Ground Investigations – Guarantee for Infrastructural Sustainability

Written by: Anto Amboson - Coordinator, Business Development

In September 2015, the United Nations – General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This epistle’s focus is Goal 9 – “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”.

Nigeria being a member of the United Nations, has agreed to work towards achieving this goal. It is a fact that Nigeria has a huge infrastructure deficit. Therefore, Nigeria has a lot of catching up to do in terms of infrastructure development. However, more importantly is building resilient infrastructure for generations to come.

In building sustainable infrastructure, it is important to consider the planning, design and construction. Each phase is equally important. However, for the purpose of this article, we will only focus on the planning phase.

Failed and sub-standard structures which require maintenance or are abandoned are prevalent in Nigeria. This is due to developers cutting corners by not acquiring the needed information before construction. It is better to spend more to build resilient infrastructure than spend less for an unsustainable infrastructure that eventually fails or requires rehabilitation and regular maintenance. Hence it is paramount to carry out sufficient ground/site investigations to guide major investment decisions on siting and designing facilities.

Ground investigation involves the collection, processing and interpretation of surface/sub-surface (geological) data, required to design, construct and maintain infrastructure. After acquiring such data, an actual foundation design (not assumed) can be built from a representative ground model – showing the ground stratigraphy, structure and engineering properties. Also, the data helps to limit uncertainties related to ground conditions, for example: weak ground, presence of cavities, faults, corrosive environment, liquefaction, etc. All these are site conditions that may affect an infrastructure. When identified, ground conditions may be improved/stabilised through compaction, grouting, pre-loading, consolidation, soil mixing, etc. Other approaches in dealing with difficult foundation conditions include avoiding the particular site and reducing the effects of contaminated soils.

The challenges in ensuring ground investigations are performed, prior to designing and constructing infrastructure in Nigeria are awareness and enforcement. Firstly, most Nigerians do not know the advantages of performing soil investigations. Secondly the government mainly focuses on mega infrastructure/facilities. Even at that, ensuring the integrity of the soil investigation for such facilities is another issue, as the construction firms are left to perform the investigations and also construct the related infrastructure thereby leaving no room for quality assurance.

The aim of this article is to throw more light on the need and impediments to soil investigation, thereby initiating a discourse on the fate and integrity of soil investigations, so as to build resilient infrastructures on solid foundations; meeting the United Nations SDG and “Transforming our World”.

 

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