In recent years, reinforced earth structures have been particularly popular in projects due to their excellent functional and aesthetic importance in the residential building and public building industries.
Such intervention works achieve the best results by allowing the soil and geosynthetics to “work in synergy”, each one with its own features of ensuring the stability of the work as a whole.
It’s easy to see the high environmental value of such solutions, but let’s take a closer look at the two major factors in reinforced soil works. In this way, we can understand how and why, working together, they lead to amazing results, also in aesthetic terms.
What are reinforced earth structures?
They are structural intervention works in various gradients and dimensions aimed at retention and/or stabilisation. We can identify a few main areas of application:
- Road and railway embankments.
- Restoration and consolidation of collapsed soil on a road.
- Construction of ramps for ascending and descending flyovers.
- Canal or river bank elevations.
- Rockfall barriers.
- Noise barriers along roads or railways.
- Widening of elevated car parks.
- Construction of terracing systems in vineyards.
- Soil consolidation at tunnel entrances.
What are geogrids and why are they often the best solution?
Soil has the intrinsic features of friction and compressive strength, but practically no tensile strength. This is not enough to ensure the stability of a structure.
Major slopes, weather conditions, proximity to embankments, etc. can erode soil, causing landslides and subsidence. For reinforced earth structures, it’s therefore necessary to use geogrids, two-dimensional structures horizontally inserted into soil, which integrate with it without deforming. Their open-mesh structure develops “passive” resistance, thereby increasing the stabilising effect.
This bonding exploits the abilities of the two construction elements, making the entire structure more efficient.
Naturally, the feasibility of retaining works needs to consider:
- the intrinsic characteristics of the soil, such as grain size, the degree of thickening and shear strength, as well as the dilatancy phenomenon;
- the characteristics of the geogrids, such as tensile strength and stiffness, the use of raw materials (polymers) that can also withstand harsh chemical and physical conditions (attacks by chemical agents, soil pH, etc.), and the appropriate geometric structure.
Eventually, grass will grow and none of the intervention work will be visible: a really attractive and natural reinforced structure. In addition to its aesthetic function, greening also plays an important role in helping the natural friction of soil.
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