TC307 Sustainability

TC307 Sustainability: Time Capsule Project

Uploaded At: 01 May 2024

TC 307: Sustainability in Geotechnical Engineering

Time capsule contribution

Technical Committees have been asked to succinctly document the development of their areas within the sustainability in geotechnical engineering, focussing on major breakthroughs and why they came about, with collateral material (papers etc.) that support their story. To collect these inputs, an online poll has been sent to the officers of the TC307 committee. The poll was opened in mid-2021 and closed in December 2021, and 26 contributions have been received.

It should be noted that this being a relatively new committee, the contributions of this committee are somewhat limited. However, there is a major interest, as evidenced by a large number of followers of the committee activities. In particular, young members are expressing strong interest in this committee's works.

Question 1. What are the major developments, breakthrough in the areas covered by our TC?

. 1980s. The concept of sustainability was defined in its present definition in the 80's (Brown, R.L. 1981. Building a sustainable society, W.W Norton, New York.)

. 1990s. Recycling materials in geotechnics.

. 2000s. Underground thermal energy storage. Nowadays there are numerous methods to generate renewable energy utilising infinite sources such as the sun, wind, waves or earth. Unfortunately, the supply and demand of renewable energy is frequently not simultaneous. This not only holds for renewable electricity but also for renewable heat. In terms of heat, renewable energy sources such as solar thermal are often most productive when demand is relatively low. A solution to bridge this gap is to store excess heat during summer time and extract it during the winter. This concept is referred to asUnderground Thermal Energy Storage (UTES).

. 2000s. Sustainable use of vegetation for slope protection in the 2000s. Quantification of the physical and hydrological effects of vegetation which can be used in geotechnical design and practice (

. 2010. Green and sustainable site remediation. New concept of green and sustainability introduced for the first time in addressed contaminated site remediation (

. 1990-2010. CLIMATE HAS A major influence on geology, and a changing climate has the potential to reap unexpected consequences for the Earths key natural processes. It is imperative we expand the current knowledge and awareness of geohazards, environmental protection and climate change because these processes are complex, their interactions and feedbacks are intricate, and they have important implications for hazard management.

. 2010s. Sustainability assessment of ground bio-engineering methods. Assessment of sustainability for green infrastructure and nature based solutions.

. 2014. Integrated environmental, economic and social sustainability framework introduced to assess sustainability of geotechnical infrastructure.

Question 2. To your opinion, who are the key persons who have accomplished to most remarkable achievements in the area covered by our TC?

First Name

Last Name





University of Ottawa, Canada

Inaugural chair and lots of papers on the subject



FRGS, Brasil

Sustainability in binders



Consulting Engineer, USA

Was promoting ASCE GI Sustainability activtiies



Cambridge, UK

She is also researching on low carbon materials



Texas A&M University

Consistent contribution to the development of sustainable alternatives in geotechniques



University of Illinois Chicago

Establishing precise methods to assess the level of sustainability in geotechnics



University of Birmingham

Overall contribution to the field

Md Mizanur


University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

specialized in geo sustainability

Keh-Jian (Albert)


National Chung-Hsing University, Taiwan

specialized in geo sustainability



Université de Lorraine

specialized in geo sustainability

Question 3. Are you aware of a case study that could constitute a landmark contribution to the achievements of sustainable development objectives in geotechnical practice?

. New paradigm shift in selecting remediation technologies to cleanup contaminated sites and to develop waste containment technologies based on quantitative assessment of life cycle sustainability (QUALICS). Several case studies reported implementing this framework.

. For the first time, this study shows an implementation of ecoengineering design into slope stability taking into account the whole life of the nature-based solution used for slope stabilisation. The paper published form this case study received the CIOB International Innovation and Research Award in 2016.

. Evaluation of the extreme rainfall predictions and their impact on landslide susceptibility in a sub-catchment scale.

