Geotechnical Laboratories

The SOCOTEC geotechnical laboratory has been established for over 50 years, offering a large range of UKAS accredited testing methods to BS1377, EN17892 and ISRM standards, with reporting to AGS 3.1 & 4.0 as standard.

From routine soil and rock classification testing, to more sophisticated techniques, the SOCOTEC geotechnical laboratory has the expertise to perform a wide range of tests, using a variety of geotechnical applications, some of which include:

  • Soil Classification
  • Earthworks Testing
  • Shear Strength
  • Rock Testing
  • Consolidation & Permeability Testing
  • Electrochemical Testing
  • Testing of samples deemed to be hazardous (classified by the BDA as 'red')


Soil Classification

Water / Moisture Content

90% of all soil testing relates to the moisture content at the time of test with this test used to correlate other test parameters such as Atterberg limits, CBR value and Shear strength

Plasticity Index / Atterberg Limits (Liquid and Plastic Limit testing)

Obtains the basic characteristics of soils in terms of sensitivity to moisture change

Particle Size / Sieve Analysis & Sedimentation

Can be carried out for the evaluation of grain size and proportions of sand, gravel and fine materials. Sedimentation by either Hydrometer or Pipette methods will split the material less than 63micro further to show the CLAY and SILT as separate fractions

Soil Suction

Undertaken to evaluate the desiccation of soils often caused by tree roots drawing moisture from soil and potential subsidence

Bulk/Dry and Particle Density Testing

Measurements used for obtaining the unit weight of soils

Saturated Moisture Content of Chalk

Will show how well saturated chalk material is, often tested with intact dry density and natural moisture content


Earthworks Testing

Compaction Testing (2.5kg / 4.5kg) - often known as MDD/OMC

Undertaken to obtain the Maximum Density and Optimum Moisture content of materials to be used for Earthworks bulk fill. Used for relating field density testing to prove fill is adequately compacted. 

California Bearing Ratio (CBR)

Used for evaluation of soils for road bearing capabilities

Moisture Condition Value (MCV) / Moisture Condition Relationship

Used to access the work-ability of soils for moving / placing bulk fills, often for instant results to allow fill monitor ongoing placement

Chalk Crushing Value (CCV)

Similar to MCV but bespoke to projects where chalk is being used as a fill material


Shear Strength

Quick Undrained Triaxial Testing - also known as UUT/QUT

Obtains the undrained shear strength (cu) value for soil stiffness which is used in the foundation design

Shear Box Testing (60mm and 300mm)

Aids the design of embankments, slopes and retaining walls with results showing the friction angle that a slope can be cut to and, in the case of cohesive soils, the shear stress

Ring Shear for Residual Shear Strength

Used to get the lowest shear angle that a cohesive soil will obtain post failure

Laboratory and Hand Shear Vane

Both quick methods for a basic strength (cu) value

Effective Stress (Consolidated Drained and Undrained Triaxial)

Similar to UUT/QUT but with a number of additional elements including saturation and consolidation prior to the shear stage. The rate of Shear is much slower than the QU test with rates of strain calculated from the consolidation properties

 Rock Testing

Point Load Test

Provides a very quick indicator of rock strength

Unconfined Compressive Strength (UCS)

A direct strength test on a Rocks strength under compression

Young’s Modulus of Elasticity & Poisson’s Ratio

A localised strain measurement in addition to compressive strength

Cherchar Abrasion Index

Indicates of a rocks abrasiveness against cutting tools for excavation

Consolidation & Permeability Testing

Constant Head Permeability

Measures the rate of flow of water through granular soils

Triaxial Permeability

Provides the measurement of low permeability soils, for example; landfill mineral liners and flood embankments

Falling Head Permeability

Quicker method for lower permeability materials

Oedometer Consolidation and Swelling

The One dimensional consolidation test is used to obtain the settlement characteristics of fine grained soils.   Mv & Cv reports show the rate and amount of settlement under loading.  Swell and swelling pressure tests can be undertaken where heave is expected through excavation or removal of overburden

Isotropic Consolidation

A similar test to effective stress without the shearing stages

Rowe Cell Consolidation & Rowe Cell Permeability

Hybrid testing method of the oedometer and effective stress tests - where drainage conditions can be altered to either vertical or horizontal. Tests are often on soft, organic & peaty soils

CRS (Constant Rate of Strain) Testing

A specialist test where loads are controlled and applied over a longer period of time, often used for off shore wind-farms or similar projects

Electrochemical Testing

Soil Resistivity (Wenner Probe Method)

Measures a soil’s resistance to electrical current

Thermal conductivity/Resistivity (Needle Probe Method)

Measures thermal properties of soil


Hazardous and Contaminated Soil Testing

The capabilities of SOCOTEC’s ‘red’ laboratory allows soils that are potentially contaminated with certain hydrocarbons, heavy metals or asbestos to be safely tested. Some contaminated sites are classified as ‘yellow or red’ by the British Drilling Association. 

Our 'red' laboratory is designed so our team of 40 technicians can work in a safe environment to prepare samples, and undertake a full suite of testing on potentially hazardous or contaminated samples which would otherwise be unable to be tested. This requirement is now becoming more prevalent as contractors are under greater pressure from local authorities to keep materials on site rather than removing to landfill and having to use imported materials.

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