CIVILENG 7407 - Unsaturated Soils

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2024

This course seeks to extend students who wish to attain advanced knowledge and skills in geotechnical engineering. It includes the treatment of problematic soils, the design of foundations on expansive soils, engineering logging of soils, and an introduction to critical state and unsaturated soil mechanics.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code CIVILENG 7407
    Course Unsaturated Soils
    Coordinating Unit Civil Engineering
    Term Semester 1
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N
    Prerequisites C&ENVENG 7069 or CEME 7306 or CIVILENG 7306
    Incompatible C&ENVENG 7112
    Assessment Exam, Coursework
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Brendan Scott

    Dr. Brendan Scott
    Email: : 
    Phone: 8313 2034
    Location: Room N154 (Level 1, Engineering North Building)
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course students will be able to:
    1. Explain and differentiate between the nature, formation and behaviour of the following problematic soils: expansive soils, collapsing soils, soft, quick and dispersive clays, liquefiable soils, organic soils and acid sulphate soils;
    2. Calculate the characteristic surface movement of a soil profile;
    3. Evaluate total soil suction and interpret soil suction profiles;
    4. Design residential footings founded on expansive soils using the following methods: deemed-to-comply; engineering principles; and probabilistic charts;
    5. Assess and report on the likely cause of distress to residential structures and recommend appropriate remediation options;
    6. Recommend appropriate design solutions for each the following problematic soils: expansive soils, collapsing soils, soft, quick and dispersive clays, liquefiable soils, organic soils and acid sulphate soils;
    7. Create engineering borelogs by manually logging soils;
    8. Estimate soil reactivity using the visual-tactile method;
    9. Calculate effective stresses using unsaturated soil mechanics theory.
    The above course learning outcomes are aligned with the Engineers Australia Entry to Practice Competency Standard for the Professional Engineer. The course develops the following EA Elements of Competency to levels of introductory (A), intermediate (B), advanced (C):  

    A A C A A A B C C A A A A A A
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.

    1 - 9

    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.

    1 - 9

    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.

    4, 7, 8

    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.

    1 - 9

    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.

    1 - 9

    Attribute 7: Digital capabilities

    Graduates are well prepared for living, learning and working in a digital society.


    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

    1 - 9
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Lectures notes will be provided and these will be available on MyUni. The computer analysis program, SLOG, will be used to design footings on expansive soils and it will be available in the CATS (Computer Assisted Teaching Suites) in the Inkgarni Wardli Building and via ADAPT.
    Recommended Resources
    References for additional resources are provided in the lecture notes.
    Online Learning
    All required learning resources and course information will be made available on MyUni.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    The course will be delivered in the format of online interactive learning modules and supported by problem-solving workshops developing material covered in the modules. In addition, laboratory classes will be used to develop skills in the engineering logging of soils.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    Activity Contact Hours Independent Study Hours Total
    Interactive learning modules 0 26 26
    Workshops 24 0 24
    Practicals 2 4 6
    Assignments (x3) 0 50 50
    Exam preparation 0 45 45
    Examination 3 0 3
    Total 29 125 154
    Learning Activities Summary
    The course will explore the following topics:

    • Expansive Soils
      • Characteristics of Expansive Soils
      • Design of Residential Footings on Expansive Soils
      • Assessment and Rehabilitation of Cracked Structures
    • Collapsing and Other Problematic Soils (soft, quick and dispersive clays, liquefiable soils, organic soils and acid sulphate soils)
    • Engineering Logging of Soils
    • Unsaturated Soil Mechanics
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Task Type Individual / Group Due
    Weighting Hurdle Criteria Learning Outcome
    Assignment 1: Soil Borelog Report Formative Group 3 - 5 15% 2, 7, 8
    Assignment 2: Residential Footing Design Formative Group 10 25% 4
    Assignment 3: Assessment of Cracked Houses and Unsaturated Soil Mechanics Formative Individual 13 10% 1, 2, 3, 9
    Exam Summative Individual Exam period 50% min 40% 1 - 9

    * The specific due date for each assessment task will be available on MyUni and is typically 6-days after having attended the laboratory session.

    This assessment breakdown is registered as an exemption to the University's Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy. The exemption is related to the Procedures clause(s): 1. a. i 1. c.
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Extensions are granted on medical, compassionate or other special circumstances recognised under the University’s Modified Arrangements for Coursework Assessment Policy.

    This course includes peer assessment for the tasks undertaken within groups. Further detail of the peer assessment is contained on MyUni.

    To maintain the integrity of the assessment tasks there is a requirement that all students within a group contribute to each assessment task. Where there is evidence that group members have not sufficiently contributed to a group assessment task, the Academic Honesty Policy may be applied.
    Assessment Detail
    Assignments 1 and 2 will be undertaken in pairs and students will submit a joint report. Students will be permitted to choose their partner on MyUni. Assignment 3 will be undertaken individually.

    Assignment 1: Soil Borelog Report (15%)
    Your group will be formed during the soil logging practical session.

    Assignment 2: Residential Footing Design (25%)
    For Assignment 2, the commercial software will be used to assist in the design of the residential footing founded on expansive soil. The software will be made available to students and will be demonstrated in workshop sessions.

    Assignment 3: Assessment of Cracked Houses and Unsaturated Soil Mechanics (10%)
    This assignment will be undertaken individually.

    Final Exam (50%)
    This course includes peer assessment for the tasks undertaken within groups.
    Further detail of the peer assessment is contained onMyUni.
    Due dates:
    Assignment 1: 6 days after attending the Soil Logging Practical session.
    Assignment 2: Tuesday of Week 10.
    Assignment 3: Tuessday of Week 13.

    Electronic submission in PDF via MyUni.

    Late penalty:
    10% per day or part thereof.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

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  • Policies & Guidelines
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