The Groundwork

Yuqi Tan leads the Geotechnical Investigation Technical Community

Yuqi Tan is a PhD-qualified Associate Geotechnical Engineer and leads the new Geotechnical Investigation Technical Community. We caught up with Yuqi about his new role as a Technical Community Leader and his volunteer roles with ANCOLD and the Australian Geomechanics Society (AGS) Victoria.



Hi Yuqi, congratulations on your role leading the new geotechnical investigation technical community.


Thank you, I was very happy to be asked to lead this team. I believe in the power of community, and my experience of engaging internal and external stakeholders is proving valuable in this role. In this initial phase, we have established a small working group with team members from four of our offices. We meet fortnightly to create a strategic knowledge-sharing framework in our practice area.



– Yuqi performing tests onsite. From left to right: hand trimming a block sample; downstream of a dam surrounded by termite mounds.



What are the main priorities for this year?


One priority is our commitment to a robust training program for younger engineers to ensure a consistent approach in investigation projects. Another focus is formalising best practice notes for geotechnical investigation techniques for better quality control when delivering client reports.


At ATCW, we value our reputation for quick turnaround times and quality results. We are establishing a streamlined process to accelerate the turnaround time from field logs to client reports. We also know that feedback from senior engineers both onsite and in the office is invaluable to accelerating the career path of our juniors.



Can you walk us through the stages of a typical investigation project?


The first stage is to assess and discuss the client’s requirements for the investigation program based on the stage of their project.


Once the requirement is confirmed, a desktop review is typically conducted based on historical data, remote sensing techniques and any data the client provides. We integrate our extensive in-house knowledge to create a robust scope that allows us to act quickly and adjust the investigation plan as needed.


Next, we will arrange logistics with the site and contractor for the required equipment and access. That can include a drilling rig, sampling equipment, excavator and handheld devices. The site contractor receives a detailed geotechnical brief to ensure all parties are on the same page.


An experienced geotechnical engineer or engineering geologist will be onsite to supervise the investigation and collection of samples. The site engineer will send logs, site test results and photos to the geotech team daily for review. Based on the daily data, the project manager can direct the site engineer to adjust the investigation program in a very short response time. We provide the client with ongoing updates during the investigation program.


Once reviewed, the field logs are prepared as a PDF report. The report goes to the client or the regulator if necessary.


The sample collected onsite is transferred to our in-house soil and tailings laboratory, where a senior engineer or geo-technician supports testing. We often develop a 3D geotechnical model based on the investigation data. All the data is collated into the final geotechnical investigation report.


Throughout the investigation program, we facilitate communications between the site engineer, project manager, reviewer, and client. This ensures that new findings can be communicated in a timely manner and any scope variations can be addressed quickly.



Core Logging. From left to right: Alex Campbell and Asanka Don Peerislage, Chris Taylor



What are the common risks you are seeking to mitigate?


There is a saying in our field by Professor Stuart Littlejohn, “You’ll end up paying for a decent site investigation – whether you have one or not”. Identifying geotechnical/geological concerns in the early stage of a project can save the client significant costs in design, construction and potential operation. Ultimately, the investigation is to mitigate the risk profile of a project to an acceptable level by the client.


Unexpected geotechnical and geological features are common issues that need to be solved for the success of a project. For example, faults and discontinuities with unfavourable dips and dip directions can impose significant risks to the stability of a dam. Liquefiable soil and reactive clay have the potential to cause significant issues if not detected and adequately investigated. Our job is to identify and quantify those risks through the investigation program.


Our flexible approach means we can provide an investigation for the client to do their own design or seamlessly deliver a geotechnical design in-house when required.



How do you still manage to volunteer with ANCOLD and AGS Victoria?


I enjoy contributing to these two communities. Volunteering at both genuinely interests me, and the time I give is after hours. We’ve made significant progress in the last twelve months, which has been personally satisfying. The highlight of last year was a joint technical presentation event between AGS and ANCOLD that included a visit to a Melbourne Water facility in Victoria.


As an Emerging Professionals NT representative, I have assisted the ANCOLD Emerging Professionals group in organising monthly online events with technical presentations that include guest speakers and discussion panels. At the next presentation on 12 June, we will be hosting a discussion panel on tailings dam break with five experts from across Australia. So save your calendar on this!


“This year will be my fifth year on the AGS Victoria Chapter committee, where I am currently the Deputy Chair.”


The Chapter has monthly face-to-face events presented by local, interstate and international speakers. The highlight of the year would be our annual Symposium in September 2024. AGS is a great platform to connect with peer geotechnical practitioners in Australia. I highly recommend anyone with geotechnical and engineering geology interests join a local AGS chapter and attend events.




–  Connect with Yuqi on LinkedIn



Learn more about the ATCW Technical Communities


Join AGS and ANCOLD or find events on these links –
AGS Victoria Chapter Events
The Australian Committee on Large Dams – ANCOLD
To find ANCOLD Young Professional Events click here

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