On a Safer and Sustainable Ground

The notorious characteristics of unsaturated soils give rise to many geotechnical problems including excessive deformation of railway embankments, catastrophic collapse of foundations, slopes and dams, and disastrous landslides, especially when urban areas are hit by extreme weather events. Rapid urbanization demands that engineers understand the intricate properties and behavior of unsaturated soils, so as to safeguard our cities and to achieve sustainable development.

Over the past two decades, geotechnical engineering expert Prof. Charles W. W. Ng has contributed significantly to advancing the fundamental knowledge and engineering properties of unsaturated soils, as well as developing pioneering practices to enhance slope stability and risk mitigation, including using the natural engineering properties of plants to stabilize slopes.

He is now leading a multi-disciplinary international team in a five-year project, funded under the Theme-based Research Scheme of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council, to study the underlying mechanisms and risk mitigation measures for debris flows. These type of flow-like landslides are caused by severe rainfall, and routinely claim thousands of lives and destroy infrastructure in mountainous regions around the world every year. One of the highlights of this project is the construction of the world’s largest physical model, a 160 m long channel that can model up to 500 m3 of debris flow, to develop the world’s first scientific-based design guidelines for multiple flexible barriers (a compact a sustainable alternative to the existing state of design).

Prof. Charles W. W. Ng is the Dean of HKUST Fok Ying Tung Graduate School, CLP Holdings Professor of Sustainability, and the President of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. He has received numerous honors including the 2017 Telford Premium Prize from the Institution of Civil Engineers, UK, the Henry Adams Award from the Institution of Structural Engineers, UK, the first Tan Swan Beng Award from the Southeast Asian Geotechnical Society, and the R. M. Quigley Award from the Canadian Geotechnical Society three times for his best papers published in 2007, 2012 & 2016.

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