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Softly does it

Spotlight - Geotechnics

Geotechnical engineers are increasingly relying on software packages for data management.

Software and computer aided design equipment have become essential tools for geotechnical engineers. Most now use databases, ground modelling packages and sectioning software to help predict ground conditions and design accordingly.

Many leading consultants and contractors - including Arup, Mouchel Parkman, Scott Wilson, Costain and Fugro - use gINT database software for storing and manipulation data.

Mouchel Parkman is using the software in its role as contractor's consultant on the A419 Blunsdon Bypass in Wiltshire.

'We use the gINT database to pull in and analyse the AGS data provided by the Highways Agency's design agent, ' explains senior assistant geotechnical engineer Tony Daly, referring to the industry's standard format for information handling.

'We export from there into a ground modelling package to predict the rock head and groundwater profiles, then export again into a programme that allows us to draw up the sections for our slope stabilisation options.'

gINT software has now been available for 17 years. It was initially used mainly on major projects. But according to Arup senior engineer Neil Chadwick, it can be employed just as easily on smaller jobs. 'We started using it two years ago routinely instead of just on big projects, ' he says. 'We find it flexible and can make it do the things we want, especially in London, where we need to work on a lot of smaller projects with the occasional large one.'

Leading consultants are increasingly adapting the way they use the software, experimenting with inputting different forms of data - such as GIS and pile installation information.

Arup has been doing trials with contractor Soil Mechanics to transmit lab test scheduling information through the database. 'We wanted to see if we could transmit the data more accurately and more quickly, ' says Chadwick. 'As an experiment it's gone reasonably well.'

Chadwick likes the structure of gINT because it enables him and his colleagues to develop it to suit them. 'Software, at the end of the day, provides the tools that enable you to do what you want, ' he says. 'Then it's down to us to decide how it's used.'

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