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Unit of study_

CIVL5452: Foundation Engineering

The objectives of this unit are to gain an understanding of the design process in foundation engineering, to understand the importance of site investigation and field testing, and to learn how to deal with uncertainty. To achieve these objectives students are asked to design foundations using real data. Students will develop the ability to interpret the results of a site investigation; to use laboratory and field data to design simple foundations; develop an appreciation of the interaction between the soil, foundation system and the supported structure. The syllabus is comprised of field testing, site characterisation, interpretation of field data, design of pile raft and surface footings, support of excavations, soil improvement, and geotechnical report writing.


Academic unit Civil Engineering
Unit code CIVL5452
Unit name Foundation Engineering
Session, year
Semester 1, 2021
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

Assumed knowledge

[CIVL2410 OR CIVL9410] AND [CIVL3411 OR CIVL9411]. Students are assumed to have a good knowledge of fundamental soil mechanics, which is covered in the courses of soil mechanics (settlement, water flow, soil strength) and foundation engineering (soil models, stability analyses; slope stability; retaining walls; foundation capacity)

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator David Airey,
Lecturer(s) Paul Brendan Hewitt ,
Tutor(s) David Riley ,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Site investigation report
Report describing geotechnical model and interpretation of site data
15% Week 05
Due date: 26 Mar 2020
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5
Presentation group assignment Design Project
Conceptual design exercise
10% Week 06
Due date: 02 Apr 2020
In class
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO5 LO4 LO3
Tutorial quiz Quiz
Short questions on course material, weeks 1-7.
20% Week 08 1.5 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4
Assignment Foundation design
Report setting out recommended design, with supporting calculations
12.5% Week 09
Due date: 30 Apr 2020
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Retaining wall design
Report setting out recommended design, with supporting calculations
12.5% Week 12
Due date: 21 May 2020
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Presentation group assignment Design Project
Conceptual design exercise
10% Week 13
Due date: 28 May 2020
In class
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO5 LO4 LO3
Tutorial quiz Quiz 2
Short questions on course material, weeks 8-13.
20% Week 13 1.5 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4
group assignment = group assignment ?
  • Quizzes: Two quizzes to test individual understanding of soil mechanics theories and concepts applied to foundation design.
  • Assignments: Three assignments to demonstrate design and problem solving skills and reporting. These will cover development of a geotechnical model from site investigation data and designs for foundation and retaining walls.
  • Project: The design projects are an additional opportunity to demonstrate and earn marks for creatively applying the skills you develop over the foundation engineering course: thinking about time, cost and risk issues associated with parameter variability and uncertainty that arise with real problems, communicating these to the client, and teamwork.
Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic honesty, academic dishonesty, and the resources available to all students.

The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic dishonesty or plagiarism seriously.

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of dishonesty, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Site investigation Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5
Week 02 1. Soil and rock properties; 2. Developing a geotechnical model Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 03 Shallow foundations - bearing capacity and settlement Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 04 1. Pile raft foundations and analysis; 2. Design codes Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 05 Axial pile capacity and settlement analysis Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 06 Laterally loaded piles and pile group analysis and Design Project Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 07 Slope instability, stabilisation and risk assessment Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 08 Retaining structures and gravity wall design and Quiz Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 09 Embedded wall design, excavation induced movements and risk management Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 10 Earthworks and problematic soils Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 11 Soft ground characterisation, behaviour and improvement Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 12 Ground improvement Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 13 Quiz and Design project Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO5

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University’s graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. write a geotechnical report
  • LO2. interpret borehole log data to determine soil parameters and develop a geotechnical model
  • LO3. design foundations (shallow, piled, piled raft) and retaining wall systems
  • LO4. understand basic principles of soil mechanics, and the limitations of these theories
  • LO5. creatively apply theories of soil mechanics to foundation design; in particular, deal with parameter variability and uncertainty that arises with real problems.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
Inclusion of another design assignment in response to feedback


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