Physical infrastructure, such as offshore platforms and pipelines, and national road and rail systems, rely on geotechnical engineering design and this is increasingly associated with building on extremely soft sediments (geomaterials). Offshore these are encountered in almost all modern developments, where water depths now mostly exceed 500 m; onshore, transport corridors must increasingly make use of poor ground that has proved problematic for other developments. In all such cases the response of the geomaterials is complex and highly variable and presents major design challenges.
The core goals of the CGSE are therefore to:
- Provide a national focus for geotechnical research by integrating the expertise of the key Australian geotechnical research groups into a single centre. This will ensure that new offshore and onshore geotechnologies can be developed in a coherent and unified fashion, as well as establishing a critical research mass and allowing cross-pollination between the different nodes.
- Optimise the design of critical infrastructure by combining fundamental work in geotechnical science, cutting-edge computational modelling, state-of-the-art physical modelling, and field testing, to make the engineering of Australia’s infrastructure safer and more cost-efficient.
- Interface with offshore and onshore industry to ensure (i) a rapid uptake of new geotechnologies and design practices and (ii) sustainability of CGSE funding, post ARC support.
- Educate and train the next generation of geotechnical engineers and researchers.
A compelling feature of the CGSE is that it capitalises on the complementary research strengths of the Centre for Geotechnical and Materials Modelling at the University of Newcastle, which is a world leader in computational geomechanics, with the Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems at the University of Western Australia, which has unparallelled expertise in physical modelling of geotechnical problems. Combining this natural fit with SMART Rail Institute and Geotechnics and Railway Engineering Centre at the University of Wollongong, which has a worldwide reputation for transport infrastructure geotechnics, a national focus for geotechnical research will be created.