Research in geotechnical engineering focuses on understanding and advancing the state of knowledge on the effects that soils and soil deposits have on the performance, stability, and safety of civil engineering structures. Areas of research include laboratory investigations of soil behavior under static and dynamic loads, constitutive modeling of soil behavior, behavior of structural foundations under static and dynamic loads, soil improvement techniques, response of soil deposits and earth structures to earthquake loads, and the investigation of geotechnical aspects of environmental engineering.
Geotechnical engineering is important in civil engineering, but also has applications in military, mining, petroleum and other engineering disciplines that are concerned with construction occurring on the surface or within the ground. Geotechnical engineering uses principles of soil mechanics and rock mechanics to investigate subsurface conditions and materials; determine the relevant physical/mechanical and chemical properties of these materials; evaluate stability of natural slopes and man-made soil deposits; assess risks posed by site conditions; design earthworks and structure foundations; and monitor site conditions, earthwork and foundation construction.
Per applicable California Building Code any considerable improvement & construction requires site investigations to gain an understanding of the area in or on which the engineering will take place. Investigations can include the assessment of the risk to humans, property and the environment from natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, soil liquefaction, debris flows and rockfalls.