. Application of mine tailings, stabilised with alkaline cements, to the recovering of the mine space. Full video of the live-scale application.

. The reuse of tsunami deposits due to 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. In order to use the recovered soils separated from disaster wastes for backfill and embankment, a technical manual for the use of them was established in 2012 by Iwate prefecture. In that manual, the classification of the recovered soils was designated. The evaluation of engineering properties and environmental suitability for them was also shown in it.

Question 4. Questions related to sustainability metrics related calculators, what are the challenges?

. Availability of data on broad environmental, economic and social impacts

. Implementation of the whole life cycle and monitoring into the calculations for nature-based solutions

. It is necessary for international association like ISSMGE to establish a standard calculator. And it will be honored and very useful for the development of sustainability in geotechnical engineering.

. To standardize all the current and future tools. At the moment, very different interpretations and results can be attained, depending on the user.

. There are comments that some are pro industry and some are too academic of late there are papers that focused on framework which is helping this field:

Das, J., Puppala, A.J., Bheemasetti, T. V., Walshire, L., Corcoran, M. Sustainability and Resilience Analyses in Slope Stabilisation. Engineering Sustainability Journal, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Engineering Sustainability, Pages 112., December, 2016.

Das J., Puppala, A.J., Banerjee, A., Chakraborty, S., A Unified Approach for Assessment of Sustainability and Resilience in Pavement Infrastructure. Environmental Geotechnics, ICE Publishers, 2019, DOI: 10.1680/jenge.19.00035.

Question 5. What are the most innovative and promising approaches of the recent years?

. New tools to assess sustainability

. Ecosystem services incorporation in geotechnical design for NBS

. Geotechnical engineering related to reusable energy, underground storage, geohazards with climate change considerations

. Alkali activated cements for different types of chemical soil stabilisation (e.g. deep mixing, bases and sub-bases, mine tailings for backfill, etc). Carbon sequestration.

. Developing frameworks and integrating resiliency with sustainability and applying to project and research studies.

Question 6. Can you provide details about today consequences of the global warming and climate change on geotechnical structures?

. Increased occurrence of landslides on the North-East coast of Scotland. Gonzalez-Ollauri, A.; Mickovski, S.B. The Effect of Willow (Salix sp.) on Soil Moisture and Matric Suction at a Slope Scale. Sustainability 2020, 12, 9789.

. The consequences of the global warming and climate change on geotechnical structures are significantly increased, such as drought, flooding, geohazards, etc. The impacted regions include coasts, polar areas, floodplains, and mountain areas, however, the types of geohazards could be different.

. I am a part of a major 5 year study funded by USA's National Science Foundation and this project is termed as NSF COPE project:

Question 7. How do you think global warming and climate change would modify your geotechnical engineering practice in the near future (2030), or not (foundation design, slope stability, pavement design, etc.).

. Design codes and regulations need to change to address global warming and climate change issues

. Increased occurrence of slope failures. New green infrastructure and NBS structures will be designed while 'green' elements will be retrofitted to existing structures. Necessary research into design and environmental effects of NBS over a lifetime of the project.

. I believe the global warming and climate change would definitely change our geotechnical engineering practice in the near future (2030). In Taiwan area, we not only modify our existing structures, but also enforced more stringent design codes. The related R&D is essential to update the designs and the codes.

. Change in usual materials. Mitigate by using recycled materials. Development and characterisation of the behaviour of recycled materials used in geotechnics.

. There is so much discussion and research on the topic and in some areas they are incorporating into design and construction projects: 1) Foundations, walls, and Slope Design - we are developing materials that will provide long lasting solutions with low carbon footprint (geopolymer treatments); 2. Soil Stabilization - many projects in US, France, Australia, UK, India, China and outside are already exploring these topics, 3. Coastal regions - lots of new research on sea level raises, salt intrusion and how to mitigate their impacts on infrastructure.

