Engineers Australia

AGS QLD Symposium 2017

The History of Geotechnics

Harry Poulos, Richard Herraman, David Starr, John Braybrooke, Stephen Buttling and Allan McConnell

The Queensland chapter of the Australian Geomechanics Society (AGS) is pleased to present their annual full-day Symposium.


About the speakers

Harry PoulosSenior Consultant, Coffey Services Australia

“Some Historical Aspects of Australian Geomechanics”

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 Coffey Partners International, and is currently a Senior Consultant with Coffey. He is also an Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney and an Adjunct Professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

He has been involved in a large number of high-rise and infrastructure projects in Australia and overseas.He was selected as the Australian Civil Engineer of the Year for 2003 by the Institution of Engineers Australia, and in 2010, was elected a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In 2014, he was inducted into the US National Academy of Engineering. In 2017, he was awarded the Outstanding Leaders and Projects (OPAL) Award for lifetime achievement in design by ASCE.

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Richard HerramanPrincipal Consultant, South Australia DPTI

“A History of Ideas and Practice in Geotechnical Engineering in Unsaturated Soils”

Richard Herraman, BSc (Hons), BEng Civil (Hons) was Principal Geotechnical Engineer of the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure of South Australia and led their Geotechnical Engineering Group for over 20 years. One of the main achievements of Richard, his group, and private sector geotechnical engineers in South Australia, has been to use recent developments in unsaturated soil mechanics to design more cost-effective revetments and retaining structures for stiff unsaturated clays. Richard has served on the committee of the South Australian Chapter of the Australian Geomechanics Society (AGS) for 20 years. He believes that the AGS plays an important role in the professional development of engineers and in fostering collegiality among engineers.

David StarrPrincipal Geotechnical Engineer, Golder Associates

“Some examples of the practice of geotechnical engineering prior to modern times”

David Starr is a Principal Geotechnical of Golder Associates in Brisbane. He has 46 years’ experience in a range of civil projects in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Guinea, Fiji, Indonesia, the Middle East, Hong Kong, West Africa, and Washington State USA. His experience includes geotechnical investigation, design, and construction monitoring.

David has been part of multi-disciplinary teams for a number of significant tunnelling and infrastructure projects, covering geological and geotechnical investigations, rock property characterisation, rock support design, foundation and tunnel construction, performance assessment, contract claims assessment and has been engaged on a number of occasions as an expert witness. David Starr has published over 20 technical papers, related to tunnelling, rock excavation, professional practice, and case studies. He was Queensland Professional Engineer of the Year in 2006, and was made an Honorary Fellow of Engineers Australia in 2015.

John BraybrookePrincipal Engineering Geologist, Douglas Partners

“‘And you also get paid?’ Reflections on 50 years of Engineering Geology”

John Braybrooke is a Senior Consulting Engineering Geologist with over 50 years of post-graduate experience in all facets of engineering geology, ranging from house sites to large scale infrastructure projects. Prior to joining DP 30 years ago, John was Head, Geotechnical Services, Electricity Commission, NSW for 9 years; a supervising engineering geologist with SMEC and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for 9 years; in the engineering geology group of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Australia, for 3 years and with Conzinc Riotinto in Bougainville in 1965, for 8 months. John has worked in all states of Australia as well as Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Western Samoa. Civil and mining underground structures, particularly tunnels, declines, drifts and shafts, having been involved with over 250 underground projects at pre-feasibility, feasibility, design, construction or post-construction including latent condition claims for both contractors and owners.

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Stephen ButtlingPrincipal, National Geotechnical Consultants

“Judgment Day”

Stephen Buttling graduated in civil engineering from Imperial College, and obtained a PhD from the University of Bristol. His career as a geotechnical engineer spans over 4 decades, from bases in the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Australia. He has worked on a large number of major infrastructure projects, including underground railways, elevated highways, bridges, hydro-electric power, ports and harbours, and airports. Based on this experience, he will refer back to some special words from eminent geotechnical engineers of the past, and show how very little has changed in the last 80 years. He will also indicate a direction in which things might change in the future.

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Allan McConnellOwner, Geotechnical Engineer, Insitu Geotech Services (IGS)

“What does history tell us about current trends?”

Allan is a well-known geotechnical engineer whom, after some 30 years’ experience leading one of the largest geotechnical practices in Australia, started Insitu Geotech Services (IGS) in 2000. Now the proud director of a company with numerous truck-mounted multi-technique testing rigs, a jack-up barge and various semi-portable rigs, Allan’s passion is to provide information that reduces the geotechnical uncertainty where development interacts with the ground.

Allan is a strong supporter and mentor of young engineers and bringing state-of-the-art in-situ testing to Australia. He was the driving force behind bringing the 5th International Conference on Geotechnical Site Characterisation (ISC’5) to QLD in September 2016 and is now the convenor of the organising committee.

Although not practising any longer as a geotechnical consultant, Allan’s extensive background, experiences and innovative approaches to both engineering and in situ testing has resulted in his exposure to a wide variety of problem soils.

Engineers Australia members participating in AGS technical sessions can record attendance on their personal CPD logs. Members should refer to Engineers Australia CPD policy for details on CPD types, requirements and auditing guidelines.