goal and Assessment for details of how the outcome is assessed. See Attributes for details of practice provided for each goal.