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DST Newsroom


1 th Nov 2017

DST Consulting Engineers Inc. is pleased to announce that Hugh Gillen, Engineer In Training working with the DST Waterloo team, was the recipient of the 2017 GeoOttawa Best Paper with a Student as the Lead Presenter Award in recognition of his outstanding paper “Performance of Granular Shear Keys for Landslide Remediation”.

Hugh Gillen (DST EIT) Recipient of the 2017 GeoOttawa Best Student Paper Award

Each year members of the Canadian Geotechnical Society (CGS) Committee select two presenters from the Technical Program to honour with awards, one recognizing the Best Case Study Paper and the other recognizing the Best Student Paper.  These awards celebrate exceptional, original scholarship in the fields of geotechnical engineering and hydrogeology and distinguishes recipients for their innovative research.

Hugh’s paper was presented as part of the Geohazards IV / Transportation Geotechnics I Technical Program and was based on research he completed for his M.Sc. Thesis under the expert guidance of Derek Martin and Michael Hendry, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alberta.

Congratulations to Hugh for this tremendous accomplishment and to all GeoOttawa 2017 Technical presenters for their continued contributions to geoscience research in Canada.

Performance of Granular Shear Keys for Landslide Remediation

Hugh Gillen, C. Derek Martin & Michael T. Hendry 

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering –

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Canadian transportation industries have been using granular shear keys to remediate slope instabilities for decades. Engineers have used limit equilibrium (LE) analyses as the standard method for designing these granular shear keys. These LE analyses do not account for the strain required to mobilize the shear resistance in the granular backfill. Finite element methods can model deformation but require calibration and may not always be practical. A review of the design and corresponding performance of granular shear keys based on extensive empirical data could complement current design methods and enhance design effectiveness and reliability.

This paper presents the results of a review of 38 case histories, which involve either conventional trenched granular shear keys or rockfill column shear keys. The purpose of this compilation was to identify empirical relationships between shear key design and deformation.


Industries de transportation Canadiennes ont utilisé des clés de cisaillement granulaires pour corriger des instabilités de pente pendant des décennies. Ingénieurs ont utilisé les analyses d’équilibre limite comme la méthode standard pour la conception de ces clés de cisaillement. Ces analyses ne tiennent pas compte de la déformation requise pour mobiliser la résistance au cisaillement dans le remblai granulaire. Méthodes d’éléments finis peuvent modéliser la déformation mais ont besoin d’étalonnage et peuvent être pas pratique. Une revue de la conception et de la performance correspondante des clés de cisaillement granulaires fondée sur des données empiriques pourrait être complémentaire aux méthodes de conception actuelles et améliorer l’efficacité de la conception et la fiabilité.

Cet article présente une revue de 38 études de cas qui impliquent des clés de cisaillement tranchées ou de colonnes en enrochements. Le but était d’identifier les relations empiriques entre la conception et la déformation des clés de cisaillement.


About DST Consulting Engineers

DST is a nation-wide, employee owned company with over 40 years of experience. Our ‘product’ is our knowledge, our greatest asset is our brain power, and our business is providing a range of comprehensive, results-driven services to meet the special demands of our clients.