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U.S. Department of Transportation Publication No.

FHWA NHI-07-071
Federal Highway Administration June 2008



NHI Course No. 132036__________________________________
Earth Retaining Structures

Reference Manual


























National Highway Institute















NOTICE


The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors, who are responsible for the
facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily
reflect policy of the Department of Transportation. This report does not constitute a
standard, specification, or regulation. The United States Government does not endorse
products or manufacturers. Trade or manufacturer's names appear herein only
because they are considered essential to the objective of this document.


Technical Report Documentation Page

1. REPORT NO.
FHWA-NHI-07-071

2. GOVERNMENT
ACCESSION NO.

3. RECIPIENT'S CATALOG NO.

5. REPORT DATE
June 2008

4. TITLE AND SUBTITLE
Earth Retaining Structures

6. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION CODE

7. AUTHOR(S)
Burak F. Tanyu, Ph.D. and Paul J. Sabatini,
P.E., Ph.D, and Ryan R. Berg, P.E.

8. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION REPORT NO.

10. WORK UNIT NO. 9. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION NAME AND ADDRESS
Ryan R. Berg & Associates, Inc.
2190 Leyland Alcove
Woodbury, MN 55125

11. CONTRACT OR GRANT NO.
DTFH61-06-D-00019

13. TYPE OF REPORT & PERIOD COVERED


12. SPONSORING AGENCY NAME AND ADDRESS
National Highway Institute
Federal Highway Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
Washington, D.C.


14. SPONSORING AGENCY CODE

15. SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES
This manual is the updated version of FHWA NHI-99-025 manual prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff
Quade & Douglas, Inc., authored by G. A. Munfakh, N. C. Samtani, R. J. Castelli, and J. Wang. This
updated version presents design procedures for walls, except in-situ reinforced walls, using the load and
resistance factor design (LRFD) method.
FHWA COTR Louisa M. Ward
FHWA Technical Consultants J. DiMaggio, B. Siel, and D. Alzamora.

16. ABSTRACT This is the reference manual for FHWA NHI course No. 132036 on Earth Retaining
Structures. Detailed information on subsurface investigation, soil and rock property design parameter
selection, lateral earth pressures for wall system design, and load and resistance factor design (LRFD) for
retaining walls are provided. Wall types discussed include gravity and semi-gravity walls, modular gravity
walls, MSE walls, nongravity cantilever walls and anchored walls, and in-situ reinforced walls.
Information on wall system feasibility and selection, construction materials and methods, cost information,
design and performance information, and required elements of construction inspection are presented for
each wall type. Different contracting approaches for the various wall systems are also discussed.


17. KEY WORDS lateral earth pressures, LRFD,
gravity and semi-gravity walls, modular gravity
walls, mechanically stabilized earth walls, sheet pile
walls, soldier pile and lagging walls, slurry walls,
tangent/secant walls, anchored walls, soil nailing,
micropiles, wall selection, and contracting
approaches.


18. DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT

No restrictions.

19. SECURITY CLASSIF.
Unclassified


20. SECURITY CLASSIF.
Unclassified

21. NO. OF PAGES
764

22. PRICE
---









SI CONVERSION FACTORS
APPROXIMATE CONVERSIONS FROM SI UNITS
Symbol
When You
Know
Multiply By To Find Symbol
LENGTH
mm
m
m
km
millimeters
meters
meters
kilometers
0.039
3.28
1.09
0.621
inches
feet
yards
miles
in
ft
yd
mi
AREA
mm
2

m
2
m
2

ha
km
2

square millimeters
square meters
square meters
hectares
square kilometers
0.0016
10.764
1.195
2.47
0.386
square inches
square feet
square yards
acres
square miles
in
2

ft
2

yd
2

ac
mi
2

VOLUME
ml
l
m
3

m
3

millimeters
liters
cubic meters
cubic meters
0.034
0.264
35.71
1.307
fluid ounces
gallons
cubic feet
cubic yards
fl oz
gal
ft
3

yd
3

MASS
g
kg
tonnes
grams
kilograms
tonnes
0.035
2.202
1.103
ounces
pounds
tons
oz
lb
tons
TEMPERATURE
EC Celsius 1.8 C + 32 Fahrenheit EF
WEIGHT DENSITY
kN/m
3

kilonewton / cubic
meter
6.36 poundforce / cubic foot pcf
FORCE and PRESSURE or STRESS
N
kN
kPa
kPa
newtons
kilonewtons
kilopascals
kilopascals
0.225
225
0.145
20.9
poundforce
poundforce
poundforce / square inch
poundforce / square foot
lbf
lbf
psi
psf




PREFACE

This document is the update of the 1999 NHI course manual for NHI Course 13236
Module 6, Earth Retaining Structures. This document has been written to provide up-to-
date information on earth retaining systems currently being constructed in the United
States for highway applications. Earth retaining systems discussed in this manual
include:

Rigid gravity and semi-gravity walls;
Prefabricated modular gravity walls;
Mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls;
Non-gravity cantilevered and anchored walls including sheet-pile walls, soldier
beam and lagging walls, slurry walls, tangent and secant pile walls, soil mixed
walls, and jet-grouted walls; and
In-situ reinforced walls including soil nail walls and micropile walls.

This document is a synthesis of practical information on selection, construction, design,
cost, and construction inspection for these wall systems. In addition, information on
subsurface investigation, soil and rock design parameter selection, and lateral earth
pressure evaluation applied specifically to wall systems, and LRFD methods for retaining
walls is provided.

The design procedures presented in this manual are consistent with the AASHTO LRFD
Bridge Design Specifications (AASHTO, 2007). Significant portions of this manual are
based on the following FHWA references:

Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls and Reinforced Soil Slopes Design and
Construction Guidelines, by V. Elias, B.R. Christopher and R.R. Berg, FHWA
NHI-00-043.
Design and Construction Monitoring of Soil Nail Walls, by R. J. Byrne, D.
Cotton, J.Porterfield, C. Wolschlag and G. Ueblacker, FHWA-SA-96-069.
Earth Retaining Systems, Geotechnical Engineering Circular No. 2, by P.J.
Sabatini, V. Elias, G.R. Schmertmann, and R. Bonaparte, FHWA- SA-96-038.
Ground Anchors and Anchored Systems, Geotechnical Engineering Circular No.
4, by P.J. Sabatini, D. Pass, and R.C. Bachus, FHWA- SA-99-015.
Evaluation of Soil and Rock Properties, Geotechnical Engineering Circular No. 5,
by P.J. Sabatini, R.C. Bachus, P.W. Mayne, J.A. Schneider, and T.E. Zettler,
FHWA- IF-02-034.
Soil Nail Walls, Geotechnical Engineering Circular No. 7, by C.A. Lazarte, V.
Elias, R.D. Espinoza, and P.J. Sabatini, FHWA-IF-03-017.
Subsurface Investigations, by. P.W. Mayne, B.R. Christopher, and J. DeJong,
FHA NHI-01-031.

The authors recognize the efforts of Barry Siel, Daniel Alzamora, and Jerry A. DiMaggio
who served as FHWA Technical Consultants for this work.


The authors further acknowledge the efforts of the following individuals who provided
valuable technical input during the development of this manual.

Craig Actis FHWA Resource Center
Tom Armour DBM Contractors
Donald Bruce Geosystems, L.P.
Barry Christopher Christopher Consultants
James Collin The Collin Group
Dave Davis Northstar Vinyl Inc.
Leo Fontaine Connecticut DOT
Jeff Horsfall Wisconsin DOT
Scott Ludlow Earth Exploration Inc.
Steve Maxwell Wisconsin DOT
Peter Osborn FHWA
Bruce Pfister Wisconsin DOT
Ray Poletto Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers
Dan Priest Contech Construction Products
Tom Richards Nicholson Construction Company
Ray Sandiford - Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Brian Sweeney - Haley & Aldrich, Inc.
Trevor Wang Colorado DOT
Rob Wendt North American Steel Sheet Piling Association
Joe Wiedemann Berkel and Company Contractors
John Wolosick Hayward Baker, Inc.
David Yang Ratio, Inc.




FHWA NHI-07-071 i June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................... 1-1
1.1 PURPOSE AND SCOPE.............................................................................................................. 1-1
1.2 HISTORY OF EARTH RETAINING SYSTEMS ....................................................................... 1-2
1.3 CLASSIFICATION OF EARTH RETAINING STRUCTURES................................................. 1-4
1.3.1 Classification by Load Support Mechanism................................................................... 1-5
1.3.2 Classification by Construction Concept.......................................................................... 1-5
1.3.3 Classification by System Rigidity................................................................................... 1-7
1.3.4 Temporary and Permanent Wall Applications................................................................ 1-7
1.4 ORGANIZATION OF THE MANUAL....................................................................................... 1-8
1.5 PRIMARY REFERENCES FOR THIS MANUAL ..................................................................... 1-9

CHAPTER 2 EVALUATION OF GEOTECHNICAL PARAMETERS FOR EARTH RETAINING
SYSTEMS.................................................................................................................................... 2-1
2.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 2-1
2.2 PLANNING A SUBSURFACE INVESTIGATION AND LABORATORY TESTING
PROGRAM.................................................................................................................... 2-2
2.2.1 General .......................................................................................................................... 2-2
2.2.2 Identify Data Needs and Review Available Information................................................ 2-2
2.2.3 Developing a Site Investigation Program....................................................................... 2-4
2.2.4 Sampling Methods.......................................................................................................... 2-9
2.2.5 Developing a Laboratory Testing Program....................................................................2-11
2.3 FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS OF SHEAR STRENGTH........................................................2-13
2.3.1 General .........................................................................................................................2-13
2.3.2 Drained Versus Undrained Loading ..............................................................................2-13
2.3.3 Drained Stress-Strain-Strength Behavior.......................................................................2-14
2.3.4 Undrained Stress-Strain-Strength Behavior...................................................................2-17
2.3.5 Effective Stress Parameters ...........................................................................................2-18
2.3.6 Total Stress Parameters..................................................................................................2-18
2.4 LABORATORY INDEX TESTS ................................................................................................2-19
2.4.1 General .........................................................................................................................2-19
2.4.2 Moisture Content ...........................................................................................................2-19
2.4.3 Unit Weight ...................................................................................................................2-20
2.4.4 Atterberg Limits.............................................................................................................2-20
2.4.5 Particle Size Distribution...............................................................................................2-21
2.4.6 Laboratory Classification...............................................................................................2-22
2.4.7 Specific Gravity.............................................................................................................2-22
2.4.8 Organic Content.............................................................................................................2-22
2.5 PARAMETERS FOR BACKFILL SOILS..................................................................................2-23
2.5.1 General .........................................................................................................................2-23
2.5.2 Classification of Backfill Soils ......................................................................................2-23
2.5.3 Unit Weight ...................................................................................................................2-24
2.5.4 Backfill Shear Strength Parameters ...............................................................................2-25
2.5.5 Electrochemical Parameters of Backfill Soils................................................................2-26
2.5.6 Placement and Compaction of Backfill Soils ................................................................2-26
FHWA NHI-07-071 ii June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
2.5.7 Backfill Soil Permeability..............................................................................................2-30
2.5.8 Filtration Requirements .................................................................................................2-31
2.5.9 Other Backfill Materials ................................................................................................2-34
2.6 PARAMETERS FOR IN-SITU SOILS.......................................................................................2-37
2.6.1 General .........................................................................................................................2-37
2.6.2 Stratigraphy ...................................................................................................................2-37
2.6.3 Unit Weight ...................................................................................................................2-38
2.6.4 Shear Strength Parameters .............................................................................................2-39
2.6.5 Consolidation Parameters ..............................................................................................2-44
2.6.6 Electrochemical Parameters...........................................................................................2-53
2.6.7 Permeability...................................................................................................................2-53
2.7 ROCK PARAMETERS...............................................................................................................2-56
2.7.1 General .........................................................................................................................2-56
2.7.2 Rock Mass Classification...............................................................................................2-56
2.7.3 Compressive Strength of Intact Rock ............................................................................2-69
2.7.4 Smooth Discontinuity ....................................................................................................2-71
2.7.5 Rough Discontinuity......................................................................................................2-72
2.7.6 Infillings.........................................................................................................................2-72
2.7.7 Shear Strength of Fractured Rock Masses .....................................................................2-73
2.7.8 Permeability...................................................................................................................2-77

CHAPTER 3 LATERAL EARTH AND WATER PRESSURES................................................................... 3-1
3.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 3-1
3.2 EARTH PRESSURE THEORY ................................................................................................... 3-2
3.2.1 Active and Passive Earth Pressures ................................................................................ 3-2
3.2.2 At-Rest Earth Pressure.................................................................................................... 3-5
3.2.3 Rankine Earth Pressure Theory ...................................................................................... 3-6
3.2.4 Coulomb Earth Pressure Theory..................................................................................... 3-8
3.2.5 Effect of Wall Friction on Earth Pressures ..................................................................... 3-8
3.2.6 Equivalent Fluid Pressure ..............................................................................................3-11
3.3 TEMPORARY CONDITIONS....................................................................................................3-13
3.3.1 General .........................................................................................................................3-13
3.3.2 Softening........................................................................................................................3-13
3.3.3 Tension Cracks ..............................................................................................................3-14
3.3.4 Soil Fabric......................................................................................................................3-15
3.4 PERMANENT CONDITIONS....................................................................................................3-16
3.5 INFLUENCE OF MOVEMENT ON EARTH PRESSURES......................................................3-17
3.5.1 General .........................................................................................................................3-17
3.5.2 Magnitude of Movement Needed to Mobilize Limit Pressures .....................................3-17
3.5.3 Flexibility of the Wall....................................................................................................3-18
3.5.4 Influence of Movement on Soil Properties ....................................................................3-18
3.6 DESIGN EARTH AND WATER PRESSURES.........................................................................3-21
3.6.1 Wall Friction and Adhesion...........................................................................................3-21
3.6.2 Earth Pressure Coefficients............................................................................................3-22
3.6.3 Theoretical Earth Pressures in Stratified Soils...............................................................3-27
3.6.4 Semi Empirical Earth Pressure Diagrams......................................................................3-28
FHWA NHI-07-071 iii June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
3.6.5 Design Water Pressures .................................................................................................3-32
3.7 EARTH PRESSURE FROM SURCHARGE LOADS................................................................3-36
3.7.1 General .........................................................................................................................3-36
3.7.2 Uniform Surcharge Loads..............................................................................................3-36
3.8 EARTH PRESSURES DUE TO COMPACTION.......................................................................3-37
3.9 EARTH PRESSURES RESULTING FROM SILO EFFECT.....................................................3-40
3.10 EARTH PRESSURES RESULTING FROM SEISMIC FORCES .............................................3-41
3.10.1 General .........................................................................................................................3-41
3.10.2 Seismic Earth Pressures.................................................................................................3-41
3.10.3 Displacement Approach.................................................................................................3-46
3.11 LATERAL EARTH PRESSURES IN COHESIVE BACKFILLS..............................................3-47
3.12 LOADS FROM JOINTED ROCK MASSES..............................................................................3-49
3.13 EXAMPLE PROBLEMS.............................................................................................................3-49
3.13.1 Example Problem 1........................................................................................................3-50
3.13.2 Example Problem 2........................................................................................................3-51
3.13.3 Example Problem 3........................................................................................................3-52

CHAPTER 4 LOAD RESISTANCE FACTOR DESIGN FOR EARTH RETAINING SYSTEMS........... 4-1
4.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 4-1
4.2 CONCEPT OF LIMIT STATES................................................................................................... 4-2
4.3 COMMON LIMIT STATES IN ERS DESIGN............................................................................ 4-3
4.4 LOAD COMBINATIONS IN LIMIT STATES ........................................................................... 4-3
4.5 EVALUATION OF RESISTANCE FACTORS........................................................................... 4-4

CHAPTER 5 CAST-IN-PLACE (CIP) GRAVITY AND SEMI-GRAVITY WALLS................................. 5-1
5.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 5-1
5.2 TYPES OF SEMI-GRAVITY CIP WALLS................................................................................. 5-3
5.2.1 Cantilever........................................................................................................................ 5-3
5.2.2 Counterfort Walls ........................................................................................................... 5-5
5.2.3 Buttress Walls................................................................................................................. 5-6
5.2.4 Other CIP Semi-Gravity Walls ....................................................................................... 5-6
5.3 WALL CONSTRUCTION........................................................................................................... 5-8
5.4 COST ........................................................................................................................................ 5-9
5.5 WALL DESIGN..........................................................................................................................5-10
5.5.1 Steps 1, 2, and 3.............................................................................................................5-10
5.5.2 Step 4 Select Base Dimension ....................................................................................5-12
5.5.3 Step 5 Select Lateral Earth Pressure Distribution.......................................................5-12
5.5.4 Step 6 Evaluate Factored Loads..................................................................................5-13
5.5.5 Step 7 - Evaluate Bearing Resistance ............................................................................5-17
5.5.6 Step 8 Check Eccentricity...........................................................................................5-19
5.5.8 Step 10 Evaluate Overall Stability..............................................................................5-21
5.5.9 Step 11 Estimate Maximum Lateral Wall Movement, Tilt, and Wall Settlement at the
Service I Limit State........................................................................................5-21
5.5.10 Step 12 Design Wall Drainage Systems .....................................................................5-23
5.6 CONSTRUCTION INSPECTION...............................................................................................5-29

FHWA NHI-07-071 iv June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
CHAPTER 6 MODULAR GRAVITY WALLS .............................................................................................. 6-1
6.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 6-1
6.2 CRIB WALLS .............................................................................................................................. 6-4
6.2.1 General .......................................................................................................................... 6-4
6.2.2 Wall Construction........................................................................................................... 6-4
6.2.3 Materials ......................................................................................................................... 6-6
6.2.4 Cost .......................................................................................................................... 6-7
6.3 CONCRETE MODULE WALLS................................................................................................. 6-8
6.3.1 General .......................................................................................................................... 6-8
6.3.2 Wall Construction........................................................................................................... 6-8
6.3.3 Materials ........................................................................................................................6-11
6.3.4 Cost .........................................................................................................................6-11
6.4 GABION WALLS .......................................................................................................................6-12
6.4.1 General .........................................................................................................................6-12
6.4.2 Wall Construction..........................................................................................................6-13
6.4.3 Materials ........................................................................................................................6-14
6.4.4 Cost .........................................................................................................................6-17
6.5 BIN WALLS................................................................................................................................6-17
6.5.1 General .........................................................................................................................6-17
6.5.2 Wall Construction..........................................................................................................6-18
6.5.3 Materials ........................................................................................................................6-23
6.5.4 Cost .........................................................................................................................6-23
6.6 MODULAR GRAVITY WALL DESIGN ..................................................................................6-23
6.6.1 General .........................................................................................................................6-23
6.6.2 Lateral Earth Pressures ..................................................................................................6-25
6.6.3 Sliding .........................................................................................................................6-25
6.6.4 Limiting Eccentricity.....................................................................................................6-27
6.6.5 Bearing Resistance.........................................................................................................6-28
6.6.6 Structural Capacity of Wall Modules ............................................................................6-29
6.6.7 Lateral and Vertical Displacements at the Service Limit State......................................6-29
6.6.8 Overall Stability at the Service Limit State ...................................................................6-29
6.6.9 Gabion Walls .................................................................................................................6-30
6.7 EXAMPLE PROBLEM...............................................................................................................6-30
6.8 CONSTRUCTION INSPECTION...............................................................................................6-34
6.9 T-WALLS....................................................................................................................................6-36
6.9.1 Overview .......................................................................................................................6-36
6.9.2 T-Wall Construction ......................................................................................................6-38
6.9.3 T-Wall Cost ...................................................................................................................6-38
6.9.4 T-Wall Design ...............................................................................................................6-38

CHAPTER 7 MECHANICALLY STABILIZED EARTH WALLS ............................................................. 7-1
7.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 7-1
7.2 PRINCIPAL COMPONENTS OF MSE WALLS........................................................................ 7-2
7.3 APPLICATIONS OF MSE WALLS ............................................................................................ 7-5
7.4 MATERIALS FOR MSE WALLS............................................................................................... 7-9
7.4.1 Backfill Material ............................................................................................................. 7-9
FHWA NHI-07-071 v June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
7.4.2 Reinforcing Elements ....................................................................................................7-12
7.4.3 Wall Facing Elements....................................................................................................7-15
7.5 MSE WALL CONSTRUCTION.................................................................................................7-19
7.5.1 Construction of MSE Walls with Precast Facings .........................................................7-21
7.5.2 Construction of MSE Walls with Flexible Facings .......................................................7-22
7.5.3 Backfill Placement and Compaction..............................................................................7-25
7.6 MSE WALL COST......................................................................................................................7-27
7.7 CONSTRUCTION INSPECTION OF MSE WALLS.................................................................7-29
7.8 MSE WALL DESIGN.................................................................................................................7-32
7.8.1 Initial Design Steps (Steps 1 through 3) ........................................................................7-35
7.8.2 Strength Limit States External Stability (Steps 4 through 8) ......................................7-36
7.8.3 Strength Limit States Internal Stability (Steps 9 through 13) .....................................7-48
7.8.4 Service Limit States (Steps 14 and 15) ..........................................................................7-69
7.8.5 Design of Wall Drainage Systems (Step 16) .................................................................7-72
7.8.6 Additional Design Considerations .................................................................................7-74
7.9 MSE WALL EXAMPLE PROBLEM.........................................................................................7-76
7.9.1 Problem Statement.........................................................................................................7-76
7.9.2 Solution of the Problem.................................................................................................7-77

CHAPTER 8 NONGRAVITY CANTILEVERED AND ANCHORED WALLS......................................... 8-1
8.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 8-1
8.2 SHEET PILE WALLS.................................................................................................................. 8-4
8.2.1 General .......................................................................................................................... 8-4
8.2.2 Wall Construction........................................................................................................... 8-7
8.2.3 Cost .........................................................................................................................8-12
8.2.4 Construction Inspection.................................................................................................8-12
8.3 SOLDIER PILE AND LAGGING WALLS................................................................................8-13
8.3.1 General .........................................................................................................................8-13
8.3.2 Wall Construction..........................................................................................................8-17
8.3.3 Cost .........................................................................................................................8-19
8.3.4 Construction Inspection.................................................................................................8-19
8.4 SLURRY WALLS.......................................................................................................................8-20
8.4.1 General .........................................................................................................................8-20
8.4.2 Slurry Wall Types..........................................................................................................8-23
8.4.3 Wall Construction..........................................................................................................8-26
8.4.4 Cost .........................................................................................................................8-34
8.4.5 Construction Inspection.................................................................................................8-34
8.5 TANGENT/SECANT PILE WALLS..........................................................................................8-37
8.5.1 General .........................................................................................................................8-37
8.5.2 Wall Construction..........................................................................................................8-39
8.5.3 Cost .........................................................................................................................8-40
8.5.4 Construction Inspection.................................................................................................8-40
8.6 JET GROUTED WALLS ............................................................................................................8-42
8.6.1 General .........................................................................................................................8-42
8.6.2 Wall Construction..........................................................................................................8-45
8.6.3 Cost .........................................................................................................................8-54
FHWA NHI-07-071 vi June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
8.6.4 Construction Inspection.................................................................................................8-54
8.7 DEEP MIXING METHOD (DMM) WALLS..............................................................................8-57
8.7.1 General .........................................................................................................................8-57
8.7.2 Wall Construction..........................................................................................................8-60
8.7.3 Cost .........................................................................................................................8-64
8.7.4 Construction Inspection.................................................................................................8-64
8.8 GROUND ANCHORS ................................................................................................................8-67
8.8.1 General .........................................................................................................................8-67
8.8.2 Wall Construction..........................................................................................................8-68
8.8.3 Load Testing of Ground Anchors ..................................................................................8-76
8.8.4 Cost .........................................................................................................................8-84
8.8.5 Construction Inspection.................................................................................................8-84
8.9 DESIGN OF FLEXIBLE NONGRAVITY CANTILEVERED WALLS....................................8-86
8.9.1 Sheet Pile and Soldier Pile and Lagging Walls..............................................................8-86
8.9.2 Design Steps for Flexible Nongravity Cantilevered Walls ............................................8-87
8.10 ANCHORED BULK HEAD (DEADMAN ANCHOR) WALLS...............................................8-95
8.10.1 Overview .......................................................................................................................8-95
8.10.2 Free Earth Support .........................................................................................................8-96
8.10.3 Fixed Earth Support .......................................................................................................8-97
8.10.4 Deadman Anchor Systems...........................................................................................8-102
8.11 ANCHORED WALL DESIGN.................................................................................................8-102
8.11.1 Step 3: Select Corrosion Protection of Ground Anchors .............................................8-106
8.11.2 Step 4: Select Earth Pressure Diagram........................................................................8-114
8.11.3 Step 5: Evaluate Factored Loads..................................................................................8-118
8.11.4 Step 6: Evaluate Individual Anchor Loads and Subgrade Reaction Force ..................8-118
8.11.5 Step 7: Evaluate Anchor Inclination............................................................................8-122
8.11.6 Step 8: Select Tendon Type and Check Tensile Resistance.........................................8-122
8.11.7 Step 9: Evaluate Anchor Bond Length ........................................................................8-124
8.11.8 Step 10: Evaluate Factored Bending Moment and Flexural Resistance of Wall .........8-127
8.11.9 Step 11: Evaluate Bearing Resistance of Vertical Wall Element.................................8-131
8.11.10 Step 12: Evaluate Overall Stability of Anchored Wall at Service Limit State.............8-132
8.11.11 Step 13: Estimate Maximum Lateral Wall Movements and Settlements at the Service
Limit State .....................................................................................................8-135
8.12 DESIGN OF STIFF CANTILEVERED AND ANCHORED WALLS.....................................8-137
8.12.1 General .......................................................................................................................8-137
8.12.2 Soil-Structure Interaction analysis Methods................................................................8-140
8.12.3 Slurry Walls.................................................................................................................8-151
8.12.4 Tangent and Secant Pile Walls ....................................................................................8-152
8.12.5 Jet Grouted Walls ........................................................................................................8-153
8.12.6 DMM Walls.................................................................................................................8-156
8.13 DRAINAGE SYSTEMS FOR CUT WALLS ...........................................................................8-160

CHAPTER 9 IN-SITU REINFORCED WALLS ............................................................................................ 9-1
9.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 9-1
9.2 SOIL NAIL WALLS .................................................................................................................... 9-1
9.2.1 General .......................................................................................................................... 9-1
FHWA NHI-07-071 vii June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
9.2.2 Feasibility of Soil Nails .................................................................................................. 9-3
9.2.3 Construction Materials and Methods .............................................................................9-13
9.2.4 Soil Nail Corrosion Protection.......................................................................................9-30
9.2.5 Cost .........................................................................................................................9-34
9.2.6 Design Concepts for Soil Nails......................................................................................9-35
9.2.7 Design of Soil Nail Walls ..............................................................................................9-72
9.2.8 Soil Nail Load Testing.................................................................................................9-101
9.2.9 Construction Inspection of Soil Nail Walls .................................................................9-106
9.3 MICROPILE WALLS ...............................................................................................................9-108
9.3.1 Introduction .................................................................................................................9-108
9.3.2 Construction Materials and Methods ...........................................................................9-109
9.3.3 Micropile Wall Design ................................................................................................9-112
9.3.4 Load Testing................................................................................................................9-114
9.3.5 Construction Inspection...............................................................................................9-115

CHAPTER 10 WALL SELECTION.................................................................................................................10-1
10.1 INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................10-1
10.2 STEP 1: IDENTIFY NEED FOR AN EARTH RETAINING SYSTEM....................................10-1
10.3 STEP 2: IDENTIFY SITE CONSTRAINTS AND PROJECT REQUIREMENTS....................10-2
10.4 STEP 3: EVALUATE PROJECT REQUIREMENTS AGAINST FACTORS AFFECTING
WALL SELECTION.....................................................................................................10-3
10.5 STEP 4: EVALUATE WALL ALTERNATIVES AGAINST WALL SELECTION FACTORS10-5
10.5.1 General .........................................................................................................................10-5
10.5.2 Selection Issues for Cut Wall Systems ..........................................................................10-5
10.5.3 Selection Issues for Fill Wall Systems...........................................................................10-6
10.5.4 Wall System Alternatives Evaluation ............................................................................10-6
10.6 STEP 5: SELECT AN ACCEPTABLE WALL TYPE..............................................................10-14
10.7 WALL SELECTION EXAMPLE..............................................................................................10-14
10.8 HYBRID WALL SYSTEMS.....................................................................................................10-19
10.8.1 General .......................................................................................................................10-19
10.8.2 Compatibility of Deformations....................................................................................10-19
10.8.3 Overall Stability of Hybrid Systems ............................................................................10-21
10.8.4 Example Hybrid Systems.............................................................................................10-23

CHAPTER 11 CONTRACTING APPROACHES...........................................................................................11-1
11.1 INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................11-1
11.2 METHOD CONTRACTING APPROACH.................................................................................11-2
11.2.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................................11-2
11.2.2 Contract Documents for Method Approach...................................................................11-3
11.3 PERFORMANCE CONTRACTING APPROACH ....................................................................11-8
11.3.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................................11-8
11.3.2 Implementing Performance Contracting Approach .......................................................11-8
11.3.3 Contract Documents for Performance Approach.........................................................11-10
11.3.4 Review and Approval ..................................................................................................11-12
11.4 CONTRACTOR DESIGN/BUILD APPROACH......................................................................11-12
11.5 RECOMMENDATIONS...........................................................................................................11-13
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Earth Retaining Structures
11.6 SPECIFICATION RESOURCES..............................................................................................11-14

CHAPTER 12 REFERENCES...........................................................................................................................12-1

APPENIDX STUDENT EXERCISES AND SOLUTIONS ..............................................................................A-1
Active Earth Pressure Calculation
Lateral Load Distribution Due to Strip Load
Sliding Resistance
MSE Wall Design External Stability
MSE Wall Internal Stability
Corrosion Calculation
Apparent Earth Pressure Diagrams
Single-Tier Anchored Soldier Beam and Lagging Wall
Design of a Two-Tier Anchored Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall
Lateral Wall Movement
Soil Nail Wall Design
Fill Wall Selection
Cut Wall Selection
FHWA NHI-07-071 ix June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
LIST OF TABLES
Table 2-1 Summary of Information Needs and Testing Considerations for Fill and Cut Wall Applications....... 2-3
Table 2-2 Sources of Historical Site Data ............................................................................................................ 2-5
Table 2-3 In-Situ Testing Methods Used in Soil .................................................................................................. 2-8
Table 2-4 Sampling Guidelines (after WFLHD, 2004) .......................................................................................2-12
Table 2-5 Typical Properties of Compacted Soils (after NAVFAC, 1986).........................................................2-27
Table 2-6 Unconfined Compressive Strength of Particles for Rockfill Grades in Figure 2-4 .............................2-28
Table 2-7 Range of Dry Densities for Lightweight Fills (after Elias et al., 2006)...............................................2-35
Table 2-8 Correlation between N and g of Granular Soils (after Bowles, 1988).................................................2-38
Table 2-9 Correlation between N and g of Cohesive Soils (after Bowles, 1988) ................................................2-38
Table 2-10 Relationship between SPT N Value and Internal Friction angle of Granular Soils (after AASHTO
LRFD, 2007) .......................................................................................................................................2-45
Table 2-11 Summary of Correlations for Cc (after Holtz and Kovacs, 1981) .......................................................2-48
Table 2-12 Casagrande Method to Evaluate
p
....................................................................................................2-50
Table 2-13 Description of Geological Mapping Terms.........................................................................................2-59
Table 2-14 Rock Material Strengths......................................................................................................................2-60
Table 2-15 Weathering Grades..............................................................................................................................2-60
Table 2-16 Rock Quality Description Based on Rqd ............................................................................................2-61
Table 2-17 Csir Classification of Jointed Rock Mass............................................................................................2-64
Table 2-18 Typical Ranges of Friction angles for a Variety of Rock Types .........................................................2-71
Table 2-19 Permeability of Typical Rocks and Soils (after Wyllie and Mah, 1998).............................................2-79

Table 3-1 Typical Values for Equivalent Fluid Unit Weight of Soils (after AASHTO, 2007) ...........................3-12
Table 3-2 Wall Friction and Adhesion for Dissimilar Materials (after NAVFAC, 1986) ...................................3-22
Table 3-3 Lateral Earth and Hydrostatic Pressures at Various Depths for Example 1 ........................................3-50
Table 3-4 Computation of Lateral Earth Pressures Due to Line Load.................................................................3-54

Table 4-1 Load Combinations and Load Factors (AASHTO, 2007).................................................................... 4-5
Table 4-2 Load Factors for Permanent Loads,
P
(modified after AASHTO, 2007) ............................................ 4-6
Table 4-3 Values of Resistance Factors Corresponding to Different Values of Factor of Safety and Dead to
Live Load Ratios for
DC
= 1.25 and
LL
= 1.75................................................................................... 4-8

Table 5-1 Design Steps for Gravity and Semi-Gravity Walls .............................................................................5-11
Table 5-2 Suggested Gradation for Backfill for Cantilever Semi-Gravity and Gravity Retaining Walls............5-12
Table 5-3 Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical CIP Gravity and Semi Gravity Wall Project........................5-30

Table 6-1 Typical Height-Thickness Relationship for Bin Walls (after Contech) ..............................................6-18
Table 6-2 Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Modular Gravity Wall Project .............................................6-34

Table 7-1 Summary of Reinforcement and Face Panel Details for Selected MSE Wall Systems (after Elias
et al., 2004)........................................................................................................................................... 7-3
Table 7-2 Recommended Limits of Electrochemical Properties for Select Backfills When Using Steel
Reinforcement .....................................................................................................................................7-10
Table 7-3 Recommended Limits of Electrochemical Properties for Select Backfills When Using
Geosynthetic Reinforcements .............................................................................................................7-11
Table 7-4 MSE Wall Field Inspection Checklist .................................................................................................7-30
FHWA NHI-07-071 x June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
Table 7-5 Design Steps for MSE Walls...............................................................................................................7-34
Table 7-6 Minimum Embedment Requirements for MSE Walls (after AASHTO, 2007)...................................7-36
Table 7-7 Typical Values for a (after AASHTO, 2007) ......................................................................................7-58
Table 7-8 Resistance Factors for Tensile Resistance (after AASHTO, 2007).....................................................7-62
Table 7-9 Installation Damage Reduction Factors (after Elias, 2000).................................................................7-67
Table 7-10 Creep Reduction Factors (RFCR) .......................................................................................................7-67
Table 7-11 Aging Reduction Factors (RFD) for PET............................................................................................7-68
Table 7-12 Relationship between Joint Width and Limiting Differential Settlements for MSE Precast Panels
(after Elias et al., 2001) .......................................................................................................................7-71
Table 7-13 Equivalent Height of Soil for Vehicular Loading (after AASHTO, 2007) .........................................7-79
Table 7-14 Summary of Unfactored Vertical Loads and Moment Arms for Design Example..............................7-80
Table 7-15 Summary of Unfactored Horizontal Loads and Moment Arms for Design Example .........................7-80
Table 7-16 Load Factors and Load Combinations.................................................................................................7-80
Table 7-17 Factored Vertical Loads and Moments ...............................................................................................7-81
Table 7-18 Factored Horizontal Loads and Moments ...........................................................................................7-81
Table 7-19 Summary for Eccentricity Check ........................................................................................................7-81
Table 7-20 Summary for Checking Bearing Resistance........................................................................................7-84

Table 8-1 Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Sheet Pile Wall Project ........................................................8-12
Table 8-2 Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall Project ................................8-19
Table 8-3 Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Slurry Wall Project ..............................................................8-35
Table 8-4 Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Tangent/Secant Pile Wall Project ........................................8-41
Table 8-5 Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Jet-Grouted Wall Project .....................................................8-56
Table 8-6 Inspector Responsibilities for Typical DMM Walls............................................................................8-65
Table 8-7 Example of QA/QC Testing Program for DMM Walls ......................................................................8-66
Table 8-8 Load Schedule and Observation Periods for Extended Creep Test for Permanent Anchor ................8-79
Table 8-9 Inspector Responsibilities for Ground Anchors and Anchored Walls.................................................8-85
Table 8-10 Design Steps for Flexible Nongravity Cantilevered Walls..................................................................8-88
Table 8-11 Recommended Thickness of Wood Lagging (after Goldberg et al., 1976).........................................8-94
Table 8-12 Bending Moments for Facing Design (AASHTO, 2007)....................................................................8-95
Table 8-13 Design Steps for Anchored Walls .....................................................................................................8-105
Table 8-14 Criteria for Electrochemical Properties of Soils for Ground Anchor Applications
(after Cheney, 1988)..........................................................................................................................8-113
Table 8-15 Properties of Prestressing Steel Bars (ASTM A722) ........................................................................8-123
Table 8-16 Properties of 0.6 in. Diameter Prestressing Steel Strands (ASTM A416, Grade 270) ......................8-123
Table 8-17 Guidance Relationship between Tendon Size and Trumpet Opening Size
(after Sabatini et al., 1999) ................................................................................................................8-124
Table 8-18 Presumptive (Nominal) Bond Stress for Ground/Grout Interface Along Anchor Bond Zone
(after PTI, 1996)................................................................................................................................8-128
Table 8-19 Cutoff Functions and Watertightness of Excavation Walls (after ASCE, 1997)...............................8-148
Table 8-20 Summary of System Variables and their Impact on Basic Design Elements ....................................8-154
Table 8-21 Typical Range of Jet Grouting Parameters and Jet-Grouted Soil Properties
(adapted from Kauschinger and Welsh, 1989) ..................................................................................8-155
Table 8-22 Range of Typical Soilcrete Strengths (Three Fluid System) (after Elias et al., 2006) ......................8-156
Table 8-23 Typical Improved Engineering Characteristics of Soils Treated with DMM (Wet Mix)
(after Elias et al., 2006) .....................................................................................................................8-157
FHWA NHI-07-071 xi June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures

Table 9-1 Criteria for Assessing Ground Corrosion Potential.............................................................................9-31
Table 9-2 Recommendations for Minimum Levels of Corrosion Protection for Soil Nails ................................9-33
Table 9-3 Estimated Ultimate Bond Strength of Soil Nails in Soil and Rock (after Elias and Juran, 1991) .......9-47
Table 9-4 Factors C
F
(after Lazarte, 2003) ..........................................................................................................9-56
Table 9-5 Values of (
h
/H)
i
and C As Functions of Soil Conditions ...................................................................9-68
Table 9-6 Design Steps for Soil Nail Walls.........................................................................................................9-72
Table 9-7 Minimum Recommended Factors of Safety for the Design of Soil Nail Walls Using the ASD
Method (after Lazarte, 2003) ..............................................................................................................9-73
Table 9-8 Variable Parameters Used in Design Charts (Lazarte et al., 2003) .....................................................9-87
Table 9-9 Threaded Bar Properties......................................................................................................................9-90
Table 9-10 Welded Wire Mesh Dimensions (after WRI, 2001) ............................................................................9-94
Table 9-11 Headed-Stud Dimensions (Metric and English Units) (after Byrne et al., 1996) ................................9-96
Table 9-12 Facing Resistance for Various Failure Modes (after Lazarte et al., 2003) ..........................................9-98
Table 9-13 Soil Nail Load Test Types.................................................................................................................9-102
Table 9-14 Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Soil Nail Wall ....................................................................9-106
Table 9-15 Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Micropile Wall Project ......................................................9-115

Table 10-1 Wall Selection Factors ........................................................................................................................10-4
Table 10-2 Summary of Evaluation Factors for Cut Walls (after Sabatini et al., 1997)........................................10-7
Table 10-3 Summary of Evaluation Factors for Fill Walls (after Sabatini et al., 1997) ........................................10-8
Table 10-4 Summary of Cut Wall Costs..............................................................................................................10-15
Table 10-5 Summary of Fill Wall Costs..............................................................................................................10-15
Table 10-6 Initial Rating of Each Wall Selection Factor for Each Wall Alternative...........................................10-18
Table 10-7 Wall Selection Matrix and Total Score of Each Wall Alternative ....................................................10-20

Table 11-1 Identified Sources for Wall Specifications........................................................................................11-15
FHWA NHI-07-071 xii June 2008
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FHWA NHI-07-071 xiii June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1-1 Schematic of a Retaining Wall and Common Terminology .............................................................. 1-1
Figure 1-2 Variety of Retaining Walls (after ORourke and Jones, 1990) .......................................................... 1-3
Figure 1-3 Classification of Earth Retaining Systems (after ORourke and Jones, 1990)................................... 1-6

Figure 2-1 Boring Layout for Anchored Wall ..................................................................................................... 2-6
Figure 2-2 Drained Stress-Strain Behavior.........................................................................................................2-16
Figure 2-3 Mohr-Coulomb Failure Criteria........................................................................................................2-16
Figure 2-4 Typical Ranges of Friction angle for Rockfills, Gravels, and Sands (after Terzaghi et al., 1996)....2-28
Figure 2-5 Correlation between Drained Friction angle and the Dry Unit Weight, Relative Density, and Soil
Classification (after NAVFAC, 1986) ..............................................................................................2-29
Figure 2-6 Example Shear Strength Property Evaluation for Clayey Backfill ...................................................2-30
Figure 2-7 Classification Chart for Swelling Potential (after Seed et al., 1962) ................................................2-36
Figure 2-8 Test Data from Triaxial Compression Test with Pore Pressure Measurements................................2-40
Figure 2-9 Plasticity Based VST Correction Factors..........................................................................................2-41
Figure 2-10 Relationship between and PI (after Terzaghi et al., 1996) ...........................................................2-43
Figure 2-11 Residual Friction angles for Clayey Soils (after Stark and Eid, 1994) .............................................2-43
Figure 2-12 Friction Angle of Cohesionless Soils (a) from Uncorrected SPT N Values (modified after Peck,
Hanson, and Thornburn 1974) and (b) As a Function of Normalized Overburden (modified after
Schmertmann, 1975).........................................................................................................................2-45
Figure 2-13 Correlation of with Normalized CPT q
t
Data in Clean Sands ......................................................2-46
Figure 2-14 Definition of Cc, Cr, Cs, and
p
(Sabatini et al., 2002) ...................................................................2-47
Figure 2-15 Illustration of Casagrande Method to Evaluate Preconsolidation Stress...........................................2-50
Figure 2-16 Evaluation of C...............................................................................................................................2-53
Figure 2-17 Range of Hydraulic Conductivity Values Based on Soil Type (after Holtz and Kovacs, 1981).......2-55
Figure 2-18 Range of Hydraulic Conductivity Based on Grain Size (after Geosyntec, 1991) .............................2-56
Figure 2-19 Illustration of Geological Mapping Terms (after Wyllie, 1999, Foundations on Rock, Figure 4.4b,
p. 101, E&Fn Spon) ..........................................................................................................................2-57
Figure 2-20 List of Parameters and Categories Describing Rock Mass Characteristics (after Wyllie, 1999) ......2-58
Figure 2-21 Calculation of Core Recovery and ROD...........................................................................................2-62
Figure 2-22 General Chart for GSI Estimates from Geological Observations (after Marinos et al., 2004)..........2-67
Figure 2-23 GSI Estimates for Heterogeneous Rock Masses (after Marinos et al., 2004) ...................................2-68
Figure 2-24 Point Load Strength Test Equipment ................................................................................................2-70
Figure 2-25 Definition of Joint Roughness Coefficient, JRC (after Barton, 1973) ..............................................2-74
Figure 2-26 Simplified Division of Filled Discontinuities into Displaced, and Normally Consolidated and
Overconsolidated Categories (after Wyllie, 1999)............................................................................2-75
Figure 2-27 RocLab Window to Select Uniaxial Compressive Strength of Intact Rock......................................2-76
Figure 2-28 RocLab Window to Select GSI.........................................................................................................2-77
Figure 2-29 RocLab Window to Select m
i
Value.................................................................................................2-78
Figure 2-30 Shear Strength Parameters for Weathered Shale Using RocLab Software .......................................2-79
Figure 2-31 Influence of Joint Openings and Joint Spacing on the Permeability of Rocks
(after Hoek and Bray, 1977) .............................................................................................................2-80

Figure 3-1 Magnitudes and Patterns of Movement to Develop Lateral Earth Pressures
(after Sabatini et al., 1997)................................................................................................................. 3-3
Figure 3-2 Mobilization of Rankine Active and Passive Horizontal Pressures for a Smooth Retaining Wall .... 3-4
FHWA NHI-07-071 xiv June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
Figure 3-3 Limiting Active and Passive Horizontal Pressures ............................................................................ 3-4
Figure 3-4 (a) Wall Pressures for a Cohesionless Soil; and (b) Wall Pressures for Soil with a Cohesion
Intercept (after Padfield and Mair, 1984)........................................................................................... 3-7
Figure 3-5 Coulomb Coefficients Ka and Kp for Sloping Wall with Wall Friction and Sloping Backfill
(after NAVFAC, 1986) ...................................................................................................................... 3-9
Figure 3-6 Wall Friction on Soil Wedges (after Padfield and Mair, 1984) ........................................................3-10
Figure 3-7 Comparison of Plane and Curved (Log-Spiral) Failure Surfaces (a) Active Case and
(b) Passive Case (after Sokolovski, 1954) ........................................................................................3-12
Figure 3-8 Earth Pressure Immediately after Loading (after Padfield and Mair, 1984) .....................................3-15
Figure 3-9 Effect of Wall Movement on Wall Pressures (after Canadian Foundation Engineering
Manual, 1992)...................................................................................................................................3-19
Figure 3-10 Simplified Drained Stress-Displacement Relationship for a Stiff Clay (modified after
Padfield and Mair, 1984) ..................................................................................................................3-20
Figure 3-11 Passive Coefficients for Sloping Wall with Wall Friction and Horizontal Backfill (Caquot and
Kerisel, 1948; NAVFAC, 1986) .......................................................................................................3-25
Figure 3-12 Passive Coefficients for Vertical Wall with Wall Friction and Sloping Backfill (Caquot and
Kerisel, 1948; NAVFAC, 1986) .......................................................................................................3-26
Figure 3-13 Pressure Distribution for Stratified Soils ..........................................................................................3-27
Figure 3-14 Cross Section of Model Wall (modified after Mueller et al., 1998) .................................................3-28
Figure 3-15 Lateral Wall Movements and Earth Pressures with Excavation at First Anchor Level (Cantilever
Stage) (modified after Mueller et al., 1998)......................................................................................3-29
Figure 3-16 Lateral Wall Movements and Earth Pressures During Anchor Stressing (modified after
Mueller et al., 1998)..........................................................................................................................3-30
Figure 3-17 Lateral Wall Movements and Earth Pressures with Excavation at Lower Anchor Level
(modified after Mueller et al., 1998).................................................................................................3-31
Figure 3-18 Lateral Wall Movements and Earth Pressures with Excavation at Design Grade
(modified after Mueller et al., 1998).................................................................................................3-31
Figure 3-19 Apparent Earth Pressure Diagram for Anchored Wall in Sand ........................................................3-33
Figure 3-20 Computation of Lateral Pressures for Static Groundwater Case.......................................................3-33
Figure 3-21 Flow Net for a Retaining Wall (after Padfield and Mair, 1984) .......................................................3-34
Figure 3-22 Gross and Net Water Pressures Across a Retaining Wall (modified after
Padfield and Mair, 1984) ..................................................................................................................3-35
Figure 3-23 (a) Retaining Wall with Uniform Surcharge Load and (b) Retaining Wall with Line Loads
(see Railway Tracks) and Point Loads (see Catenary Structure) ......................................................3-38
Figure 3-24 Lateral Pressure Due to Surcharge Loadings (after USS Steel Sheet-Pile Manual, 1975)................3-39
Figure 3-25 Typical Residual Earth Pressure after Compaction of Backfill Behind an Unyielding Wall
(after Clough and Duncan, 1991)......................................................................................................3-40
Figure 3-26 Estimation of Silo Pressures..........................................................................................................3-42
Figure 3-27 Seismic Forces Behind a Gravity Wall .............................................................................................3-43
Figure 3-28 Effects of Seismic Coefficients and Friction angle on Seismic Active Pressure Coefficient
(after Lam and Martin, 1986)............................................................................................................3-45
Figure 3-29 Example Problem 1 Geometry and Soil Conditions .........................................................................3-50
Figure 3-30 (a) Lateral Effective Earth Pressure Diagram and (b) Water Pressure Diagram...............................3-51
Figure 3-31 Pressure Diagrams for Example Problem 2 ......................................................................................3-52
Figure 3-32 Geometry of Example Problem 3 .....................................................................................................3-52
Figure 3-33 Lateral Pressure with Depth Due to Line Load.................................................................................3-54

Figure 4-1 Equations Used to Relate LRFD Resistance Factor to ASD FS (after Samtani, 2007) ..................... 4-6

FHWA NHI-07-071 xv June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
Figure 5-1 Cast-in-Place Gravity Wall ................................................................................................................ 5-2
Figure 5-2 Cast-in-Place (CIP) Concrete Retaining Walls and Terminology (a) Cantilever Wall (Bowles,
1988); (b) Counterfort Wall; and (c) Buttress Wall (Teng, 1962) ..................................................... 5-3
Figure 5-3 Common Proportions of Cantilever Walls (after Teng, 1962)........................................................... 5-4
Figure 5-4 CIP Cantilever Retaining Wall .......................................................................................................... 5-4
Figure 5-5 Common Proportions of Counterfort Walls (after Teng, 1962)......................................................... 5-5
Figure 5-6 CIP Counterfort Wall Construction in a Cut Application.................................................................. 5-6
Figure 5-7 Other Types of Cast-in-Place (CIP) Walls: (a) Fill Wall with Limited Row, (b) Cut Wall with
Limited Row, and (c) U-Wall for Depressed Roadway..................................................................... 5-7
Figure 5-8 CIP U-Wall for Depressed Roadway................................................................................................. 5-8
Figure 5-9 Strength Limit States for Rigid Gravity and Semi-Gravity Walls ....................................................5-10
Figure 5-10 CIP Abutment with Integral Wingwalls............................................................................................5-13
Figure 5-11 Typical Application of Load Factors for Eccentricity and Sliding ...................................................5-14
Figure 5-12 Typical Application of Load Factors for Bearing Resistance ...........................................................5-14
Figure 5-13 Example CIP Wall with Traffic Barrier............................................................................................5-16
Figure 5-14 Computation of Barrier Load at Footing Level.................................................................................5-16
Figure 5-15 Loading and Eccentricity for Walls Founded on Soil .......................................................................5-18
Figure 5-16 Loading and Eccentricity for Walls Founded on Rock.....................................................................5-19
Figure 5-17 Typical Modes of Global Stability (after Bowles, 1988) ..................................................................5-22
Figure 5-18 Typical Movement of Pile Supported Cast-in-Place (CIP) Wall with Soft Foundation ...................5-23
Figure 5-19 Potential Sources of Subsurface Water.............................................................................................5-25
Figure 5-20 Typical Retaining Wall Drainage Alternatives (after Sabatini et al., 1997) .....................................5-25
Figure 5-21 Inclined Drain for Reducing Water Pressure Behind Wall (after Cedergren, 1989).........................5-26
Figure 5-22 Drains Behind Backfill in Cantilever Wall in a Cut Situation ..........................................................5-27

Figure 6-1 Modular Gravity Walls (a) Metal Bin Wall; (b) Precast Concrete Crib Wall; (c) Precast Concrete
Module Wall; and (d) Gabion Wall (after AASHTO, 2007) ............................................................. 6-1
Figure 6-2 Examples of Modular Gravity Wall Applications (after Contech, 1997) .......................................... 6-3
Figure 6-3 Crib Walls (a) Uniform Cross-Section; (b) Stepped Cross-Section; and (c) Typical Details of a
Reinforced Concrete Crib Wall (after HKGEO, 1993)...................................................................... 6-5
Figure 6-4 Setting Precast Elements for an Open Faced Crib Wall..................................................................... 6-6
Figure 6-5 Concrete Module Wall (a) Typical Section; (b) Typical Module; and (c) Precast Parapet (after
Doublewal Corporation) .................................................................................................................... 6-9
Figure 6-6 Construction of Concrete Module Wall (a) Placement of Precast Modules; (b) Placing Fill Within
the Modules; and (c) Compacting the Infill Material (after Doublewal Corp.) ................................6-10
Figure 6-7 Gabion Baskets (a) Module Without Diaphragms and (b) Module with Diaphragms......................6-13
Figure 6-8 Gabion Wall Construction (a) Filling Gabion Baskets with Stone and (b) Closing Gabion Lid
for Tying...........................................................................................................................................6-15
Figure 6-9 Typical Geometry of Type 2 Bin Wall (a) Plan, (b) Elevation and (c) Section a-a
(after Contech) ..................................................................................................................................6-19
Figure 6-10 Elements of Bin Walls (a) T-Shaped Vertical Connector for Bin Wall Type 2 and
(b) Channel Shaped Vertical Connector for Bin Wall Type 1(after Contech) ..................................6-20
Figure 6-11a Construction of a Bin Wall (a) Setting Preassembled Panels and (b) Filling the Completed Bins
(after Contech) ..................................................................................................................................6-21
Figure 6-11b Construction of a Bin Wall (a) Setting Preassembled Panels and (b) Filling the Completed Bins
(after Contech) ..................................................................................................................................6-21
Figure 6-12 Construction of Bin Walls at Curves (a) Typical Outside Corner; and (b) Typical Inside Corner
(after Contech) ..................................................................................................................................6-22
FHWA NHI-07-071 xvi June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
Figure 6-13 Bin Wall with (a) Corrugated Steel Face Panels; and (b) Precast Concrete Face Panels
(after Contech) ..................................................................................................................................6-24
Figure 6-14 Earth Pressure Distribution for Modular Walls with Continuous Pressure Surfaces
(Figure 3.11.5.9-1 from AASHTO, 2007) ........................................................................................6-26
Figure 6-15 Earth Pressure Distribution for Modular Walls with Irregular Pressure Surfaces
(Figure 3.11.5.9-2 from AASHTO, 2007) ........................................................................................6-27
Figure 6-16 Load Distribution for Modular Wall with Footings..........................................................................6-28
Figure 6-17 Geometry and Parameters of Example Problem...............................................................................6-31
Figure 6-18 Vertically Installed T-Wall Units (after The Neel Company, 2004).................................................6-36
Figure 6-19 Battered T-Wall Units (after The Neel Company, 2004)..................................................................6-37

Figure 7-1 Principal Components of a Mechanically Stabilized Earth Wall (after Christopher, et al., 1990)..... 7-2
Figure 7-2 Examples of MSE Wall Applications (a) Retaining Wall; (b) Access Ramp; (c) Waterfront
Structure; and (d) Bridge Abutment .................................................................................................. 7-6
Figure 7-3 Examples of MSE Walls.................................................................................................................... 7-7
Figure 7-4 Metallic Reinforcements (a) Ribbed Metal Strip and (b) Welded Bar Mat ......................................7-13
Figure 7-5 Geosynthetic Reinforcements (a) Geogrid and (b) Geotextile Facing..............................................7-14
Figure 7-6 Various Types of Wall Facing (after Wu, 1994)...............................................................................7-17
Figure 7-7 MSE Wall Surface Textures .............................................................................................................7-18
Figure 7-8 Examples of Commercially Available MBW Units (after Simac Et Al, 1996) ................................7-20
Figure 7-9 Construction of MSE Wall with Inextensible Strip Reinforcements: (a) Concrete Leveling Pad
Construction, (b) Erection of Facing Elements, (c) Placement of Reinforcements (d) Placement
of Backfill, (e) Spreading of Backfill, and (f) Backfill Compaction.................................................7-23
Figure 7-10 Construction Procedures of Geotextile Retained Earth Wall with Wrap-Around Facing.................7-24
Figure 7-11 Geotextile Retained Earth Wall Details ............................................................................................7-24
Figure 7-12 Lightweight Compaction Adjacent to Wall Facing ..........................................................................7-28
Figure 7-13 Potential External Failure Mechanisms for MSE Walls ...................................................................7-33
Figure 7-14 Pressure Diagram for MSE Walls with Horizontal Backslope and Traffic Surcharge
(after AASHTO, 2007) .....................................................................................................................7-37
Figure 7-15 Typical Application of Live Load Surcharge for MSE Walls (after AASHTO, 2007).....................7-38
Figure 7-16 Distribution of Stress from Concentrated Vertical Load (after AASHTO, 2007).............................7-39
Figure 7-17 Distribution of Stress from Concentrated Horizontal Loads for External and Internal Stability
Calculations (after AASHTO, 2007) ................................................................................................7-40
Figure 7-18 Pressure Diagram for MSE Walls with Sloping Backslope (after AASHTO, 2007) ........................7-42
Figure 7-19 Pressure Diagram for MSE Walls with Broken Backslope (after AASHTO, 2007).........................7-42
Figure 7-20 Calculation of Eccentricity for Horizontal Backslope with Traffic Surcharge Condition
(after Elias and Christopher 1996)....................................................................................................7-44
Figure 7-21 Calculation of Eccentricity for Sloping Backslope Condition (after Elias and Christopher 1996)...7-45
Figure 7-22 Mechanisms of Internal Failure in MSE Walls (a) Tension Failure and (b) Pullout Failure
(after Christopher et al., 1990)..........................................................................................................7-49
Figure 7-23 Location of Potential Failure Surface for Internal Stability Design of MSE Walls (a) Inextensible
Reinforcements and (b) Extensible Reinforcements (after Elias et al., 2001) ..................................7-50
Figure 7-24 Variation of the Coefficient of Lateral Stress Ratio (K/Ka) with Depth in a Mechanically
Stabilized Earth Wall (after AASHTO, 2007) ..................................................................................7-52
Figure 7-25 Definitions of B, S
h
, and S
v
for (a) Metal and (b) Geosynthetic Reinforcements
(after AASHTO, 2007) .....................................................................................................................7-55
Figure 7-26 Mechanisms of Pullout Resistance. (a) by Friction, (b) by Passive Resistance
(after Christopher et al., 1990 and Lawson, 1992)............................................................................7-56
FHWA NHI-07-071 xvii June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
Figure 7-27 Typical Values for F* (after AASHTO, 2007) .................................................................................7-61
Figure 7-28 Cross Section Area for Strips............................................................................................................7-64
Figure 7-29 Cross Section Area for Bars..............................................................................................................7-64
Figure 7-30 Drain Immediately Behind Concrete Facing in MSE Wall...............................................................7-73
Figure 7-31 Drain Behind the Backfill in a Wall, in a Backcut, and Fill Situation..............................................7-73
Figure 7-32 Impervious Geomembrane Details ...................................................................................................7-74
Figure 7-33 (a) Geometry of the Problem and (b) External Forces to Be Considered in analysis........................7-77
Figure 7-34 Wall Face Panels and Spacing between Reinforcements..................................................................7-78

Figure 8-1 Primary Types of Externally Supported Structural Walls: (a) Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall; (b)
Soldier Pile and Cast-in-Place Concrete Lagging Wall; (c) Master Pile Wall; (d) Sheet Pile Wall;
(e) Slurry (Diaphragm) Wall; (f) Secant Pile Wall; (g) Tangent Pile Wall; and
(h) Interlocking H-Pile Wall (after Dismuke, 1991) .......................................................................... 8-2
Figure 8-2 Wall Support Systems: (a) Cantilever Wall; (b) Earth Berm Support; (c) Raker System; (d)
Deadman Anchor; (e) Cross-Lot Braced Wall; and (f) Anchored Wall (after NAVFAC, 1986) ...... 8-3
Figure 8-3 (a) Sheet Pile Wall for Earth Support Behind a Cast-in-Place Wall; (b) Cofferdam for
Construction of Foundations in Water; (c) Cofferdam for Footing Construction on Land;
(d) Anchored Bulkhead; and (e) Bridge Abutment............................................................................ 8-5
Figure 8-4 Steel Sheet Pile Sections Commonly Used for Retaining Walls and Cofferdams. (a) Z -Section,
(b) U-Section, (c) Cold Formed Section............................................................................................ 8-6
Figure 8-5 Vinyl Sheet Pile Walls....................................................................................................................... 8-7
Figure 8-6 Sequence of Construction for a Backfilled Sheet Pile Structure (after Das, 1990)............................ 8-8
Figure 8-7 Sequence of Construction for an Excavated Sheet Pile Structure...................................................... 8-9
Figure 8-8 Sheet Pile Pitch and Drive Method (after Tespa, 2001)..................................................................... 8-9
Figure 8-9 Sheet Pile Panel Driving (after Tespa, 2001)....................................................................................8-10
Figure 8-10 Sheet Pile Staggered Driving (after Tespa, 2001).............................................................................8-11
Figure 8-11 Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall and Bracing for Temporary Excavation Support .............................8-14
Figure 8-12 Permanent Soldier Pile and Lagging Walls for (a) Roadway Embankment, and
(b) Roadway Cut...............................................................................................................................8-14
Figure 8-13 Types of Soldier Piles (a) Wide Flange Section, (b) Pipe Section Without Anchor, (c) Double
Channel Section, and (d) Pipe Section with Anchor (after Xanthakos, et al. 1994) .........................8-15
Figure 8-14 Contact Lagging................................................................................................................................8-16
Figure 8-15 Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall: (a) Drilling for Pile Installation, and (b) Excavation between
Soldier Piles in Cohesive Soil for Installation of Lagging................................................................8-18
Figure 8-16 Typical Construction Sequence for a Slurry Wall: (a) Excavation; (b) Insertion of Steel Tubing
(End Stops); (c) Placement of Reinforcement Cage; and (d) Concrete Placement
(Xanthakos, 1994).............................................................................................................................8-21
Figure 8-17 Conventional Reinforced Concrete Wall (Tamaro, 1990) ................................................................8-24
Figure 8-18 Soldier-Pile-Tremie-Concrete (SPTC) Wall (Tamaro, 1990) ...........................................................8-25
Figure 8-19 Precast-Concrete-Panel Wall (Tamaro, 1990) ..................................................................................8-25
Figure 8-20 Post-Tensioned-Concrete Wall (Tamaro, 1990) ...............................................................................8-26
Figure 8-21 Slurry Trench Excavation Equipment: (a) Hydraulically Operated Clamshell Bucket, and
(b) Hydromill ....................................................................................................................................8-29
Figure 8-22 Cross-Section of a Guide Wall (a) Compact Cohesive Soil, (b) Loose Cohesionless Soil
(Goldberg, et al., 1976).....................................................................................................................8-30
Figure 8-23 Slurry Wall Reinforcement Cage (a) on Fabrication Bed, Showing Styrofoam Knock-Out Panel,
and (b) During Lifting for Installation into Slurry Filled Trench......................................................8-32
Figure 8-24 Reinforced Panel in Cast-in-Place Slurry Wall (Tamaro and Poletto, 1992)....................................8-32
Figure 8-25 Slurry Filled Trench with Tremie Pipes Just Prior to Concrete Placement.......................................8-33
FHWA NHI-07-071 xviii June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
Figure 8-26 Tangent Pile Wall a) with Structural Steel Section As Reinforcement, and b) Face of
Completed Wall ................................................................................................................................8-37
Figure 8-27 Various Configurations of Bored Pile Walls: (a) Tangent Pile Wall; (b) Staggered Tangent Pile
Wall; (c) Secant Pile Wall; (d) Intermittent Pile Wall with Grouted Openings; and
(e) Intermittent Pile Wall with Lagging............................................................................................8-38
Figure 8-28 Construction Sequence (a) Tangent Pile and (b) Secant Pile Walls (after Xanthakos, 1994)...........8-39
Figure 8-29 Grout Columns Layouts on Jet-Grouted Walls.................................................................................8-43
Figure 8-30 Jet-Grouted Wall Applications for Excavation Support, Underpinning, Settlement Control,
and Water Control.............................................................................................................................8-44
Figure 8-31 Range of Soil Types Treatable by Chemical and Jet-Grouting (after Welsh et al., 1986) ................8-45
Figure 8-32 Jet Grouting Procedure (after Pacchiosi, 1985) ................................................................................8-46
Figure 8-33 Details of Jet Grouting Monitors (a) Single Fluid System and (b) Triple Fluid System...................8-47
Figure 8-34 Schematic of Jet Grouting Systems (a) Single Fluid System, (b) Double Fluid System, and
(c) Triple Fluid System.....................................................................................................................8-49
Figure 8-35 Jet Grout Set Up................................................................................................................................8-51
Figure 8-36 Grout Mixing and Injection Plant .....................................................................................................8-51
Figure 8-37 Drilling and Grouting Rig.................................................................................................................8-52
Figure 8-38 Forming a Jet-Grouted Column ........................................................................................................8-52
Figure 8-39 Jet Grouting Monitor ........................................................................................................................8-52
Figure 8-40 Rods for a Triple Fluid Grouting System..........................................................................................8-53
Figure 8-41 Plan View of Typical DMM Wall Layouts: (a) Cut-Off Wall, (b) and (c) Excavation-Support
Wall, and (d) Lattice Pattern for Liquefaction Control.....................................................................8-58
Figure 8-42 Various DMM Wall Applications: (a) as Containment/Cutoff Wall and (b) as Structural
Retaining Wall ..................................................................................................................................8-58
Figure 8-43 DMM Equipment (a) Mixing Shaft for General Use, (b) Mixing Shaft for Soil with Boulders,
and (c) Mixing Shaft for Cohesive Soil (after Taki and Yang, 1991)...............................................8-61
Figure 8-44 Drilling and Mixing Unit ..................................................................................................................8-62
Figure 8-45 Mixing Plant (Courtesy of MnDOT) ................................................................................................8-62
Figure 8-46 DMM Installation Procedure (after Taki and Yang, 1991)...............................................................8-63
Figure 8-47 Components of a Ground Anchor (after Sabatini et al., 1999)..........................................................8-67
Figure 8-48 Main Types of Grouted Ground Anchors (after Littlejohn, 1990)....................................................8-70
Figure 8-49 Cut Away View of Bar Tendon (after Sabatini et al., 1999).............................................................8-72
Figure 8-50 Cut Away View of Strand Tendon (after Sabatini et al., 1999) ........................................................8-72
Figure 8-51 Construction Sequence for Permanent Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall
(after Sabatini et al., 1999)................................................................................................................8-74
Figure 8-52 Drilling Equipment for Installation of Ground Anchors: (a) Hollow Stem Auger and
(b) Down-The-Hole Hammer ...........................................................................................................8-75
Figure 8-53 Installation of Anchor Tendon..........................................................................................................8-75
Figure 8-54 Typical Equipment for Load Testing of (a) Strand Ground Anchor and (b) Bar Ground Anchor....8-77
Figure 8-55 Typical Plots of Tendon Movement for (a) Performance Test, and (b) Proof Test
(after PTI, 1996) ...............................................................................................................................8-81
Figure 8-56 Typical Deformation Conditions and Pressure Distribution for Cantilever Walls: (a) Yielding
Pattern of Cantilever Wall Penetrating a Sand Layer; (b) Net Actual Earth Pressure Distribution;
(c) Simplified Net Earth Pressure Distribution (after Das, 1990) .....................................................8-88
Figure 8-57 Design analysis for Nongravity Cantilevered (Sheet Pile) Wall .......................................................8-91
Figure 8-58 Variation of Deflection and Bending Moment (a) Free Earth Support Method and (b) Fixed
Earth Support Method (after Das, 1990)...........................................................................................8-96
Figure 8-59a analysis by Free Earth Support Method for Sheet Piling in Granular Soils
(after Teng, 1962 and USS, 1975) ....................................................................................................8-98
FHWA NHI-07-071 xix June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
Figure 8-60a Moment Reduction for Anchored Sheet Pile Wall analyzed by Free Earth Support Method for
Granular Soils (after Rowe, 1952; Rowe, 1957; and Das, 1990)....................................................8-100
Figure 8-61 analysis by Equivalent Beam Method (after USS, 1975 and Teng, 1962)......................................8-103
Figure 8-62 Effect of Anchor Location Relative to the Wall (after NAVFAC, 1986) .......................................8-104
Figure 8-63 Examples of Corrosion Protection for Anchorages (a) Strand Tendon and (b) Bar Tendon
(after Sabatini et al., 1999)..............................................................................................................8-107
Figure 8-64 Simple Corrosion Protected Tendons (a) Strand Tendon and (b) Bar Tendon
(after Sabatini et al., 1999)..............................................................................................................8-108
Figure 8-65 Encapsulated Double Corrosion Protection (a) Strand Tendon and (b) Bar Tendon
(after Sabatini et al., 1999)..............................................................................................................8-109
Figure 8-66 Decision Tree for Selection of Corrosion Protection Level (after PTI, 1996) ................................8-112
Figure 8-67 Apparent Earth Pressure Diagram for Sand....................................................................................8-115
Figure 8-68 Apparent Earth Pressure Diagram for Stiff to Hard Clays..............................................................8-116
Figure 8-69 Apparent Earth Pressure Diagram for Soft to Medium Clay ..........................................................8-117
Figure 8-70 Calculation of Nominal Anchor Loads for one-Level Wall............................................................8-119
Figure 8-71 Calculation of Nominal Anchor Loads for Multi-Level Wall.........................................................8-120
Figure 8-72 Pressure Diagram for Temporary Continuous Wall in Soft to Medium Clay
(after AASHTO, 2007) ...................................................................................................................8-121
Figure 8-73 Calculation of Wall Bending Moments Using Hinge Method (after Sabatini et al., 1999) ............8-129
Figure 8-74 Calculation of Wall Bending Moments Using Tributary Area Method
(after Sabatini et al., 1999)..............................................................................................................8-130
Figure 8-75 analysis of Basal Stability (modified after Terzaghi et al., 1996.)..................................................8-134
Figure 8-76 Failure Surfaces for External Stability Evaluations ........................................................................8-135
Figure 8-77 a and B. Evaluation of Externally Supported Wall Movements
(after Clough and ORourke, 1990) ................................................................................................8-138
Figure 8-78 Model for Soil-Structure Interaction analysis.................................................................................8-142
Figure 8-79 Significant Features of Excavation Geometry in Relation to Groundwater Control
(after ASCE, 1997) .........................................................................................................................8-144
Figure 8-80 Significant Features of Excavation Geometry in Relation to Groundwater Control
(after ASCE, 1997) .........................................................................................................................8-145
Figure 8-81 Significant Features of Excavation Geometry in Relation to Groundwater Control
(after ASCE, 1997) .........................................................................................................................8-146
Figure 8-82 Significant Features of Excavation Geometry in Relation to Groundwater Control
(after ASCE, 1997) .........................................................................................................................8-147
Figure 8-83 Diagram Illustrating a Ground Anchor T-y Curve (after Weatherby, 1998) ..................................8-150
Figure 8-84 DMM Wall Design: (a) analysis for Punch-through Shear; (b) analysis for Compressive Action
of Arching Effects; (c) Empirical Guideline for Avoiding Bending Failure
(after Taki and Yang, 1991)............................................................................................................8-159

Figure 9-1 Soil Nail Wall Application (a) Temporary Shoring; (b) Roadway Widening Under Existing Bridge;
(c) Slope Stabilization; and (d) Roadway Cut (after Porterfield et al., 1994) .................................... 9-2
Figure 9-2 Typical Nail Wall Construction Sequence (after Porterfield et al., 1994) ......................................... 9-4
Figure 9-3 Soil Nail Wall Applications (a) Temporary Shoring, (b) Roadway Widening Under
Existing Bridge, (c) Roadway Cut, and (d) Slope Stabilization......................................................... 9-5
Figure 9-4 Main Components of a Typical Soil Nail (after Porterfield et al., 1994)..........................................9-15
Figure 9-5 Grout Placement (Tremie) through Pipe (after Porterfield et al., 1994) ...........................................9-18
Figure 9-6 Typical Pvc Centralizers attached to a Nail Bar Prior to Nail Installation
(after Porterfield et al., 1994)............................................................................................................9-19
Figure 9-7 Initial Excavation Lift and Nail Installation (after Porterfield et al., 1994) ......................................9-22
FHWA NHI-07-071 xx June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
Figure 9-8 Examples of Alternative Temporary Excavation Support (a) Stabilizing Berm and
(b) Slot Excavation (after Porterfield et al., 1994)............................................................................9-23
Figure 9-9 Typical Drilling of Soil Nails with Rotary Method (after Porterfield et al., 1994)...........................9-24
Figure 9-10 Shotcrete Temporary Facing (after Porterfield et al., 1994) .............................................................9-26
Figure 9-11 Headed-Studs Welded to Bearing Plate (after Porterfield et al., 1994).............................................9-28
Figure 9-12 Cast-in-Place Facing.........................................................................................................................9-29
Figure 9-13 Precast Panel Facing (after Elias et al., 2001)...................................................................................9-29
Figure 9-14 Grouted Epoxy-Coated Nail (after Byrne et al., 1998) .....................................................................9-32
Figure 9-15 Sheathing-Encapsulation on Grouted Nail (after Byrne et al., 1998) ...............................................9-33
Figure 9-16 Potential Failure Surfaces and Soil Nail Tensile Forces (after Lazarte et al., 2003).........................9-36
Figure 9-17 Potential Critical Stability During Construction (after Lazarte et al., 2003).....................................9-37
Figure 9-18 Principal Modes of Failure of Soil Nail Wall Systems (after Lazarte et al., 2003)...........................9-38
Figure 9-19 Global Stability analysis of Soil Nail Wall Using a Single-Wedge Failure Mechanism
(after Lazarte et al., 2003).................................................................................................................9-39
Figure 9-20 Sliding Stability of a Soil Nail Wall (after Lazarte et al., 2003).......................................................9-42
Figure 9-21 Bearing Capacity (Heave) analysis (after Terzaghi et al., 1996) ......................................................9-43
Figure 9-22 Single Nail Stress-Transfer Mode (after Lazarte, 2003) ...................................................................9-46
Figure 9-23 Soil Nail Stress-Transfer Mechanism (after Lazarte, 2003) .............................................................9-48
Figure 9-24 Simplified Distribution of Nail Tensile Force (after Lazarte, 2003).................................................9-49
Figure 9-25 Facing Connection Failure Modes (after Lazarte, 2003) ..................................................................9-52
Figure 9-26 Progressive Flexural Failure in Wall Facings (after Lazarte, 2003) .................................................9-54
Figure 9-27 Geometry Used in Flexural Failure Mode (after Lazarte, 2003).......................................................9-56
Figure 9-28 Punching Shear Failure Modes (after Lazarte, 2003) .......................................................................9-60
Figure 9-29 Geometry of a Headed-Stud (after Lazarte, 2003)............................................................................9-61
Figure 9-30 Drainage of Soil Nail Walls (after Lazarte et al., 2003) ...................................................................9-64
Figure 9-31 Typical Drain Pipe Details to Provide Groundwater Control in Soil Nail Walls
(after Byrne et al., 1998)...................................................................................................................9-66
Figure 9-32 Deformation of Soil Nail Walls (after Byrne et al., 1996)................................................................9-68
Figure 9-33 Examples of Frost Protection of Soil Nail Walls (after Lazarte et al., 2003)....................................9-71
Figure 9-34 Soil Nail Patterns on Wall Face (after Lazarte et al., 2003)..............................................................9-75
Figure 9-35 Varying Soil Nail Patterns (after Lazarte, 2003) ..............................................................................9-77
Figure 9-36 Batter 0o Backslope 0o (after Lazarte et al., 2003)........................................................................9-81
Figure 9-37 Batter 0o Backslope 10o (after Lazarte et al., 2003)......................................................................9-82
Figure 9-38 Batter 10o Backslope 0o (after Lazarte et al., 2003)......................................................................9-83
Figure 9-39 Batter 10o Backslope 10o (after Lazarte et al., 2003)....................................................................9-84
Figure 9-40 Batter 0o Backslope 30o (after Lazarte et al., 2003)......................................................................9-85
Figure 9-41 Batter 10o Backslope 30o (after Lazarte et al., 2003)....................................................................9-86
Figure 9-42 Correction Factors for Use in Design Chart Solutions (after Lazarte, 2003)....................................9-89
Figure 9-43 Details of Typical Soil Nail Test Set-Up (Porterfield et al., 1994) .................................................9-101
Figure 9-44 Typical Data Sheet for Soil Nail Load Testing (after Porterfield et al., 1994) ...............................9-103
Figure 9-45 Example of Data Reduction from Soil Nail Load Testing (after Porterfield et al., 1994) ..............9-104
Figure 9-46 Example of Data Reduction from Soil Nail Creep Testing (after Poterfield et al., 1994) ..............9-105
Figure 9-47 Micropile Wall Cross for Wall 600, Portland, Oregon ...................................................................9-110
Figure 9-48 Typical Micropile Construction Sequence Using Casing ...............................................................9-111
Figure 9-49 Cross Section Showing Steep Canyon Slope and Temporary Micropile Shoring
(after Macklin et al., 2004) .............................................................................................................9-113

FHWA NHI-07-071 xxi June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures
Figure 10-1 Wall Selection Flow Chart................................................................................................................10-2
Figure 10-2 MSE Wall on Top of Cantilever Wall (after CDOT, 2003)............................................................10-22
Figure 10-3 L-Wall on Top of MSE Wall (after CDOT, 2003)..........................................................................10-22
Figure 10-4 Gabion Wall Anchored with Geogrid (after CDOT, 2003) ............................................................10-23
Figure 10-5 anchored L-Wall (after CDOT, 2003).............................................................................................10-24
Figure 10-6 anchored Cantilever Wall (after CDOT, 2003)...............................................................................10-25
Figure 10-7 Composite T-Wall (after The Neel Company, 2004)......................................................................10-26
Figure 10-8 Soil Nail and MSE Wall (after Turner and Jensen, 2005) ..............................................................10-27
Figure 10-9 Soil Nail and Fascia Wall with Geofoam Backfill (after Samtani, Personal Communication).......10-28
Figure 10-10 Example SMSE Wall ......................................................................................................................10-29
FHWA NHI-07-071 xxii June 2008
Earth Retaining Structures

FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-1 June 2008
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
1.1 PURPOSE AND SCOPE
Earth retaining systems (or retaining walls) are used to hold back earth and maintain a
difference in the elevation of the ground surface as shown in Figure 1-1. The retaining wall
is designed to withstand the forces exerted by the retained ground or backfill, and to
transmit these forces safely to a foundation and/or to the portion of restraining elements
located beyond the failure surface.



