A Framework For Forensic Engineering

Professor Harry Poulos

Co-hosted with EA Civil/Structural Branch, EA Engineering Practice and ASCE Australia Section

Forensic geotechnical engineering is gaining increasing importance in many countries where foundation failures may lead to litigation and even criminal action. This lecture describes a relatively simple framework for investigating the possible causes of foundation failures in a systematic manner. Attention is confined to foundation failures (ultimate failure conditions), although similar principles can be applied to cases involving excessive deformations of the foundation system (serviceability failures). Two case studies will be presented to illustrate the application of the approach developed to cases involving failure of buildings on a piled foundation. The importance of developing alternative hypotheses and then testing them against the available information will be emphasised.

Speaker biography

Harry Poulos joined the Department of Civil Engineering at Sydney University in 1965, and was appointed a Professor in 1982, a position he held until his retirement in 2001. In 1989, he joined the consulting firm of Coffey Partners International, and is currently a Senior Principal with Coffey Geotechnics and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Council of Senior Principals. He is also an Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, and an Adjunct Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

He has been involved in a large number of major projects in Australia and overseas and selected as the Australian Civil Engineer of the Year for 2003 by the Institution of Engineers Australia, and as the inaugural Geotechnical Practitioner of the Year in 2004. He was the 1989 Rankine Lecturer, and the 2004 Terzaghi Lecturer, and in 2005, received the Kevin Nash Gold Medal from ISSMGE. In 2010, he was elected a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the first Australian to be recognised in this way.

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