As any skilled retaining wall contractors will tell you, retaining walls can be a key component in soil erosion prevention, downslope structure protection, and groundwater flow management. There are a variety of designs, materials, and methods of construction for retaining walls, as the structure is engineered to confront the particular issues of each site. For areas prone to landslides, retaining walls are one of several ways to mitigate this destructive force of nature.
Landslides characteristics and causes
Landslides are a destructive natural phenomenon that encompasses several types of landslips, including rockfalls, slope failures, mudflows, and debris flows. They are often the result of a concurrence of factors, from slope destabilization as a result of human behavior such as excavation activities midslope or excessive weight at the top of the slope to naturally triggering events such as heavy rainfall or earthquakes. Typically these elements compound over time. The force of gravity, however, is the key ingredient that turns mountains, cliffs, and hillsides into an avalanche of earth. The immense power of landslides makes lessening their effects with mitigation strategies an imperative for those on or below unstable slopes.
Methods of landslide mitigation
Given their unpredictability, landslide mitigation strategies can be reactive and employed in the event of an actively destabilizing slope, or, like in the case of retaining walls, engaged as a preventative system of interventions on the scale of home remodeling contractors or large infrastructure projects. Retaining walls work to stabilize slopes that are at risk of landslides by applying counteracting forces, increasing the normal stress of the retained soil and friction against its downward movements. Anchored retaining walls, in particular, provide the necessary strength to withstand the forces of unstable slopes and work to stop the creeping of the slope surface. This type of retaining wall uses anchors bored into and secured in the underlying bedrock and affixed to steel cables which then extend to the beam frames of the wall at a precise angle to the slope surface. The beams of the wall are arranged in a grid-like structure and made typically of reinforced concrete, which is known for its load-bearing and tensile strength. The anchored retaining wall is further strengthened and protected with the use of geotextiles within the beam frame grid to promote proper groundwater drainage and prevent the erosion of the ground beneath the retaining wall.