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Keynote Lectures

Geosynthetic Clay Liners: Perceptions and Misconceptions

Prof. R. Kerry Rowe GeoEngineering Centre at Queen’s-RMC, Queen’s University, Canada

Author of over 350 refereed journal papers, 3 books, 15 book chapters, and more than 330 full conference papers, he has extensive research and consulting experience in geosynthetics, waste management and geoenvironmental engineering including the design and/or peer review of hydrogeology and/or design for more than 60 landfills in Canada, US and other countries. He has been recognized by numerous awards including the Giroud Lecture (2002), Rankine Lecture (2005), Manuel Rocha Lecture (2006), Casagrande Lecture (2011), the Ferroco-Terzaghi Oration (2012), and the ASCE Karl Terzaghi Lecture (2017). The International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering has created the ISSMGE R. Kerry Rowe Lecture. He has been elected a Fellow of the world’s oldest and most prestigious scientific society, the Royal Society (of London, UK) as well as being elected a foreign Member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, Fellow UK Royal Academy of Engineering and both the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Engineering as well as Professional Societies in Australia, Canada, and USA. He is a past president of the International Geosynthetics Society, the Canadian Geotechnical Society and the Engineering Institute of Canada.


This lecture highlights the importance of carefully considering the implications of design and construction decisions in ensuring good long-term liner performance. It explores some common well-understood concepts and then examines the misconceptions that can arise and their implications. It highlights the importance of selecting the geosynthetic materials considering the overall performance of the barrier system and the effect of interactions between the many different geosynthetics and other components of a barrier system. It demonstrates how what may first appear obvious is not always as one expects.

Reinforcement with Geosynthetics – How They Work in Soil

Prof. Martin Ziegler Geotechnical Engineering and Institute of Foundation Engineering, Soil Mechanics, Rock Mechanics and Waterways Construction, RWTH Aachen University, Germany

After a 15 year career in a large construction company he was appointed chair of Geotechnical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University. He is the author of more than 200 publications in journal papers and conference proceedings, 1 book and 4 book chapters. His main research fields are geosynthetic reinforcement, tunneling, hydraulic failure, ground freezing and geothermal applications. He is engaged in various national and international standardization committees. He has extensive consulting experience in tunneling and foundation engineering and has acted as court-appointed expert in numerous cases of dispute. In 2015, he was recognized with the award of the Society of the Centre of International Structural and Civil Engineering Law (CBTR). Since July 2004 he has been a member of the advisory board of this Society. Since 2003 he has been chairperson of the board of the Research Association for Tunnels and Transportation Facilities (STUVA) which organizes every 2 years one of the world´s largest tunneling conferences with more than 1800 participants from over 25 countries. Since 2006, he has been a member of the board of the German Geotechnical Society (DGGT) and president of the special section “Geosynthetics in Geotechnics” within this society. He has served as a council member of the IGS since 2008 and as chair of the European Activities Committee since 2010.


Depending on the application, the mode of action of geogrids is based on different action mechanisms: these are the membrane effect, the pullout behavior and the constraining effect. Both the frequently described interlocking effect and the confining effect can be subsumed under the constraining effect. After a short explanation of the above mechanisms, some of the most important applications using geosynthetic reinforcement such as steep slopes and walls, bridge abutments, base courses, geosynthetic-encased sand columns or pile-like elements in extremely soft soil are described and the dominant action mechanism is assigned to the respective application. In most applications of geosynthetic reinforcements, however, the constraining mechanism comes into effect. This effect leads to a change of the state of stress in the soil towards a more isotropic stress state. As this reduces the ratio of deviator to isotropic stress, the soil can accommodate a significantly higher load at lower deformations than would be possible without the geogrid. This is impressively shown in laboratory tests.

Geosynthetics in Roadways: Advances with Significant Impact in Sustainable Development

Prof. Jorge G. Zornberg The University of Texas at Austin
Immediate Past-President, International Geosynthetics Society

Prof. Zornberg has over 30 years’ experience in research and practice in geotechnical, geosynthetics, transportation, and geoenvironmental engineering. He has been involved in the design of geotechnical, transportation, mining and waste containment infrastructure, and has served as expert witness in multiple forensic investigations. His research focuses on soil reinforcement, geosynthetics, earth retaining structures, pavements, waste containment and mining facilities, unsaturated soils, and numerical and physical (centrifuge) modeling of geotechnical systems. From 2010 to 2014, Prof. Zornberg served as IGS president and has been an IGS Council Member since 2004. He has also participated in numerous ASCE Geo-Institute leadership roles, including chair of the Geosynthetics Technical Committee and co-chair of the 2017 Geo-Congress. He has authored approximately 400 technical publications, edited various proceedings and book chapters, and been awarded three patents. Prof. Zornberg has been invited to deliver keynote lectures in numerous events around the world. He has also received many prestigious awards, including the Mercer Lecture, IGS’ Award and Young Member Award, ASCE’s Croes medal and Collingwood Prize, as well as the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), awarded by President George W. Bush in 2002.


The world’s roadway systems are so extensive that if combined, their total length would encircle the Earth over 1,600 times. Geosynthetics have provided sustainable alternatives in roadway projects, which currently represent a significant portion of the total geosynthetics market. Yet, geosynthetics are still employed in a small fraction of roadway projects worldwide. Accordingly, the opportunities to achieve sustainability benchmarks by increasing the presence of geosynthetics in roadways are, simply, enormous. This paper presents recent advances in two groups of roadway applications involving geosynthetics. The first group involves already established applications for which selection of geosynthetics has been challenged by the need to identify relevant serviceability-based properties. This includes geosynthetics applications such as the mitigation of reflective cracking in asphalt overlays, separation, base stabilization for base course thickness reduction, and subgrade stabilization for increased road design life. The second group involves new applications where geosynthetics have been found to result in significantly enhanced roadway performance. This includes the use of geosynthetics in pavement preventive maintenance strategies, base stabilization to mitigate problems with expansive clay subgrades, and enhanced lateral drainage in sites where the water table is high. The advantages of these roadway applications are ample, and the overall impact of geosynthetics on sustainable development is probably unmatched when considering the significant extension of roadways that could benefit from their use.

Global Challenges, Geosynthetic Solutions, Counting Carbon and Climate Change Impacts

Prof. Neil Dixon School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, Loughborough University, UK

Neil Dixon is Professor of Geotechnical Engineering in the School of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University, UK. He has been a university academic for 28 years and has 35 years of experience in geotechnical engineering research and practice. He has authored over 175 refereed publications in the areas of geosynthetic applications, sustainable construction, landfill barrier design guidance, slope failure mechanisms, in situ measurement of soil/waste properties, instrumentation development and impacts of climate change. Professor Dixon played a leading role in the development of UK practice in waste containment system design through co-authoring the Environment Agency (England and Wales) reports on landfill stability, which are the basis for the current stability risk assessment permitting procedure. Professor Dixon was an elected Council Member of the International Geosynthetics Society for 8 years and is a past Chairman of the International Geosynthetics Society, UK Chapter. He currently leads development of the acoustic emission landslide monitoring method using Slope ALARMS sensors and is part of the Infrastructure Slopes: Sustainable Management and Resilience Assessment (iSMART) UK research consortia, and was a member of the Future Resilient Transport Networks (FUTURENET) project team. Professor Dixon has been awarded multiple prizes for publications and innovation.


Our planet is experiencing unprecedented change: Population is increasing, resources are being depleted and the climate is changing. The global challenge is to provide an acceptable standard of living for all without using up natural resources and causing irreparable damage to the planet’s climate. The recent United Nations programme Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development came into effect in January 2016. This establishes 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which will guide the decisions taken by nations and organisations over the next 15 years. These include: ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; building resilient infrastructure to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization; making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; and ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. Each country and region faces specific challenges in pursuit of sustainable development. A key driver for changing behaviour is climate change. At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Paris, a global agreement by 196 parties was made to set a goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial level by controlling anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This agreement became legally binding in April 2016 and it is expected that all signatory countries will establish policies and adopt practices that deliver sustainable development.
Against this backdrop of international agreements and goals, the geosynthetics industry has the potential to play a prominent role in providing solutions that help to deliver the vision of global sustainable development. The lecture will discuss the drivers for change in the way infrastructure is delivered and will challenge the geosynthetics industry to play a key role in reducing carbon emissions and dealing with the consequence of climate change. As an example, it will detail a framework for calculating embodied carbon of construction solutions that incorporate geosynthetics and in comparison to other solutions, present case studies and highlight the common pitfalls of such analyses.

Geosynthetics for Natural Disaster Prevention and Mitigation -Japanese Challenge-

Prof. Jiro Kuwano Saitama University, Japan

Jiro Kuwano is Professor of Geotechnical Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Saitama University, Japan. He has been a university academic for 32 years. He is the author of more than 200 publications in journal papers and conference proceedings. His research interests include geosynthetic-reinforced structures, especially their seismic stability and restoration from damage, internal erosion and cave-in of the ground and mechanical properties of geomaterials. He has received awards including Technology Development Award and Research Paper Award of Japanese Geotechnical Society, and Best Paper Award of Geosynthetics International. He was an elected Council Member of the International Geosynthetics Society for 8 years (2008-2016).


Japan is a country of a variety of serious natural hazards. It is composed of many islands and has long coastlines. The islands are mostly mountainous with volcanos. As Japan is located on the four earth’s crusts, there are numerous active faults which cause unstable natural slopes and, of course, strong earthquakes. Japan has been repeatedly hit by earthquakes, some of which induced tsunamis. Japan often suffers heavy rains caused by weather fronts, typhoons and their combinations. Due probably to the global warming, the number of sudden downpours is increasing. Japan is affected by about 10 typhoons annually, which cause not only heavy rains but also high waves causing damage of coastlines. Application of geosynthetic technology has increased in Japan because of its high strength and durability. This lecture introduces Japanese challenges to utilize geosynthetic technologies to mitigate natural disasters. It covers reinforced embankments resisting overtopping caused by tsunami and river flood, geotubes for coastal protection especially for Japanese severe environment such as high waves, reinforced soil wall and/or geonet for rock fall protection works, and recent challenges to natural hazards.