Retaining walls are heavy duty structures that are designed and built to hold back environmental elements such as sand banks and earth slopes that could be hazardous in structured or built up areas. These retaining walls can consist of a number of materials, depending on the application and the position in which the structure will need to be used.
The design and structure of these types of walls needs to be very carefully considered taking into account a number of different factors. One of the main factors is of course the weight or load of the earth that the wall will need to retain. The greater the weight, the more durable the wall will need to be to fulfil its function.
The height and width of the wall also needs to be taken into consideration. The higher or longer a wall is the more prone it becomes to stress breaks and cracks that could lead to catastrophic failure of the wall. For longer and higher retaining walls sections are often used to combat this problem and to provide a more flexible structure.
The retaining walls need to be flexible to deal with load shifts in the soil as well as other environmental factors that can cause the materials to expand and contract weakening the structure. These factors can include temperature fluctuations, friction, wear and tear, and so on. The effect that water can have on the wall as well as the earth being retained is probably one of the most important considerations in ensuring the structural integrity of a retaining wall.
The Gabion Design was first introduced by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 16th century. This design has since been built upon and improved in a number of ways. The greatest change that has become apparent is the wider range of materials that are available to the modern engineer in designing Gabion retaining walls.
Gabions are basically boxlike structures that are reinforced with wire mesh and filled with loose pebbles, stones or rocks to strengthen their structure. What makes the design unique, however, is the way in which these rectangular boxes (more commonly referred to as baskets in the engineering world) are used in structuring a retaining wall.
Instead of creating a flat structure, the ‘baskets’ are placed at varying degrees along a slope of earth that needs to be kept from sliding or falling. This tier structure means that more or less the same load and stress is carried by each of the boxes rather than one section of the wall being required to carry more weight and strain. A flat wall with earth pushing against it carries the most strain along the bottom of the wall or wherever the structure is the weakest making it much more prone to cracks and breaks.
The stones contained inside the ‘baskets’ also play an important role in the structural integrity of gabion design retaining walls. While adding strength and weight to the wall the stones allow for movement making the entire structure much more flexible and able to deal with a number of different factors such as temperature fluctuations as mentioned above. The gabion design boxes come in a range of different shapes and sizes to meet different retaining requirements.
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