The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute – A Centre of Geotechnical Excellence

The nascent Norwegian Geotechnical Institute had its origins in the years immediately following WWII in the form of The Office for Geotechnics. The first director was a Dane, Laurits Bjerrum who up until then had been head of the soil mechanics laboratory of ETH in Switzerland. The NGI in its present form was formalised on the 1st of January 1953.

In 1956 the institute moved to a research park close to the University of Oslo and has had close associations with the Technical University of Norway since 1957. In 1972 the Norwegian Parliament made the NGI responsible for avalanche research in Norway, in 1983 the Institute for Rock Blasting Techniques was embodied into the NGI and in 1989 the institute was given an award by the ISSMGE (International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering) for ‘Outstanding contributions in the field of offshore geotechnical engineering. 2002 saw the NGI being appointed as a Centre of Excellence by The Research Council of Norway with responsibility for the International Centre for Geohazards and the establishment of a Houston office in the US.

Some of the geotechnical greats have been associated with the NGI, including Laurits Bjerrum and Nilmar Janbu, names familiar to anyone who has done a course in soil mechanics. Perhaps the highest accolade for the institute was when the acknowledged father of modern soil mechanics, Karl Terzaghi, donated all his books and papers to the institute, and which are now housed in the library bearing his name.

Since 1953 the institute has built a formidable reputation and is internationally recognised for its technical excellence, having carried out research on soft clays, tunnels, embankment dams, slurry walls, marine clays, foundation solutions for offshore structures for the oil industry, rock engineering, avalanche protection, environmental geotechnics, georadar, geomechanics mapping oil reservoirs, earthquake hazards, and tsunami risk evaluation. Some of its projects have been world firsts, attesting to the unerring pursuit of excellence which embodies the organisation.

The NGI is a global player, with approximately 30 per cent of its work on projects outside Norway. For those interested, have a look at www.ngi.no/en/. Impressive to say the least and one wonders if they are subject to the pernicious 3 quote system or whether their services are treated as a disbursement.

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