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Conference considers future of geotechnics

Safety concerns and fewer engineers could drive more automation and remote management in the geotechnics industry, according to speakers at a Bam Ritchies conference yesterday.

Speakers at the 50/50 conference, organised by to celebrate Ritchies’ 50th anniversary, were asked to look back over developments in the industry in the last 50 years and forecast what developments are likely in the next 50 years.

“Construction is an inherently risky business and, although we have come a long way over the last 50 years, I don’t believe that it possible for the industry to be incident free,” said former HSE tunnelling and geotechnics specialist Donald Lamont. “The focus needs to be on minimising the risk and in the future that may mean taking people out of the process and greater automation.”

Former BGA chairman Rab Fernie suggested whether investment in technology would remove the need for judgement in the future. “New engineers don’t have practical experience because they are no longer sent to site to observe and there is an increase in work being carried out overseas where the engineers have not seen the site they are working on,” he said.

University of Southampton professor of infrastructure Chris Clayton added that larger numbers of industry standards was resulting in less innovation in geotechnical techniques. He urged the industry to match the move towards standardisation and automation with greater quality control.

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