Engineering Institute of Technology


Unit Name


Unit Code



Unit Duration



Bachelor of Science (Engineering)


Duration 3 years

Year Level


Unit Creator/Reviewer





BCS106S, BSC107C

Credit Points



Total Program Credit Points 81 (27 x 3)

Mode of Delivery

Online or On-campus

Unit Workload

(Total student workload including “contact hours” = 10 hours per week)

Pre-recordings / Lecture – 1.5 hours Tutorial – 1.5 hours

Guided labs / Group work / Assessments – 2 hours

Personal Study recommended - 5 hours

Unit Description and General Aims


The objective in presenting this unit is to impart to students the principles of soil mechanics, particularly the behaviour of soil under mechanical pressure (stress) and deformation upon interaction with water.

The subject matter covered in this unit will include: the description of soils on the REV scale and the characterisation and classification of soils; the principles of fluid mechanics based on the description of water head using Bernoulli’s and other equations; the determination of flow nets and hydraulic conductivity; fundamental mechanical concepts such as the effective stress concept, strength of soils, consolidation, settlement, and testing procedures. A limited working knowledge of the geological principles and procedures used in a site investigation is introduced, as it is required by engineers involved in foundation works.

At the conclusion of this unit, students will have acquired specialised knowledge of soil mechanics and be able to undertake a variety of soil mechanics analyses.


Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this Unit, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of fundamental phase relationships for soils; understand and apply soil and engineering use classification systems and perform and analyse results in tests for determining the compaction and field density of soils.

  2. Determine and classify hydraulic conductivity of soils in the lab and in the field.

  3. Analyse seepage flows through saturated soils.

  4. Demonstrate and assess the role of effective stress in soil mechanics theory, and describe the strength of soils based on test results and basic theories.

  5. Describe and analyse consolidation of fine-grained soils and the testing methods that are used for these.

  6. Conduct soil mechanics practicals.

    Professional Development

    Completing this unit may add to students professional development/competencies by:

    1. Fostering personal and professional skills and attributes in order to:

      1. Conduct work in a professionally diligent, accountable and ethical manner.

      2. Effectively use oral and written communication in personal and professional domains.

      3. Foster applicable creative thinking, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

      4. Develop initiative and engagement in lifelong learning and professional development.

      5. Enhance collaboration outcomes and performance in dynamic team roles.

      6. Effectively plan, organise, self-manage and manage others.

      7. Professionally utilise and manage information.

      8. Enhance technologist literacy and apply contextualised technologist skills.

    2. Enhance investigatory and research capabilities in order to:

      1. Develop an understanding of systematic, fundamental scientific, mathematic principles, numerical analysis techniques and statistics applicable to technologists.

      2. Access, evaluate and analyse information on technologist processes, procedures, investigations and the discernment of technologist knowledge development.

      3. Foster an in-depth understanding of specialist bodies of knowledge, computer science, engineering design practice and contextual factors applicable to technologists.

      4. Solve basic and open-ended engineering technologist problems.

      5. Understand the scope, principles, norms, accountabilities and bounds associated with sustainable engineering practice.

    3. Develop engineering application abilities in order to:

      1. Apply established engineering methods to broadly-defined technologist problem solving.

      2. Apply engineering technologist techniques, tool and resources.

      3. Apply systematic technologist synthesis and design processes.

      4. Systematically conduct and manage technologist projects, work assignments, testing and experimentation.

Engineers Australia

The Australian Engineering Stage 1 Competency Standards for Engineering Technologists, approved as of 2013. This table is referenced in the mapping of graduate attributes to learning outcomes and via the learning outcomes to student assessment.


Stage 1 Competencies and Elements of Competency


Knowledge and Skill Base


Systematic, theory based understanding of the underpinning natural and physical sciences and the engineering fundamentals applicable to the technology domain.


Conceptual understanding of the, mathematics, numerical analysis, statistics, and computer and information sciences which underpin the technology domain.


In-depth understanding of specialist bodies of knowledge within the technology domain.


Discernment of knowledge development within the technology domain.


Knowledge of engineering design practice and contextual factors impacting the technology domain.


Understanding of the scope, principles, norms, accountabilities and bounds of sustainable engineering practice in the technology domain.


Engineering Application Ability


Application of established engineering methods to broadly-defined problem solving within the technology domain.


Application of engineering techniques, tools and resources within the technology domain.


Application of systematic synthesis and design processes within the technology domain.


Application of systematic approaches to the conduct and management of projects within the technology domain.


Professional and Personal Attributes


Ethical conduct and professional accountability.


