Engineers Australia

Recent Advances in Vertical Drains and Vacuum Preloading for Soft Ground Stabilisation

Distinguished Professor Buddhima Indraratna

4th Louis Menard Lecture Down-under


Much of the world’s essential infrastructure is built along congested coastal belts that are composed of weak and highly compressible soils to significant depths. Soft alluvial and marine clay deposits have very low bearing capacity and excessive settlement characteristics. This has design and maintenance implications for tall structures, large commercial buildings, as well as port and transport infrastructure constructed on such poor soils. Stabilising these very soft deposits is essential before commencing construction of infrastructure. A system of vertical drains combined with vacuum pressure and surcharge preloading has become an efficient and cost effective ground improvement option. This technique accelerates consolidation by promoting rapid radial flow which decreases the excess pore pressure while increasing the effective stress. This 4th Louis Menard lecture presents an overview of the theoretical and practical developments of soft ground improvement via prefabricated vertical drains, PVD (including natural fibre drains) and vacuum preloading, with application to selected case studies in Australia.

About Buddhima Indraratna, PhD, FTSE, FIEAust

Buddhima Indraratna has earned the highest Australian professorial title as Distinguished Professor at the University of Wollongong. He is also a University Research Director leading the Centre for Geomechanics and Railway Engineering, currently regarded as one of the most active railway research units in the world. He currently leads numerous projects and consultancies funded by Industry, State Agencies and the Australian Research Council with nearly $20 million dollars over the past decade.

He is a Civil Engineering graduate from Imperial College, London, where he did both his Bachelor and Master degrees, and then obtained his PhD from the University of Alberta in Canada. He worked in geotechnical industry in several countries even after becoming an academic, and was engaged in a number of dams, harbour extension, railways and highways, tunnelling and underground mining projects in Canada, Australia, South and Southeast Asia during his career.

His contributions as a ground improvement expert to the Shoalhaven Floodplain development, Heavy Haul Railways along the Coast of New South Wales, Port of Brisbane reclamation works, Surat Basin railroad analysis, Sunshine Coast and Pacific Highway extension works are some Australian examples. Prof Indraratna’s significant contributions to Transport Geotechnics and ground improvement have been acknowledged through numerous national and international awards, including this Louis Menard Lecture delivered in Seoul at the 19th Conference of ISSMGE in 2017 and the 1st Ralph Proctor Lecture of ISSMGE in Portugal in 2016.

Prof Indraratna has authored 9 Books, more than 700 publications including over 300 international journal papers, and over 50 invited keynote papers. To date, he has successfully supervised over 60 PhD graduates and 30 Postdoctoral Fellows.

Distinguished Professor Indraratna is a Fellow of several professional bodies including the most prestigious Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, as well as being a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Fellow of the Geological Society, United Kingdom.

Venue location


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