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CEG8212 : Assessment of slope stability; design of slopes and retaining structures

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Stefano Utili
  • Lecturer: Dr David Milledge
  • Owning School: Engineering
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


The aims of the module are:-
1. to introduce students to the design and assessment of slopes (e.g. cuttings, embankments, open pit mine pitwalls, and excavations) according to the current international standards (Eurocode 7 and guidelines from ISRM).
2. to introduce the theoretical concepts and engineering principles underpinning the assessment of the stability of slopes excavated in rocks and soils.
3. to introduce the students to the use of stability charts and state of the art software for the assessment of the stability of slopes (e.g. limit equilibrium methods and finite element analyses with the shear strength reduction technique).

Outline Of Syllabus

* lectures, tutorials and set problems on the analytical and numerical methods employed in industry to carry out slope stability assessment with particular emphasis on Limit Equilibrium Methods and Finite Element analyses
* lectures and tutorials on the use of semi-probabilistic methods (Eurocode 7), deterministic methods (lumped Factor of Safety) and probabilistic methods (probability of failure) for slope stability assessment
* lectures and tutorials on the use of stability charts to design and assess slopes in rocks and cohesive soils
* lectures on how to efficiently design slopes
* lectures on the design of retaining structures and their verification according to Eurocode 7

The course will teach students how to assess the safety a wide range of slopes and unsupported excavations in soils and rock in compliance with Eurocode 7 via the use of stability charts, analytical and numerical methods. The main type of failure mechanisms responsible for slope instabilities will be considered including the onset of tension cracks and seismic action. With regard to methods, special emphasis is placed on wedge analysis, Limit Equilibrium Methods and the finite element method with strength reduction technique. The theoretical concepts will be applied to several example cases during tutorials which will offer opportunities to clarify any questions. The main principles underpinning the safe and economic design of slopes and mine pitwalls are also taught in the module. Two full days are spent learning state of the art numerical programs of (e.g. Rocscience Slide2 and RS2) for slope stability assessment. The use of Matlab to illustrate a landscape scale application of translational failure mechanism modelling via an analytical formulation and the determination of equivalent M-C parameters from the Generalised Hoek-Brown criterion is also showcased.

Theoretical concepts and engineering principles underpinning the assessment of the stability of slopes in rocks and soils:
-       Main failure mechanisms occurring in slopes: translational, rotational and compound failure mechanisms;
-       Analysis of slope stability under the assumption of infinite slope;
-       The effect of tension cracks on the stability of slopes;
-       Analysis of slopes under seismic action and Newmark’s method;
-       The effect of various hydraulic conditions on slope stability;
-       Simple Limit Equilibrium Methods (Fellenius and Bishop simplified) for rotational mechanisms;
-       General Limit equilibrium methods (emphasis on Morgenstein-Price and Janbu methods);
-       Correct application of the single source principle in Eurocode 7;
-       Finite Element Analysis with shear strength reduction technique of a slope;
-       Pros & cons of slope stability assessment by FEM analyses versus LEM analyses;
-       Elements of probabilistic slope stability analysis;
-       Design of slopes: use of stability charts for Mohr-Coulomb and Hoek-Brown geomaterials;
-       Methods for the conversion of Hoek-Brown parameters to Mohr-Coulomb for slope stability assessment;
-       Structural walls: actual and theoretical behaviour, groundwater and earth pressure on rigid structures, design of gravity and sheet pile walls.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture600:3030:00lectures providing theory and notions
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion180:0080:00Individual Coursework
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading130:0030:00Studying online resources that accompany taught sessions and reading lecture notes
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading110:0010:00Background reading of course texts
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching131:0013:00Tutorials
Guided Independent StudySkills practice12:002:00Practice of practical skills
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00Problem solving Exercises
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops17:007:00computer exercise using state-of-the art industry software for slope stability assessment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery62:0012:00sessions to answer student queries on development of the coursework
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study18:008:00Practice of tutorial questions
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module is taught as an intensive block in order to provide an immersive learning experience with a flexible integration of lectures, tutorials and problem solving sessions.
The module includes lectures to explain the theory, small group teaching activities in the form of tutorials and set problems to be solved to teach the practical application of the theory for slope stability assessment and the design of open pit mine pitwalls and excavations. A computer exercise employing state of the art commercial software is included to teach students how to use industry standard software for slope stability assessment and design.
Drop in surgeries are offered to support the students in the preparation of the coursework assignment (module assessment is 100% based on the coursework).

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report1M100Approximately 7,000 words, 40 pages of content.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Each student will undertake an individual coursework comprising:
1. The assessment of the stability of a slope subject to static and earthquake action and tension cracks by hand calculation using Limit Equilibrium Method in accordance with EC7 and pre-Eurocode (global Factor of Safety) legacy standards;
2. Use of Limit Equilibrium and Finite element software for the assessment of slope stability
3. The design of slopes in complex stratigraphies in rock (obeying the Generalised Hoek-Brown failure criterion) for a prescribed Factor of Safety.

Reading Lists