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RISK IN GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEERING AND PROFESSION PRESTIGE (2011)
A great deal of attention has been devoted to the risk connected with construction design during the last period. The design principle connected with potential risks was also included in Eurocode 7 – Geotechnical Design. At the same time, we very often speak about the prestige of geotechnical engineering both on the level of engineering professions and in society in general. In most cases, this evaluation is not so good, the prestige of our profession, in agreement with the opinion of most of us, does not correspond to the significance, importance, generally, to the risk with which geotechnical structures are designed, or to the significance which geotechnical engineering entails.
The paper describes some aspects influencing the degree of this risk. It is, first of all, the risk associated with the range and complexity of geotechnical investigation. To what degree this investigation can give precise figures about the geological environment. How great is the potential risk associated with the numerical model which simplifies this geological environment and up to what degree this numerical model, based on different assumptions between changes of stresses and changes of deformations, is really authentic. And, finally, how great is the risk which a new geotechnical structure brings to its environment, first of all in terms of the interaction of this new structure with a nearby older historical structure.
The relationship between the main partners of the building process is also the subject of discussion, whether they all have or do not have the same interest in lowering this risk. Broadly speaking, geotechnical engineers generally deal with a high risk, they take over a high responsibility for this risk and sometimes under increased public pressure (maybe even as a result of a competition) they get to the edge of this risk which in the case of a failure can have a negative impact on the position of our profession, especially on a long-term basis. However, geotechnical engineering has a significant influence on the living standard of population as it reacts to its demands per saltum. At the end, the status of two different professions is compared; the status of geotechnical engineering and medicine, as both work with high risks, and our profession comes out of this comparison as strongly undervalued. Therefore, geotechnical engineers should speak and discuss about this reality on different levels to help to improve the professional prestige. Some recommendations in this direction are summarized in the end.
ISGSR 2011 - Vogt, Schuppener, Straub & Bräu (eds) - © 2011 Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau ISBN 978-3-939230-01-4
Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic