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Unit of study_

CIVL5453: Geotechnical Hazards

Semester 2, 2022 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Geotechnical hazards include landslides, rock falls and mud flows. They are triggered by soil/rock failure due to natural or human causes. The objective of this Unit of Study is to develop the ability to assess and mitigate the risks associated to such events. Students will learn how to estimate when and where these events are likely to occur, how to define safety zones and how to design effective protection structures. The syllabus is comprised of (i) Landslide Risk Assessment and Management procedures (ii) post-failure and out of equilibrium soil mechanics applied to prediction of rock fall, landslide and mud flow run-out distance and impact force on structures; (iii) design of geotechnical protection structures using Finite Element modelling. Senior geotechnical engineers from major companies will deliver some guest lectures presenting on practical case study involving geotechnical hazards throughout the semester.

Unit details and rules

Unit code CIVL5453
Academic unit Civil Engineering
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

(CIVL2410 AND CIVL3411) OR (CIVL9410 AND 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

Coordinator Pierre Rognon,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Take-home extended release) Type E final exam Final presentation
50% Formal exam period 48 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO5 LO7
Assignment Mid-term presentation
Video presentation
20% Week 07
Due date: 18 Sep 2022 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO7
Assignment group assignment Project
Video presentation
30% Week 10 N/A
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6 LO7
group assignment = group assignment ?
Type E final exam = Type E final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Project: Use a Finite Element software (previousely introduced in class) to propose a safe solution to a real geotechnical problem. Produce a 6 minutes movie presenting your solution and rational.
  • Final Exam: Video presentation

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

For more information see guide to grades.

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.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

3 pt per day

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity 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 integrity breaches seriously.  

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

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Geotechnical hazards: Risk assessment and management Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Week 02 Geotechnical hazards: Risk assessment and management 2 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Week 03 Stresses in soils and rocks Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 04 Stresses in soils and rocks Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 05 Causes of soil and rock Failure (part 1) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3
Week 06 Causes of soil and rock Failure (part 2) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3
Week 07 Optum Project Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO6
Week 08 Optum Project Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO6
Week 09 Rock fall Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO5 LO7
Week 10 Rock fall Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO5 LO7
Week 11 Landslide dynamics Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO5 LO7
Week 12 Landslide dynamics 2 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO5 LO7

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.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through the Library eReserve, available on Canvas.

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 geotechnical report with extensive consideration of theoretical and methodological issues
  • LO2. interpret and discuss uncertainty in theoretical/practical context
  • LO3. apply theories of rock and soil motion to design protection systems and building foundations
  • LO4. demonstrate proficiency in Landslide Risk Assessment and Management procedures recommended by the Australian Geomechanics Society
  • LO5. develop geotechnical solutions to mitigate rock and soil motion
  • LO6. demonstrate proficiency in computer simulations of out of equilibrium motions
  • LO7. understand physical models of rock falls, landslides and mud-flows, and their limitation.

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

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

This UoS is consistently receiving outstanding student feedback. I have included some additional tutorial questions following the suggestions of some students.


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