Retaining walls

April 2007 » PROGRESSIVE ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY
Civil engineers today can choose from a broad array of retaining wall products that provide options for strength, durability, appearance, constructability, and cost to suit any earth-retention project.
CE News Staff
Civil engineers today can choose from a broad array of products that provide options for strength, durability, appearance, constructability, and cost to suit any earth-retention project—above ground or below water. In response to a request from CE News, companies provided the following information about their retaining wall products.

Agrecol Corporation’s Envirolok vegetated retaining wall system combines interlocked soil bags and native plants to stabilize slopes and control erosion. Soil bags encapsulate the soil and are woven into a wall unit using a weaving component and a locking spike. After construction, the faces of the bags are planted with native plants, sod, and seed, which develop extensive root systems that help hold the structure in place. According to the company, when fully vegetated, bags retain their integrity for as long as 200 years, depending on conditions.
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Anchor Retaining Wall Systems says its Diamond Pro Stone Cut segmental retaining wall system has a weathered quarried-stone look that combines the aesthetics of natural stone with stability, strength, and ease of installation. The earthen-looking block face is available in blended and single colors to replicate the look of natural stone. Multiple-size segments allow designers to create a more random block layout. According to the company, its patented rear lip—instead of alignment pins or locators—provides uniform setback; proven grid connections; accurate, fast installation; and a structurally sound wall.
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The Chance Division of Hubbell Power Systems offers Chance helical anchors for retaining walls to serve soil nailing and tieback methods. Specified by job requirements, the company says that both methods install quickly in any weather for immediate testing and loading, without delays associated with grout. In addition, HeliCAP software helps users design Chance Soil Screw and helical tieback applications for mechanically stabilized earth walls, sheet piling, or soldier-pile/waler walls.
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According to CMI Waterfront Solutions, its ShoreGuard 625 vinyl sheet piling features the largest vinyl box profile in the world. The sheet pile can be used for bulkheads, seawalls, cutoff walls, flood control, and flood plain management structures. It is corrosion and chemical resistant, as well as resistant to marine borers. ShoreGuard 625 has a 30-inch-wide section with patented design features that the company says reduce seepage through the interlocks, allowing minimal use of sealants. With proper equipment, ShoreGuard can be installed anywhere that steel sheet piling can.
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CONTECH Earth Stabilization Systems’ Bin-Walls are a system of adjoining, closed-faced, 10-foot-wide bins that flex against minor, unforeseen ground movements. The bins comprise sturdy, lightweight steel sections that are bolted together at the job site. According to CONTECH, Bin-Walls transform a backfilled soil mass into economical, gravity-type retaining walls that are easy to install in difficult or restrictive conditions, have a lower initial cost, and reduce maintenance expenses. Applications include highway and railroad facilities; municipal, industrial, or commercial sites; bank erosion protection; dock protection; bridge abutments; and blast walls for military and industrial sites.
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GeoStone Retaining Wall Systems offers GeoStone, a patented, hollow-core decorative segmental retaining wall unit that uses a rock-interlock connection method. This method does not require use of pins or lips, but still allows for a block-to-geogrid connection. The hollow-core unit also allows for use of a patented form of positive connection, only required where massive surcharges are placed on the wall. According to the company, tests show pullout and connection strength equal to that of the ultimate strength of the geogrids.
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QuickRWall software from IES, Inc., allows users to design and check cantilever and propped retaining walls in either a learning mode with a wizard (for engineers who infrequently designs walls) or a power-user mode. The program handles the following loading types: water in backfill, passive pressure, seismic loading, lateral stem load line, or strip surcharge. A DXF file export function provides sketch views with rebar layouts. Full reports include complete equations and intermediate data; a concise, one-page report also is available for clients or for records.
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International Erosion Control Systems’ Concrete Gabions are interlocking, stackable blocks of non-corrosive concrete with transverse ducts. Standard block size is 2 meters long, 0.5 meter wide, and 1 meter high; but various sizes are available to meet project requirements. Drainage ducts allow hydrostatic pressure to drain uniformly through the blocks. A geotextile cloth is used to separate the Concrete Gabions from the drainable backfill. In some cases, the company recommends use of earth anchors for extra stability.
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Keystone Retaining Wall Systems, Inc., says that the larger, 8-inch by 24-inch face on its 133Elite segmental wall system provides a more appropriate visual scale for big walls. In addition, the larger face dimensions translate into savings during construction: The same effort that nets 1 square foot of wall area with other systems produces 1.33 square feet of wall area with the 133Elite, according to Keystone. A mid-range segment weight of 95 pounds allows installation by one person. Keystone’s StoneArt embossing technology can produce 133Elite units with specially designed natural textures, as well as a wide range of colors.
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According to Lock+Load Retaining Walls Ltd., self-anchoring components in its retaining wall system allow for consistent compaction of the backfill so that paving, fences, and barriers can be constructed adjacent to the wall face. Panels do not stack, but are independently anchored into the reinforced soil mass by a counterfort that provides flexibility and durability, even during seismic events. Lock+Load’s components, which lock together, are made from 5,500-psi, fiber- and steel-reinforced concrete to provide resistance to freeze-thaw and salt scaling for an attractive, quarried-stone appearance for the life of the structure. Each unit has a facing area of 16 inches by 32 inches.
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Maccaferri, Inc.’s Terramesh System is a versatile modular system used for soil reinforcement applications such as mechanically stabilized earth walls, reinforced slope systems, and soil reinforcement. It is used for commercial, industrial, roadworks, erosion control, and bank stabilization. Terramesh structures rely upon the steel mesh placed horizontally within the slope with backfill compacted upon it. A gabion-type facing element is fully integrated with the steel mesh reinforcement and is dependent upon the final use of the structure. The double-twist wire mesh reinforcement takes advantage of friction acting along the surface of the wire and the mechanical interlocking properties of the backfill. For durability, the zinc coated wire mesh is protected by a polymeric barrier made of PVC. Maccaferri Terramesh was evaluated by the Highway Innovative Technology Evaluation Center for a 75-year design.
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The Neel Company offers high-strength, precast reinforced concrete structural retaining walls and engineering support for municipal, highway, and railroad design requirements. Its T-WALL Retaining Wall System is an all-concrete system with no separate soil reinforcements to attach. The units, comprising a monolithic precast face and perpendicular stem, are backfilled with a select granular fill. The stem length varies depending on the height and loads on the wall. T-WALL is designed in accordance with AASHTO and AREMA design codes and, according to the company, is an excellent substitution for cast-in-place designs. T-Wall is available with a variety of architectural finishes.
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Presto Products Company’s Geoweb cellular confinement system uses an engineered, expandable, polyethylene, honeycomb-like cellular structure that confines and reinforces granular fill, creating a uniform structural mass that the company says resists lateral pressures and maintains structural integrity. The Geoweb system is available with perforated or non-perforated cell walls in a variety of colors. Perforated cell walls provide increased friction with infill aggregates and allow lateral drainage through the system. According to Presto, the basic Geoweb system can be adapted to a wide range of design requirements and site conditions. Designers can apply classic methods of stability analysis; computerized evaluation is available for a broad range of infill, backfill, and surcharge parameters. Geoweb sections can be used in vertical or stepped designs and with non-structural facias or natural vegetative cover.
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Recon Wall Systems, Inc., offers segmental, concrete retaining wall blocks in a variety of shapes that allow designers to incorporate both inside and outside 90-degree corners or curves with virtually any radius. Retaining walls can be finished with caps or special top units that allow greenscape within 4 inches of the face of the finished wall. Also available are freestanding fence and guardrail units. Recon retaining wall block is available in granite, limestone, and cut-stone finishes; granite and limestone finishes feature several different textures to avoid excessive pattern repetition. Color can be applied to constructed walls using natural concrete stains.
