The first William Selim Hanna honor lecture from failure to success: lessons from geotechnical failures

  • Sherif W. Agaiby
  • Abdelsalam M. Salem
  • Sayed M. AhmedEmail author
Technical Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection from GeoMEast 2017 – Sustainable Civil Infrastructures: Innovative Infrastructure Geotechnology


An engineering failure may be defined as an unforeseen, substandard, performance of an engineered element. It can materialize in the forms of a catastrophic incident or just as a slight functional shortcoming. Failures are not all evil despite our natural aversion to encounter them. In fact, they are both our greatest enemy and, ironically, our foremost educator. Our ancestors who worked as “geotechnical engineers” based their design on experiences gained from failures. This is still the case until now despite the technological advances made by humankind especially in engineering. Unfortunate incidents of failures still happen and they coach us on how to design our buildings. Structures continuously tend to become heavier, bigger, and taller. Indeed, the odds of failures increase as we cross the limits of our engineering knowledge every day. Experts commonly disagree about the nature of failures due to their extreme complexities. Comprehending the causes of failures is one of the most difficult tasks for engineers. A special branch of integrated engineering studies that comprises sophisticated analyses has been established to study failures; Forensic Engineering. In this paper, different aspects of geotechnical failures, including their common causes, are highlighted. Some well-documented geotechnical failures are briefly described and lessons learnt from these failures are revisited with an emphasis on prevention measures of possible failures.


Geotechnical failures Cost of failures Causes of failures Prevention of failures 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sherif W. Agaiby
    • 1
  • Abdelsalam M. Salem
    • 2
  • Sayed M. Ahmed
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Geotechnical and Heavy Civil Engineering DepartmentDar Al-Handasah “Shair and Partners”CairoEgypt
  2. 2.Geotechnical Engineering and Foundations, Faculty of EngineeringCairo UniversityGizaEgypt
  3. 3.Geotechnical Engineering and FoundationsAin Shams UniversityCairoEgypt

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