Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical engineering is different from other fields of engineering as it mostly deals with naturally occurring materials and geometries which are unknown. These natural conditions must be inferred from sometimes limited and costly investigation. The key uncertainties resulting from this are accuracy and completeness with which subsurface conditions and their material resistances are known.

SMEC South Africa incorporates the theory of soil and rock mechanics to ensure economic and sustainable designs that are used in the construction of simple to highly complex engineering infrastructure. We focus on three of the most critical aspects of geotechnical engineering:

Design reliability under conditions of uncertainty

SMEC’s professional staff use multi-disciplinary approaches to understand the behaviour of the soil and structure interaction to derive a sustainable solution.

Geotechnical risk assessment and management

SMEC uses mathematical modelling, engineering judgement, sensitivity analysis and observations to assess and lower the risk.


Sustainability includes the design life of the structure, cost of the structure and environmental consideration of the surroundings.

Computer modelling

SMEC uses dedicated commercial software to create models, which facilitate communication and inform decision making and analysis.

Laboratory testing

Laboratory testing of soil and rock samples are undertaken under direct principal supervision by wholly owned SMEC South Africa subsidiary companies Soillab and Rocklab, which are SANAS accredited.

Key Service Differentiators

  • Numerical modelling
  • Critical state design
  • Risk management on dolomite land
  • Holistic geotechnical service from inhouse surface and subsurface investigations, laboratory testing and engineering design
  • Knowledge or existing database of geo-referenced geotechnical reports, giving an easily accessible database of detailed, localised conditions that higher-level sources cannot identify
  • ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 compliance
Our services
  • Surface and subsurface investigations
  • In-house laboratory testing
  • Geotechnical design solutions
  • Construction monitoring and quality assurance
  • Shallow foundation systems
  • Deep foundation systems
  • Retaining and lateral support structures
  • Mechanically stabilised earth systems
  • Embankment designs (bulk earthworks)
  • Ground improvement, including stabilisation of dolomitic land
  • Slope stabilization
  • Erosion control systems
  • Surface and subsurface drainage systems

“SMEC assists in the reduction of detrimental consequences related to geotechnical design by providing geotechnical engineering and scientific investigation services.”
– Anton Kirsten, Function Manager, Resources