Sweden was right at the forefront of early international geotechnical development, starting with investigations into landslides during railway construction in 1918. The ground breaking work of Swedish geotechnical pioneers such as Atterberg quickly established Sweden's position in the international geotechnical community.
Recent moves by the Swedish Geotechnical Institute at Linkoping could well see the country's geotechnical prom- inence rise again. SGI is now carving a new role as information provider to the international geotechnical community, which in the so called 'information age' has to count for much.
SGI holds at the core of this service a library established nearly 55 years ago. 'The original purpose was to establish a national geotechnical library, that would provide Swedish researchers and industry with comprehensive information on the state of the art in research and development and geotechnical practice,' says Anders Salomonson of SGI's information and marketing department.
Since then SGI has classified more than 100,000 articles from books, journals, conference proceedings, building codes and magazines, and from 1976 has been storing this information on a computerised retrieval system.
Over time SGI has also established exchange partners around the world, which now number more than 300, and information from these is also stored and catalogued, creating one of the world's most comprehensive geotechnical information sources. SGI is now supplying online access to this vast resource through SGI-Line, on the world wide web.
Increasing accessibility to this resource through the internet may be a logical extension, but is nevertheless a bold step. The service is 'simply expanding what we have been doing already', says Salomonson.
The project has certainly got off to a strong start with the recent tie up with the International Society of Soil Mechanics & Geotechnical Engineering to launch IRS-Geo. This is an international information retrieval service for geotechnical literature which aims to give ISSMGE members access to continuously updated database of literature references.
Other projects of international significance currently under way at SGI includes work on deep soil stabilisation, and SGI's role in promoting use of byproducts in construction and infrastructure.
Filling a gap
The environment is currently a big issue in Sweden, and SGI has recognised that geotechnics has an important role to play, in particular with sustainable development, re-use of materials and waste minimisation.
'The geotechnical community could help show society where materials such as scrap steel, and ash from power generation, can be re-used in construction,' says Maria Carling from SGI's department of environmental geotechnics.
Concerns have often been expressed about the mechanical properties of some materials and the possibility that they could release contaminants into controlled waters. These fears have resulted in alternative materials often being used only for low value applications such as hard standing or bulk fill. If full value is to be obtained from the use of alternative materials then their suitability for higher value applications, such as aggregates in concrete and pavements, must be est-ablished. The aim then is to develop test methods by which the suitability of alternative materials can be assessed.
Key con- siderations are to provide data on the mech- anical charact- eristics to show which wastes are suitable and to develop rapid and reliable field identification tests to bring down the cost of using these materials in the field.
This approach mirrors SGI's involvement in the European collaborative research project Alt-Mat (Alternative Materials in Road Construction), which is being managed by TRL in the
Each of the eight participating organisations will test two or three materials and a reference material. SGI is looking at blast furnace slag, crushed concrete and incinerated ash.
For this SGI will be using its outdoor lysimeter facility (see box), essentially 3m square blocks of ground outside SGI's office, each of which are isolated by drains so that all rain that falls on the block and passes through it, is collected for measurement and analysis. Comparison of the 'field' lysimeter results to the laboratory tests will allow realistic calibration of laboratory tests to the field environment.