Predicting the distribution and engineering behaviour of any problematical deposit is a useful tool in ground characterisation. This paper highlights the progress of one example: the production of the conceptual model to help formulate a probabilistic modelling tool; namely, Geographical Information Systems (GIS). The computing power of a GIS may significantly aid hazard prediction. This model will be used in locating the distribution of a potentially problematic soil, loess. Loess, a wind blown Quaternary soil, covers 10% of the world's landmass and thus the influence on the built environment is pertinent. In the UK, loess is of special interest because these deposits often have metastable (collapsible) fabric. Many buildings have undergone structural failure and subsidence as a result of loess collapse. Therefore, the occurrence of potentially metastable silts has clear implications for engineering construction. The ÔknownÕ distribution of loess in the UK cannot be accounted for under simple aeolian transportation and dumping of silt sized material, its distribution is too sporadic. Therefore the distribution is controlled by the geomorphic surroundings, processes and even in some cases several phases of reworking and redistribution. The factors affecting the mode of formation and subsequent geotechnical characteristics are discussed.


The Quaternary is undoubtedly the most important period in the EarthÕs history for civil engineering (Fookes, 1991). The research at Nottingham Trent University''s Geohazard Research Group and the British Geological Survey reflects this approach. At Nottingham Trent University, the research activities range from implications of problematic soils in foundation engineering, through to sedimentological investigations of the formation of these deposits. This particular research project is centred on investigating the distribution and engineering properties of a problematic soil (loessic material). Advances in computer based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have provided a technology that is ideally suited to aid ground characterisation

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