Figure 1-1. Schematic of a Retaining Wall and Common Terminology.
In general, the cost of constructing a retaining wall is usually high compared with the cost of
forming a new slope. Therefore, the need for a retaining wall should be assessed carefully
during preliminary design and an effort should be made to keep the retained height as low as
possible.
In highway construction, retaining walls are used along cuts or fills where space is
inadequate for construction of cut slopes or embankment slopes. Bridge abutments and
foundation walls, which must support earth fills, are also designed as retaining walls.
FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-2 June 2008
Typical earth retaining structure applications for highway construction include:
new or widened highways in developed areas;
new or widened highways at mountain or steep slopes;
grade separation;
bridge abutments, wing walls and approach embankments;
culvert walls;
tunnel portals and approaches;
flood walls, bulkheads and waterfront structures;
cofferdams for construction of bridge foundations;
stabilization of new or existing slopes and protection against rockfalls; and
groundwater cut-off barriers for excavations or depressed roadways.
Figure 1-2 provides schematic illustrations of several retaining wall systems used in highway
applications. A great number of wall systems have been developed in the past 30 years by
specialty contractors who have been promoting either a special product or a specialized
method of construction, or both. Due to the rapid development of these diversified systems
and their many benefits, the design engineer is now faced with the difficult task of having to
select the best possible system; design the structure; and ensure its proper construction. The
purpose of this module is to provide the practicing engineer with a thorough understanding of
various retaining walls and their application in highway facilities.

1.2 HISTORY OF EARTH RETAINING SYSTEMS
Historical reviews of the developments in retaining walls have been presented by Kerisel
(1992), Gould (1990), and ORourke and Jones (1990). Following is a brief review of these
historical developments.
Examples of wall construction have been traced back to approximately 3000 B.C. (Kerisel,
1992). These earlier walls were primarily gravity structures that relied on self-weight to
resist earth pressures. They were constructed of stone masonry (with or without mortar) or
various types of cribs or bins with different filling materials.
The development of modern retaining walls gained impetus in the late 1940s, 1950s and
1960s due to innovations in construction technology. New construction methods were
developed at that time, largely through adaptations and improvements in specialized
excavation and drilling equipment. In that period, North America was introduced to new
forms of cast-in-place below-grade walls, tiebacks (or ground anchors) in soil and rock (both

FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-3 June 2008


(a) Externally Stabilized Systems

(b) Internally Stabilized Systems
Figure 1-2. Variety of Retaining Walls (after ORourke and Jones, 1990).

temporary and permanent), and the concept of earth reinforcement (Vidal, 1966) which led to
a wide variety of earth retaining systems (ERS). Most of the procedures now being utilized
for construction of ERS were well developed by 1970 or had appeared in full-scale
experiments.

FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-4 June 2008
An important breakthrough in the design of ERS which occurred in this era was the
recognition that the earth pressure acting on a wall is a function of the type of wall and the
amount and distribution of wall movement. Classical earth pressure theories, which were
developed by Coulomb (1776) and Rankine (1857), were formalized for use by Caquot and
Kerisel (1948) and others. Sophisticated analyses of soil-structure interaction and wall/soil
movements began in the 1960s using finite difference and finite element analytical
procedures. The simultaneous advancement of geotechnical instrumentation equipment and
monitoring procedures made the observational method of design (Peck, 1969) popular and
cost effective.
Since 1970 there has been a dramatic growth in the methods and products for retaining soil.
ORourke and Jones (1990) describe two trends in particular which have emerged since
1970. First, there has been an increasing use of reinforcing elements, either by incremental
burial to create reinforced soils (MSE walls), or by systematic in situ installation to reinforce
natural soils (soil nailing). Mechanically stabilized earth and soil nailing have changed the
ways we construct fill or cut walls, respectively, by providing economically attractive
alternatives to traditional construction methods. Second, there has been an increasing use of
polymeric products to reinforce the soil and control drainage. Rapid developments in
polymer manufacturing have supplied a wide array of geosynthetic materials. The use of
these products in construction has encouraged a multitude of different earth retention
schemes.
The rapid development of these new trends and the increased awareness of the impact of
construction on the environment, have led to the emergence of the concept of earth walls.
In this concept, the soil supports itself or is incorporated into the structure and assumes a
major structural or load carrying function. With this concept, structural member
requirements of the system are reduced, or eliminated altogether. Examples of recently
developed earth walls include the soil-reinforcement systems discussed above, as well as
systems involving chemical treatment of the in-situ soil such as jet grouting or deep mixing.

1.3 CLASSIFICATION OF EARTH RETAINING STRUCTURES
In this manual, earth retaining systems may be classified according to:
Load support mechanism, i.e., externally or internally stabilized walls;
Construction concept, i.e., fill or cut walls; and
System rigidity, i.e., rigid or flexible walls.

FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-5 June 2008
It is noted that each retaining wall can be classified using these three factors. For example, a
sheet-pile wall would be classified as an externally-stabilized cut wall which is relatively
flexible. A mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall is an internally stabilized fill wall
which is relatively flexible. Further description of these classifications is provided
subsequently.
1.3.1 Classification by Load Support Mechanism
For the purpose of this manual, the walls have been organized according to two principal
categories: externally and internally stabilized systems (ORourke and Jones, 1990). An
externally stabilized system uses an external structural wall, against which stabilizing forces
are mobilized. An internally stabilized system involves reinforcements installed within and
extending beyond the potential failure mass. Hybrid systems combine elements of both
internally and externally supported walls. Figure 1-3 presents the organization of walls used
in this manual.
Virtually all traditional types of walls may be regarded as externally stabilized systems.
Gravity walls, in the form of cantilever structures or gravity elements (e.g., bins, cribs and
gabions), support the soil through weight and stiffness to resist sliding, overturning, and
shear. Bracing systems, such as cross-lot struts and rakers, provide temporary support for in
situ structural and chemically stabilized walls. Ground anchors provide support through the
pullout capacity of anchors established in stable soil outside of the zone of potential failure.
It is in the area of internally stabilized systems that a relatively new concept has been
introduced. Shear transfer to mobilize the tensile capacity of closely spaced reinforcing
elements has enabled retaining structures to be constructed without a structural wall element,
and has substituted instead a composite system of reinforcing elements and soil as the
primary structural entity. A facing is required on an internally stabilized system, however, its
purpose is to prevent raveling and deterioration, rather than to provide primary structural
support.
1.3.2 Classification by Construction Concept
Earth retaining systems can also be classified according to the construction method, i.e., fill
construction or cut construction. Fill wall construction refers to a wall system in which the
wall is constructed from the base of the wall to the top (i.e., bottom-up construction). Cut
wall construction refers to a wall system in which the wall is constructed from the top of the
wall to the base (i.e., top-down construction) concurrent with excavation operations. The
classification of each wall system according to its construction concept is also presented in
Figure 1-3.
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FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-7 June 2008
It is important to recognize that the cut and fill designations refer to how the wall is
constructed, not necessarily the nature of the earthwork (i.e., cut or fill) associated with the
project. For example, a prefabricated modular gravity wall, which may be used to retain
earth for a major highway cut, is considered a fill wall as it is constructed bottom-up after
the excavation for the cut has reached its final grade.
1.3.3 Classification by System Rigidity
The rigidity (or flexibility) of a wall system is fundamental to the understanding of the
development of earth pressures (discussed in Chapter 3). In simple terms, a wall is
considered to be rigid if it moves as a unit (rigid body rotation and/or translation) and does
not experience bending deformations. Most gravity walls can be considered rigid walls.
Flexible walls are those walls which undergo bending deformations in addition to rigid body
motion. Such deformations result in a redistribution of lateral pressures from the more
flexible to the stiffer portions of the system. Virtually all wall systems, except the gravity
walls, may be considered to be flexible.
1.3.4 Temporary and Permanent Wall Applications
The focus of this document is on design methods and procedures for permanent ERS.
Permanent systems are generally considered to have a service life of 75 to 100 years.
However, the ERS listed in Figure 1-3 are technically feasible for both temporary and
permanent applications. In most cases, however, certain systems may not be cost-effective
for temporary applications. Compared to permanent walls, walls used for temporary
applications generally have less restrictive requirements on material durability, design factors
of safety (or higher resistance factors), performance, and overall appearance. Also, walls that
can be constructed rapidly are often used for temporary applications. For example, MSE
walls with segmental, precast facings are not typically used for temporary applications since
the cost of the facing components and the select backfill may be more than 50 percent of the
total cost of the wall.
The service life of temporary earth support systems is based on the time required to support
the ground while the permanent systems are installed. This document has adopted the
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) guidance
which considers temporary systems to be those that are removed or abandoned upon
completion of the permanent systems. The time period for temporary systems is commonly
stated to be 18 to 36 months but may be shorter or longer based on actual project conditions.
Furthermore temporary systems may be divided into support of excavation (SOE)
temporary systems and critical temporary systems. In general the owner will determine

FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-8 June 2008
which temporary systems are to be designated as critical. Often that decision is based on the
owners need to restrict lateral movement of the support system to minimize ground
movements behind the support system. In general, specific components or design features
for temporary systems may be designed to the same or similar criteria used for permanent
systems. Conversely, SOE systems are commonly designed to less restrictive criteria than
permanent systems. The owner commonly assigns the responsibility for design and
performance of SOE systems to the contractor. The design of these SOE systems is often
based more on system stability than on minimizing ground movements.
Whenever appropriate in this document, discussion is provided concerning the differences in
design requirements for SOE systems and permanent systems.

1.4 ORGANIZATION OF THE MANUAL
This manual is intended to be a stand-alone document and is geared towards providing the
practicing engineer with a thorough understanding of the various types of retaining walls
used for highway applications. Accordingly, the manual starts with a discussion of earth
pressure theories and the determination of basic soil parameters, and then proceeds to discuss
each of the earth retaining systems identified in Section 1.3. An objective of this manual is
to provide sufficient information to enable the engineer to systematically review the
feasibility of wall systems for a specific project application and to ultimately select a
technically feasible and cost-effective wall system for a project.
The organization of the manual is presented below.
Chapter 2 presents information on fundamental concepts of soil shear strength
evaluation for wall systems and on the evaluation and selection of soil and rock
parameters required for ERS design. This chapter also describes planning a
subsurface investigation program.
Chapter 3 describes the basic principles for the evaluation of lateral earth pressures
and water pressures used in ERS design, including specific considerations for earth
pressures in temporary and permanent wall applications and for earth pressures in
cohesive backfills. Other topics discussed include earth pressures from surcharge
loads, compaction, seismic forces, and swelling soils.
Chapter 4 provides an overview of load and resistance factor design (LRFD) for
retaining walls. This methodology represents a change from the more traditional (and
well-known to most engineers) allowable stress design (ASD) method. A

FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-9 June 2008
comprehensive coverage of LRFD for highway substructures (including retaining
walls) is provided in NHI Course No. 130082 LRFD for Highway Bridge
Substructures. and the AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications (2007).
Chapters 5 through 9 provide information on gravity and semi-gravity walls, modular
gravity walls, MSE walls, nongravity cantilever walls and anchored walls, and in-situ
reinforced walls. The general coverage of information for each wall type includes:
o background and feasibility;
o construction materials and techniques;
o cost information;
o design and performance information; and
o required elements of construction inspection.
The design procedures presented are developed using the LRFD method and are
consistent with the most recent AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications
(AASHTO, 2007). Of the wall types described in this manual, in-situ reinforced
walls (i.e., soil nail walls and micropile walls) are not yet covered in the AASHTO
(2007) specifications. These wall types are described in Chapter 9 and design
information is presented in ASD.
Chapter 10 presents a generalized procedure used to select technically viable and
cost-effective wall systems for a specific project. An example wall selection
evaluation for a specific project is provided in this chapter. This chapter also
provides information on so-called hybrid wall systems. Hybrid wall systems
generally comprise a combination of cut and fill wall systems or combinations of
material components from more than one wall type.
Chapter 11 provides information on contracting methods and bidding documents used
for the procurement of earth retaining systems. Typical contracting approaches and
key plan and specification items and some of the identified resources for wall
specifications are provided.

1.5 PRIMARY REFERENCES FOR THIS MANUAL
A detailed list of references is provided in Chapter 12, however; several primary references
were used in the preparation of this manual. Following is a listing of these primary
references.

FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-10 June 2008
AASHTO. (2002). Standard Specifications for Highway Bridges. 17th Edition, American
Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, D.C.
AASHTO (2007). LRFD Bridge Design Specifications. 4
th
Edition, American Association
of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, D.C.
Byrne, R.J., Cotton, D., Porterfield, J., Wolschlag, C., and Ueblacker, G. (1996). Manual
for Design and Construction Monitoring of Soil Nail Walls. Federal Highway
Administration, FHWA-SA-96-069.
Cheney, R. S. (1988). Permanent Ground Anchors. Federal Highway Administration,
Report, FHWA-DP-68-1R, Washington, D. C.
Christopher, B. R., Gill, S. A., Giroud, J. P., Juran, I., Mitchell, J. K., Schlosser, F., and
Dunnicliff, J. (1990). Design and Construction Guidelines for Reinforced Soil
Structure - Volume 1. FHWA-RD-89-043, Federal Highway Administration,
Washington, D. C.
Clouterre. (1991). Recommendations Clouterre - Soil Nailing Recommendations. French
National Research Project, FHWA-SA-93-026, Federal Highway Administration,
Washington, D.C. (in English).
Elias, V. (2000). Corrosion/Degredation of Soil Reinforcements for Mechanically Stabilized
Earth Walls and Reinforced Soil Slopes, Federal Highway Administration, Report
FHWA-NHI-00-044, Washington, D. C.
Elias, V., Christopher, B. R., and Berg, R. R. (2001). Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls
and Reinforced Soil Slopes Design and Construction Guidelines. Federal Highway
Administration, Report FHWA-NHI-00-043, Washington, D. C.
Goldberg, D. T., Jaworski, W. E., and Gordon, M. D. (1976). Lateral Support Systems and
Underpinning. Vol.1 Design and Construction, April, FHWA-RD-75-128, Federal
Highway Administration, Washington, D. C.
Holtz, R. D., Christopher, B. R., and Berg, R. R. (1998). Geosynthetic Design and
Construction Guidelines, May, Federal Highway Administration, Report FHWA-HI-
98-038, McLean, Va.
Kimmerling, R. E. (2002). Shallow Foundations. Geotechnical Engineering Circular No. 6,
FHWA-IF-02-054, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D.C.

FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-11 June 2008
Lazarte, C. A., Elias, V., Espinoza, R. D., and Sabatini, P.J. (2003). Soil Nail Walls.
Geotechnical Engineering Circular No. 7, Federal Highway Administration, Report
FHWA-IF-03-017, Washington, D.C.
Mayne, P. W., Christopher, B. R., and DeJong, J. (2001). Manual on Subsurface
Investigations, National Highway Institute Publication, Federal Highway
Administration, Report FHWA-NHI-01-031, Washington, D.C.
Porterfield, J. A., Cotton, D. M. and Byrne, R. J. (1994). Soil Nailing Field Inspectors
Manual. FHWA-SA-93-068, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D. C.
Sabatini, P. J., Bachus, R. C., Mayne, P. W., Schneider, J. A., and Zettler, T. E. (2002).
Evaluation of Soil and Rock Properties, Geotechnical Engineering Circular, No. 5,
U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-IF-02-
034, Washington, D.C.
Sabatini, P. J., Pass, D. G. and Bachus, R. C. (1999). Ground Anchors and Anchored
Systems, Geotechnical Engineering Circular, No. 4, U.S. Department of
Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-SA-99-015.
Sabatini, P. J., Elias, V., Schmertmann, G. R., and Bonaparte, R. (1997). Earth Retaining
Systems, Geotechnical Engineering Circular, No. 2, Federal Highway
Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, FHWA-SA-96-038, Washington,
D.C.
Seismic Design of Highway Bridges. (1986). (NHI Course No. 13048), FHWA-93-040,
Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D. C.
Weatherby, D.E. (1982). Tiebacks. Federal Highway Administration, Report FHWA-RD-
82-047, McLean, VA.


FHWA NHI-07-071 1 - Introduction
Earth Retaining Structures 1-12 June 2008

FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-1 June 2008
CHAPTER 2
EVALUATION OF GEOTECHNICAL PARAMETERS FOR
EARTH RETAINING SYSTEMS
2.1 INTRODUCTION
This chapter presents information on the evaluation of soil and rock parameters required to
perform earth retaining system (ERS) design and to evaluate ERS constructability. These
required parameters include subsurface stratigraphy and index and performance properties of
in-situ soils (e.g., foundation soils below a gravity retaining structure or retained ground
behind a cut wall system), fill wall backfill soils, and rock within the retained ground or as a
foundation material.
For typical highway projects, one or more retaining walls may be part of a larger project
scope in which a detailed geotechnical investigation is performed. Herein, information is
presented on the development of a subsurface investigation and laboratory testing program
focused on obtaining information necessary for the design and construction of fill and cut
wall systems.
As indicated above, this chapter describes the evaluation of design properties for wall
systems. Of particular importance for walls (like most geotechnical features) is the
appropriate evaluation of soil shear strength. In this chapter, background information on the
affects of the rate of loading on soil shear strength and drained versus undrained shear
strength parameters are discussed, along with common methods to evaluate soil shear
strength.
A more detailed coverage of the evaluation of soil and rock parameters for the design of
geotechnical features is provided in the following sources:
NHI Course No. 132031, Subsurface investigations and accompanying reference
manual, FHWA NHI-01-031 (Mayne et al., 2001); and
Geotechnical Engineering Circular No. 5, Evaluation of soil and rock properties,
FHWA IF-02-034 (Sabatini et al., 2002).
Section 10.4 of AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications (AASHTO, 2007).
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-2 June 2008
2.2 PLANNING A SUBSURFACE INVESTIGATION AND LABORATORY
TESTING PROGRAM
2.2.1 General
Planning of a subsurface investigation and laboratory testing program for a wall project
requires that the engineer be aware of parameters needed for design and construction, as well
as having an understanding of the geologic conditions and site access restrictions. Specific
planning steps for a subsurface investigation and laboratory testing program include: (1)
identify data needs and review available information; (2) develop and conduct a site
investigation program including a site visit/reconnaissance and collection of disturbed and
undisturbed soil and rock samples; and (3) develop and conduct a laboratory-testing program.
Specific planning steps are addressed in the following sections.
2.2.2 Identify Data Needs and Review Available Information
The first step of an investigation and testing program requires that the engineer understand
the project requirements and the site conditions and/or restrictions. The extent of the
investigation should be consistent with the project scope (i.e., location, size, risk, and
budget), the project objectives (i.e., purpose of the wall system), and the project constraints
(i.e., geometry, constructability, performance, aesthetics, and environmental impact). The
ultimate goal of this phase is to identify geotechnical data needs for the project and potential
methods available to assess these needs. During this phase it is necessary to:
identify design and constructability requirements;
identify performance criteria and schedule constraints;
identify areas of concern on site and potential variability of local geology;
develop likely sequence and phases of construction;
identify engineering analyses to be performed;
identify engineering properties and parameters required for these analyses;
evaluate methods to obtain parameters and assess the validity of such methods for the
material type and construction methods; and
evaluate number of tests/samples needed and appropriate locations for them.
As an aid to assist in the planning of site investigation and laboratory testing, Table 2-1
provides a summary of the information needs and testing considerations for cut and fill wall
applications. Detailed descriptions of the field and laboratory tests listed in Table 2-1 are
provided in Chapter 4 of Geotechnical Engineering Circular (GEC) No. 5 (Sabatini et al.,
2002).
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FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-4 June 2008
Before any equipment is mobilized to the site, existing data for the site (both regionally and
locally) should be evaluated and the geotechnical and design engineers should conduct a site
reconnaissance as logical initial steps in the investigation. Existing data and a site visit will
provide information which can reduce the scope of the subsurface investigation, help guide
the location of sampling and testing points, and reduce the amount of time in the field due to
unexpected problems. Currently, many state DOTs are developing geotechnical management
systems (GMS) to store historical drilling, sampling, and laboratory test data for locations in
their states. Such data, if available, should be used to facilitate development of a testing
program that is correctly focused and not redundant. A list of potential information sources
for a project along with the type of information available is presented in Table 2-2.
2.2.3 Developing a Site Investigation Program
The planning phase involves decisions regarding sampling/investigation methods, boring
locations, number of samples, number and types of laboratory tests, and the number of
confirmatory samples. At this stage, the types of potential sampling/investigation methods
should have been identified and assessed (see Mayne et al. (2001) for types and features of
field subsurface investigation methods).
For major retaining wall projects which may be defined, for example, as a wall with a height
greater than 20 ft or for highly variable ground conditions, the investigation might consist of
a preliminary investigation phase (which may be performed as part of a larger geotechnical
investigation during the preliminary project phase) followed by a final design phase
investigation. The preliminary phase includes a limited number of fairly widely-spaced
borings to define overall subsurface conditions and to identify problem areas. The standard
split-spoon sampler with SPT blowcount data is typically used for the preliminary phase.
Based on the results of the preliminary phase, a more detailed site investigation and also a
laboratory investigation program may prove necessary for final design.
The type, number, location, and depth of investigation points are dictated, to a large extent,
by the project stage (i.e., feasibility study, preliminary, or final design), availability of
existing geotechnical data, variability of subsurface conditions, type of wall system, and
other project constraints. For walls less than 100 ft long, at least one investigation point
should be selected for each wall within the project. This point should be selected at a
distance behind the wall line. For example, for anchored walls investigation points should be
advanced behind the proposed wall line within the anchor bond zone, for soil nail walls
investigation points should be selected at a distance behind the wall face of 1.0 to 1.5 times
the height of the wall, and for MSE walls, investigation points should be advanced just
behind and directly below the reinforced backfill zone. For retaining wall systems more than
F
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FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-6 June 2008
100 ft in length, investigation points should be selected both in front and behind the wall and
should be spaced every 100 200 ft with locations alternating from in front of the wall to
behind the wall. A typical boring layout for an anchored wall is shown in Figure 2-1.
Wall boring
1-2H

Figure 2-1. Boring Layout for Anchored Wall.
The guidelines for depth interval selection should also be developed in recognition of
specific site/project conditions and design property/parameter requirements. For preliminary
screening, the subsurface investigation at the wall location should be carried to a depth of up
to 2 times the wall height below the bottom of the wall or a minimum of 10 ft into bedrock.
Investigation depth should be deep enough to fully penetrate soft highly compressible soils
(e.g., peat, organic silt, soft fine grained soils) into competent material of suitable bearing
capacity (e.g., stiff to hard cohesive soil, compact dense cohesionless soil, or bedrock). Such
information is required to perform external stability analyses of all wall systems (i.e.,
investigate the stability of the ground outside and below the wall system).
Groundwater table and perched groundwater zones must be evaluated as part of a subsurface
investigation program for a wall system. In Chapter 3, information is presented on
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-7 June 2008
calculating water pressures against walls for hydrostatic conditions and for cases where
seepage pressures (resulting from water flow) are encountered in design. The presence of
ground water affects lateral pressures applied to the wall facing, drainage system design, and
construction procedures. At a minimum, the following items need to be considered for wall
systems that will be constructed within or near the water table:
corrosion potential of metallic components based on the acidity/alkalinity of the
ground water
reduction in frictional resistance between soil and structural components (e.g.,
anchors, soil nails, etc.)
necessity for excavation dewatering and specialized drilling and grouting techniques
(in the presence of water)
liquefaction potential of loose, cohesionless soils
rock/soil instability resulting from seepage forces
seasonal high and low groundwater levels for lateral pressure estimates for design
See Mayne et al. (2001) for methods used to evaluate subsurface water levels.
The results of the subsurface investigation program should consider the following for earth
retaining systems:
1. Special groundwater conditions such as the presence of artesian pressure or perched
water can have a critical effect on the construction of a cut wall system. Experience
with soil running up into a borehole during withdrawal of drilling tools, loss of
drilling fluid, or sloughing of soil from walls of the borehole should be recorded.
2. In boring operations, any evidence of extremely compact materials, cobbles, boulders,
cemented layers or lenses, hardpan, rubble fill, debris or other material that would
impede the installation of a vertical wall element such as a sheetpile or soldier beam
should be recorded. Such information should be recorded on boring logs to be
included in the contract information for bidders.
3. At a site where rock or rock-like material are present, the borings must define the
character of the materials where there is a transition between residual soil and
bedrock, and should locate the surface of materials of rock-like hardness.
Many engineers underestimate the importance in selecting an appropriate investigation
technique(s) and sampling method(s) since in-house SPT capabilities are a presumptive one
size fits all investigation/sampling approach. Experience has shown the short-falls of this
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-8 June 2008
approach (see Mayne et. al, 2001) and the benefit of a focused site-specific strategy which
may include in-situ testing methods.
Equipment for in-situ testing includes cone penetrometers, vane shear devices, and
pressuremeters. These devices can provide index parameters or strength parameters. For
example, the vane shear test is often used for evaluating the undrained shear strength of
clayey soil deposits, especially those for which undisturbed sampling for laboratory testing
cannot be performed in a cost-effective manner (e.g., for weak clays). The test is effective in
developing a profile of undrained strength with depth and in evaluating the sensitivity (i.e.,
strength loss upon loading) of the soil. A summary of available in-situ testing devices is
provided in Table 2-3.
Table 2-3. In-situ Testing Methods Used in Soil.
Method Procedure Applicable
Soil Types
Applicable Soil
Properties
Limitations / Remarks
Electric Cone
Penetrometer
(CPT)
A cylindrical probe is
hydraulically pushed
vertically through the soil
measuring the resistance at the
conical tip of the probe and
along the steel shaft;
measurements typically
recorded at 1 to 2 in. intervals
Silts, sands,
clays, and
peat
Estimation of soil
type and detailed
stratigraphy
Sand: , D
r
,
ho

Clay: s
u
,
p

No soil sample is obtained;
The probe may become
damaged if testing in gravelly
soils is attempted; Test results
not particularly good for
estimating deformation
characteristics
Piezocone
Penetrometer
(CPTu)
Same as CPT; additionally,
penetration porewater
pressures are measured using
a transducer and porous filter
element
Silts, sands,
clays, and
peat
Same as CPT,
with additionally:
Sand: u
o
/ water
table elevation
Clay:
p
, c
h
, k
h
OCR
If the filter element and ports
are not completely saturated,
the pore pressure response may
be misleading; Compression
and wear of a mid-face (u
1
)
element will effect readings;
Test results not particularly
good for estimating
deformation characteristics
Seismic
CPTu
(SCPTu)
Same as CPTu; additionally,
shear waves generated at the
surface are recorded by a
geophone at 3 ft intervals
throughout the profile for
calculation of shear wave
velocity
Silts, sands,
clays, and
peat
Same as CPTu,
with additionally:
V
s
, G
max
, E
max
,

tot
, e
o

First arrival times should be
used for calculation of shear
wave velocity; If first
crossover times are used, the
error in shear wave velocity
will increase with depth
Flat Plate
Dilatometer
(DMT)
A flat plate is hydraulically
pushed or driven through the
soil to a desired depth; at
approximately 8 to 12 in.
intervals, the pressure required
to expand a thin membrane is
recorded; Two to three
measurements are typically
recorded at each depth
Silts, sands,
clays, and
peat
Estimation of soil
type and
stratigraphy
Total unit weight
Sand: , E, D
r
, m
v

Clays:
p
, K
o
, s
u
,
m
v
, E, c
h
, k
h

Membranes may become
deformed if overinflated;
Deformed membranes will not
provide accurate readings;
Leaks in tubing or connections
will lead to high readings;
Good test for estimating
deformation characteristics at
small strains
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-9 June 2008
Method Procedure Applicable
Soil Types
Applicable Soil
Properties
Limitations / Remarks
Pre-bored
Pressuremeter
(PMT)
A borehole is drilled and the
bottom is carefully prepared
for insertion of the equipment;
The pressure required to
expand the cylindrical
membrane to a certain volume
or radial strain is recorded
Clays, silts,
and peat;
marginal
response in
some sands
and gravels
E, G, m
v
, s
u
Preparation of the borehole
most important step to obtain
good results; Good test for
calculation of lateral
deformation characteristics
Full
Displacement
Pressuremeter
(PMT)
A cylindrical probe with a
pressuremeter attached behind
a conical tip is hydraulically
pushed through the soil and
paused at select intervals for
testing; The pressure required
to expand the cylindrical
membrane to a certain volume
or radial strain is recorded
Clays, silts,
and peat in
sands
E, G, m
v
, s
u
Disturbance during
advancement of the probe will
lead to stiffer initial modulus
and mask liftoff pressure (p
o
);
Good test for calculation of
lateral deformation
characteristics
Vane Shear
Test (VST)
A 4 blade vane is slowly
rotated while the torque
required to rotate the vane is
recorded for calculation of
peak undrained shear strength;
The vane is rapidly rotated for
10 turns, and the torque
required to fail the soil is
recorded for calculation of
remolded undrained shear
strength
Clays,
Some silts
and peats if
undrained
conditions
can be
assumed;
not for use
in granular
soils
s
u
, S
t
,
p
Disturbance may occur in soft
sensitive clays, reducing
measured shear strength;
Partial drainage may occur in
fissured clays and silty
materials, leading to errors in
calculated strength; Rod
friction needs to be accounted
for in calculation of strength;
Vane diameter and torque
wrench capacity need to be
properly sized for adequate
measurements in various clay
deposits
Symbols used in Table 2-3.
: effective stress friction angle G
max
: small-strain shear modulus
D
r
: relative density G: shear modulus

ho
: in-situ horizontal effective stress E
max
: small-strain Youngs modulus
s
u
: undrained shear strength E: Youngs modulus

p
: preconsolidation stress
tot
: total density
c
h
: horizontal coefficient of consolidation e
o
: in-situ void ratio
k
h
: horizontal hydraulic conductivity m
v
: volumetric compressibility coefficient
OCR: overconsolidation ratio K
o
: coefficient of at-rest earth pressure
V
s
: shear wave velocity S
t
: sensitivity

2.2.4 Sampling Methods
2.2.4.1 Disturbed Sampling of Soil
Disturbed sampling provides a means to evaluate stratigraphy by visual examination and to
obtain soil specimens for laboratory index testing. Disturbed samples are usually collected
using split-barrel samplers (AASHTO T206, ASTM D 1586), although several other
techniques are available for disturbed sample collection in boreholes. Typical split-barrel
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-10 June 2008
samplers are limited soil grain size which allows for driving (i.e., typically not appropriate
for gravels). Shallow disturbed samples can also be obtained using hand augers and test pits.
Samples obtained via disturbed sampling methods can often be used for index property
testing in the laboratory but explicitly should not be used to prepare specimens for
consolidation and strength (i.e. performance) tests.
2.2.4.2 Undisturbed Sampling of Soil
Undisturbed soil samples are required for performing laboratory strength and consolidation
testing on generally cohesive soils ranging from soft to stiff consistency. High-quality
samples for such testing are particularly important for fill wall systems that may stress
compressible strata. In reality, it is impossible to collect truly undisturbed samples since
changes in the state of stress in the sample will occur upon sampling. The goal of high-
quality undisturbed sampling is to minimize the potential for: (1) alteration of the soil
structure; (2) changes in moisture content or void ratio; and (3) changes in chemical
composition of the soil. Due to cost and ease of use, the thin-walled Shelby tube is the most
common equipment for obtaining relatively undisturbed samples of soils. Depending upon
cohesive soil type (e.g., stiffness and whether significant granular material is in the soil
matrix), alternative sampling equipment may be used to obtain nominally undisturbed soil
samples including: (1) stationary piston; (2) hydraulic piston; (3) Denison; and (4) pitcher
samplers. Detailed procedures for these sampling techniques are provided in FHWA NHI-
01-031 (Mayne et al., 2001).
2.2.4.3 Rock Coring
When considering equipment for rock coring, the dimensions, type of core barrel, type of
coring bit, and drilling fluid are important variables. The minimum depth of rock coring
should be determined based on the local geology of the site. Coring should also be
performed to a depth that assures that refusal was not encountered on a boulder.
Four different types of core barrels are described in ASTM D 2113 including: (1) Single
Tube; (2) Rigid Double Tube; (3) Swivel Double Tube; and (4) Triple Tube. A brief
description of issues related to rock coring is provided subsequently. Additional information
on drilling rigs, methods of circulating drill cuttings (i.e., fluid or air), hole diameters, and
casings are provided in ASTM D 2113.
Since the double core barrel isolates the rock from the drilling fluid stream to yield better
recovery, it is the minimum standard of core barrel that should be used in practice when an
intact core is required. The inner tube of a swivel-type core barrel does not rotate during
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-11 June 2008
drilling, resulting in less disturbance and better recovery in weak and fractured rock. Rigid
type double tube core barrels should not be used where core recovery is a concern. Triple
tube swivel-type core barrels will produce better recovery and less core breakage than a
double tube barrel. Before using correlations for rock parameters, the engineer should
account for the specific rock sampling procedure (e.g., double tube or triple tube) used as the
basis for the correlation.
The standard size rock core is NX 2 1/8 in. diameter. Generally larger core sizes will lead to
less mechanical breakage and yield greater recovery, but the associated cost for drilling will
be much higher. Since the size of the core will affect the percent recovery, this should be
clearly recorded on the log. Additionally, the core length can increase recovery in fractured
and weathered rock zones. In these zones a core length of 5 ft is recommended, and core
lengths should not be greater than 10 ft under any conditions because of the potential to
damage the long cores. Table 2-4 provides summary sampling guidelines for geotechnical
investigations.
2.2.5 Developing a Laboratory Testing Program
The final planning step includes the development of a laboratory-testing program. Table 2-1
lists laboratory tests that are used to evaluate design parameters for cut and fill walls. Index
tests such as moisture content, Atterberg limits, grain size distribution, and unit weight tests
are recommended for both cut and fill wall applications. Index tests are invaluable in
establishing general conditions and assessing inherent material variability. Depending on
individual site conditions, additional tests may be required or tests may be eliminated from
Table 2-1.
Once a list of necessary tests has been developed and the field program has been executed,
the engineer should review field notes, borings, and design plans to identify critical areas.
Critical areas correspond to borings/locations where the results of the laboratory tests could
result in a significant change in the proposed design. Samples from these critical areas
should be identified for performance testing. In heterogenous areas, many samples may be
required to obtain comprehensive parameters; in homogeneous areas, few samples may be
required.
A laboratory-testing program should be performed on representative and critical specimens
from geologic layers across the site. To assess the locations where tests should be
performed, it is useful to evaluate sample location maps and geologic cross sections. By
evaluating a sample location map, it will be easy to quickly identify the locations of disturbed
and undisturbed samples that may be used in the laboratory testing program. The generation
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-12 June 2008
Table 2-4. Sampling Guidelines (after WFLHD, 2004).
Sand-Gravel Soils
SPT
1
(split-spoon) samples should be taken at 5 ft intervals and at significant changes in soil
strata.
Continuous SPT samples are recommended in the top 15 ft of borings made at locations where
spread footings may be placed in natural soils.
Representative SPT jar or bag samples should be laboratory classified for verification of field
visual soil identification.

Silt-Clay Soils
SPT and undisturbed thin wall tube samples
2
should be taken at 5 ft intervals and at significant
changes in strata.
SPT and tube samples may be alternated in same boring or tube samples may be taken in separate
undisturbed boring.
Representative SPT jar or bag samples should be laboratory classified for verification of field
visual soil identification.
Tube samples should be tested for consolidation (for settlement analysis) and strength (for slope
stability and foundation bearing resistance analysis).
Field vane shear testing also recommended to obtain in-place shear strength of soft clays, silts, and
nonfibrous peats.

Rock
Continuous cores should be obtained in rock or shales using double or triple tube core barrels.
For foundation investigations, core a minimum of 10 ft into the rock.
Core samples should be evaluated for strength testing (unconfined compression) for foundation
investigations, and valued for quality tests for quarry investigations (aggregate or riprap).
Determine percent core recovery and RQD
3
value for each core run and record in the bore log.

Groundwater
Record water level encountered during drilling, at completion of boring, and at 24 hours after
completion of boring in the bore log.
When water is used for drilling fluid, adequate time should be permitted after hole completion for
the water level to stabilize (more than one week may be required). In impermeable soils, a plastic
pipe water observation well should be installed to allow monitoring of the water level over a
period of time.
Artesian pressure and seepage zones, if encountered, should also be noted in the bore log.
The top 12 in or so for the annular space between water observations well pipes and the borehole
wall should be backfilled with grout, bentonite, or a sand-cement mixture to prevent surface water
inflow which can cause erroneous groundwater level readings.

Notes: 1) Standard Penetration Test (AASHTO T206);
2) Thin-Walled Tube Sampling of Soils (AASHTO T207); and
3) Rock Quality Designation.
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of detailed subsurface cross sections along wall alignment, including stratigraphy, in-situ
testing results, and laboratory index test results, if available, will be useful when identifying
representative samples for laboratory performance testing.
Evaluation of soil properties form laboratory testing is described subsequently in this chapter.

2.3 FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS OF SHEAR STRENGTH
2.3.1 General
As part of the design analyses for most geotechnical projects, the load-carrying capacity of
the supporting soil is evaluated. For earth retaining systems, these capacity evaluations
include, for example, bearing resistance of a semi-gravity cantilever wall supported on a
spread footing or deep foundation, side and tip resistance of drilled-in soldier beams or
driven soldier beams for an anchored wall, stability analyses of slopes being restrained by a
wall, and passive soil resistance for the toe of a retaining structure. These analyses are
concerned with comparing loads imposed to the system to the limit (or failure) state of the
supporting soil. This limit state of stress corresponds to the shear strength of the soil.
For a given soil, shear strength is not a unique property. The soil strength to be used in
design analyses must be qualified in relation to whether the appropriate strength is: drained
or undrained, peak, fully softened or residual, intact or remolded, static or cyclic,
compression or extension; and other facets, such as direction of loading, rate of loading, and
boundary conditions. As a consequence, soil strength is not a fundamental property, but
instead, a specific behavioral response to a certain set of loading conditions.
Fundamental information relating to shear strength evaluation including concepts of drained
and undrained behavior, and total and effective stress analyses, respectively, are presented in
this section as they relate to shear strength evaluation for earth retaining systems. The
numerous factors that may affect the selection of shear strength values for design analyses
are presented. Additional discussion on specific methods used to evaluate soil strength for
wall systems is described in subsequent sections.
2.3.2 Drained versus Undrained Loading
In geotechnical practice, it is important to distinguish between "drained" and "undrained"
strengths. These terms refer to the ability of the porewater in the soil to move between soil
particles resulting in volume change, and the accompanying generation (or lack) of excess
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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porewater pressures, u. Soils can also exhibit any number of partially drained strengths,
however, wall design analyses are typically performed using drained and undrained
strengths, as these represent limits to the expected range of behavior.
For a saturated soil subjected to undrained loading, no drainage of porewater from the void
spaces can occur, and thus the soil undergoes no change in volume. During undrained
loading, changes in total stress () cause the development of either positive porewater
pressures (u > 0) that will tend to decrease the effective stress in the soil or negative
porewater pressures (u < 0) that will tend to increase the effective stress in the soil.
The drained loading of a saturated soil means that the water in the void spaces is free to
move so that no excess pore water pressures develop (u = 0). There is usually a change
(i.e., increase or decrease) in void ratio and a corresponding change in volume. Again, water
may be present, but is free to move either out of the soil mass (termed contractive soil
behavior) or into the soil mass (termed dilatant soil behavior). Contractive behavior results
in a decrease in volume (e.g., settlement) and dilative behavior causes an increase in volume
(e.g., swelling). Most sands have such a high permeability (e.g., k > 10
-3
cm/s (2.83 ft/day))
that, under static loading, they are almost always drained. Sands, however, will behave in an
undrained mode when subjected to rapid loading, such as that imposed by an earthquake
whereby the entire deposit is engaged and water cannot drain.
All clays exhibit drained behavior when the rate of loading is very slow, so slow that it does
not interfere with the rate of water migration that is controlled by its low permeability (e.g., k
< 10
-6
cm/s (0.00283 ft/day)). Drained behavior in clays should be considered in evaluating
the long-term stability (and ground movements) of cut wall systems. The same clay that
behaves in a drained manner in these applications, however, may initially behave in an
undrained mode in the short-term if the rate of loading is too fast to permit water inflow. The
short-term stability of excavations constructed in soft to medium clays is represented by
undrained loading conditions.
2.3.3 Drained Stress-Strain-Strength Behavior
In this section, the stress-strain-strength behavior of soils is introduced for the simple case of
drained loading. To illustrate this, a graph of measured shear stress () versus shear strain
(
s
) from a direct simple shear test is used (Figure 2-2). It is recognized that the direct simple
shear test is not commonly performed, but it is most useful in introducing drained stress-
strain strength behavior of soils. The more common direct shear (box) test is very similar to
the direct simple shear and thus the same basic principles apply.
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The maximum stress on the -
s
curve is commonly interpreted as the peak shear strength
(
max
), corresponding to point 2 in Figure 2-2. Figure 2-2 shows two stress-strain curves,
each one corresponding to different effective consolidation stresses (i.e.,
v1
and
v2
). For
each specimen, the measured peak strength (
max
) is plotted versus effective consolidation
stresses as shown in Figure 2-2. A linear fit is generally forced (minimum of two data sets)
to provide the simplified straight line Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion:

max
= c + tan (2-1)
where = effective stress friction angle and c = effective cohesion intercept.
During drained shearing, the soil specimen will likely undergo a change in total volume. If
the soil decreases in volume during shear, the response is termed contractive behavior. This
response is indicative of loose sands and soft clays. If the soil increases in volume during
shearing, a dilative (or dilatant) behavior is observed. This response is common in hard
clays and dense sands. If no change in volume occurs during drained shear loading (V/V
0
=
0), the corresponding stress state is called the critical state. The complete description of soil
behavior by this arrangement is termed critical-state soil mechanics, which encompasses
normally- and overconsolidated soils for undrained, semi-drained, and drained loading, for
both contractive and dilatant behavior (Schofield and Wroth, 1968; Wood, 1990). However,
in current U.S. practice, the concept of critical state soil mechanics is not consistently
recognized, although this concept is an excellent representation of soil behavior.
The adoption of the simplified Mohr-Coulomb strength criterion is widespread in current
U.S. practice and it is normally taken that drained conditions are analyzed using effective
stress parameters (i.e., , c) and undrained conditions are analyzed by total stress methods
(i.e., c=c
u
=s
u
). For cohesive soils, the drained analysis corresponds to long-term conditions
and undrained analyses to short-term conditions. For cohesionless soils (i.e., those with
relatively high hydraulic conductivity values), drained analyses alone are performed. The
Mohr-Coulomb strength parameters, and c, are defined in Figure 2-3.
Referring to drained strength characteristics in Figure 2-2, after the peak shear strength (
max
)
is reached during drained loading, the shear stress reduces to a stable value termed the fully-
softened strength, depicted as point 3 in Figure 2-2. The fully softened strength is
intermediate between the peak strength and the residual strength and there are no specific
procedures to identify the fully softened strength. Conceptually, the fully softened strength is
close in value to the peak strength of the same soil in a normally-consolidated condition.
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tan 'NC (fully-softened)
+
v
,
dilative
soil
S
h
e
a
r

S
t
r
e
s
s
,

v
' = effective overburden
stress
G
o
= small-strain shear modulus
G
secant
=
s

G
tangent
=
s

max

max
Shear Strain,
s
Post-peak
Strain-softening
peak
peak

v1
'

v2
'
Fully-softened
Strength
residual
residual
effective
consolidation
stress
1 4
3
2
S
h
e
a
r

S
t
r
e
s
s
,

Normal Stress,
v
'

max

max
1
3
4
2
tan 'r (residual strength)
tan 'peak
c'
= c' + ' tan
p
'
= ' tan '

r
= ' tan
r
'
=
Shear
Stress
v,
contractive
soil

v
'
v1 v2

Figure 2-2. Drained Stress-Strain Behavior.


Figure 2-3. Mohr-Coulomb Failure Criteria.
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This can be expressed as:
= tan
NC
(2-2)
where
NC
is the peak strength (or critical-state strength) of the normally-consolidated soil.
Note that for long-term analyses, the effective cohesion intercept is a small value for the
normally consolidated case and is therefore assumed to be zero (c = 0).
For clays, if drained loading continues for very large shearing strains, the shear stress value
drops even further to the residual strength, denoted
r
and indicated by point 4. The residual
strength is related to the mineralogical frictional characteristics of the soil in which the plate-
like clay particles align themselves in a direction parallel to the shear plane that is developed
at these very large strains. The residual strength can be represented by:

r
= tan
r
(2-3)
In commercial practice,
r
is obtained using 8 to 10 repeated cycles of shearing on the same
specimen in a direct shear box using the same direction of shear and the same normal load.
The more elaborate ring shear device is purposely suited for obtaining true residual values of

r
. Information on the ring shear-testing device can be found in Terzaghi et al. (1996).
For design of walls constructed on or in clay soils that exhibit peak, fully softened, and
residual shear strength, the design engineer must consider the level of deformations that may
be expected within the soil mass to appropriately select the strength to be used for design
calculations. The relationship between deformations and appropriate shear strength to be
used for design is discussed in Section 3.5.
2.3.4 Undrained Stress-Strain-Strength Behavior
The undrained shear stress-shear strain curve is similar to that observed for drained loading,
except that excess porewater pressures are also generated (u 0). During undrained
shearing, a contractive soil will exhibit positive pore pressures, while a dilative soil will show
negative pore pressures. From the undrained -
s
curve, the peak value of
max
is designated
as the undrained shear strength (s
u
or c
u
).
Instability under undrained conditions develops mainly for a contractive soil where the soil
attempts to mobilize frictional shearing resistance which also causes the soil to contract
under the prevailing confining stresses. This tendency to contract during shear is typical for
normally to lightly overconsolidated soft to medium clay soils. Since this tendency cannot
be realized, due to the clay soil permeability in relation to the rate of shearing, positive
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porewater pressures are generated in the soil which reduce the effective stress and hence the
mobilized frictional shearing resistance. In such cases the short term undrained shearing
resistance of the soil is less than would have been the case if drainage (contraction of the soil
volume) could have occurred. The short-term condition is critical for temporary walls
constructed in normally to lightly overconsolidated clay soils.
In clay soils subjected to unloading conditions that may result from an excavation in front of
a wall, the soil attempts to expand as it mobilizes frictional shearing resistance. This is
resisted causing negative porewater pressure to be developed that increases the effective
stress in the soil and hence increases the mobilized frictional shearing resistance. Thus, in
overconsolidated clay subject to excavation, the short-term (undrained) strength and stability
potentially exceeds that which would apply once drainage has occurred. For the examples
cited, the engineer needs to assess both short-term and long-term strengths in their analyses.
For dilative soils, the tendency to dissipate pore pressure will reduce the effective stress and
thus the strength.
2.3.5 Effective Stress Parameters
Granular soils such as gravels, sand, and non-plastic silts have effective stress failure
envelopes that pass through the origin indicating that c = 0 for these materials. In fact, for
granular soils, only cemented sands appear to have a true c' value (i.e., c 0). The value of
for sands depends on mineralogy and packing arrangement that is related to relative
density and effective confining stress level (Bolton, 1986). Ranges of for clean quartzitic
(silica) sands are typically 30 50, whereas calcareous (corraline) sands may exhibit
somewhat higher values.
2.3.6 Total Stress Parameters
Total stress analyses for soils that do not drain during the loading period involve the principle
that if an element of soil in the laboratory is subjected to the same changes in total stress
under undrained conditions as an element of the same soil in the field, the same excess pore
pressures will develop. Thus, if the total stress in the laboratory and the field are the same,
the effective stresses will also be the same. Because soil strength is governed by effective
stresses, the strength measured in laboratory tests should be the same as the strength in the
field when the pore pressures and total stresses are the same. Thus, under undrained
conditions, strengths can be related to total stresses, making it unnecessary to specify
undrained excess pore pressures for design analyses.
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Although the total stress principle is simple, experience has shown that many factors
influence the pore pressures that develop under undrained loading. As a result, determining
undrained strengths by means of laboratory and in-situ testing requires considerable attention
to detail if reliable results are to be achieved. Shear strengths for use in undrained total stress
analyses must be measured using test specimens and loading conditions that closely duplicate
the conditions in the field. Alternatively, they can be reliably measured using the appropriate
in-situ test.
Total stress type analyses using the = 0 approach are perhaps the most widely used form
of analyses performed by highway engineers for design analyses involving clays. For this
condition, the Mohr-Coulomb relationship reduces to the form
1
=
3
+ 2c or c = c
u
= s
u
=
(
1
-
3
) = undrained shear strength. Since s
u
is stress dependent, its value is commonly
normalized by the vertical effective overburden stress (
vo
) at the depth where s
u
is
measured.

2.4 LABORATORY INDEX TESTS
2.4.1 General
In this section, typical laboratory index tests performed in support of the design of an earth
retaining system are presented. Index soil properties used in the analysis and design of earth
retaining systems include unit weight, moisture content, gradation, and Atterberg Limits.
Unit weight of foundation material, backfill soil, and retained soil are used in evaluating
earth pressures and in evaluating the external and internal stability of the wall system.
Moisture content and Atterberg Limits are used with engineering correlations to estimate
compressibility and shear strength of clayey soils. These data also provide an indication of
soil creep potential which is important for the feasibility of soil anchors and nails. The
results of grain size distribution testing provide an indication of soil permeability and
compaction characteristics. Gradation information is also used to develop appropriate
drilling and grouting procedures and in the design of dewatering systems.
2.4.2 Moisture Content
Moisture content is defined as the ratio of the mass of the water in a soil specimen to the dry
mass of the specimen. Natural moisture contents (w
n
) of sands are typically 0 w
n
20 %,
whereas for inorganic and insensitive silts and clays, general ranges are: 10 w
n
40 %.
However, depending upon the mineralogy, formation environment, and structure of clay, it is
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possible to have more water than solids (i.e., w > 100%). Therefore soft and highly
compressible clays, as well as sensitive, quick, or organically rich clays, can exhibit water
contents 40 w
n
300 % or more.
Moisture content can be tested in a number of different ways including: (1) a drying oven
(ASTM D 2216); (2) a microwave oven (ASTM D 4643); or (3) a field stove or blowtorch
(ASTM D 4959). While the microwave or field stove (or blowtorch) methods provide a
rapid evaluation of moisture content, potential errors inherent with these methods require
confirmation of results using ASTM D 2216. The radiation heating induced by the
microwave oven and the excessive temperature induced by the field stove may release water
entrapped in the soil structure that would normally not be released at 110
o
C, yielding higher
moisture content values than would occur from ASTM D 2216.
2.4.3 Unit Weight
In the laboratory, soil unit weight and mass density are easily measured on tube samples of
natural soils. The moist (total) mass density is
t
= M
t
/V
t
, whereas the dry mass density is
given by
d
= M
s
/V
t
. The moist (total) unit weight is
t
= W
t
/V
t
, whereas the dry unit weight
is defined as
d
= W
s
/V
t
. The interrelationship between the total and dry mass density and
unit weight is given by:

) w (1

n
t
d
+
= (2-4)
and the relationship between total and dry unit weight is given by:

) w (1

n
t
d
+
= (2-5)
Unit weight evaluation for backfill soils is described in Section 2.5.3.
2.4.4 Atterberg Limits
The Atterberg limits of a fine grained (i.e., clayey or silty) soil represent the moisture content
at which the behavior of the soil changes. Atterberg limits results provide an indication of
several physical properties of the soil, including strength, permeability, compressibility, and
shrink/swell potential. These limits also provide a relative indication of the plasticity of the
soil, where plasticity refers to the ability of a silt or clay to retain water without changing
state from a semi-solid to a viscous liquid. In geotechnical engineering practice, the
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Atterberg limits generally refers to the liquid limit (LL), plastic limit (PL), and shrinkage
limit (SL); although the SL is less often used in typical geotechnical practice.
A measure of a soils plasticity is the plasticity index (PI) which as calculated as PI = LL
PL. The PI is a useful index since numerous engineering correlations have been developed
relating PI to clay soil properties, including undrained and drained strength and compression
index.
Other indices based on the Atterberg limits include the liquidity index (LI) and the activity
(A) of a soil. These are defined as:

PI
PL) (w
LI
n

= (2-6)

CF
PI
A = (2-7)
where w
n
is the moisture content of the soil and CF is the clay fraction that corresponds to the
percentage of particles exhibiting an equivalent diameter (d
s
)

< 0.078 mil (0.002 mm). The
use of the liquidity index and activity can provide very useful information concerning the
likely behavior of a soil, even though Atterberg limits are performed on completely remolded
materials. For example, a LI less than or equal to zero is generally indicative of a heavily
overconsolidated soil that may be desiccated or highly expansive. A soil with a LI equal to
1.0 implies that the soil is at its liquid limit and is likely to be relatively weak and
compressible. A LI greater than unity indicates that the soil is sensitive. Soils with a LI
greater than approximately 0.7 will likely undergo significant consolidation settlements when
loaded. Clayey soil backfill should have a liquidity index close to zero or negative.
2.4.5 Particle Size Distribution
Particle size distribution by mechanical sieve and hydrometer are useful for soil classification
purposes. Procedures for grain size analyses are contained in ASTM D 422 and AASHTO
T88. Testing is accomplished by placing air-dried material on a series of screens of known
opening size. Each successive screen has a smaller opening to capture progressively smaller
particles. Testing of the finer grained particles is accomplished by suspending the chemically
dispersed particles in water column and measuring the specific gravity of the liquid as the
particles fall from suspension.
Representative samples with fines (particles with diameter less than U.S. No. 200 sieve)
should not be oven dried prior to testing because some particles may cement together leading
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to a calculated lower fines content from mechanical sieve analyses than is actually present.
When fine-grained particles are a concern, a wash sieve (ASTM D 1140) should be
performed to assess the fines content. Additionally, if the clay content is an important
parameter, hydrometer analyses need to be performed. It should be noted that the
hydrometer test provides approximate analysis results due to oversimplified assumptions, but
the obtained results can be used as a general index of silt and clay content.
2.4.6 Laboratory Classification
In addition to field identification (ASTM D 2488), soils should be classified in the laboratory
using the Unified Soil Classification System (USCS) in accordance with ASTM D 2487 or
the AASHTO soil classification system (AASHTO T 145). Classification in the laboratory
occurs in a controlled environment and more time can be spent on this classification than the
identification exercise performed in the field. Laboratory and/or field identification is
important so that defects and features of the soil can be recorded that would not typically be
noticed from index testing or standard classification. Some of the features include mica
content, joints, and fractures.
2.4.7 Specific Gravity
The specific gravity of solids (G
s
) is a measure of solid particle density and is referenced to
an equivalent volume of water. Specific gravity of solids is defined as G
s
= M
s
/(V
s

w
)
where M
s
is the mass of the soil solids and V
s
is the volume of the soil solids. Since many
sands are comprised of quartz and/or feldspar minerals and many clays consist of the
kaolinite and/or illite clay minerals in composition, and since the specific gravity of these
minerals are confined to a relatively narrow range, the typical values of specific gravity of
most soils also lie within the narrow range of G
s
= 2.7 0.1. Exceptions include soils with
appreciable organics (i.e., peat), ores (mine tailings), or calcareous (high calcium carbonate
content) constituents. It is common to assume a reasonable G
s
value, although laboratory
testing by AASHTO T100 or ASTM D 854 or D 5550 can be used to verify and confirm its
magnitude, particularly on projects where little previous experience exists and unusually low
or high unit weights are measured.
2.4.8 Organic Content
A visual assessment of organic materials may be very misleading in terms of engineering
analysis. Laboratory test method AASHTO T194 or ASTM D 2974 should be used to
evaluate the percentage of organic material in a specimen where the presence of organic
material is suspected based on field information or from previous experience at a site. The
test involves heating a sample to temperatures of 440C and holding this temperature until no
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further change in mass occurs. At this temperature, the sample turns to ash. Therefore, the
percentage of organic matter is (100% - % ash) where the % ash is the ratio of the weight of
the ash to the weight of the original dried sample. The sample used for the test is a previously
dried sample from a moisture content evaluation. Usually organic soils can be distinguished
from inorganic soils by their characteristic odor and their dark gray to black color. In
doubtful cases, the liquid limit should be determined for an oven-dried sample (i.e., dry
preparation method) and for a sample that is not pre-dried before testing (i.e., wet preparation
method). If drying decreases the value of the liquid limit by about 30 percent or more, the
soil may usually be classified as organic (Terzaghi et al., 1996).
Soils with relatively high organic content have the ability to retain water, resulting in high
moisture content, high primary and secondary compressibility, and potentially high corrosion
potential. Organic soils may or may not be relatively weak depending on the nature of the
organic material. Highly organic fibrous peats can exhibit high strengths despite having a
very high compressibility.

2.5 PARAMETERS FOR BACKFILL SOILS
2.5.1 General
In this document, backfill soils refer to those soils which are transported to the project site,
spread, and compacted just behind a fill wall. Backfill soils may be obtained from an Owner-
provided on-site borrow source or are transported to the site from an off-site location. In
general, relatively free-draining soils are usually required for backfill soils for fill walls,
although more fine-grained materials may be used subject to specific design considerations
(discussed subsequently). The primary backfill soil parameters required for design analyses
including unit weight, shear strength, electrochemical properties, and drainage characteristics
are described in this section. Information on alternative backfill materials (i.e., lightweight
fills and flowable fill) and evaluation of soil swelling potential and degradation for specific
backfill types is also presented in this section.
2.5.2 Classification of Backfill Soils
Cohesionless Soils
Soils classified as GW, GP, SW or SP in accordance with the Unified Soil Classification
System (USCS) are excellent backfill materials. The important characteristics of these soils
are their high frictional resistance and high permeability. With adequate drainage measures
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(such as weep holes, collector drains, etc.) the build-up of pore water pressure in the backfill
can be prevented.
Sandy Clays and Clayey Sands
Soils classified as SC, SM, GC or GM, according to the USCS, may be suitable as wall
backfill if kept dry, but are subject to frost action when wet. Such soils have low
permeability and do not drain rapidly. Hence, their water content may increase substantially
as a result of precipitation or flooding. Also, these soils cannot be properly compacted when
wet.
Silts and Clays
Soils classified as CL, CH, MH, ML or OL, according to the USCS, are often subject to
excessive frost action and swelling when used as wall backfill, and the resulting wall
movement is likely to be excessive. Moreover, if used behind relatively rigid walls such as
concrete gravity walls, lateral wall pressures can become quite large. Accordingly, the use of
these materials generally should be avoided for such a wall system. Earth pressures
associated with clayey soil for wall backfill is discussed in Chapter 3.
2.5.3 Unit Weight
The unit weight of backfill is used in estimating the vertical stress in the soil which, in turn,
is utilized in calculating the lateral earth pressure applied to the wall. For preliminary
analyses, dry unit weight (
d
) of the backfill soil can be estimated using Table 2-5.
Laboratory compaction test results based on ASTM D 698 for Standard Proctor Compaction
Effort and ASTM D 1557 for Modified Proctor Compaction Effort are performed as part of
final design to evaluate total and dry unit weight values. These tests are used to establish
target compaction requirements for the backfill soil and are used to develop appropriate
moisture-density relationships for field control of backfill compaction.
Field measurements of soil mass density (unit weight) are generally restricted to shallow
surface samples, usually when placing compacted fills, and can be accomplished using drive
tubes (ASTM D 2937), sand cone method (ASTM D 1556), or nuclear gauge (ASTM D
2922). These field measurements of dry unit weight represent a quality assurance activity,
which is performed to confirm adequate shear strength and stiffness of wall backfill
materials.
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2.5.4 Backfill Shear Strength Parameters
2.5.4.1 General
Backfill soil shear strength parameters are required for lateral earth pressure evaluations for
fill walls. Typically, drained shear strength parameters are used for relatively free-draining
granular backfill soils and for evaluation of long-term conditions for clayey backfill soils;
and undrained shear strength parameters are used for analyses of short-term (i.e., temporary)
loading conditions involving clayey backfills.
2.5.4.2 Drained Strength Parameters
Typical (or default) drained shear strength parameters of backfill soils can be obtained from
Table 2-5 or alternatively from Figure 2-4 or Figure 2-5. Figure 2-4 shows typical ranges of
friction angle for rockfills, gravels, and sands over a wide range of confining stresses and
with initial porosities ranging from 0.17 to 0.48. To use this figure, the engineer must select
the range of confining stresses that the granular soil will be subject to in the field. For wall
backfill, this corresponds to the range of vertical stresses within the backfill (including
stresses due to surcharge loadings). If this range is relatively large, the friction angle of the
soil will vary over the range of confining stresses. A conservative single value can be
selected based on calculating confining stresses at the bottom, middle, and top of the backfill
soil and then averaging. The rockfill grades for quarried materials shown on Figure 2-4, are
summarized in Table 2-6 (A through E). It is noted, however, that where project-specific
testing is not performed, most state agencies will provide conservative backfill strength
properties for walls. These conservative properties are suitable for inclusion in standard
specifications or special provisions when project specific testing is not feasible.
Project-specific drained shear strength parameters can be obtained from direct shear testing
(ASTM D 3080). The test is performed on recompacted soils with normal stress range
consistent with the anticipated range of stresses for the field application. Tests should be
performed at varying compaction and density conditions to be representative of the
anticipated compaction conditions that will be achieved in the field. Consideration should be
given to the potential for the soils to become saturated after construction and, if saturation is
possible, tests should be performed on saturated (or submerged) samples. Tests should
always be carried out until a stable large-displacement shear stress is measured.
2.5.4.3 Undrained Strength Parameters
Walls designed with clayey backfills need to consider both drained and undrained shear
strength parameters for evaluation of design earth pressures. Herein, methods to evaluate
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-26 June 2008
undrained strength parameters for recompacted clayey soils used for backfills are discussed.
Undrained strength parameters for clayey backfill soils are typically determined using direct
shear testing or consolidated undrained triaxial compression testing. For these tests, the soil
should be compacted in the laboratory to the maximum moisture content anticipated in the
field. This moisture content should at least be to the maximum allowed by the
Specifications, for example, up to 2 points wet of optimum moisture or to some worst-case
value prescribed by the Engineer. Typically, compacted clayey backfills will be unsaturated
under field placement and compaction conditions, however, it is strongly suggested that
laboratory testing be performed on saturated recompacted samples to provide worst-case
undrained strength parameters. An example consolidated undrained triaxial compression test
with pore pressure measurements for a lean clay soil used for a welded wire-faced MSE wall
is provided in Figure 2-6.
2.5.5 Electrochemical Parameters of Backfill Soils
The design of buried steel elements such as that for metallic reinforcements used for MSE
walls is predicated on the backfill soils exhibiting minimum or maximum electrochemical
properties and then designing the structure for maximum corrosion rates associated with
these properties. For corrosion potential evaluation, backfill soils are tested for: (1) pH
(AASHTO T-289); (2) electrical resistivity (AASHTO T-288); (3) sulfate content (AASHTO
T-290); and (4) chloride content (AASHTO T-291).
Some soils have tendency to be more aggressive then others. For example, clayey and silty
soils are generally more aggressive than granular soils because their fine-grained nature
results in high water holding capacity, poor aeration, and poor drainage. These
characteristics tend to promote corrosion. Additional discussion on soil corrosion potential
evaluation is provided in subsequent chapters for individual wall types.
2.5.6 Placement and Compaction of Backfill Soils
Regardless of backfill type, compaction is required to obtain increased backfill shear strength
and stiffness. Compaction also minimizes backfill settlement that may occur during and after
construction. Compaction, however, may induce large lateral stresses against the wall,
particularly near the top of the wall (see Section 3.8).
Backfill soils should be placed in loose lift layers of no more than 12 in. thick, and should be
properly compacted by rollers and/or tampers. A dry unit weight not less than 95 percent of
the maximum dry density achieved in a Standard Proctor test (AASHTO T99) is commonly
specified, although higher degrees of compaction may be specified for certain backfill types
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FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-28 June 2008

Note: 1 kPa = 0.145 psi
Figure 2-4. Typical Ranges of Friction Angle for Rockfills, Gravels, and Sands
(after Terzaghi et al., 1996).

Table 2-6. Unconfined Compressive Strength of Particles for Rockfill Grades in Figure 2-4.
Rockfill Grade
Particle Unconfined Compressive Strength
(psi)
A 32,000
B 24,000 to 32,000
C 18,000 to 24,000
D 13,000 to 18,000
E 13,000
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-29 June 2008

Figure 2-5. Correlation between Drained Friction Angle and the Dry Unit Weight, Relative
Density, and Soil Classification (after NAVFAC, 1986).

and for walls which support foundation loads. To obtain proper compaction, the moisture
content of the furnished backfill material should be controlled, typically within optimum and
2 percent wet of the optimum moisture content determined from laboratory compaction tests.
Fills which are formed by uncontrolled dumping of the material are generally unsatisfactory,
and typically lead to long term settlement problems. During placement, moisture-density
tests must be performed to verify that the in-place backfill material meets the specified
compaction requirements.
The backfill placed immediately behind the structure (i.e., at a distance of up to 3 ft from the
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-30 June 2008

f
= 0.5105
f
+ 285.75

f
= 0.2013
f
+ 529.91
0
1000
2000
3000
4000
5000
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000
NORMAL STRESS, (psf)
S
H
E
A
R

S
T
R
E
S
S
,


(
p
s
f
)
EFFECTIVE STRESS
TOTAL STRESS
w
initial
= 23%

d initial
= 99.2 pcf
LL = 41, PL = 24, and PI = 17
= 11
0
, c
T
= 530 psf
' = 27
0
, c' = 286 psf

Figure 2-6. Example Shear Strength Property Evaluation for Clayey Backfill.
wall) is typically compacted with light tamping equipment to avoid development of excessive
lateral earth pressures or displacement of the wall face. In some cases, as a means to
facilitate adequate soil strength and stiffness of the backfill just behind the wall, coarser
backfill soils (compared to other sections behind the wall) are used because they can achieve
higher densities with less compactive energy.
2.5.7 Backfill Soil Permeability
The permeability of backfill soils is generally not measured since index parameters (e.g.,
gradation and Atterberg limits) can usually provide sufficient information on soil drainage
characteristics. That is, a specific value for the coefficient of permeability (k) of the backfill
is generally not required for design analyses. For cases where soil and/or geosynthetic filters
are used for chimney and /or footing drains, a value for k may be required. Also, a relatively
impermeable soil cap may be required to be constructed over the backfill soil to minimize
stormwater infiltration into the backfill. In that case, a maximum value for k may be
specified.
The permeability of the backfill soils can be determined from laboratory tests that are
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-31 June 2008
conducted on specimens of recompacted materials. Two types of permeameters are used for
laboratory testing, which are the rigid wall and the flexible wall permeameters. Rigid wall
permeameter tests (AASHTO T215; ASTM D 2434) are not recommended for low
permeability (i.e., k 10
-6
cm/s (0.00283 ft/day)) soils (such as silts and clays) due to the
potential for sidewall leakage. With flexible wall permeameters two types of tests can be
performed, which are constant head and falling head tests (ASTM D5084). Details of
permeameter tests and the interpretation methods of the test results can be found in Chapters
4 and 5 of GEC No. 5 respectively (Sabatini et al., 2002).
2.5.8 Filtration Requirements
2.5.8.1 Soil Filters
Design criteria for soil filters are summarized below and are based upon gradations of the
two adjacent soils. The particle sizes used in design are the D
15
, D
50
, and D
85
sizes (subscript
denotes the percentage of material, by weight, which has a smaller diameter). These criteria are
applicable to adjacent soils with gradation curves that are approximately parallel. The
equations are not applicable to gap-graded soils, soil-rock mixtures, non steady-state flow
and soils with gradation curves that are not approximately parallel. When criteria are not
applicable, filter design should be based upon laboratory filtration tests. See Cedergren
(1989) for a comprehensive discussion on soil filtration.
The soil filtration criterion to prevent piping (i.e., retention) of the upstream soil into the filter is:
5
85
15
<
soil
D
filter
D
(2-8)
To ensure sufficient permeability of the filter material, the ratio of the filter D
15
to the
upstream soil D
15
should be greater than four to five, as shown in Equation 2-9.

soil
D
filter
D
<
15
15
5 (2-9)
An additional criterion to prevent movement of soil particles into or through filters is presented
in Equation 2-10. For CL and CH soils without sand or silt partings, the D
15
size of the filter in
Equation 2-9 may be as great as 0.016 in and Equation 2-10 may be disregarded. However, if
the upstream soil contains partings of uniform non-plastic fine sand and silt sizes, the filter must
be designed to meet these criteria.
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-32 June 2008
25
50
50
<
soil
D
filter
D
(2-10)
2.5.8.2 Geotextile Filters
A geotextile is often used as a filter between a finer-grained and a more permeable soil. The
geotextile must retain the finer-grained soil, while allowing water to readily pass into the more
permeable soil, and function throughout the life of the earth retaining structure. Thus, geotextile
design must address retention, permeability and clogging. The geotextile must also survive the
installation process.
The following design criteria are from the FHWA Geosynthetic Design and Construction
Guidelines Manual (Holtz et al. 1998).
For steady state flow conditions, the retention criterion is:
AOS < B D
85
(2-11)
where:
AOS = apparent opening size of the geotextile
B = dimensionless coefficient
D
85
= soil particle size for which 85% are smaller
The AOS value of the candidate geotextile is determined from the results of the ASTM D 4751
test method, and is typically the value published by the geotextile manufacturers/suppliers. The
B coefficient ranges from 0.5 to 2 and is function of the upstream finer-grained soil, type of
geotextile, and/or the flow conditions. For sands, gravelly sands, silty sands and clayey sands
(i.e., sands with less than 50% passing the No. 200 sieve), B is a function of the uniformity
coefficient, C
u
(C
u
= D
60
/D
10
), of the upstream soil. B values for various C
u
values are:
C
u
< 2 B = 1 (2-12a)
2 < C
u
< 4 B = 0.5 C
u
(2-12b)
4 < C
u
< 8 B = 8 / C
u
(2-12c)
C
u
> 8 B = 1 (2-12d)
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-33 June 2008
If the upstream soil contains any fines, use only the portion passing the No. 200 sieve for
selecting the geotextile.
For silts and clays (more than 50% passing the No. 200 sieve), B is a function of the type of
geotextile.
for wovens, B = 1 AOS < D
85
(2-13a)
for nonwovens, B = 1.8 AOS < 1.8 D
85
(2-13b)
and for both, AOS < 0.012 in (2-14)
The above retention criteria are for internally stable soils. Laboratory performance tests should
be conducted for such soils. Again, note that the above criteria are for steady state seepage. For
dynamic flow conditions see Holtz et al. (1998).
For steady state flow, low hydraulic gradient and well graded or uniform upstream soil, the
permeability and permittivity criteria are:
for permeability:
k
geotextile
> k
soil
(2-15)
for permittivity:
> 0.5 sec
-1
for < 15% passing No. 200 sieve (2-16a)
> 0.2 sec
-1
for 15% to 50% passing No. 200 sieve (2-16b)
> 0.5 sec
-1
for > 50% passing No. 200 sieve (2-16c)
where:
k = coefficient of permeability (or hydraulic conductivity) and
= geotextile permittivity, which is equal to k
geotextile
/t
geotextile.

For critical or severe applications, a geotextile permeability of 10 times the soil permeability
should be used. The geotextile permittivity is determined from the results of the ASTM D 4491
test method.
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For steady state flow, low hydraulic gradient and well graded or uniform upstream soil, the
clogging criterion is:
AOS > 3 D
15 (upstream soil)
(2-17)
This equation applies to soils with C
u
> 3. For soils with C
u
< 3, a geotextile with the maximum
AOS value from the retention criteria should be used.
See AASHTO M288 (1997) or see Holtz et al. (1998) for geotextile survivability critieria.
For a more thorough treatment of geotextile drains see Holtz et al. (1998) and Koerner
(1998).
2.5.9 Other Backfill Materials
2.5.9.1 Lightweight Materials
Lightweight materials may be used in place of a select soil backfill to control the settlement
of walls constructed over soft compressible soils. According to FHWA NHI-06-019 (Elias et
al., 2006), lightweight fills can be grouped into two categories: (1) materials that behave and
have similar properties to granular soils; and (2) materials that have an inherent compressive
strength and behave similar to cohesive soils. Examples of the first group include wood
fiber, blast furnace slag, fly ash, boiler slag, expanded clay or shale, and shredded tires.
Examples of the second group include geofoam and foamed concrete.
The dry loose unit weight of expanded shale, for example, typically varies from 45 to 65 pcf,
while its compacted (Standard Proctor) dry unit weight ranges from 70 to 85 pcf. The
internal friction angle for these materials may be 40
o
or higher, which corresponds to lower
active earth pressure coefficients than for typical granular backfill soils. The lower earth
pressure coefficient coupled with lower unit weight results in considerably lower earth
pressures and corresponding reduction in bending moments in the wall structure and a
reduction of the wall section. Table 2-7 provides a summary of typical dry densities for
lightweight fills.
In addition to the above advantages, the gradation of lightweight fills can be controlled to
produce a free-draining backfill, thereby avoiding development of water pressures. Before
using these materials in construction, however, laboratory testing should be performed to
define their shear strength, unit weight, corrosivity and durability (soundness and resistance
to abrasion). Lightweight fills must have adequate hardness and durability to resist
degradation during placement and compaction, and to resist long-term deterioration in the
underground environment.
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Table 2-7. Range of Dry Densities for Lightweight Fills (after Elias et al., 2006).
Fill Type Range in Dry Density (pcf)
Geofoam (EPS) 0.75 - 2
Foamed Concrete 20 - 60
Wood Fiber 35 - 60
Shredded Tires 38 - 56
Expanded Shale, Clay,
and Slate (ESCS)
38 - 65
Fly Ash 70 - 90
Boiler Slag 70 - 94
The applicability of lightweight material may not be appropriate for all cases. For example,
due to their light weight such materials may not be suitable for mechanically stabilized earth
walls which rely on the overburden weight to generate friction along the reinforcing elements
within the backfill material.
Refer to the Lightweight Fill technical summaries in Ground Improvement Methods manual,
FHWA NHI-06-019 (Elias et al., 2006) for discussions and details of lightweight fills.
Geofoam blocks have been used in construction of several highway wall and embankment
projects.
2.5.9.2 Flowable Fill
Another backfill option is flowable fill. This backfill material is composed of cement in
which air voids are distributed in the form of small, homogeneous, non-interconnected foam
cells. High flowability and pumpability permits complete backfilling. In its hardened state,
this type of backfill is stable. However, since it is in a fluid state initially, formwork is
usually required.
2.5.9.3 Swelling Soils
Swelling (or expansive) soils are typically clayey soils that undergo large volume changes in
direct response to moisture changes in the soil and generally are not used as wall backfill.
Swelling soils tend to increase in volume (i.e., swell) as the moisture content of the soil is
increased and decrease in volume (i.e., shrink) as the moisture content of the soil is
decreased. Although the expansion potential of a soil can be related to many factors (e.g.,
soil structure and fabric, environmental conditions, etc.), it is primarily controlled by the clay
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mineralogy. Soils that contain low-plasticity kaolinite will tend to exhibit a lower swell
potential than soils containing high-plasticity montmorillonite.
To identify expansive soils in the laboratory, several classification methods have been
developed. Generally, soils with a plasticity index less than 15 percent will not exhibit
expansive behavior. For soils with a plasticity index greater than 15 percent, the clay content
of the soil should be evaluated in addition to the Atterberg Limits. Figure 2-7 shows the
swelling potential of a remolded soil as related to the soil activity and clay fraction. For the
purposes of evaluating expansion potential of a soil, activity can be defined as:
( )
( ) CF Fraction Clay
) PI ( Index Plasticity
A Activity = (2-18)
where CF is the clay fraction that corresponds to the percentage of particles exhibiting an
equivalent diameter (d
s
) < 0.078 mil (0.002 mm) as calculated from a hydrometer test
performed in accordance with ASTM D422, Standard Test Method for Particle Size Analysis
of Soils.

Note: 0.002 mm = 0.078 mil
Figure 2-7. Classification Chart for Swelling Potential (after Seed et al., 1962).
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2.5.9.4 Degradable Materials
On some transportation projects, construction activities involve the use of potentially
degradable materials. Although the material may, at first, exhibit rock-like characteristics, it
has the potential to degrade to soil-size particles. The gradual but ultimate degradation of the
rock to the original parent soil material can occur within minutes or after several years of
exposure to air and/or water. Shale, the most common member of this family of materials,
can generically be considered to include claystone, siltstone, and mudstone.
In many parts of the U.S., high-quality granular material is not locally available for use as
borrow material. As a result, degradable materials that, at first, appear to be competent
granular materials are used. However, once in contact with water, these materials may
degrade causing problems and/or failures during the service life of the structure.
Many rock types are prone to degradation when exposed to the cyclic wet/dry and
freeze/thaw weathering processes. Rock types that are particularly susceptible to degradation
due to these processes are poorly indurated shale and claystone exhibiting high clay content.
The degradation can take the form of swelling, weakening, and ultimately disintegration. For
wall backfills, the shear strength of the material may decrease with time resulting in greater
earth pressures and continued wall lateral displacements. Methods to evaluate degradation
potential are provided in Chapter 7 of GEC No. 5 (Sabatini et al., 2002).

2.6 PARAMETERS FOR IN-SITU SOILS
2.6.1 General
In-situ soil parameters used in the design of cut and fill wall systems are described in this
section. In-situ soils refer to the retained ground behind the backfill zone for a fill wall and
to the retained ground behind a cut wall. In-situ soils also include foundation soils below a
fill wall and soils below the final excavated grade for a cut wall. The primary in-situ soil
parameters required for retaining system design include stratigraphy, unit weight, shear
strength, electrochemical properties, consolidation, and drainage characteristics. Selection of
these parameters is provided below.
2.6.2 Stratigraphy
The soil stratigraphy at the site, including the thickness and elevation of individual soil and
rock layers is evaluated through the implementation of a project-specific subsurface
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investigation, as previously described. In addition to drilling, sampling, and laboratory
classification, subsurface stratigraphy information can be obtained from CPT and dilatometer
testing. Details on stratigraphy evaluation using these methods are provided in Chapter 5 of
GEC No. 5 (Sabatini et al., 2002).
2.6.3 Unit Weight
The unit weight of in-situ soils can be measured both in the field and in the laboratory.
Measurement of unit weight in the field is generally restricted to shallow surface samples and
can be accomplished using drive cylinder method (ASTM D 2937), sand cone method
(ASTM D 1556), or nuclear gauge (ASTM D5915). To obtain unit weights with depth,
either high-quality thin-walled tube samples must be obtained (ASTM D 1587) or relatively
expensive geophysical logging by gamma ray techniques (ASTM D 5195) can be employed.
Unit weight of in-situ soils can also be obtained from correlations with standard penetration
test (SPT) (ASTM D 1586). The correlation between standard penetration number (N) and
unit weight () of granular soils is given in Table 2-8 and unit weight of cohesive soils is
given in Table 2-9. These values should only be used for preliminary evaluations.
Table 2-8. Correlation between N and of Granular Soils (after Bowles, 1988).
Description Very Loose Loose Medium Dense Very Dense

0 4 10 30 50
Standard
penetration
no. N
Approx. range of
pcf
70 100 90 115 110 130 110 140 130 150

Table 2-9. Correlation between N and of Cohesive Soils (after Bowles, 1988).
Description Very Soft Soft Medium Stiff Very stiff Hard

0 2 4 8 16 32
N, standard
penetration
resistance

(sat)
, pcf 100 120 110 130 120 140

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2.6.4 Shear Strength Parameters
2.6.4.1 General
The shear strength parameters of the in-situ soils are used in evaluating the earth pressures on
the active and passive side of the retaining wall systems. The shear strength of in-situ soils
can be determined from laboratory tests, field tests, and empirical correlations.
Laboratory shear strength tests for cohesive soils are performed on undisturbed samples
obtained from the field. The shear strength of cohesionless soils can be evaluated from
empirical correlations, based on in-situ test parameters (e.g., SPT N value), or from
laboratory testing of recompacted (i.e., disturbed) samples.
2.6.4.2 Short-Term Conditions
For design analyses of short-term conditions (i.e., temporary walls) in normally to lightly
overconsolidated cohesive soils, the undrained shear strength, s
u
, is commonly evaluated. A
profile of s
u
with depth should be developed at investigation points across the site. Since
undrained strength is not a unique property, profiles of undrained strength developed using
different testing methods will be different. Typical practice on retaining system projects is to
develop profiles of s
u
based on laboratory triaxial testing (i.e., consolidated-undrained (CU))
and for cases where undisturbed sampling is very difficult due to the soft nature of the soil,
based on field vane shear testing.
Although not generally recommended for evaluating undrained strength, in the UU test, the
total stress undrained shear strength (s
u
) of the soil is calculated based on the measured
compressive strength of the soil. Shear strengths calculated from UU tests correspond to the
depth at which the sample was taken from in the ground. The CU triaxial test provides data
that can be used to interpret total stress strength parameters. With pore pressure
measurement, effective stress parameters can also be obtained from CU tests (see Figure 2-
8). Interpretation of UU and CU test results can be found in detail in Chapter 5 of GEC 5
(Sabatini et al., 2002).
The vane shear test (VST) involves the use of a simple rotated blade to evaluate the
undrained shear strength in soft to stiff clays and silts. Equipment necessary for a VST
includes a four-sided vane with a height to diameter (H/D) ratio of 2, rods, and a torque-
measuring device. Vane size selection is a function of the anticipated strength of the soil and
accuracy of the torque wrench. Larger vanes are typically used in soft soils and smaller
vanes used in stiffer soils. The VST result has to be corrected to account for shear rate and
strength anisotropy effects of the test. The correction is made by multiplying the s
u
obtained
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Figure 2-8. Test Data from Triaxial Compression Test with Pore Pressure Measurements.
from VST (s
u, VST
) with a correction factor (). This factor is shown as a function of PI in
Figure 2-9. Procedures of the VST and methods of interpretation are described in ASTM D
2573 in detail.
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Figure 2-9. Plasticity based VST Correction Factors.
As mentioned above, a profile of s
u
with depth should be developed to evaluate the s
u
of in-
situ soils. Specific issues that should be considered when developing a profile of s
u
with
depth are described below.
Strength measurements from hand torvanes, pocket penetrometers, or unconfined
compression tests should not be used solely to evaluate undrained shear strength for
design analyses. Consolidated undrained triaxial tests with pore pressure
measurements and in-situ tests should be used.
All available undrained strength data should be plotted with depth. The type of test
used to evaluate each undrained shear strength should be clearly identified. Known
soil layering should be used so that trends in undrained strength data can be
developed for each soil layer.
Data summaries for each laboratory strength test method should be reviewed.
Moisture contents of specimens for strength testing should be compared to moisture
contents of other samples at similar depths. Significant changes in moisture content
will affect measured undrained strengths. Atterberg limits, grain size, and unit weight
measurements should be reviewed to confirm soil layering.
A profile of preconsolidation stress,
p
(or OCR) should be developed and used in
evaluating undrained shear strength. Evaluation of
p
is discussed in Section 2.6.5.3.
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(See Mayne et al. (2001) for guidance on use of empirical or constitutive based on
p

or OCR to estimate s
u
).
In special cases involving excavations for walls (e.g., anchored walls and braced
excavations) in deep deposits of soft clay, it is advisable to consider performing a
supplemental series of traixial extension and direct simple shear tests. This is because the
soil on the passive side of the wall is actually loaded in extension. Experience has shown
that strength on the passive side of the wall can be lower than that in the active zone (i.e.,
behind the wall) due to soil anisotropy, especially for lean clays (i.e., CL soils). These
effects lead to a lower stability condition than might be assumed on the basis of compression
tests only.
2.6.4.3 Long-Term Conditions
Long-term effective stress strength parameters (c and ) of clays are best evaluated by
consolidated drained direct shear test, consolidated drained (CD) triaxial compression test, or
CU triaxial tests with pore pressure measurements. In laboratory tests, the rate of shearing
should be sufficiently slow to ensure substantially complete dissipation of excess pore
pressure in the drained tests or, in undrained tests, complete equalization of pore pressure
throughout the specimen. Information on appropriate shearing rates is provided in Chapter 4
of GEC No. 5 (Sabatini et al., 2002). Laboratory tests should always be carried out to
displacements sufficiently large to reach a stable, post-peak shear stress.
As previously discussed, the selection of peak, fully-softened, or residual strength for design
analyses must be made based on a careful review of the expected or tolerable displacements
of the soil mass. Where pre-existing weak interfaces are present, direct shear methods should
be used, if practical, to set up the sample so that the interface strength can be directly
evaluated. Alternatively, soil material from within the shear zone should be sampled and
reconstituted to the in-situ moisture content for shear testing.
For clays, empirical correlations have been developed to relate drained friction angle ()
(Figure 2-10) and drained residual friction angle (
r
) (Figure 2-11) to the Atterberg Limit
and to clay fraction, CF (for residual friction angle) characteristics of the soil. Figure 2-10
shows a slight trend of decreasing with increasing PI (Mesri and Abdel-Ghaffar, 1993), yet
values can be 8 in variance.
Considering the overall importance of drained friction angle for wall designs involving stiff
to hard clays, it is essential to directly assess friction angle by means of the laboratory tests
mentioned above. The consequences of estimating friction angle can be economically
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20
20
40
40
50
60 80 100 200 400 600 1000 0
0
10
Soft Clays
Mexico City
Clay
Attapulgite
Soft and Stiff Clays
Shales
Clay Minerials
30
F
r
i
c
t
t
i
o
n

A
n
g
l
e
,





(
d
e
g
r
e
e
s
)
Plasticity Index, I (%)
p


Figure 2-10. Relationship between and PI (after Terzaghi et al., 1996).
Note: CF = % particles < 0.078 mil
Figure 2-11. Residual Friction Angles for Clayey Soils (after Stark and Eid, 1994).
unwise. As an example, for relatively long, shallow slip surfaces that may be associated with
a landslide, the required forces that would need to be resisted by some form of wall system
would vary significantly depending on the drained friction angle of the soil. Therefore,
15
60
100
psi
15
60
100
psi
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correlations shown in Figures 2-10 and 2-11 should only be used to estimate drained friction
angles of cohesive soils for preliminary analyses.
Laboratory testing on undisturbed samples of granular materials is almost impractical.
Therefore, it is necessary to rely on correlations to obtain the friction angle of granular soils.
The strength of granular soils is typically assessed from penetration test data from field tests
particularly from the SPT (Table 2-10 and Figure 2-12) and CPT (Figure 2-13). However,
the SPT and CPT correlations should not be used to estimate the drained friction angle of
mostly gravel soil, unless the correlations are used conservatively or can be modified based
on local experience. For the correlations with SPT and CPT, the vertical effective stress
should be calculated at the mid-depth of each soil layer.
2.6.5 Consolidation Parameters
2.6.5.1 General
Consolidation parameters are used in settlement analyses for walls founded on compressible
soils. Excessive total and/or differential settlement may be detrimental to the long-term
performance of many types of wall systems. For instance, large differential settlements
between the wall face and the backfill soil may induce significant distress in
facing/reinforcement connections. Differential settlements along the wall alignment may
affect the overall wall appearance (aesthetics) and performance of the wall facing for both fill
and cut wall systems. While this section focuses on evaluation of soil parameters required
for a settlement analysis, it is important to recognize that differential settlements (which may
control the selection of a particular wall type for a project) are more a function of the
thickness of relatively compressible material below the wall than the specific value of a
particular compression parameter. For this reason, the necessity to accurately characterize
the subsurface stratigraphy cannot be overemphasized.
The discussion provided herein pertains primarily to fill wall systems in which the
underlying foundation soils may undergo compression (i.e., settlement) in response to the
weight of the wall and surcharges or for cut wall systems where the project may involve
settlements due to groundwater drawdown. It is noted, however, that ground surface
settlements behind a cut wall and vertical wall element settlement are important issues for cut
walls. These types of settlements are evaluated semi-empirically and are discussed in
Chapter 8.

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Table 2-10. Relationship between SPT N Value and Internal Friction Angle of Granular
Soils (after AASHTO LRFD, 2007).
State of
Packing
Standard Penetration Resistance, N1
60
(blows/ft)
Friction angle, ()
Very loose
Loose
Compact
Dense
Very dense
<4
4
10
30
50
25 - 30
27 - 32
30 - 35
35 - 40
38 - 43
Note: N1
60
= N
60
/(
v
/Pa)
0.5
, where Pa = 1 tsf,
v
= vertical effective stress, and
N
60
= ER/60% N (ER = hammer efficiency and N = uncorrected SPT blow count).





Figure 2-12. Friction Angle of Cohesionless Soils (a) from Uncorrected SPT N Values
(Modified after Peck, Hanson, and Thornburn 1974) and (b) as a Function of Normalized
Overburden (Modified after Schmertmann, 1975).

0 10 20 30 40 50 60
SPT N-value (blows/300 mm or bl/ft)
25
30
35
40
45
50
F
r
i
c
t
i
o
n

A
n
g
l
e
,

'

(
d
e
g
r
e
e
s
)
'
= 26.5 + 0.4 N -

N
2
500
Very
Dense
Dense
Medium
Loose
Very Loose
0 10 20 30 40 50 60
SPT N-value (blows/300 mm or bl/ft)
25
30
35
40
45
50

'
vo
P
a
=
0.5 1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
(a) (b)
P
a
: normal atmospheric pressure =
1 atm ~ 100 kN/m2 ~ 1 tsf
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0
10
20
30
40
50
60
0 1500 3000 4500 6000 7500
Cone Resistance, q
t
(psi)
V
e
r
t
i
c
a
l

E
f
f
e
c
t
i
v
e

S
t
r
e
s
s

(
p
s
i
)
30 28
34
32
36
38
40
44
46
'=48

Figure 2-13. Correlation of With Normalized CPT q
t
Data in Clean Sands
(after Robertson and Campanella, 1983).
The general consolidation characteristics of various major soil types can be used to evaluate
whether a settlement problem should be anticipated for a particular wall according to the
following:
Gravels, sands, and non-plastic silts: These soils consolidate rapidly under load and
do not typically present settlement problems unless close tolerances are required for
the project.
Plastic silt-clay mixtures: Soft silts and clays are more compressible than stiff silts
and clays. Settlement may continue long after construction is complete.
Organic soils: These soils are very compressible as well as biodegradable and can
result in large settlements that occur for many years.
Settlement analysis requires compression parameters and preconsolidation stress to be
known. Compression parameters and preconsolidation stress can be estimated by correlation
or by direct laboratory-measurement. Typically, the laboratory measurement is performed
using one-dimensional consolidation test. The most common laboratory test method is the
incremental load (IL) oedometer (ASTM D-2435). High-quality undisturbed samples using
thin-walled tubes, piston samplers, or other special samplers are required for laboratory
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consolidation tests. Tests performed on disturbed samples will result in computed
consolidation parameters that may result in conservative or unconservative design
evaluations.
Consolidation test results are traditionally shown in a graph of void ratio (e) versus logarithm
of applied vertical effective stress (
v
') in the oedometer, as illustrated in Figure 2-14. Each
of the compression indices are defined by the change in void ratio per log cycle stress
(= e/log
v
') for the respective ranges of recompression (C
r
), virgin compression (C
c
), and
swelling or rebound (C
s
). An alternate version of presenting consolidation test results is
using a plot of vertical strain as the ordinate axis, whereby
v
= e/(1+e
o
). In this case, the
compression indices are reported as the recompression ratio, C
r
= C
r
/(1+e
o
), and
compression ratio, C
c
= C
c
/(1+e
o
).


Figure 2-14. Definition of C
c
, C
r
, C
s
, and
p
(Sabatini et al., 2002).
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The maximum preconsolidation stress delineates the region of semi-elastic behavior
(corresponding to overconsolidated states) from the region of primarily plastic behavior
(associated with normal consolidation). The degree of preconsolidation is expressed using
the overconsolidation ratio, where OCR =
p
'/
vo
'. An important parameter that is also
obtained from the consolidation test that is used for settlement analysis includes a time-
dependent parameter, which is the coefficient of secondary compression (C

).
2.6.5.2 Compression and Recompression Indexes
The compression index (C
c
) and recompression index (C
r
), are index parameters required for
primary consolidation settlement predictions. The value of C
c
is evaluated by drawing a
best-fit tangent line to data on an e-log
vc
representation of consolidation data along the
virgin (i.e., part of curve where stresses are greater than
p
) portion of the curve. The
modified compression index, C
ce
, is evaluated similarly on a plot of
v
-log
vc
. The line
drawn to evaluate C
c
(or C
c
) should include the stress range defined by the calculated
p

and the final effective stresses in the ground. Typically, values of C
r
(or C
r
) are 10 to 20
percent of the value of C
c
(or C
c
).
Numerous correlations relating simple soil classification properties (e.g., LL, w
n
) to C
c
and
C
c
are available in the literature for silts and clays. These correlations can be used to make
first-order predictions of settlements, but should not be relied upon for final design, unless
the correlation has been developed using site-specific laboratory consolidation test data.
These correlations may be of limited value, however, for highly structured soils that are
sensitive. Several correlations that are based on relatively large databases are provided in
Table 2-11.

Table 2-11. Summary of Correlations for C
c
(after Holtz and Kovacs, 1981).
Equation Applicable Soils
C
c
= 0.009 (LL 10) Undisturbed clays of low to medium sensitivity
C
c
= 0.007 (LL - 7) Remolded clays
C
c
= 0.01 w
n
Chicago clays

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Interpreting a C
c
and C
r
value for design should be based on a rational assessment of the data.
The objective is to assign a value to each behaviorally different subsurface layer or to assign
some representative value for the entire subsurface. Assessments to be made in evaluating
compression data include: (1) depth ranges where the material is more silty or sandy as
compared to other depth ranges; (2) depth of transition from a crust layer to an underlying
softer clay layer; and (3) assessment of sampling disturbance. A detailed discussion on the
assessment of these compression indices is provided in GEC No. 5 (Sabatini et al., 2002).
2.6.5.3 Preconsolidation Stress
The preconsolidation stress (
p
) from oedometer tests is normally interpreted from the e-
log
v
' relationship using the Casagrande graphical technique. In many clays and silts, this
approach may be adequate in evaluating a reasonable value of
p
'. The steps involved in the
Casagrande method are provided in Table 2-12 and Figure 2-15. In very soft, sensitive, or
structured materials, particularly those affected by sample disturbance, swelling, and the
release of stress associated with removal from the ground, alternative graphical techniques
can be utilized to better delineate the magnitude of
p
. Such techniques are described in
GEC No. 5 (Sabatini et al., 2002).
A profile of
p
(or OCR =
p
/
vo
) with depth should be developed for the site. This
parameter represents the most important value relative to settlement and shear strength
evaluations for designs involving in-situ cohesive soils. An upper and lower bound profile
should be developed based on laboratory tests and plotted with a profile based on particular
in-situ test(s) (if used). There are no specific rules to judge the appropriateness of any
particular value; however sample disturbance will typically be the most important factor
affecting results. Sample disturbance indices are useful in assessing why, for example, a
particular test provides a value of preconsolidation stress that seems too low. These indices
are discussed in GEC No. 5 (Sabatini et al., 2002).
Specific data quality issues that should be considered in evaluating preconsolidation stress
are described below:
Assess whether a consolidation curve that does not exhibit a sharp break is the result
of sample disturbance or that the soil sample may contain relatively significant
amounts of non-cohesive material (i.e., sand, non-plastic silt), which will result in a
consolidation curve without a distinct break.
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-50 June 2008
Table 2-12. Casagrande Method to Evaluate
p
.
1. Construct a line tangent to the steepest portion of the consolidation curve (within the
normally consolidated range).
2. Locate the point of maximum curvature in the area of the laboratory curve where the
slope transitions from shallow to steep. Construct a horizontal line from this point of
maximum curvature.
3. Construct a tangent line to the curve from the point of maximum curvature.
4. Construct a line that bisects the angle between the horizontal line constructed in Step 2
and the tangent line constructed in Step 3.

The point of intersection between the bisector line (Step 4) and the first tangent line (Step 1)
is the location of the preconsolidation pressure. A diagram of the Casagrande method is
provided in Figure 2-15.

0.25
0.35
0.45
0.55
0.65
0.75
0.85
1 10 100 1000 10000
Effective Consolidation Stress (psi)
V
o
i
d

R
a
t
i
o
,

e

p
' = 33 psi
4
3
2
1

Figure 2-15. Illustration of Casagrande Method to Evaluate Preconsolidation Stress.
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-51 June 2008
Make sure that the consolidation curve used to compute the preconsolidation stress
corresponds to end of primary consolidation conditions. Most laboratories do not
perform analyses to evaluate the end of primary condition, but simply provide
consolidation curves that represent the end of the test.
The preconsolidation stress can only be reasonably estimated from laboratory
oedometer tests if the test has been carried out to sufficiently high pressures. As a
general rule of thumb, tests should be carried out to loads equal to approximately 4 to
8 times the estimated
p
. Previous testing and/or geologic information should be
used to estimate
p
.
It is particularly important to accurately compute preconsolidation stress values for relatively
shallow depths where in-situ effective stresses are low. An underestimate of the
preconsolidation stress at shallow depths will result in overly conservative estimates of
settlement for shallow soil layers.
Preconsolidation stress can also be obtained from in-situ tests. However, it should be kept in
mind that in-situ data only provides indirect measures of preconsolidation and therefore
should be used to supplement values obtained from laboratory consolidation tests.
Some of in-situ tests where
p
can be estimated from include cone penetration test (CPT),
flat dilatometer test (DMT), and field vane shear test (VST). Simple empirical and statistical
expressions for estimating
p
' from these test results are presented below. These correlations
can be used to provide first-order estimates of
p
' and to complement preconsolidation stress
values evaluated from laboratory oedometer tests.
Preliminary estimates of
p
' for intact (i.e., not fissured) natural clays may be made using the
approximate generalized trends as follows for each of the in-situ tests:
Cone Penetration Test (CPT):
p
' = 0.33 (q
T
-
vo
) (2-19)
Flat (Plate) Dilatometer Test (DMT):
p
' = 0.51 (p
o
- u
o
) (2-20)
Field Vane Shear Test (VST):
p
' = 3.54 (s
u, VST
) (2-21)
where q
T
is tip resistance from CPT,
vo
is the vertical stress, p
o
is the liftoff pressure from
DMT, u
o
is the initial pore water pressure, and s
u, VST
is the undrained shear strength
calculated from VST. Refer to GEC No. 5 for additional information regarding the use of in-
situ testing methods to estimate preconsolidation stress.
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-52 June 2008
2.6.5.4 Coefficient of Secondary Compression
In geotechnical design analyses, it is assumed that secondary settlement occurs after primary
consolidation is completed. As noted earlier, secondary compression settlements may be
relatively large for organic soils. For example, welded wire mesh-faced MSE walls were
used as part of the I-15 expansion project in Utah. Secondary compression settlements on the
order of several feet were expected to occur. For this reason, the final permanent wall facing
comprising a precast concrete facing was constructed several years after the MSE wall was
completed.
The analysis of secondary compression settlements includes evaluating time-dependent
(creep) settlements for a given period of time. In engineering analyses, it is commonly
assumed that the coefficient of secondary compression (C

) can be represented as a constant


value over the period of interest implying that the rate of secondary compression is
independent of the thickness of the compressible layer. The accurate interpretation of C

and
C

is directly linked to the ability to accurately evaluate the time to the end of primary
consolidation in a laboratory consolidation test. Computed values from consolidation tests
should be compared to computed values for C
c
and C
r
and the ratios C

/C
c
and C

/C
r
should
be compared to the expected values. For example, for inorganic clays and silts the C

/C
c

value averages 0.040.01, for organic clays and silts it averages 0.050.01, and for peats it
averages 0.060.01.
The coefficient of secondary compression is calculated using the portion of the deformation
versus time plot for a consolidation test that corresponds to a time after primary consolidation
is completed. For soils that are expected to demonstrate significant secondary settlements, it
is important that load durations extend to times after primary consolidation is completed.
Figure 2-16 shows a plot of deformation (for a particular load increment) versus logarithm of
time for a soil sample. The C

is evaluated according to the following equation:



1
2
log
t
t
e
C

(2-22)
where e is the change in void ratio over an elapsed time equal to t
2
-t
1
. The times t
1
and t
2

occur after the time to the end of primary consolidation, t
p
. Alternatively, the modified
coefficient of secondary compression, C

, can be evaluated similarly using a plot of


volumetric strain versus logarithm of time.

FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-53 June 2008

Figure 2-16. Evaluation of C

.

2.6.6 Electrochemical Parameters
The tests previously described in Section 2.5.5 for soil electrochemical parameters are also
used to evaluate the aggressivity of retained ground. These tests are required for the design
of corrosion protection systems for ground anchors, soil nails, and micropiles.
2.6.7 Permeability
Groundwater conditions and the potential for groundwater seepage need to be considered in
the design of earth retaining systems. As a result, the evaluation of groundwater conditions
is a required element of a site investigation program for earth retaining systems.
In cut wall applications, problems can be greatly aggravated by the presence of a source of
artesian pressures or high seepage flow. For example, if during the excavation for a cut wall
in relatively impermeable ground (e.g., fine grained in-situ soils) a water-bearing pervious
seam (e.g., sand or gravel) is exposed, uncontrolled groundwater flows and/or ground mass
instability may result. Critical ground types include silty fine sands or silts with low
2.25
2.3
2.35
2.4
2.45
2.5
2.55
2.6
2.65
0.1 1 10 100 1000 10000
Elapsed Time (min)
V
o
i
d

R
a
t
i
o

(
e
)
tp
One Log
Cycle
e=C

=0.06
Stress Range
40 - 80 kPa
6 12 psi
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-54 June 2008
plasticity because these soils can be source of high seepage flow. A discussion on the
measurement of groundwater levels and water pressures is provided in Mayne et al. (2001).
Permeability of in-situ soils can be determined from field or laboratory measurements. Field
measurements include seepage tests, pumping tests, slug tests, and piezocone dissipation
tests. Details of these tests can be found in Mayne et al. (2001). Laboratory tests for in-situ
soils are performed the same way as for the backfill soils, except test specimens for in-situ
soil tests are typically prepared from tube samples instead of recompacted materials as for
backfill soils. The permeability test data, whether obtained from the field or the laboratory,
should be scrutinized due to test complexities. These data should be considered in the
context of the site geology and the method used to obtain the values. They are only as
reliable as the method used to obtain them and it should be kept in mind that even excellent
laboratory and field methodology may only provide values within an order of magnitude of
actual conditions.
The permeability test data (hydraulic conductivity) should always be accompanied by
Atterberg limits and grain size distribution information for correlation with field conditions
and for textbook correlations and approximations. Almost every soils, geology, and
hydrogeology textbooks contain a chart of soil/rock type versus hydraulic conductivity. An
example is given in Figure 2-17. After receiving the permeability test data, the hydraulic
conductivity values should be checked against the estimated values. If there is a major
discrepancy (more than two orders of magnitude) it should be noted that this could be a sign
of test error, or possible anomalous soils.
Hazens equation is the most common correlation equation used to estimate hydraulic
conductivity for sands (k > 10
-3
cm/s (2.83 ft/day)). This equation is written as:
k = C(d
10
)
2
(2-23)
where: k = hydraulic conductivity from permeability test (cm/s);
C = coefficient ranging from 0.4 to 1.2 depending on sand size/sorting; and
d
10
= effective grain size in mm at 10% passing by weight.

Hazens equation is based solely on grain size and it requires input (d
10
) from particle size
distribution curves and the use of a coefficient estimated based on sand type (e.g., fine sand,
poorly sorted, etc.). Hazens equation should be used with caution since it only provides
very approximate k estimates applicable only to clean sands (with less than 5% passing the
No. 200 sieve) with d
10
sizes between 0.004 and 0.12 in. (Holtz and Kovacs, 1981).
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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Good drainage
10
-8
10
-9
10
-7
10
-6
10
-5
10
-4
10
-3
10
-2
10
-
1
1.0 10
1
10
2
10
-8
10
-9
10
-7
10
-6
10
-5
10
-4
10
-3
10
-2
10
-
1
1.0 10
1
10
2
Poor drainage Practically impervious
Clean gravel
Clean sands,
Clean sand and gravel mixtures
Impervious sections of earth dams and dikes
Impervious soils which are modif ied by the
eff ect of vegetation and weathering; f issured,
weathered clays; f ractured OC clays
Pervious sections of dams and dikes
Very f ine sands, organic and
inorganic silts, mixtures of sand, silt,
and clay glacial till, stratif ied clay
deposits, etc.
Impervious soils
e.g., homogeneous
clays below zone of
weathering
Drainage property
Application in earth
dams and dikes
Type of soil
Direct determination
of coefficient of
permeability
Indirect determination
of coefficient of
permeability
*Due to migration of f ines, channels, and air in voids.
Direct testing of soil in its original position (e.g., well points).
If properly conducted, reliable; considerable experience required.
(Note: Considerable experience
also required in this range.)
Constant Head Permeameter;
little experience required.
Constant head test in triaxial cell;
reliable with experience and no leaks.
Reliable;
Little experience
required
Falling Head Per meameter;
Range of unstable permeability;*
much experience necessary to
correct interpretation
Fairly reliable;
considerable experience necessary
(do in triaxial cell)
Computat ion:
From the grain size distribution
(e.g., Hazens f ormula). Only
applicable to clean,
cohesionless sands and gravels
Horizontal Capillarity Test:
Very little experience necessary; especially
usef ul f or rapid testing of a large number of
samples in the f ield without laboratory f acilities.
Computat ions:
from consolidation
tests; expensive
laboratory
equipment and
considerable
experience
required.
10
-8
10
-9
10
-7
10
-6
10
-5
10
-4
10
-3
10
-2
10
-
1
1.0 10
1
10
2
10
-8
10
-9
10
-7
10
-6
10
-5
10
-4
10
-3
10
-2
10
-
1
1.0 10
1
10
2
COEFFICIENT OF PERMEABILITY
CM/S (LOG SCALE)

Figure 2-17. Range of Hydraulic Conductivity Values Based on Soil Type (after Holtz and
Kovacs, 1981).

Another method of estimating hydraulic conductivity empirically through grain size was
developed by GeoSyntec (1991) and is presented as Figure 2-18 As with Hazens equation,
grain size distribution information is necessary to develop the input parameter (i.e., d
15,
grain
size at 15% passing by weight) of the material. Using this value and the band of values
corresponding to gradient and confining stress, a k value can be estimated. This method, as
with other empirical methods, can only be used to provide an estimated value within 1 to 2
orders of magnitude of the in-situ condition. The lower the permeability and the higher the
variability of grain size in the soil, the higher the error in using empirical relationships based
on uniform particle distribution.
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-56 June 2008

Figure 2-18. Range of Hydraulic Conductivity Based on Grain Size (after GeoSyntec, 1991).

2.7 ROCK PARAMETERS
2.7.1 General
The purpose of this section is to provide an overview of rock parameters required for earth
retaining wall system design, specifically rock mass classification, rock compressive
strength, and rock shear strength. For walls retaining rock or for excavations performed in
rock, it is important to know the possible failure modes of the rock. The actual rupture or
sliding plane behind a retaining wall depends on the spatial orientation, frequency and
distribution of the discontinuities, and the involved shear and interlock resistance to shear
among them (Jumikis, 1983). In general, shear strength for rock is evaluated for smooth
discontinuity, rough discontinuity, infilled discontinuity, and fractured rock mass. Detailed
information on rock parameter for rock slope stability and rock slope design is provided in
the NHI Manual Rock Slopes, FHWA HI-99-007 (Wyllie and Mah, 1998).
2.7.2 Rock Mass Classification
2.7.2.1 Description of Rock Masses
Standardized geologic mapping and logging procedures should be used for describing rock
masses. The types of information collected will depend on site access, extent of rock
1.E-09
1.E-08
1.E-07
1.E-06
1.E-05
1.E-04
1.E-03
1.E-02
1.E-01
1.E+00
1.E+01
0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000
CHARACTERISTIC PARTICLE SIZE, d15, OF THE SOIL (mm)
H
Y
D
R
A
U
L
I
C

C
O
N
D
U
C
T
I
V
I
T
Y
,

k
s

(
c
m
/
s
)

Low Gradient ~ 1 to 2
High Gradient ~ 10
Confining Stress ~ 35 kPa
Confining Stress ~ 210 kPa
5 psi
30 psi
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-57 June 2008
outcrops, and the criticality of the proposed structure to be constructed on or in the rock
mass. A method proposed by the International Society of Rock Mechanics (ISRM) (1981)
provides standardized quantitative and qualitative information on rock masses. This and
other rock mass classification systems are described in ASTM D5878. To introduce and
explain the ISRM method, several figures and tables were prepared, primarily to provide a
standardized definition of terms. Figure 2-19 provides an illustration of a rock mass and the
13 parameters that are included in a detailed rock description. Figure 2-20 shows how these
parameters are divided into five categories. Table 2-13 provides a brief description of each
of the terms. In addition to ISRM (1981), details on the use of this method to characterize
rock masses are provided in Wyllie (1999) and Wyllie and Mah (1998).

Figure 2-19. Illustration of geological mapping terms (after Wyllie, 1999, Foundations on
Rock, Figure 4.4b, p. 101, E&FN Spon).

Using the terms described in Table 2-13 and the first category in Figure 2-20, a typical rock
material description would be as follows (Wyllie, 1999):
slightly weathered, crystalline, gray, fine grained, medium strong basalt
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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Figure 2-20. List of parameters and categories describing rock mass characteristics (after
Wyllie, 1999).
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-59 June 2008
Table 2-13. Description of geological mapping terms.
Term Description
Rock Type The rock type is defined by the origin of the rock (i.e., sedimentary, metamorphic, igneous), color (including
whether light or dark minerals predominate), texture or fabric ranging from crystalline, granular, or glassy,
and grain size ranging from boulders to silt/clay size particles.
Wall Strength The compressive strength of the rock forming the walls of discontinuities will influence shear strength and
deformability. Rock compressive strength categories and grade vary from extremely strong (> 250 MPa
grade R6) to extremely weak (0.25 to 1 MPa grade R0) (see Table 2-14).
Weathering Reduction of rock strength due to weathering will reduce the shear strength of discontinuities as well as
reduce the shear strength of the rock mass due to the reduced strength of the intact rock. Weathering
categories and grades are summarized in Table 2-15.
Discontinuity
Type
The discontinuity type range from smooth tension joints of limited length to faults containing several
centimeters of clay gouge and lengths of many kilometers. Discontinuity types include faults, bedding,
foliation, joints, cleavage, and schistosity.
Discontinuity
Orientation
The orientation of discontinuities is expressed as the dip and dip direction of the surface. Alternatively, the
discontinuity can be represented by strike and dip. The dip of the discontinuity is the maximum angle of the
plane to the horizontal (angle in Figure 2-19) and the dip direction is the direction of the horizontal trace of
the line of dip, measured clockwise from north (angle in Figure 2-19).
Roughness Roughness should be measured in the field on exposed surfaces with lengths of at least 2 m. The degree of
roughness can be quantified in terms of the Joint Roughness Coefficient (JRC) as described in Section 2.7.5.
Wall roughness is an important component of shear strength, especially in the case of undisplaced and
interlocked features (e.g., unfilled joints).
Aperture Aperture is the perpendicular distance separating the adjacent rock walls of an open discontinuity (thereby
distinguishing it from the width of a filled discontinuity), in which the space is air or is water filled.
Categories of aperture range from cavernous (> 1 m) to very tight (< 0.1 mm).
Infilling Type
and Width
Infilling is the term for material separating the adjacent walls of discontinuities such as fault gouge; the
perpendicular distance between adjacent rock walls is termed the width of the filled discontinuity. Filled
discontinuities can demonstrate a wide range of behavior and thus their affect on shear strength and
deformability can vary widely.
Spacing Discontinuity spacing can be mapped in rock faces and in drill core; spacing categories range from extremely
wide (> 6000 mm) to very narrow (< 6 mm). The spacing of individual discontinuities has a strong influence
on the mass permeability and seepage characteristics of the rock mass.
Persistence Persistence is the measure of the continuous length or area of the discontinuity; persistence categories range
from very high (> 20 m) to very low (< 1 m). This parameter is used to define the size of blocks and the
length of potential sliding surfaces. Persistence is important in the evaluation of tension crack development
behind the crest of a slope.
Number of
Sets
The number of sets of discontinuities that intersect one another will influence the extent to which the rock
mass can deform without failure of the intact rock. As the number of sets increases and the block sizes
reduce, the greater the likelihood for blocks to rotate, translate, and crush under applied loads.
Block Size
and Shape
The block size and shape are determined from the discontinuity spacing, persistence, and number of sets.
Block shapes include blocky, tabular, shattered and columnar, while block size ranges from very large (> 8
m
3
) to very small (< 0.0002 m
3
).
Seepage Observations of the seepage from discontinuities should be provided. Seepage quantities in unfilled
discontinuities range from very tight and dry to continuous flow. Seepage quantities in filled discontinuities
range from dry in heavily consolidated infillings to filling materials that are washed out completely and very
high water pressures are experienced.
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-60 June 2008
Table 2-14. Rock Material Strengths.

Grade

Description

Field Identification
Range of Uniaxial
Compressive
Strength (MPa)
R0 Extremely weak
rock
Indented by thumbnail 0.25 1.0
R1 Very weak rock Crumbles under firm blows with point of geological
hammer; can be peeled by a pocket knife
1.0 5.0
R2 Weak rock Can be peeled by a pocket knife with difficulty;
shallow indentations made by firm blow with point of
geological hammer
5.0 25
R3 Medium strong
rock
Cannot be scraped or peeled with a pocket knife;
specimen can be fractured with single firm blow of
geological hammer
25 50
R4 Strong rock Specimen requires more than one blow of geological
hammer to cause fracture
50 100
R5 Very strong rock Specimen requires many blows of geological hammer
to cause fracture
100 250
R6 Extremely strong
rock
Specimen can only be chipped with geological
hammer
> 250
1 MPa = 145 psi
Table 2-15. Weathering Grades.
Term Description Grade
Fresh No visible sign of rock material weathering; slight discoloration on major
discontinuity surfaces is possible
I
Slightly
weathered
Discoloration indicates weathering of rock material and discontinuity surfaces. All
the rock material may be discolored by weathering and the external surface may be
somewhat weaker than in its fresh condition.
II
Moderately
weathered
Less than half of the rock material is decomposed and/or disintegrated to a soil.
Fresh or discolored rock is present either as a discontinuous framework or as
corestones.
III
Highly
weathered
More than half of the rock material is decomposed and/or disintegrated to a soil.
Fresh or discolored rock is present either as a discontinuous framework or as
corestones.
IV
Completely
weathered
All rock material is decomposed and/or disintegrated to soil. The original mass
structure is still largely intact.
V
Residual soil All rock material is converted to soil. The mass structure and material fabric are
destroyed but the apparent structure remains intact. There may be a large change in
volume, but the soil has not been significantly transported.
VI

FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-61 June 2008
An example of a rock mass description using Table 2-13 and the four remaining categories in
Figure 2-20 would be as follows:
Columnar jointed basalt with vertical columns and one set of horizontal joints, spacing
of vertical joints is very wide, spacing of horizontal joints wide, joint lengths are 3 to 5
m vertically, and 0.5 to 1 m horizontally; the discontinuity infilling is very soft clay with
widths of 2 to 5 mm. The vertical columnar joints are smooth, while the horizontal joints
are rough. No seepage observed.
2.7.2.2 Core Recovery and Rock Quality Designation
The easiest way to characterize the amount of material recovered during rock coring is to
calculate core recovery as the amount (i.e. length) of recovered material divided by the
total length of the core run (presented as a percentage). Rock Quality Designation (RQD)
(ASTM D6032) is a modified core recovery percentage in which the lengths of all sound
rock core pieces over 4 in. in length are summed and divided by the length of the core run.
Pieces of core that are not hard and sound should not be included in the RQD evaluation even
if they are at least 4 in. in length. The purpose of the soundness requirement is to downgrade
rock quality where the rock has been altered and/or weakened by weathering. For the RQD
evaluation, lengths must be measured along the centerline of the core. Figure 2-21 illustrates
the correct procedure for calculating core recovery and RQD. Table 2-16 presents the
correlation of RQD to rock quality.
Table 2-16. Rock Quality Description based on RQD.
RQD Value Description of Rock Quality
0-25 % Very poor
25-50 % Poor
50-75 % Fair
75-90 % Good
90-100 % Excellent

The RQD is appropriate for use with all core sizes except for BQ and BX core with NX and
NQ core size being optimal. Core breaks caused by the drilling process should be fitted
together and counted as a single piece of sound core. Drilling breaks are usually evidenced
by rough fresh surfaces, however for laminated rocks (i.e., rocks containing horizontally
oriented fracture surfaces), it may be difficult to identify core breaks caused by drilling.
F
H
W
A

N
H
I
-
0
7
-
0
7
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FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-63 June 2008
In this case, the RQD should be estimated conservatively; for shear strength characterization it is
conservative to not count the length near horizontal breaks whereas for estimates of rock blasting
requirements, it is conservative to count the length near horizontal breaks.
2.7.2.3 CSIR Classification
The ISRM (1981) procedures, coupled with core recovery and RQD designations, provide a means
for describing or characterizing rock and rock masses. A consistent method for rock mass
classification is essential for evaluating rock properties used in design. The two most widely used
rock classification systems were developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
(CSIR) in South Africa (referred to as the Q-rating system) and the Norwegian Geotechnical
Institute (NGI) (referred to as the Geomechanics system). Both of these methods are described in
detail in Wyllie and Mah (1998). The CSIR classification system is the most widely used procedure
in the US. Therefore, in this section an overview of the CSIR system is presented.
The CSIR classification system considers the specific properties or conditions of the rock/rock mass,
as well as an adjustment for the orientations of the joints. The following properties and conditions of
the rock or rock mass are explicitly considered: (1) compressive strength of the intact rock
(discussed in Section 2.7.3); (2) RQD value; (3) joint spacing; (4) condition of the joints; and (5)
groundwater conditions. As shown in Table 2-17, each of these parameters is given a numerical
rating based on the relative importance of the specific parameter on the behavior of the rock mass.
This rating is adjusted to account for joint orientation depending on the favorability of the joint
orientation for the specific project. The overall rating of the rock mass, termed the rock mass rating
(RMR), is calculated as the sum of the individual ratings for each of the five parameters minus the
adjustment for joint orientation (if applicable). Based on the final RMR, the rock mass is classified
as: (1) Class I-very good rock; (2) Class II-good rock; (3) Class III-fair rock; (4) Class IV-poor rock;
and (5) Class V-very poor rock. The RMR can be used to estimate rock mass deformation modulus
and shear strength of the rock mass, however, an alternative (but similar) method (i.e., the
Geological Strength Index described in the next section) is recommended herein.
2.7.2.4 Geological Strength Index
The RMR system previously discussed has been shown to be useful for reasonable quality rock
masses (i.e., 30 < RMR < 70), however, the RMR system is less useful for poorer quality rock
masses primarily because of the importance of RQD in calculating the RMR. That is, for very poor
quality rock masses, the RQD values may be zero (or close to zero), or more importantly, are just
meaningless.

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FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-66 June 2008
An alternative system, referred to as the Geological Strength Index (GSI), was developed.
This system does not require RQD, places greater emphasis on basic geological observations
of rock mass characteristics, and was developed specifically for estimation of rock mass
properties. This index is used with the Hoek-Brown failure criterion for rock masses to
assess rock mass shear strength parameters (i.e., Mohr-Coulomb friction angle and cohesion
intercept) and rock mass modulus. The present form of the GSI was developed to include
poor quality rock masses (Marinos and Hoek, 2000, 2001) (see Figure 2-22) and
heterogeneous rock masses (Marinos and Hoek, 2001) (see Figure 2-23).
In using Figures 2-22 and 2-23, the description of the surface conditions correlates with
descriptions provided in Table 2-15. For example, Very Good on Figure 2-22 corresponds
to fresh, unweathered surfaces (i.e., Grade I from Table 2-15) and Poor on Figure 2-22
corresponds to highly weathered (i.e., Grade IV from Table 2-15).
For better quality rock masses (GSI > 25), the value of GSI can be estimated directly using
RMR by setting the groundwater rating to 10 (dry) and the adjustment for orientation set to
0 (very favorable). For very poor quality rock masses, the value of RMR is very difficult
to estimate as rock cores will likely not provide intact core pieces longer than 4 in.; therefore
RMR should not be used for estimating the GSI for poor quality rock masses, i.e., the GSI
needs to be estimated directly using Figures 2-22 and 2-23 (Marinos et al.. 2004).
The GSI system should not be applied to those rock masses in which there is a clearly
defined dominant structural orientation (e.g., undisturbed slate). If the weathering of the rock
mass has penetrated the rock to the extent that the discontinuities and the structure have been
lost, then the rock mass should be treated as a soil and the GSI system no longer applies
(Marinos et al., 2004).
The use of the GSI system offers a quantitative approach to evaluating rock mass parameters
for geotechnical design. It is noted, however, that while the method provides a way to
capture detailed geological information obtained from a careful and thorough geologic
characterization of the rock mass, only engineers, geologists, or engineering geologists
experienced in using the system and whom have used the system in practice should be called
on to assess rock mass parameters for design, particularly for large or critical foundation
projects are being considered.
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-67 June 2008

Figure 2-22. General Chart for GSI Estimates from Geological Observations (after Marinos
et al., 2004).
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FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-69 June 2008
2.7.3 Compressive Strength of Intact Rock
2.7.3.1 Point-Load Strength Test
The point load strength test is an appropriate method used to estimate the unconfined
compressive strength of rock in which both core samples and fractured rock samples can be
tested. The test is conducted by compressing a piece of the rock between two points on cone-
shaped platens (see Figure 2-24) until the rock specimen breaks in tension between these two
points. Each of the cone points has a 5-mm radius of curvature and the cone bodies
themselves include a 60 apex angle. The equipment is portable, and tests can be carried out
quickly and inexpensively in the field. Because the point load test provides an index value
for the strength, usual practice is to calibrate the results with a limited number of uniaxial
compressive tests on prepared core samples. The point load test is also used with other index
values to assess degradation potential of shales.
If the distance between the platens is D and the breaking load is P, then the point load
strength, I
s
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2
e
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D
P
I = (2-24)
where D
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2
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(2) D
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cross-sectional area of a lump sample for a plane through the platen contact points where W
is the specimen width.
The size-corrected point load strength index, I
s(50)
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of I
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performed on specimens other than 50 mm in diameter, the results can be standardized to the
size-corrected point load strength index according to:
s PLT s
I k I =
) 50 (
(2-25)
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PLT
, is given by:
) ( ) 50 / (
45 . 0
mm in D D k
PLT
= (2-26)
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-70 June 2008

Figure 2-24. Point load strength test equipment.
It has been found, on average, that the uniaxial compressive strength,
c
, is about 20 to 25
times the point load strength index, with a value of 24 commonly used, i.e.,
) 50 (
24
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I = (2-27)
However, tests on many different types of rock show that the ratio can vary between 15 and
50, especially for anisotropic rocks. Consequently, the most reliable results are obtained if a
series of uniaxial calibration tests are carried out. Point load test results are not acceptable if
the failure plane lies partially along a pre-existing fracture in the rock, or is not coincident
with the line between the platens. For tests in weak rock where the platens indent the rock,
the test results should be adjusted by measuring the amount of indentation and correcting the
distance D (Wyllie, 1999). The point load strength test is not recommended for very weak
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-71 June 2008
rocks where the uniaxial compressive strength is less than approximately 3,600 psi. When
performing the point load strength test, information on the degree of weathering should be
noted since the compressive strength of weathered material along the joint may be less than
the uniaxial compressive strength.
2.7.3.2 Unconfined Compressive Strength of Intact Rock Core
The unconfined compressive strength of intact rock core can be evaluated reasonably
accurately using ASTM D 2938. In this test, rock specimens or regular geometry, generally
rock cores, are used. The rock core specimen is cut to length so that the length to diameter
ratio is 2.5 to 3.0 and the ends of the specimen are machined flat. The ASTM test standard
provides tolerance requirements related to the flatness of the ends of the specimen, the
perpendicularity of the ends of the specimens, and the smoothness of the length of the
specimen. The specimen is placed in a loading frame. Axial load is then continuously
applied to the specimen until peak load and failure are obtained. The unconfined (or
uniaxial) compressive strength of the specimen is calculated by dividing the maximum load
carried by the specimen during the test by the initial cross-sectional area of the specimen.
This test is more expensive than the point load strength test, but is also more accurate.
Careful consideration of the design requirements should be made in deciding whether to
perform this test or the simpler point load strength test.
2.7.4 Smooth Discontinuity
The shear strength for a smooth discontinuity is represented by a friction angle of the parent
rock material. To evaluate the friction angle of this type of discontinuity surface for design,
direct shear tests on samples can be performed. The range of typical friction angles provided
in Table 2-18 should be used in evaluating measured values.
Table 2-18. Typical Ranges of Friction Angles For A Variety Of Rock Types
(after Barton, 1973 and Jaeger and Cook, 1976).

Rock Class Range of Friction Angles
(1)
Typical Rock Types
Low Friction 20 27 Schist, shale, and marl
Medium Friction 27 34 Sandstone, siltstone, chalk, gneiss, slate
High Friction 34 40 Basalt, granite, limestone, conglomerate
Note:
(1)
Values assume no infilling and little relative movement between joint faces.
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2.7.5 Rough Discontinuity
The shear strength of a discontinuity surface is related to the roughness of the discontinuity
(i.e., +i) where is the rock friction angle and i is the roughness of the discontinuity. The
magnitude of additional strength resulting from roughness for a given normal load will
depend on the roughness profile and the compressive strength of the joint wall. Equation 2-
28 can be used to obtain an estimate of the joint roughness angle, i, for cases where the
normal stresses for design are within the range of 1 to 30 percent of the joint compressive
strength.

=
'
10
JCS
log JRC i

(2-28)
where JRC is the joint roughness coefficient, JCS is the compressive strength of the rock
adjacent to the fracture surface, and is the effective normal stress.
The roughness of the fracture surface is defined by the joint roughness coefficient. By
comparing a fracture surface in the field to the standard profiles (see Figure 2-25), the JRC
value can be evaluated.
Normal stress ranges between 1 to 30 percent are common for many rock slopes. For values
less than 1 percent or greater than 30 percent, this procedure is not valid. The maximum
value for (+i) should be 50 and the minimum value is simply the friction angle of the intact
rock corresponding to stress and deformation levels sufficiently large to have sheared
through all asperities (i.e., zero dilation). A typical value for the basic rock friction (i.e., for a
smooth discontinuity) is 30.
2.7.6 Infillings
When a major discontinuity with a significant thickness of filling is encountered in a rock
mass to be excavated or where the discontinuity is adversely dipping, the designer should
assume that shear failure would occur through this material. Figure 2-26 presents a general
method of characterizing joint fillings according to whether the filling material is undisplaced
or displaced and whether the filling material is normally consolidated or overconsolidated.
The effects of the type of infilling and parent rock can have a significant effect on strength
parameters.
For fillings that are displaced, it should be assumed that the material is at or near residual
strength conditions in the field. The residual strength of the material can be evaluated in the
laboratory using a direct shear-testing device in which samples of the filling material are
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
Earth Retaining Structures 2-73 June 2008
reconstituted into the direct shear-testing device at the in-situ moisture content. If the filling
is judged to be undisplaced, then the designer needs to evaluate whether the proposed
structure can be expected to undergo minimal deformations such that the peak strength of the
infilling can be used in design. If it becomes critical to evaluate the peak strength of the
infilling (including both friction angle and cohesion intercept), it will likely be necessary to
perform laboratory or in-situ direct shear tests of the infilling material. If laboratory testing
is selected, great care must be exercised in obtaining samples for testing. The sample halves
should not be displaced relative to each other and the samples should be sealed after
collection to minimize moisture losses.
2.7.7 Shear Strength of Fractured Rock Masses
The shear strength of fractured rock masses can be evaluated using the method reported in
Hoek et al. (2002). This method is based on the well-known Hoek-Brown failure criterion
originally introduced in 1980. The method uses the GSI and is applicable over a range of
very poor quality rock masses to stronger rocks. The three parameters defining the curved
shear stress-normal stress envelope of the fractured rock mass are the uniaxial compressive
strength of the intact rock pieces,
ci
, and three dimensionless constants m
b
, s, and a.
The generalized Hoek-Brown criterion is expressed as:
a
ci
b ci
s m

+ + =


'
3 '
3
'
1
(2-29)
where
1

and
3

are the major and minor principal stresses in the rock mass and m
b
is a
reduced value of the material constant m
i
and is given as:

=
D
GSI
m m
i b
14 28
100
exp (2-30)
The constants s and a for the rock mass are given by:

=
D
GSI
s
3 9
100
exp (2-31)
( )
3 / 20 15 /
6
1
2
1

+ = e e a
GSI
(2-32)

FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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Figure 2-25. Definition of Joint Roughness Coefficient, JRC (after Barton, 1973).
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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Figure 2-26. Simplified Division of Filled Discontinuities into Displaced, and Normally
Consolidated and Overconsolidated Categories (after Wyllie, 1999).

The parameter D is a factor which depends on the degree of disturbance to which the rock
mass has been subjected by blast damage and stress relaxation. It varies from 0 for
undisturbed in situ rock masses to 1 for very disturbed rock masses.
The equations described herein are incorporated into the Windows program RocLab.
RocLab can be downloaded (free of charge) from the internet site www.rocscience.com.
Figures 2-27, 2-28, and 2-29 show typical windows in RocLab to estimate ci, GSI, and mi.
With these values, the program calculates the Mohr-Coulomb shear strength parameters and
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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Figure 2-27. RocLab Window to Select Uniaxial Compressive Strength of Intact Rock.

provides the nonlinear Hoek-Brown failure envelope (see Figure 2-30). The uniaxial
compressive strength of the rock mass is also provided.
As an example, the RocLab software was used to develop rock mass shear strength
parameters for a moderately to highly weathered clay shale in southeast Ohio. Laboratory
uniaxial compression tests yielded an average
ci
of 0.44 kips per square inch (ksi). A GSI of
30 was selected with an m
i
value of 6 for shale. The best-fit shear strength parameters for
this rock mass are a friction angle of 20.67 and a cohesion intercept of 0.013 ksi. In using
these parameters, the user should take note the best-fit Mohr-Coulomb parameters tend to
overestimate the Hoek-Brown shear strengths at low normal stresses. The user should select
a shear strength consistent with the normal stress level being considered in the design.


FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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Figure 2-28. RocLab Window to Select GSI.

2.7.8 Permeability
The in-situ permeability of rock should be investigated because the presence of groundwater
in a rock mass can have detrimental effects on stability if the rock face is exposed as part of
wall construction. Water pressures within the discontinuities (e.g., tension cracks or vertical
fissures) of the rock can reduce the stability of the rock mass.
The permeability of intact rock is generally very low and therefore poor drainage and low
discharge would normally be expected in such material; however, if the rock is
discontinuous, the permeability can be considerably higher. Table 2-19 summarizes the
permeability of typical rocks. Typically, discontinuities in the rock act as channels for the
water flow and virtually all groundwater storage and flow occurs in these discontinuities.
The discontinuities can be empty (relatively higher permeability) or filled with clay
(relatively lower permeability) (see Table 2-19). The influence of joint openings and joint
spacing on permeability of rock masses is presented in Figure 2-31.
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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Figure 2-29. RocLab Window to Select m
i
Value.
The permeability of a rock mass can be determined from laboratory and field tests.
However, it should be kept in mind that laboratory testing of intact rock is not a reliable
method for measuring permeability of a rock mass. This is because the majority of the
groundwater in rock mass is carried in the discontinuities and very little through the intact
rock. The permeability of the rock mass in the field can be measured from pumping or
Lugeon tests. These tests are performed by first pumping water into or out of a borehole
section between two packers and then measuring the changes in groundwater levels in the
rock due to this pumping. Details of these tests can be found in Wyllie and Mah (1998) and
Mayne et al. (2001).
It should be noted that just because no seepage appears on the rock face does not mean no
groundwater is present in the rock. In many cases, the seepage rate may be lower than the
evaporation rate and hence the rock face may appear dry. Yet there may be water at
significant pressure within the rock mass. It is the water pressure and not the rate of flow
that is responsible for instability in slopes and it is essential that such water pressures be
considered in design.
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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Figure 2-30. Shear Strength Parameters for Weathered Shale using RocLab Software.
Table 2-19. Permeability of Typical Rocks and Soils (after Wyllie and Mah, 1998).
k-cm/s Intact Rock Fractured Rock Soil
10
-10

10
-9

10
-8

Practicallly
Impermeable
10
-7

Slate

Dolomite

Granite
Homogeneous clay below zone of
weathering
10
-6

10
-5

10
-4

Low Discharge
Poor Discharge
10
-3


Clay-filled joints
Very fine sands, organic and inorganic
silts, mixtures of sand and clay, glacial
till, stratified clay deposits.
10
-2

10
-1

1
10
1

High Discharge
Free Drainage
10
2

Jointed Rock

Open-jointed rock

Heavily fractured rock

Clean sand, clean sand and gravel
mixtures.

Clean gravel
FHWA NHI-07-071 2 Geotechnical Parameters
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1.E-08
1.E-07
1.E-06
1.E-05
1.E-04
1.E-03
1.E-02
1.E-01
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1
Joint Opening, e (in)
P
e
r
m
e
a
b
i
l
i
t
y

c
o
e
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
t
,

k

(
f
t
/
s
e
c
)
J
o
i
n
t

S
p
a
c
i
n
g
,

b
:

4

i
n
c
h
e
s
J
o
i
n
t

S
p
a
c
i
n
g
,

b
:

0
.
4

i
n
c
h
e
s
J
o
i
n
t

S
p
a
c
i
n
g
,

b
:

4
0

i
n
c
h
e
s
1.E-08
1.E-07
1.E-06
1.E-05
1.E-04
1.E-03
1.E-02
1.E-01
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1
Joint Opening, e (in)
P
e
r
m
e
a
b
i
l
i
t
y

c
o
e
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
t
,

k

(
f
t
/
s
e
c
)
J
o
i
n
t

S
p
a
c
i
n
g
,

b
:

4

i
n
c
h
e
s
J
o
i
n
t

S
p
a
c
i
n
g
,

b
:

0
.
4

i
n
c
h
e
s
J
o
i
n
t

S
p
a
c
i
n
g
,

b
:

4
0

i
n
c
h
e
s



Figure 2-31. Influence of Joint Openings and Joint Spacing on the Permeability of Rocks
(after Hoek and Bray, 1977).
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-1 June 2008
CHAPTER 3
LATERAL EARTH AND WATER PRESSURES
3.1 INTRODUCTION
This chapter describes the principles for the evaluation of lateral earth pressures and water
pressures used in the design of earth retaining structures. These pressures are used to
compute a total lateral pressure diagram to be used in assessing the forces acting on the wall
from the backfill or retained ground. This chapter focuses primarily on theoretical earth
pressure diagrams which are most commonly used in the design of rigid gravity structures,
nongravity cantilevered walls, MSE walls, and anchored walls with stiff structural facings
(e.g., diaphragm walls).
In LRFD, earth pressures and water pressures (and the resultant forces) are multiplied by a
load factor and are combined into various load groups (see Section 3 of AASHTO (2007)).
This load factor provides a quantitative way to account for the uncertainties associated with a
given load. This chapter provides information on unfactored earth and water pressures
which are equivalent to earth and water pressures that would be used in ASD. The use and
application of load factors is described in subsequent chapters for each wall type.
A wall system is designed to resist lateral earth pressures and water pressures that develop
behind the wall. Earth pressures develop primarily as a result of loads induced by the weight
of the backfill and/or retained (in-situ) soil, earthquake ground motions, and various
surcharge loads. For purposes of earth retaining system design, three different lateral earth
pressures are usually considered: (1) at-rest earth pressure; (2) active earth pressure; and (3)
passive earth pressure.
At-rest earth pressure is defined as the lateral pressure that exists in level ground for a
condition of no lateral deformation.
Active earth pressure is developed as the wall moves away from the backfill or the
retained soil. This movement results in a decrease in lateral pressure relative to the
at-rest condition. A relatively small amount of lateral movement is necessary to reach
the active condition.
Passive earth pressure is developed as the wall moves towards the backfill or the
retained soil. This movement results in an increase in lateral pressure relative to the
at-rest condition. The movements required to reach the passive condition are
approximately ten times greater than those required to develop active earth pressure.
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
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Each of these earth pressure conditions can be expressed by an equation with the general
form:

v h
K = (3-1)
where
h
is the lateral earth pressure at a given depth behind the wall,
v
, is the vertical stress
at the same depth, and K is the earth pressure coefficient that can relate to at-rest earth
pressure (K
o
), active earth pressure (K
a
), or passive earth pressure (K
p
).
The magnitude of the active and passive earth pressure coefficients are functions of the soil
shear strength, the backfill geometry (i.e., horizontal backfill surface or sloping ground
surface above the wall), the orientation of the surface where the wall contacts the backfill or
retained soil (i.e., vertical or battered), and the friction and cohesive forces that develops on
this surface as the wall moves relative to the retained ground. The magnitude of these earth
pressure coefficients follow the relationship of K
p
> K
o
> K
a
. The relationship between the
earth pressure conditions and their associated lateral movements for a rigid gravity wall and
for a nongravity cantilevered wall are illustrated in Figure 3-1. Additional discussion on the
relationship between wall movement and development of earth pressures is provided in
Section 3.5.

3.2 EARTH PRESSURE THEORY
3.2.1 Active and Passive Earth Pressures
Active and passive horizontal earth pressures may be considered in terms of limiting
horizontal stresses within the soil mass, and, for purposes of this initial discussion, a smooth
(i.e., zero wall friction) wall retaining ground with a horizontal backslope is considered
(Figure 3-2); this case defines Rankine conditions. Consider an element of soil in the ground
under a vertical effective stress,
v
(Figure 3-3). In considering the potential movements of
a retaining wall, the element may be brought to failure in two distinct ways. The horizontal
soil stress may be increased until the soil element fails at Point B, when the stress reaches its
maximum value
h (max)
. This scenario will occur when significant outward movement of the
wall increases the lateral passive earth pressure in the soil at the base of the wall (see Figure
3-2). Similarly, the horizontal stress may be reduced until failure at Point A, when the stress
reaches its minimum value
h (min)
. This scenario models the outward movement which
reduces the lateral active earth pressures behind the wall (see Figure 3-2).

FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-3 June 2008
Passive zone
RIGID GRAVITY WALL
NON-GRAVITY CANTILEVERED WALL
(CONTINUOUS VERTICAL ELEMENTS)
Active pressure
zone
Active pressure
zone
Passive pressure
zone
H
H
H
Passive zone
LATERAL
PRESSURE
PASSIVE
CONDITION
WALL MOVEMENT / WALL HEIGHT - /H
ACTIVE
CONDITION
AT-REST
CONDITION

Figure 3-1. Magnitudes and Patterns of Movement to Develop Lateral Earth Pressures
(after Sabatini et al., 1997).
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-4 June 2008

Figure 3-2. Mobilization of Rankine Active and Passive Horizontal Pressures for a Smooth
Retaining Wall.




Figure 3-3. Limiting Active and Passive Horizontal Pressures.
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-5 June 2008
The geometry of Figure 3-3 gives the following two relationships:
) 2 45 ( tan
sin 1
sin 1
'
' 2
'
'
(min)

=
+

= =

a
v
h
K (3-2)
) 2 45 ( tan
sin 1
sin 1
K
'
' 2
'
'
P
v
(max) h
+ =

+
= =

(3-3)
where K
a
is the active earth pressure coefficient and K
p
is the passive earth pressure
coefficient. The definitions of K
a
and K
p
, based on equations 3-2 and 3-3, are consistent with
a Rankine analysis for a cohesionless (i.e., c=0) retained soil.
For a cohesive soil defined by effective stress strength parameters and c, the active and
passive earth pressure coefficients are:
) 2 / 45 ( tan
2
) 2 / 45 ( tan
' 2
'
'
' 2

=
v
a
c
K (3-4)
) 2 / 45 ( tan
2
) 2 / 45 ( tan
' 2
'
'
' 2

+ + + =
v
p
c
K (3-5)
In addition to the Rankine theory discussed above, values of active and passive earth pressure
coefficients (K
a
and K
p
respectively) can also be calculated using the Coulomb theory.
Rankines theory is discussed further in Section 3.2.3 and Coulombs theory is described in
Section 3.2.4.
3.2.2 At-Rest Earth Pressure
The at-rest earth pressure represents the lateral effective stress that exists in a natural soil in
its undisturbed state. For cut walls constructed in near normally consolidated soils, the at-
rest earth pressure coefficient, K
o
, can be approximated by the equation (Jaky, 1944):

'
sin 1 =
o
K (3-6)
where is the effective (drained) friction angle of the soil. The magnitude of the at-rest
earth pressure coefficient is primarily a function of soil shear strength and degree of
overconsolidation where this overconsolidation may result from natural geologic processes
for retained ground or from compaction effects for backfill soils.
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-6 June 2008
In overconsolidated soils, K
o
can be estimated as (Schmidt, 1966):

= = ) )( sin 1 (
'
'
'
OCR K
v
h
o

(3-7)
where is a dimensionless coefficient which, for most soils, can be taken as sin (Mayne
and Kulhawy, 1982) and OCR is the soil overconsolidation ratio (previously defined in
Section 2.6.5).
Usually, these correlations for the at-rest earth pressure coefficient are sufficiently accurate
for normally to lightly overconsolidated soils provided the overconsolidation ratio has been
evaluated from laboratory consolidation testing. For moderately to heavily overconsolidated
clays, or where a more accurate assessment is required, laboratory triaxial tests on
undisturbed samples and in-situ testing such as pressuremeter testing may be used (see
Sabatini, et al., 2002).
For normally consolidated clay, K
o
is typically in the range of 0.55 to 0.65; for sands, the
typical range is 0.4 to 0.5. For lightly overconsolidated clays (OCR 4), K
o
may reach a
value up to 1; for heavily overconsolidated clays (OCR > 4), K
o
values may range up to or
greater than 2. For heavily overconsolidated soils, values for K
o
(and hence at-rest earth
pressure) can be very large and would thus result in the need for a relatively stiff wall to
resist these large forces. For walls constructed in such soils, consideration should be given to
performing pressuremeter tests which provide a direct measure of lateral pressures in the
ground.
In the context of wall design using, for example, steel soldier beams or sheet-pile wall
elements, design earth pressures based on at-rest conditions are not typically used. Using at-
rest earth pressures implicitly assumes that the wall system undergoes no lateral deformation.
This condition may be appropriate for use in designing heavily preloaded, stiff wall systems,
but designing to this stringent (i.e., zero wall movement) requirement for flexible wall
systems is not practical. The relationship between earth pressures and movement for flexible
anchored walls is discussed subsequently.
3.2.3 Rankine Earth Pressure Theory
The pressure distributions which result from an assumption of active or passive failure
throughout the failing blocks of soil are shown in Figure 3-4(a) for the case of soil possessing
no cohesion intercept and in Figure 3-4(b) for soil with a cohesion intercept. These assume a
planar failure surface, a smooth wall and a horizontal surface to the retained soil. The
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-7 June 2008
effective pressure acting at any point at depth, z, below the surface is, for a cohesionless soil
and a groundwater table:
p
a
= K
a
(z - u) (3-8)
p
p
= K
p
(z - u) (3-9)
and for a soil with an effective stress cohesion intercept
p
a
= K
a
(z - u) - 2c
a
K (3-10)
p
p
= K
p
(z - u) + 2c
p
K (3-11)
In Figures 3-4(a) and (b), a constant soil unit weight, , is assumed and z is measured from
the ground surface for active earth pressure calculations and from the excavated surface for
passive earth pressure calculations. A triangular distribution of porewater pressure is also
assumed. This corresponds in Figures 3-4(a) and (b) to a water table at the ground surfaces
behind the wall and at the excavation level.

u
p
p p
a
u
2cK
a
2cK
p
z
z
u
p
p p
a
u
2cK
a
2cK
p
z
z

(a) (b)
Figure 3-4. (a) Wall Pressures for a Cohesionless Soil; and (b) Wall Pressures for Soil with a
Cohesion Intercept (after Padfield and Mair, 1984).

The horizontal total stress acting on the wall is always the sum of the horizontal effective
stress and the water pressure. Thus, at depth, z, the total stresses, p
a
and p
p
are given by
z
z
u u
p
p
p
a
z
z
u u
p
p
p
a
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-8 June 2008
p
a
= p
a
+ u (3-12)
p
p
= p
p
+ u (3-13)
The pressures on the wall can also be considered solely in terms of total stress, but this is an
approach which is only strictly valid for conditions immediately after wall construction. The
relevant soil strength parameters are then c=s
u
and =0. If s
u
is substituted for c in Equations
3-12 and 3-13, with K
a
= K = 1 for =0, the total stresses are given by:
p
a
= K
a
(z - u) 2s
u
a
K + u (3-14)
= z 2s
u
(3-15)

p
p
= K
p
(z - u) + 2 s
u

p
K + u (3-16)
= z + 2s
u
(3-17)
3.2.4 Coulomb Earth Pressure Theory
Coulomb theory is based on plane wedge theory and considers the effect of wall friction (via
the angle in Figure 3-5), sloping backfill and sloping wall face. Calculation of active and
passive earth pressure coefficients based on Coulomb theory is given in Figure 3-5. The
active and passive pressures calculated with this method are commonly known as the
Coulomb earth pressures. Since Coulombs method is based on limit equilibrium of a wedge
of soil, only the magnitude and direction of the earth pressure is found with this method.
Pressure distributions and the location of the resultant are assumed to be triangular. Specific
limitations on the use of Coulomb theory for wall design are discussed in Section 3.2.5.
Coulombs method will result in the same lateral pressures as for the Rankine analysis for the
case where = = = 0.
3.2.5 Effect of Wall Friction on Earth Pressures
In practice, walls are not smooth. Both wall friction and wall adhesion modify the stress
distribution near a wall, so wall friction, , and wall adhesion, c
w
, should both be considered
as proportions of , and c or s
u
, respectively. For the type of wall considered here, the
frictional force exerted by the wall on the soil is in the sense shown in Figure 3-6. The active
wedge moves down with respect to the wall, while the passive wedge moves upwards.
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-9 June 2008

Figure 3-5. Coulomb Coefficients K
a
and K
p
for Sloping Wall with Wall Friction and
Sloping Backfill (after NAVFAC, 1986).
An important exception to this is when the wall acts as a significant load-bearing element,
when large vertical loads are applied to the top of the wall, or when an inclined ground
anchor is stressed to an appreciable load. In such cases, the wall has to move down relative
to the soil on both sides of the wall in order to mobilize the required skin friction to support
the load. Therefore, the friction acts to increase the pressures on both the active and passive
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-10 June 2008
sides, because it acts on the soil wedges in a downward direction. This effect, however, is
ignored because limiting (or failure) conditions are considered in calculation of overall
stability and the directions in which the frictional forces act should be taken as shown in
Figure 3-6.
Active wedge
1
Passive wedge
2
Active wedge
1
Passive wedge
2

Note: (1) Active wedge moving downward relative to wall
(2) Passive wedge moving upward relative to wall.
Figure 3-6. Wall Friction on Soil Wedges (after Padfield and Mair, 1984).
Wall friction has an important effect on soil pressures, and Equations 3-10 and 3-11 have to
be made more general:
p
a
= K
a
(z - u) - K
ac
c (3-18)
p
p
= K
p
(z - u) + K
pc
c (3-19)
where K
a
and K
p
depend on and K
ac
and K
pc
depend on and c
w
, and p
a
and p
p
are the
components of effective pressure normal to the wall. Guidance on the selection of
appropriate values of and c
w
for design are provided in Section 3.6.1 and are noted
specifically, as necessary, for individual wall types in the remainder of this manual.
The effect of wall friction on the Rankine and Coulomb methods of earth pressure
computation is as follows:
1. The Rankine method cannot take account of wall friction, and accordingly K
a

is overestimated slightly, and K
p
is under estimated, thereby making the
Rankine method conservative for most applications.
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2. The Coulomb theory can take account of wall friction, but the results are
unreliable for passive earth pressures for wall friction angle values greater
than /3 because of the assumed planar failure surface. The failure wedges
assumed in the Coulomb analysis take the form shown as straight lines in
Figure 3-7. This may be contrasted with the shapes observed in model tests,
which are curved. The curvature results from the disturbing influence of wall
friction on the stress field near the wall. The error in the Coulomb solutions is
that K
a
is underestimated slightly, while K
p
is overestimated (very
significantly for higher values of ).
If the angle of wall friction () is low, the failure surface is almost plane. For high values of
, the failure surface is curved and can be approximated by a log-spiral curve. The deviation
of the curved surface from a plane surface is minor for the active case and significant for the
passive case as shown in Figure 3-7. For most wall applications, the effect of wall friction on
active earth pressures is relatively small and is often ignored.
For the passive case, a large angle of wall friction causes downward tangential shear forces to
act on the passive wedge of soil adjacent to the wall, increasing its resistance to upward
movement. This, in turn, causes a curved failure surface to occur in the soil, as shown in
Figure 3-7b. The soil fails on this curved surface of least resistance and not on the Coulomb
plane, which would require greater lateral driving force. Hence, passive pressures computed
on the basis of the plane wedge theory are always higher than those calculated on the basis of
a log-spiral failure surface and may be on the unsafe side.
3.2.6 Equivalent Fluid Pressure
Equivalent fluid pressures provide a means of estimating design (unfactored) earth pressures.
Although Clough and Duncan (1991) suggest that the use of equivalent fluid pressures is
convenient for use with clayey backfills, AASHTO (2007) Section 3.11.5.5 states, the
equivalent- fluid method shall only be used where the backfill is free draining.
The basic earth pressure, p, is:
p =
eq
z (3-20)
where:
eq
= equivalent fluid density of soil, not less than 30 pcf and z = depth below surface
of soil. The use of equivalent fluid pressure requires information on backfill soil material
properties and geometry of the wall. For these reasons, the equivalent fluid density of soil
can change if the wall cross section geometry changes.
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(b) Passive Case ( = 30, = 30)
Actual Failure Surface
Failure Surface by Coulomb
Analysis
(a) Active Case ( = 30, = 30)

Figure 3-7. Comparison of Plane and Curved (Log-Spiral) Failure Surfaces (a) Active Case
and (b) Passive Case (after Sokolovski, 1954).

The resultant horizontal earth load acts at a height of H/3. Typical values of equivalent fluid
unit weights for wall heights not exceeding 20 ft for loose sand or gravel, medium dense sand
or gravel, and dense sand or gravel are provided in Table 3-1. Values are presented for at-
rest conditions and for walls that can tolerate movements of 1 in. in 20 ft (i.e., /H = 1/240)
and for level backfill and sloped backfills with equal to 25 degrees (approximately a 2H:1V
backfill slope).
Table 3-1. Typical Values for Equivalent Fluid Unit Weight of Soils (after AASHTO, 2007).
Level Backfill Backfill with = 25
Type of Soil
At-rest

eq
(pcf)
Active
/H = 1/240

eq
(pcf)
At-rest

eq
(pcf)
Active
/H = 1/240

eq
(pcf)
Loose sand or gravel 55 40 65 50
Medium dense sand or gravel 50 35 60 45
Dense sand or gravel 45 30 55 40
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The vertical component of the earth pressure resultant for the case of sloping backfill surface
can be calculated from:
P
v
= P
h
tan (3-21)
P
h
= 0.5
eq
H
2
(3-22)

3.3 TEMPORARY CONDITIONS
3.3.1 General
The critical case for a wall constructed in soft to medium clays is the short-term (or
temporary) case and earth pressures are evaluated using total stress evaluations (with
undrained strength parameters) presented previously, or, for some cut walls, using apparent
earth pressure diagrams (discussed subsequently). For a fill wall which uses clayey backfill,
the condition of the clay soil will more likely be closer to a stiff to hard clay (due to typical
field placement moisture content and use of compaction) thus making the long-term or
drained condition more critical. A discussion on the appropriateness of using total stress
analyses (with undrained strength parameters) for stiff to hard clays is discussed below.
Additional discussion on the use of undrained versus drained strength parameters is provided
in Section 2.3.2
3.3.2 Softening
In some circumstances it may be appropriate to apply total stress calculations using the soil
undrained shear strength. The risk of employing such an analysis is directly related to the
rate and degree of softening that the clay soil may experience during the service life of the
wall.
Construction of a retaining wall significantly changes the state of stress in the soil. Soil
behind the wall is unloaded horizontally, and in service the long-term stresses are likely to be
given by:

v
= z u (3-23)

h
= K
a

v
(3-24)
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In this case, because K
a
is less than unity, the average effective normal stress of the soil is
now very much reduced (typically by a factor of between 2 and 3) compared to the stresses in
the soil before the wall was constructed. The soil responds by drawing in water, thereby
causing the soil to soften with time.
Soil in front of the wall, at the surface of the excavation, is unloaded vertically. However,
depending on the amount of this vertical unloading, the horizontal stresses may have
increased, as a result of the passive pressure exerted by the wall. Nevertheless, the average
normal stress generally decreases as a result of these two influences, because the reduction of
vertical stress (caused by excavation) usually outweighs any increase in horizontal stress
resulting from the pressure exerted by the wall. As is the case for soil behind the wall,
porewater pressures are temporarily lowered in the short-term. As these return to
equilibrium, the soil softens.
Two features combine to make the process of softening proceed faster than would be
predicted from consideration of just the permeability of the clay soil. These are tension
cracks and soil fabric, which are discussed below.
3.3.3 Tension Cracks
The theoretical active pressure distribution for a soil possessing a cohesion intercept is shown
in Figure 3-4(b). Immediately upon loading, when the original strength of the soil can be
characterized by c
u
(also referred to as s
u
), the diagram takes the form shown in Figure 3-8.
The total active pressure in the short term acting on a smooth wall is given by Equation 3-15.
Over a depth of about 2c
u
/, the theoretical lateral pressure is negative. Soil cannot support
tension for long, so tension cracks may penetrate to this depth. The cracks may fill with any
available water, and this then causes the surrounding soil to soften rapidly. Unless specific
drainage measures are in place to prevent surface water infiltration, it should be assumed that
the crack becomes filled with water and that hydrostatic water pressures act to this depth.
Based on this discussion, one may conclude that if the cohesive strength component of the
soil is large enough and if protection from surface water infiltration is provided, that there
may be occasion where the wall would be supporting only negligible loads (if any). This
may be the case for short-term conditions, but for most design analyses, the formation of
tension cracks should be assumed and the depth of tension cracks can be estimated as:

u
o
c
z
2
= (3-25)
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Figure 3-8. Earth Pressure Immediately After Loading (after Padfield and Mair, 1984).
However, for such cohesive materials, the critical shear strength condition corresponds to
long-term conditions wherein the negative pore pressures in the soil (resulting from
movement of the wall away from the backfill or retained ground) dissipate and the cohesive
strength component may reduce to near zero. In general, the use of the cohesive component
of strength in retaining wall designs should be based on previous experience in the same soil
deposit. The depth of tension cracks for the long-term, drained condition of a cohesive soil
can be estimated as:
a
o
K
c
z

'
2
= (3-26)
3.3.4 Soil Fabric
Stiff overconsolidated clays are generally layered as a result of variations in the depositional
environment. Extremely small sandy or silty partings can have a large effect on the
horizontal permeability of the soil. This influences the rate at which water may migrate from
one part of the soil mass to another, and the rate at which water may be drawn into the soil.
If the laminations dip, they may form preferred slip planes, with ready access to water, and
these are therefore particularly prone to softening.
2c
u
2c
u
H
2c
u
/
d
d + 2c
u (d+H) - 2c
u
z
z
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Superimposed on the laminated fabric of a typical stiff overconsolidated clay deposit is a
network of joints and fissures. When stresses are released, the fissures may form
interconnections between the coarser-grained partings, and they ensure that the permeability
of the soil is much greater than is the case for an intact mass.
Based on the discussion provided herein, it is apparent that the selection of engineering
parameters for temporary wall designs involving stiff overconsolidated clays is difficult.
This is further complicated by the difficulty in obtaining samples for laboratory testing since
such soils may be highly fissured. Unless local experience in the same soil type and/or
successful retaining wall design experience is available, it is prudent to evaluate earth
pressures (and total pressures) for wall system designs in moderately to heavily
overconsolidated materials using both undrained and drained strength parameters, and then to
perform the design for the largest wall pressures.

3.4 PERMANENT CONDITIONS
For design of permanent earth retaining systems, long-term conditions need to be considered.
The appropriate calculations should always be carried out in terms of effective stresses and
water pressures.
Under long-term conditions, in clays where the water table is close to the ground surface (as
is often the case), the depth of any permanent tension crack is associated with the cohesion
intercept, c according to Equation 3-26. Permanent tension cracks could theoretically only
exist to relatively shallow depths below the surface, and, in this region, c values are usually
very small because of weathering and the low stress level. Therefore, tension cracks under
these long-term conditions are generally not assumed for design purposes.
If the water table is well below ground level, tension cracks may develop as a result of
negative porewater pressures in the clay above the water table (because of capillary rise), or
as a result of desiccation of the upper layers. The depth of such cracks, however, depends on
factors which are difficult to quantify (e.g. the degree of access of surface water to the clay,
and the seasonal effects of droughts and vegetation). Under these conditions, tension cracks
filled with water should be considered for design.
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3.5 INFLUENCE OF MOVEMENT ON EARTH PRESSURES
3.5.1 General
The simple linear assumptions about active and passive pressures described previously are a
considerable simplification of some very complex processes, which depend on the following
factors:
mode of wall movement (e.g., rotation, translation)
wall flexibility
soil stress/strain properties
horizontal prestress in the ground (high K
o
)
distribution of soil stiffness with depth.
3.5.2 Magnitude of Movement Needed to Mobilize Limit Pressures
The form of the relationship between the magnitude of movement of a retaining wall (in this
case rotated into or away from the retained material about its toe) and the horizontal pressure
exerted by the soil on the wall is usually presented as in Figure 3-9, with angular movement
along the x axis and the mobilized coefficient of lateral earth pressure on the y axis. The
curve shown relates to tests on dense sand, and was first derived by Terzaghi. Two
observations should be made from Figure 3-9:
1. The magnitude of the passive coefficient is much greater than the active.
2. The deformation needed to mobilize the full passive limit pressure is much greater
than that required to mobilize active resistance.
For fill walls, however, zero passive resistance is usually assumed in the design so the
required displacement to mobilize passive resistance is really a non-issue. For cut wall
systems, however, the lateral resistance of the toe of the wall is a principal source of wall
stability.
While Figure 3-9 provides some quantitative information regarding movements, it does not
provide any information on what the effect of the installation of the wall itself may be on
future deformations. For example, the process of installation of a slurry (diaphragm) wall or
tangent/secant pile wall prior to excavation in front of the wall will inevitably cause some
ground movement, and therefore may reduce the horizontal stress in the soil from its original
in-situ value. On the other hand, driving a sheet-pile wall tends to cause an increase of
horizontal stress (1<K<K
p
), so excavation is likely to mobilize passive pressures in the soil in
front of the wall after even only small movements.
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3.5.3 Flexibility of the Wall
A relatively stiff wall attracts load and imposes a deformation condition on the soil which, in
turn, affects the soil pressure distribution. The typical triangular lateral pressure diagrams
assume a stiff wall structure. In contrast, in a flexible wall (e.g. an anchored or braced sheet-
pile wall), the mid-span is able to flex outward. This lowers the pressure at approximately
the mid-height of the wall while simultaneously causing higher pressures to develop at the
location of the brace (strut) or ground anchor.
Peculiarities in the pattern of deformation can result in pressures lower than the K
a
limit over
parts of the wall, which are offset by corresponding areas at higher levels over which the
pressures are significantly higher than the limit value. This phenomenon is often referred to
as arching.
3.5.4 Influence of Movement on Soil Properties
The two main parameters characterizing clayey soil (i.e., cohesive soil) strength are both
affected when an overconsolidated clay is sheared, but, for the purposes of retaining wall
design, is affected much less than c. For cohesionless soils, the drained friction angle is
relatively unaffected by soil movement.
The behavior of an overconsolidated stiff clay can be illustrated as shown in Figure 3-10. As
the sample is sheared under drained conditions, the displacement of the soil sample is
relatively uniform until the peak stress,
p
, is reached. After the peak, displacements begin to
concentrate on the newly formed failure plane or discontinuity, and the shear stress reduces
to
d
. The shear strength,
d
, of the newly formed discontinuity is approximately equal to the
shear strength of the same clay constituents in a normally consolidated state (i.e., the fully
softened strength), such as that produced by laboratory consolidation from a slurry. For
relatively high plasticity clays, further displacement beyond that corresponding to the fully
softened strength results in a continued reduction in shear stress, and, eventually, at very
large displacements along a major discontinuity, the residual strength of the clay soil,
r
, is
reached.
For wall system design in stiff to hard overconsolidated clays, the design engineer must
decide as to which strength, i.e., peak, fully softened, or residual, should be used to evaluate
earth pressures for design. Since the additional strength at peak resulting from cohesion (c
in Figure 3-10) tends to reduce relatively rapidly with increasing strain beyond peak, soil
deformations associated with flexible walls may be sufficient to appreciably reduce this
cohesion. Therefore, unless local experience indicates that a particular value of cohesion can
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Figure 3-9. Effect of Wall Movement on Wall Pressures (after Canadian Foundation
Engineering Manual, 1992)

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Figure 3-10. Simplified Drained Stress-Displacement Relationship For a Stiff Clay
(Modified After Padfield And Mair, 1984).
be reliably accounted for, zero cohesion should be used for cut walls in stiff to hard fissured
clays for long-term (drained) conditions. Conservative drained shear strength for analysis is
therefore the fully softened strength. This strength may be evaluated using triaxial
compression testing with pore pressure measurements.
Most earth retaining walls in service will not experience sufficient movement to mobilize the
residual strength and, therefore, as mentioned above, the fully softened strength is
appropriate for design. Residual strengths should be used, however, for wall systems that are
designed for a location in which there is evidence of an existing failure surface within the
clay (e.g., an anchored system used to stabilize an active landslide). For these conditions,
assume that sufficiently large deformations have occurred to reduce the strength to a residual
value.
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3.6 DESIGN EARTH AND WATER PRESSURES
3.6.1 Wall Friction and Adhesion
3.6.1.1 Total Stress
An assumption has to be made about wall adhesion. For example, the driving of sheet piles
into the soil increases horizontal stress prior to excavation, but deforms and smears the clay
at the interface, installation of diaphragm and tangent/secant pile walls reduces horizontal
stress prior to excavation, but probably deforms the soil less. As an analogy, it is reasonable
to consider the observation that the ultimate skin friction of a drilled shaft in stiff clay can be
approximated as s
u
, where the value of is approximately 0.5. The following maximum
values in the active and passive zones are recommended for wall adhesion used for cut wall
designs:
Active: c
w
= 0.5 s
u
but 1,000 psf
Passive: c
w
= 0.5 s
u
but 500 psf)
3.6.1.2 Effective Stress
Different values of are given by several sources, the values depending on the wall material
(e.g. timber, steel, precast or in-situ concrete) (see Table 3-2). The maximum wall friction
suggested for design is:
Active: = 2/3
Passive: = 1/2 (using Figure 3-12)
Passive: = 1/3 (using Coulomb theory)
Where a cohesion intercept has been used as part of the characterization of strength in terms
of effective stress, a maximum wall adhesion of c
w
= 0.5c could be used, but in view of the
inevitable remolding of the clay close to the wall by any construction process, it is
recommended that no wall adhesion be used in design.
The values of wall friction provided above are maximum values for design. These can be
adopted in most cases, but the design engineer should consider any circumstances in which
they might be affected by the relative movement of the soil and the wall. On the active side,
reduced values should be used if there is a tendency for the wall to move downwards (e.g.,
for load-bearing walls or walls supported by prestressed ground anchors). For walls retaining
soft cohesive soils or granular soils that will be subjected to significant vibration (e.g., walls
near railway tracks or machine foundations), should be assumed to be zero in the design.
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Table 3-2. Wall Friction and Adhesion for Dissimilar Materials (after NAVFAC, 1986).
Interface Materials
Friction Factor,
tan
Friction angle,
degrees
Mass concrete on the following foundation materials:
Clean sound rock
Clean gravel, gravel sand mixtures, coarse sand
Clean fine to medium sand, silty medium to coarse sand, silty or
clayey gravel
Clean fine sand, silty or clayey fine to medium sand
Fine sandy silt, nonplastic silt
Very stiff and hard residual or preconsolidated clay
Medium stiff and stiff clay and silty clay (Masonry on
foundation materials has same friction factor)
0.70
0.55 to 0.60
0.45 to 0.55

0.35 to 0.45
0.30 to 0.35
0.40 to 0.50
0.30 to 0.35


25
29 to 31
24 to 29

19 to 24
17 to 19
22 to 26
17 to 19

Steel sheet piles against the following soils:
Clean gravel, gravel-sand mixtures, well-graded rock fill with
spalls
Clean sand, silty sand-gravel mixtures, single size hard rock fill
Silty sand, gravel or sand mixed with silt or clay
Fine sandy silt, non plastic silt

0.40
0.30
0.25
0.20

22
17
14
11
Formed concrete or concrete sheet piling against the following
soils:
Clean gravel, gravel-sand mixtures, well-graded rock fill with
spalls
Clean sand, silty sand-gravel mixtures, single size hard rock fill
Silty sand, gravel or sand mixed with silt or clay
Fine sandy silt, non plastic silt

0.40 to 0.50
0.30 to 0.40
0.30
0.25

22 to 26
17 to 22
17
14
Various structural materials:
Masonry on masonry, igneous and metamorphic rocks:
Dressed soft rock on dressed soft rock
Dressed hard rock on dressed soft rock
Dressed hard rock on dressed hard rock
Masonry on wood (cross grain)
Steel on steel at sheet pile interlocks

0.70
0.65
0.55
0.50
0.30

35
33
29
26
17
Interface Materials (Cohesion) Adhesion c
a
(psf)
Very soft cohesive soil (0 250 psf)
Soft cohesive soil (250 500 psf)
Medium stiff cohesive soil (500 1000 psf)
Stiff cohesive soil (1000 2000 psf)
Very stiff cohesive soil (2000 4000 psf)
0 250
250 500
500 750
750 950
950 - 1300

3.6.2 Earth Pressure Coefficients
3.6.2.1 Total Stress Design
Total stress theory is appropriate for temporary conditions in normally to lightly
overconsolidated clays and is appropriate for stiff to hard clays subject to the limitations
discussed in Section 3.3.
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The total active and passive total pressures acting on a wall are given by:
p
a
= K
a

v
- K
ac
s
u
(3-27)
p
p
= K
p

v
+ K
pc
s
u
(3-28)
where

v
= z;
K
a
= K
p
= 1; and
K
ac
= K
pc
= 2
u w
s c / 1+
If negative active pressure is predicted by Equation 3-27, the value of c
w
should be taken as
zero, because it cannot be relevant if there is a tension crack. Considerable care should
therefore be exercised in use of c
w
in a total stress analysis. In determining the possible
depth of tension crack, c
w
should be ignored. To take account of softening and the possibility
of water filling the tension cracks, the total active pressure on the wall at any depth below the
ground surface should be assumed to not be less than 30z psf (z = depth in ft).
This is sometimes referred to as the minimum equivalent fluid pressure (MEFP), the density
of the equivalent fluid being taken as 30 lb/ft
3
.
3.6.2.2 Effective Stress Design
The calculation of horizontal effective earth pressures resulting from soil weight, p
a
and p
p
,
involves the calculation of porewater pressures, u, for use in the following equations.
p
a
= K
a
(z u) - K
ac
c (3-29)
p
p
= K
p
(z u) + K
pc
c (3-30)
The porewater pressure, u, is added to the horizontal effective stress, p
a
or p
p
, to give the
total horizontal stress, p
a
or p
p
, acting on the wall. Exact calculation of u is sometimes
difficult. Simple assumptions concerning water pressures for design are discussed in Section
3.6.5.
Where c is incorporated into the soil strength characterization, values of K
ac
and K
pc
should
be calculated from the following approximate expressions:
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) / 1 ( 2
'
c c K K
w a ac
+ = (3-31)
) / 1 ( 2
'
c c K K
w p pc
+ = (3-32)
Use of high values of c (greater than say, 100 psf) in the retained soil results in a significant
depth of theoretical negative active earth pressure. It is important either to:
reduce c towards the surface to avoid this, which may be realistic for many clays in
view of weathering; or
assume that the effective pressure on the wall at any depth should not be less than 30z
psf (z = depth in ft).
The MEFP of 30 lb/ft
3
should only be applied to depths where the calculated total horizontal
pressure (effective pressure plus water pressure) would otherwise be less than the MEFP. In
many cases, therefore, when water pressure is assumed to act, the MEFP need not be applied,
even though a theoretical negative active earth pressure may result from an assumption of c
acting (see Example Problem 2 in Section 3.13).
It is recommended that the log-spiral theory be used for determination of the passive earth
pressure coefficients. Charts for two common wall configurations (sloping wall with level
backfill and vertical wall with sloping backfill) based on the log-spiral theory (Caquot and
Kerisel, 1948; NAVFAC, 1986) are presented in Figures 3-11 and 3-12. For walls which
have a sloping backface and a sloping backfill, the passive pressure coefficient can be
calculated as indicated in Figure 3-5 using a maximum of = /3.
For the active case, the resultant load predicted using coefficients based on the plane wedge
theory is within 10 percent of that obtained with the more exact log-spiral theory. Hence, for
the active case, Coulombs theory (Figure 3-5) can be used to calculate the earth pressure
coefficient.
For some wall types, such as cantilever retaining wall and an MSE wall, the interface is
within the retained soils where the earth pressures are computed along a vertical soil plane
passing through the heel of the base slab. In such cases, there is soil-to-soil contact and the
resultant may be oriented at the angle of mobilized friction. The angle of mobilized friction
depends on the factor of safety used for the angle of internal friction. For these cases, it is
generally conservatively assumed that the earth pressure is parallel to the slope of the
backfill.

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Figure 3-11. Passive Coefficients for Sloping Wall with Wall Friction and Horizontal
Backfill (Caquot and Kerisel, 1948; NAVFAC, 1986).
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Figure 3-12. Passive Coefficients for Vertical Wall with Wall Friction and Sloping Backfill
(Caquot and Kerisel, 1948; NAVFAC, 1986).
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3.6.3 Theoretical Earth Pressures in Stratified Soils
For stratified (or nonhomogeneous) soils, the theoretical earth pressures are assumed to be
distributed as shown in Figure 3-13. Unless the computed earth pressures vary widely with
depth, the total applied lateral force determined from the computed pressure diagram may be
redistributed to a corresponding simplified equivalent triangular pressure diagram as
indicated in Figure 3-13.

Use buoyant unit weight for soils below water table.
Add water pressure as appropriate to obtain total lateral pressure.
The simplified distribution may not be justified for all soil conditions. Use judgment to
determine validity of such simplified distributions.
Figure 3-13. Pressure Distribution for Stratified Soils.
For complex cases such as layered soils, irregular backfill, irregular surcharges, wall friction,
and sloping groundwater level, pressures can be determined by graphical solutions. Among
the many graphical solutions are Culmanns (ca. 1866) and the trial wedge method (ca.
1877). These procedures can be found in Bowles (1988) or NAVFAC (1986).
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3.6.4 Semi Empirical Earth Pressure Diagrams
The earth pressures discussed in the above sections are strictly applicable to rigid wall
systems; i.e., walls which move as a unit (rigid body rotation and/or translation) and do not
experience bending deformations. Most gravity walls can be considered rigid walls.
If a wall system undergoes bending deformations in addition to rigid body motion then such
a wall system is considered flexible. Virtually all wall systems, except gravity walls, may be
considered to be flexible. The bending deformations result in a redistribution of the lateral
pressures from the more flexible to the stiffer portions of the system. Thus, in these walls the
final distribution and magnitude of the lateral earth pressure may be considerably different
than those used for rigid walls. For example, the soldier-pile and lagging walls with multiple
levels of support are usually designed using empirical earth pressure distributions based on
observed data. These empirical earth pressure distributions may vary from rectangular to
trapezoidal shapes and may have varying magnitudes depending on the soil type (see Chapter
8).
The results from a study on the performance of a two-level model anchored wall may be used
to illustrate the relationship between lateral earth pressure and wall deformation for relevant
anchored wall construction stages. The model wall was 6.25 ft high with a final toe
embedment of 1.25 ft (Figure 3-14). The results of the model wall study are described in
FHWA-RD-98-067 (1998).
1.5 ft
2.5 ft
6.25 ft
1.25 ft
100 pcf
1.5 ft
2.5 ft
6.25 ft
1.25 ft
100 pcf

Figure 3-14. Cross Section of Model Wall (modified after Mueller et al., 1998).
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Cantilever Stage: During the cantilever stage of construction, soil is excavated down
to a level just below the elevation of the first ground anchor. For the portion of the
wall above the first excavation level, the earth pressure and deformation pattern are
generally consistent with that of active conditions (i.e., a triangular pressure
distribution) (Figure 3-15). The wall is in a condition of fixed-earth support.


Figure 3-15. Lateral Wall Movements and Earth Pressures with Excavation at First Anchor
Level (Cantilever Stage) (modified after Mueller et al., 1998).

Stressing of Upper Ground Anchor: Significant changes in lateral earth pressure
occur as a result of anchor stressing (Figure 3-16). During stressing, the soldier
beam is pushed against the retained ground, resulting in a large increase in lateral
pressures that may approach full passive pressures in the vicinity of the load. When
the load is reduced to the lock-off load, typically 75 to 100 percent of the unfactored
load (referred to as DL in Figures 3-16, 3-17, and 3-18), the pressure decreases
leaving a pressure bulb around the anchor. Note that this pressure is in excess of
active pressures.

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Figure 3-16. Lateral Wall Movements and Earth Pressures During Anchor Stressing
(modified after Mueller et al., 1998).

Excavation to Lower Anchor: Excavation below the upper anchor results in lateral
bulging of the wall and a redistribution of earth pressure (Figure 3-17). Earth pressure
between the upper anchor and the excavation subgrade is reduced and load is
redistributed to the stiffer upper anchor and excavation subgrade resulting in earth
pressure increases in these areas.
End of Construction: Stressing of the lower ground anchor results in a local wall
deformation pattern similar to that resulting from stressing the upper anchor (Figure 3-
18). A pressure bulb also develops at the location of the lower anchor. As a result of
excavation to the final design grade, lateral bulging occurs between the lower anchor and
the excavation subgrade.
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Figure 3-17. Lateral Wall Movements and Earth Pressures with Excavation at Lower Anchor
Level (modified after Mueller et al., 1998).
Lateral wall displacement after
lower ground anchor lock-off at 0.75 DL
Lateral wall displacement after
excavation to final depth
Upper
ground anchor
Lower
ground anchor
Design earth pressure envelope
Earth pressure after excavation
to final depth
H
H
Lateral wall displacement, y/H (%)
0.3 0.2 0.1 0.0 -0.1
Lateral earth pressure
0.3 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.0 -0.1

Figure 3-18. Lateral Wall Movements and Earth Pressures with Excavation at Design Grade
(modified after Mueller et al., 1998).
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A trapezoidal-shaped envelope of earth pressure is also shown on Figure 3-18. This
envelope is referred to as an apparent earth pressure envelope and closely approximates the
shape and magnitude of the earth pressures after completion of the wall. Apparent earth
pressure envelopes are described in detail in Chapter 8 and an example apparent earth
pressure envelope for anchored walls in sands in shown in Figure 3-19. It is noted that earth
pressure envelopes which assume fully active conditions (i.e., triangular pressure
distribution) would overestimate the earth pressures near the excavation subgrade, resulting
in overly conservative estimates of wall bending moments and required wall embedment
depth, and underestimate anchor loads and wall bending moments at upper tier supports.
Other factors which may influence the development of earth pressures are the type of
construction (e.g., bottom-up or top-down), the wall support mechanism (e.g., tie-
backs, struts, rakers, soil nails, reinforcing elements, single or multiple levels of support,
etc.), the geometry of the retained soil (e.g., silo pressure), the superimposed or surcharge
loads (e.g, strip, line, concentrated or equipment loads) and the type of analysis (static or
seismic). In addition, for cases of soil reinforced by inclusions such as MSE walls or soil-
nailed walls, different types of earth pressure distributions are used to evaluate the internal
and external stability of the wall system.
3.6.5 Design Water Pressures
In retaining wall design, it is general practice to provide drainage paths (commonly known as
weep holes) through the earth retaining structure, or use other methods to drain
groundwater that may otherwise collect behind the structure, and thereby avoid the
development of water pressure on the structure. Occasionally, however, it may not be
feasible or desirable to drain the water from behind the structure to safeguard against
potential settlement of adjacent structures, or prevent contaminated groundwater from
entering the excavation. In such instances, the earth retaining structure must be designed for
both lateral earth pressure and water pressure.
Computation of lateral earth pressures for the case of a uniform backfill and static
groundwater is illustrated in Figure 3-20. In this case, the water pressure represents a
hydrostatic condition since there is no seepage or flow of water through the soil. The lateral
earth pressure below the water level is based on the effective vertical stress,
v
.

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Figure 3-19. Apparent Earth Pressure Diagram for Anchored Wall in Sand.
Impervious
H
z
h
w
H
w
z
w
(No water
level)
P
a
= K
a
z
2
P
a
=K
z
[ h
w
+ z
w
]
P
w
=
w
z
w
P
a
= K
a
z
P
a
P
w
Impervious
H
z
h
w
H
w
z
w
(No water
level)
P
a
= K
a
z
2
P
a
=K
z
[ h
w
+ z
w
]
P
w
=
w
z
w
P
a
= K
a
z
P
a
P
w

Figure 3-20. Computation of Lateral Pressures for Static Groundwater Case.
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The lateral pressure due to water is added to the lateral earth pressure to obtain the total
lateral pressure on the wall. The lateral pressure computations should consider the greatest
unbalanced water head anticipated to act on the wall, since this generally results in the largest
total lateral load.
For cases where seepage may occur through or beneath the earth retaining structure, the
resulting seepage gradients will result in a reduction in the water pressure. For such cases,
flow net procedures can be used to compute the lateral pressure distribution due to water. A
typical flow net for a retaining wall in homogeneous soil is shown in Figure 3-21. The
calculation of pore water pressure may be simplified by assuming that the head difference
(H+i-j) is dissipated uniformly along the flow path (2d+H-i-j) which runs down the back of
the wall and up the front. The porewater pressure calculated in this manner results in
pressures greater than hydrostatic in front of the wall and less than hydrostatic behind the
wall (Figure 3-22).

Figure 3-21. Flow Net for a Retaining Wall (after Padfield and Mair, 1984).
In Figure 3-22, the pore water pressure at the bottom of the wall, U
f
, is equal on either side of
the wall. The value for U
f
is given by the following:

w f
j i h d 2
) i d ( ) j h d ( 2
U
+
+
= (3-33)
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Figure 3-22. Gross And Net Water Pressures Across A Retaining Wall
(modified after Padfield and Mair, 1984).

The net water pressure acting on the wall is shown on Figure 3-22b. The largest net water
pressure occurs at the level of the water table within the excavation:

w c
j i h d 2
) i d ( 2
) j i h ( U
+

+ = (3-34)
For comparison, the net water pressure for the condition in which there is no seepage is also
shown on Figure 3-22b. In that case, the net pressure is given by:

w n
) j i h ( U + = (3-35)
The effect of special drainage conditions on pore water pressures can only be assessed by
using appropriate seepage flow nets. If, for example, the wall acts as a drain, the pore water
pressures will vary significantly with distance behind the wall. The simplified methods
shown in Figure 3-22 cannot be used for this case to calculate the pressures on the back of
the wall. However, for normal designs, it is usually sufficient to use the simple flow net
shown in Figure 3-21 and procedures to calculate pore water pressures shown in Figure 3-22.
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3.7 EARTH PRESSURE FROM SURCHARGE LOADS
3.7.1 General
Surcharge loads on the backfill surface near an earth retaining structure cause increased
lateral earth pressures on the structure. Typical surcharge loadings may result from railroads,
highways, sign/light structures, electric/telecommunications towers, buildings, construction
equipment, and material stockpiles.
The loading cases of particular interest in the determination of lateral earth pressures are:
uniform surcharge;
point loads;
line loads parallel to the wall; and
strip loads parallel to the wall.
Figure 3-23 shows examples of retaining walls with surcharge loads.
The surcharge computations provided herein are used to obtain unfactored surcharge
loadings. Load factors used for various types of surcharge loads are provided in Chapter 4
and AASHTO (2007) Section 3.4.1.
3.7.2 Uniform Surcharge Loads
Surcharge loads are vertical loads applied at the ground surface, which are assumed to result
in an assumed uniform increase in lateral stress over the entire height of the wall. The
increase in lateral stress for uniform surcharge loading can be written as:

s h
Kq = (3-36)
where:
h
is the increase in lateral earth pressure due to the vertical surcharge load, q
s
is the
vertical surcharge stress applied at the ground surface, and K is an appropriate earth pressure
coefficient. Examples of surcharge loads for highway wall system applications include: (1)
dead load surcharges such as that resulting from the weight of a bridge approach slab or
concrete pavement; (2) live load surcharges such as that due to traffic loadings; and (3)
surcharges due to equipment or material storage during construction of the wall system.
When traffic is expected to come to within a distance from the wall face equivalent to one-
half the wall height, the wall should be designed for a live load surcharge. For temporary
walls that are not considered critical, actual surcharge loads may be evaluated and considered
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in the design as compared to using this prescriptive value. Both temporary and permanent
wall designs should account for unusual surcharges such as large material stockpiles and
heavy cranes. Calculated lateral pressures resulting from these surcharges should be added
explicitly to the design earth pressure envelope. Loads from existing buildings need to be
considered if they are within a horizontal distance from the wall equal to the wall height.
3.7.3 Point, Line, and Strip Loads
Point loads, line loads, and strip loads are vertical surface loadings which are applied over
limited areas as compared to surcharge loads. As a result, the increase in lateral earth
pressure used for wall system design is not constant with depth as is the case for uniform
surcharge loadings. These loadings are typically calculated using equations based on
elasticity theory for lateral stress distribution with depth (Figure 3-24 and AASHTO (2007)
Section 3.11.6.1 and 3.11.6.2). For flexible walls, the pressure distributions provided in
AASHTO (2007) Section 3.11.6.3 can be used.

3.8 EARTH PRESSURES DUE TO COMPACTION
In walls supporting fill, compaction of the backfill can generate relatively high horizontal
pressures on the upper portion of the wall. It is customary, therefore, to reduce the
compaction criteria for the zone immediately behind the wall. However, if a relatively high
level of compaction is needed in that zone to reduce future ground deformations, the
horizontal stresses generated by that compaction should be taken into account in the wall
design. The value and distribution of the compaction stresses are dependent on the
compaction equipment, procedures and applied energy, as well as, on the type and rigidity of
the wall.
When compaction equipment moves over the backfill adjacent to a wall, it induces added
earth pressures on the wall. When the compaction equipment moves away, a portion of the
added earth pressure continues to act on the wall due to the inelastic behavior of the soil.
These residual horizontal pressures in a compacted soil mass can be considerably larger than
the horizontal pressures in an uncompacted mass.
A typical distribution of the residual horizontal pressures due to the compaction process is
shown in Figure 3-25. The method proposed by Clough and Duncan (1991) was used to
develop this figure. For this example, residual earth pressure increases sharply with depth in
the upper 5 ft, but the rate of increase is reduced at greater depths. At depths below 25 ft,
there is no residual earth pressure due to compaction, i.e., below 25 ft, the earth pressure is
equal to the normal earth pressure at-rest.
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(a)

(b)
Figure 3-23. (a) Retaining Wall with Uniform Surcharge Load and (b) Retaining Wall with
Line Loads (see Railway Tracks) and Point Loads (see Catenary Structure).
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Figure 3-24. Lateral Pressure Due to Surcharge Loadings
(after USS Steel Sheet-Pile Manual, 1975).
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0 400 800 1200 1600 2000
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
EARTH PRESSURE AFTER COMPACTION (psf)
D
E
P
T
H

(
f
t
)
A
t
-
r
e
s
t

e
a
r
t
h

p
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

K
o
=

0
.
4
Roller Load = 500 lb/in.
Roller 6 in. from wall
Lift Thickness = 6 in.
= 125 pcf
= 35
c = 0
0 400 800 1200 1600 2000
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
EARTH PRESSURE AFTER COMPACTION (psf)
D
E
P
T
H

(
f
t
)
A
t
-
r
e
s
t

e
a
r
t
h

p
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

K
o
=

0
.
4
Roller Load = 500 lb/in.
Roller 6 in. from wall
Lift Thickness = 6 in.
= 125 pcf
= 35
c = 0

Figure 3-25. Typical Residual Earth Pressure after Compaction of Backfill Behind an
Unyielding Wall (after Clough and Duncan, 1991)
It should be noted that the post compaction earth pressures estimated using, for example, the
Clough and Duncan method, apply to conditions where the wall is stiff and unyielding.
These pressures would provide a conservative estimate of pressures on flexible walls or
massive walls whose foundation conditions allow them to shift laterally or tilt away from the
backfill during compaction since such movements would reduce the earth pressures. The
reduction would be expected to be less near the surface, where the compaction-induced loads
tend to follow the wall as it is deflected or yielded (Clough and Duncan, 1991). Also, for
MSE walls, compaction-induced pressures are already included in the design model
(AASHTO, 2007).

3.9 EARTH PRESSURES RESULTING FROM SILO EFFECT
Occasionally, retaining walls are built in front of a stable rock face or an existing wall, and
granular fill is placed between the new wall and the existing structure or the rock face (Figure
3-26). Due to the proximity of the two structures, the fill is partially supported by friction
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between the soil and the confining walls similar to the way grain or other granular
materials act in a silo. Consequently, the vertical stress in the fill and the horizontal stress
acting on the wall are reduced. The lateral pressures in such wall configurations are
commonly referred to as silo pressures. The design of these walls using typical active
earth pressures based on an assumed planar failure surface may, therefore, be
overconservative particularly for cases where the ratio of wall height to width of the fill zone
is large. Figure 3-26 provides a procedure for estimating the lateral silo pressures on
retaining walls.

3.10 EARTH PRESSURES RESULTING FROM SEISMIC FORCES
3.10.1 General
The seismic performance of earth retaining systems is most commonly evaluated using
pseudo-static analysis, where the dynamic lateral earth pressure is estimated as a sum of the
static lateral earth pressure and the increment in active pressure/passive pressure due to the
seismic loading. For some cases, in particular where design ground accelerations are
relatively high, displacement-based approaches are used.
In this section, basic elements of seismic design of earth retaining systems are presented.
Additional information on seismic design analyses for retaining walls can be found in
Section 9.6 of GEC No. 3 (Kavazanjian et al., 1997). Specific LRFD-based information for
seismic design is provided in NCHRP 20-07 (anticipated to be completed in October 2007)/
3.10.2 Seismic Earth Pressures
The most commonly used method for seismic design of retaining structures is the pseudo-
static method developed by Okabe (1926) and Mononobe (1929). The so-called
Mononobe-Okabe (M-O) method is based on Coulomb earth pressure theory. In developing
their method, Mononobe and Okabe assumed the following:
the wall is free to move sufficiently to induce active earth pressure conditions;
the backfill is completely drained and cohesionless; and
the effect of the earthquake ground motion is represented by a horizontal pseudo-static
inertia force, k
h
W
s
and a vertical pseudo-static inertia force k
v
W
s
if the vertical force acts
upward, or -k
v
W
s
, if the vertical force acts downward.

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Figure 3-26. Estimation of Silo Pressures.
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The limitations previously discussed for the Coulomb method also apply to the M-O method.
One of the most significant limitations from a practical standpoint is the assumption that the
soil is drained and cohesionless. While this situation can occur for fill walls, it is often not
the case for cut walls where the natural geology includes some amount of cohesion. Even
small amounts of cohesion reduce the seismic active earth pressure. Generalized limit
equilibrium methods identified in the NCHRP 12-70 project can be used to quantify this
reduction.
Figure 3-27 shows the M-O representation for the case where soils behind the retaining wall
are drained and cohesionless. In Figure 3-27, W
s
is the weight of the sliding wedge and k
h

and k
v
are the horizontal and vertical seismic coefficients, respectively. The seismic
coefficient k
h
and k
v
are expressed as a fraction of the acceleration of gravity g.

Figure 3-27. Seismic Forces Behind a Gravity Wall.
Using M-O theory, the dynamic earth pressures in the active (P
AE
) and passive (P
PE
) state are
given by the following:
) k (1 H K
2
1
P
v
2
AE AE
= (3-37)
) k 1 ( H K
2
1
P
v
2
PE PE
= (3-38)
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D ) cos( cos cos
) ( cos
K
2
2
AE
+ +

= (3-39)

2
2
1
) i cos( ) cos(
) i sin( ) sin(
1 D
(
(

+ +
+
+ =
(3-40)


D ) cos( cos cos
) ( cos
K
2
2
PE
+
+
=
(3-41)


2
2
1
) i cos( ) cos(
) i sin( ) sin(
1 D
(
(

+
+ +
+ =
(3-42)

= tan
-1
(k
h
/(1-k
v
)) (3-43)
where: = effective unit weight of the backfill;
H = height of the wall;
= angle of internal friction of the backfill;
= angle of friction of the wall/backfill interface;
i = slope of the surface of the backfill;
= slope of the back of the wall;
k
h
= horizontal seismic coefficient expressed as a fraction of g;
k
v
= vertical seismic coefficient expressed as a fraction of g; and
g = acceleration of gravity.
Figure 3-28 presents values for K
AE
for values of from 20 to 45 degrees for vertical walls
with level backfill. The figure was derived for a wall/backfill interface friction angle =/2.
The horizontal and vertical seismic coefficients (i.e., k
h
and k
v
) vary from 0 to 0.5 and from 0
to 0.2, respectively.
The major challenges in applying the M-O theory are the selection of an appropriate seismic
coefficient to determine the magnitude of the seismic earth pressure and the distribution of
earth pressure or location of the seismic earth pressure resultant. For critical or rigid walls
which cannot accommodate any deformation and for partially restrained abutments and walls
restrained against lateral movements by, for example, batter piles, use of peak ground
acceleration divided by the acceleration of gravity as the seismic coefficient may be
warranted.

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0.4 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1.0
0 0
Horizontal Seismic Coefficient (k )
h
A
E

S
e
i
s
m
i
c

A
c
t
i
v
e

P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

C
o
e
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
t


(
k




)
= 20
o
25
o
30
o
35
o
40
o
45
o
v
k = 0.2
0.0
-0.2
= /2 = /2
= i = k = 0 = i = 0
v
= 35
o

Figure 3-28. Effects of seismic coefficients and friction angle on seismic active pressure
coefficient (after Lam and Martin, 1986).
As noted in GEC No. 3 (Kavazanjian et al., 1997), use of a seismic coefficient from between
one-half to two-thirds of the peak horizontal ground acceleration divided by gravity would
appear to provide a wall design that will limit deformations in the design earthquake to small
values acceptable for highway facilities. Evaluations being performed as part of NCHRP 12-
70 may recommend values even less than one-half for systems that can tolerate
approximately up to 6 in. of movement. Similar to slope stability analyses, the vertical
acceleration is usually ignored in practice in the design of earth retaining systems.
Reference, however, should be made to applicable codes and local regulations which may
provide specific recommendations for seismic coefficient values.
The total seismic active earth pressure may be assumed to be uniformly distributed over the
height of the wall, meaning that the earth pressure resultant acts at the mid-height of the wall.
Therefore, place the resultant active earth pressure calculated using the M-O equations at
mid-height of wall for design analysis.
An alternate method of estimating seismic earth pressures has been suggested (see NCHRP
12-70) for cases where layered soil profiles exist. This method involves using a slope
stability program. The total seismic earth pressure force is obtained by applying an external
force to a vertical plane at the heel of the retaining wall. The external resisting force is
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varied until a factor of safety of 1.0 is achieved during the pseudo-static seismic loading.
The advantage of this approach is that it can accommodate layered soil profiles with cohesive
soil content, various groundwater conditions, and non-uniform slopes. Undrained soil
strengths would normally be used for these analyses to represent the short-term loading
response that occurs during a seismic event.
3.10.3 Displacement Approach
To circumvent the shortcomings associated with selection of an appropriate seismic
coefficient, deformation-based analyses have been developed for design of gravity retaining
walls. Moreover, use of the M-O analysis may lead to overly conservative designs where
design ground accelerations are relatively large.
Several theories are available to account for the displacement and rotation of walls during an
earthquake. Richards and Elms (1979) extended the work of Franklin and Chang (1977) on
seismic deformation of earth dams to gravity retaining walls. Richards and Elms proposed
the following simplified formula for the displacement of a gravity wall.
d = 0.087 (V
2
/A g) (N/A)
-4
(3-44)
where d is the displacement in inches, V is the peak velocity of the earthquake record in in./s,
N is the peak seismic resistance coefficient sustainable by the wall before it slides (equal to
the yield acceleration of the retaining wall divided by gravity), and A is the maximum
acceleration of the earthquake record or the maximum design acceleration value from a
seismic hazard analysis. The Richards and Elms approach requires evaluation of the yield
acceleration for the wall-backfill system. The yield acceleration is the level of acceleration
that is just large enough to cause the wall to slide. A method to evaluate the yield
acceleration for use in the Richards and Elms approach is provided in Kramer (1996).
The NCHRP 12-70 project has updated the Richard and Elms approach based on a re-
evaluation of a large database of earthquake records and presented charts for estimating
displacement for N/A ratios. These charts result in lower displacement estimates than
obtained by Richard and Elms, particularly at lower N/A ratios. The NCHRP 12-70 project
also developed a simple relationship between PGV and spectral acceleration at one second
[PGV (in./sec) = 55 S
1
].
For highly seismic regions, where the methods discussed in this section result in wall systems
which are conservative (e.g., very high anchor forces or excessively large-sized gravity
structures), or where complex wall systems are used (e.g., high walls, stacked walls, etc.),
dynamic stress-deformation (i.e., finite element or finite difference) analyses which account
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for the nonlinear behavior of soil and soil-wall structure interfaces should be performed to
evaluate earthquake-induced wall deformations.
Several efforts are ongoing concerning LRFD seismic design of bridges and bridge
substructures (e.g., TRC/Imbsen, 2006) and should be consulted when performing seismic
analysis and design.

3.11 LATERAL EARTH PRESSURES IN COHESIVE BACKFILLS
Most DOTs involved in the design and procurement of fill wall systems (e.g., MSE walls)
have well-defined backfill material requirements. In general, specifications for wall backfill
require high-quality, granular, relatively free-draining backfills. However, in some cases a
poorer quality on-site backfill material may be used, especially for temporary systems.
These poorer quality backfills are generally more fine-grained (i.e., cohesive) and not free-
draining. Previously, methods to calculate earth pressures in clayey soils were described.
Herein, specific cautions are provided regarding the use of cohesive backfill soils.
Lateral pressures can be caused by the volume expansion of ice in fine grained soils such as
fine sand, silt and clay. These lateral pressures are difficult to predict and may achieve
relatively high values. Since structures are usually not designed to withstand frost generated
stresses, provisions should be made so that frost related stresses will not develop behind the
structure or be kept to a minimum. The use of one or more of the following measures may be
necessary:
Isolate the backfill from underground sources of water either by providing a
permeable drainage system or an impervious barrier;
Use pervious backfill and provide weep holes in the structure;
Provide an impervious soil layer near the ground surface, and grade the ground
behind the wall to drain surface water away from the wall;
Use a high-quality, granular, relatively free-draining backfill for a horizontal width
behind the wall facing equal to the design frost depth; or
Use of a thermal barrier (i.e., Styrofoam insulation) at the wall face.
Expansive clays can cause very high lateral pressures on the back of a retaining structure and
should therefore be avoided whenever possible. In the cases where expansive clays are
present behind the wall, swelling pressures may be evaluated based on laboratory tests and
the wall may be designed to withstand these swelling pressures. Alternatively, one of the
following measures can be taken:
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-48 June 2008
A granular filter material can be provided between the clay backfill and the back of
the wall. This material will drain the groundwater away from the expansive soil and,
at the same time act as a buffer zone between the expansive soil and the structure.
The expansive soil can be treated with lime to significantly reduce, or eliminate, its
swelling potential, if the soil does not contain gypsum. Expansive soils that contain
gypsum should not be treated with lime because the combination of minerals in
expansive soils, gypsum, and water may lead to ettringite, which has a much higher
swelling potential than the expansive soils that are not treated.
The following is noted by Duncan et al. (1990) concerning the use of clayey soils as backfill
for fill wall applications:
Clayey backfills generally have lower drained shear strength than cohesionless soils.
This results in: (1) larger lateral earth pressures against the back for the wall; (2)
lower frictional resistance along the reinforcement for MSE walls which employ
frictional reinforcement; and (3) lower bearing value for MSE walls which employ
passive reinforcement (e.g., bar mats)
Clayey backfills are more plastic and contain more fines than cohesionless soils. This
results in: (1) poor drainage and the potential for the development of water pressures
behind the wall; (2) the potential for freezing of retained water and development of
ice pressures on the back of the wall; and (3) greater potential for corrosion of
metallic reinforcements for MSE walls.
Clayey backfills have the potential to undergo creep deformations that can lead to
higher earth pressures and greater wall face deformations than for soils that do not
exhibit significant creep potential. Earth pressures used for design of gravity walls
employing clayey backfills should be based on past performance and field experience,
as wall design methods do not consider the effects of creep.
Despite these problems, silts and clays may be used as backfill soils provided suitable design
procedures are employed (including conservative estimates of lateral earth pressures) and
construction control measures are incorporated into the contract documents. When such soils
are used as backfills, walls may need to be designed for pressures between active and at-rest
conditions. For soils which are deemed to have high swell potential, an earth-pressure
coefficient as high as 1.0 may be used for design (Canadian Foundation Engineering Manual,
1992). In all cases, water pressures and appropriate surcharge loads also need to be added to
these earth pressures.
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-49 June 2008
In general, any permanent fill wall system which incorporates silty or clayey backfills must
have an appropriately designed subsurface and surface drainage system to minimize pore
pressure build-up and soil saturation. Such wall systems should also include periodic
measurements of wall face movements.

3.12 LOADS FROM JOINTED ROCK MASSES
Rock is not a continuum but a regulated discontinuum and most rock slope failures occur
along discontinuites or zones of weakness (Bell, 1992). For structures retaining rock, it is
important to know the possible failure modes of the specific rock masses. The actual rupture
or sliding plane behind a retaining wall depends on the spatial orientation, frequency and
distribution of the discontinuities, and the involved shear and interlock resistance to shear
among them (Jumikis, 1983).
Depending on the type and structure of the rock, the lateral loads may be different. For
example, if the rock is extensively weathered, highly disintegrated, densely jointed, loosely
fragmented or decomposed, it behaves more or less like soil; in such cases the theories
discussed previously are suitable using a shear strength representative of the rock mass. For
other cases, the rupture or sliding plane behind a wall must be determined in order to
calculate the lateral pressure. Detailed procedures on determining the lateral loads from
jointed rock masses can be found in Brandl (1992) and FHWA HI-99-007 (Wyllie and Mah,
1998). Rock properties that are necessary to calculate earth pressures are provided in
Chapter 2 of this Manual and GEC No. 5 (Sabatini et al., 2002).

3.13 EXAMPLE PROBLEMS
Three example problems are provided in this section:
Constructing a lateral pressure diagram (Example Problem 1);
Constructing a lateral earth and water pressure diagram and pressure diagram based
on MEFP (Example Problem 2); and
Constructing a lateral pressure diagram that includes a surcharge due to a line load
(Example Problem 3).
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-50 June 2008
3.13.1 Example Problem 1
For the wall configuration shown in Figure 3-29, construct the lateral pressure diagram.
Assume the face of the wall to be smooth ( = 0, c
w
= 0).
= 30
= 114 pcf
= 30
= 121 pcf
1
2

f
t





















6

f
t
= 10
Ground Water Table
= 30
= 114 pcf
= 30
= 121 pcf
1
2

f
t





















6

f
t
= 10
Ground Water Table

Figure 3-29. Example Problem 1 Geometry and Soil Conditions.
Solution
Using the Coulomb method (Figure 3-5) for = 30
o
, = 10
o
, = 0, and = 0:
K
a
= 0.374
The pressures at various depths can then be calculated as shown in Table 3-3.
Table 3-3. Lateral Earth and Hydrostatic Pressures at Various Depths for Example 1.
Effective Lateral Earth Pressures
z, ft
VO
' , psf
Lateral Pressure, p
a
, psf
0 0 0
'
=
VO a
K
6 (114)(6) = 684 8 . 255 ) 684 ( 374 . 0
'
= =
VO a
K
18 (684+(121-62.4)(12) = 1387 8 . 518 ) 13870 ( 374 . 0
'
= =
VO a
K
Hydrostatic Pressure, p
w

z, ft z
w
, ft
w w w
z = , psf
Lateral Pressure, p
w
, psf
0 0 0 0
6 0 0 0
18 12 (12)(62.4) = 748.8
8 . 748 ) 8 . 748 ( 0 . 1 = =
w w
K
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-51 June 2008
Based on Table 3-3, the lateral pressure diagrams due to earth and water can be constructed
as shown in Figure 3-30a and b, respectively.

255.8 psf
+
518.8 psf 748.8 psf
= 30
= 114 pcf
= 30
= 121 pcf
1
2

f
t





















6

f
t
= 10
Ground Water Table
255.8 psf
+
518.8 psf 748.8 psf
= 30
= 114 pcf
= 30
= 121 pcf
1
2

f
t





















6

f
t
= 10
Ground Water Table
= 30
= 114 pcf
= 30
= 121 pcf
1
2

f
t





















6

f
t
= 10
Ground Water Table
(a) (b)
Figure 3-30. (a) Lateral Effective Earth Pressure Diagram and (b) Water Pressure Diagram.

The total earth pressure is the summation of both the lateral earth pressure and water
pressures shown in Figure 3-30.
3.13.2 Example Problem 2
For the wall geometry shown in Example Problem 1 above, assume that the retained soil is a
silty sand to sandy silt material with = 30 degrees and c = 200 psf. Construct the design
lateral pressure diagram. Assume the face of the wall to be smooth ( = 0, c
w
= 0).
Solution
As for Example 1, K
a
= 0.374.
The active earth pressure is calculated at various depths according to Equation 3-29.
Figure 3-31 shows the total lateral pressure diagram and the pressure diagram calculated
based on the minimum equivalent fluid pressure (MEFP). For design, the maximum
envelope may be used.

FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-52 June 2008
0
6
12
18
-400 -200 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200
Pressure (psf)
D
e
p
t
h

(
f
t
)
Pa
u
Pa + u
MEFP (= 30z)
DESIGN PRESSURE ENVELOPE

Figure 3-31. Pressure Diagrams for Example Problem 2.
3.13.3 Example Problem 3
Construct the lateral pressure diagram due to a line load of 210 psf located 15 ft behind the
top of a 30 ft high unyielding wall shown in Figure 3-32.
Figure 3-32. Geometry of Example Problem 3.

Q
1
= 210 psf
15 ft
30 ft
Q
1
= 210 psf
15 ft
30 ft
FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-53 June 2008
Solution
Lateral pressures due to surcharge loadings are given in Figure 3-24. From this figure the
following can be found:
4 . 0 5 . 0 30 / 15 > = =

m
For 4 . 0 >

m , the lateral pressure is given by:


(
(
(
(
(

|
|
.
|

\
|
+
|
.
|

\
|
=

2
2
2
2
1
28 . 1
n m
n m
H
Q
P
h

For psf Q m 210 , 5 . 0
1
= =

and H = 30 ft, the lateral pressure is given by:


(
(
(
(
(

|
|
.
|

\
|
+
|
.
|

\
|
=

2
2 2
2
5 . 0
5 . 0
30
210
28 . 1
n
n
P
h

(
(
(
(
(

|
|
.
|

\
|
+
=

2
2
25 . 0
25 . 0
96 . 8
n
n
P
h

where all terms are defined in Figure 3-24. The computations for lateral pressures at various
depths using the above formula are shown in Table 3-4 below.




FHWA NHI-07-071 3 - Lateral Earth and Water Pressures
Earth Retaining Structures 3-54 June 2008
Table 3-4. Computation of Lateral Earth Pressures Due to Line Load
H z n / =
Depth below top of wall (ft) P
h
(psf)
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1.0
0
3
6
9
12
15
18
21
24
27
30
0.00
3.31
5.33
5.81
5.33
4.48
3.61
2.86
2.26
1.79
1.43
Using the information in Table 3-4, the lateral earth pressure with depth due to the line load
is shown in Figure 3-33.
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
0.00 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 6.00
Lateral Pressure, psf
D
e
p
t
h

b
e
l
o
w

g
r
o
u
n
d

s
u
r
f
a
c
e
,

f
t

Figure 3-33. Lateral Pressure with Depth Due to Line Load.
FHWA NHI-07-071 4 - LRFD for ERS
Earth Retaining Structures 4-1 June 2008
CHAPTER 4
LOAD RESISTANCE FACTOR DESIGN FOR EARTH
RETAINING SYSTEMS
4.1 INTRODUCTION
FHWA and the AASHTO subcommittee on Bridges and Substructures established an
October 1, 2007 deadline for full implementation of load resistance factor design (LRFD).
For many years, engineers have designed walls for highway and other applications using
allowable stress design (ASD) methods. In ASD, all uncertainty in applied loads and
material resistance are combined in a factor of safety or allowable material stress. In LRFD,
uncertainty in load and material resistance are accounted for separately. The uncertainty in
load is represented by a load factor and the uncertainty in material resistance is represented
by a resistance factor. Sources of uncertainty include:
Material dimensions and location;
Material strength;
Failure mode and prediction method;
Long term material performance;
Material weights;
Prediction of potential transient loads;
Load analysis and distribution methods; and
General uncertainty associated with structure function.
Although the implementation of LRFD requires a change in design procedures for engineers
accustomed to ASD, many advantages do exist. LRFD accounts for variability in both
resistance and load and can provide more consistent levels of safety in the superstructure and
substructure as both are designed using the same loads. Section 11 of the LRFD AASHTO
(2007) Specification provides information on LRFD for earth retaining structures including
conventional retaining walls, nongravity cantilevered walls, anchored walls, mechanically
stabilized earth (MSE) walls, and prefabricated modular walls. Section 10.4 of AASHTO
(2007) provides detailed information on the evaluation of soil and rock properties to be used
for design.
NHI Course 130082A titled, LRFD for Highway Bridge Substructures and Earth Retaining
Structures contains comprehensive information on LRFD for wall systems. In this section,
LRFD-based concepts and computations are summarized. Information provided in Sections
4.2, 4.3, and 4.4 has been taken largely from Samtani (2007). The LRFD process and
FHWA NHI-07-071 4 - LRFD for ERS
Earth Retaining Structures 4-2 June 2008
example calculations for individual wall types are provided in the remaining chapters of this
document. Also, in remaining chapters, wherever instructive, comparisons between ASD
and LRFD computations are provided to assist design engineers in understanding the
potential differences between ASD and LRFD designs.

4.2 CONCEPT OF LIMIT STATES
The AASHTO-LRFD approach uses reliability (probability) theory to quantify the
uncertainty in loads, Q, and resistances, R. In the AASHTO-LRFD framework, once the
load factors, , are established by reliability theory, the factored loads are combined to create
a maximum load effect. A specific resistance factor, , is then developed corresponding to
the load combination(s) based on measured resistances and their computed variances from
nominal resistances predicted by numerical models for resistance. Similar to the loads, the
uncertainties in the resistances are quantified based on reliability (probability) theory. The
load and resistance factors include a consideration of the differences between measured and
nominal values of the loads and resistances, respectively.
By using factored loads, Q, and factored resistances, R, a limit state, g, can be defined. A
limit state is a condition beyond which a structural component ceases to satisfy the
provisions for which it was designed. A limit state, defined by combinations of factored
loads and factored resistances, can be expressed as g = R Q 0. From practical
considerations, an acceptable risk level is determined for each limit state, i.e., the probability
that R Q < 0, because otherwise the design for the case R Q 0 (i.e., no failure) will
be very expensive. Thus, safety considerations in LRFD are addressed through load and
resistance factors derived on the basis of an acceptable level of risk or acceptable probability
of failure. This process is in contrast to the traditional ASD approach where safety is
achieved with a single factor of safety applied to the resistance to obtain an allowable stress
(or load).
It is important to note that when load and resistance factors are developed using the limit
state concept, they are completely tied to each other and form a pair. In other words, neither
the load nor the resistance factor can be changed unilaterally in the LRFD framework. These
factors can be changed based on local practice or previous successful projects, as long as, if
one factor is changed, reliability-based computations are conducted to establish the other
factor.
FHWA NHI-07-071 4 - LRFD for ERS
Earth Retaining Structures 4-3 June 2008
4.3 COMMON LIMIT STATES IN ERS DESIGN
In the AASHTO-LRFD framework, there are four distinct limit states: (1) strength limit
states; (2) serviceability limit states; (3) extreme event limit states; and (4) fatigue limit
states. For most earth retaining system designs, strength or service limit states control the
design. Extreme limit states associated with typical earth retaining system design include
earthquake loadings and vehicle impact.
Strength limit states are limit states that pertain to structural safety and the loss of
load-carrying capacity. These limit states may be reached through either geotechnical
or structural failure. Evaluation of strength limit states is based on the inelastic
behavior of the structure, which is accomplished by using increased or factored loads
(i.e., > 1.0) and on modification of soil behavior, which is accomplished by using
reduced or factored strengths (i.e., < 1.0). From a geotechnical viewpoint, strength
limit states are reached when they involve the partial or total collapse of the structure
due to sliding, bearing resistance failure, pullout of reinforcements, etc. For well-
designed structures, strength limit states have a low probability of occurrence.
Serviceability limit states are the limiting conditions affecting the function of the
structure under expected service conditions. Serviceability limit states occur before
collapse. These include conditions that may restrict the intended use of the structure,
e.g., excessive total or differential settlement. Evaluation of serviceability limit states
is usually performed by using expected service loads (i.e., load factors = 1.0),
nominal strengths (i.e., resistance factors = 1.0), and elastic analyses. Compared to
strength limit states, the serviceability limit states have a higher probability of
occurrence, but, if exceeded, involve less danger of loss of life.

4.4 LOAD COMBINATIONS IN LIMIT STATES
Because there are many different types of loads, the manner in which the loads are combined
to create a limit state has sometimes been unclear in the traditional use of ASD. For instance,
it is unlikely that the largest values of the live loads, wind load, stream load, and earthquake
load will occur at the same time. The AASHTO-LRFD provides a solution to this problem
by specifying several load combinations with load factors based on probability of occurrence.
This is based on the observation that when one load component reaches its greatest value, the
other load components are often acting at their average values, i.e., the probability of two or
more load components acting at their greatest values simultaneously is so remote that it is
negligible. For this reason, the AASHTO LRFD approach considers several load
FHWA NHI-07-071 4 - LRFD for ERS
Earth Retaining Structures 4-4 June 2008
combinations within each limit state with the intent that each load combination creates a
maximum load effect. In the AASHTO-LRFD framework, each combination of the loads
within a given limit state has an equal probability of occurrence.
Since each combination of load has an equal probability of occurrence, all possible
applicable load combinations in all limit states should be considered in design. Based on
experience with specific designs, the user may realize that certain limit states may not
control, however, it is prudent to check all possible load combinations.
As previously introduced, factored loads or combinations of factored loads are compared to
the available factored resistance of the earth retaining system. AASHTO LRFD load
combinations for bridge substructures and earth retaining systems are provided in Table
3.4.1-1 of AASHTO (2007) and Table 4-1. Table 4-2 provides the load factors for
permanent loads commonly used for earth retaining systems (i.e., Table 3.4.1-2 of AASHTO
(2007) provides complete table). In general, use minimum load factors if permanent loads
increase stability and use maximum load factors if permanent loads reduce stability.

4.5 EVALUATION OF RESISTANCE FACTORS
Load and resistance factors have been calibrated in an effort to obtain a more uniform level
of safety for different limit states and types of materials and to provide reasonably consistent
designs to those previously based on ASD. The most rigorous method for developing and
adjusting resistance factors requires availability of statistical data but in most cases
calibration is done by fitting using past experience and judgment.
The majority of resistance factors for earth retaining system design in the AASHTO (2007)
Specifications were developed by calibration by fitting to ASD. Calibration by fitting merely
involves using parameters (e.g., resistance factors) that would result in the same minimum
permissible physical dimensions of a structure as by ASD. Calibration by fitting does not
achieve more uniform margins of safety than the ASD procedures it replaces; however, it
ensures that designs based on LRFD will not lead to radically different designs from ASD.
Calibration by fitting with ASD can be used where this is insufficient statistical data to
perform a more formal process of calibration.
Figure 4-1 depicts the equations used to calibrate a resistance factor in LRFD to an
equivalent FS value in ASD. Equations on the left-side of Figure 4-1 generally describe
ASD in which a nominal resistance is reduced by a factor of safety and the result is compared
to the sum of the loads. Equations on the right-side depict the basic formulation of LRFD.
By combining these, the resulting equation for resistance factor, , is found.
FHWA NHI-07-071 4 - LRFD for ERS
Earth Retaining Structures 4-5 June 2008
Table 4-1. Load Combinations and Load Factors (AASHTO, 2007).
Use one of these at a time LOAD
COMBINATIONS




LIMIT STATE
DC
DD
DW
EH
EV
ES
EL

LL
IM
CE
BR
PL
LS






WA






WS






WL






FR




TU
CR
SH






TG






SE





EQ





IC





CT





CV
STRENGTH I
P
1.75 1.00 - - 1.00 0.50/1.20
TG

SE
- - - -
STRENGTH II
P
1.35 1.00 - - 1.00 0.50/1.20
TG

SE
- - - -
STRENGTH III
P
- 1.00 1.40 - 1.00 0.50/1.20
TG

SE
- - - -
STRENGTH IV
P
- 1.00 - - 1.00 0.50/1.20 - - - -
STRENGTH V
P
1.35 1.00 0.40 1.0 1.00 0.50/1.20
TG

SE
- - - -
EXTREME
EVENT I

P

EQ
1.00 - - 1.00 - - - 1.00 - - -
EXTREME
EVENT II

P
0.50 1.00 - - 1.00 - - - 1.00 1.00 1.00
SERVICE I 1.00 1.00 1.00 0.30 1.00 1.00 1.00/1.20
TG

SE
- - - -
SERVICE II 1.00 1.30 1.00 - - 1.00 1.00/1.20 - - - -
SERVICE III 1.00 0.80 1.00 - - 1.00 1.00/1.20
TG

SE
- - - -
SERVICE IV 1.00 - 1.00 0.70 - 1.00 1.00/1.20 - 1.00 - - - -
FATIGUE LL,
IM, & CE ONLY
- 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - -

DC: dead load of structural
components
LL: vehicular live load WS: wind load on structure TG: temperature
gradient
DD: downdrag IM: vehicular dynamic
load allowance
WL: wind on live load SE: settlement
DW: dead load of wearing
surfaces and utilities
CE: vehicular
centrifugal force
FR: friction EQ: earthquake
EH: horizontal earth pressure
load
BR: vehicular braking
force
TU: uniform temperature IC: ice load
EV: vertical pressure from
dead load of fill
PL: pedestrian live load CR: creep CT: vehicular
collision force
ES: earth surcharge load LS: live load surcharge SH: shrinkage CV: vessel collision
force
EL: accumulated locked-in
force effects
WA: water load and
stream pressure


See AASHTO (2007) Section 3.3 for complete definition of loads

FHWA NHI-07-071 4 - LRFD for ERS
Earth Retaining Structures 4-6 June 2008
Table 4-2. Load Factors for Permanent Loads,
P
(modified after AASHTO, 2007).
Load Factor
Type of Load
Maximum Minimum
DC: Component and Attachments
DC: Strength IV only
1.25
1.50
0.90
0.90
DW: Wearing Surfaces and Utilities 1.50 0.65
EH: Horizontal Earth Pressures
Active
At-Rest
AEP
(1)
for Anchored Walls

1.50
1.35
1.35

0.90
0.90
N/A
EV: Vertical Earth Pressure
Overall Stability
Retaining Walls and Abutments

1.00
1.35

N/A
1.00
ES: Earth Surcharge 1.50 0.75
(1)
AEP refers to apparent earth pressure envelope. Anchored wall design may use earth
pressures computed from apparent earth pressure envelopes.

n i i
R Q

=
i
i i
Q FS
Q

n
i i
R
Q

i n
Q FS R

i
n
Q
FS
R
n i i
R Q

=
i
i i
Q FS
Q

n
i i
R
Q

i n
Q FS R

i
n
Q
FS
R

Figure 4-1. Equations used to Relate LRFD Resistance Factor to ASD FS (after Samtani,
2007).

FHWA NHI-07-071 4 - LRFD for ERS
Earth Retaining Structures 4-7 June 2008
For example, if loads consist of only dead loads (Q
DC
) and live loads (Q
LL
), the resistance
factor can be expressed as:
) (
LL DC
LL LL DC DC
Q Q FS
Q Q
+
+
=

(4-1)
Dividing the numerator and denominator by live loads, Q
LL
, results in:
) 1 / (
) / (
+
+
=
LL DC
LL LL DC DC
Q Q FS
Q Q
(4-2)
Therefore, for different ratios of dead load to live load, resistance factors can be calibrated to
the ASD FS value, as shown in Table 4-3.
It should be noted that these equations simply provide a way to obtain an average value for
the load factor considering the use of two different load factors from two different sources
(i.e., dead load and live load), and considering the relative magnitudes of each load. In the
most basic terms, the ASD FS is simply the average load factor divided by the resistance
factor. There is no consideration of the actual bias or variability of the load or resistance
prediction methods when calibration by fitting to ASD is used, nor is there any
consideration of the probability of failure. All that is being done is to calculate the
magnitude of a resistance factor, for a given set of load factors, that when combined with the
load factors, provides the same magnitude of FS as is currently used in ASD. Therefore,
whatever margin of safety was implied by the ASD FS, the load and resistance factor
combination that results from this type of analysis will have the same unknown margin of
safety. Without conducting some type of reliability analysis based on statistical data for the
loads and resistances under consideration, or without some type of quantification of the
number of failures relative to the number of successes when the factor of safety in question is
used in conjunction with a given design procedure, the margin of safety implied by the factor
of safety, and the resistance factors derived using this approach, will be unknown (see Allen,
2005).
Throughout this manual, the resistance factors used for various design checks for the wall
types discussed are provided. In general, unless otherwise specified, resistance factors for
design checks at Extreme Event limit states are equal to 1.00.
FHWA NHI-07-071 4 - LRFD for ERS
Earth Retaining Structures 4-8 June 2008
Table 4-3. Values of Resistance Factors Corresponding to Different Values of Factor of
Safety and Dead to Live Load Ratios for
DC
= 1.25 and
LL
= 1.75.

Q
DC
/Q
LL

FS
1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0
1.5 1.00 0.94 0.92 0.90
2.0 0.75 0.71 0.69 0.68
3.0 0.50 0.47 0.46 0.45
4.0 0.38 0.35 0.34 0.34

FHWA NHI-07-071 5 - Gravity and Semi-Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 5-1 June 2008
CHAPTER 5
CAST-IN-PLACE (CIP) GRAVITY AND SEMI-GRAVITY WALLS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
The design and construction of Cast-In-Place (CIP) concrete gravity walls (also sometimes
identified as rigid gravity walls or mass gravity walls) and CIP concrete semi-gravity
walls (also identified as conventional CIP walls, or concrete cantilever walls) are
discussed in this chapter.
CIP gravity walls have been used as low-height retaining walls for both roadway cut and fill
applications. CIP gravity walls are generally trapezoidal in shape (Figure 5-1) and are
generally constructed of unreinforced or minimally reinforced mass concrete. This type of
wall is also occasionally constructed of stone masonry. CIP gravity walls are rigid type walls
that rely entirely on their self-weight to resist overturning and sliding, and are generally
proportioned to avoid any tensile stresses within the structure.
CIP semi-gravity walls are commonly used for earth retaining structures and bridge
abutments in fill situations. They can also be used in cut situations, but for such applications
a temporary support system is typically required. In addition to its own weight, this type of
wall uses bending action to resist lateral forces on the wall. The CIP semi-gravity walls
include the cantilever, counterfort, and buttress walls illustrated in Figure 5-2.
At sites underlain by competent soils, the base of the CIP wall can be designed as a spread
footing bearing directly on the foundation soils. At locations where foundation bearing
resistance or settlement is a concern, the CIP wall can be provided with a deep foundation,
using the wall base as the pile cap.
Since there are substantial labor and material costs associated with CIP walls, they may not
be economical in comparison with alternative types of walls, particularly for wall heights
more than about 6 ft for CIP gravity walls or 15 ft for CIP semi-gravity walls. They also may
not be economical for walls in cut applications because of the added costs associated with the
construction of a temporary excavation support system. In evaluating the use of CIP walls,
therefore, consideration should also be given to other wall alternatives as discussed in the
following chapters of this manual.

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H
0.5H to 0.7H
Granular Soil
Backfill
Mass
Concrete
H
0.5H to 0.7H
Granular Soil
Backfill
Mass
Concrete

Figure 5-1. Cast-In-Place Gravity Wall.

The primary advantages of CIP walls are:
Control of all construction materials (e.g., cement, aggregate, reinforcing steel);
Well-established design procedures and construction specifications;
Compatibility with deep foundations;
Minimal wall movements; and
Resistance to degradation (corrosion).
However, the use of CIP walls has major limitations, including:
Construction is labor intensive;
Relatively long construction time is required;
A bottom-up sequence of construction is followed:
o Temporary excavation support may be necessary;
o Increased quantity of excavation;
o Increased quantity of backfill; and
o Wider work area required; this may be a significant problem at urban sites and
on steep hillsides.
Low tolerance to differential settlement; and
Higher cost

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Figure 5-2. Cast-In-Place (CIP) Concrete Retaining Walls and Terminology (a) Cantilever
Wall (Bowles, 1988); (b) Counterfort Wall; and (c) Buttress Wall (Teng, 1962).

5.2 TYPES OF SEMI-GRAVITY CIP WALLS
5.2.1 Cantilever Walls
Cantilever walls are constructed in the form of an inverted T wherein the projecting members
act as cantilever elements. Typical proportions of cantilever walls are shown in Figure 5-3.
This type of wall is generally suitable for heights up to about 30 ft; higher walls may require
an excessively dense arrangement of reinforcing bars at the base of the stem wall due to large
lateral forces imposed by higher retained fill. Figure 5-4 shows an example of a CIP
cantilever retaining wall.
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varies varies
H H
Min. Batter Min. Batter
(1H:48V) (1H:48V)
8 8" " min min
(12 (12" " preferable) preferable)
H H
/ /
10 10
to to
H H
/ /
8 8
H H
/ /
12 12
to to
H H
/ /
10 10
H H
/ /
12 12
to to
H H
/ /
10 10
2 2
/ /
5 5
H to H to
3 3
/ /
5 5
H H
varies varies
H H
Min. Batter Min. Batter
(1H:48V) (1H:48V)
8 8" " min min
(12 (12" " preferable) preferable)
H H
/ /
10 10
to to
H H
/ /
8 8
H H
/ /
12 12
to to
H H
/ /
10 10
H H
/ /
12 12
to to
H H
/ /
10 10
2 2
/ /
5 5
H to H to
3 3
/ /
5 5
H H

Note: The footing level should be below depth of seasonal volume change and frost line.
Figure 5-3. Common Proportions of Cantilever Walls (after Teng, 1962).


Figure 5-4. CIP Cantilever Retaining Wall.
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5.2.2 Counterfort Walls
Counterfort walls can be used for structures higher than about 30 ft. This type of wall is a
variation of the cantilever wall wherein both the base slab and wall face span horizontally
between vertical brackets known as counterforts. The counterforts increase wall stability and
reduce wall stem bending moments allowing the stem thickness to be reduced without
excessive outward deflection.
The proportions of counterfort walls, shown in Figure 5-5, vary to a greater extent than those
for cantilever walls because the thicknesses of the face and base slab depend primarily on the
spacing of the counterforts. For walls with a height of about 30 ft, the counterforts may be
spaced as far as two-thirds of the height of the wall. As wall heights increase, the spacing of
the counterforts is reduced, and may be as little as one-third of the wall height. For
constructability considerations, counterforts should not be placed on spacing less than about
8 ft. The toe projection is generally smaller than that for cantilever walls. Figure 5-6 shows
the construction of a counterfort retaining wall used in a cut application.


Figure 5-5. Common Proportions of Counterfort Walls (after Teng, 1962).
8 in min
(12 in preferable)
28 in min
8 in min
8 in min
(12 in preferable)
28 in min
8 in min
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Figure 5-6. CIP Counterfort Wall Construction in a Cut Application.
5.2.3 Buttress Walls
The buttressed wall illustrated in Figure 5-2(c) is another type of CIP semi-gravity wall. It is
similar to the counterfort wall except that the vertical brackets (known as buttresses) are on
the outside of the stem wall, and act in compression rather than tension. This type of wall is
not commonly used for retaining walls because of the exposed buttresses.
5.2.4 Other CIP Semi-Gravity Walls
Other types of CIP semi-gravity walls which may be used for special applications are
illustrated in Figure 5-7. The cantilever walls shown in Figures 5-7(a) and (b) could be
considered for cut and fill applications, respectively, at sites with tight right-of-way
restrictions. The U-walls shown in Figure 5-7(c) and Figure 5-8 are often used for
construction of depressed roadways, particularly where the clear distance between the walls
is less than about 30 ft, and for depressed roadways constructed below the groundwater level.
Unless supported on a deep foundation, the cantilever walls shown in Figures 5-7(a) and (b)
are structurally less efficient than the conventional cantilever wall shown in Figure 5-2(a),
and typically would be limited to a lower height than a conventional cantilever wall. The
maximum height of a U-wall, however, would be comparable to that of a conventional
cantilever wall.
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Figure 5-7. Other Types of Cast-In-Place (CIP) Walls: (a) Fill Wall with Limited ROW, (b)
Cut Wall with Limited ROW, and (c) U-Wall for Depressed Roadway.
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Figure 5-8. CIP U-Wall for Depressed Roadway.

5.3 WALL CONSTRUCTION
The typical sequence of construction for CIP concrete walls is presented below.
The first stage of construction consists of excavating to the wall foundation grade and
preparing the wall foundation subgrade. If stable excavation slopes cannot be
maintained during the period of wall construction, temporary excavation support
needs to be provided. Foundation preparation includes removing unsuitable materials
such as organic matter and vegetation from the area to be occupied by the wall and
leveling and proof-rolling the foundation area. Since CIP walls cannot tolerate
significant differential settlement, preparation of the wall foundation to provide a
relatively stiff and uniform bearing surface is particularly important. For walls
founded on compressible soils, foundation preparation may require ground
improvement to increase bearing resistance and stiffness, or the construction of deep
foundations for wall footing support. Where rock is encountered above the wall
foundation grade, the rock will typically be removed to some nominal depth below
the foundation grade (e.g., 6 in.) and backfilled with compacted granular material.
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For CIP semi-gravity walls, the footing outline is formed and the reinforcing steel for
the footing is placed and extended into the wall stem. For a counterfort (or buttress)
wall, reinforcing steel is also extended into the counterforts (or buttresses) (Figure 5-
6). The footing concrete is then poured.
The wall stem is formed, weep hole inserts placed, and concrete poured. For
counterfort (or buttress) walls, reinforcing steel for the counterforts (or buttresses) is
placed and the counterforts (or buttresses) are then formed and the concrete is poured.
Typically, concrete is poured in sections between vertical expansion joints and,
wherever possible, it is poured for the full wall height to eliminate cold joints.
Drainage systems are then constructed behind the wall. Concurrent with this activity
is the placement and compaction of select backfill soil to finished grade. Care should
be taken to ensure that the backfill soils are not overcompacted just behind the wall
face. Overcompaction can induce large lateral earth pressures which may over stress
the wall and, if prefabricated drainage material is installed against the back wall face,
damage the drainage components.

5.4 COST
For CIP walls, costs for rigid gravity and semi-gravity walls are similar for wall heights less
than 10 ft. A cost range for walls up to 10 ft is typically about $25 to $35/ft
2
of wall face
with the higher range associated with walls with surcharges or sloped fills behind them. As
previously discussed, rigid gravity walls are not cost effective above 10 ft. For CIP
cantilever walls greater than 10 ft and less than 20 ft high, costs are in the range of $20 to
$35 /ft
2
of wall face. For walls greater than 20 ft, costs will be greater than 35/ft
2
. It is noted
that labor represents 30 to 40 percent of the unit cost for CIP walls so costs can be
significantly affected by prevailing labor rates.
The costs provided above for CIP walls do not include costs associated with temporary
shoring and/or deep foundations. Costs for temporary shoring can be estimated based on
information provided in Chapter 8 for sheet pile, soldier beam and lagging walls, and
anchored wall systems by deducting the cost of permanent facing.
As with most wall systems, unit costs will increase for high walls that are short in length due
to lack of room for equipment to operate, where access is limited, and where ROW costs are
significant.
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5.5 WALL DESIGN
For the design of gravity and semi-gravity walls, external stability analyses are performed to
evaluate the ability of the wall to resist lateral earth and water pressures. The possible modes
of external stability failure include sliding, bearing resistance, and limiting eccentricity as
illustrated in Figure 5-9.
Sliding Sliding Limiting Eccentricity Limiting Eccentricity
(Failure due to Overturning) (Failure due to Overturning)
Bearing Bearing
Sliding Sliding Limiting Eccentricity Limiting Eccentricity
(Failure due to Overturning) (Failure due to Overturning)
Bearing Bearing

Figure 5-9. Strength Limit States for Rigid Gravity and Semi-Gravity Walls.
Table 5-1 summarizes the major design steps for CIP gravity and semi-gravity walls.
5.5.1 Steps 1, 2, and 3
Herein, it is assumed that Step 1 has been completed and a CIP wall has been deemed
appropriate for the project and Steps 2 and 3 have been completed to establish soil and/or
rock parameters for design. In general, the required parameters for in situ soil and rock are
the same as those required in support of the design of a spread footing, in particular
foundation shear strength (to allow for bearing resistance evaluation) and compression
parameters of the foundation materials (to allow for wall settlement computations). For
gravity walls which require deep foundation support, the required parameters are the same as
those required for the design of a driven pile or drilled shaft foundation.
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Table 5-1. Design Steps for Gravity and Semi-gravity Walls.
Step 1. Establish project requirements including all geometry, external
loading conditions (transient and/or permanent, seismic, etc.),
performance criteria, and construction constraints.
Step 2. Evaluate site subsurface conditions and relevant properties of in
situ soil and rock parameters and wall backfill parameters.
Step 3. Evaluate soil and rock parameters for design and establish
resistance factors.
Step 4. Select initial base dimension of wall for strength limit state
(external stability) evaluation.
Step 5. Select lateral earth pressure distribution. Evaluate water,
surcharge, compaction, and seismic pressures.
Step 6. Evaluate factored loads for all appropriate loading groups and limit
states.
Step 7. Evaluate bearing resistance.
Step 8. Check eccentricity.
Step 9. Check sliding.
Step 10. Check overall stability at the service limit state and revise wall
design if necessary.
Step 11. Estimate maximum lateral wall movement, tilt, and wall settlement
at the service limit state. Revise design if necessary.
Step 12. Design wall drainage systems.

The drainage and shear strength characteristics of the wall backfill soil are assessed as part of
Step 3. Guidelines for wall backfill material gradation and drainage behind gravity retaining
walls can be found in the AASHTO (2002). Whenever possible, the backfill material should
be free draining, nonexpansive, and noncorrosive. Silts and clays should not be used for
backfill unless suitable design assumptions (e.g., possibility of saturation of backfill) are
followed and specific measures are taken to account for their presence (e.g., robust surface
drainage system). All backfill material should be free of organic material. Backfill gradation
should follow the guidelines presented in Table 5-2.
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Table 5-2. Suggested Gradation for Backfill for Cantilever Semi-Gravity and Gravity
Retaining Walls
Sieve Size Percent Passing
3 in. 100
No. 4 35 100
No. 30 20 100
No. 200 0 15
5.5.2 Step 4 Select Base Dimension
Figures 5-3 and 5-5 show typical dimensions for a semi-gravity cantilever retaining wall and
for a counterfort wall. These dimensions have been developed based on a range of backfill
properties, geometries, and stable foundation soils. These typical dimensions can be used for
preliminary design, however the final strength limit state calculations are made given the
geometry requirements of the project (i.e. limited right-of-way) and specific conditions.
5.5.3 Step 5 Select Lateral Earth Pressure Distribution
Lateral earth pressures for design of CIP walls are determined using the procedures presented
in Chapter 3. Generally, Coulomb theory is used to compute earth pressures either directly
on the back face of the wall (gravity wall case) or on a vertical plane passing through the heel
of the base slab (semi-gravity wall case).
The following should be considered in evaluating earth pressure loading for a CIP wall:
Use at-rest earth pressures for rigid gravity retaining walls resting on rock or batter
piles or for unyielding walls such as culverts, tunnels and rigid abutment U-walls
(such as shown in Figure 5-10), where wall rotation and displacement are restrained.
Use the average of at-rest and active earth pressures for CIP semi-gravity walls
founded on rock or restrained from lateral movements (e.g., use of batter piles) and
which are less than 16 ft in height.
Use active earth pressures for CIP semi-gravity walls greater than 16 ft in height.
Earth pressures due to compaction, water, and surcharges should be evaluated using
the procedures described in Chapter 3.
Passive resistance in front of the wall should not be used in the analyses unless the
wall extends well below the depth of frost penetration, scour or other types of
disturbance (e.g. utility trench excavation in front of the wall).

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Figure 5-10. CIP Abutment with Integral Wingwalls.
If adequate drainage measures are provided, the hydrostatic pressure due to groundwater
behind the wall generally need not be considered; however, hydrostatic pressure must be
considered for portions of wall below the level of the weep holes unless a deeper drainage
pipe is provided behind the base of the wall. When it is necessary to maintain the
groundwater level behind the wall, the wall must be designed for the full hydrostatic
pressure.
5.5.4 Step 6 Evaluate Factored Loads
Stability computations for gravity and semi-gravity retaining walls are made assuming that a
triangular earth pressure distribution (plus additional pressures resulting from surcharges,
compaction, water, or seismic forces) develops on a vertical or inclined pressure plane rising
from the heel of the wall. Load combinations should be selected to obtain the most realistic
extreme load effects. For example, as shown in Figure 5-11, the load factors applied for
the evaluation of sliding resistance of the wall would be 0.90 DC, and 1.0 EV. These forces
result in an increase in the contact stress and resistance of the wall base to sliding and
therefore minimum load factors are used. Comparatively, as shown in Figure 5-12, the
critical load combination and load factors applied for the evaluation of bearing resistance
would be 1.25DC and 1.35EV since the use of maximum load factors results in the greatest
value for bearing pressure which is a destabilizing force.
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Figure 5-11. Typical Application of Load Factors for Eccentricity and Sliding.


Figure 5-12. Typical Application of Load Factors for Bearing Resistance.

A live load surcharge should be applied where vehicular load is expected to act on the
surface of the backfill within a distance equal to one-half the wall height behind the back of
the wall face of the wall. For this, the back of the wall face should be considered to be the
pressure surface being considered for the computation.
Where live load surcharge is applicable, the factored surcharge force is generally included
over the backfill immediately above the wall only for evaluation of foundation bearing
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resistance and structure design. The live load surcharge is not included over the backfill for
evaluation of eccentricity, sliding, or other failure mechanisms for which such a surcharge
would represent added resistance to failure. The load factor for live load surcharge (e.g.,
1.75 for Strength I, 1.35 for Strength II, 1.0 for Service I, etc. (see Table 3.4.1-1 in
AASHTO, 2007)) is the same for both vertical and horizontal load effects. When dealing
with live load surcharges, it may be simplest to perform limit state checks for cases which
include the live load surcharge and for cases which exclude the live load surcharge and
design based on more critical result.
Note that once a particular load is assigned a load factor, it retains that load factor. For
example, the vertical component of load EH is assigned a maximum load factor (1.5) even
though it acts to resist the overturning and sliding. It is stressed that the above figures are
typical applications. The designer is responsible to identify the load and load factor
combination that produces the maximum force effect.
Loads from traffic barriers are considered at the Extreme II limit state. In this case, the load
factor for the traffic load, CT, is 1.00. For a CIP wall, this loading is used for evaluating
eccentricity, bearing resistance, and sliding of the wall. The vehicle collision load (CT) is an
instantaneous load applied in the same direction as LS and EH.
Section A13.2 of AASHTO (2007) describes the procedure used to evaluate the vehicle
collision loading and geometric requirements for a traffic railing. A yield line analysis is
used to check whether a particular rail or barrier type is applicable to resist the loading. For
example, for the CIP wall shown in Figure 5-13, assume that structural calculations (i.e.,
yield line analysis) have shown that a proposed rail meets or exceeds requirements for a TL-4
rail test level (see Table A13.2-1 of AASHTO, 2007). The evaluation of sliding and
eccentricity would consider a horizontal load of 54 kips located at a distance of 32 in. (2-8)
(the effective height of the vehicle rollover force) above the base of the rail (see Figure 5-14).
In the analysis, it is assumed that the 54 kip load acts over a longitudinal distance of 5 ft.
The load is then assumed to reduce using a 45 degree distribution angle to the elevation of
the bottom of the footing. The resulting 2.44 kip/ft width of wall force would then be
assumed to be applied at 17.17 ft above the base of the footing (i.e., 1.5 ft + 13 ft + 2.67 ft)
for sliding and eccentricity calculations.
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16
93
4

29 20
2

16
1
4

1
3

1/2
12
Barrier Load = 54 kips
16
93
4

29 20
2

16
1
4

1
3

1/2
12
Barrier Load = 54 kips

Figure 5-13. Example CIP Wall with Traffic Barrier.


1
1 END OF
RETAINING
WALL PANEL
ASSUMED
DISTRIBUTION
TO RETAINING WALL
50 28 130 16
BARRIERLOAD
DISTRIBUTION
WIDTH
222
LIMITED BY LENGTH OF RETAINING WALL PANEL
Barrier Load @ Bottom of Footing
P
CT
= 54 kips / (5 ft + 2.67 ft + 13 ft + 1.5 ft) = 2.44 kips/ ft width


1
1 END OF
RETAINING
WALL PANEL
ASSUMED
DISTRIBUTION
TO RETAINING WALL
50 28 130 16
BARRIERLOAD
DISTRIBUTION
WIDTH
222
LIMITED BY LENGTH OF RETAINING WALL PANEL
Barrier Load @ Bottom of Footing
P
CT
= 54 kips / (5 ft + 2.67 ft + 13 ft + 1.5 ft) = 2.44 kips/ ft width

Figure 5-14. Computation of Barrier Load at Footing Level.
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5.5.5 Step 7 - Evaluate Bearing Resistance
The computed vertical stress,
v
, at the base of the wall footing must be checked against the
factored bearing resistance of the soil. The generalized distribution of bearing vertical stress
at the wall base is illustrated in Figures 5-15 and 5-16 for foundations on soil and rock,
respectively. The procedures for evaluating the nominal bearing resistance of the foundation
are found in Geotechnical Engineering Circular No. 6 (Kimmerling, 2002) and in AASHTO
(2007) Section 10.6.3.1 and 10.6.3.2. Student Exercise 3 illustrates the LRFD evaluation of
bearing resistance for a CIP wall.
Bearing resistance is evaluated at the strength limit state using factored loads and resistances
as illustrated in Figure 5-12. The live load surcharge is considered for bearing resistance.
The nominal bearing resistance, q
n
, is calculated based on methods for shallow foundations,
and uses the resistance factor from Table 10.5.5.2.1-1 of AASHTO (2007). For walls on
shallow foundations, a resistance factor of 0.55 is used. This resistance factor has been
calibrated to a ASD factor of safety value of 2.5.
e 2 B
V
q q
n r

= (5-1)
For walls on soil foundations, the vertical stress,
v
, is calculated assuming a uniform
distribution of pressure over an effective base width, B where B = B - 2 e.
e 2 B
V
v

(5-2)
where e is defined in Figure 5-15 and V is the summation of all factored vertical forces
(including weight of wall stem, wall base, and soil above the heel and vertical component of
earth pressure loading (if applicable)). If the computed e is less than zero, assume e = 0.
Where deep foundation elements are used, resistance is calculated using methods for
resistance computations for driven piles (see AASHTO (2007) Section 10.7) and drilled
shafts (see AASHTO (2007) Section 10.8).


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Figure 5-15. Loading and Eccentricity for Walls Founded on Soil.
For walls founded on rock, the vertical stress shall be calculated assuming a linearly
distributed pressure over an effective base area as shown in Figure 5-16. If the resultant
vertical force is within the middle one-third of the wall base,

+ =

B
e
6 1
B
V
max v
(5-3)

B
e
6 1
B
V
min v
(5-4)
If the resultant is outside the middle one-third of the wall base, then
( ) [ ] e 2 / B 3
V 2
max v

(5-5)
0
min v
= (5-6)
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Figure 5-16. Loading and Eccentricity for Walls Founded on Rock.

5.5.6 Step 8 Check Eccentricity
The criteria for evaluating eccentricity in ASD for CIP walls requires that the resultant force
be maintained within B/6 of the foundation centroid for foundations on soil, and within B/4
of the centroid for foundations on rock. For LRFD, these criteria were revised to reflect the
factoring of loads and therefore the eccentricity limits have been increased compared to
ASD. As a result, the location of the resultant of the resultant force should be within B/4 of
the foundation centroid for foundations on soil, and within 3B/8 of the foundation centroid
for foundations on rock. These limits were developed by direct calibration with ASD and,
along with the check for bearing resistance, replace the check on overturning previously used
for ASD designs.
If there is inadequate resistance to overturning (eccentricity value greater than limits given
above), consideration should be given to either increasing the width of the wall base, or
providing a deep foundation.
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5.5.7 Step 9 Check Sliding
Sliding resistance along the base of the wall is evaluated using the same procedures as for
spread footing design. The driving forces in a sliding evaluation will generally included
factored horizontal loads due to earth, water, seismic, and surcharge pressures and the
resisting force is provided by the shear resistance between the foundation base and
foundation soil. Student Exercise 3 includes calculations for evaluating sliding.
The factored resistance against sliding can be written as:
ep ep n R
R R R R

+ = = (5-7)
where
R
n
= nominal sliding resistance against failure by sliding

= resistance factor for shear resistance between soil and foundation (provided in
Table 10.5.5.2.2-1 of AASHTO (2007))
R

= nominal sliding resistance between soil and foundation

ep
= resistance factor for passive resistance (provided in Table 10.5.5.2.2-1 of
AASHTO (2007))
R
ep
= nominal passive resistance of soil available throughout design life
Note that any passive resistance provided by soil at the toe of the wall by embedment is
typically ignored due to the potential for the soil to be removed through natural or manmade
processes during the service life of the structure.
If the soil beneath the footing is cohesionless, the nominal sliding resistance between soil and
foundation is given as:

tan V R = (5-8)
for which (with
f
= the friction angle of the foundation soil and V = total vertical force):
tan = tan
f
(for concrete cast against soil)
tan = 0.8 tan
f
(for precast concrete footing)
For cohesive soil foundations, the procedure provided in AASHTO (2007) Section 10.6.3.4
should be used.
If adequate sliding resistance cannot be achieved, design modifications may include: (1)
increasing the width of the wall base; (2) using an inclined wall base or battering the wall to
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decrease the horizontal load; (3) incorporating deep foundation support; (4) constructing a
shear key; and (5) embedding the wall base to a sufficient depth so that passive resistance can
be relied upon.
If the wall is supported by rock, granular soils or stiff clay, a key may be installed below the
foundation to provide additional resistance to sliding
5.5.8 Step 10 Evaluate Overall Stability
Where retaining walls are underlain by weak soils (Figure 5-17), the overall stability of the
soil mass must be checked with respect to the most critical failure surface. Analyses
considering both circular and non-circular slip surfaces must be considered. Overall stability
is evaluated at the Service I limit state with typical resistance factors of either 0.65 or 0.75.
Since the overall stability is evaluated at Service I limit state it is possible to derive a
straightforward relationship between the FS in the ASD approach and the in LRFD. This
relationship is given by FS = 1/. Thus, a value of 0.75 and 0.65 mentioned above
correspond to a FS value of 1.33 and 1.54, respectively. The LRFD specifications do not
intend to increase the traditional safety factors of 1.30 and 1.50 to 1.33 and 1.54,
respectively. For the LRFD specifications in general, resistance factors are rounded to the
nearest 0.05 because not doing so would imply an accuracy to the resistance factors that is
really not justifiable. Thus, in a practical sense, a resistance factor of 0.65 is intended to be
the same as using a FS=1.50, for example, and rounding from 1.54 to 1.50 is appropriate.
Similarly, rounding from 1.33 to 1.3 is appropriate.
In practice, the resistance factor should be 0.65 if the wall supports a bridge foundation, or
the foundation for a similarly important structure such as a noise wall, water tower/tank,
pipeline or critical utility that cannot tolerate movement. On the other hand, a resistance
factor of 0.75 may be more appropriate for a sign foundation, minor retaining wall, etc.
If overall stability is found to be a problem, deep foundations or use of lightweight backfill
may be considered, or measures can be taken to improve the shear strength of the weak soil
stratum. Other wall types, such as an anchored soldier pile and lagging wall, or tangent or
secant pile wall, should also be considered.
5.5.9 Step 11 Estimate Maximum Lateral Wall Movement, Tilt, and Wall Settlement
at the Service I Limit State
Foundation settlement and tilt of the wall can be computed using methods in Geotechnical
Engineering Circular No. 6 (Kimmerling, 2002), FHWA NHI-06-088 (Samtani and
Nowatzki, 2006), or AASHTO (2007) Section 10.6.2. CIP walls can generally accommodate
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Figure 5-17. Typical Modes of Global Stability (after Bowles, 1988).

a differential settlement of up to about 1/500 (ratio of differential settlement of two points
along the wall to the horizontal distance between the points). In general, tolerable total
settlements of CIP walls are limited to 1 in. (as a means to control differential settlement). If
the computed settlement and tilt exceed acceptable limits, the wall dimensions can be
modified to shift the resultant force closer to the center of the base and thereby reduce the
load eccentricity and differential settlement. In some cases, use of lightweight backfill
material may solve the problem. The use of deep foundations can also be considered.
Unless CIP walls are provided with a deep foundation, a small amount of wall tilting should
be anticipated. It is therefore advisable to provide the face of the wall with a small batter to
compensate for the forward tilting (see Figure 5-3). In general then, an acceptable level of
tilt should be no more than the front batter of the wall, however, less allowable tilt may be
necessary to avoid overstressing the junction of the stem and wall footing.
In unusual cases, where the foundation materials are stiffer or firmer at the toe of the base
than at the heel, the resulting settlement may cause the wall to rotate backwards, towards the
retained soil. Such wall movements could substantially increase the lateral pressures on the
wall since the wall is now pushing against the soil similar to a passive pressure condition.
This case can be avoided by reproportioning the wall, supporting the wall on a deep
foundation, or treating the foundation soils.
CIP walls founded on a deep foundation may be subject to potentially damaging ground and
structure displacements at sites underlain by cohesive soils. This may occur if the weight of
the backfill material exceeds the bearing resistance of the cohesive subsoils, causing plastic
displacement of the ground beneath the retaining structure and heave of the ground surface in
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front of the wall. As a general rule, if the ratio of the weight of the embankment plus any
surcharge to the cohesive strength (s
u
) of the foundation is greater than 2.5, then progressive
lateral movements of the retaining structure are likely to occur (Peck et al., 1974). As this
ratio gets larger, the rate of movement will increase until failure occurs when the ratio is at
about 5.
For CIP walls founded on vertical piles or drilled shafts, this progressive ground movement
would be reflected by an outward displacement of the wall. CIP walls founded on battered
piles typically experience an outward displacement of the wall base and a backward tilt of the
wall face (Figure 5-18).

Figure 5-18. Typical Movement of Pile Supported Cast-In-Place (CIP) Wall with Soft
Foundation.

5.5.10 Step 12 Design Wall Drainage Systems
Water can have detrimental effects on earth retaining structures. Subsurface water and
surface water can cause damage during construction and/or on a constructed structure.
Control of water is a key component of the design of earth retaining structures.
A subsurface drainage system serves to prevent the accumulation of destabilizing hydrostatic
pressures, which may develop as a result of groundwater seepage and/or infiltration of
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surface water. Subsurface drainage is addressed in Section 5.5.10.1. There may be several
soil zones behind an earth retaining structure. Groundwater flow from one zone to another,
and then to a drain and outlet feature, should be unimpeded. If impeded, water will backup at
the interface of the two adjacent zones increasing hydrostatic pressures and decreasing the
stability of the wall structure. Soil filtration and permeability requirements must be met
between the two adjacent zones of (different) soils to prevent impeded flow. Soil and
geotextile filter design, and water collection components, are discussed in Section 5.5.10.2.
Surface water runoff can destabilize a structure under construction by inundating the backfill.
Surface water can also destabilize a constructed structure by erosion or infiltrate into the
backfill. Design for surface water runoff is discussed in Section 5.5.10.3.
In most cases, and especially for fill walls, it is preferable to provide backfill drainage rather
than design the wall for the large hydrostatic water pressure resulting from a saturated
backfill. Saturation of the backfill may result from either a high static water table from direct
and/or indirect rainfall infiltrations, or other wet conditions.
5.5.10.1 Subsurface Drainage
Potential sources of subsurface water are groundwater and surface water infiltration, as
illustrated in Figure 5-19. Groundwater may be present at an elevation above the bottom of
the wall and would flow to the backfill from an excavation backcut; or it may be present
beneath the bottom of the wall. A groundwater surface beneath a wall may rise into the
structure, depending on the hydrogeology of the site. Surface water may infiltrate into the
wall backfill from above, or from the front face of the wall for the case of flowing water in
front of the structure (after Collin et al., 2002).
Drainage system design depends on wall type, backfill and/or retained soil type, and
groundwater conditions. Drainage system components (e.g., granular soils, prefabricated
drainage elements, filters) are usually sized and selected based on local experience, site
geometry, and estimated flows, although detailed design is only occasionally performed.
Drainage systems may be omitted if the wall is designed to resist full water pressure.
Drainage measures for fill wall systems, such as CIP walls, (and cut wall systems as well)
typically consist of the use of a free-draining material at the back face, with weep holes
and/or longitudinal collector drains (perforated pipes or gravel drains) along the back face as
shown in Figure 5-20. This minimum amount of drainage should be sufficient if the wall
backfill is relatively free-draining and allows the entire backfill to serve as a drain. It may be
costly to fully backfill with free-draining or relatively free-draining material for some project
applications therefore, it may be necessary to construct other types of drainage systems.
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Groundwater
Reinforced Fill
Retained Fill
Drainage Aggregate
Foundation Soil
Groundwater
Reinforced Fill
Retained Fill
Drainage Aggregate
Foundation Soil
Groundwater
Reinforced Fill
Retained Fill
Drainage Aggregate
Foundation Soil

Figure 5-19. Potential Sources of Subsurface Water.
Backfill Soil
Drainage
Blanket
Longitudinal
Drain Pipe
Backfill Soil
Prefabricated
Drainage
Element
Weephole
Backfill Soil
Drainage
Blanket
Longitudinal
Drain Pipe
Backfill Soil
Drainage
Blanket
Longitudinal
Drain Pipe
Backfill Soil
Drainage
Blanket
Longitudinal
Drain Pipe
Backfill Soil
Prefabricated
Drainage
Element
Weephole
Backfill Soil
Prefabricated
Drainage
Element
Weephole

Figure 5-20. Typical Retaining Wall Drainage Alternatives (after Sabatini et al., 1997).

Fill wall drains may be placed (1) immediately behind the concrete facing or wall stem; (2)
between wall backfill and embankment fill; (3) along a backcut; and (4) as a blanket drain
beneath the wall. Examples of drains behind a wall stem are shown in Figure 5-18. This
drain primarily serves to collect surface water that has infiltrated immediately behind the
wall, and transport it to an outlet. It may also serve to drain the wall backfill, if the backfill
soil is relatively free-draining. It is noted, however, that even with vertical drains
immediately behind the wall, appreciable water pressures can develop within the fill behind
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the drain leading to an increase in pressure on the wall itself. Inclined drains such as that
shown in Figure 5-21 result in near vertical seepage, thus eliminating excess pressures in the
sliding wedge that enters into earth pressure computations.

Figure 5-21. Inclined Drain for Reducing Water Pressure Behind Wall (after Cedergren,
1989).

A drain behind the wall backfill should be used when the backfill is not relatively free-
draining. This may be a drain noted as (2) or as (3), above, and illustrated in Figure 5-22. A
granular blanket drain, with collection pipes and outlets, should be used beneath fill wall
structures where a high or seasonally high groundwater tables exist.
5.5.10.2 Drainage System Components
The drainage systems for fill walls may include:
column(s) or zone(s) of free-draining gravel or coarse sand to collect water seepage
from the backfill;
perforated pipe(s) to collect water in the granular column(s) or zone(s);
conveyance piping;
outlet(s); and
filter(s) between backfill soil(s) and granular column(s) or zone(s).
Longitudinal pipes transport collected water to outlet pipes that discharge at appropriate
points in front of and/or below the wall. Outlets may be via weep holes through the wall
facing and discharging in front of the structure to grade; via conveyance piping to storm
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Foundation Soil
Face chimney drain
Collection and Drain Pipes
Outlet Pipe
Wall Backfill Retained Backfill
Weephole
Chimney drain
Foundation Soil
Face chimney drain
Collection and Drain Pipes
Outlet Pipe
Wall Backfill Retained Backfill
Weephole
Chimney drain

Figure 5-22. Drains Behind Backfill in Cantilever Wall in a Cut Situation.
sewers (urban applications); or via conveyance piping to a slope beneath the wall structure.
Weep holes generally consist of 1 to 3 in. diameter holes that extend through the wall
facing and are closely spaced (typically less than 10 ft. apart) horizontally along the wall. If
weep holes are used with a counterfort wall, at least one weep hole should be located
between counterforts. A screen and/or filter are used to prevent soil piping through a weep
hole.
The collection and conveyance pipes need to be large enough and sufficiently sloped to
effectively drain water from behind the wall while maintaining sufficient pipe flow velocity
to prevent sediment buildup in the pipe. Use of 3 to 4 in. diameter pipes is typical and
practical (the diameter is usually much greater than that required for flow capacity). The
design of pipe perforations (holes) and slots is provided in Section 5.2 of Cedergren
(1989). Pipe outlets to slope areas beneath wall structures should be detailed similar to
pavement drain outlets. If the outlet is to a grass area, it should have a concrete apron,
vertical post marking location (for maintenance), and a screen to prevent animal ingress.
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Filters are required for water flowing between zones of different soils. A filter must prevent
piping of the retained soil while providing sufficient permeability for unimpeded flow. The
filter may be a soil or a geotextile. A geotextile is not required if the two adjacent soils meet
soil filtration criteria. An open graded aggregate will generally not allow the development of a
soil filter at its interface with the backfill soil, thus, requiring a geotextile filter. Soil and
geotextile filter design criteria are summarized in Section 2.5.8.
Geocomposite drains may be used in lieu of clean gravel or coarse sand and a geotextile. A
geocomposite, or prefabricated, drain consists of a geotextile filter and a water collection and
conveyance core. Geocomposites consist of cores that may be plastic waffles, three-
dimensional meshes or mats, extruded and fluted plastic sheets, or nets to convey water,
which are covered by a geotextile filter. A wide variety of geocomposites are readily
available. However, the filtration and flow properties, detailing requirements, and
installation recommendations vary and may be poorly defined for some products.
The flow capacity of geocomposite drains can be determined with ASTM D 4716, Test Method
for Determining the (In-plane) Flow Rate per Unit Width and Hydraulic Transmissivity of a
Geosynthetic Using a Constant Head. Long-term compressive stress and eccentric loadings on
the geocomposite core should be considered during design and selection. The geotextile of the
geocomposite should be designed to meet filter and permeability requirements.
Installation details, such as joining adjacent sections of the geocomposite and connections to
outlets, are usually product specific. These variances should be considered and addressed in the
design, specification, detailing and construction phases of a project. Post installation
examination of the drainage core/path with a cameras scope should be considered for critical
applications.
5.5.10.3 Surface Water Runoff
Surface drainage is an important aspect of ensuring wall performance and must be addressed
during design. Appropriate drainage measures to prevent surface water from infiltrating into
the wall backfill should be included in the design of an earth retaining structure, whether of
fill or cut construction.
During construction of a fill wall, the backfill surface should be graded away from the wall
face at the end of each day of construction to prevent water from ponding behind the wall
and saturating the soil. Surface water running onto a partially completed backfill can carry
fine-grained soils into and contaminate a free-draining granular backfill with fines. If a fine-
grained backfill soil is being utilized, saturation can cause movements of the partially
constructed wall facing.
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Finish grading at the top of a wall structure should provide positive drainage away from the
wall, when possible, to prevent or minimize infiltration of surface water into the backfill. If
the area above the wall is paved, a curb and gutter is typically used to direct the flow. Concrete,
asphalt or vegetation lined drainage swales may be used where a vegetated finished grade
slopes to the wall. Water runoff over the top of a wall where the backfill slopes towards it
and without a collection swale can lead to erosion and can cause staining of the wall face as
soil is carried with the water. Runoff flow will concentrate at grading low points behind the
face.
The collection and conveyance swales should prevent overtopping of the wall for the design
storm event. Extreme events (i.e., heavy rainfalls in short duration) have been known to
cause substantial damage to earth retaining structures both during construction and during the
life of the structure due to erosion, flooding, and/or increased hydrostatic pressures. This is
particularly true for sites where surface drainage flows toward the wall structure and where
finer-grained backfills are used.
Site drainage features are designed for an assumed or prescribed design storm event (e.g., the
24-hour, 25 year storm event). However, extreme events do occur which result in short
duration (i.e., 1 to 3 hours) flows that significantly exceed the design capacity of the
stormwater management system. When this does occur, site flooding can result, causing
overtopping of the wall, erosion, and an increase in hydrostatic forces within and behind the
reinforced soil mass.
If surface water flows toward an earth retaining structure, it is likely picked up in a gutter or
other collection feature; and this feature is often sized based upon the design storm event.
Similar to designing an overflow spillway with dam structures, the site layout and wall
structure should include features for handling flows greater than the design event. The wall
designer should address potential excess flows, and coordinate work with other project
designers. Consideration should be given to incorporating overflow (i.e., spillway) details
into the wall design for sites where surface water flows towards the wall structure.

5.6 CONSTRUCTION INSPECTION
Construction inspection requirements for CIP walls are similar to those for other concrete
structures. In some cases, state agencies may have developed inspector checklists for this
type of construction. Table 5-3 provides a summary of construction inspection requirements
for CIP walls.

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Table 5-3. Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical CIP Gravity and Semi Gravity Wall
Project
CONTRACTOR SET UP
Review Plans and Specifications
Review Contractors schedule
Review test results and certifications for preapproved materials (e.g., cement, coarse
and fine aggregate)
Confirm that Contractor stockpile and staging area are consistent with locations shown
on Plans
Discuss anticipated ground conditions and potential problems with Contractor
Review Contractors survey results against Plans
EXCAVATION
Verify that excavation slopes and/or structural excavation support is consistent with
the Plans
Confirm that limits of any required excavations are within right-of-way limits shown
on Plans
Confirm all unsuitable materials (e.g., sod, snow, frost, topsoil, soft/muddy soil) are
removed to the limits and depths shown on the Plans and the excavation is backfilled
with granular material and properly compacted
Confirm that leveling and proof-rolling of the foundation area is consistent with
requirements of Specifications
Confirm that Contractors excavation operations do not result in significant water
ponding
Confirm that existing drainage features, utilities, and other features are protected
Identify areas not shown on Plans where unsuitable material exists and notify
Engineer
FOOTING
Approve footing foundation condition before concrete is poured
Confirm reinforcement strength, size, and type consistent with Specifications
Confirm consistency of Contractors outline of the footing (footing size and bottom of
footing depth) with Plans
Confirm location and spacing of reinforcing steel consistent with Plans
Confirm water/cement ratio and concrete mix design consistent with Specifications
Record concrete volumes poured for the footing
Confirm appropriate concrete curing times and methods as provided in the
Specifications
Confirm that concrete is not placed on ice, snow, or otherwise unsuitable ground
Confirm that concrete is being placed in continuous horizontal layers and time
between successive layers is consistent with Specifications


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STEM
If used, confirm the placement of weep hole inserts (number, elevation, and specific
locations) with Plans
Confirm concrete is poured in section lengths consistent with Specifications
Record concrete volumes used to form the stem
Confirm that all wall face depressions, air pockets, gaps, rough spots, etc. are
repaired
Confirm storage of reinforcing bars is consistent with Specifications (e.g.- use of
platform or supports)
Perform preliminary check of condition of epoxy-coated reinforcing bars
Confirm that forms are clean and appropriately braced during concrete pour operations
Confirm that all reinforcing bars are held securely in place and being rigidly supported
at the face of forms and in the bottom of wall footings
Confirm that construction joints are being made only at locations shown on the Plans
or approved by the Engineer
DRAINAGE SYSTEMS AND BACKFILL
Confirm that installation of the drainage system consistent with Specifications and
Plans
Confirm backfill material used is approved by the Engineer
Confirm placement of backfill is performed as lifts consistent with Specifications
Confirm that minimum concrete strength is achieved before backfill and compaction
against back of wall
Confirm that backfill placement method used by Contractor does not cause damage to
prefabricated drainage material or drain pipe
Confirm that earth cover over drainage pipes is sufficient to prevent damage from
heavy equipment (minimum cover based on ground pressure from equipment should
be provided in the Specifications)
Perform required backfill density tests (at the frequencies specified), especially for
areas that are compacted with lightweight equipment (e.g.- areas just behind the wall)
Check that the drainage backfill just behind weep holes is the correct gradation and
that it is properly installed
POST INSTALLATION
Verify pay quantities
Note: Throughout project, check submittals for completeness before transmittal to Engineer
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FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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CHAPTER 6
MODULAR GRAVITY WALLS
6.1 INTRODUCTION
This chapter describes types of modular gravity wall systems used in highway practice,
including crib walls, concrete module walls, bin walls and gabion walls (Figure 6-1). Also
presented are the specific design considerations and construction requirements for each of
these wall types.

Figure 6-1. Modular Gravity Walls (a) Metal Bin Wall; (b) Precast Concrete Crib Wall; (c)
Precast Concrete Module Wall; and (d) Gabion Wall (after AASHTO, 2007).
A system that combines features of a modular gravity wall and an MSE wall is the so-called
T-Wall. This is a proprietary system and, while other similar systems may be available in
the U.S. market, in Section 6.9, specific information on this wall system is provided.
Modular gravity walls comprise two major components: modular structural elements and the
fill material placed within these elements. The structural elements, which may be
proprietary, may consist of steel modules or bins, prefabricated concrete modules, timber
units, wire baskets or other configurations and materials. The fill material used within the
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modular units is recommended to be free draining granular soils, gravel, or rock fragments.
Modular gravity walls rely on their own weight and the weight of the fill material within and
above the wall elements to resist the applied loads and moments.
Modular gravity walls have been used in a variety of project applications including
highways, bridges, railroads, channels, dikes, and others (Figure 6-2). Modular gravity walls
may be used where conventional cast-in-place concrete retaining walls are considered.
Because of their modular configuration, they are easy to assemble, dismantle and transport;
therefore, they are ideally suited for use in remote areas for construction of permanent or
temporary fill wall systems. In 2007, most modular gravity walls constructed are either
precast concrete module walls or gabion walls. Metal bin walls are rarely used unless for
rehabilitation of existing metal bin walls.
The primary advantages of modular gravity walls are:
Low cost;
Fast and easy construction;
Low labor requirement (except for gabion walls);
Erection unaffected by temperature;
Plant-controlled quality of prefabricated units;
Flexibility and tolerance to differential settlements;
No need for architectural finish; and
Units can be disassembled and re-used economically.
The limitations of this type of wall system are:
Requires bottom-up construction;
Potential corrosion of exposed metallic elements including metallic bins and wire
used for gabion baskets;
Potential decay of timber units exposed to water action;
Required storage space at the site for relatively large prefabricated units;
Possible unavailability of required fill material (especially required fill for gabion
walls);
Susceptibility of some systems to vandalism (wire baskets can be damaged more
easily than concrete structures);
Not suitable for use with deep foundations; and
Many of the available systems are proprietary.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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Figure 6-2. Examples of Modular Gravity Wall Applications (after Contech, 1997).
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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The principal types of modular gravity walls are the crib wall, the concrete module wall, the
bin wall and the gabion wall. Although the same basic design considerations and procedures
generally apply to all of these wall systems, each type of wall has distinctive features and
construction requirements.

6.2 CRIB WALLS
6.2.1 General
Crib walls are built using prefabricated units which are stacked and interlocked and filled
with free-draining granular material (Figure 6-3). The crib units are made of either
reinforced concrete or timber. Timber units require treatment for long-term durability
against decay, particularly in walls with extensive contact with water.
The wall face can either be open or closed. In closed-face cribs, the stretchers are placed in
contact with each other. In open-faced cribs, the stretchers are placed apart but at close
intervals so that the infill material does not escape through the face. When subject to wave or
current action, such as in stream or waterfront applications, a geotextile filter layer is usually
placed behind the wall face to prevent the loss of fines through the spaces between stretchers,
even in closed-face cribs.
Walls higher than about 6 ft are usually built with a batter to improve stability. Crib walls of
constant width are commonly used for heights up to about 15 ft (Figure 6-3a). For higher
walls, stepped wall cross-sections (Figure 6-3b) are often used to increase stability and
reduce the cost.
6.2.2 Wall Construction
The first stage of construction consists of excavating to the wall foundation grade and
preparing the wall foundation. If stable excavation slopes cannot be maintained during this
period of wall construction, temporary excavation support may be needed. Foundation
preparation includes removing unsuitable materials such as organic matter and vegetation
from the area to be occupied by the wall and leveling and proof-rolling the foundation area.
A cast-in-place concrete leveling pad is normally provided at the base of the wall. This slab
usually extends beyond the front and back faces of the crib and, on sloping ground, it is often
stepped to follow the slope.

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Note: Type I is an open-face wall system. Types II and III are both closed-face wall systems
Figure 6-3. Crib Walls (a) Uniform Cross-Section; (b) Stepped Cross-Section; and (c)
Typical Details of a Reinforced Concrete Crib Wall (after HKGEO, 1993).
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Figure 6-4. Setting Precast Elements for an Open Faced Crib Wall.
Timber and concrete crib members are placed in successive tiers in accordance with the
design spacing and arrangement (Figure 6-4). At the intersection of concrete header and
stretcher members, asphalt felt shims, or other suitable material, are used to obtain uniform
bearing between the members.
After each course of stretchers is assembled, the void within the crib is filled with infill
material. Backfilling progresses simultaneously with the erection of the crib members, and
the backfill is carefully placed and compacted to avoid displacing or damaging the crib
members.
Unless the infill material can serve as a filter, a geotextile layer is usually provided behind
the rear face of the crib wall to prevent migration of fines from the backfill. Drainage
systems similar to those used in conventional CIP concrete walls may be needed, particularly
for closed-face cribs. In open-face cribs, the interspaces can be planted with vegetation to
help blend the wall with the surrounding environment.
6.2.3 Materials
Precast concrete should comply with the standard specifications for reinforced concrete. The
precast concrete members should be constructed of Portland cement concrete with a
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minimum compressive strength at 28 days of 4,000 psi. For high walls (say greater than 20
ft) stresses in the lower members may require that concrete with higher compressive strength
(say 5,000 psi) be considered. If the crib wall is constructed of timber, the material should be
of structural grade, properly treated and should comply with standard specifications for
structural timber (see Section 8 of AASHTO, 2007). Crib members should be fabricated so
that they are fully interchangeable, without the need to drill, cut or offset the members to
correct for non-uniform sections. Bolts, nuts and miscellaneous hardware should be
galvanized.
The infill material should be well graded, free-draining, granular soil which will not sift or
flow through openings in the wall. Infill should have a maximum particle size of 3 in. and
should have no more than 15 percent of particles passing the No. 200 sieve. For wall heights
greater than say 20 ft, infill material with even less material passing the No. 200 sieve should
be considered.
The backfill material should consists of either well graded crushed rock that is at least 1 in. in
diameter, or free draining nonexpansive soil free of organic and deleterious materials and
confirming to the gradation limits specified in AASHTO T-27. Where cohesive soil is used,
backfill soil must be a mixture of cohesive and cohesionless soils.
The infill and backfill material should be placed in uniform layers not exceeding 12 in. in
thickness, and compacted with a manual vibratory tamping device to at least 95 percent of
the maximum density as determined in accordance with AASHTO T-99. Backfill behind the
crib wall shall be placed following the erection of the wall as closely as possible. The wall
height should never be greater than 3 ft above the backfill.
6.2.4 Cost
A cost range of crib walls up to 35 ft in height is typically about $25 - $35/ft
2
of exposed wall
face with the higher range associated with higher walls. Crib walls are typically not cost
effective above 35 ft. Crib walls do not require skilled labor or specialized equipment
therefore the cost range is most affected by wall height and cost to obtain and transport
prefabricated units to the project site.

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6.3 CONCRETE MODULE WALLS
6.3.1 General
Concrete module walls use interlocking precast concrete cells erected at the site and filled
with compacted earth (Figure 6-5). A common concrete module (Figure 6-5b) has a face
height of about 4 ft, a face length about 8 ft, and a width ranging from 4 ft to 20 ft. The wall
units can be assembled vertically or with a batter. A variety of surface treatments (striations,
exposed aggregate, etc.) are available to meet specific aesthetic requirements. On top of the
wall, a parapet module can be placed and held rigidly by a cast-in-place concrete slab. A
reinforced cast-in-place or precast concrete footing is usually placed at the toe and heel of the
wall.
Assembly of the interlocking wall units does not require bolts, nuts, pins, or fasteners.
Accordingly, corrosion problems are minimized. Since all the units are manufactured in the
plant and hauled to the site, their fabrication is standardized and performed to shop-applied
quality control procedures.
6.3.2 Wall Construction
Construction of a concrete module wall is relatively fast and simple, requires minimum labor
and can be accomplished with a small crane. The first stage of construction consists of
excavating to the wall foundation grade and preparing the wall foundation. If stable
excavation slopes cannot be maintained during the period of wall construction, temporary
excavation support may be needed. Foundation preparation includes removing unsuitable
materials such as organic matter and vegetation from the area to be occupied by the wall and
leveling and proof-rolling the foundation area. Removal of weak and/or compressible
materials and replacement with stable soil would also be part of foundation preparation.
Next, precast or CIP concrete footings are installed. The footings set the line and grade,
establish the batter of the wall if it is not vertical, and help distribute the load to the
foundation soils.
The concrete modules arrive at the site ready to be installed. A crane equipped with a special
handling device picks up the units and places them in their proper positions within the
structure (Figure 6-6a). Using a building-block concept, the interlocking modules can
quickly be aligned as they are placed.
Between each module course, rubber pads or other suitable material are placed in the front
horizontal joints, and at other bearing areas. Alignment and elevations are corrected by
adding or removing pads.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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Figure 6-5. Concrete Module Wall (a) Typical Section; (b) Typical Module; and (c) Precast
Parapet (after Doublewal Corporation).
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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Figure 6-6. Construction of Concrete Module Wall (a) Placement of Precast Modules; (b)
Placing Fill Within the Modules; and (c) Compacting the Infill Material (after Doublewal
Corp.).
(a)
(b)
(c)
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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Once the modules are properly set, shims are used to fill any space between the keys to
prevent movement of the modules during backfilling. A geotextile filter layer is placed
behind the front vertical joints to prevent the migration of fines and allow the joints to act as
weep holes permitting the passage of water that might otherwise build up behind the wall.
After each course is set, the modules are filled with select material (Figure 6-6b), and backfill
is placed behind them. The infill and backfill are carefully placed and compacted to avoid
displacing or damaging the concrete modules (Figure 6-6c). The parapet units, if required,
are placed on top of the upper course, and adjusted to the proper alignment by hardwood
wedges. A concrete slab is then cast-in-place to hold the wall parapet in its permanent
position.
6.3.3 Materials
Precast concrete should comply with the standard specifications for reinforced concrete. The
precast concrete modules should be constructed of Portland cement concrete with a minimum
compressive strength at 28 days of 4,000 psi. The concrete modules should be fabricated so
that they are fully interchangeable, without the need to drill, cut or offset the modules to
correct for non-uniform sections.
The infill material should be well graded, free-draining, granular soil which will not sift or
flow through openings in the wall. Infill should have a maximum particle size of 3 in. and
should have no more than 15 percent of particles passing the No. 200 sieve. For wall heights
greater than say 20 ft, infill material with even less material passing the No. 200 sieve should
be considered.
The infill should be placed in uniform layers not exceeding 12 in. in thickness, and
compacted with a manual vibratory tamping device to at least 95 percent of the maximum
density as determined in accordance with AASHTO T-99. The backfill behind the wall is
placed and compacted following normal retaining wall construction procedures.
6.3.4 Cost
A cost range of concrete module walls up to 25 ft in height is typically about $30 - $35 ft
2
exposed wall face with the higher range associated with higher walls. Concrete module walls
are typically not cost effective above 35 ft. Just like crib walls, concrete module walls do not
require skilled labor or specialized equipment therefore the cost range typically varies due to
wall height and material costs.

FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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6.4 GABION WALLS
6.4.1 General
Gabion walls are composed of rows and tiers of orthogonal wire cages or baskets filled with
rock fragments and tied together. They are widely used for channel and river bank
protection, but are also used for earth retaining structures, particularly in rugged terrain. The
finished wall appearance easily blends with the natural landscape, especially if local rock is
used as infill material.
Gabion walls are simple and easy to construct. The construction of gabion walls becomes
more economical for sites where suitable infill rock is available. Gabion walls are free
draining and, if the backfill does not trap water, they will not be subjected to hydrostatic
water pressures. Because they are free-draining, they also are frost resistant.
Since gabion walls are flexible structures, they are suitable for construction over
compressible soils. They are also well suited for remote areas that cannot be easily accessed
by heavy machinery. In these situations, the wire baskets are assembled by hand and filled
with local stone. Another advantage of gabion walls is that they allow penetration by
protruding objects such as pipes.
Gabion walls are very labor intensive; thus, they may not be cost-effective in certain regions.
The wire baskets may be subject to vandalism, and the long-term durability of the wire may
be questionable, particularly in corrosive environments. Some systems are available with
PVC coated wires.
The front and rear faces of a gabion wall may be vertical or stepped. A batter is usually
provided for walls higher than about 10 ft to improve stability. The wall batters commonly
used are 1 in 10, 1 in 6, and 1 in 4.
A variety of cage sizes can be produced to suit the terrain with a standard width of 3 ft and
lengths ranging from 3 to 12 ft. Available basket heights generally include 1 ft, 1.5 ft, and 3
ft. The longer gabions may be divided into cells by diaphragms made of the same mesh as
the gabion basket itself, and directly joined to the base panel during manufacture. These
diaphragms reinforce the structure and make assembly and erection easier (Figure 6-7).

FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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Figure 6-7. Gabion Baskets (a) Module without Diaphragms and (b) Module with
Diaphragms.

6.4.2 Wall Construction
The first stage of construction consists of excavating to the wall foundation grade and
preparing the wall foundation. If stable excavation slopes cannot be maintained during the
period of wall construction, temporary excavation support may be needed. Foundation
preparation includes removing unsuitable materials such as organic matter and vegetation
from the area to be occupied by the wall and leveling and proof-rolling the foundation area.
Removal of weak and/or compressible materials and replacement with stable soil would also
be part of foundation preparation. Gravel bedding layer or concrete leveling pad is often
placed to provide a working surface and to help establish the alignment and elevation of the
wall.
The hexagonal woven-mesh gabions are supplied folded flat and in a bundle. Each gabion is
erected at the site by folding up the sides and lacing together all vertical edges with the lacing
wire. The four corners of the box are laced first, followed by lacing the edges of internal
diaphragms to the sides of the box.
The erected units are placed in their proper locations and adjoining empty gabions are laced
along the perimeter of their contact surfaces to obtain a monolithic structure. The connected
units are then stretched taut along their proper alignment before they are filled. The first
gabion in the line is usually partially filled to provide anchorage during stretching.
The welded wire gabions are either assembled in the factory and shipped flat to the project
site similar to the woven-mesh gabions, or the wire mesh panels are cut in the field to the
6 ft
1.5 ft
12 ft
3 ft
3 ft
3 ft
6 ft
1.5 ft
12 ft
3 ft
3 ft
3 ft
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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dimensions of the sides, top and base of the units in separate pieces which are joined together
by spiral binders or tie wires. No stretching is required for the welded wire gabions.
For example, for a 3-ft high basket, the baskets are tightly filled in three equal layers to
ensure minimum voids (Figure 6-8a). Tie wires between the front and back faces of the
gabion basket are typically installed at the top of the first and second infill layers to restrain
bulging of the front face. Adjoining units are filled to the same elevation during each stage
of filling. The last layers of stone are leveled with the top of the gabion to allow proper
closing of the lid, and to provide a level surface for the following course (Figure 6-8b). The
mesh of the lid is tied down to the sides and ends of the basket as well as to any internal
diaphragm panels. Well packed filling (without undue bulging) and secure connections are
essential in all gabion structures.
Gabions are filled by any type of earth-handling equipment such as a backhoe, clam shell,
etc. Care must be taken to avoid damaging the wire mesh or its protective coating by sharp
particles of crushed rock.
The gabion wall can be constructed on curves or angles by cutting and folding the wire-mesh
to make units of special shapes and sizes. When building under water, the gabion units are
usually assembled and filled at the surface then lowered into position by a crane.
Prior to placing backfill, a geotextile filter material or graded soil filter is placed to fully
cover the back faces and steps of the gabion wall.
6.4.3 Materials
Gabion baskets are made from a range of materials including steel, nylon, polypropylene or
polyethylene. The polymer-type materials have the advantage of being lightweight and
corrosion resistant. However, they are susceptible to attack by fire or ultraviolet light.
Therefore, if these materials are used in making the baskets, it is advisable to cover the
exposed grids with a non-flammable material such as shotcrete.
The material most commonly used in commercial production of gabions is steel wire-mesh,
which is manufactured in two types: hexagonal woven with an approximate opening size of
3.25 in. by 4.5 in., and square welded with an approximate opening side dimension of 3 in.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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(a)

(b)
Figure 6-8. Gabion Wall Construction (a) Filling Gabion Baskets with Stone and (b) Closing
Gabion Lid for Tying.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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The hexagonal wire mesh is mechanically woven in a continuous sheet. The wires are
double twisted to form the mesh. The diameter of the steel wires is between 0.08 and 0.15 in.
The gabion base, top and sides are usually formed from a single piece of mesh, with its edges
made of a wire with a diameter of about 1.5 times that of the wire mesh to prevent
unraveling. High-tensile zinc-coated, steel wires are used, with a minimum tensile strength
of 50,000 psi. For permanent applications, the wires should be at least 0.1 in. in diameter and
galvanized before weaving.
The welded wire mesh is manufactured from high tensile steel wire, electrically welded at
each intersection. The welded mesh should be hot-dip galvanized after welding. The
fabrication of panels by welding the wires after they have been galvanized is not
recommended as the welds are left unprotected (HKGEO, 1993). Since the wires are welded
at each intersection, the welded wire mesh has less ability to stretch and contract, and thus
the assembled baskets are less flexible than comparable woven wire mesh gabions.
In highly corrosive environments, such as sea water or polluted water, PVC (polyvinyl
chloride) coating is usually provided for the wires. A black, PVC coat, 0.016 to 0.024 in.
thick, is applied to the woven mesh by hot dipping or by extrusion onto the galvanized wire
before weaving. For welded mesh, the PVC coating is applied electrostatically to the welded
panel. The PVC coat should be bonded sufficiently to the wire core to prevent capillary flow
of water between the wire and the PVC, which may cause corrosion. The durability of the
PVC coating against contact with acidic, salt or polluted water, and exposure to ultra violet
light and abrasion, is tested in accordance with ASTM E 42-65 specifications.
All wires used in the construction of gabion walls (lacing wires, etc.) are made of the same
quality wire used in the wire mesh. In waterfront structures, armor units, such as rip rap, are
usually provided to protect the wire baskets from wave action or heavy water-borne material.
The infill material should consist of rock fragments that are sound, durable and well-graded.
The inclusion of objectionable quantities of shale, dirt, sand, clay, rock fines, and other
deleterious materials should not be permitted with rock fragments. The rock fragments
should be between 4 in and 10 in. in diameter, based on U.S. Standard square mesh sieves.
No rock fragment should have a minimum dimension less than 4 in.
The backfill material should consist of open-graded granular soil similar to that placed
behind other gravity-type structures. The backfill material should be compacted to at least 95
percent of the maximum dry density as defined in AASHTO T 99 within 1 ft of the top of the
wall. The top 1 ft should be compacted to at least 100 percent of the maximum laboratory
dry density. In partially submerged walls, the backfill material should be free-draining to
prevent the build up of water pressure behind the wall when the water level in front of the
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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wall is lowered. Drainage behind the wall should be similar to that provided for crib walls
and other types of modular walls. A filter layer (soil or geotextile) is usually provided
between the gabion baskets and the backfill to prevent migration of the backfill soil through
the relatively large voids of the infill material.
6.4.4 Cost
A cost range of gabion walls up to 25 ft is typically about $30 - $50/ft
2
of exposed wall face.
Gabion walls are typically not cost effective above 25 ft. Gabion walls do not require skilled
labor or specialized equipment however, they require significant labor effort. The labor cost
can be up to 50 percent of the total cost.
Gabion walls require select stone material for infill and depending on the location of the
source relative to the project site, the cost of gabion walls can vary significantly. Typically,
if the source of the infill rock is not local, the cost of a gabion wall can be so high that it may
not be economical to consider this wall type for the project.

6.5 BIN WALLS
6.5.1 General
Bin walls consist of adjoining closed-face cells filled with compacted select backfill to form
a gravity type retaining structure. The cells are generally constructed of sturdy, lightweight,
steel members that are bolted together at the site. The flexibility of the steel structure allows
the wall to flex against minor ground movements that might damage rigid-type walls.
Figure 6-9 illustrates the typical geometry of a bin wall. Basically, the wall is assembled
using modular panels called stringers and spacers. The stringers constitute the front and back
faces of the bin and the spacers its sides. Vertical connectors, grade plates, and stringer
stiffeners act to hold the wall together (Figure 6-10). The stringers are approximately 10 ft
long while shorter stringers are sometimes used to allow curvature in the wall. The length of
the spacer (wall depth) is variable, and is determined by stability requirements. Wall heights
may vary in 1.33 ft increments.
The walls of the bin (stringers and spacers) are formed of S-shaped steel members. As the
wall height and depth increase, the thickness of these members is also increased to resist the
internal pressure from the fill material. Table 6-1 shows the typical relationship between
thickness of steel panel members and wall height, as recommended by one wall
manufacturer.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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Table 6-1. Typical Height-Thickness Relationship for Bin Walls (after Contech).
Wall Height (ft) Wall Depth (ft) Steel Thickness (in.) Gage
0 - 12 5.5 7.7 .064 16
12 - 15 7.7 9.9 .079 14
15 - 25 9.9 14.3 .109 12
25 - 35 14.3 16.5 .138 10

The advantages of bin walls include flexibility, versatility, ease of installation and
dismantling for reuse. Their main disadvantage is the potential corrosion of the steel
elements when the wall units are exposed to corrosive materials or installed in aggressive
electrochemical environments.
6.5.2 Wall Construction
The lightweight wall components are easily assembled by a small crew of unskilled labor,
using a small crane and ordinary hand tools. The first stage of construction consists of
excavating to the wall foundation grade and preparing the wall foundation. If stable
excavation slopes cannot be maintained during the period of wall construction, temporary
excavation support may be needed. Foundation preparation includes removing unsuitable
materials such as organic matter and vegetation from the area to be occupied by the wall and
leveling and proof-rolling the foundation area. Removal of weak and/or compressible
materials and replacement with stable soil would also be part of foundation preparation. A
gravel working pad can be placed to facilitate bin construction.
Generally, the bins are erected at the site by bolting panels to vertical connector elements.
However, on larger projects, or where unusual working conditions are encountered, panel
and transverse sections may be preassembled at the shop, or they may be assembled off-site
then transported to the site (Figure 6-11).
If the infill has a high percentage of fine sand, the coarser material is usually placed adjacent
to the vertical connectors in the bin corner to prevent the loss of fine material through normal
small openings in the corners. Caulking or sealing these critical areas with geotextile filter
fabric material can also be done.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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Figure 6-9. Typical Geometry of Type 2 Bin Wall (a) Plan, (b) Elevation and (c) Section A-
A (after Contech)
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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Figure 6-10. Elements of Bin Walls (a) T-Shaped Vertical Connector for Bin Wall Type 2
and (b) Channel Shaped Vertical Connector for Bin Wall Type 1(after Contech).
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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Figure 6-11a. Construction of a Bin Wall (a) Setting Preassembled Panels and (b) Filling the
Completed Bins (after Contech).


Figure 6-12b. Construction of a Bin Wall (a) Setting Preassembled Panels and (b) Filling the
Completed Bins (after Contech).
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-22 June 2008
As the bins are filled, the backfill material is placed behind the wall and compacted using
standard earthwork construction procedures. At all times, the level of the infill material
should be kept higher than the fill behind the wall, to maintain stability.
Construction of bin walls on curves requires special attention. Installation of the wall can be
accomplished through one of two methods (Figure 6-12) as follows:
1. Shorter stringers can be used at the front and the rear faces of the wall. These stringers
can either be manufactured in shorter sizes, or can be cut in the field to fit any wall
configuration. When stringers are cut in the field, new bolt holes must be drilled or burnt
in the field to match the standard hole pattern in the ends of the cut stringers.
2. Shop-fabricated corner plates are used to provide angularity and curvature.


Figure 6-13. Construction of Bin Walls at Curves (a) Typical Outside Corner; and (b)
Typical Inside Corner (after Contech).
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-23 June 2008
6.5.3 Materials
The wall units are usually formed from galvanized steel sheets. Where the electrochemical
environment is unusually severe, the wall may be built using polymeric coated steel
components. Aluminized steel coated components have also been used, but for stringers and
spacers only. The exposed stringer, or front panel, typically consists of corrugated steel or
aluminized steel panels (Figure 6-13a), but precast concrete panels with variable architectural
treatments (Figure 6-13b) can also be used.
The infill material should be well graded, free-draining, granular soil which will not sift or
flow through openings in the wall. Infill should have a maximum particle size of 3 in. and
should have no more than 15 percent of particles passing the No. 200 sieve. For wall heights
greater than say 20 ft, infill material with even less material passing the No. 200 sieve should
be considered.
The infill material should be placed in uniform layers not exceeding 12 in. in thickness and
compacted using manual tamping equipment to at least 95 percent of the maximum density
as determined in accordance with AASHTO T-99. The backfill material may be placed in
slightly thicker loose lifts and should be compacted to a minimum 90 percent of the
maximum density as determined in accordance with AASHTO T-99.
6.5.4 Cost
A cost range of bin walls up to 35 ft is typically about $25 - $35/ft
2
of exposed wall face with
the higher range associated with higher walls. Bin walls are typically not cost effective
above 35 ft. Bin walls do not require skilled labor or specialized equipment therefore, like
other modular walls their cost is typically affected by the cost of materials.

6.6 MODULAR GRAVITY WALL DESIGN
6.6.1 General
The design of crib walls, and other types of modular gravity walls, requires an evaluation of
sliding, overturning (i.e., limiting eccentricity), and bearing resistance at the strength limit
state and wall settlement at the service limit state. Drainage is also a major design
consideration. These design issues should be evaluated using the same procedures described
in wall design of CIP concrete walls in Chapter 5. Specific considerations and procedures for
design of modular gravity walls are provided herein.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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(a)

(b)
Figure 6-14. Bin wall with (a) Corrugated Steel Face Panels; and (b) Precast Concrete Face
Panels (after Contech).
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-25 June 2008
6.6.2 Lateral Earth Pressures
The magnitude and location of resultant loads and moments for modular walls may be
calculated using the earth pressure distributions shown in Figures 6-14 and 6-15. Where the
back of the modules forms an irregular, stepped surface, the earth pressure should be
computed on a plane surface drawn from the upper back corner of the top of the module to
the lower back heel of the bottom module using Coulomb earth pressure theory.
If the wall is founded on a relatively incompressible foundation material, the angle of wall
friction () may be assumed to be equal to /2, where is the friction angle of the
compacted backfill soil. It is important to adequately compact the infill material for the
assumption of = /2 to be appropriate. If the back face of the wall is continuous as shown
in Figure 6-14, the angle of wall friction should be assumed as = /2 and if the back face of
the wall is stepped as shown in Figure 6-15, the angle of friction should be assumed as =
3/4 for the incompressible foundation situation. For walls on relatively compressible
foundation material, the wall friction should be assumed as = 0 as the wall may settle
relative to the backfill (See Table C3.11.5.9-1 in AASHTO (2007)).
In addition to the lateral earth pressure, the wall must be designed for lateral pressure due to
surcharge loads.
Positive measures must be provided to drain the material within and behind the modules or
bins. Drainage is typically provided by installing perforated drain pipes behind and below
the rear base of the bin or crib wall. The perforated pipe should be surrounded by pervious
backfill material wrapped in a geotextile filter material, and provided with suitable drainage
outlets. Filtration criteria between the retained backfill and the granular wall fill should be
checked and a filter used if needed to prevent potential piping of the backfill soils.
6.6.3 Sliding
Resistance to sliding for a prefabricated modular wall is provided by infill to foundation
material interface friction, friction at the base of the modules, and, for walls with footings,
the frictional resistance developed between the bottom of the footings and the foundation
materials. The coefficient of sliding friction between the infill and foundation material at the
wall base should be the lesser of the friction angle of the infill and the friction angle of the
foundation soil. Calculation methods are similar to CIP walls as described in Section 5.5.7.

FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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H

P
a
H/3
W
1
H/3
P
a

H
=90

W
1
W
2
H

P
a
H/3

W
1
H/3
P
a

W
1
W
2
H

P
a
H/3
W
1
H/3
P
a

H
=90

W
1
W
2
H

P
a
H/3

W
1
H/3
P
a

W
1
W
2

Figure 6-15. Earth Pressure Distribution for Modular Walls with Continuous Pressure
Surfaces (Figure 3.11.5.9-1 from AASHTO, 2007).
As with other gravity retaining structures, the potential benefit derived from passive
resistance on front of the wall due to wall embedment is in most cases conservatively
neglected. Additional shear resistance can be developed for modular walls by inclining the
base of the wall or by increasing the base width of the wall.
Possible erosion of the soil at the wall toe by an act of nature, or removal by human
activities, should be taken into account in the design.
In performing sliding analyses for modular walls with footings (e.g., concrete module walls),
it is assumed that 80 percent of the weight of the soil in the modules is transferred to the
footing supports (through soil arching) with the remaining soil weight being transferred to
the area of the wall between the footings.

FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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H

W
1

H/3
P
a
W
2
W
3
H

W
1

H/3
P
a
W
2
W
3
H

H/3
P
a
W
1
W
2
W
3
W
4

W
5
H

H/3
P
a
W
1
W
2
W
3

W
4
H

W
1

H/3
P
a
W
2
W
3
H

W
1

H/3
P
a
W
2
W
3
H

H/3
P
a
W
1
W
2
W
3
W
4

W
5
H

H/3
P
a
W
1
W
2
W
3

W
4

Figure 6-16. Earth Pressure Distribution for Modular Walls with Irregular Pressure Surfaces
(Figure 3.11.5.9-2 from AASHTO, 2007).
6.6.4 Limiting Eccentricity
Because the interior of modular walls are backfilled with soil to complete their construction
and because the interior of the backfill soil can move with respect to the retaining module
(for open bottom modules) if the module is uplifted or overturned, the full weight of the
backfilled structure is assumed to not be effective in resisting eccentric (overturning) loads.
Therefore, the soil load resisting overturning is limited to a maximum of 80 percent of the
weight of the soil in the modules. However, if a structural bottom is provided to the module,
no reduction of soil weight is taken.
As an example, if the infill soil in a module has a unit weight of 110 pcf and the volume of
fill per unit length of wall is 9.6 ft
3
/ft, the total weight of fill in the module, WF, is
( )
ft
lb
pcf
ft
ft
Weight Unit Volume WF 1056 110 6 . 9
3
= = = . (6-1)
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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To evaluate a Strength I load group for eccentricity evaluations, 80 percent of the weight of
the fill, WF, is factored by the load factor,
EV
of 1.35. The factored weight of the fill is:
ft
lb
ft
lb
WF WF Factored
EV
5 . 1140 1056 8 . 0 35 . 1 ) 8 . 0 ( =

= = . (6-2)
The same limits on eccentricity as were provided in Chapter 5 for CIP concrete walls are
used for modular walls. Calculation methods are similar to CIP walls as described in Section
5.5.6.
6.6.5 Bearing Resistance
Bearing resistance is evaluated by assuming that a minimum of 80 percent of dead loads and
earth pressure loads are transferred to point supports per unit length at the rear and front of
the modules or at the location of the bottom legs (see Figure 6-16). If foundation conditions
require a footing under the total area of the module, all of the soil weight inside the modules
should be considered. Calculation methods are similar to CIP walls as described in Section
5.5.5.
B = 2 ft CONCRETE
BEARING PAD
B = 2 ft CONCRETE
BEARING PAD

Figure 6-17. Load Distribution for Modular Wall with Footings.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
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6.6.6 Structural Capacity of Wall Modules
Structural design of the module members and base slab, if any, is performed using the
factored loads developed for the geotechnical design of the wall foundation and the factored
structural resistance of reinforced concrete (for concrete systems), and the factored structural
resistance of steel (for steel systems). Structural design of the modules is based on the
difference between pressures developed inside the module (bin pressures) and those resulting
from the backfill. Rear facing surfaces are often designed for this condition as well as for the
factored earth pressures developed inside the module during construction (module has been
filled, but backfill has not yet been placed). The computed compression, shear and bending
stresses can be compared with the manufacturer specified structural capacity (see Section
11.11.5.1 of AASHTO (2007)).
6.6.7 Lateral and Vertical Displacements at the Service Limit State
The vertical and lateral displacements of prefabricated modular retaining walls must be
evaluated at the Service I limit state for all applicable load combinations and compared with
tolerable movement criteria. Similar to conventional retaining walls, prefabricated modular
retaining walls must deflect (either by foundation movement or structural deformation) a
sufficient magnitude to permit mobilization of the shear strength of the backfill soil and
development of the design (usually active) earth pressure on the wall. In general, lateral
movements of walls on shallow foundations can be estimated assuming the wall rotates or
translates as a rigid body due to the effects of applied loads and the corresponding
differential settlements along the base of the wall.
Tolerable movement criteria for prefabricated modular walls should be developed with
consideration of the function and type of wall, anticipated service life, and consequences of
unacceptable movements (e.g., the specific wall application and the affect of wall movements
on adjacent facilities). Most prefabricated modular walls have tolerable differential
movements, expressed as a ratio of differential settlement to horizontal distance on the order
of 1/300 along the alignment of the wall, except for gabion walls which may tolerate
differential settlements on the order of 1/50.
6.6.8 Overall Stability at the Service Limit State
The overall stability of a modular wall, including the retained ground and foundation, should
be evaluated using limit equilibrium methods of slope stability analysis. Calculation
methods are similar to CIP walls as described in Section 5.5.8.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-30 June 2008
6.6.9 Gabion Walls
Design issues specific to gabion walls are provided below:
Since the infill and backfill materials are well-drained, no hydrostatic pressure is used
in the design.
The angle of wall friction, , between the gabion structure and the backfill material
may be reduced if a geotextile layer is used as a filter on the back face of the gabion
structure.
For stepped walls, analyses for sliding and eccentricity should be conducted at each
change in wall section, ignoring the resistance contributed by the wire mesh and the
connection between the baskets.
The unit weight of the wall infill material used in design analyses is dependent on the
type and porosity of the infill material. The weight of the wire basket is relatively
small and is usually ignored in the design. The unit weight,
g
, of the wall is
calculated as follows:

W S r g
G n ) 1 ( = (6-3)
where n
r
is the porosity of the rock fill, G
s
is the specific gravity of the rock, and
w
is
the unit weight of water. The porosity of the infill material is generally between 0.3
and 0.4 (HKGEO, 1993), and is dependent on the grading and angularity of the rock
fragments, as well as the method of installation and degree of compaction of the infill
material.

6.7 EXAMPLE PROBLEM
Design a gabion wall 12 ft high, supporting a soil backfill with a uniform surcharge of 200
psf. The back face of the wall is vertical and a geotextile filter layer will be placed between
the back face of the wall and the retained fill soil. Properties of the backfill are = 120 pcf
and = 34
o
. The rockfill within the wire basket will be compacted to a unit weight of 100
pcf. The undrained shear strength of the foundation soil is 1,500 psf. The geometry and
parameters of the wall are given in Figure 6-17 below.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-31 June 2008
4

@

3
f
t

=

1
2

f
t
= 120 pcf

backfill
= 34
3 @ 3ft = 9 ft
q = 200 psf
3 ft
1
2
3
4
4

@

3
f
t

=

1
2

f
t
= 120 pcf

backfill
= 34
3 @ 3ft = 9 ft
q = 200 psf
3 ft
11
22
33
44

Figure 6-18. Geometry and Parameters of Example Problem.
Solution
Step 1: Select a trial section
Consider using a front-stepped vertical back gabion wall, consisting of 3 ft high baskets,
placed for a cumulative base width of 9 ft as shown in Figure 6-17. Evaluate the following
Strength I limit states: (1) eccentricity; (2) bearing resistance; and (3) sliding.
Step 2: Calculate weight of fill in each level of wall (WF)
Section
(1)
Height / Width
(ft)
Volume of Fill
(ft
3
/ft)
WF
(lb/ft)
1
2
3
4
3/9
3/6
3/6
3/3
27
18
18
9
2,700
1,800
1,800
900
(1)
Section numbers labeled on Figure 6-17
Step 3: Calculate horizontal earth force due to earth pressure (EH) and earth surcharge (ES)
Assume equal to zero and calculate K
a
based on Rankine theory
K
a
= tan
2
(45
backfill
/2) = tan
2
(45 34/2) = 0.28
P
EH
= K
a
H
2
= 0.5 (0.28) (100 pcf) (12 ft)
2
= 2,016 lb/ft
P
ES
= K
a
qH = 0.28 (200 psf) (12 ft) = 672 lb/ft
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-32 June 2008
Step 4: Summarize unfactored vertical and horizontal forces.
Summary of Unfactored Vertical Loads
Item V
(lb/ft)
Moment Arm
(ft)
Moment
(lb-ft/ft)
WF
1

WF
2

WF
3

WF
4

2,700
1,800
1,800
900
4.5
6
6
7.5
12,150
10,800
10,800
6,750
Summary of Unfactored Horizontal Loads
Item H
(lb/ft)
Moment Arm
(ft)
Moment
(lb-ft/ft)
P
EH
P
ES

2,016
672
4
6
8,064
4,032
Step 5: Select Load Factors
For Sliding and Eccentricity

EV
= 1.0 (minimum load factor typically appropriate for sliding)

ES
= 1.5

EH
= 1.5

For Bearing Resistance

EV
= 1.35 (maximum load factor typically appropriate for bearing resistance)

ES
= 1.5

EH
= 1.5
Step 6: Evaluate eccentricity
ft
ft ft ft
e 395 . 1
) 900 800 , 1 800 , 1 700 , 2 ( 0 . 1
) 3 ( ) 900 ( 0 . 1 ) 5 . 1 ( ) 800 , 1 ( 0 . 1 ) 5 . 1 ( ) 800 , 1 ( 0 . 1 ) 032 , 4 ( 5 . 1 ) 064 , 8 ( 5 . 1
=
+ + +
+
=
e = 1.395 ft < B/6 (= 9ft /6 ) = 1.5 ft OK
Step 7: Check bearing resistance
(a) Calculate eccentricity using load factors for bearing resistance calculations
ft
ft ft ft
e 74 . 0
) 900 800 , 1 800 , 1 700 , 2 ( 35 . 1
) 3 ( ) 900 ( 35 . 1 ) 5 . 1 ( ) 800 , 1 ( 35 . 1 ) 5 . 1 ( ) 800 , 1 ( 35 . 1 ) 032 , 4 ( 5 . 1 ) 064 , 8 ( 5 . 1
=
+ + +
+
=
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-33 June 2008
(b) Calculate vertical stress,
v

psf
ft ft
ft lb
e B
V
v
292 , 1
)) 74 . 0 ( 2 9 (
/ ) 900 800 , 1 800 , 1 700 , 2 ( 35 . 1
2
=

+ + +
=


(c) Calculate factored bearing resistance
Undrained shear strength = 1,500 psf
Assume embedment effects are conservatively neglected
psf psf
n
q
i
wall long assumes s
for
c
N
i s
c
N
cm
N
cm
N c
n
q
710 , 7 ) 14 . 5 ( 500 , 1
0 . 1
) ( 1
) 0 ( 14 . 5
= =
=
=
= =
=
=



Resistance factor, , is 0.65 (see Table 10.5.5.2.2-1 in AASHTO (2007))
q
R
= q
n
= 0.65 (7,710 psf) = 5,011 psf
q
R
= 5,011 psf >
v
= 1,292 psf OK

Step 8: Check sliding
(a) Calculate factored resistance against sliding (assume passive resistance neglected)
R
R
=

R


R

= V tan
fill
= (1,200 + 1,800 + 1,800 + 900) lb/ft tan (32) = 4,499 lb/ft
For soil on soil,

= 1.0 (Table 10.5.5.2.2-1 in AASHTO (2007))
R
R
= 1.0 (4,499 lb/ft) = 4,499 lb/ft
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-34 June 2008
(b) Calculate total factored horizontal load, H
TOT

H
TOT
= 1.5 (2,016 lb/ft) + 1.5 (672 lb/ft) = 4,032 lb/ft
R
R
= 4,499 lb/ft > H
TOT
= 4,032 lb/ft OK
Summary
All Strength I limit states have been satisfied. Service I limit states (i.e., overall stability and
wall lateral and vertical displacement) would be checked.

6.8 CONSTRUCTION INSPECTION
Inspector responsibilities of typical modular gravity walls are presented in Table 6-2.

Table 6-2. Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Modular Gravity Wall Project.
CONTRACTOR SET UP
Review Plans and Specifications
Review Contractors schedule
Review corrosion protection requirements of metallic units
Review infill and backfill soil test results (i.e., grain size, unit weight, and shear strength etc.)
Confirm that Contractor stockpile area consistent with locations shown in Plans
Discuss anticipated ground conditions and potential problems with Contractor
Review Contractors survey results according to Plans
Check site conditions and observe site accessibility, construction dewatering, and drainage
features such as seeps, adjacent streams, etc.
Check submittals of the Contractor for obvious deficiencies and act accordingly before
sending it to Engineer for review
Confirm that Contractors length, size, and unit arrangements of the wall is consistent with
Plans
Inspect wall units for cracks, chips or unsightliness before the beginning of installation.
EXCAVATION
Verify that Contractors slope excavation and/or structural excavation support are consistent
with the Plans
Confirm that limits of any required excavations are within right-of-way limits shown on the
Plans
Confirm all unsuitable materials are removed to the limits and depths shown on the Plans

FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-35 June 2008
SUBGRADE
Confirm stability of slopes and report to the Engineer any temporary excavation support
systems being used
Confirm limits of excavation and wall footing as shown in the Plans
Conform all unsuitable materials are removed from the area to be occupied by the wall
Confirm construction dewatering consistent with Specifications
Confirm bedrock (or competent ground) according to the Specifications
Conform leveling, alignment, and proof-rolling of the subgrade consistent with
Specifications and Plans
Confirm that the layouts, dimensions, and elevations of the leveling pads are consistent with
Plans
(3 and 4)

WALL FACE
Confirm that Contractors arrangement of wall face and alignment consistent with Plans
Confirm that shear keys are wrapped with joint material and placed as shown in Plans
Confirm erection of gabions and lacing of all vertical edges consistent with Specifications
(2)

Confirm that gabion basket are coated with specified material
(2)

Confirm erection and bolting of the bin wall panels consistent with Specifications and
Plans
(1)

Confirm placement of wall elements consistent with Plans
(3, 4)

Confirm installation of stretcher members and minimum edge distances consistent with
Specifications
(3)

Confirm placement of bearing pads for horizontal joints consistent with Plans
(4)

If required, confirm installation of parapet units consistent with Plans
DRAINAGE SYSTEMS, INFILL AND BACKFIILL
Confirm that soils used as backfill are approved by Engineer
Confirm that soils used for infill are approved by Engineer
Confirm that stone filling operations are performed carefully without damaging galvanized
wire coating
(2)

Confirm that gabion basket lids are stretched tight over the stone fill using crowbars or lid
closing tools
(2)

Confirm that backfilling behind the modular gravity system follows erection of the wall as
closely as possible and the wall height is never greater than three feet above the backfill.
Confirm placement of infill and backfill is performed as lifts consistent with Specifications
Confirm compaction of infill and backfill material consistent with Specifications
Confirm the geosynthetic material for drainage consistent with Specifications
Confirm placement methods and limits of coverage of drainage materials consistent with
Specifications and Plans
POST INSTALLATION
Verify pay quantities
Note:
(1)
bin wall,
(2)
gabion wall,
(3)
crib wall, and
(4)
concrete modular wall.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-36 June 2008
6.9 T-WALLS
6.9.1 Overview
T-WALL (T-wall) is a proprietary wall system that consists of precast concrete units that
resemble a T shape. T-wall is considered a gravity structure that combines the weight of
externally stabilized retaining walls (e.g., concrete module wall) with the frictional resistance
of internally stabilized systems (e.g., MSE wall).
The concrete module has a face height of 2.5 ft (single unit) or 5.0 ft (double unit), a face
width of 5.0 ft and stem lengths ranging from 4 to 20 ft. The units can be installed either
vertically or on a batter (Figures 6-18 and 6-19). In general, vertical walls can more easily
accommodate bends and curves. Battered and tiered walls permit shorter stem lengths,
resulting in less excavation and backfill.


Figure 6-19. Vertically installed T-wall units (after the Neel Company, 2004).
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-37 June 2008

Figure 6-20. Battered T-wall units (after the Neel Company, 2004).
A variety of architectural finishes are available. Since all the units are manufactured in the
plant and hauled to the site, their fabrication is standardized and performed to shop-applied
quality control procedures.
The advantages of T-walls include:
rapid construction;
no skilled labor or specialized equipment is necessary for wall construction;
requires smaller quantity of select backfill as compared to MSE walls;
can be built on a batter; and
no metallic components that could be subject to corrosion.


FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-38 June 2008
The limitations of T-walls include:
requires high quality granular backfill;
a LRFD-based design methodology has not been developed for this system; and
difficult to make height adjustments in the field as the units are prefabricated to
specific heights.
6.9.2 T-Wall Construction
Precast concrete units are shipped to site ready to be installed. The units are designed in
accordance with AASHTO specifications for reinforced precast concrete with a minimum
compressive strength at 28 days of 4,000 psi. In general, the concrete units are fabricated so
that they are interchangeable. The units are unloaded using a small crane and a special lifting
device provided by the T-Wall supplier.
The basic steps for T-wall construction are similar to modular gravity and MSE walls except
the specific steps listed below:
Once the first course of concrete T-wall units is placed on the leveling pad, cover the
vertical joint with filter fabric.
After compacting the select backfill material between and behind the stems, place the
horizontal joint materials and the shear keys.
Continue placing units and backfilling. Normally a complete course is placed before
beginning the next course.
6.9.3 T-Wall Cost
T-walls are cost effective to heights between 7 and 40 ft. Within the cost effective height
range their cost per ft
2
of exposed wall face is between $30 and $40, where the higher cost is
associated with higher wall heights.
6.9.4 T-Wall Design
The design for a T-Wall system includes evaluation of external stability and internal stability,
LRFD-based design computations for T-walls are not available in AASHTO (2007).
For ASD, external stability computations are made by assuming that the system acts as a
rigid body. Methods used to evaluate eccentricity, sliding, and bearing resistance for MSE
walls can be applied to T-Walls.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-39 June 2008
For internal stability evaluation, computations are made at each level to verify that the
frictional forces gripping the stem (caused by pressure of the compacted, confined soil
between the stems) exceeds any horizontal force acting on the face of the unit.
The vertical joints in a T-wall act as slip planes, which can accommodate differential
movements in the foundation. This flexibility can minimize the expense of foundation
preparation.
FHWA NHI-07-071 6 Modular Gravity Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 6-40 June 2008


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 7-1 June 2008
CHAPTER 7
MECHANICALLY STABILIZED EARTH WALLS
7.1 INTRODUCTION
Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) walls are constructed by placing alternating layers of
reinforcing elements and compacted backfill behind a facing. The soil and the structural
elements act in unity to form a composite structure that constitute the wall. This composite
structure is flexible and can generally accommodate relatively large horizontal and vertical
movements without excessive structural distress. MSE walls are typically constructed in fill
situations.
MSE Wall is also used as a generic term that includes reinforced soil (a term used when
multiple layers of inclusions act as reinforcement in soils placed as fill). Reinforced Earth is
a trademark for a specific reinforced soil system.
The modern methods of soil reinforcement for retaining wall construction were pioneered by
the French architect and engineer Henri Vidal in the early 1960s. Since the late 1960s, MSE
walls have been used increasingly worldwide. The first wall to use this technology in the
U.S. was built in 1972 on California State Highway 39, northeast of Los Angeles.
Since its first use in U.S., applications, design methods, and construction specifications for
MSE walls have evolved significantly and are described in the following documents:
AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications, 4
th
Edition (2007) Section 11.
Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls and Reinforced Soil Slopes, Design and
Construction Guidelines. FHWA-NHI-00-043, (Elias et al., 2001).
Corrosion/Degradation of Soil Reinforcements for Mechanically Stabilized Earth
Walls and Reinforced Soil Slopes, FHWA-NHI-00-044, (Elias, 2000).
Geosynthetic Design and Construction Guidelines. FHWA NHI-07-092, (Holtz et al.,
2007).
Another system referred to as Shored Mechanically Stabilized Earth (SMSE) walls
combine features of an MSE wall and shoring walls (such as soil nail walls). The design of
this system considers the long-term retaining benefits provided by the shoring wall, including
reduction of lateral loads on the MSE wall mass and contributions to global stability.
Detailed information about this system is provided in Shored Mechanically Stabilized Earth
(SMSE) Wall Systems Design Guidelines, FHWA-CFL/TD-06-001 (Morrison et al., 2006).

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 7-2 June 2008
7.2 PRINCIPAL COMPONENTS OF MSE WALLS
The principal components of an MSE wall consists of retained and select backfills,
reinforcing elements within the select backfill, and a facing (Figure 7-1).

Figure 7-1. Principal Components of a Mechanically Stabilized Earth Wall
(after Christopher, et al., 1990).
Retained backfill is the fill material located between the mechanically stabilized soil mass
and the natural soil. The select backfill is used to construct the mechanically stabilized earth
mass shown in Figure 7-1 and is required for durability, good drainage, constructability, and
good soil reinforcement interaction. Backfill material requirements for MSE walls are
discussed in detail in Section 7.4.1.
The reinforcing elements within the select backfill may consist of steel strips or bars, welded
wire mats, grids, or geotextile sheets. Details of the reinforcing elements (i.e., geometry,
materials, and extensibility) are presented in Section 7.4.2.
Facing is not really part of the composite structure, but it prevents backfill erosion at the wall
face. Common facings include precast concrete panels, dry cast modular blocks, metal sheets
and plates, gabions, welded wire mesh, shotcrete, wood lagging and panels, and wrapped
sheets of geosynthetics. Details of the facing elements are presented in Section 7.4.3.
MSE walls do not require a structural foundation. A leveling pad of unreinforced concrete or
gravel is used to serve as a guide for facing panel erection and is not intended as a structural
foundation support.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 7-3 June 2008
Subsurface and surface drainage systems for MSE walls are discussed in Section 7.8.5.
Table 7-1 lists many of the MSE wall systems currently available on the market. The
primary differences between these systems are the materials, geometries and arrangements of
the reinforcing elements, and the materials and details of the facing elements.

Table 7-1. Summary of Reinforcement and Face Panel Details for Selected MSE Wall
Systems (after Elias et al., 2004).
System Name Reinforcement Detail Typical Face Panel Detail
1

Stabilized Earth Wall
T&B Structural Systems LLC
6800 Manhattan Blvd, Suite 304
Ft. Worth Texas 76120

Galvanized welded steel wire mesh with
W7 to W20 bars. Mesh width and spacing
can vary. Epoxy-coated meshes also
available.

Precast concrete panels 5 ft x 5 ft x 6 in.
thick or 5 ft x 10 ft x 6 in. thick. Different
size panels used at top and bottom to
match project requirements.
Reinforced Earth


The Reinforced Earth Company
8614 Westwood Center Drive
Suite 1100
Vienna, VA 22182-2233

Ribbed galvanized steel strips, 0.157 in.
thick, 2 in. wide. Or galvanized steel
ladder strips, W10 wire, two longitudinal
wires and cross bars spaced at 6 in.

Cruciform and square shaped precast
concrete 5 ft x 5 ft x 5.5 in. thick. Also
rectangular shaped precast concrete 5 ft x
10 ft x 5.5 in. thick. Variable height
panels used at top and bottom of wall.
Retained Earth


The Reinforced Earth Company
8614 Westwood Center Drive
Suite 1100
Vienna, VA 22182-2233

Rectangular grid of W11, W15 or W20
galvanized steel wire, 24 x 6 in. grid. 2, 4,
5 or 6 longitudinal bars. Stainless steel
mesh used in marine and corrosive
environments.

Hexagonal and square precast concrete 5
ft x 5 ft x 5.5 in. thick. Also rectangular
shaped precast concrete 5 ft x 10 ft x 5.5
in. thick. Variable height panels used at
top and bottom of wall.
Mechanically Stabilized Embankment
Dept. of Transportation,
Division of Engineering Services
5900 Folsom Blvd.
P.O. Box 19128
Sacramento, CA 95819

Rectangular grid, nine 3/8 in. diameter
plain steel bars on 24 x 6 in. grid. Two
bar mats per panel (connected to the panel
at four points).

Precast concrete; rectangular 12.5 ft long,
24 in. high, 8 in. thick.
ARES
Tensar Earth Technologies
5883 Glenridge Drive, Suite 200
Atlanta, GA 30328
HDPE Geogrid
Precast concrete panel; rectangular 9 ft
wide, 5 ft high, 5.5 in. thick.
Wire Faced Wall
T&B Structural Systems LLC
6800 Manhattan Blvd
Ste 304
Ft. Worth Texas 76120

4 ft wide welded steel wire mesh. Mesh is
8 in. x 12, 18 or 24 in., of W4.5 to W20
bars. Size and configuration are variable.

Welded steel wire mesh facing. Several
veneer facing options available.
Welded Wire Wall
Hilfiker Retaining Walls
1902 Hilfiker Lane
Eureka, CA 95503

Welded steel wire mesh, Galvanized or
Non-Galvanized. Mesh reinforcements
vary in spacing and gauges to meet project
design specifications.

Welded steel wire mesh, 2 tall x 8 wide
typical. Backing mat, Hardware Cloth or
Filter Fabric depending on project. (With
geotextile or shotcrete, if desired).

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 7-4 June 2008
Table 7-1 (contd).
Summary of Reinforcement and Face Panel Details For Selected MSE Wall Systems
System Name Reinforcement Detail Typical Face Panel Detail
1

Reinforced Soil Embankment
Hilfiker Retaining Walls
1902 Hilfiker Lane
Eureka, CA 95503

Welded steel wire mesh, Galvanized or
Non-Galvanized. Mesh reinforcements
vary in spacing and gauges to meet project
design specifications.

Precast concrete unit 12.5 ft long, 24 in.
high.
ArtWeld Gabions
Hilfiker Retaining Walls
1902 Hilfiker Lane
Eureka, CA 95503

Welded steel wire mesh, Galvanized or
Non-Galvanized. Mesh reinforcements
vary in spacing and gauges to meet project
design specifications.

ArtWeld Gabion baskets of various sizes
and heights designed per project
requirements.
Gabion Faced M.S.E.
Hilfiker Retaining Walls
1902 Hilfiker Lane
Eureka, CA 95503

Welded steel wire mesh, Galvanized or
Non-Galvanized. Mesh reinforcements
vary in spacing and gauges to meet project
design specifications.

ArtWeld Gabions of various sizes and
heights connected to reinforcing mesh by
spiral binders.
Eureka Reinforced Soil
Hilfiker Retaining Walls
1902 Hilfiker Lane
Eureka, CA 95503

Welded steel wire mesh, Galvanized or
Non-Galvanized. Mesh reinforcements
vary in spacing and gauges to meet project
design specifications.

Precast or cast-in-place concrete facing
panels, shotcrete, sculpted shotcrete, or
stacked stone.
Steepened Slope
Hilfiker Retaining Walls
1902 Hilfiker Lane
Eureka, CA 95503

Welded steel wire mesh, Galvanized or
Non-Galvanized. Mesh reinforcements
vary in spacing and gauges to meet project
design specifications.

Welded steel wire mesh, 1 to 1 slope
typical. Hardware Cloth or Filter Fabric
depending on project. (With geotextile or
shotcrete, if desired).
INTER-LOK
Atlantic Concrete Industries
P.O. Box 129
Tullytown, PA 19007

0.63 or 0.75 in. reinforcing steel bars fitted
with 5 x 10 x 0.4 in. anchor plates and
connected to a keyplate, and galvanized
after fabrication.

Precast concrete panel; cross-shaped 6 ft
wide and 3 ft high, 8 and 10 in. thick.
ISOGRID
Neel Co.
6520 Deepford Street
Springfield, VA 22150

Rectangular grid of W11 x W11
4 bars per grid.

Diamond shaped precast concrete units, 5 ft
x 8 ft, 5.5 in. thick.
T-Block Wall System
T&B Structural Systems LLC
6800 Manhattan Blvd
Ste 304
Ft. Worth Texas 76120

Rectangular 4 ft wide welded steel wire
mesh of W7 to W20 steel bars.

Dry cast concrete block 8 in high x 16 in
long x 12 in deep.
MESA
Tensar Earth Technologies, Inc.
5883 Glenridge Drive, Suite 200
Atlanta, GA 30328
HDPE Geogrid
MESA HP (high performance), DOT
3
OR
Standard units (8 in. high by 18 in. long
face, 10.8 in. nominal depth). (dry cast
concrete)
Pyramid
The Reinforced Earth Company
8614 Westwood Center Drive
Suite 1100
Vienna, VA 22182-2233

Galvanized welded wire ladders. Size
varies with design requirements.

Dry cast concrete units, 8 in. high, 16 in.
nominal length at face, 10 in. nominal
depth.
Omega
The Reinforced Earth Company
8614 Westwood Center Drive
Suite 1100
Vienna, VA 22182-2233

Geostraps composed of high tenacity
polyester with polyethylene sheathing.
Reinforcement used in marine and
corrosive environments only.

Cruciform and square shaped precast
concrete 5 ft x 5 ft x 5.5 in. thick. Also
rectangular shaped precast concrete 5 ft x
10 ft x 5.5 in. thick. Variable height panels
used at top and bottom of wall.
Terratrel
The Reinforced Earth Company
8614 Westwood Center Drive
Suite 1100
Vienna, VA 22182-2233

Ribbed galvanized steel strips, 0.157 in.
thick, 2 in. wide. Or, galvanized steel
ladder strips or mesh. Size varies with
design requirements.

Welded steel wire mesh with geotextile
backing or stone fill at wall face.
Maccaferri Terramesh System
Maccaferri Gabions, Inc.
43A Governor Lane Blvd.
Williamsport, MD 21795

Continuous sheets of galvanized double
twisted woven wire mesh with PVC
coating.

Rock filled gabion baskets laced to
reinforcement.
Strengthened Earth
Gifford-Hill & Co.
2515 McKinney Ave.
Dallas, Texas 75201

Rectangular grid, W7, W9.5 and W14,
transverse bars at 9 and 18 in.

Precast concrete units, rectangular or wing
shaped, 6 ft x 7 ft x 5.5 in.


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 7-5 June 2008
Table 7-1 (contd).
Summary of Reinforcement and Face Panel Details For Selected MSE Wall Systems
MSE Plus
SSL
4740 Scotts Valley Drive
Scotts Valley, CA 95066

Rectangular grid with 8 to W24
longitudinal bars and W8 transverse.
Mesh may have 2 6 longitudinal bars
spaced at 6 or 8 in.

Rectangular precast concrete panels 5 ft
high, 5 and 12 ft wide, with a thickness of 6
or 7 in.

KeySystem - Inextensible
Keystone Retaining Wall Systems
4444 W. 78
th
Street
Minneapolis, MN 55435

Galvanized welded wire ladder mat of
W7.5 to W17 bars with crossbars at 6 24
in.

KeySystem concrete facing unit is 8 in high
x 18 in. wide x 12 in. deep (dry cast
concrete).
KeySystem - Extensible
Keystone Retaining Wall Systems
4444 W. 78
th
Street
Minneapolis, MN 55435
Stratagrid high-tenacity knit polyester
geogrid soil reinforcement by Strata
Systems, Inc. PVC coated.
Keystone Standard and Compac concrete
facing units are 8 in. high x 18 in. wide x
18 in. or 12 in. deep (dry cast concrete).
Tricon System
Tricon Precast Ltd.
15055 Henry Road
Houston, TX 77060
Galvanized welded-wire. Rectangular precast concrete panels with a
face area of 45 sq. ft.
Versa-Lok Retaining Wall Systems
6348 Highway 36 Blvd.
Oakdale, MN 55128
PVC coated PET or HDPE geogrids. Versa-Lok concrete unit 6 in. high x 16 in.
long x 12 in. deep (dry cast concrete)
Anchor Wall Systems
5959 Baker Road
Minnetonka, MN 55345
PVC coated PET geogrid. Anchor Landmark concrete unit 15 in. high
x 8 in. long x 12 (small unit) or 12.5 (large
unit) in. deep (dry cast concrete).
1
Additional facing types are possible with most systems.

7.3 APPLICATIONS OF MSE WALLS
Figure 7-2 illustrates various applications of MSE walls. Figure 7-3 shows a variety of
constructed MSE walls.
MSE walls have many advantages compared with conventional reinforced concrete and
concrete gravity retaining walls, including:
use simple and rapid construction procedures and do not require large construction
equipment;
require less site preparation;
need less space in front of the structure for construction operations;
do not need rigid, unyielding foundation support because MSE structures are tolerant
to deformations; and
are technically feasible and cost-effective to heights in excess of 100 ft (with 150 ft
being achieved for tiered MSE wall at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport).


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Figure 7-2. Examples of MSE Wall Applications (a) Retaining Wall; (b) Access Ramp; (c)
Waterfront Structure; and (d) Bridge Abutment.


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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(a) (b)

(c) (d)

(e)
Figure 7-3. Examples of MSE Walls.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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The relatively small quantities of manufactured materials required, rapid construction, and
competition among the developers of different proprietary systems have resulted in a cost
reduction relative to other types of retaining walls. MSE walls are likely to be more
economical than other wall systems for walls higher than about 10 ft or where deep
foundations would be required for a CIP wall.
Another advantage of MSE walls is their flexibility and capability to absorb deformations
due to poor subsoil conditions in the foundations. Also, based on observations in seismically
active zones, these structures have demonstrated a higher resistance to seismic loading than
have rigid concrete structures.
Precast concrete facing elements for MSE walls can be made with various shapes and
textures (with little extra cost) for aesthetic considerations. Masonry units, timber, and
gabions also can be used with advantage to blend into the environment.
The following general limitations may be associated with MSE walls, although these
limitations may be addressed as part of detailed design:
they require a relatively large space behind the wall face to obtain enough wall width
for internal and external stability;
MSE walls require select granular fill; at sites where there is a lack of granular soils,
the cost of importing suitable fill material may render the system uneconomical;
suitable design criteria are required to address corrosion of steel reinforcing elements,
deterioration of certain types of exposed facing elements such as geosynthetics by
ultra violet rays, and potential degradation of polymer reinforcement in the ground;
and
the design of soil-reinforced systems often requires a shared design responsibility
between material suppliers and owners, and greater input from agencies geotechnical
specialists.
MSE walls should not be used under the following conditions (see AASHTO (2007) Section
11.10.1):
when utilities other than highway drainage must be constructed within the reinforced
zone where future access for repair would require the reinforcement layers to be cut;
with galvanized metallic reinforcements exposed to surface or ground water
contaminated by acid mine drainage or other industrial pollutants, as indicted by low
pH and high chlorides and sulfates; and
when floodplain erosion may undermine the reinforced fill zone, or where the depth
to scour cannot be reliably determined.

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7.4 MATERIALS FOR MSE WALLS
7.4.1 Backfill Material
The backfill material for an MSE wall has a major impact on:
Short-term stability during construction; and
Long-term stability and deformation of the completed structure.
MSE walls require high quality backfill for durability, good drainage, constructability, and
good soil reinforcement interaction, which can be obtained from well graded, granular
materials. Many MSE systems depend on friction between the reinforcing elements and the
soil. In such cases, a material with high friction characteristics is specified and required.
Some systems rely on passive pressure on reinforcing elements, and, in those cases, the
quality of backfill is still critical. These performance requirements generally eliminate soils
with high clay contents.
From a reinforcement capacity point of view, lower quality backfills could be used for MSE
structures; however, a high quality granular backfill has the advantages of being more free
draining, providing better durability for metallic reinforcement, and requiring less
reinforcement. There are also significant handling, placement, and compaction advantages in
using granular soils. These include an increased rate of wall erection and improved
maintenance of wall alignment tolerances.
The following requirements are consistent with current practice:
Select Granular Fill Material for the Reinforced Zone. All backfill material used in the
structure volume for MSE structures shall be reasonably free from organic or other
deleterious materials and shall conform to the following gradation limits as determined by
AASHTO T-27.
1. Gradation Limits
Sieve Size Percent Passing
4 in.
(a)
100
No. 40 0-60
No. 200 0-15
Plasticity Index (PI) shall not exceed 6.
(a)
C
u
should be greater than or equal to 4. As a result of recent research on construction survivability
of geosynthetics and epoxy coated reinforcements, it is recommended that the maximum particle size
for these materials be reduced to -inch for geosynthetics and epoxy and PVC coated reinforcements

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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unless tests are or have been performed to evaluate the extent of construction damage anticipated for
the specific fill material and reinforcement combination.
It should be noted that granular fill containing even a few percent fines may not be free
draining, and drainage requirements should always be carefully evaluated on an individual
project basis. Information on drainage systems for MSE walls is provided in Section 7.8.5.
2. Soundness. The materials shall be substantially free of shale or other soft,
poor durability particles. The material shall have a magnesium sulfate
soundness loss (or a sodium sulfate value less than 15% after five cycles) of
less than 30% after four cycles. Testing shall be in accordance with AASHTO
T-104.
The design of buried steel elements of MSE structures is predicated on backfills exhibiting
minimum or maximum electrochemical index properties, and then designing the structure for
maximum corrosion rates associated with these properties. These recommended index
properties and their corresponding limits are shown in Table 7-2. Reinforced fill soils must
meet the indicated criteria to be qualified for use in MSE construction using steel
reinforcements.

Table 7-2. Recommended Limits of Electrochemical Properties for Select Backfills When
Using Steel Reinforcement.
Property Criteria Test Method
Resistivity >3000 ohm-cm AASHTO T-288-91
pH >5<10 AASHTO T-289-91
Chlorides <100 PPM AASHTO T-291-91
Sulfates <200 PPM AASHTO T-290-91
Organic Content 1% max. AASHTO T-267-86

Where geosynthetic reinforcements are proposed to be used, the limits for electrochemical
criteria would vary depending on the polymer. Limits based on current research are shown in
Table 7-3.



FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Table 7-3. Recommended Limits of Electrochemical Properties For Select Backfills When
Using Geosynthetic Reinforcements.
Base Polymer Property Criteria Test Method
Polyester (PET) pH >3 and <9 AASHTO T-289-91
Polyolefin (PP & HDPE) pH >3 AASHTO T-289-91
The select reinforced fill criteria outlined above represent materials that have been
successfully used throughout the United States and have resulted in excellent wall
performance. Peak shear strength parameters are used in the analysis. For MSE walls, a
lower bound frictional strength of 34 degrees would be consistent with the specified fill,
although some nearly uniform fine sands meeting the specifications limits may exhibit
friction angles of 31 to 32 degrees. Higher values may be used if substantiated by laboratory
direct shear or triaxial test results for the site-specific material used or proposed. However,
extreme caution is advised for use of friction angles above 40 degrees for design, due to a
lack of field performance data and questions concerning mobilization of shear strength above
that value.
Fill materials outside of these gradation and plasticity index requirements have been used
successfully (when appropriate design and construction procedures have been implemented);
however, problems including significant distortion and structural failure have also been
observed. While there may be a significant savings in using lower quality backfill, property
values must be carefully evaluated with respect to influence on both internal and external
stability and constructability. For MSE walls constructed with reinforced fill containing
more than 15% passing a #200 sieve and/or PI exceeding 6, both total and effective shear
strength parameters should be evaluated in order to obtain an accurate assessment of
horizontal stresses, sliding, compound failure (behind and through the reinforced zone), and
the influence of drainage on the analysis. Both long-term and short-term pullout tests, as
well as soil/reinforcement interface friction tests, should be performed. Settlement
characteristics (both magnitude and time) must be carefully evaluated, especially in relation
to downdrag stresses imposed on connections at the face and settlement of supported
structures. Drainage requirements at the back, face, and beneath the reinforced zone must be
carefully evaluated (e.g., use flow nets to evaluate influence of seepage forces and
hydrostatic pressure). Also, it is more difficult to compact and moisture-condition more
clayey soils (which may lead to longer required construction time).

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7.4.2 Reinforcing Elements
7.4.2.1 Reinforcement Material
Distinction can be made between the characteristics of metallic and nonmetallic
reinforcements:
Metallic reinforcements (Figure 7-4). Typically of mild steel. The steel is
usually galvanized or may be epoxy coated.
Nonmetallic reinforcements (Figure 7-5). Generally, polymeric materials
consisting of polypropylene, polyethylene, or polyester.
7.4.2.2 Reinforcement Geometry
Three types of reinforcement geometry can be considered:
Linear unidirectional. Strips, including smooth or ribbed steel strips, or coated
geosynthetic strips over a load-carrying fiber.
Composite unidirectional. Grids or bar mats characterized by grid spacing
greater than 6 in.
Planar bidirectional. Continuous sheets of geosynthetics, welded wire mesh,
and woven wire mesh. The mesh is characterized by element spacing of less
than 6 in.
7.4.2.3 Reinforcement Extensibility
There are two classes of extensibility:
Inextensible. The deformation of the reinforcement at failure is much less than
the deformability of the soil. Examples of inextensible reinforcement include
steel reinforcements.
Extensible. The deformation of the reinforcement at failure is comparable to or
even greater than the deformability of the soil. Examples of extensible
reinforcement include geosynthetic reinforcements.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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(a)

(b)
Figure 7-4. Metallic Reinforcements (a) Ribbed Metal Strip and (b) Welded Bar Mat.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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(a)

(b)
Figure 7-5. Geosynthetic Reinforcements (a) Geogrid and (b) Geotextile Facing.


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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The performance and durability considerations for these two classes of reinforcement vary
considerably and are detailed in FHWA-NHI-00-043, Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls
and Reinforced Steepened Slopes, Design and Construction Guidelines (Elias et al., 2001)
and FHWA-NHI-00-044 Corrosion/Degradation of Soil Reinforcements for Mechanically
Stabilized Earth Walls and Reinforced Soil Slopes (Elias, 2000).
7.4.2.4 Reinforcement Types
Most, although not all, systems using precast concrete panels use steel reinforcements that
are typically galvanized, but may be epoxy coated. Two types of steel reinforcements are in
current use:
Steel strips. The currently commercially available strips are ribbed top and
bottom, 2 in. wide and 0.156-in-thick. Smooth strips 2.375 to 4.75-in-wide,
0.125 to 0.156 in-thick have been used.
Steel grids. Welded wire grid using 2 to 6 W7.5 to W24 longitudinal wire
spaced at either 6 or 8 in. The transverse wire may vary from W11 to W20 and
are spaced based on design requirements from 9 to 24 in. Welded steel wire
mesh spaced at 2 by 2-in. (of thinner wire) has been used in conjunction with a
welded wire facing. Some modular block wall (MBW) systems use steel grids
with 2 longitudinal wires.
Most MBW systems use geosynthetic reinforcement, principally geogrids. The following
types are widely used and available:
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) geogrid. These are of uniaxial manufacture
and are available in many styles.
PVC coated polyester (PET) geogrid. Available from a number of manufacturers.
They are characterized by bundled high-tenacity PET fibers in the longitudinal load
carrying direction. For longevity, the PET is supplied as a high molecular weight
fiber and is further characterized by a low carboxyl end group number.
Geotextiles. High strength geotextiles can be used principally in connection with
wrap-around wall construction. Both polyester (PET) and polypropylene (PP)
geotextiles have been used.
7.4.3 Wall Facing Elements
The types of facing elements used in the different MSE systems control their aesthetics
because they are the only visible parts of the completed structure. A wide range of finishes
and colors can be provided in the facing. In addition, the facing provides protection against

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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backfill sloughing and erosion, and provides a drainage path in certain cases. The type of
facing influences settlement tolerances. Figure 7-6 illustrates a variety of wall facings.
Segmental precast concrete panels, summarized in Table 7-1 and illustrated in
Figure 7-7. The precast concrete panels have a minimum thickness of 5.5 in. and are
of a cruciform, square, rectangular, diamond, or hexagonal geometry. Temperature
and tensile reinforcement are required, but will vary with the size of the panel.
Vertically adjacent units are usually connected with shear pins.
Dry cast MBW units. These are relatively small concrete units that have been
specially designed and manufactured for retaining wall applications. The weight of
these units commonly ranges from 30 to 110 lbs, with units of 75 to 110 lbs routinely
used for highway projects. Unit heights typically range from 4 to 8 in. for the various
manufacturers. Exposed face length usually varies from 8 to 18 in. Nominal width
(dimension perpendicular to the wall face) of units typically ranges between 8 to 24
in. Units may be manufactured solid or with cores. Full height cores are filled with
aggregate during erection. Units are normally dry-stacked (i.e., without mortar) and
in a running bond configuration. Vertically adjacent units may be connected with
shear pins, lips, or keys. They are referred to by trademarked names, such as
Keystone

, Versa-Lok

, Allan

, etc. They are illustrated in Figure 7-8.


Major facing types are:
Metallic Facings. The original Reinforced Earth

system had facing elements of


galvanized steel sheet formed into half cylinders. Although precast concrete panels
are now commonly used in Reinforced Earth walls, metallic facings may be
appropriate in structures where difficult access or difficult handling requires lighter
facing elements.
Welded Wire Grids. Wire grid can be bent up at the front of the wall to form the
wall face. This type of facing is used in the Hilfiker, Tensar, and Reinforced Earth
wire retaining wall systems.
Gabion Facing. Gabions (rock-filled wire baskets) can be used as facing with
reinforcing elements consisting of welded wire mesh, welded bar-mats, geogrids,
geotextiles, or the double-twisted woven mesh placed between or connected to the
gabion baskets.
Geosynthetic Facing. Various types of geotextile reinforcement are looped around
at the facing to form the exposed face of the retaining wall. These faces are
susceptible to ultraviolet light degradation, vandalism, and damage due to fire.
Alternately, a geosynthetic grid used for soil reinforcement can be looped around to
form the face of the completed retaining structure in a similar manner to welded wire

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Figure 7-6. Various Types of Wall Facing (after Wu, 1994).

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Figure 7-7. MSE Wall Surface Textures.

mesh and fabric facing. Vegetation can grow through the grid structure and can
provide both ultraviolet light protection for the geogrid and a pleasing appearance.
Post-Construction Facing. For wrapped faced walls, the facing, whether geotextile,
geogrid, or wire mesh, can be attached after construction of the wall by shotcreting,
guniting, cast-in-place, or attaching prefabricated facing panels made of concrete,

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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wood, or other materials. This multi-staging facing approach adds cost, but is
advantageous where significant settlement is anticipated.
Precast elements can be cast in several shapes and provided with facing textures to match
environmental requirements that blend aesthetically into the environment. Retaining
structures using precast concrete elements as the facings can have surface finishes similar to
any reinforced concrete structure.
Retaining structures with metal facings have the disadvantage of shorter life because of
corrosion unless provision is made to compensate for it.
Facings using welded wire or gabions have the disadvantages of an uneven surface, exposed
backfill materials, more tendency for erosion of the retained soil, possible shorter life from
corrosion of the wires, and more susceptibility to vandalism. These disadvantages can be
mitigated by providing shotcrete or by hanging facing panels on the exposed face and
compensating for possible corrosion. The greatest advantages of such facings are low cost,
ease of installation, design flexibility, good drainage (depending on the type of backfill), and
possible treatment of the face for vegetative and other architectural effects. The facing can
easily be adapted and well blended with natural country environment. These facings, as well
as geosynthetic wrapped facings, are especially advantageous for construction of temporary
or other structures with a short-term design life.
Dry cast MBW facings may raise some concerns as to durability in aggressive freeze-thaw
environments when produced with water absorption capacity significantly higher than that of
wet-cast concrete. Historical data provide little insight, as their usage history is less than two
decades. Further, because the cement is not completely hydrated during the dry cast process,
(as is often evidenced by efflorescence on the surface of units), a highly alkaline regime may
establish itself at or near the face area, and may limit the use of some geosynthetic products
as reinforcements. Freeze-thaw durability is enhanced for products produced at higher
compressive strengths and low water absorption ratios.

