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contemporary reinforcing walls

innovations in contemporary reinforcing walls

In recent years growing cost and space constraints have inspired a variety of innovations in the engineering sector, bringing with them new technologies and new approaches to the future of our built environment. These innovations include updates to traditional retaining wall structures, with reinforced walls commonly referred to as “Mechanically stabilized earth walls” (MSEW) playing an increasing role in contemporary geotechnical engineering projects.

The main advantages (...) is their ease of installation and speedy construction.

Retaining walls are not themselves a new development. They have been used for many hundreds of years for building earthworks for agriculture or large construction projects, perhaps the most famous historical example being the terraced walls built by the Incas. Today, the basic principles behind retaining walls remain the same, but the addition of artificial reinforcements extends their potential applications.

In its simplest form, a retaining wall is a sub-vertical structural intended to support earthworks on a steep slope over a small surface area. It can be used to convert or protect roadways or embankments, support trenches on construction sites, stabilize existing sites or unstable slopes, or simply play a landscaping role. Each of these applications requires engineers to calculate the lateral force of the retained earth to ensure that walls are sized and reinforced appropriately to avoid collapse, sliding or excessive force being placed on foundations.

Whilst the construction of retaining walls can take many forms—including prefabricated blocks, gabions, and geocells—contemporary reinforcement structures are generally made up of geogrids arranged in horizontal layers. It is the combination of earthworks and these strengthened geogrid sidings that make up the reinforced retaining walls we know today. These walls can then be planted to create “green walls”, a prominent feature in contemporary urbanism that blend into their surroundings or provide a striking visual aesthetic.

The main advantages of these stabilized geogrid structures over conventional reinforced concrete walls is their ease of installation and speedy construction. With thousands of instances already build around the world, it appears that the mechanically stabilized reinforcing wall has already taken its place in contemporary geotechnical engineering solutions. For more information on Groupe Alphard’s own geotechnical engineering services, visit our dedicated engineering pages.

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Carl Charpentier Alphard

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