GaGE comprises a highly qualified professional group with extensive individual experience and a strong track record in delivering geotechnical and geo-structural solutions to complex multi-disciplinary projects. 

We are dedicated to pushing the boundaries of professional knowledge to achieve extraordinary outcomes in engineering. Our staff are driven by the

work we do and clients value our deep expertise and new thinking.

Frans van der Merwe

BEng(Civil) MEng(Geotechnics) PrEng(SA) MSAICE

Geostructural Engineer and a designer of one of South Africa's most complex geotechnical engineering projects - the four level Mount Edgecombe Interchange in Durban. Frans provided specialist input to the various foundation engineering and ground risk aspects of the project including; pile design, temporary excavations, lateral support design, retaining and Mechanically Stabilised Earth walls, ground anchors, foundation and pile selection and optimisation, pile testing and quality assurance.

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Summary of Credentials

Summary of Credentials


Principal Geostructural Engineer


South African






Professionally registered ECSA, PrEng(SA)

Bachelor of Engineering (Civil),

Master of Engineering (Geotech.)

Member SAICE


Lateral support, basements and deep excavations,

Geosynthetic Engineering,

Geotechnical Engineering,

Foundation Engineering,

Retaining wall design,

Mechanically Stabilised Earth Walls, 

Materials utilisation and aggregates, 

Retaining walls and slopes,

Advanced geomechanics and Finite Element analysis, 

Pile design and analysis,

Tunnels & underground works


Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland

Frans is a registered professional engineer with over 10 years of design and analysis experience in geotechnics, tunnel and materials engineering. His broad project exposure and innovative problem solving capability has made him a recognised and sought after technical expert for input to complex geotechnical and geostructural problems. 


He is chairman of the working group SANS TC98 SC06 drafting the South African Geotechnical Design code.


His technical strengths are in advanced numerical modelling and theoretical soil mechanics. He is highly skilled in integrating his understanding of ground behaviour and structural design into practical design solutions. This enables him to provide multidisciplinary design teams insight into the soil-structure interaction and ground behavioural mechanisms governing the way soils react to structures and how structures react to soils. 


​Many of the projects on which he has worked represent highly technical, complex, multi-disciplinary infrastructure developments. He has been responsible for the geotechnical design of the massive 4-level Mt Edgecombe Interchange, the feasibility design of major cut-and-cover and drill-and-blast tunnels on the N3, the peer review geotechnical design of the country’s two largest bridges - the Mtentu and Msikaba Bridges, a mega-basement at King Shaka International Airport and the rehabilitation of the country’s largest dolomite sinkhole at Danielskuil.

Frans’ experience extends to all project phases (conceptual, detailed design, tender documentation, implementation, maintenance and decommissioning). He is also experienced with most foundation, piling, ground improvement, lateral support and geotechnical solutions including specialised geotechnical retaining structures such Soil and Mechanically Stabilised Earth systems. 

Frans is actively involved in the Geotechnical Division of the South African Institution of Civil Engineers, and has acted as Chairman of the Young Geotechnical Engineers committee(YGE) from 2016. Frans has a passion for geotechnics and in mentoring young engineers and is involved in training the firms young engineers and geologists, he also lectures the Advanced Geomechanics post graduate course at the University of Stellenbosch. 


Key Projects

Van Reenen’s Pass Feasibility Study, KwaZulu Natal, S.AFRICA (2017)

South African Road Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL)

Geotechnics and Tunnel Design Engineer – the project included the geotechnical investigation and evaluation of the feasibility for a potential alternative route for the N3 near Van Reenen. The route includes very deep excavations, tunnels (drill-and-blast and cut-and-cover) and several large bridges and viaducts. Frans was responsible for feasibility design of major cuts and tunnel section/options. The design included the review of the drilling information, FE analysis of 40m deep cuts, drill and blast tunnels and cut-and-cover tunnels. Firm Fee: US$0.1million (2017).

Dube Tradeport Mega Basement, KwaZulu Natal, S.AFRICA (2014-17)

Dube Tradeport (King Shaka International Airport)

Lead Geotechnical Design Engineer – tthe project involved the design and site supervision of a three level 70 x 240m excavation for a parking basement. The excavation was supported by a king post piled wall with tieback anchors.Frans designed the lateral support system, which needed to accommodate a highly variable geological and bedrock profile, as well as the piled and spread foundations according to SANS10160-5 and Eurocode 7. Frans also undertook part-time construction supervision including reviewing the anchor stressing data, internally jacked pile load test, and installation methodologies followed on site. Project Value: US$18million Firm Fee: US$0.8million (2013).

N2 widening Tongaat to Mt Edgecombe Interchange, S.AFRICA (2012-16)

South African Road Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL)

Geostructural Design Engineer – the prestigious 4-level interchange is the largest in South Africa, and includes its longest incrementally launched bridge (947m). The site is characterised by very poor soil conditions with bedrock at 50 to 60m. Geotechnical works comprised the investigation, design and construction supervision of, cut and fill retaining walls and slopes to ramps and structure abutments, pile foundations to several bridges and ground improvement under high fill and MSE (retaining) walls.

