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In many, if not most, instances of civil engineering or building projects that have suffered time or cost overruns or have required premature remedial works, the reason can be attributed to geotechnical problems as a result of inadequate planning or poor interpretation of site investigation (Site Investigation Steering Group 1993). The difficulties experienced in civil engineering projects which can be related to the ground conditions occur either as a result of unawareness or as a result of failure to grasp the implications of a certain set of ground conditions on the proposed engineering design (Fookes 1997a). The site ground conditions pertaining at the present are the result of a long history of geological processes, from global tectonics, through climatic change to relatively recent landscape-forming processes. Major impact may also have been caused by man’s historical usage of the site. Much of this history of usage can be derived by the specialist from existing scientific records and published maps. The desk study is a fundamental first step in any site investigation programme. Its purpose is to access published information and other available records pertinent to the region, area and immediate environs of the project development site. This would include an investigation of geology, geomorphology, aerial photographs and other archival data.

The recently published updated British Standard Code of Practice for Site Investigation, BS5930:1999, is unequivocal in stating that Stage 1 of a site investigation comprises a desk study and site reconnaissance and it should be undertaken at

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