GEOL40520 Rock Engineering

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module focuses on the characterisation and deformation of hard rocks and their applications in the engineering geology and geotechnics sector. Lectures will initially address the quantitative theory of rock mechanics (e.g. stress, strain, elasticity, fracture mechanics) and its application to complex and heterogeneous geological material. The module will then focus on real-world engineering applications of rock mechanics, considering tunnelling, mining and rock slope stability. This module will also provide an introduction into the different computational modelling methods used to consider rock engineering problems. The practical classes will focus on the quantitative skills required to consider large-scale rock properties and engineering scenarios.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. Understand applications of rock mechanics within different industrial sectors.
2. Identify key concepts in underground excavation in the shallow subsurface.
3. Describe methods of assessing rock strength at laboratory and field scales.
4. Determine rock slope stability and factor of safety using quantitative methods.
5. Use different modelling softwares to assess realistic rock engineering scenarios.

Indicative Module Content:


1. Site investigation: code of practice for site investigation, desk study & map sources, bedrock mapping, overview of geophysical investigations, subsurface mapping methods (e.g. drilling, trial pits), index properties, field testing
2. Rock mechanics & engineering characterisation of hard rock: index testing, elastic parameters, two dimensional stress fields, introduction of Mohr circles and Amonton's Law, pore pressure.
3. Rock deformation: laboratory strength testing (point load, direct shear, UCS, UTS, triaxial testing), rock anisotropy, constructing Mohr circles from laboratory data, introduction into failure criteria.
4. Rock mass classification schemes: rock mass rating, geological strength index, rock tunnelling quality index, rock mass index, scale effects.
5. Tunnelling and underground excavation: tunnelling in hard ground vs. soft ground, tunnel excavation methods, case studies, tunnel failures (gravity-induced, stress-induced, water-induced), tunnel support.
6. Mining engineering: mining methods (room and pillar, shrinkage stoping, sublevel stoping, cut-and-fill, caving), blasting, associated hazards + mine collapse, treatment of old mines.
7. Rock slope stability: underlying theory, types of landslides, factor of safety, driving vs. resisting forces, landslide remediation methods.
8. Rock slope stability: quantitative methods for analysis, e.g. limit equilibrium analysis, kinematic analysis.
9. Geotechnical modelling: computational modelling of geotechnical problems, e.g. probabilistic LEM, discontinuum analysis, continuum analysis, constitutive models.
10. Geotechnical modelling: applied case studies using computational models.

Practical classes:
1. Site investigation exercise
2. Numerical modelling of lab testing, Mohr circles and failure criteria
3.. Rock mass classification with application to tunnelling/mining
4. Limit equilibrium analysis of slope stability
5. Kinematic analysis of wedge/topple/sliding failure.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The practical classes for this module primarily use task-based learning and problem-based learning to equip students with the skills required to complete industry-relevant tasks, e.g. undertaking a desk study to scope out a construction site.

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Assessed practical work throughout the term Throughout the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Practical Examination: Combined written and practical exam, where the practical questions relate to the content of the practical classes. 2 hour End of Trimester Exam n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Classes will receive group and individual feedback on practical class exercises, before and after assessment of the work.

Practical Rock Engineering - Hoek [open access, available here:]
Rock mechanics & engineering - Jaeger
Engineering rock mechanics - Hudson & Harrison
Name Role
Assoc Professor Tom Manzocchi Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.

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