Frans was extensively involved in the project; he was responsible for geotechnical design and finite element analysis of pile foundations, retaining walls, soil nail walls, high fills, ground improvement (dynamic compaction) and materials utilisation (earthworks). Frans was also responsible for preparing tender documentation and drawings as well as specialist advice relating to quality assurance and contractor changes/non-conformances during construction. Project Value: US$90million Fee: US$5million (2014).

Mtentu and Msikaba Bridges, Wild Coast, SOUTH AFRICA (2016)

Client: South African Road Agency Limited

Geotechnical Peer-review Designer – the project involves approximately 100km  of green-fields highway to be constructed in one of South Africa's most inaccessible and poorly developed regions. The two mega bridges are proposed to facilitate access across two gorges each 200 to 300 m deep. The Mtentu bridge will be one of the longest main span balanced cantilever bridges in the world and will reach heights of approximately 220m, and is over 1100m long. 

Frans was responsible for the peer-design review as well as the production of project specifications and tender documentation for geotechnical works.  The original design was completed circa 2000s, thereafter the project was placed on hold, once it was decided to implement the construction phase, there was a need to review the design to ensure compliance to latests codes and to benefit from improved construction technologies. Frans undertook a review of geotechnical investigation information, as well as finite element modelling of pier deflections (settlement and rotations), and identified the need for compaction grouting at selected heavily loaded or tall piers. Project Value: US$300million est.

Uppgrade of N7 between Citrusdal and Cederberg, Western Cape, SOUTH AFRICA, (2012-2015)

Client: South African Road Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL)

Geotechnical Design Engineer – the project included the geotechnical investigation and design of several large sandstone and shale cuttings dipping unfavourably into the road for the widening of the route. Joint surveys, stereographic analysis and core drilling were carried out on the existing cuttings (in Cape Group sediments – quartzites and shales). Frans was involved with setting up stereographic plots, kinematic analyses and recommending safe cut angles along 15km of rock cuttings. He reviewed the overall and internal stability for 3km of mechanically stabilised earth wall on a rock face dipping into the Olifantsriver. The design comprised checking the contractor’s internal stability with the coherent gravity method presented in SANS207:2011 and undertaking numerous finite element models to confirm the external stability. Project Value US$35mil Firm Fee: US$1.5million (2011).

Cornubia Northern Drive, KwaZulu Natal, SOUTH AFRICA (2012 – 2015)

Client: Tongaat Hullett & eThekwini Municipality

Geotechnical Design Engineer – the project included the design of a new road over road and rail bridge on very weak alluvial deposits. Frans was involved with the pile design, ground improvement and tiered MSEW. Frans was responsible for the detailed design, stability analysis, finite element analysis (pies and MSEW) and preparation of tender documentation and drawings.  He also dealt with all the site queries, regular site visits and quality assurance. Project Value US$35mil Firm Fee: US$1.5million (2011).

Stabilisation of Franschhoek Pass, Western Cape, SOUTH AFRICA (2013-15)

Client: Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works

Geotechnical Lead Designer – unseasonably high rainfall over the latter half of 2013 resulted in a number of slope instability cases along the pass. The pass, has significant historical value attached to it, as well as providing a vital transport link between Franschhoek and the Overberg. Remediation measures, to reinstate the safety of the route and mitigate the risk of future instability-related problems were provided.

Frans was responsible for the detailed design and construction documentation. The project is highly visible and recognisable, and the design involved the use of a number of innovations in order to effectively mitigate a proportion of the risk associated with the frequent failures at a reasonable cost with due consideration for the environment and road user. Project Value: US$3million Fee: US$0.5million (2015).

Ballito Drive MSE Wall, Kwazulu Natal, SOUTH AFRICA (2011-13)

Client: KwaDukuza Municipality

Geotechnical Engineer – for the widening of the MR445 Ballito drive two retaining walls of 12m and 5m height, covering a total length of over 400m and 2000m2, were required. The Tensar TW1 system, which comprises a high density uniaxial polyethylene strip, specialised connector and concrete block façade was used in one of first and largest applications of the system in South Africa to date.

Frans was responsible for the detailed design, stability analysis, finite element analysis and preparation of tender documentation and drawings. This including ensuring the compliance of the system to local design codes and best practice.  Project Value: US$8million Fee: US$0.7million (2012).

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Technical Publications

Testing of Screwed-In-Casing Augered Piles using the Osterberg Load cell at the Mt Edgecombe Interchange

van der Merwe,F.H and Pequenino,F.P. Sept 2014. Proceedings of the 8th YGE Confrence SAICE.

Technical paper discusses the design and design verification of Screwed-in-Casing Augered Piles (SICAP) for the Mt Edgecombe Interchange at Umhlanga, Durban. In oder to optimism the pile foundation design and verify design assumptions and expected pile behaviour, full-scale pile load tests were undertaken on three test piles using the Osterberg load cell (O-cell). In addition to confirming the ultimate design parameters the results of the load test provided valuable insight to the load settlement performance exhibited by these piles and enabled the design to be adjusted accordingly.

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