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ICE HKA & HKIE-Geo Division joint webinar on “The observational method in civil engineering – adding value through enhanced control and interpretation”

Event organised by ICE

27 July 2022

This event has now ended

You can catch-up on details or any broadcast and downloads here.


The Observational Method is a powerful technique for reducing risks and saving construction time and costs. It has a well-established technical basis and a proven track record (e.g. Powderham and O’Brien, 2020. The observational method in civil engineering – minimising risk, maximising economy). Despite these compelling benefits, the Observational Method is under-used. Often this is due to contractual barriers and difficulties for checkers to give approvals. Recent developments will be described by Tony O’Brien which will show how these challenges can be successfully managed. International guidance will soon be published on how Contracts can be adapted to enhance the use of the Observational Method and this will be outlined.

A recent adaption of the Observational Method, known as “The Verification Process” will be described through a case history – here the checking and design assurance process was accommodated within the implementation of the Observatory Method through use of Progressive Modification. The case history will also highlight how structural performance and construction processes can significantly influence ground-structure interaction, in addition to the mobilised ground stiffness response. Outcomes and value can be optimised if a well-designed instrumentation and monitoring system is combined with advanced numerical analysis.

Real-time back analysis, RTBA, methods have the potential to facilitate far more efficient interpretation of observational data. Cristian De Santos will briefly describe a software platform, DAARWIN, which integrates site-specific data, numerical analysis together with machine learning technology to rapidly undertake many back-analysis scenarios and identifies most-likely parameter combinations. He will give some recent practical examples of how DAARWIN is being used on major Civil Engineering projects.


The Institution of Civil Engineers (Hong Kong Association) shall not under any circumstances be liable or otherwise for death or any injury or for any damage to or loss or destruction of property or otherwise, in any such case arising from any accident or mishap, and whether during or after this event, in preparation for it, traveling to or from it or otherwise.


Tony O’Brien

Tony O’Brien

Mott Macdonald

global practice leader, geotechnics

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Tony O’Brien

Tony O’Brien is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineering. He is the Global Practice Leader for Geotechnics at Mott MacDonald Ltd and a Visiting Professor at the University of Southampton. He has provided technical leadership on several major projects across Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region. Within MM he leads several initiatives to support the development of modern digital tools for data analysis, management and visualisation.

Tony has contributed to best practice guidance, including CIRIA guide (C791) on advanced numerical modelling and recently published a book “The Observational Method in Civil Engineering”. He also works on several international committees and currently chairs a sub-group of TC206 (Interactive Design) developing guidance on contract conditions to facilitate wider use of the Observational Method.

Cristian de Santos

Cristian de Santos

SAALG Geomechanics

ceo, co-founder

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Cristian de Santos

Dr de Santos is Master´s in Geotechnical Engineer, PhD in Soil Mechanics at the Polytechnical University of Catalonia 2015 (UPC) and CEO and Co-founder at SAALG Geomechanics. He was 3 years junior researcher and consultant for the Polytechnical University of Catalonia (2007-2010), and senior researcher and consultant for six years (2010-2016) at the same university before he decided to create SAALG Geomechanics, an engineering firm specialised in advanced numerical solutions, numerical models’ calibrations and soil & rock parameters characterization by back-analysis.

He also spent part of his PhD time as a visitor researcher at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the USA. He is an expert on Finite Elements software’s (mainly PLAXIS 2D&3D) and geotechnical back-analysis. During his carrier he has been involved in multiple projects around the world such as Metro Lines, High-Speed Trains, Deep Shafts, Hydraulic Tunnels, Land Reclamation projects, and Large Buildings with underground levels among others.

For more information please contact:

Ms Crystal Fung