Digitising Sydney’s Geological Data


Last October, a group of Sydney civil contractors and academics delivered a paper at the Australian Geomechanics Society Symposium that called for the establishment of a central, digitised database of geotechnical and geological information pertaining to Sydney’s subsurface. Given our long history of delivering tunneling works the paper titled, ‘Ground Investigation in the Sydney CBD – a more sustainable model for the future’ certainly caught our attention.

What purpose would such a repository of geological data serve?

Lying below Sydney’s CBD is a complex network of transport and service tunnels that compete for space with building footings and basements. Of course, these existing features, not to mention the city’s topography, place limitations on any new construction works. That is why Sydney construction companies and civil engineers commission new studies year after year. These studies are commissioned in spite of their cost – potentially millions, according to the authors – and despite the fact that the subsurface conditions are generally well known.


The authors, among them representatives of Sydney Water, SKM Consulting and GHD Geotechnics, suggest that some of the data unearthed through detailed subsurface investigative work may have been lost or discarded. The New South Wales State Government has spent millions of dollars on significant engineering and geotechnical investigations within the CBD and has drilled potentially thousands of boreholes.

However, while some of the collected data is stored in libraries and archives, it is believed that some of the data may have been misplaced or disposed of. And that is where the proposed digital database comes in.

The authors envisage something along the lines of the British Geological Survey’s National Geoscience Data Centre model. A comprehensive database of geological data pertaining to the subsurface of Great Britain, the Survey’s most popular data is available to search and view online through their website. Users can search discovery metadata, geological photographs and borehole information, among other things. Clearly, such a database would benefit those in the Sydney civil construction community.

What kind of data would the Sydney database include?

The authors argue that any centralised database should include, at a minimum, all borehole information in addition to related geotechnical, groundwater and mining investigations, geology, secured easements, building basements, tunnels and utility services.

“This information will provide planners with improved knowledge of what’s where in the subsurface to more effectively design and position new infrastructure within the existing physical constraints of the urban environment,” the authors conclude.

Will it happen?

In short, we don’t know. The authors recommend the establishment of a joint government-industry-academic committee to look into it. We will keep you posted. CBD For Anxiety UK