Workshop on Unsaturated Soil Mechanics for Practicing Engineers

UNSW CIES LogosThe aim of these workshops is to enhance the capabilities of practicing engineers when applying soil mechanics, analysing data and solving problems involving unsaturated soils. The workshops will be delivered by experts on unsaturated soils from UNSW’s Centre for Infrastructure Engineering and Safety.

Unsaturated soils are widely encountered and need to be dealt with in many engineering problems, for example foundations, fills, embankments, pavements and slopes. In many cases true predictions of performance and true assessments of safety cannot be made without use of unsaturated soil mechanics. However, the use of unsaturated soil mechanics in practice is not routine. Many design and analysis techniques used are only applicable when soils are dry or fully saturated.


  • The objectives are for practitioners to learn how to:
  • Build on their knowledge of saturated soil mechanics to account for the effects of partial saturation and suction using the effective stress concept
  • Define and quantify stresses, strains, shear strength and deformation in unsaturated soils
  • Determine shrink and swell potential in a mechanically consistent way
  • Plan a program of laboratory tests and interpret data
  • Determine parameters from laboratory testing and field/in situ testing
  • Analyse seepage and moisture movement in unsaturated soils
  • Assess lateral earth pressure and bearing capacity in unsaturated soils
  • Analyse slope stability and account for strength loss due to rainfall
  • Apply unsaturated soil mechanics in a range of problems, and take guidance from techniques used in case studies.


The workshops will be designed for engineers, geologists and other professionals who deal with unsaturated soils. It is envisaged that each participant will have some industry experience and, as a minimum, a knowledge of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering to Bachelor of Civil Engineering standard.


The workshops will involve a number of formal lectures, tutorials and problem solving classes and case study presentations.


  1. Introduction to unsaturated soil mechanics and the effective stress concept
  2. Shear strength and deformation in unsaturated soils
  3. Shrink and swell potential
  4. Laboratory testing, in situ testing and parameter determination
  5. Seepage and moisture movement in unsaturated soils
  6. Lateral earth pressure and bearing capacity in unsaturated soils
  7. Rainfall induced slope instability
  8. Case studies


The workshop will be conducted over two days and will cost $1600 for AGS members and $1800 for non-members. An extensive set of notes and other resources will be provided. Lunch and snacks will also be provided.


Nasser KhaliliNasser Khalili

Nasser Khalili is a Professor at UNSW and is internationally recognised for his contributions to unsaturated soil mechanics and computational geo-mechanics. He is credited with the development of the first thermodynamically consistent framework for constitutive modelling of unsaturated porous media. Some of his seminal contributions to the field include: i) formulation of the first fully coupled flow and deformation model for unsaturated porous media including hydraulic and mechanical hystereses; ii) formulation of a bounding surface plasticity model for cyclic analysis of variably saturated soils, iii) formulation of a thermo-hydro-mechanical model for unsaturated porous media, iv) formulation of the first hypo-plasticity model for unsaturated media, and v) formulation of an equivalent skeletal stress for multi-phase multi-porous media. His work to the mechanics of multi phase multi porous media has attracted many awards and accolades. Similarly, his work on the mechanics of double porosity media is considered as a benchmark in numerical modelling of fractured porous media and is widely cited in the literature. He has worked in academic environment for 26 years, and as a consulting geotechnical engineer for four years.

Adrian RussellAdrian Russel

Adrian Russell is an Associate Professor at UNSW and leads a number of research projects and themes focussed on fundamental mechanics, analytical modelling, and novel experimentation related to structures interacting with unsaturated soils. He has written more than 70 research papers, and has been awarded many times for his research. He is Secretary of TC106, the Technical Committee on Unsaturated Soils within the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. In 2014 he received the International Innovation Award from TC106 for his research on the CPT and retaining walls in unsaturated soils. He has worked in academic environment for 15 years, and as a consulting geotechnical engineer for three years.