Geotechnical Society of Edmonton

NEWS 2013

Posted February 4, 2013 (Updated February 13, 2013)

Event: April 11 and 12, 2013

GSE: 2013 Symposium - Dr. Fred H. Kulhawy, PE, GE: Estimation of Soil Properties for Foundation Design (Day 1) and Geotechnical Uncertainty and Reliability-Based Foundation Design (RBD) (Day 2)

Location: Woodvale Facility, Millwoods Golf Course (4540 – 50 Street NW, Edmonton)

Time: 7:30am - 5:00pm (both days)

Cost by Mar. 15: Members $295 per day or $550 for both, Non-Members $345 per day or $650 for both, Students $120 per day or $200 for both

Cost after Mar. 15: Members $345 per day or $650 for both, Non-Members $395 per day or $750 for both, Students $120 per day or $200 for both

Cost for Exhibitors: $1000 for both days including registration for one course participant

Registrations cancelled on or before March 31, 2013 will be refunded for the full amount paid minus a $10 processing fee. No refunds will be issued after March 31 although attendee substitutions will be accepted.

Register and Pay online

The Geotechnical Society of Edmonton is proud to present two, one-day courses by Dr. Kulhawy, an internationally-acclaimed educator, consultant, and researcher. The first day (Estimation of Soil Properties for Foundation Design) will be of most interest to geotechnical engineers. The second day (Geotechnical Uncertainty and RBD) will be valuable to those interested in Limit States Design for foundations, including geotechnical and structural engineers, architects, and government officials. Each course will be independent, so participants can attend either one day or both days. All participants will receive comprehensive course notes. These include printed copies of the course presentation materials and electronic copies of supplemental readings. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.


Soil property estimation is fundamental to all of geotechnical design. On large projects with relatively generous budgets, all of the required field and laboratory tests can be conducted to evaluate the necessary geotechnical properties for design. For all other projects, testing will be more limited, and some properties will have to be estimated using correlations. Under the sponsorship of EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) and other funding agencies, significant research has been conducted at Cornell to assess soil property correlations in a realistic manner, including the uncertainty in each correlation. However, the results of these efforts are not yet available in traditional types of reference sources such as texts and manuals.

In this short course, much of this technology is presented within a consistent, coherent, and practical framework. The general topics covered include the following: soil property evaluation strategy, geologic inference in property assessment, comparative evaluation of in-situ tests, relative density assessment, in-situ stress evaluation, soil strength evaluation, and deformability estimation. This course is a much-expanded version of the well-known “Manual on Estimating Soil Properties for Foundation Design” by Kulhawy and Mayne. It has been given to many engineering and geologic professionals at sites around the world.


Reliability-based design (RBD) of foundations constitutes a potentially superior alternative to traditional deterministic design because: (1) the design reliability can be maintained at a target value that is chosen rationally, (2) incompatibilities are minimized between structural and foundation design, and (3) many of the complex relationships between uncertainties and risks can be assessed realistically, without resort to intuition and arbitrary decision-making processes

Current deterministic design is less specific than RBD and is more subject to considerable vagaries of individual use. Loading and geotechnical models rarely are specified in tandem, the proper use of these models is rarely noted, guidance on selection of design parameters normally is lacking (i. e., should one use mean, upper range, lower range, etc.), and the choice of a factor of safety is not based on any degree of rigor or quantifiable function (tradition and experience tend to govern). The influence of varying design parameters and their ranges on design reliability is not addressed specifically, and subsequently the actual reliability level can vary substantially.

In this short course, these issues are addressed in a fundamental, yet practical, manner. First, an overview is given of the development of geotechnical RBD for foundations in North America. Then necessary concepts and tools are presented, including basic issues of uncertainty, risk, judgment, and RBD formulation. The uncertainty and variability of design parameters are discussed in detail, including load modeling and geotechnical variability, which arises from geologic development, in-situ testing and sampling, correlations, and calculation models. These factors then are integrated into reliability equations for foundation design, with application examples.

The resulting design equations have a "look and feel" that is familiar, but they actually are significant extensions and formalizations of current equations because they incorporate uncertainty explicitly. This approach puts the key design decisions in the hands of the design engineer, who is the only person who can truly assess the degree of confidence in the design parameters and their variability. This approach also gives designers direct means of assessing the relative value of lower variability in the geotechnical data.


Dr. Fred H. Kulhawy, P.E., G.E., Distinguished Member ASCE

Consulting Geotechnical Engineer and Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

Dr. Kulhawy is an internationally-acclaimed educator, consultant, and researcher, who has received numerous prestigious awards for his work from ASCE, ADSC, CGS, IEEE, and others, including election to Distinguished Membership of ASCE, the ASCE Karl Terzaghi Award and Norman Medal, and the CGS Meyerhof Award. He is Professor Emeritus in Geotechnical Engineering and Geology at Cornell, and he has lectured widely, giving over 1440 presentations around the world. His teaching and research has focused on foundations, soil-rock-structure interaction, reliability, soil and rock behavior, and geotechnical computer applications. As a consultant, he has had extensive experience on six continents, with much of his experience dealing with foundation engineering and soil/rock property evaluation. In research, he has pioneered on many fronts, most notably with drilled foundations, reliability-based design, and property evaluation since the mid-1970s. His research and practice on these topics constitutes a majority of this course.


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