Chapter 6 Collapsible Soils in the UK
Published:June 09, 2020
M. G. Culshaw, K. J. Northmore, I. Jefferson, A. Assadi-Langroudi, F. G. Bell, 2020. "Chapter 6 Collapsible Soils in the UK", Geological Hazards in the UK: Their Occurrence, Monitoring and Mitigation – Engineering Group Working Party Report, D. P. Giles, J. S. Griffiths
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Metastable soils may collapse because of the nature of their fabric. Generally speaking, these soils have porous textures, high void ratios and low densities. They have high apparent strengths at their natural moisture content, but large reductions of void ratio take place upon wetting and, particularly, when they are loaded because bonds between grains break down upon saturation. Worldwide, there is a range of natural soils that are metastable and can collapse, including loess, residual soils derived from the weathering of acid igneous rocks and from volcanic ashes and lavas, rapidly deposited and then desiccated debris flow materials such as some alluvial fans; for example, in semi-arid basins, colluvium from some semi-arid areas and cemented, high salt content soils such as some sabkhas. In addition, some artificial non-engineered fills can also collapse. In the UK, the main type of collapsible soil is loess, though collapsible non-engineered fills also exist. Loess in the UK can be identified from geological maps, but care is needed because it is usually mapped as ‘brickearth’. This is an inappropriate term and it is suggested here that it should be replaced, where the soils consist of loess, by the term ‘loessic brickearth’. Loessic brickearth in the UK is found mainly in the south east, south and south west of England, where thicknesses greater than 1 m are found. Elsewhere, thicknesses are usually less than 1 m and, consequently, of limited engineering significance. There are four steps in dealing with the potential risks to engineering posed by collapsible soils: (1) identification of the presence of a potentially collapsible soil using geological and geomorphological information; (2) classification of the degree of collapsibility, including the use of indirect correlations; (3) quantification of the degree of collapsibility using laboratory and/or in situ testing; (4) improvement of the collapsible soil using a number of engineering options.
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Geological Hazards in the UK: Their Occurrence, Monitoring and Mitigation – Engineering Group Working Party Report
The UK is perhaps unique globally in that it presents the full spectrum of geological time, stratigraphy and associated lithologies within its boundaries. With this wide range of geological assemblages comes a wide range of geological hazards, whether they be geophysical (earthquakes, effects of volcanic eruptions, tsunami, landslides), geotechnical (collapsible, compressible, liquefiable, shearing, swelling and shrinking soils), geochemical (dissolution, radon and methane gas hazards) or georesource related (coal, chalk and other mineral extraction). An awareness of these hazards and the risks that they pose is a key requirement of the engineering geologist.
The Geological Society considered that a Working Party Report would help to put the study and assessment of geohazards into the wider social context, helping the engineering geologist to better communicate the issues concerning geohazards in the UK to the client and the public. This volume sets out to define and explain these geohazards, to detail their detection, monitoring and management and to provide a basis for further research and understanding.