So.. say you've got a small piece of property (1-5 acres) that's generally on a pretty good slope. You want to build some earthworks to texture the landscape, but you also don't want everything to end up in a heap at the bottom of the slope (or worse, cause the slope to fail). Who would you call to assess the viability of what you want to do?
I'm curious about this because geotechnical engineering seems like an interesting field to get into. It also seems like the engineering folks and permaculture folks don't talk to each other too extraordinarily often. I'd love to be proven wrong though!
Talk to a local building contractor or excavator...... They know soils as far as stability for foundations and ponds and such. Experience pays more than book learning in this case I think......
Another approach is to visit with your local county extension agent and see what information they can provide for soils in your area.
Finally, do a Soil Web Survey Soil Survey of your property to see what the ground looks like. Perhaps there is a soil type that is unsuitable for what you intend, but in another place on your property there is one that is better for something..... It is a very helpful tool for determining where to grow and where to build.
So it sounds like a normal building contractor would have the ability to say yay or nay to most things in this situation? It'd seem to me that they might ask "Hugelwhat?", but I suppose that might just be a matter of finding the right one who is willing to learn about permie earthworks.
Location: union Maine
posted 5 years ago
Talking with a local contractor would certainly be a place to start. They might know who would have more specific info. Sometimes it's not about finding some one who knows as much as finding someone who knows who knows.....
A local civil engineer should be able to help. Often times surveyors have a Professional Engineer on staff that does this type of work. I am licensed as a PE, but not in your state. The trouble is, when you start to get into engineered solutions, the cost goes up quickly. At a minimum, they will want to do get a drill rig out there and drill some test holes.
I can recommend the "Land Development Handbook" published by the Dewsberry Companies as a good general resource. Again,....expensive.
Additionally, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has several engineer manuals available for free download. They are pretty dry reading, but may be helpful if you have some familiarity with soil engineering and want to try to crunch numbers yourself. I have their "Slope Stability" manual and I see "Retaining and Flood Walls" and "General Design and Construction Considerations For Earth and Rock-Fill Dams" that might also be useful.
In a more general sense, for earthwork structures on a slope, it is best to cut into the slope and create a level spot so your structure is "keyed in". You want the weight of your berm/dam/whatever and all of the water behind it to be fully supported by a flat stable surface.
Yeah you are right Ward, it’s a very interesting topic to get into. Geology was my subject but I'm not an engineer. For the earthworks to be done, you”ll definitely need the help of a geotechnical engineer. They use many techniques to determine the soil and rock behaviour. Sorry I don’t have a deep knowledge in this but I guess some geotechnical contractors such as DST people ( https://www.dstgroup.com/services/geotechnical-engineering/ground-investigation-in-situ-testing/ ) can help you.
Me, I ask my wife Dr. Kelly.
Sometimes engineering folks and permaculture folks do get along!
I think that's a great direction; we definitely need more real science to back up the myriad claims that we permies make. As far as needing a geo-tech for earthworks; I know several excavators who can read the land better than any university scientist.
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