Engineering geomorphology: A UKuk perspective

  • James Sydney Griffiths
  • Gareth James Hearn


Engineering geomorphology has developed at a rather disappointingly slow rate in the UK since publication of the earlier applications in the 1970’s. Among the more notable contributions of geomorphological techniques and expertise to civil engineering have been the various landslide mapping surveys carried out for road construction projects overseas and in the UK. However, while geomorphological mapping has proved to be a useful tool for landslide assessment and the planning of geotechnical ground investigations there are four main constraints that currently limit the professional application of engineering geomorphology to civil engineering practice. First, the subject has not received universal acceptance by civil engineers who often see it as too academic and not directly applicable to engineering design. Second, when geomorphological mapping has been used it has often been applied at the beginning of a project and frequently continual geomorphological interpretation is not allowed to take place as the geotechnical ground investigation and design take place. Third the technique of geomorphological mapping is the most familiar geomorphological tool known to the civil engineer and the valid and often cost-effective contributions that geomorphologists can make to other civil engineering studies using different techniques are frequently not recognised. Finally, so-called engineering geomorphologists trained in the UK often do not have sufficient knowledge of engineering design criteria to be gainfully employed on civil engineering projects.

Some of these problems may be resolved by a reconsideration of the training given to potential engineering geomorphologists in the UK, possibly by the British Geomorphological Research Group and the Engineering Group of the Geological Society, and a greater awareness among civil engineers of the full potential that engineering geomorphology can offer.


Civil Engineering Geological Society Landslide Hazard Engineer Geology Engineering Geology 

Perspectives de développement de la geomorphologie appliquée au génie civil AU royaume-uni


Il est assez décevant de constater l’assez faible développement des utilisations de la géomorphologie en génie civil depuis ses premières applications au début des années 1970. Parmi les contributions les plus notables des techniques géomorphologiques au Génie Civil figurent les cartographies de glissements de terrain réalisées au Royaume Uni et Outre-Mer pour des projets routiers. Cependant bien que la cartographic géomorphologique ait fait la preuve qu’elle était un outil utile pour l’étude des glissements de terrain et la planification des études géotechniques, son développement est limité par quatre contraintes principales. En premier lieu, tous les ingénieurs civils ne sont pas convaincus de son intérêt, le jugeant souvent trop théorique et non applicable directement à la conception d’ouvrages. En second lieu, lorsque la cartographie géomorphologique a été utilisée, c’est souvent au début des études et en général le suivi des interprétation géomorphologiques n’a pas été rendu possible au stade des études géotechniques et de la conception même du projet. En troisième lieu, la technique de la cartographie géomorphologique est l’outil géomorphologique le mieux connu de l’ingénieur civil et les contributions valables et souvent rentables que les géomorpholoques pourraient apporter à d’autres études de génie civil en utilisant d’autres techniques que la cartographie ne sont généralement pas reconnues. Enfin, les géomorphologues dits «apliqués» formés au Royaume Uni ont souvent une connaissance trop insuffisante des critères techniques propres aux projets du Génie Civil pour être utilisés avec profit dans le cadre des études de projets.

Certains de ces problèmes peuvent être résolus en réexaminant la formation donnée à ces géomorphologue au Royaume Uni, peu être en liaison avec le groupe Britannique de Recherche Géomorphologique et le Groupe de Géologie de l’Ingénieur de la Société Géologique de Londres, et en faisant mieux connaître aux ingénieurs civils l’ensemble des apports que peut offrir la géomorphologie appliquée.


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Copyright information

© International Assocaition of Engineering eology 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Sydney Griffiths
    • 1
  • Gareth James Hearn
    • 2
  1. 1.Geomorphological Services LimitedNewport PagnellU.K.
  2. 2.Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & PartnersBasingstokeU.K.

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