. We should develop environmentally-friendly technique than ever before. A cost-effective sustainable ground improvement will be important in geotechnical practice in order to achieve reduction in carbon footprint, prevention and mitigation of natural disasters, treatment and recycling of industrial wastes and remediation of polluted soils.

Question 8: How do the resiliency-based designs impact sustainability practices?

. Essential- gaining the recognition. ASCE is striving to develop guidance documents

. Complement. Research into resilience of NBS in reference to risks. Reference:

Debele, S.E, Kumar P., Sahani J., Marti-Cardona B., Mickovski S.B., Leo L.S., Porcù F., Bertini F., Montesi D., Vojinovic Z., Di Sabatino S. 2019. Nature-based solutions for hydro-meteorological hazards: Revised concepts, classification schemes and databases. Environmental Research

. The resiliency based designs is now promoted in Taiwan area. However, it is still in the primitive phase, as it is still not be well defined, for different scale, different hazard type, and different fields. Therefore, its impact on sustainability practices is still insignificant.

. Guarantee that sustainability is actually possible and feasible. Live-scale testing of alternative solutions. Miranda et al 2020 - Application of alkali-activated industrial wastes for the stabilisation of a full-scale (sub)base layer (Journal of Cleaner Production 242 118427)

. Huge R&D developments - many agencies in USA promote greener solutions that will enhance resiliency; Funding agencies include NSF, US Army Corps of Engineers, Dept of Defense, Dept of Energy, Dept of Homeland Security, Dept of Transportation and others.

Resilience based design is important as it improves the ability of geotechnical infrastructure to deal with uncertain extreme events which may occur over the long-life cycle. The concepts of sustainability and resilience ought to be concurrently considered to ensure that resilience in geotechnical infrastructure is developed while sustainable practices are performed. I suppose that the following technologies are required.

(1) Technology for minimizing damage and early recovery for structures against large earthquakes.

(2) Structure monitoring and damage determination.

By conducting monitoring, the damage situation is assumed immediately, and the damaged part is identified. It is judged whether the structure can be used from the analysis after the disaster.

(3) Seismic design that can be uniformly applied to the superstructure and underground structure.

(4) Ground liquefaction evaluation method considering the impact on structures.

Question 9. From a geotechnics point of view, what should we do to improve students awareness on sustainability practices in infrastructure works, global warming and climate change effects, and their ability to mitigate the associated potential negative impacts?

. Teach sustainability in our geotechnical engineering courses

. Deliver specific curriculum.

Garcia Rodriguez, J. L., Sangalli, P., Tardio, G., Mickovski, S., Fernandes, J. P., & Gimenez, M. C. (Eds.) (2019). Specialization Process for the Bioengineering Sector in the Mediterranean Environment. Ecomed Project Part I. Training Modules. ISBN- 9788496442887, 568pp.

Garcia Rodriguez, J. L., Sangalli, P., Tardio, G., Mickovski, S., Fernandes, J. P., & Gimenez, M. C. (Eds.) (2019). Specialization Process for the Bioengineering Sector in the Mediterranean Environment. Ecomed Project Part II. Protocols and Case Studies. ISBN- 9788496442894. 462 pp.

Mickovski, S.B. 2017. Embedding technology to support the development of problem-solving skills in Geotechnical Design students. In: Proc 19th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. W. Lee, J-S. Lee, H-K. Kim, D-S Kim (Eds). Seoul, Korea, September 17 22, 2017, pp 3339-3342.

. To improve students awareness on sustainability practices in infrastructure and climate change effects, I think the training or term project related to the major events in the world "in time", could help.

. Implement mandatory courses, as a sequence to normal Soil Mechanics modules. The sustainability point of view should be a normal and constant part of the degrees, and not just a possible choice for some.

. Many academic institutes are incorporating these elements into academic training and there are modules developed. Dr Basu and Dr Puppala developed a short half day course for Geotech Institute.

Note: The hyperlinks in the document were accessed on April 23, 2023.