David Chapman

Prof, Professor of Geotechnical and Underground Engineering

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Dr Chapman is interested in supervising doctoral research in areas including:

Trenchless technology for pipeline installation and renewal
Geotechnical controls on buried pipeline behaviour and leakage
Soil-structure interaction problems related to ground movements resulting from soft ground tunnelling
Influence of different soils on geophysical sensing technologies when locating buried utilities or archaeology
Novel sensing technologies for infrastructure monitoring (pipes, tunnels, etc), such as Smart Pipes technology


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research interests

David Chapman is Professor of Geotechnical and Underground Engineering. He is also the Technical Director for the National Buried Infrastructure Facility currently being developed at the University of Birmingham, which is part of the UK wide government funded project UKCRIC (UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities).

His research interests lie in the area of underground construction (from pipelines to tunnels). He has published over 150 papers in both refereed journals and conferences. He has an international reputation in the area of trenchless pipeline installation and renewal, and has conducted research into tunnel construction in soft ground and how to better understand the performance of subsurface infrastructure using geophysical sensors. 

He has been involved with numerous grants from EPSRC and industry. In particular, he is currently co-investigator on the multi-disciplinary, multi-university EPSRC funded Assessing the Underworld project, and also co-investigator on the multi-disciplinary, multi-university EPSRC funded project Self Repairing Cities, as well as an investigator on an industry led project investigating Smart Leakage Detection of Pipes.

He has been lecturing for 27 years in the area of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering. He is also the co-author of a book ‘Introduction to Tunnel Construction’ (now in its second edition) aimed at MSc and MEng students or early career engineers.

Research Themes

  • Mapping and Assessing the Underworld
  • Smart Pipes (and other buried infrastructure monitoring)
  • Trenchless Technology
  • Ground Movements Associated with Underground Construction
  • Buried Infrastructure

Research Activity

Mapping the Underworld and Assessing the Underworld

The Mapping the Underworld (MTU) initiative was first initiated in 1996 when the term ‘Body Scanner in the Street’ was coined. This was followed with an EPSRC ideas factory in 2004 and the feasibility project started in 2005 investigating the abilities and limitations of a range of locating technologies to locate all buried utilities in all ground conditions, look at alternative technologies as well as investigate the mapping and data fusion of utility records. The feasibility study showed that a number of technologies have the potential to locate buried assets when used in combination and also combined with some information on the soil to optimise any survey strategies. This lead to the MTU Phase 2 Location project (2009-2012) with the focus of this project on the development of a multi-sensor device to locate all buried utilities in all ground conditions using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), low frequency electromagnetics, vibro-acoustics and leakage current fields.

This led to a further project called Assessing the Underworld (2013-2018), where the objective has been not only to locate buried infrastructure, but also to assess its condition using geophysical methods. Due to the importance of the ground in supporting the surface infrastructure (e.g. roads) and the buried infrastructure (e.g. pipes), at Birmingham we have focused on assessing changes in the ground using geophysical methods.

The MTU initiative is a 25 year vision with both condition assessment using a multi-sensor device and sustainable use of the underground infrastructure being addressed in the future.

Smart Pipes (and other buried infrastructure monitoring)

The interest in monitoring and mapping of underground infrastructure led to a number of projects investigating ways to make infrastructure ‘smarter’ using sensors, or at least to collect more data from buried infrastructure to allow better management. Such systems are called underground wireless sensor systems. One such sensor system for leak detection in pressurised water pipes developed at Birmingham is currently being taken forward as an industry led Innovate UK project.

Trenchless Technology, Ground Movements Associated with Underground Construction and Buried Infrastructure

Research in these areas has been a continuous theme of my research since my PhD research in this area. Projects have included:

  • Investigating microtunnelling technology for boulder clays
  • Remote positional control of steerable moles
  • Ground movements associated with pipe splitting techniques
  • Effects on tunnelling ground movements on existing tunnels
  • Investigating horizontal directional drilling and impact moling
  • Effect of tunnel-induced ground movements on existing tunnel linings
  • Network in trenchless technology
  • OFSTUNN: Optical Fibre Sensors for Tunnel monitoring
  • Feasibility study on pipe failures in wet clay
  • Tunnel installations and operating systems for buried high voltage cables
  • Ground movements associated with twin tunnel constructions in clay
  • Effect of soil conditions on leakage from cast iron water mains
  • Resilience through innovation: critical local transport and utility infrastructure


David Chapman qualified with a first class BSc(Hons) degree in Civil Engineering in 1988. He then went on to work in industry as a structural engineer (Oscar Faber Consulting Engineers), before returning as a research associate at Loughborough University for three years investigating ground movements associated with trenchless technologies for installing and renewing pipelines. As a result of this research he was awarded a PhD in 1993.

After spending six years as a lecturer at the University of Nottingham (1992-1998), he moved to the University of Birmingham as a lecturer in 1998. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2002, Reader in 2008 and Professor in 2016.

He became a member of the Institution of the Civil Engineers (MICE) in 1996 and also a Chartered Engineer (CEng).

He is an associate editor of the journal Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology. He has also been a member of the Géotechnique Advisory Panel (2010-2013).

He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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