UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Why Engineers Should Not Attempt to Quantify GSI Yang, Beverly; Elmo, Davide


In the past decade, there has been an increasing trend of digitalizing rock engineering processes. However, this process has not been accompanied by a critical analysis of the very same empirical methods that many complex numerical and digital methods are founded upon. As engineers, we are taught to use and trust numbers. Indeed, we would not be able to define the factor of the safety of a structure without numbers. However, what happens when those numbers are nothing but numerical descriptions of qualitative assessments? In this paper we present a critical review of the many attempts presented in the literature to quantify GSI (geological strength index). To the authors’ knowledge, this paper represents the first time that all the different GSI tables and quantification methods that have been proposed over the past two decades are collated and compared critically. In our critique, we argue against the paradigm whereby the quantification process adds the experience factor for inexperienced engineers. Furthermore, we discuss the limitations of the notion that GSI quantification methods could transform subjectivity into objectivity since the parameters under considerations are not quantitative measurements. Relying on empirically defined quantitative equivalences raises important questions, particularly when these quantitative equivalences are being used to define so-called accurate rock mass classification input for design purposes.

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