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What is Geotechnical Software?

By T. Briseno
Updated May 16, 2024
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Geotechnical software is a specialized tool for modeling the geographic elements of a site. Environmental, civil, and structural engineers as well as urban planners and architects may use this software for the site planning of a structure or public works project within a particular location. Using geotechnical software generally allows for the testing of conditions for a structure or infrastructure virtually before or during planning and design phases; it also can be used for troubleshooting maintenance and repair of a completed structure in changing environmental conditions.

Land surveys have been widely used for identifying the properties of a site before development. Collecting data and performing calculations that assess the suitability of an area for a proposed project can be an essential step in completing a plan. Factors such as the property of the soil and its ability to support heavy loads as well as the slope of the land itself can be tested against the specifications of a design or plan with geotechnical software. This testing can help prevent costly design modifications or safety failures.

Drawing up site plans can involve a lot of manpower and time, all of which can be expedited through the use of geotechnical software. Geological illustrations can be completed virtually, and programs may have axiometric, or sectional, drawing and 3-D modeling capabilities depending on the software used. Analytics of the surface and subsurface of a site can be completed, and dynamics such as structural behavior can be analyzed against an array of variables, including such concerns as earthquake resistance, before a project begins.

Environmental engineers can use geotechnical software for determining best-use practices for existing conditions as well as for site, ground, or subsurface improvements. Moisture content of soils and materials selection also can be tested, and runoff and retaining walls generally can be factored into engineering calculations. Methods of incorporating natural landscape elements can be considered experimentally from design through ground-breaking in a virtual environment.

Typically, data and illustrations generated from a geotechnical software program are of a very high quality and can be used for bidding on projects and for consulting on solutions for existing infrastructure or buildings. Computer-generated drawings can provide a realistic picture of how a completed project will look on a specific plot of land or stretch of landscape. Road works or freeway projects may benefit from the use of software modeling as well, as they can calculate load-bearing and frequency-of-use data prior to incurring costs on-site. Building projects may avoid costly structural errors by using geotechnical software to explore worst-case scenario planning with site-specific geophysical and climatic considerations.

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