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John Mitchell lecture 2024: Creating added value through Adaptive Design – a seismic perspective

Event organised by ICE

23 January 2024

This event has now ended

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Building and infrastructure collapses and failures triggered by earthquakes kill, on average, about 20,000 people every year. Historically, seismic building codes and design specifications have established minimum requirements for life safety and prevention of collapse. In seismically active regions, earthquakes can be considered reoccurring events, with severity states between serviceability and ultimate levels.

If we compare a strong earthquake with other highly destructive events arising from climate change, what can we learn from seismic engineering approaches in the development of resilient and flexible designs as will indeed be needed in response to future heavily impacting climatic events?

This lecture will introduce the concept of adaptive design for geotechnics and explore situations where such an approach can be used based on the best practice design aspects from seismic engineering. A new balance must be found when designing for future extreme events – between conventional efficient (non-conservative) singular design and added adaptive design elements to accommodate future seismic/ climatic events.

There is new guidance from a few regulators highlighting the need to identify adaptation solutions (where possible) that will perform well in the current situation and in defined future scenarios. Project examples from around the world will show that reducing seismic vulnerability with understanding of the design drivers and performance-based matrix, can lead to adopting adaptive solutions. A new framework will need to consider the future conditions, functional life, balancing longevity, adaptability, and optimising material use with the carbon counting tools for design scenarios in both seismic and non-seismic situations.

This John Mitchell lecture looks at some aspects of the best current seismic engineering practice and how these might inform the development of Adaptive Design in the broader field of routine engineering. This can trigger a long journey for an industry-led transition from singular prescribed design to suitably adaptive design.

Organised with

The British Geotechnical Association

The British Geotechnical Association

The BGA is the principal association for geotechnical engineers in the United Kingdom and organises a number of high profile events each year.


18:30 - 18:35

Welcome by Dr Andrew Ridley, chair, British Geotechnical Association

18:35 - 19:20

Keynote address by Dr Barnali Ghosh, technical principal (seismic), Mott MacDonald and RAEng visiting professor, Cambridge University

19:20 - 19:40

Q&A session

19:40 - 19:45

Closing remarks by Dr Andrew Ridley


Dr Andrew Ridley

Dr Andrew Ridley

Geotechnical Observations Ltd

managing director & owner

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Dr Andrew Ridley

Dr Andrew Ridley is Chair of the British Geotechnical Association and managing director of Geotechnical Observations Limited which he founded in 2000.

With over 40 years’ experience within the geotechnical sector of the civil engineering industry, he is known for his work on the measurement of soil suction (in situ and laboratory) for which he received a PhD from Imperial College London.

Andrew is currently the UK's representative on ISO TC182 WG2, which is writing international standards for geotechnical monitoring, a member of the British National Committee for standards in geotechnics B_526_3, Chair of ISSMGE TC220 Field Monitoring in Geomechanics and was Chair of the local organising committee for the 11th International Symposium on Field Monitoring in Geomechanics held at Imperial College London in September 2022.

In addition, Andrew was a member of the Steering Committee for CIRIA 550 Infrastructure Embankments – Condition Appraisal and Remedial Treatment, on the Editorial Panel of Geotechnical Engineering (Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers) from 1998 to 2001 and was a member of the sub-committee to the Advisory Panel of Géotechnique for the 2011 Symposium in Print on Partial Saturation in Compacted Soils.

Dr Barnali Ghosh CEng FICE

Dr Barnali Ghosh CEng FICE

Mott MacDonald

technical director

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Dr Barnali Ghosh CEng FICE

Barnali Ghosh has been nominated by the British Geotechnical Association for the John Mitchell Award, to recognise her major contributions to the practical aspects of geotechnical offshore and earthquake engineering.

She is currently a technical director at Mott MacDonald, where she leads a team of specialist geo seismic engineers - who carry out both regional and site specific geotechnical and seismic hazard assessments for a range of structures in the energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing sectors. During her long career, Dr Ghosh has acted as a seismic designer and reviewer for high-profile projects around the world. Of particular note is her sustainable solutions and performance-based design approaches for developing countries which have wide-ranging social outcomes for communities.

Dr Ghosh is a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor at Cambridge University for Geo Seismic Engineering. She has also worked part time as an adviser for the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) UK, after being awarded a Fellowship by the Royal Commission of the Exhibition of 1851.

She has been extensively published in international journals, is an invited speaker in many seismic conferences, and has recently contributed to ICE MOGE (Manual of Geotechnical Engineering). She was part of the Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT) following the Nepal earthquake in 2015 and is part of several committees related to seismic engineering.

Dr Ghosh was the winner of the prestigious 2017 Shamsher Prakash Award for Excellence in Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering and a winner in the Top 50 Women in Engineering Award in UK (2020). Her pioneering work in propagating sustainable solutions and practical application of embodied carbon principles in rehabilitation of Gumbasa Irrigation Canal was recognised in the Ground Engineering Sustainability award in 2022.

She is also part of the network for inclusion of diversity and women in Mott MacDonald, and a role model and mentor for women engineers within the company. Recently, as panel member for the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) diversity committee (Southeast), she is working with ICE Connect to increase the number of women Fellows within the association.

For more information please contact:

Hayley Proudlock

Sustainable Development Goals: