Geotechnical Knowledge Management - Have we been here before?

The more you know about a site and the surrounding area before you start a Site Investigation, the better you will be able to design the investigation. Technology has come to our aid here and these days we waste no time jumping on the internet to visit Bing Maps®, Google Earth®, or Google Street View® to learn about above ground information and to surf the BGS website and order an Envirocheck® report to try to understand what may be underground.

These are fantastic resources that have been incorporated into the way we work over the last few years. But more often than not, we don’t fully benefit from the in-depth knowledge our company already holds.

This is not a new problem. You have probably heard stories of people purchasing their own borehole logs from the BGS or buying the same historical data several times for the same job.

So why, when we have all these great resources available to us, do we not make the most of the knowledge our organisation already has?

The four factors that stop us are Time, Availability, Cost and Process:-

The online services have proved so popular because it is very quick to access the information. Aerial photographs in less than 30 seconds and now even the delivery of BGS borehole logs measured in seconds rather than days.

For some companies it is far quicker and easier to use the BGS service to locate their geotechnical information than it is to find it internally, especially if the information is not readily available in the first place.

If your company’s knowledge is held in the head of your senior staff then your team will have severely restricted access to it. Following the recent streamlining of our industry you may even find these people have left and there is no way of retrieving what was contained in these heads.

Most companies have a project list somewhere, usually in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, or database. However this data can be difficult to order or filter by geographic location.

The answer that many companies have implemented is a mapping/GIS system. This is the ideal answer but throws up all sorts of other problems, such as cost and process.

Everyone is currently very cost conscious, especially when the costs cannot be allocated to a specific project. Many companies find it problematical to purchase and maintain a GIS system as this is a direct overhead, often requiring a software outlay and GIS training for staff.

Several companies have side stepped the requirement for their own GIS and have piggy backed off Google Earth by creating a project list KML file that can be opened and plotted in Google Earth. This works well except that it needs additional software to be installed on the machine. It also requires the correct process in place to ensure that the KML file is updated and copies controlled and distributable to everyone.

If the process for keeping your archive up to date includes many steps and additional staff training then the content of the system may fall behind with some projects being missed.

This causes a problem as users will start to lose confidence that all the data is in the system and they revert to the simple spreadsheet solution for tracking project data, if they have more confidence that this is being kept up to date.

The options
So the solution is simple. You need an archive system that is built into your processes, costs nothing, available wherever you are and is quick and easy to use.

One such system is the Highways Agency’s Geotechnical Data Management System which many engineers who work for the Agency are already using. Although this does not cost anything to use, it has had significant investment which would be difficult for a small or medium sized organisation to justify.

However this month, Keynetix has launched a system that could transform the way you view your archive.

HBSI ProjectBrowser

HoleBASE SI is an upgrade to the popular HoleBASE 3.1 system and includes a range of tools that allow users to easily locate geographical information from both external sources and your own internal borehole information.

These additional features are provided at no additional cost as they are part of HoleBASE SI and are accessible through the same interface used to manage your current site investigation data, produce and read AGS files and plot your borehole logs. It also ensures that projects are automatically added to the archive system to ensure the process is maintained.

HBSI Cross Section


The new system also enables you to import your existing project list very easily so it appears to tick all the boxes the industry needs.

Time will tell, but it certainly looks like Keynetix have produced a very exciting upgrade to their popular product that will transform the way we view our organisation’s own geotechnical knowledge and make it much easier to answer the question “Have we been here before?




For more information on HoleBASE SI please visit


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