Effective oral and written communication in professional and lay domains.


Creative, innovative and pro-active demeanour.


Professional use and management of information.


Orderly management of self and professional conduct.


Effective team membership and team leadership.

Graduate Attributes

Successfully completing this Unit will contribute to the recognition of attainment of the following graduate attributes aligned to the AQF Level 7 criteria, Engineers Australia Stage 1 Competency Standards for Engineering Technologists and the Sydney Accord:


Graduate Attributes

(Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Professional and Personal Development)

EA Stage 1 Competencies

Learning Outcomes

A. Knowledge of Science and Engineering Fundamentals

A1. Breadth of knowledge of engineering and systematic, theory-based understanding of underlying principles, and depth of knowledge across one or more engineering sub- disciplines


1.1, 1.3


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

A2. Knowledge of mathematical, statistical and computer sciences appropriate for engineering technology




1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

A3. Discernment of knowledge development within the technology domain


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

A4. Knowledge of engineering design practice and contextual factors impacting the technology domain




3, 4, 5

B. Problem Solving, Critical Analysis and Judgement

B1. Ability to research, synthesise, evaluate and innovatively apply theoretical concepts, knowledge and approaches across diverse engineering technology contexts to effectively solve engineering problems


1.4, 2.1, 2.3


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

B2. Technical and project management skills to design complex systems and solutions in line with developments in engineering technology professional practice


2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.2


3, 4, 5

C. Effective Communication

C1. Cognitive and technical skills to investigate, analyse and organise information and ideas and to communicate those ideas clearly and fluently, in both written and spoken forms appropriate to the audience




1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

C2. Ability to engage effectively and appropriately across a diverse range of cultures



D. Design and Project Management

D1. Apply systematic synthesis and design processes within the technology domain

2.1, 2.2, 2.3

3, 4, 5, 6

D2. Apply systematic approaches to the conduct and management of projects within the technology domain




E. Accountability, Professional and Ethical Conduct

E1. Innovation in applying engineering technology, having regard to ethics and impacts including economic; social; environmental and sustainability


1.6, 3.1, 3.4


3, 4, 5, 6

E2. Professional conduct, understanding and accountability in professional practice across diverse circumstances including team work, leadership and independent work


3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6


3, 4, 5, 6

Unit Competency and Learning Outcome Map

This table details the mapping of the unit graduate attributes to the unit learning outcomes and the Australian Engineering Stage 1 Competency Standards for the Engineering Technologist.




Graduate Attributes














Engineers Australia Stage 1 Competency Standards for Engineering Technologist

























































































































































































Unit Learning Outcomes































Student assessment

Assessment Type

When assessed

Weighting (% of total unit marks)

Learning Outcomes Assessed


Assessment 1

Type: Multi-choice test / Group work / Short answer questions / Practical / Remote Lab / Simulation

Example Topic: Foundations of Soil Engineering & Soil Analysis

Students may complete a quiz with MCQ type answers and solve some simple equations to demonstrate a good understanding of the fundamental concepts.


Week 3




1, 2, 3


Assessment 2

Type: Multi-choice test / Group work / Short answer questions / Practical / Remote Lab / Simulation

Example Topic: Classification and Compaction; Soil Water

Students may be asked to provide solutions to simple problems on various topics.


Week 6




2, 3, 4, 5


Assessment 3

Type: Multi-choice test / Group work / Short answer questions / Practical / Remote Lab / Simulation / Project

/ Report

Example Topics: Soil Stress and Settlement; Soil Shear Strength OR

Practical - Soil Consistency: The Atterberg Limits; Unified Soil Classification System – Lab and Field Methods; Soil Compaction: The Proctor Test; Soil Classification: The Unified Soil Classification System; Lab Testing Standards for Classification; Triaxial Test Demonstration; and, Shear Box (Direct Shear) Test.

Students may complete a quiz with MCQ type answers or solve some simple problems or use software to complete a practical.


Week 10




4, 5, 6


Assessment 4 Type: Examination All topics

An examination with a mix of detailed report type questions and/or simple numerical problems to be completed in 3 hours.


Final Week




1 to 6


Attendance / Tutorial Participation

Example: Presentation, discussion, group work, exercises, self-assessment/reflection, case study analysis, application.



1 to 6

Prescribed and recommended readings


Required textbook(s)

Knappett, J.A., 2012, Craig's Soil Mechanics, 8th Edition, Spoon Press.


Reference Materials

Das, B.M. 2010, Principles of Geotechnical Engineering, SI version, 7th Edition, Cengage Learning, Stamford, Conn.

Budhu, M., 2011. Soil Mechanics and Foundations, 3rd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., USA


Unit Content:

One topic is delivered per contact week, with the exception of part-time 24-week units, where one topic is delivered every two weeks.


Topic 1

Introduction – Basic characteristics of soils

  • The origin of soils

  • The nature of soils

  • Plasticity of fine-grained soils

  • Particle size analysis

  • Soil description and classification

  • Phase relationships

  • Soil compaction


    Topic 2

    Seepage – Soil Water and Permeability

  • Soil water

  • Permeability and testing

  • Seepage theory

  • Flow nets

  • Anisotropic soil conditions

  • Non-homogeneous soil conditions

  • Numerical solution using the Finite Difference Method

  • Transfer condition

  • Seepage through embankment dams

  • Filter design


Topics 3 and 4

Effective Stress and Consolidation

  • The principle of effective stress

  • Numerical solution using the Finite Difference Method

  • Response of effective stress to a change in total stress

  • Effective stress in partially saturated soils

  • Influence of seepage on effective stress

  • Liquefaction

  • The oedometer test

  • Consolidation settlement

  • Degree of consolidation

  • Terzaghi’s theory of one-dimensional consolidation

  • Determination of coefficient of consolidation

  • Secondary compression

  • Numerical solution using the Finite Difference Method

  • Correction for construction period

  • Vertical drains

  • Pre-loading


    Topic 5

    Soil behaviour in shear

  • An introduction to continuum mechanics

  • Simple models of soil elasticity

  • Simple models of soil plasticity

  • Laboratory shear tests

  • Shear strength of coarse-grained soils

  • Shear strength of saturated fine-grained soils

  • The critical state framework

  • Residual strength

  • Estimating strength parameters from index tests


    Topics 6 and 7

    Ground Investigation and In-situ Testing

  • Methods of intrusive investigation

  • Soil Sampling

  • Selection of laboratory test method(s)

  • Borehole logs

  • Cone Penetration Testing (CPT)

  • Geophysical methods

  • Contaminated ground

  • Introduction to In-situ testing

  • Standard Penetration Test (SPT)

  • Field Vane Test (FVT)

  • Pressure-meter Test (PMT)

  • Cone Penetration Test (CPT)

  • Selection of in-situ test method(s)


    Topics 8 and 9

    Applications of Soil Mechanics – Shallow and Deep foundations

  • Shallow Foundations

  • Bearing capacity and limit analysis

  • Bearing capacity in undrained materials

  • Bearing capacity in drained materials

  • Stresses beneath shallow foundations

  • Settlements from elastic theory

  • Settlements from consolidation theory

  • Settlement from in-situ test data 311

  • Limit state design

  • Deep Foundations

  • Pile resistance under compressive loads

  • Pile resistance from in-situ test data

  • Settlement of piles

  • Piles under tensile loads

  • Load testing

  • Pile groups

  • Negative skin friction


    Topic 10

    Stability of earth-retaining structures


  • Basic Concepts of Lateral Earth Pressures

  • Coulomb’s Earth Pressure Theory

  • Rankine’s Lateral Earth Pressure for a Sloping Backfill and a Sloping Wall Face

  • Lateral Earth Pressures for a Total Stress Analysis

  • Application of Lateral Earth Pressures to Retaining Walls

  • Types of Retaining Walls and Modes of Failure

  • Stability of Rigid Retaining Walls

  • Stability of Flexible Retaining Walls

  • Analysis of Sheet Pile Walls in Uniform Soils

  • Analysis of Sheet Pile Walls in Mixed Soils

  • Analysis of Cantilever Sheet Pile Walls

  • Analysis of Anchored Sheet Pile Walls


    Topic 11

    Slope stability

  • Types of Slope Failure

  • Causes of Slope Failure

  • Erosion

  • Rainfall

  • Earthquakes

  • Geological Features

  • External Loading

  • Construction Activities

  • Excavated Slopes

  • Fill Slopes

  • Rapid Drawdown

  • Infinite Slopes

  • Two-Dimensional Slope Stability Analyses

  • Rotational Slope Failures

  • Method of Slices (Bishop’s Method, Janbu’s Method)

  • Cemented Soils

  • Application of the Method of Slices

  • Procedure for the Method of Slices

  • Stability of Slopes with Simple Geometry (Taylor’s Method, Bishop–Morgenstern Method)

  • Factor of Safety


Topic 12

Unit Review

In the final week, students will have an opportunity to review the contents covered so far. Opportunity will be provided for a review of students’ work and to clarify any outstanding issues.

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