Unsaturated Soils Guidelines – Volume 1

Unsaturated Soils Guidelines – Volume 1

Authors: Ken Mercer, Harianto Rahardjo and Alfrendo Satyanaga

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In 2019, the ACG published Unsaturated Soils Guidelines – Volume 1. Authored by Dr Ken Mercer, 3rd Rock Consulting, Professor Harianto Rahardjo, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, and Dr Alfrendo Satyanga, formerly NTU, these guidelines detail the key aspects and behaviour of unsaturated soils. The publication provides industry personnel with the information that will assist them in managing these work areas and to relate to and brief their design consultants.

Of unsaturated soil mechanics importance is the use of the soil-water characteristic curve (SWCC). Over the years, it has emerged as the key to the implementation of unsaturated soil mechanics within the engineering practice. Additionally, industry research has focused on ‘estimation protocols’ for both the SWCC and the subsequent unsaturated soil property functions (USPFs), such as unsaturated permeability function and unsaturated shear strength.

Analysis and design in geotechnical engineering have been driven by computer-solved numerical solutions. Initially, the numerical models focused mainly on the saturated soil zone and were known as ‘saturated only’ analyses. The present norm is for the numerical models to simultaneously simulate both the saturated and unsaturated soil zones. This publication’s collection of data and the analysis of previously collected data are of considerable value to numerical modellers. This volume forms a seamless means of embracing the saturated and unsaturated zones of the soil profile into a single analysis.

This unique publication provides geotechnical and mining engineers, and soil scientists, with initial-order estimation for calculating USPFs, which may assist many engineering projects. Alternatively, these initial estimations of unsaturated soil properties may simply serve as an indicator that further laboratory testing on soil samples is required in order to have a trustworthy engineering design. The guidelines seek to assist the global mining industry to establish protocols for the determination of unsaturated soil properties.

Unsaturated Soils Guidelines – Volume 1 was developed with funding and support from:

  • Australian Centre for Geomechanics
  • E-Precison Laboratory
  • Iluka
  • Rio Tinto

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Specialist publication


Australian Centre for Geomechanics


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