Module code: ENGM048

Module provider

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Module Leader

WOODS RI Dr (Civl Env Eng)

Number of Credits


ECT Credits



FHEQ Level 7

JACs code


Module cap (Maximum number of students)


Module Availability

Semester 2

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 120

Lecture Hours: 36

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination 2 HOUR EXAM 75%
Coursework COURSEWORK 25%

Alternative Assessment


Prerequisites / Co-requisites

A knowledge of soil mechanics and structural mechanics to FHEQ Level 5, and foundation engineering to FHEQ Level 6 

Module overview

Geotechnical engineers and structural engineers tend to approach soil-structure interaction problems quite differently.  On the one hand, geotechnical engineers take great care over the representation of the soil, but then often assume the structure to be either perfectly flexible or perfectly rigid.  Structural engineers, on the other hand, may spend a great deal of time ensuring the structure is modelled as realistically as possible, but then often assume that the supporting soil behaves like a bed of linear elastic springs.  For routine design, either approach may be sufficiently accurate – and, in any event, it may be difficult to justify the cost of more rigorous modelling.

When the situation demands, it will be necessary to create models that take into account the real behaviour of both soil and structure, and this module will provide you with some of the tools for doing this.  A range of soil-structure interaction models and solution methods will be covered, ranging from the simple to the complex.  At the conclusion of the module, you will be in a better position to judge what level of model may be appropriate for a given situation, and what information will be required in order to set up the analysis.  In addition, you should be able to evaluate the analysis output with a clearer understanding of the strengths and limitations of the chosen representation.

Module aims

An understanding of how real structures interact with the surrounding soil

A knowledge of the different idealisations of soil-structure interaction (SSI) that have been devised, including their strengths and limitations

Familiarity with some SSI modelling software

An appreciation of the role of SSI analysis in practical design

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
Select the most appropriate SSI model for a given application K
Determine the data required for a given SSI model KC
Set up and analyse SSI models of continuous footings, rafts, laterally-loaded piles, and embedded retaining walls KCPT
Compare and contrast discrete spring and continuum models of SSI KCPT
Validate the solutions obtained from commercially available software packages KCPT
Synthesis of data T
Reviewing, assessing, and critical thinking T
Use of spreadsheets T
Use of commercial software T

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Module content

Indicative content includes:

Analytical Models

subgrade reaction (Winkler spring) models

continuum models

constitutive models for soils

Solution Methods

semi-analytical methods

finite difference methods

finite element methods

Applications and Case Histories

continuous footings and raft foundations

embedded walls and laterally-loaded piles

pile groups and piled rafts

tunnels and culverts

deep basements

Practical Content

in-house (spreadsheet-based) software for soil-structure interaction analysis

            commercial software for soil-structure interaction analysis

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Build on students’ knowledge of soil mechanics, structural mechanics and foundation engineering and extend it to situations where the structure cannot be considered perfectly flexible or rigid, and/or the soil cannot be considered to provide rigid support.

The learning and teaching methods include:

combined lectures/problem-solving/software demonstration classes (3hrs per week for 11 weeks)
independent learning (reading, tutorials, coursework assignments, and revision) (115hrs)
unseen written examination (closed book) (2hrs)

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

Through coursework assignments, the ability to use

·         a closed-form analytical solution to a simplified SSI model to investigate a multiple loading case, being consistent with sign conventions when using superposition [LOs 3, c]

·         a rigorous numerical (finite element) method to model a classic SSI problem [LOs 3, d] – demonstrating an understanding of the strengths and limitations of the method [LOs 1, 4], the selection           of material parameters [LOs 2, a], and the importance of independent checks [LOs 5, b]

Through written examination, those aspects of LOs 1-4, a,b not fully covered by the coursework.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

·         coursework : analytical modelling of a beam on elastic foundation [Learning outcomes assessed 3, c] (5 hours, 5%)

·         coursework : continuum and Winkler modelling comparison [Learning outcomes assessed 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 a,b,c,d] (20 hours, 20%)

·         examination [Learning outcomes assessed 1, 2, 3, 4] (2 hours, closed book)

Formative assessment and feedback

Feedback will be given on both coursework assignments, in the form of generic comments through SurreyLearn and more detailed and individualised feedback given on the marked assignments within the time allowed for marking coursework. Formative assessment will be through solving problems in class (and getting feedback on the correct solution there and then) and also through tackling tutorial sheets – for which feedback takes the form of full worked solutions posted on SurreyLearn after the student has had an opportunity to try the problems for him/herself.

Reading list


Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2017/8 academic year.