A Two-Day Short Course by Dr. Gordon Fenton, Professor of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mathematics at Dalhousie University and Dr. Vaughan Griffiths, Professor of Civil Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines

Risk Assessment in Geotechnical Engineering

Monday & Tuesday, May 9 and 10, 2016

Coast Coal Harbour Hotel, 1180 West Hastings, Vancouver

The VGS will be hosting a two day short course in early May on Risk Assessment in Geotechnical Engineering presented by Dr.'s Gordon Fenton and Vaughan Griffiths.  The registration form is available here.  A detailed course program is available here.  When booking a hotel room at the Coast please reference the event for a preferred rate.

Purpose and Background

Soils and rocks are among the most variable of all engineering materials and are, therefore, highly amenable to a probabilistic treatment. The application of statistical and probabilistic concepts to geotechnical analysis is a rapidly growing area of interest for engineers as indicated by recent new books, journals and dedicated sessions at practice-oriented conferences. The course content and delivery will assume no more than an introductory understanding of probability and statistics on the part of the participants; however, the goal is to present a "user friendly" training on modern probabilistic techniques applied to classical geotechnical engineering problems such as seepage, settlement, bearing capacity and slope stability.

The course will include:

  • Discussion of potential benefits of probabilistic approaches as opposed to the classical "Factor of Safety" methods
  • Review of probability theory and random variables
  • Development of Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) in geotechnical engineering
  • Modeling spatially variable soil properties
  • Basics of Monte Carlo simulation and the Random Finite Element Method (RFEM)
  • Examples of established probabilistic methods of analysis in geotechnical engineering, such as the First Order Second Moment (FOSM) method and First Order Reliability Method (FORM)
  • Estimation of soil property statistics and choosing a distribution
  • Advanced estimation methods: Best Linear Unbiased Estimation and Kriging
  • Risk-based decision making
  • Reliability-based design concepts in and calibration of the 2014 Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code

Seminar Benefits and Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the rationale for probabilistic geotechnical analysis
  • Gain exposure to some methodologies for probabilistic geotechnical analysis
  • Obtain introduction to some software for probabilistic geotechnical analysis
  • Gain a better understanding of LRFD methods in geotechnical design and their relationship to probabilistic methods
  • Understand the relationship between the Factor of Safety and the Probability of Failure (or Reliability Index)

Who Should Attend?

  • This course is aimed at practitioners of geotechnical engineering who wish to keep abreast of developments in reliability-based design methodologies.


Dr. Fenton is a Professor cross-appointed to the Civil Engineering and Engineering Mathematics Departments at Dalhousie University. His research interests include probabilistic modeling of geotechnical systems and the development of geotechnical reliability-based design codes and has authored over 140 peer-reviewed papers. He is currently Chair of the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code Geotechnical Systems Committee, chair of the newly formed National Building of Canada (NBCC) Task Group on Geotechnical Systems, a member of the NBCC Standing Committee on Structural Design, and a member of the NBCC Task Group on Climatic Loads. He is also the North American Managing Editor for the international journal "Georisk", past chair and current member of the ASCE Geo-Institute Risk Assessment and Management Committee, and vice-chair of the ISSMGE Engineering Practice of Risk Assessment and Management Committee. For his research efforts, Dr. Fenton was selected by the Canadian Geotechnical Society to deliver the Cross-Canada Lecture Tour in the fall of 2015, has received the C. Allin Cornell Award from the International Civil Engineering Risk and Reliability Association, the Thomas C. Keefer Award from the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, the George Stephenson Medal from the Institution of Civil Engineers, UK, the Gzowski Medal from the Engineeering Institute of Canada, and was elected a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering. His research work is summarized in his textbook "Risk Assessment in Geotechnical Engineering", Wiley (2008).

D. Vaughan Griffiths, Ph.D., D.Sc., P.E., D.GE., FICE, F.ASCE, completed his Masters degree at UC Berkeley and Doctoral degrees at the University of Manchester, UK. He is currently Professor of Civil Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines where his primary research interests lie in application of finite element and risk assessment methodologies in civil engineering. He has written over 300 research papers and is the co-author of three textbooks, "Programming the Finite Element Method",5th edition, Wiley (2014), "Risk assessment in Geotechnical Engineering" Wiley (2008) and "Numerical Methods for Engineers", 2ndedition, Chapman & Hall/CRC (2006). He gives regular short-courses for ASCE continuing education on "Finite Elements in Geotechnical Engineering" and "Risk Assessment in Geotechnical Engineers". Dr. Griffiths is a former ASCE Director and is currently an editor of Computers and Geotechnics and on the Advisory Panel of Geotechnique