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Reliance on geotechnical codes is no substitute for knowledge says professor

GROUND ENGINEERS should rely to a greater extent on basic geotechnical principles rather than the 'legal prop' of codes and standards, according to the latest issue of the ICE/BGA journal Geotechnical Engineering .

Professor John Atkinson of City University said today's civil engineering graduates know too much about 'flawed' codes and too little about real geotechnics.

Few graduates really understand the basic principles and theories of geotechnics, he said.

They could probably not even explain to their mothers why adding a little water to dry sand makes it stronger and adding too much makes no difference.

He pointed out that many have never done a triaxial test, analysed the data and thought about the results.

Atkinson claimed that universities focus on teaching codes and standards 'because that is what employers want graduates to do on their first day at work'.

But he said many codes are flawed because they are 'written by committees who could not agree' and are out of date within a decade.

'It is much better to make sure that engineers fully understand the basic principles, which will last their lifetime, ' he said.

lSummaries of all the papers in Geotechnical Engineering , vol 155, no 3 can be found at www. geotechnicaljournal. com

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