ENCN253-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023

Soil Mechanics

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 July 2023
End Date: Sunday, 12 November 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 30 July 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 1 October 2023


Properties and behaviour of rocks. Formation, properties and classification of soils. Strength and stiffness of soils. Applications to slopes, retaining walls, and site characterisation.

This course provides an introduction to the subject of soil mechanics, which is the basis for the use of soils as an engineering material in geotechnical engineering.  In particular, this course covers the geologic origin of soils, the characterisation of soil for engineering purposes, the influence of groundwater, strength under drained conditions, and the compression of soil.

Learning Outcomes

  • At the conclusion of this course you should be able to:

  • Characterise and classify soils for the purposes of engineering assessment.
  •      Interpret Proctor compaction curves to recommend appropriate moisture conditioning and density targets for engineered fills.
  •      Calculate total and effective stresses for 1 dimensional soil profiles.
  •      Estimate model parameters for the one-dimensional compression of soils, and apply this model to estimate settlements due to changes in soil loading.
  •      Describe the shear stress – shear strain behaviour of soils under drained conditions
  •      Estimate the drained shear strength of a soil in different states
  •      Apply analytical methods to the flow of water through the ground to calculate flow rates, heads and pore pressures for two dimensional flow.
  •      Describe the geological and geomorphological processes responsible for the formation of soils, and apply this knowledge to develop a ground model.


Subject to approval of the Dean of Engineering and Forestry


ENCI252, ENCI271

Course Coordinator

Mark Stringer


Robin Lee

Lab Technician

Siale Faitotonu


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Assignments (x4) 20%
final exam 65%
Labs (x3) 15%


• Students who are unable to attend their scheduled laboratory sessions will be required to complete a virtual laboratory, which will require approximately the same amount of time to complete.  Students without valid reasons for missing their scheduled laboratory session will be awarded zero marks in that session, but will be able to complete the virtual laboratory (no credit awarded).
• Students are required to submit reports and assignments through the submission portals on the LEARN page.    It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that materials are correctly uploaded (this includes checking that any electronic annotations have been correctly saved in the file) prior to the submission deadline.
• Late assignments will result in a reduction of the total marks at a rate of 10% per day.  
For example: if a student scores 88% on the 1-D compression assignment, but hands it in 30 hours late, then their final grade for that assignment will be 88% - 10%x2 = 68%.  Other assessment items are unaffected.
• The final examination will cover all material in the course.

Any student who has been impaired by significant exceptional and/or unforeseeable circumstances that have prevented them from completing any major assessment items, or that have impaired their performance such that the results are not representative of their true level of mastery of the course material, may apply for special consideration through the formal university process. The applicability and academic remedy/action associated with the special consideration process is listed for each assessment item below. Please refer to the University Special Consideration Regulations and Special Consideration Policies and Procedures documents for more information on the acceptable grounds for special consideration and the application process.

Special Consideration for Assignments

An extension will be granted for evidence-supported requests. Extensions will typically be for up to one week, but the duration will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Students seeking an extension must contact the course coordinator as soon as possible with evidence of their situation, and preferably before the due date.

Special Consideration for Laboratories

Students who are unable to physically unable to attend the laboratories will be permitted to complete a virtual laboratory exercise.  The virtual laboratory exercises should typically be completed within one week, but the duration will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Special Consideration for Midterm Test

An alternative test will be provided for evidence supported requests.  Requests for special consideration on the mid-term test must be received by email prior to the test starting, with evidence being provided within 2 days.  Except in severe cases, it is expected that students will complete the alternative test prior to the mid-term break.  In all cases, the result from an alternative assessment will replace the original mark.

Special Consideration for Final Exam

Students with requests for Special Consideration will be offered an equivalent alternative exam that will replace their original exam mark. This exam will be held in-person in the week immediately following the exam period.

Note: All communication associated with the arrangement of equivalent alternative tests/exams will be conducted using official UC email accounts. The offer to sit an alternative assessment will come with a list of potential dates/times. Students will have a clearly specified amount of time to respond to the offer to sit the alternative assessment and accept one of the listed dates/times. If the offer is declined or no response is received in the specified time frame, the original assessment mark will be used to compute the course grade.

Textbooks / Resources

Recommended Reading

Atkinson, J. H; The mechanics of soils and foundations ; 2nd ed; Taylor & Francis, 2007.

Powrie, William; Soil mechanics : concepts and applications ; 3rd ed; CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.

Waltham, Tony; Foundations of engineering geology ; 3rd ed; Spon Press, 2009.

Full access to the e-book versions of Powrie (2014), Atkinson (2007) and Waltham (2009) is provided to all students through the University library.

Additional Course Outline Information


The core material covered in the course will be presented in four lectures each week. Students are expected to make notes on key concepts and ideas as they are discussed, or illustrated with diagrams and graphs. Examples and problems will be used to demonstrate techniques and concepts, but students are expected to put in time outside lectures to refine their understanding through revision and additional reading, and to develop problem-solving skills by working through tutorial problems.

The lecture material is supported by tutorials. These tutorials provide opportunities to apply the concepts taught in class to tackle a range of examples and to develop problem-solving skills in a supportive environment.

Students are expected to take full advantage of these sessions and are encouraged to attend in person.

Video Recordings

We understand that from time to time, exceptional circumstances will prevent you from attending your lectures in person.  To help accommodate these situations, lectures will be recorded and made available on the Echo platform.  While we attempt to ensure good quality sound etc, we do not guarantee the quality (sound or visual) of these recordings; If recordings are not available due to malfunction of the equipment, then it may not be possible to provide alternatives.

While we will make recordings available, we believe that studying remotely is inferior to being present and interacting in class and with your classmates.  We therefore strongly discourage the reliance on recordings.

Students should be aware that watching lectures at elevated speeds is not an effective use of time when first interacting with the material.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,030.00

International fee $5,750.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see Civil and Natural Resources Engineering .

All ENCN253 Occurrences

  • ENCN253-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023