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The School has a strong research tradition.

Major research directions include: structural engineering and design; environmental geotechnology, geotechnical engineering and materials; water resources, supply and hydrology; hydraulics and rivers; concrete materials; environmental engineering; project and construction management and development.

Research groups

Construction Materials

Currently, the main focus of this research group is in the field of concrete materials technology. In this area, our interests range from cement clinker chemistry and crystallography to concrete durability, engineering properties of concrete and concrete testing methods. Focus is also on corrosion of steel in reinforced concrete structures. This research group has formally existed since 1992 and has since made significant contributions to the understanding of the behaviour of concrete under South African conditions. Much of this work is conducted under an NRF Research Programme, funded by the NRF, the cement industry, LTA Construction, ESKOM (TESP) and THRIP.

In addition, some work is being done on the structural behaviour of laminated glass with a view to simplifying the bending analysis.



Current active or intended projects

  • Characterisation of concrete-making materials
  • The thermal properties of South African cements and cement extenders
  • Modelling heat transfer in mass concrete structures based on small scale adiabatic tests
  • Durability index testing of concrete for service life prediction and construction quality control specification.
  • Repair and rehabilitation of concrete structures ? materials and methods
  • Structural effects of Alkali Silica Reaction
  • Structural effects of reinforcement corrosion
  • Prediction and characterization of elastic and time-dependent behaviour of concrete
  • Improving the standard compression test on hardened concrete specimens
  • Simplifying the analysis of the bending behaviour of laminated glass

Financial support for postgraduate student

The NRF grants bursaries to full time MSc and PhD students. The programme may top up this funding, the actual amount being decided on a case-by-case basis. Running expenses for projects are covered separately by generous funding from the University Research Fund, the NRF, the Cement Industry, ESKOM and THRIP. However, prospective and current students are highly encouraged to seek their own funding from various funding bodies, locally and internationally.

Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering

Our primary areas of research are:

  • The testing of piles for strength and integrity.
  • The stability of mining residue facilities.
  • The effect on soil behaviour of fines loss caused by seepage.
  • The development of correlations to interpret in-situ tests.




  • The use of the internal jacking technique to test foundation piles.
  • Measurement of strain in the shafts of piles to evaluate the mechanics of load transfer into the ground.
  • Use of limiting void ratios as a means of predicting the steady state line of soils.
  • Three dimensional quantification of particle form.
  • Development of a CPT-based classification index that does not rely on sleeve friction.
  • Correlation between SPT and DPSH resistance values.
  • Moisture movements in drying tailings.
  • The use of soil-salt mixtures to investigate soil fabric interactions.
Structural Engineering

The National Research Foundation research programme into Structural Behaviour and Design involves all members of the structural engineering staff. It covers experimental and analytical research into modelling the strength and ductility of a wide range of structures, and developing guidelines and codes of practice for use by design practitioners.


  • Design of Steel Silos : Paolo Trinchero, as part of his PhD, has built and tested model silos 1m in diameter and 2m in height to assess the effects of eccentric loading and discharge of the contained materials and imperfections in the silo geometry. Kimon Comninos conducted extensive nonlinear finite element analyses of this behaviour as part of his MSc qualification which was obtained with distinction.
  • Ductility of continuous composite beams.
  • Flexibility-based inelastic analyses: Mitch Gohnert is extending earlier research on the use of flexibity-based methods of analysis of steel and concrete frames and slabs. This approach has been shown to be particularly useful as a basis for plastic or yield-line analysis of these structures. Recent work has extended the amplification factor approach to inelastic frame stability which is particularly important in steel structures. David Blitenthall is presently studying the influence of shear forces on yield-line elements towards his MSc.
  • Shear failure in rib and block floor systems: Mitch Gohnert has recently conducted extensive testing of the horizontal shear strength of rib and block floor systems.
  • Dry-block wall systems: Herbert Uzoegbo and David Hobana have tested a number of housing units made from dry blocks without normal mortar joints the results of which are particularly relevant to low-cost housing.
  • Behaviour of extended end-plate connections: Dotun Adegoke is conducting his PhD research into the strength and ductility of thin extended end-plate connections and associated prying action. This semi-rigid action is appropriate for plastic analysis.
  • Cold-formed channel portal frames: Morgan Dundu has commenced his PhD research into low-cost lightweight channel portal frames connected back-to-back by bearing bolts at the eaves and apex. His study will emphasise the ductility and ease of construction of this structural arrangement.



Water Research Group: Hydraulics, Water Resources and Environmental Management

The Water Research Group (WRG) promotes the highest level of intellectual discourse, training and research on water issues from an integrated and all-encompassing outlook, aiming to achieve equitable, efficient and sustainable use of the water resources that are within and outside the borders of South Africa.

Broad mission objectives of the Group include:

  • Train a new generation of water professionals at undergraduate and postgraduate levels with skills capable of addressing the millennium development goals (MDG) in the water and sanitation sectors.
  • Carry out cutting-edge multidisciplinary research in hydraulics, hydrology, water resources planning and management, urban, peri-urban, and rural water supply and sanitation, environmental sustainability, drought and risk mitigation, and social and economic linkages with water issues. By our multidisciplinary approach to training and research activities, the group collaborates with other research groups nationally, regionally and internationally.
  • Constructive engagement with industry in the training of students using practical case-studies which enhance the hands-on experiences of our graduates, and as well as in addressing the needs of industry through research. The Group also provides continuing education for practising engineers through well suited professional training modules.
  • Serve the communities of South Africa and beyond through action-based research and developmental activities that ensure greater access to potable water and sanitation facilities, more productive use of water, and attainment of social and gender equity, thereby enhancing the wellbeing and living standards of those communities, particularly vulnerable groups.


Technical Staff

Mr. Wayne Costopoulos, Senior Water Technician

Ms. Khathutshelo Makumule, Senior Environmental technician


Research Areas

  • Eco-hydrology and hydraulics
  • River hydraulics
  • Sedimentation
  • Urban water management
  • Computational hydraulics
  • Hydrological modelling
  • Water resource systems optimization
  • Climate change impacts
  • Water supply and distribution systems design and operation
  • Non-potable/ grey water reuse
  • Water demand modeling;
  • Water resources planning and management
  • Flow and contaminant transport in groundwater systems
  • Non-potable water reuse planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation
  • Biofilm in water networks
  • Ecological wastewater treatment
  • Greywater resuse potential



Postdoctoral Fellowships

The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering welcomes PhD graduates of the past 5 years who are interested in Postdoctoral Fellowships in the various research areas of the School. We seek highly motivated individuals who are able to carry out cutting-edge research that can be published in international journals and participate in other academic activities of the School. Such individuals can either contact an academic in the relevant research discipline or the Head of School.

Prof A Taigbenu

Head of School