Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls

A new ASTM International standard aims to provide direction for constructing mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls.

“Walls are often needed to retain soil in key places, such as along highways that approach bridge overpasses,” says ASTM International member Roger Brockenbrough of R.L. Brockenbrough and Associates, Inc. “Rather than building a massive cast-in-place wall with extensive vertical reinforcement, the most economical method is to use a mechanically-stabilized earth retaining wall.”

MSE walls are constructed with horizontal layers of steel reinforcement placed between layers of compacted soil, anchored to a facing type that is either precast concrete, concrete block, or wire-faced. The reinforcement acts in tension to hold the wall in place as lateral earth pressure develops.

According to Brockenbrough, MSE walls with steel reinforcement are widely used, but there has not been a recognized standard for their construction. ASTM International’s committee on metallic-coated iron and steel products (A05) developed the new standard, which will soon be published as A1115.

This effort directly relates to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #12 on responsible consumption and production.

“The new standard makes maximum use of a naturally existing material and local backfill to construct the wall, as well as recycled steel as manufacturer’s specifications permit,” says Brockenbrough. “These materials save energy and time that would otherwise be required to construct the wall.”

Brockenbrough notes that departments of transportation, engineering design firms, mining companies, and private land developers will be among those who could find the new standard useful.

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