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tvlasova | Created: 27 Sep 2022 | Updated: 27 Oct 2022

By James Press, EIT, Geotechnical Engineering Associate, Aterra Solutions

It was maybe Terzaghi who said, ““We all must contend with the internal frictions of life in an environment that continually demands we focus on its gritty and granular details.”
Let’s admit it – sometimes it can be a struggle to find cohesion amidst the various loads placed upon our many layers. Whether it be a feeling of compaction in our daily activities or an unwelcome seepage intruding on our work-life balance, it’s critical to acknowledge the role effective stress plays in our lives. For it is only once we accept the overburden as part of our essence that we may finally and truly become undisturbed. 
The following is a short list of tips designed to help you on the path to stability and strength against the shear forces of daily life.

  1. Learn to love your pore water pressure. That’s right. There are some loads in life that will be too much to bear at first: heavy forces distributed in just the precise way to generate a ton of pressure. At first glance, this can be a frightening concept, but fret not! Lean on your pore water pressure, the glorious support system surrounding your interparticle contact forces which will accept the load on your behalf – until you are ready to carry it yourself. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to consolidate. Although we are all wonderfully unique and capable of self-actualization, we do in fact contain significant voids. Sometimes a change in effective stress requires that we compress ourselves into a more compact state and let go of some familiar empty space. It is through this process that we achieve a calming ratio, bringing peace into our thoughts and soil skeleton.
  3. Use your influence. Some induced stresses can be managed quite well by a thoughtful understanding of your influence factors. If you know a major load is about to be added to your surface, consider descending to your deepest layers and maybe even a little off to the right… it will be as if you aren’t feeling a stress change at all!
  4. Strive for a steady-state. Rarely do we enjoy a fully static flow condition in life; it is far more common to find ourselves pursuing the steady-state equilibrium, with all its flow nets and drops. This is a predictable and relaxing place where confidence may grow, but be mindful not to get a big head! There is no strength to be found when your effective stress plummets to zero – we all need just enough to keep us grounded.
  5. Don’t drain yourself. I leave with you with this last bit of advice, much akin to the first, and gleaned from a long life of observation wells and triaxial testing: embrace the undrained condition. Learn to live a cohesive life with minimal friction, accepting new loads slowly but surely. Things will stabilize over time and you will be rewarded by your patience. 

I hope these tips help you form a solid foundation with a substantial capacity and a high factor of safety against failure.  May your N-values remain ever high and may your layers never be dry!