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According to Redi-Rock International, its big-block wall products capture the "essence of natural rock," and many people mistake it for quarried stone. Redi-Rock’s wall systems use blocks weighing as much as 2,400 pounds. The massive scale allows walls to be built much higher than other wall systems without using geogrids or tie-backs. Also, tall, reinforced walls can be designed with the company’s geo-connector.
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Under a grant from the state of New York, ReTread Products is exploring commercial development of a Tire Log product made from recycled automobile tires. According to the company, preliminary tests indicate that the Tire Log’s flexibility, energy absorbing characteristics, and design make it well suited for applications such as levees, retaining walls, stream bank stabilization and flood control, and as a building material in areas subject to earthquake activity. Glynn Geotechnical Engineering, Lockport, N.Y., currently is conducting tests to gather data such as flexural and tensile strength, density, and friction-angle properties.
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RisiStone Systems’ SonomaStone is a new, machine-placed segmental retaining wall system comprising large, 385-pound blocks with the look of multiple, random split faces. According to the company, this provides the stability and installation efficiency of a machine-placed unit, while maintaining a subtle, less industrial aesthetic. The multi-faced look of the standard units allows tapered half units to be incorporated seamlessly into the wall, giving designers the ability to achieve tight curves (14-foot radius). The SonomaStone System can be designed as a gravity wall, multiple-depth gravity wall, or geogrid-reinforced wall, making this system suitable for walls from 2 feet to 40 feet and taller. The SonomaStone System has a front-to-back depth of 375 mm, smaller than existing machine-placed systems, which decreases overall material and transportation costs per square foot of wall.
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Rockwood Retaining Walls offers a full line of landscape solutions for commercial, governmental, industrial, and residential applications. The company says its new Vintage product line recreates the timeless beauty of a naturally weathered stone wall. Four unique, double-sided Vintage blocks allow installation of random patterns. Face options include tumbled, straight, and "rustic" (mechanically weathered). Vintage blocks allow designers to combine retaining and freestanding walls for versatile applications.
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Soil Retention Products, Inc., offers Verdura and Candura lines of fully plantable, segmental retaining wall systems. Verdura blocks are available in six sizes, ranging in weight from 22 pounds to 132 pounds. They can be used with reinforcement to build walls as tall as 60 feet. The company says its Candura wall system is the only modular retaining wall block with an exposed aggregate finish. The system also includes a corner block, cap stone, and stakes that allow for proper compaction.
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In 2006, Stone Strong Systems increased its dealer network to a total of 32 firms in 40 states. In addition, the company now offers full engineering support, including engineering and estimating software. Wall-system improvements include the addition of a dual-face block to allow for use in above-ground barrier and sound wall applications. Corner blocks—90 degrees or 45 degrees—allow walls to follow lot dimensions closely. In 2007, the company expects to meet engineers’ and architects’ retaining wall needs by providing educational presentations on Stone Strong Systems products for which participants can receive Professional Development Hours.
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UltraBlock’s Lock-Block retaining wall system features large units with interlocking keyways manufactured from surplus concrete. A standard block is approximately 2.5 feet tall by 2.5 feet deep by 5 feet wide and weighs approximately 4,320 pounds. Concrete strength varies from 2,500 psi to more than 4,500 psi. Three surface finishes are available: standard smooth, quarry stone, and cut stone. The Lock-Block system can be used for gravity or mechanically stabilized earth applications. Half standard, bench, corner, transition, and wedge shapes also are available.
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VERSA-LOK Retaining Wall Systems says its Mosaic is the original solid, pinned segmental retaining wall system capable of building random-pattern tall walls of unlimited height. Mosaic walls feature panels comprising three units in a random, four-unit pattern. Each panel is 10 inches high and readily accommodates soil reinforcement. According to VERSA-LOK, Mosaic’s top-pinning design ensures easy installation and uncompromising strength. Mosaic is available in two textures: split-face and Weathered Mosaic, which VERSA-LOK describes as "a centuries-old, hand-hewn appearance that’s perfect for historic renovations." Designers can create curves and multi-angle corners with the Mosaic system.
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