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Melbourne Engineering Consultants


No matter if you’re building your first home, are a seasoned developer, or are looking for your “forever home” upgrade, the investment of money, time, and of yourself, your ideas, your, taste and your emotions is huge. For some of us, it’s our biggest investment.

But, for many, the investment, and the dream, can quickly sour if there are unexpected expenses.

Today’s post is the first in a series of posts, focused on what you should be aware of before you even hire your builder, and how a little bit of knowledge, enough to know what to ask, could save you 10’s of thousand.

For the purposes of this post, we will be focused on Greater Melbourne and on virgin (non-contaminated) soils) Australia is a massive country with many variations in soil types. If you are reading this, and are located outside Victoria, this information provided should serve as a general guide, and you will need to research the soil type in your area(s), yourself.


Soil Type refers to not only the make-up of the soil, clay, sandy etc., but also how ‘reactive’ it is. Various parts of Greater Melbourne have specific types of soil, for example, Melbourne’s northeast is known for its loamy grey soils full of clay. However, soil type can vary from one property to the next, or even from one end of a property to the other. This is especially true of larger blocks, and of properties with slopes. A falling slope is more likely to have a thicker layer of topsoil, while a property sloping up, is likely to have less topsoil, and more clay, stone, or bedrock, simply from erosion and weather exposure.

soil-testingBut beyond the “type” of soil, is its “activity” – a measure by which engineers, and from them, builders, can determine the CLASS of Soil and the requirements of that soil, for the building foundation.

Below is a list of soil type classifications:

  • Class A – stable, non-reactive: little to no ground movement
  • Class S – the possibility of slight ground movement
  • Class M – the possibility of moderate ground movement
  • Class H – the possibility of high ground movement
  • Class E – the possibility of extreme ground movement
  • Class P – problem sites: ground movement may be severe

Once the soil is tested and the results are known, the correct foundation can be constructed.

*Important note: If you are buying land for the purposes of building, and a soil test has not been done already, it is a wise investment to have a soil test completed prior to settlement. While soil testing is not free, not knowing the real cost of purchasing a potentially Class M-P soil, could be extremely expensive.


The purpose of soil testing, per Australian Standard, is to determine the strength of the soil for the engineering of houses and buildings and is the 1st step in any construction planning. While you may have already had your architect design your dream home, or investment property, without soil testing, there is no way of knowing the foundation requirements.

Additionally, and while we are focusing on virgin, non-contaminated soils, any soil test conducted will not only determine the type of soil on the site, but will also report on the strength, density, and contamination, of the soil. While contamination is a very rare thing, knowledge of any issues, prior to purchase, or prior to commencement of building, means actions can be taken to resolve those issues.

Once the testing is completed, your architect, and builder, can work with your civil engineer, to ensure the building you are about to start, meets not only your physical, and aesthetic needs, but also is safe, and meets all Australian Standards.

At MEC, our Engineers are trained, and qualified professionals. We can assist with your queries, arrange soil testing and work with your architect, and/or builder, to ensure your home is safe, the foundation is appropriate for the soil, and in the case of more reactive soil, guide you as to the best possible options and outcomes.

Storm Water Drainage

In Australia, in urban areas, such as Greater Melbourne, stormwater is generated by rain runoff from roofs, roads, driveways, footpaths and other hard surfaces. The need, and requirement, to ensure water run-off is controlled, and its movement is focused away from buildings, to not undermine the integrity of structures, is of the highest importance.

At MEC, our engineers understand the dramatic, and powerful strength of a heavy downpour, in Melbourne. But we also understand the ‘slow-burn’ so to speak. That is why, effective Storm Water Drainage, ensuring all run-off is controlled, and moved away from your building, is so important to us.

Our Engineers will work with your builders, and your local Council, to resolve any issues, this is especially so for sloping properties, and for areas with potential flooding.

Together, our MEC Team, your builder, your architect, and you – that’s what will make your design a safe and functional reality.

To speak to one of our Team, or to book in for soil testing, or any other structural engineering task, contact us and don’t forget about our FAST QUOTE option.

Next month’s topic is “So you’ve bought a beautiful block – on a slope”


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