7.5 MSE WALL CONSTRUCTION
Construction of MSE walls involves placement of alternating layers of reinforcing elements
and compacted backfill behind a wall facing. Although the construction sequence is
basically the same for most MSE wall types, certain construction details may differ from one
system to another due to differences in the reinforcing elements, the wall facings, the
labor/equipment requirement, and the experience of the contractors. The following is an
outline of the principal sequence of construction for MSE walls. Specific systems, special

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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appurtenances, and specific project requirements may vary from the general sequence
indicated. Details for such can be obtained from their vendors.


Figure 7-8. Examples of Commercially Available MBW Units (after Simac et al, 1996).

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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7.5.1 Construction of MSE Walls with Precast Facings
A complete sequence of construction of MSE wall systems with a precast facing is illustrated
in Figure 7-9 and a description of the primary construction steps is provided below:
Preparation of subgrade. This step involves removal of unsuitable materials
from the area to be occupied by the retaining structure. All organic matter,
vegetation, slide debris, and other unstable materials should be removed and the
subgrade compacted.
In unstable foundation areas, ground improvement methods, such as dynamic
compaction, stone columns, wick drains, or other foundation stabilization/
improvement methods, would be completed prior to wall erection.
Placement of a leveling pad for the erection of the facing elements. This
generally unreinforced concrete pad is often only 1 ft wide and 6 in. thick and is
used for MSE wall construction only, where concrete panels are subsequently
erected. A gravel pad has been often substituted for MBW construction.
The purpose of this pad is to serve as a guide for facing panel erection and is not
intended as a structural foundation support.
Erection of the first row of facing panels on the prepared leveling pad.
Facings may consist of either precast concrete panels, metal facing panels, or dry
cast modular blocks.
The first row of facing panels may be full, or half-height panels, depending upon
the type of facing used. The first tier of panels must be temporarily braced to
maintain stability and alignment. A geotextile filter is glued over the vertical and
horizontal panel joints (with glue applied to both of the panels) to provide for
drainage and prevent soil piping. For construction with modular dry-cast blocks,
full sized blocks are used throughout with no shoring. A graded soil on
geotextile filter is used between the gravel block or drain fill and the wall fill to
prevent soil piping.
The erection of facing panels and placement of the soil backfill proceed
simultaneously.
Placement and compaction of backfill on the subgrade to the level of the

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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first layer of reinforcement and its compaction. The fill should be compacted
to the specified density, usually 95 to 100% of AASHTO T-99 maximum density
and within the specified range of optimum moisture content. Compaction
moisture contents dry of optimum are recommended.
A key to good performance is consistent placement and compaction. Wall fill lift
thickness must be controlled, based on specification requirements and vertical
distribution of reinforcement elements. The uniform loose lift thickness of the
reinforced backfill should not exceed 12 in. Place fill on the reinforcements
away from the wall face and on top of the reinforcements to secure them in place.
Windrow fill behind face panels to fill the gap left behind the bottom of the
facing panels. Thinner lifts and lighter compaction equipment should be used
within 3 ft of the back of the wall face. Retained fill placement behind the
reinforced volume should proceed simultaneously.
Placement of the first layer of reinforcing elements on the backfill. The
reinforcements are placed and connected to the facing panels when the
compacted fill has been brought up to the level of the connection. They are
generally placed perpendicular to back of the facing panels. Refer to Chapter 9
of FHWA NHI-00-043 Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls and Reinforced Soil
Slopes Design and Construction Guidelines (Elias et al., 2001) for more detailed
construction controls procedures.
Placement of the backfill over the reinforcing elements to the level of the
next reinforcement layer and compaction of the backfill. The previously
outlined steps are repeated for each successive layer.
Construction of traffic barriers and copings. This final construction sequence
is undertaken after the final panels have been placed, and the backfill has been
completed to its final grade.
7.5.2 Construction of MSE Walls with Flexible Facings
Construction of flexible-faced MSE walls, where the reinforcing material also serves as
facing material, is similar to that for walls with precast facing elements. For flexible facing
types such as welded wire mesh, geotextiles, geogrids or gabions, the erection of the first
level facing element requires only a level grade. A concrete footing or leveling pad is not
usually required unless precast elements are to be attached to the system after construction.
The construction steps for this type of wall are illustrated in Figures 7-10, and 7-11.


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Figure 7-9. Construction of MSE Wall With Inextensible Strip Reinforcements: (a) Concrete
Leveling Pad Construction, (b) Erection of Facing Elements, (c) Placement of
Reinforcements (d) Placement of Backfill, (e) Spreading of Backfill, and (f) Backfill
Compaction.
(a) (b)
(c) (d)
(e)
(f)



FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Figure 7-10. Construction Procedures of Geotextile Retained Earth Wall with Wrap-Around
Facing.


Figure 7-11. Geotextile Retained Earth Wall Details.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Construction proceeds as outlined for segmental facings with the following exceptions:
Placement of first reinforcing layer. Reinforcement with anisotropic strength
properties (i.e., many geosynthetics) should be placed with the principal strength
direction perpendicular to face of structure. It is often convenient to unroll the
reinforcement with the roll or machine direction parallel to the face. If this is done,
then the cross machine tensile strength must be greater than the design tension
requirements.
Secure reinforcement with retaining pins to prevent movement during reinforced fill
placement. Overlap adjacent sheets a minimum of 6 in. along the edges
perpendicular to the face. Alternatively, with geogrid or wire mesh reinforcement,
the edges may be butted and clipped or tied together.
Face Construction. Place the geosynthetic layers using face forms. For temporary
support of forms at the face, form holders should be placed at the base of each layer at
4 ft horizontal intervals. These supports are essential for achieving good compaction.
When using geogrids or wire mesh, it may be necessary to use a geotextile to retain
the backfill material at the wall face.
When compacting backfill within 3 ft of the wall face, a hand-operated vibratory
compactor is recommended.
The return-type method or successive layer tie method can be used for facing support.
In the return method, the reinforcement is folded at the face over the backfill material,
with a minimum return length of 4 ft to ensure adequate pullout resistance.
Consistency in face construction and compaction is essential to produce a wrapped
facing with satisfactory appearance.
Apply facing treatment (shotcrete, precast facing panels, etc.).
Walls with geotextile sheet reinforcements or continuous mesh reinforcements (metallic or
synthetic) can be constructed using the sheet or mesh as the wall facing element.
7.5.3 Backfill Placement and Compaction
Proper backfill placement and compaction is extremely important to the overall success of a
MSE wall. Following are typical requirements for backfill placement:

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Backfill placement should closely follow erection of each course of facing units.
Place fill on the reinforcements away from the wall face and on top of the
reinforcements to secure them in place. Windrow fill behind face panels to fill the
gap left behind the bottom of the facing panels. Backfill placement methods near the
facing must assure that no voids exist directly beneath the reinforcing elements. In
general, the backfill should be placed in such a manner as to avoid any damage to the
wall materials or misalignment of the facing units or reinforcing elements.
At no time should any construction equipment be in direct contact with the
reinforcements because the reinforcements and their protective coatings can be
damaged.
The soil layers should be compacted up to or even slightly above the elevation of
each level of reinforcement connections prior to placing that layer of reinforcements.
Moisture and density control is imperative. Even when using high-quality granular
materials, problems can occur if compaction control is not exercised. The backfill
material should be placed and compacted at or within 2 percent dry of the optimum
moisture content. If the reinforced fill is free draining with less than 5 percent fines
passing the No. 200 U.S. sieve, water content of the fill may be within 3 percent of
the optimum. The moisture content during placement can have a significant effect on
the soil-reinforcement interaction. Moisture contents wet of optimum makes it
increasingly difficult to maintain an acceptable facing alignment, especially if the
fines content is high. Moisture contents that are too dry result in significant
settlement during periods of precipitation.
A density of 95 percent of the maximum density as determined by AASHTO T-99,
Method C or D (with oversize corrections as outlined in Note 7 of that test) is
recommended for MSE walls. For applications where spread footings are used to
support bridge or other structural loads, the top 5 ft below the footing elevation
should be compacted to 100 percent AASHTO T-99.
A procedural specification is preferable where a significant percentage of coarse
material, generally 30 percent or greater retained on the in. sieve, prevents the use
of AASHTO T-99 or T-180 test methods. In this situation, typically three to five
passes with conventional vibratory roller compaction equipment is adequate to attain
the maximum practical density. The actual requirements should be evaluated based
on field trials.
The maximum lift thickness after compaction should not exceed 12 in. The lift
thickness may be decreased, if necessary, to obtain the specified density.
With the exception of the 3 ft zone directly behind the facing elements, large smooth-
drum, vibratory rollers should generally be used to obtain the desired compaction.
Sheepsfoot rollers should not be permitted because of possible damage to the
reinforcements. When compacting uniform medium to fine sands (in excess of 60

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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percent passing the No. 40 sieve), a smooth-drum static roller or lightweight (walk
behind) vibratory roller should be used. The use of large vibratory compaction
equipment with this type of backfill material will make wall alignment control
difficult.
Within 3 ft of the wall, small, single or double drum, walk-behind vibratory rollers or
vibratory plate compactors should be used (Figure 7-12). Placement of the reinforced
backfill near the front should not lag behind backfill placement for the remainder of
the structure by more than one lift. Poor fill placement and compaction in this area
has in some cases resulted in a chimney-shaped vertical void immediately behind the
facing elements. Within this 3 ft zone, quality control should be maintained by a
methods specification such as three passes of a light drum compactor. Higher quality
fill is sometimes used in this zone so that the desired properties can be achieved with
less compactive effort. In some cases, the contractor should be required to use a rod
to densify the coarse aggregate at the wall face. Excessive compactive effort or use
of too heavy equipment near the wall face could result in excessive face panel
movement (modular panels) or structural damage (full-height, precast panels), and
overstressing of reinforcing materials.
Inconsistent compaction and undercompaction caused by insufficient compactive
effort or allowing the contractor to compact backfill with trucks and dozers will
lead to gross misalignments and settlement problems and should not be permitted.
At the end of each days operation, the last level of backfill should be sloped away
from the wall facing to rapidly direct runoff away from the wall face. In addition,
surface runoff from adjacent areas must not be allowed to enter the walls
construction site.

7.6 MSE WALL COST
Site-specific costs of a soil-reinforced structure are a function of many factors, including cut-
fill requirements, wall/slope size and type, in-situ soil type, available backfill materials,
facing finish, temporary or permanent application. It has been found that MSE walls with
precast concrete facings are usually less expensive than reinforced concrete retaining walls
for heights greater than about 10 ft and average foundation conditions. Modular block walls
(MBW) are competitive with concrete walls at heights of less than 15 ft.


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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(a)

(b)
Figure 7-12. Lightweight Compaction Adjacent to Wall Facing.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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In general, the use of MSE walls results in savings on the order of 25 to 50% and possibly
more in comparison with a conventional reinforced concrete retaining structure, especially
when the latter is supported on a deep foundation system (poor foundation condition). A
substantial savings is obtained by elimination of the deep foundations, which is usually
possible because reinforced soil structures can accommodate relatively large total and
differential settlements. Other cost saving features include ease of construction and speed of
construction.

7.7 CONSTRUCTION INSPECTION OF MSE WALLS
Prior to construction of any MSE structure, personnel responsible for construction control
should become familiar with the following items:
Plans, specifications and testing requirements;
Site conditions relevant to construction conditions;
Material requirements and allowable tolerances; and
Construction sequencing.
Quality assurance measures must be implemented to:
Inspect reinforcement for damage and availability of mill test certificates to certify
grade and corrosion protection, where required for metallic reinforcement and
compliance with submitted manufacturer's specifications for geosynthetics;
Inspect precast elements for damage and casting tolerances; and
Inspect and test reinforced backfill for conformance to gradation and electrochemical
properties.
During erection, construction control is focused on assuring that:
Leveling pads are correctly constructed with respect to elevation;
Facing elements are erected within the specified vertical tolerances;
The fill is compacted to the required uniform density within the required moisture
content range; and
The reinforcements are properly secured to the facing elements.
Detailed discussion on MSE wall construction and component inspection can be found in
FHWA Manual on Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls and Reinforced Steepened Slopes,

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Design and Construction Guidelines (Elias et al., 2001) and in the NHI Course Inspection of
MSE Walls and RSS (see document FHWA-NHI-07-094). A checklist of general
requirements for monitoring and inspecting MSE systems is provided in Table 7-4.

Table 7-4. MSE Wall Field Inspection Checklist
CONTRACTOR SET UP
Review Specifications and become familiar with
- material requirements
- construction procedures
- soil compaction procedures
- alignment tolerances
- acceptance/rejection criteria
Review construction Plans and become familiar with
- construction sequence
- corrosion protection systems
- special placement to reduce damage
- soil compaction restrictions
- details for drainage requirements
- details for utility construction
- construction of slope face
- contractors documents
Review Contractors schedule
Review material (retained and select backfills, reinforcement elements etc) requirements
and approval submittals
Review corrosion protection requirements of metallic units, ultraviolet light degradation
protection of nonmetallic units, and construction sequence requirements for the
reinforcement system
Review select backfill property test results against the requirements
Discuss anticipated ground conditions and potential problems with Contractor
Check overall condition of Contractors equipment
Confirm that the layouts, dimensions, and elevations of the leveling pads are consistent
with Plans
Review Contractors stockpile area
Check site conditions and observe site accessibility, construction dewatering, and
drainage features such as seeps, adjacent streams, etc.
Check submittals of the Contractor for deficiencies and act accordingly before sending it
to Engineer for review
SUBGRADE
Confirm stability of slopes and report to the Engineer any temporary excavation support
systems being used
Confirm limits of excavation and wall footing as shown in the Plans
Conform all unsuitable materials are removed from the area to be occupied by the wall
Confirm construction dewatering consistent with Specifications

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Confirm bedrock (or competent ground) according to the Specifications
Conform leveling, alignment, and proof-rolling of the subgrade consistent with
Specifications and Plans
Confirm that facing pad construction is performed according to Specifications
FACING AND REINFORCING ELEMENTS
Confirm that facing elements meet the Specification requirements and reject them for:
- compressive strength < specification requirements
- imperfect molding
- honey-combing
- severe cracking, chipping or spalling
- color of finish variation
- out-of-tolerance dimensions
- misaligned connections

Inspect materials in batch of reinforcements to ensure that they are all the same
Check reinforcement labels to verify whether or not they match certification documents
Observe construction of the reinforcements to confirm that Contractor complies with
Specification requirements
Confirm that overlapping layers of reinforcement are separated by select backfill
(1)

Confirm that the reinforcement is turned up at the face of the wall
(2)

Confirm that minimum overlap is observed along the edges perpendicular to the wall
face
(2)

Obtain test samples from the reinforcement elements according to the Specifications from
randomly selected locations
If possible, inspect reinforcement elements after placement of select backfill by
constructing a trial installation or by removing a small section of select backfill for
inspection
Check all reinforcement and prefabricated facing elements against the initial approved
shipment and collect additional test samples
Observe and confirm the consistency of first row of facing elements with Plans
Monitor facing alignment:
- adjacent facing panel joints
- precast face elements
- wrapped face walls
- line and grade
Confirm that first tier of facing elements are braced to maintain stability and alignment
(1)

Confirm that facing elements are not placed on top of each other until they are
completely backfilled
(1)

If geogrid is used for reinforcement, confirm that a wire mesh or geotextile is used at the
wall face to retain select backfill
(2)

Confirm proper face protection is observed by the Contractor after placement of the final
select backfill
(2)

Confirm the line and grade of the wall face according to Plans


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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DRAINAGE SYSTEMS, INFILL AND BACKFIILL
Confirm consistency of retained and select backfill materials based on Specifications
Confirm placement and compaction of retained and select backfill materials according to
Specifications
Confirm alignment and elevation of internal drainage systems, and method of passing
reinforcing elements around the drainage systems according to Plans
Confirm alignment and elevation of external drainage systems according to Plans
POST INSTALLATION
Verify pay quantities
Note:
(1)
MSE wall with strip reinforcement and
(2)
MSE wall with geotextile or mesh facing.

7.8 MSE WALL DESIGN
The procedure for design of MSE walls using LRFD is very similar to that followed using
ASD. In LRFD, the external and internal stability of the MSE wall is evaluated at all
appropriate strength limit states and overall stability and lateral/vertical wall movement are
evaluated at the service limit state. Extreme event load combinations are used to design and
analyze for conditions such as vehicle impact and seismic loading. The specific checks for
the strength and service limit states required for MSE wall design are listed below.
Strength Limit States for MSE walls
External Stability (Figure 7-13)
1. Limiting Eccentricity;
2. Sliding; and
3. Bearing Resistance.
Internal Stability
1. Tensile Resistance of Reinforcement;
2. Pullout Resistance of Reinforcement;
3. Structural Resistance of Face Elements; and
4. Structural Resistance of Face Element Connections.
Service Limit States for MSE walls
1. Overall Stability; and
2. Lateral and Vertical Wall Movements.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Figure 7-13. Potential External Failure Mechanisms for MSE Walls.

The external stability of an MSE wall is evaluated assuming that the reinforced soil mass acts
as a rigid body. This is because, when properly designed, the wall facing and the reinforced
soil act as a coherent block with lateral earth pressures acting on the back face of that block.
The internal stability of the reinforced soil mass is dependent on three fundamental
characteristics:
the soil-reinforcement interaction;
the tensile strength of the reinforcement; and
the durability of the reinforcing material.
Sliding Sliding
Limiting Eccentricity Limiting Eccentricity
(Overturning) (Overturning)
Bearing Bearing
Sliding Sliding
Limiting Eccentricity Limiting Eccentricity
(Overturning) (Overturning)
Bearing Bearing
Sliding Sliding Sliding Sliding
Limiting Eccentricity Limiting Eccentricity
(Overturning) (Overturning)
Limiting Eccentricity Limiting Eccentricity
(Overturning) (Overturning)
Limiting Eccentricity Limiting Eccentricity
(Overturning) (Overturning)
Limiting Eccentricity Limiting Eccentricity
(Overturning) (Overturning)
Bearing Bearing Bearing Bearing

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Therefore, the internal stability analyses of an MSE wall in LRFD is evaluated by (a)
determining the maximum factored load in each reinforcement and (b) comparing this
maximum factored load to the factored pullout resistance and to the factored tensile
resistance of the reinforcement for all applicable strength, service, and extreme event limit
states.
The major design steps for MSE walls are summarized in Table 7-5.

Table 7-5. Design Steps for MSE Walls
Step 1. Establish project requirements including all geometry, loading
conditions (transient and/or permanent, seismic, etc.), performance
criteria, and construction constraints.
Step 2. Evaluate existing topography, site subsurface conditions, in-situ
soil/rock properties, and wall backfill parameters.
Step 3. Based on initial wall geometry, estimate wall embedment depth
and length of reinforcement.
Step 4. Estimate unfactored loads.
Step 5. Calculate factored loads for all appropriate limit states (external
stability).
Step 6. Check eccentricity.
Step 7. Check sliding resistance.
Step 8. Check bearing resistance.
Step 9. Estimate critical failure surface based on reinforcement type (i.e.,
extensible or inextensible) for internal stability design at all
appropriate strength limit states.
Step 10. Calculate factored horizontal stress at each reinforcement level.
Step 11. Calculate maximum factored tensile stress in each reinforcement.
Step 12. Check reinforcement pullout resistance.
Step 13. Calculate nominal long-term reinforcement design strength and
check reinforcement tensile resistance.
Step 14. Check overall stability at the service limit state. Revise design if
necessary.
Step 15. Estimate vertical and lateral wall movements at the service limit
state. Revise design if necessary.
Step 16. Design wall drainage systems.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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7.8.1 Initial Design Steps (Steps 1 through 3)
7.8.1.1 Steps 1 and 2 Establish Project Requirements and Evaluate Site Conditions
Herein, it is assumed that Step 1 has been completed and a MSE wall has been deemed
appropriate for the project and Step 2 has been completed to establish site subsurface
conditions, in-situ soil/rock properties, and wall backfill parameters. Guidelines for site
evaluation for an MSE wall project (i.e., site exploration, field reconnaissance, subsurface
exploration, and laboratory testing) can be found in FHWA-NHI-00-043 (Elias et al., 2001).
The drainage and shear strength characteristics of the wall backfill soil are also assessed as
part of Step 2. Guidelines for select backfill material gradation are provided in Section 7.4.1.
7.8.1.2 Step 3 Select Initial Wall Geometry
Based on the required wall height, the length of the reinforcement and embedment depth of
the wall are assumed. These assumptions are verified later in the external and internal
stability checks.
The design height of the MSE wall (for external stability computations) is the sum of the
required embedment depth and the wall height. To prevent exceeding local bearing
resistance, the minimum embedment depths shown in Table 7-6 should be used in the design
unless the wall is constructed on a rock foundation. The wall embedment is provided as a
function of the height of the structure (H) above the leveling pad. Final wall embedment for
design is based on computations considering overall stability and bearing resistance (see
AASHTO Section 11.10.2.2).
Larger values for embedment depth may be required, depending on depth of frost
penetration, shrinkage and swelling of foundation soils, seismic activity, potential for
erosion, and scour. The final embedment depth should also be based on bearing resistance
and overall stability computations (conducted in later design steps). The minimum wall
embedment, in any case, should be 1.5 ft, except for structures founded on rock at the
surface, where no embedment may be used. Alternatively, frost-susceptible soils could be
over excavated and replaced with non frost susceptible backfill, hence reducing the overall
wall height. Additional discussion on wall embedment depth and local bearing resistance for
walls founded on slopes is provided in Section 11.10.2.2 of AASHTO (2007).
The minimum reinforcement length (L) should be 0.7H (or 8 ft, whichever is greater), where
H is the design height of the structure as measured from the top of the leveling pad (see
Figure 7-14 for definition of H). MSE walls with sloping surcharge fills or other external

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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loads, such as abutment footings or surcharges, generally require longer reinforcements for
stability, often on the order of 0.8H to as much as 1.1H. Shorter lengths may be required for
individual reinforcement levels. Shorter minimum reinforcement lengths, on the order of 6
ft, but no less than 70 percent of the wall height, can be considered if smaller compaction
equipment is used, facing panel alignment can be maintained, and minimum requirements for
wall external stability are met. Additional discussion is provided in Section C11.10.2.1
(AASHTO, 2007).

Table 7-6. Minimum Embedment Requirements for MSE Walls (after AASHTO, 2007)
Slope in Front of Structure Minimum Embedment
Horizontal (for walls) H/20
Horizontal (for abutments) H/10
3H:1V (for walls) H/10
2H:1V (for walls) H/7
1.5H:1V (for walls) H/5
Notes: Near rivers choose minimum embedment depth 2 ft below maximum
scour depth.

A minimum horizontal bench width of 4 ft (measured from bottom of wall horizontally to
slope face) should be provided in front of walls founded on slopes. This minimum bench
width is required to protect against local instability near the toe of the wall.
7.8.2 Strength Limit States External Stability (Steps 4 through 8)
7.8.2.1 Step 4 Estimate Unfactored Loads
The primary sources of loading for an MSE wall will be from earth pressures resulting from
ground behind the reinforced zone and from surcharge loadings at the ground surface (e.g.,
vehicle live loads, line loads from a bridge seat, etc.). The unfactored loads for MSE walls
may include loads due to horizontal earth pressure (EH), vertical earth pressure (EV), live
load surcharge (LS), and earth surcharge (ES). Water, seismic, and vehicle impact loads
should also be evaluated. Estimation of earth pressures on MSE walls for three different
conditions (i.e., horizontal backslope with traffic surcharge, sloping backslope, and broken
backslope) are presented below.


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Assumed for bearing resistance
Assumed for sliding and eccentricity
Assumed for bearing resistance
Assumed for sliding and eccentricity

Figure 7-14. Pressure Diagram for MSE Walls With Horizontal Backslope and Traffic
Surcharge (after AASHTO, 2007).

Horizontal backslope with traffic surcharge
Figure 7-14 shows the procedure to estimate the earth pressure acting on the back of the
reinforced zone for the case of a horizontal backslope with traffic surcharge. The active earth
pressure coefficient (K
a
) for vertical walls (i.e., walls with less than an 8 degree batter) with
horizontal backslope is calculated from a simplified version of the Coulomb equation as
presented in AASHTO (2007) Equation C11.10.6.2.1-1 and shown below:

|
|
.
|

\
|
=
2
45 tan
'
2
f
a
K

(7-1)
where:
f
= friction angle of retained fill.
Figure 7-15 illustrates the typical application of live load surcharge over the retained fill for
an MSE wall in LRFD. When a live load surcharge is considered in design, the factored
surcharge force is generally included over the backfill immediately above the wall only for
evaluation of foundation bearing resistance and tensile resistance of the reinforcement

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Figure 7-15. Typical application of live load surcharge for MSE walls (after AASHTO,
2007).
elements. The live load surcharge is not included over the backfill for evaluation of
eccentricity, sliding, reinforcement pullout, or other failure mechanisms for which the
surcharge load would increase resistance to failure.
In addition to the uniform surcharge loads shown in Figure 7-14, any concentrated vertical
and horizontal loads at the surface may influence both the internal and external stability of
the wall. The stresses from concentrated vertical and horizontal loads can be calculated
using simplified approaches illustrated in Figures 7-16 and 7-17 respectively.
Sloping backslope
Figure 7-18 shows the procedure to estimate the earth pressure acting on the back of the
reinforced zone for the case of a sloping backslope. The active earth pressure coefficient
(K
a
) to determine the pressure on vertical walls with a surcharge slope is calculated as shown
below:

) - ( sin
sin
) + (
sin
=
2
2
a

K
(7-2)

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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feet feet

Figure 7-16. Distribution of Stress from Concentrated Vertical Load (after AASHTO, 2007)


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Figure 7-17. Distribution of Stress from Concentrated Horizontal Loads for External and
Internal Stability Calculations (after AASHTO, 2007).

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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where:
(

) + ( sin ) - ( sin
) - ( sin ) + ( sin
+ 1 =
2



= Nominal slope of backfill behind wall (deg)
= Angle of wall friction (deg)
= friction angle of retained fill

= 90
o
for vertical wall
The earth pressure force, (P
o
) in Figure 7-18, is oriented at the same angle as the backslope.
This orientation is not due to wall friction because wall friction is assumed to be zero for this
case.
Broken backslope
Figure 7-19 shows the procedure to estimate the earth pressure acting on the back of the
reinforced zone for the case of a broken backslope. The active earth pressure coefficient (K
a
)
for this condition is computed using Equation 7-2. It should be kept in mind that soil
components (e.g., retained backfill, reinforced (i.e., select) backfill) may have different soil
parameters.
7.8.2.2 Step 5 Calculate Factored Loads
In this design step, the unfactored loads from Step 4 are multiplied by load factors to obtain
the factored loads for each appropriate limit state. The load factors for the limit states are
provided in Table 4-1. It is specifically noted that, in certain states, the Strength II limit state
is more critical than the Strength I limit state because owner-prescribed legal loads are
greater than those provided in the AASHTO specifications.
Load factors for permanent loads are selected to produce the maximum destabilizing effect
for the design check being considered. For example, to produce the maximum destabilizing
effect, when checking sliding resistance,
EV
is selected as the minimum value from Table 4-
2 (i.e.,
EV
= 1.00) and when checking bearing resistance,
EV
is selected as the maximum
value from Table 4-2 (i.e.,
EV
= 1.35).


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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H
h
P
h
h H
P
v
P
o
L
e
S
v
h/3
Retained Fill
Reinforced
Soil Mass

H
h
P
h
h H
P
v
P
o
L
e
S
v
h/3
Retained Fill
Reinforced
Soil Mass



Figure 7-18. Pressure Diagram for MSE Walls With Sloping Backslope (after AASHTO,
2007).
H
h
P
h
h H
P
v
P
o

h/3
Retained Fill
Reinforced
Soil Mass
2H

H
h
P
h
h H
P
v
P
o

h/3
Retained Fill
Reinforced
Soil Mass
2H


Figure 7-19. Pressure Diagram for MSE Walls With Broken Backslope (after AASHTO,
2007).

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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7.8.2.3 Step 6 Check Eccentricity
The eccentricity of the wall (e
B
) can be calculated for each load group as:

o B
X
B
e =
2
(7-3)
where:
B = base width (length of reinforcement elements) and
X
o
= location of the resultant from the toe of the wall.
The parameter X
o
is calculated as:

( )
EV
HTOT EV
o
P
M M
X

= (7-4)
where:
M
EV
= resisting moment due to factored vertical earth pressure calculated
about the toe of the wall;
M
HTOT
= driving moment due to factored horizontal earth pressure from
ground and from factored live load surcharge calculated about the toe
of the wall; and
P
EV

= factored resultant force from vertical earth pressure due to the weight of
reinforced soil.
M
EV
and M
HTOT
are calculated using the factored loads. Example calculations for two
different backslopes are given below:
For horizontal backslope with traffic surcharge (Figure 7-20) condition:
2
L
P M
EV EV
=
|
.
|

\
|
+ |
.
|

\
|
=
2 3
H
P
H
P M
LSH EH HTOT

where P
EH
= factored resultant force from horizontal earth pressure; and
P
LSH
= factored resultant force from horizontal component of surcharge
load.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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P
EV
P
LSH
P
EH
P
EV
P
LSH
P
EH
P
EV
P
LSH
P
EH

Figure 7-20. Calculation of Eccentricity for Horizontal Backslope with Traffic Surcharge
Condition (after Elias and Christopher 1996).

It should be noted that the effect of external loadings on the MSE mass, which increases
sliding resistance, should only be included if the loadings are permanent. For example,
live load traffic surcharges should be excluded.
For sloping backslope (Figure 7-21) condition:
L P
L
P
L
P M
EH EV EV EV
+ + = sin
3
2
2
2 1

3
cos
h
P M
EH HTOT
=
where P
EV2
= factored resultant force from earth pressure due to the weight of
soil of sloping backslope;
P
EH
sin = factored resultant force from vertical component of the earth
Pressure; and
P
EH
cos = factored resultant force from horizontal component of the
earth pressure.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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P
EV1
PE
H
P
EV2
P
EV1
PE
H
P
EV2

Figure 7-21. Calculation of Eccentricity for Sloping Backslope Condition (after Elias and
Christopher 1996).
For eccentricity to be considered acceptable, the calculated location of the resultant vertical
force (based on factored loads) should be within the middle one-half of the base width for
soil foundations (i.e., e
max
= B / 4) and middle three-fourths of the base width for rock
foundations (i.e., . e
max
= 3/8 B). Therefore, for each load group, e
B
must be less than e
max
. If
e
B
is greater than e
max
, a longer length of reinforcement is required.
7.8.2.4 Step 7 Check Sliding Resistance
Sliding and overall stability usually govern the design of structures greater than about 30 ft
high, structures constructed on weak foundation soils, or structures with a sloping surcharge.
The live load surcharge is not considered as a stabilizing force when checking sliding. The
driving forces in a sliding evaluation will generally include factored horizontal loads due to
earth, water, seismic, and surcharge pressures and the resisting force is provided by the
minimum shear resistance between the base of the MSE wall and foundation soil.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Sliding resistance along the base of the wall is evaluated using the same procedures in
AASHTO (2007) Section 10.6.3.4 for spread footings on soil. The factored resistance
against failure by sliding (R
R
) can be estimated by:
R
R
= R
n
=

+
ep
R
ep

(7-5)
where:
R
n
= nominal sliding resistance against failure by sliding;

= resistance factor for shear resistance between soil and foundation


(provided in Table 10.5.5.2.2-1 of AASHTO (2007) as 1.0 for sliding of
soil-on-soil);
R

= nominal sliding resistance between soil and foundation;

ep
= resistance factor for passive resistance (provided in Table 10.5.5.2.2-1 of
AASHTO (2007)); and
R
ep
= nominal passive resistance of soil available throughout design life

It should be noted that any passive resistance provided by soil at the toe of the wall by
embedment (i.e.,
ep
R
ep
) is ignored due to the potential for the soil to be removed through
natural or manmade processes during the service life of the structure. The shear strength of
the facing system is also conservatively neglected in most cases.
If the soil beneath the wall is cohesionless, the nominal sliding resistance between soil and
foundation is:

tan
EV
P R =
(7-6)
where
P
EV
= minimum factored vertical load for the strength limit state being
considered; and
= coefficient of sliding friction at the base of the reinforced soil mass.
For continuous sheet reinforcement, is selected as the minimum of:
(1) friction angle of reinforced fill;
(2) friction angle of foundation soil; or
(3) interface friction angle between the reinforcement and soil.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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For discontinuous reinforcement (e.g., geogrid), is selected as the minimum value of (1) or
(2).
Sliding resistance of the MSE wall is considered adequate if R
R
is equal to or greater than the
maximum factored horizontal earth pressure force from the ground and from the factored live
load surcharge calculated in Step 5.
7.8.2.5 Step 8 Check Bearing Resistance
Due to the flexibility of MSE walls and the inability of the flexible reinforcement to transmit
moment, a uniform base pressure distribution is assumed over an equivalent footing width.
Unlike the bearing resistance check for CIP walls founded on rock, the assumption of a
uniform base pressure is used for MSE walls founded on rock (see Section 11.10.5.4 of
AASHTO (2007)). The effect of eccentricity, load inclination, and live load surcharges must
be included in this check. Effects of live load surcharges are included because they increase
the loading on foundation.
The factored bearing resistance (q
R
) is given as:

n R
q q = (7-7)
where:
= resistance factor (see AASHTO (2007) Table 11.5.6-1)
(for walls with flexible footings such as MSE walls, this factor is 0.65 in
AASHTO (2007)); and
q
n
= nominal bearing resistance (see AASHTO (2007) Equation 10.6.3.1.1.2a-
1).
The design example provided in Section 7.9 illustrates the evaluation of
q
n
for MSE walls.

To check whether the bearing resistance of the MSE wall is adequate, the q
R
computed in
Equation 7-7 is compared against the following criterion:
uniform R
q q
where:
q
uniform
= vertical stress for walls on soil foundations, which is calculated
assuming a uniform distribution of pressure over an effective base

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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width (B = B 2e)

B
TOT
uniform
e B
V
q
2
=
(7-8)
where:
V
TOT
= sum of all factored vertical forces acting at the base of the wall (e.g.,
weight of reinforced fill, live and dead load surcharges);
B = base width (length of reinforcement strips); and
e
B
= eccentricity determined from Equation 7-4; however for bearing
resistance calculations, X
o
is defined as:

( )
TOT
HTOT VTOT
o
V
M M
X

=
where:
M
VTOT
= resisting moment due to factored total vertical load based on earth
pressure and live load surcharge calculated about the toe of the wall.
Design example in Section 7.9 illustrates the calculation of M
VTOT
for
horizontal backslope with traffic surcharge condition.
M
HTOT
= driving moment due to factored lateral load based on earth pressure and
live load surcharge calculated about the toe of the wall. The calculation
of M
HTOT
is provided in Section 7.8.2.3.
7.8.3 Strength Limit States Internal Stability (Steps 9 through 13)
To be internally stable, the MSE structure must be coherent and self supporting under the
action of its own weight and any externally applied forces. This is accomplished through
stress transfer from the soil to the reinforcement. This interaction between the soil and
reinforcement improves the tensile properties and creates a composite material with the
following characteristics:
Stress transfer between the soil and reinforcement takes place continuously along
the reinforcement; and
Reinforcements are distributed throughout the soil mass with a degree of
regularity and must not be localized.

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Figure 7-22 illustrates the internal failure mechanisms for MSE walls. At each reinforcement
level, the reinforcement must be sized and spaced to preclude rupture under the stress it is
required to carry and to prevent pullout from the soil mass. The process of sizing and
designing to preclude internal failure, therefore, consists of determining the maximum
developed tension forces in the reinforcements (i.e., maximum load), the location of this load
along a critical failure surface, and comparing this maximum load against the resistance
provided by the reinforcements both in pullout and tensile strength.

(a) (b)
Figure 7-22. Mechanisms of Internal Failure in MSE Walls (a) Tension Failure and (b)
Pullout Failure (after Christopher et al., 1990).

7.8.3.1 Step 9 Select Location of Critical Failure Surface
The location and shape of the theoretical critical failure surface is dependent on the type of
reinforcement. Therefore, at this stage of the design, first the reinforcement type must be
selected and categorized (i.e., extensible or inextensible) and then the potential critical failure
surface should be determined accordingly.
When inextensible reinforcements are used, the soil deforms more than the reinforcement.
Therefore, the soil strength in this case is measured at low strain. The critical failure surface
for this reinforcement type is determined by dividing the reinforced zone into active and
resistant zones with a bilinear failure surface as shown in Figure 7-23a.

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Figure 7-23. Location of Potential Failure Surface for Internal Stability Design of MSE
Walls (a) Inextensible Reinforcements and (b) Extensible Reinforcements (after Elias et al.,
2001).

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When extensible reinforcements are used, the reinforcement deforms more than the soil.
Therefore, it is assumed that the shear strength of the reinforced fill is fully mobilized
(residual strength) and active lateral earth pressures are developed. As a result, the critical
failure surface for both horizontal and sloping backfill conditions are represented by the
Rankine active earth pressure zone as shown in Figure 7-23b.
7.8.3.2 Step 10 Calculated Factored Horizontal Stress
The purpose of this design step is to calculate the maximum factored horizontal stress. It is
specifically noted that load factors are typically applied to unfactored loads, not to an
unfactored stress (as it is in Eq. 7-9) below. The AASHTO (2007) LRFD code, however,
applies the load factor to the unfactored stress for this particular design calculation. The
factored horizontal stress (
H
) at each reinforcement level is based on AASHTO (2007)
Equation 11.10.6.2.1-1:

( )
H r V P H
k + = (7-9)
where:

P
= maximum load factor for vertical earth pressure (EV), (1.35 per
AASHTO (2007) Table 3.4.1-2);
k
r
= lateral earth pressure coefficient;

V
= pressure due to resultant of gravity forces from soil self weight within
and immediately above the reinforced wall backfill, and any backfill
present; and

H
= horizontal stress at reinforcement level resulting from a concentrated
horizontal surcharge load (see AASHTO (2007) Section 11.10.10.1)).
Research studies have indicated that the maximum tensile force is primarily related to the
type of reinforcement in the MSE mass, which, in turn, is a function of the modulus
extensibility, and density of reinforcement. Based on this research, a relationship between
the type of the reinforcement and the overburden stress has been developed and is shown in
(Figure 7-24).
Figure 7-24 was prepared by back analysis of the lateral stress ratio from available field data
where stresses in the reinforcements have been measured and normalized as a function of an
active earth pressure coefficient. The lines shown on this figure correspond to usual values
representative of the specific reinforcement systems that are known to give satisfactory

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20 ft 20 ft
a
a
r
K
K
K
k =
20 ft 20 ft
a
a
r
K
K
K
k =

Figure 7-24. Variation of the Coefficient of Lateral Stress Ratio (K/K
a
) with Depth in a
Mechanically Stabilized Earth Wall (after AASHTO, 2007).

results, assuming that the vertical stress is equal to the weight of the overburden (gH). This
provides a simplified evaluation method for all cohesionless reinforced fill walls. Future data
may lead to modifications in Figure 7-24, including relationships for newly developed
reinforcement types, effect of full-height panels, etc.
For a vertical wall face (i.e., batters less than 8 degrees from vertical), the active earth
pressure coefficient (K
a
) is determined using Equation 7-1. For wall face batters equal to or
greater than 8 degrees from the vertical, the following simplified form of Coulomb equation
as presented in AASHTO (2007) Equation C11.10.6.2.1-2 and shown below can be used:

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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2
3
2
sin
' sin
1 sin
) ' ( sin
(

+
+
=


a
K
(7-10)
where:
= inclination of the back of the facing as measured from the horizontal
starting in front of the wall; and
= friction angle of retained fill.

The value of K
a
in the reinforced soil mass is assumed to be independent of all external
loads, even sloping fills. If testing of the site-specific select backfill is not available, the
value of
f
used to compute the horizontal stress within the reinforced soil mass should not
exceed 34
o
.
Once the value of K
a
is known, the lateral earth pressure coefficient (k
r
) (in Equation 7-9)
that is used to compute s
H
at each reinforcement level is calculated as:
k
r
= K/K
a
(from Figure 7-24) x K
a
(from Equation 7-10)
This calculation is shown in Student Exercise 5 and the design example in Section 7.9.
If present, surcharge load should be added into the estimation of
v.
For sloping soil surfaces
above the MSE wall section, the actual surcharge is replaced by a uniform surcharge equal to
half of the height of the slope at the back of the reinforcements (Elias et al., 2001). For cases
where concentrated vertical loads occur, refer to Figures 7-16 and 7-17 for computation of
v
.
7.8.3.3 Step 11 Calculate Maximum Factored Tensile Stress
The maximum tension in each reinforcement layer per unit width of wall (T
max
) based on the
reinforcement vertical spacing (S
v
) is calculated as:

v H
S T .
max
= (7-11a)
where
H
is the factored horizontal load calculated in step 10 using Equation 7-9.

T
max
may also be calculated at each level for discrete reinforcements (metal strips, bar mats,
grids, etc.) per a defined unit width of reinforcement as:

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c
v H
R
R
S
T
.
max

(7-11b)
where,
R
c
= reinforcement coverage ratio = b/S
h
(see Figure 7-25)
(e.g., R
c
= 1 for full coverage reinforcement);
b = gross width of the reinforcing element;
S
h
= center-to-center horizontal spacing between reinforcements
7.8.3.4 Step 12 Check Reinforcement Pullout Resistance
The purpose of this design step is to check the pullout resistance of the reinforcements. The
resistance develops after the stress transfer between the soil and the reinforcement takes
place, which occurs through two mechanisms:

(1) friction along the soil-reinforcement interface (Figure 7-26a), and
(2) passive soil resistance or lateral bearing capacity developed along the transverse
sections of the reinforcement (Figure 7-26b).
Stresses are transferred between soil and reinforcement by friction and/or passive resistance
depending on reinforcement geometry.
Friction develops at locations where there is a relative shear displacement and
corresponding shear stress between soil and reinforcement surface. Reinforcing
elements where friction is important should be aligned with the direction of soil
reinforcement relative movement. Examples of such reinforcing elements are steel
strips, longitudinal bars in grids, geotextile, and some geogrid layers.
Passive resistance occurs through the development of bearing type stresses on
"transverse" reinforcement surfaces normal to the direction of soil reinforcement
relative movement. Passive resistance is generally considered to be the primary
interaction for rigid geogrids, bar mat, and wire mesh reinforcements. The transverse
ridges on "ribbed" strip reinforcement also provide some passive resistance.

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(a)
Metal strips
Metal bars or wires
t
c
Discontinuous geosynthetic sheets
Continuous geosynthetic sheets
(b)
continuous reinforcement = S
h
= b
(a)
Metal strips
Metal bars or wires
t
c
Discontinuous geosynthetic sheets
Continuous geosynthetic sheets
(b)
continuous reinforcement = S
h
= b
(a)
Metal strips
Metal bars or wires
t
c
Discontinuous geosynthetic sheets
Continuous geosynthetic sheets
(b)
continuous reinforcement = S
h
= b

Figure 7-25. Definitions of b, S
h
, and S
v
for (a) metal and (b) geosynthetic reinforcements
(after AASHTO, 2007).

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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(a)
(b)
Normal Pressure
Normal Pressure
Frictional Force
Pull Out Force
Normal Pressure
Pull Out Force
Frictional Resistance
Passive Resistance Pull Out Force
Frictional Resistance
Passive Resistance
(a)
(b)
Normal Pressure
Normal Pressure
Frictional Force
Pull Out Force
Normal Pressure
Normal Pressure
Frictional Force
Pull Out Force
Normal Pressure
Pull Out Force
Frictional Resistance
Passive Resistance
Normal Pressure
Pull Out Force
Frictional Resistance
Passive Resistance Pull Out Force
Frictional Resistance
Passive Resistance
Pull Out Force
Frictional Resistance
Passive Resistance

Figure 7-26. Mechanisms of Pullout Resistance. (a) By Friction, (b) By Passive Resistance
(after Christopher et al., 1990 and Lawson, 1992).

The contribution of each transfer mechanism for a particular reinforcement will depend on
the roughness of the surface (skin friction), normal effective stress, grid opening dimensions,
thickness of the transverse members, and elongation characteristics of the reinforcement.

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Equally important for interaction development are the soil characteristics, including grain
size and grain size distribution, particle shape, density, water content, cohesion, and stiffness.
The primary function of reinforcements is to restrain soil deformations. In doing so, stresses
are transferred from the soil to the reinforcement. These stresses are carried by the
reinforcement in two ways: in tension or in shear and bending.
The unfactored pullout resistance (P
r
) of the reinforcement per unit width of reinforcement is
estimated as:
P
r
= F
*

v
(7-12)
Parameters in Equation 7-12 are defined in Equation 7-14.
In this design step, the reinforcement pullout resistance is evaluated at each reinforcement
level of the MSE wall. The required total length for reinforcement to generate appropriate
pullout resistance for each level is calculated and then compared against the total
reinforcement length initially estimated in design step 3 (Section 7.8.1.2). The initially
estimated total reinforcement length may have to be adjusted based on the required length
calculated in this step.
The total length of reinforcement (L) required for internal stability is determined as:
L = L
e
+ L
a
(7-13)

where:
L
e
= required length of reinforcement in resisting zone (i.e., beyond the
potential failure surface) and
L
a
= remainder length of the reinforcement.
Estimating L
e

The length of reinforcement in the resisting zone (L
e
) is determined using the following
equation (see AASHTO (2007) Equation 11.10.6.3.2-1):

c v
e
R C F
T
L

*
max
(7-14)

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where:
T
max
= maximum factored tensile load in the reinforcement (calculated in
step 11);
= resistance factor for reinforcement pullout = 0.9 (see AASHTO
(2007) Table 11.5.6-1);
F
*
= pullout friction factor (discussed below)
= scale effect correction factor (discussed below)

v
= unfactored vertical stress at the reinforcement
level in the resistant zone;
C = overall reinforcement surface area geometry factor; and
(2 for strip, grid, and sheet-type reinforcement)
R
c
= reinforcement coverage ratio as defined in Equation 7-11b.
Correction Factor ()
The correction factor () depends primarily upon the strain softening of the compacted
granular backfill material, the extensibility, and the length of the reinforcement. Typical
values of based on reinforcement type are presented in Table 7-7. For inextensible
reinforcement, is approximately 1, but it can be substantially smaller than 1 for extensible
reinforcements. The factor can be obtained from pullout tests on reinforcements with
different lengths or derived using analytical or numerical load transfer models which have
been "calibrated" through numerical test simulations. In the absence of test data, = 0.8 for
geogrids and = 0.6 for geotextiles (extensible sheets) is recommended (Elias et al., 2001).
Table 7-7. Typical values for (after AASHTO, 2007)

Reinforcement type
All Steel Reinforcements 1.0
Geogrids 0.8
Geotextiles 0.6
Pullout Friction Factor (F*)
The pullout friction factor can be obtained most accurately from laboratory or field pullout
tests performed with the specific material to be used on the project (i.e., select backfill and
reinforcement). Alternatively, F* can be derived from empirical or theoretical relationships
developed for each soil-reinforcement interaction mechanism and provided by the
Pullout
Resistance (P
r
)

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reinforcement supplier. For any reinforcement, F* can be estimated using the general
equation:
F* = Passive Resistance + Frictional Resistance
or
F* = F
q .

+ tan (7-15)
where:
F
q
= the embedment (or surcharge) bearing capacity factor;

= a bearing factor for passive resistance which is based on the thickness


per unit width of the bearing member; and
= the soil-reinforcement interaction friction angle.
Equation 7-15 represents systems that have both the frictional and passive resistance
components of the pullout resistance. In certain systems, however, one component is much
smaller than the other and can be neglected for practical purposes.
In absence of site-specific pullout testing data, it is reasonable to use these semi-empirical
relationships in conjunction with the standard specifications for backfill to provide a
conservative evaluation of pullout resistance.
For steel ribbed reinforcement, F* is commonly estimated as:
F* = tan = 1.2 + log C
u
at the top of the structure = 2.0 maximum (7-16)
F* = tan at a depth of 20 ft. and below (7-17)
where:
= interface friction angle mobilized along the reinforcement;
f = wall fill peak friction angle; and
C
u
= uniformity coefficient of the backfill (D
60
/D
10
).
If the specific C
u
for the wall backfill is unknown during design, a C
u

of 4 should be assumed (i.e., F* = 1.8 at the top of the wall), for
backfills meeting the requirements of Section 7.4.1.
For steel grid reinforcements with transverse spacing (S
t
) > 6 in., F* is a function of a
bearing or embedment factor (F
q
), applied over the contributing bearing factor (

), as
follows:

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F* = F
q

= 40

= 40 (t/2S
t
) = 20 (t/S
t
) at the top of the structure (7-18)
F* = F
q

= 20

= 20 (t/2S
t
) = 10 (t/S
t
) at a depth of 20 ft and below (7-19)
where t is the thickness of the transverse bar. S
t
shall be uniform throughout the
length of the reinforcement, rather than having transverse grid members concentrated
only in the resistant zone.
For geosynthetic (i.e., geogrid and geotextile) sheet reinforcement, the pullout resistance is
based on a reduction in the available soil friction with the reduction factor often referred to as
an interaction factor (C
i
). In the absence of test data, the F* value for geosynthetic
reinforcement should conservatively be estimated as:
F* = 0.67 tan f (7-20)
When used in the above relationships, f is the peak friction angle of the soil which, for MSE
walls using select granular backfill, is taken as 34 degrees unless project specific test data
substantiates higher values.
The relationship between F* and depth below the top of wall for different reinforcement
types is summarized in Figure 7-27.
Estimating L
a

The L
a
is obtained from Figure 7-23 for simple structures not supporting concentrated
external loads such as bridge abutments. Based on this figure, the following relationships
can be obtained for L
a
:
For MSE walls with extensible reinforcement, vertical face, and horizontal backfill:
L
a
= (H - Z) tan (45 - /2) (7-21)
where Z is the depth to the reinforcement level.
For walls with inextensible reinforcement from the base up to H/2:
L
a
= 0.6 (H-Z) (7-22)
For the upper half of a wall with inextensible reinforcements:
L
a
= 0.3H (7-23)

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Figure 7-27. Typical Values for F
*
(after AASHTO, 2007).
For ease of construction, based on the maximum total length required, a final uniform
reinforcement length is commonly chosen. However, if internal stability controls the length,
it could be varied from the base, increasing with the height of the wall to the maximum
length requirement based on a combination of internal and maximum external stability
requirements. See Chapter 5 of Elias et al. (2001) for additional guidance.
Pullout Resistance Comparison to ASD
In AASHTO (2007) Equation 11.10.6.3.2-1, the value for T
max
is based on calculated
horizontal loads with a load factor of 1.35 for the vertical earth pressure (EV). It should be
noted that increases in horizontal loads resulting from surcharges, i.e.
H
, are also factored
by the load factor of 1.35 (see Equation 7-9). Therefore, with a pullout resistance factor of
0.9 (see AASHTO (2007) Table 11.5.6-1) for static loading, the equivalent ASD factor of
safety would be 1.35/0.9 = 1.5. The ASD factor of safety used in AASHTO (2002) is 1.5.
All other parameters in AASHTO (2007) Equation 11.10.6.3.2-1 are formulated exactly as
for ASD. Therefore, for this specific case (e.g., no live load surcharges), pullout design
evaluations in LRFD are equivalent to ASD.

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Pullout Resistance Check for Traffic Barrier Loading:
For checking pullout resistance, the full length of the reinforcements is considered effective
in resisting pullout due to the impact loading. The upper layers of soil reinforcement should
have sufficient pullout resistance to resist a horizontal load of
CT
P
H
= 10 kips distributed
over a 20 ft base slab length. The rationale for assuming a greater length for pullout (as
compared to 2 ft for tensile resistance; discussed in subsequent sections) is because the entire
base slab must move laterally to initiate a pullout failure due to the relatively large
deformations required.
7.8.3.5 Step 13 Calculate Long-Term Reinforcement Design Strength
In this design step, the maximum factored tensile stress in each reinforcement layer (T
max
,
which is calculated in design step 11) is compared to the nominal long-term reinforcement
design strength (see AASHTO (2007) Equation 11.10.6.4.1-1) as presented in Equation 7-24
below.

al c
T R T
max
(7-24)
where:
= resistance factor for tensile rupture (see Table 7-8);
Table 7-8. Resistance Factors for Tensile Resistance (after AASHTO, 2007).
Strip Reinforcement
Static Loading 0.75
Combined Static/Earthquake Loading 1.00
Grid Reinforcement
1

Static Loading 0.65
Metallic
Reinforcement and
Connectors
Combined Static/Earthquake Loading 0.85
Static Loading 0.90 Geosynthetic
Reinforcement and
Connectors
Combined Static/Earthquake Loading 1.20
Note:
1
Applies to grid reinforcements connected to a rigid facing element, e.g., a concrete
panel or block.
R
c
= reinforcement coverage ratio as defined in Equation 7-11b; and
T
al
= nominal long-term reinforcement design strength.


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The nominal long-term reinforcement design strength (T
al
) for LRFD is computed for
inextensible and extensible reinforcements as presented below.
T
al
for Inextensible Reinforcements AASHTO (2007) Equation 11.10.6.4.3a-1:

b
F A
T
y c
al
= (7-25)
where:
F
y
= minimum yield strength of steel;
b = unit width of sheet, grid, bar, or mat; and
A
c
= design cross sectional area corrected for corrosion loss
(A
c
for strips and bars are defined below)
The lower resistance factor of 0.65 for grid reinforcement (as compared to a resistance factor
of 0.75 for strip reinforcement) accounts for the greater potential for local overstress due to
load nonuniformities for steel grids than for steel strips or bars.
A
c
for strips is determined as:
A
c
= b t
c
= b (t
n
t
s
) (7-26)
where:
b = unit width of sheet, grid, bar, or mat;
t
c
= thickness at end of design life (See Figure 7-28);
t
n
= thickness at end of construction; and
t
s
= sacrificial thickness of metal expected to be lost by uniform corrosion
during the service life of the structure (see discussion on corrosion
rates below).

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b
t
c
b
t
c

Figure 7-28. Cross Section Area for Strips.
When estimating t
s,
it may be assumed that equal loss occurs from the top and bottom of the
strip.
A
c
for bars is determined as:
A
c
= N
b
(D*
2
/4) (7-27)
where:
N
b
= No. of bars per unit width b; and
D* = Bar diameter after corrosion loss (Figure 7-29).
When estimating D*, it may be assumed that corrosion losses occur uniformly over the
area of the bar.
b
D
*
b
D
*

Figure 7-29. Cross Section Area for Bars


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Corrosion Rates
The corrosion rates presented below are suitable for conservative design. These rates
assume a mildly corrosive backfill material having the controlled electrochemical
property limits that are discussed under electrochemical properties for reinforced fills.
Corrosion Rates - mildly corrosive backfill
For corrosion of galvanization on each side
0.58 mil./yr/side (first 2 years) and
0.16 mil./yr/side (thereafter)
For corrosion of residual carbon steel on each side
0.47 mil./yr/side (after zinc depletion)
Based on these rates, complete corrosion of galvanization with the minimum required
thickness of 3.4 mil. (AASHTO M 111) is estimated to occur during the first 16 years and a
carbon steel thickness or diameter loss of 0.055 in. to 0.08 in. would be anticipated over the
remaining years of a 75 to 100 year design life, respectively. The designer of an MSE
structure should also consider the potential for changes in the reinforced backfill environment
during the structure's service life. In certain parts of the United States, it can be expected that
deicing salts might cause such an environment change. For this problem, the depth of
chloride infiltration and concentration are of concern.
For permanent structures directly supporting roadways exposed to deicing salts, limited
data indicate that the upper 8 ft of the reinforced backfill (as measured from the roadway
surface) are affected by higher corrosion rates not presently defined. Under these conditions,
it is recommended that a 30 mil (minimum) geomembrane be placed below the road base and
tied into a drainage system to mitigate the penetration of the deicing salts in lieu of higher
corrosion rates.
T
al
for Extensible Reinforcements AASHTO (2007) Equation 11.10.6.4.3b-1:

RF
T
T
ult
al
= (7-28)
where:


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T
ult
= minimum average roll value ultimate tensile strength. T
ult
may be
obtained from ultimate (or yield) tensile strength wide strip test (ASTM
D4595) for geotextiles and wide strip (ASTM D4595) or single rib test
(GRI:GG1) for geogrids based on minimum average roll value (MARV)
for the product; and
RF = combined strength reduction factor to account for potential long-term
degradation due to installation damage, creep and chemical aging.
Determined as RF = RF
ID
x RF
CR
x RF
D


where:

RF
ID
= strength reduction factor to account for installation damage
to reinforcement;
RF
CR
= strength reduction factor to prevent long-term creep rupture
of reinforcement; and
RF
D
= strength reduction factor to prevent rupture of
reinforcement due to chemical and biological degradation.
According to AASHTO (2007) Section 11.10.6.4.2b, values for RF
ID
, RF
CR
, and RF
D
shall be
determined from product specific test results.
Reduction Factor RF
ID

RF
ID
can range from 1.05 to 3.0, depending on backfill gradation and product mass per unit
weight. Even with product specific test results, the minimum reduction factor shall be 1.1 to
account for testing uncertainties. The placement and compaction of the backfill material
against the geosynthetic reinforcement may reduce its tensile strength. The level of damage
for each geosynthetic reinforcement is variable and is a function of the weight and type of the
construction equipment and the type of geosynthetic material. The installation damage is
also influenced by the lift thickness and type of soil present on either side of the
reinforcement. Where granular and angular soils are used for backfill, the damage is more
severe than where softer, finer, soils are used. For a more detailed explanation on the RF
ID

factor, see FHWA-NHI-00-044 Corrosion/Degradation of Soil Reinforcements for
Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls and Reinforced Soil Slopes, (Elias, 2000).
To account for installation damage losses of strength where full-scale product-specific testing
is not available, Table 7-9 may be used with consideration of the project specified backfill
characteristics. In absence of project specific data the largest indicated reduction factor for
each geosynthetic type should be used.


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Table 7-9. Installation Damage Reduction Factors (after Elias, 2000).
Reduction Factor (RF
ID
)

No.

Geosynthetic
Type 1 Backfill
Max. Size 4 in.
D
50
about 1.2 in.
Type 2 Backfill
Max. Size 0.75 in.
D
50
about 0.03 in.
1 HDPE uniaxial geogrid 1.20 - 1.45 1.10 - 1.20
2 PP biaxial geogrid 1.20 - 1.45 1.10 - 1.20
3 PVC coated PET geogrid 1.30 - 1.85 1.10 - 1.30
4 Acrylic coated PET geogrid 1.30 - 2.05 1.20 - 1.40
5 Woven geotextiles (PP&PET)
(1)
1.40 - 2.20 1.10 - 1.40
6 Non woven geotextiles
(PP&PET)
(1)

1.40 - 2.50 1.10 - 1.40
7 Slit film woven PP geotextile
(1)
1.60 - 3.00 1.10 - 2.00
(1) Minimum weight 7.9 oz/yd
2


Reduction Factor RF
CR

RF
CR
is obtained from long-term laboratory creep testing as detailed in Elias et al. (2001).
This reduction factor is required to limit the load in the reinforcement to a level known as the
creep limit, that will preclude creep rupture over the life of the structure. Creep in itself does
not degrade the strength of the polymer. Creep testing is essentially a constant load test on
multiple product samples, loaded to various percentages of the ultimate product load, for
periods of up to 10,000 hours. The creep reduction factor is the ratio of the ultimate load to
the extrapolated maximum sustainable load (i.e., creep limit) within the design life of the
structure (e.g., several years for temporary structures, 75 to 100 years for permanent
structures). Typical reduction factors as a function of polymer type are indicated in Table 7-
10.

Table 7-10. Creep Reduction Factors (RF
CR
)

Polymer Type RF
CR

Polyster 1.6 to 2.5
Polypropylene 4.0 to 5.0
Polyethylene 2.6 to 5.0


FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Reduction Factor RF
D

RF
D
is dependent on the susceptibility of the geosynthetic to be attacked by microorganisms,
chemicals, thermal oxidation, hydrolysis and stress cracking and can vary typically from 1.1
to 2.0. Even with product specific test results, the minimum reduction factor shall be 1.1. A
protocol for testing to obtain this reduction factor have been described in Elias et al. (1997).
Current research suggest the following information regarding RF
D
for polyster and polyolefin
geosynthetics.
Polyster (PET) geosynthetics are recommended for use in environments characterized
by 3 < pH < 9, only. The following reduction factors for PET aging (RF
D
) are
presently indicated for a 100-year design life in the absence of product specific
testing as presented in Table 7-12.

Polyolefin geosynthetics have a unique and proprietary blend of antioxidants, product
specific testing is required to determine the effective life span of protection at the in-
ground oxygen content. Limited data suggests that certain antioxidants are effective
for up to 100 years in maintaining strength for in-ground use.
Table 7-11. Aging Reduction Factors (RF
D
) for PET.
Reduction factor (RF
D
)
No.

Product*
5pH8 3pH5
8pH9
1
Geotextiles
M
n
<20,000, 40 <CEG<50
1.6 2.0
2 Coated geogrids, Geotextiles
M
n
>25,000, CEG<30
1.15 1.3
M
n
= number average molecular weight CEG = carboxyl end group

* Use of materials outside the indicated pH or molecular property range requires
specific product testing.

Tensile Resistance Comparison to ASD
Use of resistance factors for tensile resistance provided in Table 7-8 for steel strips, steel
grid, and geosynthetics will result in equivalent designs to those based on ASD for
considerations of tensile rupture. For a load factor, EV=1.35, with a resistance factor of 0.75
for steel strips, 0.65 for steel grid, and 0.9 for geosynthetics, the equivalent ASD factor of

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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safety would be 1.8 (=1.35/0.75) for steel strips, 2.08 (=1.35/0.65) for steel grids, and 1.5
(=1.35/0.9) for geosynthetics, respectively. Taking the inverse of the equivalent ASD factor
of safety values for steel strips and steel grids results in 0.55 and 0.48, the allowable stress
used for ASD design. The factor of safety of 1.5 for geosynthetics is the same as that used
for ASD.
Tensile Resistance Check for Traffic Barrier Loading:
As for CIP walls, effects of traffic barrier loading are considered at the Extreme Event II
limit state for MSE walls. The upper layers of reinforcement (typically upper two rows) are
checked to verify that they have sufficient tensile resistance to resist a concentrated factored
horizontal load,
CT
P
H
, of 10 kips distributed over a barrier length of 5 ft. The resulting unit
load of 2 kips/ft of wall would be distributed as shown in Figure 3.11.6.3-2a of AASHTO
(2007). If the traffic barrier base slab is cast integrally with a concrete pavement, the
additional load may be neglected. For geosynthetic reinforcements, for this transient load
case, the nominal long-term reinforcement design strength, T
al
, does not to be reduced to
account for creep (i.e., RF
CR
assumed equal to 1.0).
Because traffic barrier loading is transient, when designing for rupture of a geosynthetic
reinforcement, the reinforcement is designed for both static and transient components of the
load (see Section 11.10.10.2 of AASHTO, 2007).
7.8.4 Service Limit States (Steps 14 and 15)
7.8.4.1 Step 14 Check Overall Stability
This design step is performed to check the overall stability of the wall. Overall stability is
determined using rotational or wedge analyses, as appropriate, which can be performed using
a classical slope stability analysis method. Computer programs that directly incorporate
reinforcement elements (e.g., ReSSA) are available for these analyses. Generally, the
reinforced soil wall is considered as a rigid body and only failure surfaces completely outside
a reinforced mass (e.g., global failure planes) are considered. For simple structures with
rectangular geometry, relatively uniform reinforcement spacing, and a near vertical face,
compound failure planes (e.g., passing both through the unreinforced and reinforced zones)
will not generally be critical. However, if complex conditions exist such as changes in
reinforced soil types or reinforcement lengths, high surcharge loads, sloping faced
structures, significant slopes at the toe or above the wall, or stacked structures,
compound failures must be considered.
The evaluation of overall stability of earth slopes with or without a foundation unit should be
investigated at the Service 1 Load Combination and an appropriate resistance factor.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Commonly used slope stability programs can be used to conduct this evaluation. In lieu of
better information, the resistance factor () is defined in AASHTO (2007) Section 11.6.2.3
as:
= 0.75; where the geotechnical parameters are well defined, and the
slope does not support or contain a structural element; and
= 0.65; where the geotechnical parameters are based on limited
information, or the slope contains or supports a structural element

The evaluation of overall stability should be performed with reasonable estimates of long-
term water pressures acting on the wall. If the evaluation of overall stability does not
indicate a satisfactory result then the reinforcement length may have to be increased or the
foundation soil may have to be improved. The design must be revised according to these
changes.
It should be noted that wall designs that are performed by MSE wall suppliers typically will
not include the overall stability check.
7.8.4.2 Step 15 Estimate Wall Movements
Vertical Wall Movements
MSE structures have significant tolerances, both longitudinally along the wall and
perpendicular to its front face. Therefore, poor foundation conditions seldom preclude their
use. However, conventional settlement analyses should be carried out to ensure that
immediate, primary consolidation, and secondary consolidation settlements of the wall are
less than the performance requirements of the project. Vertical wall movements can be
evauluated at the Service I Limit State as described in AASHTO (2007) Section 10.6.2.2.
Additionally, FHWA NHI-06-088 (Samtani and Nowatzki, 2006) describes various
procedures to compute settlements.
During the design, if significant differential settlement is anticipated (more than 1/100 for
precast facings), sufficient joint width and/or slip joints must be provided to preclude facing
distress. Limitations of system differential tolerance may influence the type and design of
the facing panel selected.
Square panels generally adapt to larger longitudinal differential settlements better than long
rectangular panels of the same surface area. Guidance on minimum joint width and limiting
differential settlements that can be tolerated is presented in Table 7-12.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Table 7-12. Relationship between Joint Width and Limiting Differential Settlements for
MSE Precast Panels (after Elias et al., 2001).
Joint Width (in.) Limiting Differential Settlement
0.75 1/100
0.50 1/200
0.25 1/300
Note: This table is applicable for panel size less than 30 square feet.

MSE walls constructed with full-height precast concrete panels should be limited to
differential settlements of 1/500. Walls with drycast facing (MBW) should be limited to
settlements of 1/200. For walls with welded wire facings, the limiting differential settlement
should be 1/50.
Where significant differential settlement perpendicular to the wall face is anticipated, the
reinforcement connection may be overstressed. Where the back of the reinforced soil zone
will settle more than the face, the reinforcement could be placed on a sloping fill surface,
which is higher at the back end of the reinforcement to compensate for the greater vertical
settlement. This may be the case where a steep surcharge slope is constructed. This latter
construction technique, however, requires that surface drainage be carefully controlled after
each day's construction. Alternatively, where significant differential settlements are
anticipated, ground improvement techniques (see NHI course 132034 and its reference
manual FHWA NHI-04-001 (Elias et al., 2004) may be warranted to limit the settlements.
Although uniform settlement is of little consequence to the stability of the MSE structure, the
total settlement may influence the serviceability of the wall, such as in the case of a bridge
supported by a MSE abutment. The total settlement is particularly important when a MSE
wall interacts with an adjacent structure that has different load-deformation characteristics,
e.g., when an abutment is supported on piles and the approaches utilize MSE walls. In such
cases, downdrag forces on the abutment piles due to settlement of the adjacent MSE structure
need to be evaluated.
Lateral Wall Movements
The evaluation of lateral wall movements in LRFD is the same as in ASD as the
deformations are evaluated at the Service I limit state.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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In general, lateral deformations in the reinforced backfill of an MSE wall usually occur
during construction. Post construction movements, however, may take place due to post
construction surcharge loads or long-term settlement of the foundation soils.
The lateral displacements depend on compaction effects, reinforcement extensibility,
reinforcement length, reinforcement-to-facing connection details, and details of the wall
facing. In general, increasing the length-to-height ratio of reinforcement, from its theoretical
lower limit of 0.5H to 0.7H, decreases the deformation by 50 percent. Also, the anticipated
deformation of MSE structures constructed with polymeric reinforcements (extensible) is
approximately three times greater than if constructed with metallic reinforcements
(inextensible).
The rough estimate of probable lateral displacements of simple MSE walls that may occur
during construction can be estimated based on empirical correlations (Elias et al., 2001). For
critical structures requiring precise tolerances, such as bridge abutments, more accurate
calculations using the finite element method may be warranted.
7.8.5 Design of Wall Drainage Systems (Step 16)
The discussions on subsurface and surface drainage of CIP walls (Chapter 5) are applicable
to MSE walls. Additional considerations for MSE walls include location of drain(s) and
potential infiltration of deicing salt runoff.
A drain at the base of the wall immediately behind the wall facing, as shown in Figure 7-30,
is normally used with an MSE wall. This drain primarily serves to collect surface water that
has infiltrated immediately behind the facing and transported to an outlet. Outlet may be via
weep holes, as shown in Figure 7-30, or may be piped to a downslope outlet or to a storm
sewer.
This drain may also serve to drain the wall fill if it is relatively free-draining and the wall is
used in a fill situation. A drain behind the wall backfill, as illustrated in Figure 7-31, should
be used when the zones of soils (in-situ or retained backfill to wall) are not free-draining
relative to one another. A drain is recommended to collect and divert groundwater from the
reinforced fill for side hill construction, where in-situ soils are excavated to accommodate the
reinforced fill volume. Additionally, a drain at the backcut or at the wall fill and retained
backfill interface (for fill situations) is recommended, unless soil permeabilities, filtration,
and water flow are analyzed to ensure system is free draining. Soil filtration and
permeability requirements must be met between the two adjacent zones of (different) soils to
prevent impeded flow. Filtration criteria are summarized in Section 2.5.8.2.A geomembrane

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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COLLECTION
& DRAIN PIPE
WEEP
HOLE
RETAINED
BACKFILL
REINFORCED
BACKFILL
(OR REINFORCED WALL FILL)
COLLECTION
& DRAIN PIPE
WEEP
HOLE
RETAINED
BACKFILL
REINFORCED
BACKFILL
(OR REINFORCED WALL FILL)

Figure 7-30. Drain Immediately Behind Concrete Facing in MSE Wall.
REINFORCED
BACKFILL
(OR REINFORCED WALL FILL)
RETAINED
BACKFILL
FOUNDATION SOIL
WEEP
HOLE
COLLECTION
& DRAIN PIPE
CHIMNEY
DRAIN
BENCHED
BACKCUT
COLLECTION PIPE,
OUTLET TO SLOPE,
WEEPHOLE OR STORM
SEWER
REINFORCED
BACKFILL
(OR REINFORCED WALL FILL)
RETAINED
BACKFILL
FOUNDATION SOIL
WEEP
HOLE
COLLECTION
& DRAIN PIPE
CHIMNEY
DRAIN
BENCHED
BACKCUT
COLLECTION PIPE,
OUTLET TO SLOPE,
WEEPHOLE OR STORM
SEWER

Figure 7-31. Drain Behind the Backfill in a Wall, in a Backcut, and Fill Situation.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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6 Perforated Pipe
Cover in Geotextile
(Drain to end of wall)
Drainage Layer
#57 Aggregagate
30 mil (min)
Impervious
Membrane
(HDPE)
Wearing
Surface
Base
Course
Specified
Backfill
Front Face
of MSE wall
1 ft
> 5%
5 ft
6 Perforated Pipe
Cover in Geotextile
(Drain to end of wall)
Drainage Layer
#57 Aggregagate
30 mil (min)
Impervious
Membrane
(HDPE)
Wearing
Surface
Base
Course
Specified
Backfill
Front Face
of MSE wall
1 ft
> 5%
5 ft
barrier beneath the pavement structure, sloping to a drain, should be used where significant
de-icing salts are used. The purpose of the barrier is to prevent, or minimize, the infiltration
of water immediately behind the wall facing. A common detail is shown in Figure 7-32.











Figure 7-32. Impervious Geomembrane Details.

7.8.6 Additional Design Considerations
7.8.6.1 Connection Design
Different types of connections are used in MSE walls depending basically on the type of
reinforcement used and the wall facing details. The connections shall be designed to resist
stresses resulting from the factored tensile load applied to the soil reinforcement connection
at the wall face as well as from differential movements between the reinforced backfill and
the wall facing elements (see Section 11.10.6.4.4 of AASHTO (2007) for a more detailed

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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discussion on the design of connections involving steel and geosynthetic reinforcements).
The resistance of the connection is usually tested according to standards outlined by
AASHTO (2007). Connection details and their strength requirements are discussed by Elias
et al. (2001) and AASHTO (2007).
7.8.6.2 Wall Face Design
Design of Concrete, Steel and Timber Facings
Facing elements are designed to resist the horizontal forces developed internally within the
wall. Reinforcement is provided to resist the average loading conditions at each depth in
accordance with structural design requirements in Section 5, 6 and 8 of AASHTO (2007) for
concrete, steel and timber facings, respectively. The embedment of the reinforcement to
panel connector must be developed by test, to ensure that it can resist T
max
.
As a minimum, temperature and shrinkage steel must be provided for segmental precast
facing. Epoxy protection of panel reinforcement where salt spray is anticipated is
recommended.
Design of Flexible Wall Facings
Welded wire or similar facing panels shall be designed in a manner which prevents the
occurrence of excessive bulging as backfill behind the facing elements compresses due to
compaction stresses, self weight of the backfill or lack of section modulus. Bulging at the
face between soil reinforcement elements in both the horizontal and vertical direction should
be limited to 1 to 2 inches as measured from the theoretical wall line. This may be
accomplished by requiring the placement of a nominal 2 ft wide zone of rockfill or cobbles
directly behind the facing, decreasing the spacing between reinforcements vertically and
horizontally, increasing the section modulus of the facing material and by providing
sufficient overlap between adjacent facing panels. In addition, the reinforcements must not
be restrained and have the ability to slide vertically with respect to the facing material.
Furthermore, the top of the flexible facing panel at the top of the wall shall be attached to a
soil reinforcement layer to provide stability to the top facing panel.
For modular concrete facing blocks sufficient inter-unit shear capacity must be available, and
the maximum spacing between reinforcement layers should be limited to 24 in.. The
maximum facing height above the uppermost reinforcement layer and the maximum depth of
facing below the bottom reinforcement layer should be limited to the width, W
u
, of the
modular concrete facing unit used.

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For seismic performance categories "C" or higher (AASHTO Division 1A), facing
connections in MBW shall not be fully dependent on frictional resistance between the
backfill reinforcement and facing blocks. Shear resisting devices between the facing blocks
and soil reinforcement such as shear keys, pins, etc. shall be used.
For connections partially or fully dependent on friction between the facing blocks and the
soil reinforcement, the long-term connection strength (T
ac
), should be reduced to 80 percent
of its static value. Furthermore, for the blocks above the uppermost layer, soil reinforcement
layer must be secured against toppling under all seismic events.
Geosynthetic facing elements should not be left exposed to sunlight (specifically ultraviolet
radiation) for permanent walls. If geosynthetic facing elements must be left exposed
permanently to sunlight, the geosynthetic shall be stabilized to be resistant to ultraviolet
radiation. Furthermore, product specific test data should be provided which can be
extrapolated to the intended design life and which proves that the product will be capable of
performing as intended in an exposed environment. Alternately a protective facing shall be
constructed in addition (e.g., concrete, shotcrete, etc.).
7.8.6.3 Computer Assisted Design
The repetitive nature of the computations required at each level of reinforcement lends itself
to computer-assisted design. The computer program MSEW (ADAMA, 2000) developed
under FHWA sponsorship analyzes and/or designs MSE walls using any type of metallic or
geosynthetic reinforcement in conjunction with any type of facing (precast concrete, MBW,
etc.). Version 1.0 has been designated exclusively for use by U.S. State Highway Agencies
and by U.S. Federal agencies. Version 3.0 is available for purchase through ADAMA
Engineering (www.MSEW.com) and includes LRFD-based computations.

7.9 MSE WALL EXAMPLE PROBLEM
7.9.1 Problem Statement
Design a 20 ft high retaining wall shown in Figure 7-33a for a 75 year design life. Total
height of the wall, including embedment, will be 22 ft. The top of the wall will be loaded
with traffic (i.e., live load surcharge).
The wall will use Grade 60 inextensible ribbed steel strip reinforcements (as shown in Figure
7-28) that are 0.15 in. thick and 2 in. wide. The reinforcements have a 3.4 mil thick
galvanized coating.

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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The wall face will consist of precast concrete panels that are 5 ft x 5 ft. There will be 2 rows
of reinforcements per panel and the horizontal (S
h
) and vertical (S
v
) spacing between
reinforcements will be 2.5 ft as shown in Figure 7-34.
The engineering properties of retained and reinforced backfills are as follows:

r
and
f
= 30
o
(clayey sand, medium dense)

r
and
f
= 120 pcf

2
0

f
t
2
2

f
t
P
EV
P
EH
P
LSH
2
0

f
t
2
2

f
t
P
EV
P
EH
P
LSH

(a) (b)
Figure 7-33. (a) Geometry of the Problem and (b) External Forces to be Considered in
Analysis.
7.9.2 Solution of the Problem
Design steps for MSE walls are provided in Table 7-5. In this design example, it is assumed
that the requirements for steps 1 and 2 are completed. Therefore, the solution presented
below starts with design step 3.
7.9.2.1 Step 3: Initial Geometry
Design wall height (H)
In this design, the wall height is selected as 22 ft including a 2 ft embedment depth. As
presented in Table 7-6, the minimum required embedment depth for a 20 ft high wall is 1ft.
For a complete design, the selected design wall height would also be evaluated based on
overall stability, bearing resistance, and scour potential.

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2.5 ft 2.5 ft
2.5 ft
2.5 ft
5 ft
5 ft
Reinforcement Strip
2.5 ft 2.5 ft
2.5 ft
2.5 ft
5 ft
5 ft
Reinforcement Strip

Figure 7-34. Wall Face Panels and Spacing between Reinforcements.
Minimum reinforcement length (L)
As discussed in Section 7.8.1.2, the minimum reinforcement length should be greater of 0.7H
or 6 ft. Therefore, as a preliminary estimate, L is selected to be:
L = 0.7 x 22 ft = 15.4 ft (use 16.0 ft).
7.9.2.2 Step 4: Unfactored Loads
Vertical Loads
Vertical Earth Pressure (EV)
The weight of the reinforced soil backfill is:
P
EV
= H L
r
= (22 ft)(16.0 ft)(120 pcf)
P
EV
= 42.24 kips/ft length of wall
Surcharge Load (LS)
The vehicular surcharge load on the wall is calculated using an equivalent height
of soil (h
eq
). AASHTO (2007) provides a table summarizing h
eq
based on the wall
height (Table 7-13).

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Table 7-13. Equivalent Height of Soil for Vehicular Loading (after AASHTO,
2007).
Wall Height (ft) h
eq
(ft)
5 5
10 3.5
20 2

Based on Table 7-13 above, h
eq
for 22 ft high wall is 2 ft. Therefore, the vertical
load due to vehicular loading can be estimated as:
P
LSV
= (
r
)(h
eq
)(L) = 120 pcf x 2 ft x 16.0 ft = 3.84 kips/ft length of wall
It should be noted that the traffic load surcharge over the reinforced zone is not
considered for checks on sliding, eccentricity, or reinforcement pullout, but is
considered in evaluation of bearing resistance, overall stability, and reinforcement
tensile resistance.
Horizontal Loads
The active earth pressure coefficient, Ka is:
|
|
.
|

\
|
=
2
45 tan
'
2
f
a
K


where:
f
= 30
o
, therefore K
a
= 0.33
Horizontal Earth Pressure (EH)
P
EH
= 0.5 (
r
)(H
2
)K
a
= (0.5)(120 pcf)(22 ft)
2
(0.33)
P
EH
= 9.58 kips/ft length of wall
Surcharge Load (LS)
The horizontal load due to surcharge is computed based on the uniform increase
in horizontal earth pressure due to traffic load surcharge (p) as:

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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p = (k
a
)(
r
)(h
eq
)
p = (0.33)(120 pcf)(2 ft) = 0.0792 ksf
For a 22 ft high wall, the resultant of the live load surcharge horizontal earth
pressure (P
LSH
), acting on the reinforced soil mass becomes:
P
LSH
= (p)(H)
P
LSH
= 0.0792 ksf x 22 ft = 1.74 kips/ft length of wall
Tables 7-14 and 7-15 summarize the unfactored vertical and horizontal loads, respectively.
The moment arms about the toe of the wall for each of these loads are also summarized.
Table 7-14. Summary of Unfactored Vertical Loads and Moment Arms for Design Example
Load
V (kips/ft) Moment Arm About Toe (ft)
P
EV

42.24 8.0
P
LSV

3.84 8.0
Total 46.08

Table 7-15. Summary of Unfactored Horizontal Loads and Moment Arms for Design
Example
Load H (kip/ft) Moment Arm About Toe (ft)
P
EH
= P
aH
9.58 7.33
P
LSH
1.74 11.0
Total 11.32

7.9.2.3 Step 5: Factored Loads and Moments
The load combinations and load factors used in this example are summarized in Table 7-16.
Table 7-16. Load Factors and Load Combinations
GROUP
EV

EH
(Active)
LS

max min
Strength I 1.35 1.00 1.50 1.75
Service I 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Factored vertical and horizontal loads can be determined based on multiplying unfactored
loads (summarized in Tables 7-14 and 7-15) with load factors in Table 7-16. The factored
loads are provided in Tables 7-17 and 7-18.
Table 7-17. Factored Vertical Loads and Moments
GROUP
P
EV

(kips/ft)
P
LSV
(kips/ft)
V
TOT
=
P
EV
+ P
LSV

(kips/ft)
Moment
Arm About
Toe (ft)
M
EV

(kips-ft/ft)
M
VTOT

(kips-ft/ft)
Unfactored 42.24 3.84
46.08
8.0
337.92 368.64
Strength I
(
EV
= 1.00)
42.24 6.72
48.96
8.0
337.92 391.68
Strength I
(
EV
= 1.35)
57.02 6.72
63.74
8.0
456.19 509.92
Service I 42.24 3.84
46.08
8.0
337.92 368.64
Table 7-18. Factored Horizontal Loads and Moments
GROUP
P
EH

(kips/ft)
Moment Arm
About Toe for
P
EH
(ft)
P
LSH

(kips/ft)
Moment
Arm About
Toe for P
LSH

(ft)
H
TOT
=
P
EH
+ P
LSH

(kips/ft)
M
HTOT

(kips-ft/ft)
Unfactored 9.58 7.33 1.74 11.0
11.32 89.39
Strength I
(
EV
= 1.00)
14.37 7.33 3.05 11.0
17.42 138.93
Strength I
(
EV
= 1.35)
14.37 7.33 3.05 11.0
17.42 138.93
Service I 9.58 7.33 1.74 11.0
11.32 89.39
7.9.2.4 Step 6: Eccentricity
The eccentricity check is summarized in Table 7-19.
Table 7-19. Summary for Eccentricity Check
GROUP
P
EV

(kips/ft)
M
EV

(kips-ft/ft)
M
HTOT

(kips-ft/ft)
X
o
(ft) e
B
(ft)
Eccentricity
Check
(e
B
< e
max
)
Strength I
(
EV
= 1.00)
42.24
337.92
138.93
4.71 3.29

Strength I
(
EV
= 1.35)
57.02
456.19
138.93
5.56 2.44

Service I 42.24
337.92 89.39 5.88 2.12

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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where:
X
o
= Location of the resultant from toe of wall = (M
EV
- M
HTOT
)/P
EV

B = Base width = Length of reinforcement strips = 16.0 ft
e
B
= Eccentricity = B/2 - X
o

The location of the resultant must be in the middle half of the base.
e
max
= B/4 = 16.0 ft/4 = 4.0 ft
For all cases, e
B
< e
max
; therefore, the design is adequate with respect to eccentricity.
7.9.2.5 Step 7: Sliding Resistance
The passive resistance of the foundation material is neglected when checking the sliding
resistance of MSE walls as discussed in section 7.8.2.4. Therefore, the factored resistance
against failure by sliding (R
R
) is computed with Equation 7-5 as:
R
R
=


where:

t
= 1.0 (see section 7.8.2.4) and
R
t
= V tan where V = P
EV
and tan = tan
f

Therefore:
R
n
= P
EV
tan
f

P
EV
is obtained from Table 7-18 as the minimum vertical factored load for
the strength limit state (i.e., using
EV
= 1.00)

f
= 30
o
(It is assumed in this example that the friction angle of
reinforced fill is less than the friction angle of the foundation
and the interface friction angle between reinforcement and soil.
See section 7.8.2.4)
R
n
= (42.24 kips/ft ) (tan30) = (42.24 kips/ft ) (0.58)
R
n
= 24.5 kips/ft length of wall

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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Applying the resistance factor to R
n
, the factored sliding resistance is:
R
R
= (1.0)(24.5 kips/ft) = 24.5 kips/ft length of wall

For the wall to have adequate sliding resistance:
R
R
must be > H
TOT
(maximum) (H
TOT
is obtained from Table 7-19 as the maximum total
horizontal factored load for the strength limit state (i.e.,
17.42 kips/ft))
In this design example:
R
R
= 24.5 kips/ft >H
TOT
= 17.42 kips/ft, therefore, sliding resistance is adequate.
7.8.2.6 Step 8: Bearing Resistance
The factored bearing resistance is computed with Equation 7-7 as:
q
R
= q
n

where:
= 0.65 (see Table 10.5.5.2.2-1 in AASHTO (2007)) and
q
n
= cN
cm
+ D
f
N
qm
C
wq
+ 0.5 BN
m
C
w
(see AASHTO (2007) Equation 10.6.3.1.2a-1)

In this design example: c = 0 cN
cm
= 0
D
f
= 0 D
f
N
qm
C
wq
= 0
(i.e., D
f
= 0 because embedment depth is neglected)

q
n
= 0.5 BN
m
C
w

N
m
= N

(see AASHTO (2007) Equation 10.6.3.1.2a-4)


N

= 22.4 (see AASHTO Table 10.6.3.1.2a-1)
0 . 1 4 . 0 1 = =
|
|
.
|

\
|
L
B
s

(Assumed long wall)


i

= 1.0 (see AASHTO Table 10.6.3.1.2a-8)


C
w
= 1.0 (Assumed that the groundwater depth is > 1.5B+D
f
)

q
n
= 0.5(120 pcf)(16 ft 2 * (e
B
))(22.4)(1.0)(1.0)(1.0) = 1.344 (16 - 2e
B
(ft)) ksf

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q
R
= q
n
= 0.874 (16 - 2e
B
(ft)) (ksf)
To check whether the bearing resistance of the MSE wall is adequate, q
R
computed above
must be compared against the following criteria:
uniform R
q q

where:
B
TOT
uniform
e B
V
q
2
=
and
e
B
is computed with Equation 7-3 with X
o
computed as (M
VTOT
M
HTOT
)/V
TOT
. In
this check the effects of live load surcharges are included because they increase the
loading on the foundation.
Table 7-20. Summary for Checking Bearing Resistance.
GROUP
V
TOT

(kips/ft)
M
VTOT

(kips-ft/ft)
M
HTOT

(kips-ft/ft)
X
o

(ft)
e
B

(ft)
q
uniform

(ksf)
q
R

(ksf)
Strength I
(
EV
= 1.00)
48.96 391.68 138.93 5.16 2.84 4.74 9.0
Strength I
(
EV
= 1.35)
63.74 509.92 138.93 5.82 2.18 5.48 10.2
Service I
46.08 368.64 89.39 6.06 1.84 3.80 10.8
Maximum value of q
uniform
= (5.48 ksf).
q
R
> q
uniform
(10.2 ksf > 5.48 ksf), therefore bearing resistance is adequate.
7.9.2.7 Step 9: Critical Failure Surface
The critical failure surface for the inextensible reinforcement is determined by diving the
reinforced zone into active and resistant zones with a bilinear failure surface as shown in
Figure 7-23a. For the top half of the wall, L
a
= 0.3H.
7.9.2.8 Step 10: Factored Horizontal Stress
The factored horizontal stress (
H
) at each reinforcement level is determined with Equation
7-9 as:

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 7-85 June 2008
( )
H r V P H
k + =
where:

P
= the maximum load factor for vertical earth pressure (= 1.35);
k
r
= horizontal pressure coefficient;

V
= unfactored vertical stress at the reinforcement level due to resultant of
gravity forces (i.e.,
r
H
i
) and any surcharge loads (i.e.,
r
h
eq
);

r
= unit weight of reinforced fill;
H
i
= backfill thickness over the reinforcement within layer i; and
h
eq
= equivalent height of soil for vehicular loading.

H
= horizontal stress at reinforcement level resulting from a concentrated
surcharge load. For this example, no concentrated surcharge loads are
present.
For this example, the horizontal stress will only be calculated for the top most layer (i.e.,
Layer 1). The reinforcement layout is based on a vertical spacing of 2.5 ft starting 1.25 ft
from the top. Therefore the Layer 1 reinforcement will be overlain by 1.25 ft of backfill.
In step 4, k
a
is computed as 0.33. For steel reinforcements at 1.25 ft depth, K/K
a
from Figure
7-24 is approximately 1.67. Therefore, k
r
= 1.67 x 0.33 = 0.551.
For Top Layer:

v
=
r
H
i
+
r
h
eq
= 120 pcf x 1.25 ft + 120 pcf x 2 ft = 390 psf

H
= 1.35 (390 psf x 0.551) = 290.1 psf
7.9.2.9 Step 11: Maximum Tensile Force
The maximum factored tensile force in the Top Layer (using Equation 7-11a) is computed as:
v H max
S T =
Therefore,
T
max
= 290.1 x 2.5 ft = 725.25 lb/ft

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7.9.2.10 Step 12: Reinforcement Pullout Resistance
The effective pullout length (L
e
) should be computed for each reinforcement layer. In this
example, L
e
is computed for Layer 1 using Equation 7-14 as:
c v
*
max
e
R C F
T
L


where:
T
max
= maximum tensile force determined in step 11;
= 0.9 based on AASHTO (2007) Table 11.5.6-1;
F* = pullout friction factor determined from Figure 7-27 = 1.72;
= scale effect correction factor determined from Table 7-8 = 1;

v
= unfactored vertical stress at the reinforcement level. For Top Layer, it is
computed as 120 pcf (1.25 ft) = 150 psf;
C = 2 for strip type reinforcement; and
R
c
= coverage ratio (b/S
h
). b = 2 in. wide strip (given in problem statement) and
S
h
= 2.5 ft wide panel (Figure 7-34). Therefore, b/S
h
= 0.066.
For Layer 1, the required length of reinforcement in the resistance zone is calculated as
follows:
ft 6 . 23
0.066 x 2 x psf 150 x 1 x 1.72 x 0.9
lb/ft 725.25
L
e
= =
The total length of reinforcement (L) required for the Top Layer for internal stability is,
therefore:
L = L
a
+ L
e

For Top Layer, L
a
is determined from step 9 as 0.3 H = 0.3 x 22 ft = 6.6 ft
L = 6.6 + 23.6 = 30.2 ft
Length of reinforcement estimated in step 3 was 16.0 ft. Therefore, the total length of
reinforcement is unacceptable. An additional soil overburden over the top of the uppermost
reinforcement would improve the pullout resistance of the uppermost reinforcement (and
other reinforcement layers).

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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7.9.2.11 Step 13: Reinforcement Tensile Resistance
The tensile resistance of reinforcement should be checked for each reinforcement layer.
The tensile resistance of reinforcement for Layer 1 is checked by comparing the maximum
factored tensile force (T
max
) computed in step 11 against the factored nominal long-term
reinforcement design strength as presented in Equation 7-24 as:
T
max
R
c
T
al

where:
= resistance factor for tensile rupture = 0.75 (see Table 7-9);
R
c
= 0.066 as computed in step 12;
T
al
= nominal long-term reinforcement design strength.

For inextensible reinforcements, T
al
is computed based on Equation 7-25 as:

b
F A
T
y c
al
=
where:
F
y
= minimum yield strength of steel (60 ksi for grade 60
steel);
b = unit width of steel sheet (i.e., 2 in.)
A
c
= design cross sectional area corrected for corrosion loss
A
c
for strips is determined based on Equation 7-26 as:
A
c
= b t
c
= b (t
n
t
s
)
where:
b = unit width of steel strip sheet (i.e., 2 in);
t
c
= thickness at end of design life;
t
n
= thickness at end of construction (i.e., 0.15 in); and
t
s
= sacrificial thickness of metal for service life of the
structure

FHWA NHI-07-071 7 MSE Walls
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The design life of the structure is 75 years. For this example, the soil is assumed to be
nonaggressive and the steel strip is coated with a 3.4 mil thick galvanization.
Corrosion rates for design are summarized below:
Loss of galvanization = 0.58 mil/side/yr for first 2 years; and
= 0.16 mil/side/yr for subsequent years.
Loss of carbon steel = 0.47 mil/side/yr
The time required for galvanization loss is calculated as:
( )
yrs t
yr mil
yr mil yrs mil
yrs t
a
a
16
/ 16 . 0
) / 58 . 0 ( 2 4 . 3
2
=

+ =

Therefore, carbon steel corrosion is assumed to occur for 59 years. Corrosion losses of
carbon steel are computed as:

t
s
= (59 yrs) (0.47 mil/yr) = 0.0277 in./side
Therefore:

2
. 19 . 0 .) 095 . 0 .)( 2 (
. 095 . 0 .) 0277 . 0 ( 2 . 15 . 0
in in in
bt A
in in in
t t t
c c
s n c
= =
=
= =
=

T
al
= (0.19 in
2
x 60 ksi) / 2 in = 5.7 kips/in = 68.4 kips/ft = 68,400 lb/ft
The tensile resistance of reinforcement for Layer 1 is checked by:
T
max
R
c
T
al

725.25 lb/ft 0.75 x 0.066 x 68,400 lb/ft
725.25 lb/ft 3,385 lb/ft
Therefore, the tensile resistance of the Layer 1 reinforcement is adequate.
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
Earth Retaining Structures 8-1 June 2008
CHAPTER 8
NONGRAVITY CANTILEVERED AND ANCHORED WALLS
8.1 INTRODUCTION
Externally supported structural walls rely primarily on the bending resistance of a vertical
structural element to resist the applied lateral loads. The vertical wall elements may consist
of discrete elements (e.g., soldier piles) spanned by a structural facing, or may be a
continuous structure (e.g., sheet pile wall, tangent pile wall, slurry wall, jet-grouted wall, and
deep mixing method (DMM) wall). The primary types of externally supported walls are
illustrated in Figure 8-1. The wall configurations include nongravity cantilevered walls and
structures with single or multiple levels of support. Wall support may be provided by a
system of struts or rakers on the exposed side of the wall, or anchors installed through the
wall (Figure 8-2).
Externally supported structural walls can be used for both temporary and permanent wall
applications. Typical applications for such walls are listed below:
Walls for temporary excavation support include:
cofferdams on land and in water for footing construction;
excavation support for CIP wall construction;
grade separation during staged roadway construction;
excavation support for cut-and-cover roadway tunnels and culverts; and
excavation support for utility trenches.
Permanent wall applications include:
roadway cuts;
roadway fill containment;
abutments;
cut-and-cover tunnel walls;
slide stabilization; and
waterfront structures.



FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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5 to 10 ft
Wood or precast
Concrete lagging
6 to 10 ft
CIP concrete lagging
or facing
(a)
(c)
(b)
5 to 10 ft
Wood or precast
Concrete lagging
6 to 10 ft
CIP concrete lagging
or facing
5 to 10 ft
Wood or precast
Concrete lagging
5 to 10 ft
Wood or precast
Concrete lagging
6 to 10 ft
CIP concrete lagging
or facing
6 to 10 ft
CIP concrete lagging
or facing
(a)
(c)
(b)










Figure 8-1. Primary Types of Externally Supported Structural Walls: (a) Soldier Pile and
Lagging Wall; (b) Soldier Pile and Cast-In-Place Concrete Lagging Wall; (c) Master Pile
Wall; (d) Sheet Pile Wall; (e) Slurry (Diaphragm) Wall; (f) Secant Pile Wall; (g) Tangent
Pile Wall; and (h) Interlocking H-Pile Wall (after Dismuke, 1991)
The primary advantages of externally supported structural walls (as compared to other types
of walls) include:
top-down method of construction is used (i.e., wall elements are installed before the
start of excavation) which generally results in reduced ground displacement;
when used as permanent walls they require;
o reduced quantity of excavation;
o reduced quantity of backfill;
o reduced work area;
faster construction time;
can be used to provide a seepage barrier (e.g., for a depressed roadway); and
can effectively support large vertical loads as well as lateral loads.

2 to 3 ft
1.5 to 3 ft
1.5 to 6.5 ft
(e)
(d)
(h)
(f)
(g)
2 to 3 ft
1.5 to 3 ft
1.5 to 6.5 ft
2 to 3 ft
1.5 to 3 ft
1.5 to 6.5 ft
(e)
(d)
(h)
(f)
(g)
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Figure 8-2. Wall Support Systems: (a) Cantilever Wall; (b) Earth Berm Support; (c) Raker
System; (d) Deadman Anchor; (e) Cross-lot Braced Wall; and (f) Anchored Wall (after
NAVFAC, 1986).
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Some of the limitations of externally supported structural walls (as compared to other types
of walls) include:
typically require more specialized construction techniques;
complicated soil-structure interaction may make analysis and design more difficult
and costly;
performance of the completed wall is more dependant on the construction method and
quality of the work; and
metallic components, especially anchors, if in contact with soil or rock, are more
susceptible to corrosion.

8.2 SHEET PILE WALLS
8.2.1 General
A sheet pile wall consists of a series of interlocking sheet piles driven side by side into the
ground, thus forming a continuous vertical wall. Sheet pile walls are commonly used for
waterfront structures and for temporary earth support applications, but can also be used as
permanent walls for highway structures. Sheet piling is also used for stabilizing ground
slopes and for cellular cofferdam construction. Figure 8-3 show several applications for
sheet pile walls.
In certain applications sheet pile walls are termed as bulkheads or cofferdams. A
bulkhead is generally a sheet pile retaining wall used for waterfront construction. A
cofferdam is a reasonably water tight enclosure made of sheet piling, usually temporary, built
around a working area for the purpose of supporting lateral soil and water loads and
excluding water during construction.
Sheet piles can be timber, reinforced concrete, steel, vinyl, or composite material. Timber
sheet piling is used for short spans, light lateral loads, and for temporary support of shallow
excavations. Concrete sheet piles are precast members, possibly prestressed, usually with a
tongue and groove joint, designed to withstand the permanent service loads and handling
stresses during construction. They are heavy and bulky, and require heavier equipment to
drive and handle. Concrete sheet piles are generally used only for permanent wall
applications. Steel sheet piles are the most commonly used type.

FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Figure 8-3. (a) Sheet Pile Wall for Earth Support Behind a Cast-in-Place Wall; (b)
Cofferdam for Construction of Foundations in Water; (c) Cofferdam for Footing
Construction on Land; (d) Anchored Bulkhead; and (e) Bridge Abutment.

(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)
(e)
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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The advantages of steel sheeting include:
lightweight;
easier to drive and extract;
higher bending resistance; and
sheet piles reusable several times for temporary walls.
Some of the limitations of steel sheeting are:
cannot penetrate hard layers;
limited sheeting length (about 95 ft); and
wall elements are susceptible to corrosion.
Steel sheeting is fabricated either using hot rolling or a cold formed manufacturing process.
Interlocking Z-shaped or U-shaped sections are typically used for retaining wall applications
since these sections provide a higher bending resistance and corresponding greater moment
of inertia. Cold formed sections are generally lighter (i.e., lower section modulus) than hot-
rolled sections and the connection formed by cold-rolled interlocks is looser than for hot-
rolled interlocks. Flat sheets are generally limited to use in cellular cofferdams. Some
common steel sheet pile sections used for sheet pile walls are shown in Figure 8-4.

Figure 8-4. Steel Sheet Pile Sections Commonly Used for Retaining Walls and Cofferdams.
(a) Z -Section, (b) U-Section, (c) Cold Formed Section.
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Vinyl or composite sheet pile may be used for waterfront structures or to replace failing (or
degrading) steel sheet pile walls by installation of vinyl or composite sheet piles in front of
steel sheet piles. These materials are inert and thus may also be used where stay currents
could potentially lead to accelerated corrosion of steel sheet piles. Example vinyl walls are
shown in Figure 8-5.


Figure 8-5. Vinyl Sheet Pile Walls.

8.2.2 Wall Construction
The two general construction sequences for sheet pile walls include: (1) driving sheet piles
into the ground and then backfilling behind the wall (i.e., backfilled structure); and (2)
driving sheet piles into the ground and excavating the soil in front of the wall (i.e.,
excavated structure).
The sequence of construction for a backfilled structure is illustrated in Figure 8-6 and
generally proceeds as follows:
Step 1: Excavate the in-situ soil in front and back of the proposed structure, if
necessary.
Step 2: Drive the sheet piles.
Step 3: Backfill behind the wall to the level of the anchor and install the anchor system.
Step 4: Backfill to the top of the wall.
For cantilever type of backfilled sheet pile wall (i.e., without anchors), the construction
sequence is the same except anchors are not installed.
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Figure 8-6. Sequence of Construction for a Backfilled Sheet Pile Structure (after Das, 1990).

The sequence of construction for an excavated structure is illustrated in Figure 8-7 and
generally proceeds as follows:
Step 1: Drive the sheet piles.
Step 2: Backfill (or excavate) to the anchor level and install the anchor system.
Step 3: Backfill to the top of the wall.
Step 4: Excavate the front side of the wall.
For cantilever type of excavated sheet pile wall (i.e., without the anchors) the construction
sequence is the same except anchors are not installed.
There are three different sheetpile driving methods: (1) pitch and drive; (2) panel driving; and
(3) staggered driving. The pitch and drive method is the simplest way of driving but can be
used only for loose soils or short piles (Figure 8-8). This method involves driving each sheet
pile to full depth before installing the next one. Panel driving is used for dense sands and
stiff cohesive soils or for cases where there are possible obstructions in the ground (Figure 8-
9). Panel driving enables greater control of verticality and alignment. Staggered driving is
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Figure 8-7. Sequence of Construction for an Excavated Sheet Pile Structure
(after Das, 1990).


Figure 8-8. Sheet Pile Pitch and Drive Method (after TESPA, 2001).

FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Figure 8-9. Sheet Pile Panel Driving (after TESPA, 2001).

used for difficult soil conditions and is combined with panel driving. The piles are installed
between guide frames and then driven in short steps as piles 1, 3, and 5 first then piles 2 and
4 (Figure 8-10). If the soil is very dense, sheet piles 1, 3, and 5 are reinforced at the toe. In
this case, these sheet piles are always driven first and piles 2 and 4 in the second stage.
Depending on the hammer type sheet piles may be installed in variety of in-situ soils,
however; it should be noted that sheet piles cannot penetrate very hard layers. The most
favorable in-situ soil conditions for vibratory hammer driving include rounded sand and
gravel and soft soils. The least favorable soil conditions are dense, angular soils. Also, dry
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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soils result in greater penetration resistance than those which are moist, submerged, or fully
saturated. Granular soils have a tendency to compact as a result of the vibrations of the
hammer, which can increase the penetration resistance thus reducing the efficiency of the
installation.
The most favorable in-situ soil conditions for impact hammer driving include soft soils such
as silts and peats, loosely deposited medium and coarse sands and gravels without rock
inclusions. The least favorable soil conditions are dense sands and gravels and hard clays.
As is the case with vibratory hammer driving, it is harder to drive sheet piles in dry soils than
moist or fully saturated soils.

Figure 8-10. Sheet Pile Staggered Driving (after TESPA, 2001).
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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8.2.3 Cost
For walls up to 15 ft, the typical cost range of cantilevered sheet pile walls (i.e., without
anchors) is about $15 to $40/ft
2
of exposed wall face with the lower end cost associated with
temporary applications in which sheet piles are rented.
Because of increased productivity, sheet pile walls installed using vibratory hammers may be
less expensive than for walls installed with impact hammers. Vibratory hammers are also
very effective in pulling sheet piles out of the ground.
The wall facing is not included in the cost range given above. Costs for wall facings are
described in Chapter 10.
8.2.4 Construction Inspection
Inspector responsibilities for sheet pile wall construction are summarized in Table 8-1.
Table 8-1. Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Sheet Pile Wall Project.
CONTRACTOR SET UP
Review Plans and Specifications
Review Contractors schedule
Review in-situ and backfill property test results (i.e., grain size, Atterberg limits, unit
weight, and shear strength)
Discuss anticipated ground conditions and potential problems with Contractor
Confirm that Contractors pile installation equipment and its size and type is consistent
with Specifications
Confirm that the layout and dimensions of sheet pile consistent with Plans
Confirm Contractor stockpile area consistent with Plans
Review corrosion protection requirements of metallic units (i.e., epoxy coating, paint)
and confirm consistency with Specifications
EXCAVATION, STEEL SHEETING AND REINFORCING ELEMENTS
Confirm that excavation of slopes and/or structural excavation support is consistent with
the Plans
Confirm that disposal of excavated material is performed according to Specifications
Confirm that during installation sheet pile with ball end driven first
Confirm embedment depth of sheet pile
Confirm the quality of interlock between adjacent sheet piles by visual inspection
Confirm that sheet piles are driven according to the Specifications
Visually inspect the top of sheet piles to asses any possible damage after installation
Report to the Engineer cave-ins, excessive yielding of sheet pile, threatened flooding of
excavation, unanticipated subsurface conditions
Confirm the reinforcing elements used are consistent with Plans and Specifications
(1)


FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Confirm that reinforcement elements are placed and connected to the sheet pile as shown
in Plans
(2)

Confirm that reinforcing element is covered with backfill material to heights consistent
with Plans
(1)

DRAINAGE SYSTEMS AND BACKFIILL
Confirm backfill materials used are consistent with Specifications
Confirm placement and compaction of backfill material are consistent with Specifications
Confirm alignment and elevation of drainage systems
POST INSTALLATION
Verify pay quantities
Note:
(1)
Anchored sheet pile structure and
(2)
Excavated structure.

8.3 SOLDIER PILE AND LAGGING WALLS
8.3.1 General
Soldier pile and lagging wall systems (also known as post and panel walls) are commonly
used for temporary excavation support (Figure 8-11) in dense or stiff soils where sheet pile
walls may not be suitable. They are also used frequently for permanent earth retaining
structures (Figure 8-12).
Soldier pile and lagging walls consist of soldier piles usually set at 5- to 10-ft spacing, and
lagging which spans the distance between the soldier piles. The lagging is used to retain the
soil face from sloughing and transmit the lateral earth pressure to the soldier piles. Included
in this category of walls is the master pile (or king pile) wall system, shown in Figure 8-1(c),
which consists of discrete vertical H-pile sections interlocked and alternating with steel sheet
pile sections.
The most common soldier piles are rolled steel sections, normally H-pile or wide flange
sections. However, soldier piles can be almost any structural member such as pipe or
channel sections, cast-in-place concrete, or precast concrete. Figure 8-13 shows several
types of soldier piles.
For temporary walls, lagging is most commonly wood, but may also consist of light steel
sheeting or precast concrete. Cast-in-place concrete sheeting (or facing) is generally used for
permanent wall applications, but such construction typically requires the use of temporary
sheeting to support the soil face during excavation and concrete placement operations.
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Figure 8-11. Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall and Bracing for Temporary Excavation Support.


(a) (b)
Figure 8-12. Permanent Soldier Pile and Lagging Walls for (a) Roadway Embankment, and
(b) Roadway Cut.
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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(a) (b)

(c) (d)
Figure 8-13. Types of Soldier Piles (a) Wide Flange Section, (b) Pipe Section without
Anchor, (c) Double Channel Section, and (d) Pipe Section with Anchor (after Xanthakos, et
al. 1994).
In some cases, it may be more economical and rapid to attach the lagging boards to the
outside of the steel beams (i.e., contact lagging) using small steel attachment devices. Once
the attachment device is welded to the front of the beam, lagging board placement can be
done rapidly (see Figure 8-13 b and Figure 8-14). Where soils are particularly stiff, this
option may be considered.
Lagging may be omitted in hard clays, soft shales and soils with natural cementation,
provided that the soldier piles are installed at relatively close spacing and with adequate steps
taken to protect against erosion and spalling of soil at the face.
Soldier piles can be either driven or drilled in to the soil. Driven soldier piles can be installed
in dense or stiff soils where sheet pile walls may not be suitable. Drilled in soldier piles can
be installed in any soil type and even into bedrock. For a soldier pile and lagging wall to be
viable, the soil in between soldier piles has to be free standing to allow for lagging
installation. Soft clay and loose, cohesionless sands and silts may not be free standing.
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Figure 8-14. Contact Lagging.
The advantages of soldier pile and lagging walls include:
availability of a wide range of pile sections to match loading requirements;
ability to resist high bending moments;
can be installed through hard soils and rock via predrilling;
can support large vertical loads; and
piles can be spliced.
Some of the limitations of soldier pile and lagging walls include:
they are generally free draining and not suitable for applications where it is necessary
to maintain the groundwater level behind the wall;
steel elements in direct contact with soil are more susceptible to corrosion;
greater ground displacement in comparison to stiffer wall systems (i.e., slurry walls,
tangent pile walls, etc.), especially if used with relatively soft ground; and
excavation for placement of the lagging between soldier piles increase risk of ground
loss.
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8.3.2 Wall Construction
8.3.2.1 Construction Sequence
The construction procedures presented below follow those described by Goldberg et al.
(1976) for soldier pile and lagging walls which are braced (using struts or rakers). Anchored
soldier pile and lagging walls are discussed in Section 8.8 and 8.10.
The soldier piles are installed by driving, or by concreting them within pre-drilled holes
(Figure 8-15). After installation of the piles, the excavation is performed from the top down.
If braces are used then the excavation is performed to the first support level, placing lagging
as the excavation proceeds. Brackets are then attached to the soldier pile to support the wale
(if used), and the wale is then placed in position and connected to the soldier piles. The brace
is cut slightly short to facilitate placement. This extra space is closed by plates and wedges
when the final connection is made. The above sequence of excavation, and installation of
lagging, walls and braces is continued until the required bottom of excavation elevation is
reached.
8.3.2.2 Preloading
Preloading of supports is conducted for braced soldier pile and lagging walls. Preloading is
usually required for installation of bracing members since it results in more reliable load
determination and load distribution within the structural support system, and it effectively
reduces ground displacements adjacent to the excavation. Preloading is particularly
important when the excavation is located near structures or other facilities which may be
damaged by settlement or lateral ground movement. Cross-lot bracing members are
commonly preloaded when they are installed. Rakers and corner braces are not generally
preloaded due to the more complicated skew connections required, however, if necessary,
these connections can be made allowing for preloading.
Preloading of internal braces is accomplished by loading hydraulic jacks to the desired load
followed by securing the member with steel blocking, steel wedges and welding. One
procedure is to jack to the desired load, and then to drive steel wedges between the member
and the wale until the jack load is essentially zero. A second procedure is to weld the
connection tight while maintaining the jack load and then drop the pressure in the hydraulic
jack, thus transferring the load through the connection to the wale. The second procedure
may result in additional wall movement as the load is transferred, although the magnitude of
movement is generally small.

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(a) (b)
Figure 8-15. Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall: (a) Drilling for Pile Installation, and (b)
Excavation between Soldier Piles in Cohesive Soil for Installation of Lagging.

High preloads may cause over stressing of struts because of unforeseen job conditions or
temperature effects. Accordingly, the general practice is to preload bracing members to
about 25 to 50 percent of the bracing loads. This preload removes the slack from the support
system and at the same time reduces the risk of over stressing. Larger preloads, up to as
much as 80 percent of the bracing load, may be desirable to further reduce ground
movements and protect adjacent structures from settlement.
8.3.2.3 Strut Removal and Rebracing
Temporary support bracing, or struts, are generally removed during or after construction of
the permanent structure elements (i.e., invert and/or roof slabs). Also, it may occasionally be
necessary to remove and reinstall temporary bracing (rebracing) to maintain lateral support
while installing the permanent structure elements. Strut removal (and rebracing) may be an
additional source of wall and ground displacement. Factors controlling the amount of
displacement are the wall stiffness, the properties of the retained soil, the span distance
between remaining braces, and the quality and the compaction of backfill between the final
structure and the excavation support wall.
8.3.2.4 Concrete Backfill
Drilled-in soldier piles require the predrilled holes to be filled with concrete backfill.
General design recommendations for concrete backfill include the use of structural concrete
from the bottom of the hole to the excavation base and lean-mix concrete for the remainder
of the hole. The design concept is to provide maximum strength and load transfer in the
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permanently embedded portion of the soldier pile while providing a weak concrete fill in the
upper portion which can easily be removed and shaped to allow lagging installation.
However, contractors often propose to use lean-mix concrete backfill for the full depth of the
hole to avoid the delays associated with providing two types of concrete in relatively small
quantities.
8.3.3 Cost
Cost for soldier pile and lagging walls up to 15 ft in height is typically about 15 to 20/ft
2
of
exposed wall face. One of the factors affecting the cost of soldier pile and lagging walls is
the equipment that is used for soldier pile installation. As mentioned previously, soldier piles
can either be driven or drilled in to the soil. Drilling is typically more expensive than driving
the pile; however, wall alignment can be achieved easier with drilling than with driving.
Compared to driving, the use of predrilling can add $10 to $20 per ft of soldier pile.
8.3.4 Construction Inspection
The inspector responsibilities for a typical soldier pile and lagging wall are summarized in
Table 8-2.
Table 8-2. Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall Project.
CONTRACTOR SET UP
Review Plans and Specifications
Review Contractors schedule
Review test results and certifications for materials (e.g., steel soldier piles, wood lagging,
structural concrete, lean-mix concrete)
Discuss anticipated ground conditions and potential problems with Contractor
Check overall condition of Contractors pile driving

or drilling equipment
Confirm that the layouts and dimensions of the wall consistent with Plans
Confirm that Contractor stockpile and staging area consistent with locations on Plans
Review Contractors survey results against Plans
SOLDIER PILE
Review corrosion protection requirements of soldier piles and confirm that Contractor is
following these requirements
Confirm soldier pile driving operations or drilling consistent with Specifications
Inspect driven soldier piles to assess damage at the top of the piles
Inspect the integrity of soldier pile holes before they are filled with concrete backfill
Confirm that loose material is removed from the bottom of the hole (for drilled-in)
Confirm embedment depth of soldier piles consistent with Plans and can be achieved
without damage to soldier pile
Check that soldier pile is properly aligned before concrete placement and remains aligned
during concrete placement
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LAGGING
Confirm that lagging is placed at an appropriate time after excavation to ensure no local
soil failure occurs
Report observations of over cutting and/or significant soil sloughing to Engineer
Confirm placement of lagging from top-down in sufficiently small lifts based on
Specifications
Confirm that gap is left between vertically adjacent lagging boards
DRAINAGE SYSTEMS AND BACKFIILL
Confirm backfill materials used are approved by Engineer
Verify alignment and elevation of drainage systems
Confirm that delivery, storage, and handling of the prefabricated drainage composite (i.e.,
geocomposite) is performed consistent with Plans and Specifications.
Confirm that geocomposite is not damaged in any way, while it is being installed and is
not exposed to excessive dust that could potentially clog the system
Confirm that geocomposite strips are placed and secured tightly against the lagging with
the fabric facing the lagging
Confirm placement of drainage aggregate in front of the lagging in horizontal lifts
Confirm that construction of drainage aggregate closely follow the construction of
precast facing elements
Confirm that perforated collector pipe is placed within the permeable material to the flow
line elevations and at the location shown on Plans
POST INSTALLATION
Verify pay quantities

8.4 SLURRY WALLS
8.4.1 General
A slurry wall (or diaphragm wall) is a structural, cast-in-place concrete wall constructed by
tremie placement of concrete in a pre-excavated, slurry-filled trench, as shown in Figure 8-
16. The wall is constructed in a series of panels which interlock to form a stiff continuous
structure. Commonly, trenches 2 to 3 ft wide are excavated in lengths of 10 to 20 ft.
Slurry walls are used at sites where it is necessary to restrict ground displacements adjacent
to the excavation. This is a particular concern when the excavation is in close proximity to a
building or other structure which is founded above the bottom of excavation level. As a
relatively rigid excavation support system, a slurry wall typically results in considerably
smaller ground displacements than a sheet pile or soldier pile and lagging support system.
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Figure 8-16. Typical Construction Sequence for a Slurry Wall: (a) Excavation; (b) Insertion
of Steel Tubing (End Stops); (c) Placement of Reinforcement Cage; and (d) Concrete
Placement (Xanthakos, 1994).
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Slurry walls also provide a relatively water tight excavation support wall. A watertight
excavation may be required when: (1) groundwater lowering outside the excavation limits
may lead to potentially damaging settlement of nearby structures or other facilities; (2) it is
not practical to dewater a site (e.g., adjacent to an open body of water); and (3) seepage
gradients initiated by dewatering operations may risk migration of existing groundwater
contamination plumes. With penetration into an underlying low permeability stratum or with
sufficient penetration below the bottom of the excavation, a slurry wall provides an effective
seepage barrier that can preserve groundwater conditions outside the excavation. It is noted,
however, that other wall types such as DMM walls can provide a seepage barrier at a lower
cost.
Advantages of slurry walls include:
boulders, cobbles, and other obstructions are removed as part of the trenching
operation;
can be used solely for temporary support of excavations, or serve both as a temporary
excavation support and as the permanent structural wall;
eliminates the need for a costly cast-in-place concrete interior wall;
allows a reduction in the width of the excavation; constructed as top-down
construction which may be advantageous for projects that require a minimum
duration for surface disturbance (i.e., construction of a depressed underpass at a busy
intersection); and
minimal vibrations during construction.
Limitations of slurry walls include:
use of specialized equipment and construction methods;
will generate significant spoils that needs to be disposed; and
relatively high cost in comparison to other wall systems.
Although previously described as a general sequence of construction for a wall system, the
term top-down construction may also be used to describe a method of constructing
excavations (usually in urban environments) that allow the structure (e.g., tunnel) to be built
within the excavation as the excavation proceeds rather than starting construction after the
bottom elevation of the excavation is reached. Oftentimes, a slurry wall is used for this
application (although other diaphragm wall types can be used). The general sequence for
top-down construction includes:

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1. A retaining wall (typically a concrete diaphragm wall) is installed before excavation
begins.
2. Soil is excavated to just below the elevation of the roof slab of the underground
structure. Struts are installed to support the walls.
3. The roof slab is constructed with access openings on the slab to allow work to
proceed downwards.
4. The next slab level is constructed and this process proceeds downwards until the base
slab is completed.
5. Side walls of the underground structure are constructed upwards, followed by
removal of the struts. Access openings on the roof slabs are sealed.
6. After the underground structure is completed, soil backfill is placed to the top strut
level and then this strut is removed. Backfilling to the ground surface is then
completed.
The two primary types of slurry walls are the conventional reinforced concrete wall and the
Soldier-Pile-Tremie-Concrete (SPTC) wall. Other wall types include the Precast-Concrete-
Panel wall and the Post-Tensioned Concrete wall. These walls are briefly described below.
8.4.2 Slurry Wall Types
8.4.2.1 Conventional Reinforced Concrete Wall
A conventional reinforced concrete slurry wall includes steel reinforcement cages that are
placed in the slurry trench before the concrete tremie pour. The reinforcing bars are sized to
resist bending principally in the vertical direction between bracing levels. Supplemental
horizontal bars may be designed to serve as internal walers or to distribute forces around
inserts or openings. External wales are then eliminated provided that lateral bracing supports
are provided at panel joints. This method of reinforcement is currently most popular and is
used extensively throughout the U.S., (Figure 8-17). Panel end joints are formed by stop end
pipes, shown in Figure 8-16, or other suitable forming devices.
8.4.2.2 Soldier-Pile-Tremie-Concrete (SPTC) Wall
SPTC walls are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in deep excavations requiring
high bending resistance. These walls are also referred to as Soldier Pile and Concrete
Lagging Walls owing to the similarity with soldier pile and lagging walls. SPTC walls
commonly include vertical wide flange sections set in a slurry-stabilized trench. In some
cases, a reinforcing bar cage is placed between the soldier piles to transfer earth and water
loads laterally to the soldier piles. Alternatively, the concrete may be designed to span (arch)
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Figure 8-17. Conventional Reinforced Concrete Wall (Tamaro, 1990).

between the soldier piles which eliminates the need for reinforcing bar cages between soldier
piles. In this case, soldier piles should be spaced at least 4.5 ft or more on center to facilitate
concrete placement. This slurry wall type is relatively watertight, has significant strength in
the vertical direction, and allows for relatively easy connection for temporary cross lot
bracing and wales (Figure 8-18).
8.4.2.3 Other Slurry Wall Types
A variation of the above wall types is the Precast-Concrete-Panel wall in which precast
concrete wall elements are placed in a slurry-stabilized excavated trench. This method
produces the best quality finished wall but is limited in use by cost, transportation and
handling length limitations, and other specific site constraints. Wall panels are best cast on
site adjacent to the work and installed directly into an oversized trench excavation. This type
of wall requires the use of cement-bentonite slurry which will eventually harden in the void
between the wall and soil. Rubber water stops are usually required between panels since the
cement-bentonite joints are subject to drying and shrinkage cracking (Figure 8-19). The
precast panels are temporarily suspended within the excavation until the cement-bentonite
hardens. Wall installation usually proceeds in a linear fashion with precast panel installation
following closely behind trench excavation. The use of a Precast-Concrete-Panel wall
becomes less practical for deeper excavations and at locations where utility crossings or
obstructions are expected.
2

f
t
3

f
t
6.5 to 26 ft
3 in
2

f
t
3

f
t
6.5 to 26 ft
3 in
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Figure 8-18. Soldier-Pile-Tremie-Concrete (SPTC) Wall (Tamaro, 1990).


Figure 8-19. Precast-Concrete-Panel Wall (Tamaro, 1990).

Another wall type used successfully in Europe but which has had limited use in the U.S. is
the Post-Tensioned-Concrete wall (Figure 8-20). For this type of wall, post-tensioning
provides increased bending resistance. However, major disadvantages of this type of wall
are its higher cost and the need for specialized construction techniques.
3

f
t
6.5 to 16 ft
2

f
t
3

f
t
6.5 to 16 ft
2

f
t
1
.
5

f
t
5 to 10 ft
2
.
5

f
t
3

t
o

6

i
n
1
.
5

f
t
5 to 10 ft
2
.
5

f
t
3

t
o

6

i
n
FHWA NHI-07-071 8 Non-Gravity Cantilevered and Anchored Walls
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Figure 8-20. Post-Tensioned-Concrete Wall (Tamaro, 1990).

8.4.3 Wall Construction
8.4.3.1 Slurry
The slurry used to stabilize the excavated trench consists of bentonite and water. When
mixed with water, the bentonite (which comes as a powder, chips or pellets) forms a colloidal
suspension (or slurry). To date, the use of additives in the bentonite slurry has been limited.
Polymer slurries are generally not used for slurry wall construction since they are not as
effective as mineral slurries for supporting large size excavations in coarse granular soils.
To maintain a fluid slurry until concrete is completed, the slurry must be circulated and
agitated. Desanding devices are typically used to remove a sufficient amount of suspended
soil so that the slurry can be used two or more times prior to disposal. The contractor should
verify that a heavily contaminated slurry suspension, which could impair the free flow of
concrete, has not accumulated in the bottom of the trench.
Tamaro and Poletto (1992) recommend the following specifications for fresh bentonite slurry
(at the beginning of excavation):
Minimum specific gravity of 1.03;
Minimum viscosity of 32 seconds measured by the Marsh Cone Funnel; and
pH between 7 and 11.

2

f
t
3

f
t
6.5 to 26 ft
2

f
t
3

f
t
6.5 to 26 ft
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Prior to placement of concrete, the bentonite in the excavated trench should meet the
following requirements:
Sand content not more than 5 percent, measured at about 5 ft above the bottom of the
trench;
Specific gravity not more than 1.10; and
Viscosity not more than 50 seconds.
Additional information on material requirements and the use of slurry is provided in ONeill
and Reese (1999).
8.4.3.2 Concrete
The concrete must be a free-flowing mix capable of displacing the bentonite slurry and
bonding to the reinforcement. Tamaro and Poletto (1992) recommend the following for
concrete:
concrete strength of 3,000 to 5,000 psi;
well graded aggregate less than 0.75 in. in maximum dimension; and
eight (8) in. slump.
In addition, Goldberg, et al. (1976) recommend a water/cement ratio less than 0.6, a sand
content of 35 to 40 percent of the total weight of aggregate, and a cement content of at least
25 pcf of the tremie concrete.
Premature stiffening of the cement may negatively affect the tremie operation. Retarders are
sometimes added to the mix to keep the concrete workable during the entire pour. Some of
the retarders, however, may reduce the strength. The retarders most commonly used are
discussed in Xanthakos (1994).
8.4.3.3 Reinforcement
The slurry wall reinforcing can be in the form of a rebar cage, or a combination of a cage and
vertical wide flange sections. The rebar cage can be prefabricated and assembled either in a
shop or at the site.
The minimum bar spacing is generally 6 in. for vertical bars and 12 in. for horizontal bars (6
in. for horizontal spacing with internal wales). Selection of minimum bar spacing should
also consider reduced spacing caused by splices, vertical picking bars used to lift the cage,
and other items (e.g., inclinometer, pipes for non-destructive testing) tied to the cage. There
must be sufficient space between the bars to enable the free flow of tremie concrete and
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permit scouring of the reinforcing bars to remove slurry and provide good bond between
concrete and the reinforcing bars. The rebar cages, as well as inserts (e.g., sleeves for soil or
rock anchors, casing for instrumentation, etc.), should be secured with tie wire.
Spacer devices should be used on the outside of the rebar cage to provide a minimum
concrete cover of 3 in.
8.4.3.4 Equipment
A wide variety of trench-excavating equipment is used in slurry wall construction, including
backhoes, draglines, clamshells, bucket scrapers and others. Buckets are raised and lowered
by cable or kelly bar, and are opened or closed hydraulically or by cable (Figure 8-21a). To
penetrate hard layers, percussive tools can be used either to assist in clamshell excavation or
as independent excavating tools. The cable-operated bucket, hung from a crane, is the
excavation equipment most commonly used by U.S. contractors.
Another type of slurry wall excavation equipment is the hydromill which was developed
by French and Italian equipment manufacturers (Figure 8-21b). This excavator is basically a
grinding device consisting of two milling heads rotating in opposite directions about axes
perpendicular to the trench. The rotating heads excavate soil and soft rock from the bottom
of the trench, and the excavated material is lifted by suction to the surface where the soil is
removed from the bentonite by sand separators.
For excavation in rock, heavy drop chisels, chisel drills, or large diameter roller bits can be
used. Pre-drilling can also be used to facilitate advancement of the clamshell through hard
layers.
8.4.3.5 Procedures
Construction of a slurry wall includes five primary elements: placement of guide walls,
trench excavation, placement of reinforcement, concreting, and the formation of joints.
Guide Walls
The construction of a slurry wall usually begins with the installation of guide walls. The
purpose of the guide walls is to: (1) prevent caving of the trench wall in the uppermost part of
the excavation; (2) align the trench; (3) contain the slurry; and (4) support suspended precast
elements in Precast-Concrete-Panel walls, or reinforcing steel in Cast-In-Place walls. Figure
8-22 shows a cross-section of a guide wall.

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(a)
(b)
Figure 8-21. Slurry Trench Excavation Equipment: (a) Hydraulically Operated Clamshell
Bucket, and (b) Hydromill.
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Figure 8-22. Cross-Section of a Guide Wall (a) Compact Cohesive Soil, (b) Loose
Cohesionless Soil (Goldberg, et al., 1976).

The guide walls are usually 6 to 12 in. thick and 3 to 6 ft deep. To provide the necessary
support for suspended rebar cages or pre-cast panels, the guide walls should be cast on a
stable subgrade.
4 5 ft
4 5 ft
4 5 ft
4 5 ft
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Cohesive soil is used for backfill behind the guide walls. Cohesionless soils may be mixed
with cement to prevent undermining and to increase stability when used as guide wall
backfill.
Trench Excavation
In conventional bucket excavation, the bucket brings the material to the surface, discharges
its load, and then is lowered back into the trench. With direct or reverse circulation
equipment, the material is broken up into smaller particles so that it may be suspended in the
bentonite slurry, which is circulated to the surface, screened and desanded. The cuttings are
brought to the surface by suction and/or air lift through suction pipes, or the excavation tool
itself.
The stability of the trench is maintained by the slurry pressure on the trench wall, and soil
arching. Also, local penetration of the bentonite into pervious soils will provide some
cohesion that helps to prevent spalling.
The slurry level in the trench is maintained at an elevation at least 4 ft higher than that of the
groundwater table. A membrane or a mudcake is formed against the walls of the trench by
a combination of hydrostatic pressure, osmotic pressure, and electrolytic properties of the
colloid. This mudcake will maintain the pressure against the trench walls and prevent fluid
losses through pervious materials.
The verticality of the wall is checked as the excavation advances. If the excavation is found
to be out of vertical tolerance, the trench can be backfilled with lean concrete and the
excavation operation repeated. This technique can also be used to fill cavities formed in the
side wall of the trench due to caving.
Reinforcement
Prior to placement of the rebar cage in the slurry filled trench, the trench bottom should be
sounded by a weighted tape, or other means, to verify the depth of the trench and assess the
cleanliness of the trench bottom. Also, the slurry in the trench should be sampled and tested
to assure that it meets specification requirements. If necessary, slurry circulation and trench
bottom cleaning operations should be continued to meet the specified requirements.
The rebar cage and end stops should be placed in the trench as soon as possible after the
trench is cleaned and inspected (Figure 8-23). Figure 8-24 shows a reinforced panel in cast-
in-place slurry wall.
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(a) (b)
Figure 8-23. Slurry Wall Reinforcement Cage (a) On Fabrication Bed, Showing Styrofoam
Knock-Out Panel, and (b) During Lifting for Installation into Slurry Filled Trench.

Figure 8-24. Reinforced Panel in Cast-In-Place Slurry Wall (Tamaro and Poletto, 1992).
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In the Soldier-Pile-Tremie-Concrete wall, the soldier piles, together with the reinforcing
cage, are set within the excavated trench prior to concreting. An alternative approach is to
set the soldier piles in pre-augered holes and then excavate and place tremie concrete
between consecutive piles.
Concreting
The concrete should be placed as soon as practical after installation of the reinforcement
cage, and concrete placement should proceed continuously until completion of the slurry wall
panel. Concrete placement is performed through one or more tremie pipes lowered to the
bottom of each panel (Figure 8-25). Two or more tremie pipes may be used for long panel
lengths and for SPTC walls. The tremie pipe must remain embedded in fresh concrete a
minimum of 6 ft and a maximum of 15 ft. The tremie concrete displaces the bentonite slurry
progressively as it rises uniformly to the surface. The concrete should be sampled and tested
at the start of placement and at defined intervals during placement, to verify that the
delivered concrete meets the specified requirements.


Figure 8-25. Slurry Filled Trench with Tremie Pipes Just Prior to Concrete Placement.
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End Joints
A construction joint is provided between two adjacent panels. This joint should allow
excavation of the new panel without significant disturbance to the previously poured panel.
It should be watertight and capable of transferring shear and compressive stresses. The joint
can be formed using different configurations and details, but generally consists of a steel
tube, steel plate, or steel beam (Xanthakos, 1979).
Unless permanent steel piles are used, the end stops are removed after the initial set of the
concrete. For deep walls, it may be necessary to partially extract the end stops while
concrete is placed in the upper part of the wall panel. The end stops should be removed in a
smooth and continuous manner.
8.4.3.6 Types of Supports
Slurry walls can be supported using either internal bracing or soil or rock anchors. Similar to
soldier pile and lagging walls, the support elements are generally preloaded when they are
installed to reduce ground displacements behind the wall, and to obtain more reliable and
more uniform loading in the support elements.
8.4.4 Cost
The cost of a slurry wall is typically between $60 and $100/ft
2
of exposed wall face. The use
of braces or ground anchors would add to the cost of the wall. Typical mobilization costs for
slurry walls are around $50,000.
Slurry walls may be cost competitive compared to other wall systems when at least two of
the following conditions can be met (Godfrey, 1987):
slurry wall can be used as the permanent wall;
slurry wall eliminates the need for underpinning;
slurry wall eliminates the need for dewatering;
natural or man made obstructions restrict the use of conventional sheeting systems; or
slurry wall can be used to support vertical loads.
8.4.5 Construction Inspection
Slurry (diaphragm) wall construction requires relatively detailed construction inspection due
to the use of specialized equipment and materials. These walls are usually constructed by
specialty contractors.
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The construction of a wall panel for a slurry (diaphragm) wall is performed in a narrow
trench. For this reason, construction tolerances related to panel width, depth of wall, and
alignment of the wall are critical. Proper construction of the guidewalls is essential to ensure
that accurate alignment is maintained. Guide walls should be cast against compact subgrade.
On-site quality control of the slurry and concrete is also necessary. The inspection of slurry
should include: (1) documentation of bentonite source and quality; (2) records indicating age
of slurry (i.e., time for bentonite hydration); and (3) results of on-site tests for slurry
viscosity, specific gravity, pH, and sand content. During placement of concrete, plots of
concrete volume placed versus the rise of the concrete within the excavated trench should be
recorded. This information can be used to evaluate whether a cave-in has occurred.
After the wall has been exposed due to excavation, the wall should be checked to verify that
excessive seepage is not occurring through vertical panel joints or through any openings in
the wall face. Inspection responsibilities for slurry walls are summarized in Table 8-3.

Table 8-3. Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Slurry Wall Project
CONTRACTOR SET UP
Review Plans and Specifications
Review Contractor schedule
Discuss anticipated ground conditions and potential problems with Contractor
Check overall condition of Contractor equipment
Verify that the layouts and dimensions of the wall consistent with Plans
Review Contractor stockpile area
GUIDE WALL
Verify that no caving occurs in the uppermost part of the trench excavation
Confirm alignment of the guide wall trench
Confirm consistency of Contractors guide wall details, width, and height with Plans
Observe placement of concrete to form the Guide Wall
Confirm that inside face of the guide wall does not have any ridges or abrupt changes and
the guide wall face and top does not vary horizontally or vertically from a straight line or
specified profile in the Plans
Confirm that the distance between inside faces of the guide wall is within the width of
slurry wall plus the distance specified in Specifications
Confirm consistency of placement and compaction of backfill soil behind the guide wall
with Specifications
Confirm that guide wall is effectively containing the slurry without losses
Confirm that guide walls are removed at the end of construction

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TRENCH EXCAVATION
Confirm that no cavities exist in the side of the trench
Inspect the bottom of the trench immediately after excavating to the final depth and
confirm the conditions against the Specifications
Confirm circulation, screening, and desanding of trench material
Inspect bottom elevation of the trench immediately after each cleaning and desanding
Confirm that each excavated panel is filled and maintained at all times with stable
suspension of slurry
Test slurry in the bottom and top of the trench for density, viscosity, pH, and sand content
with the frequency specified in Specifications. Report test results to the Engineer
Check the depth and verticality of the wall to determine compliance with Plans
Perform fluid loss measurements in the trench at the beginning or end of every shift as
directed by the Engineer. Report measurement results to the Engineer
REINFORCEMENT
Confirm that bottom of trench excavation has been reached prior to reinforcement cage
placement
Confirm the condition of reinforcement cage prior to installation
Confirm installation of casings and sleeves as indicated on the Plans
Confirm construction of joints between two adjacent reinforcement panels are consistent
with Specifications
CONCRETING
Inspect the bottom elevation of trench immediately before placement of concrete
Test concrete in the trench to assure it meets specification requirements
Confirm that concrete is placed in slurry excavations within specified time frame after
placement of reinforcing and proceeds uninterrupted until completion
Confirm the placement of concrete occurs right after installation of reinforcement cage
Confirm that tremie pipes remain embedded in fresh concrete during concreting
Confirm appropriate handling of slurry as concrete is placed in as specified in
Specifications
POST INSTALLATION
Verify pay quantities

Note: Submit daily reports to the Engineer documenting:
(1) trench excavation;
(2) verticality verification of each section of panel;
(3) slurry testing and modifications to the mix or process;
(4) reinforcement placement; and
(5) concrete placement.
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8.5 TANGENT/SECANT PILE WALLS
8.5.1 General
A tangent or secant pile wall consists of a line of drilled shafts (also referred to as bored
piles) (Figure 8-26). If the bored piles are contiguous, or tangent, to each other, the wall is
called a tangent pile wall. In an alternate case, referred to as a secant pile wall, the pile
elements overlap so as to form an interlocking wall. Another variation of this wall type is
called an intermittent wall in which the piles are installed at a spacing exceeding the pile
diameter; this type of wall can be considered only if the ground is stable or secondary
elements, such as shotcrete or a cast-in-place facing, is used to provide a continuous wall.
Various configurations of bored pile walls are shown in Figure 8-27.

(a) (b)
Figure 8-26. Tangent Pile Wall a) With Structural Steel Section as Reinforcement, and b)
Face of Completed Wall.
Tangent pile walls and secant pile walls are stiff continuous walls that are constructed by the
top-down method. Similar to slurry (diaphragm) walls, tangent pile and secant pile walls can
be used when it is necessary to minimize groundwater lowering outside the excavation or to
reduce ground displacements. Also, similar to slurry walls, tangent pile and secant pile walls
can be used for either temporary or permanent ground support.
Advantages of tangent / secant pile walls include:
they can be constructed using conventional drilled shaft excavation equipment and
procedures; and

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(a) (b)

(c) (d)

(e)
Figure 8-27. Various Configurations of Bored Pile Walls: (a) Tangent Pile Wall; (b)
Staggered Tangent Pile Wall; (c) Secant Pile Wall; (d) Intermittent Pile Wall with Grouted
Openings; and (e) Intermittent Pile Wall with Lagging.

tangent / secant pile walls may be more suitable than slurry walls at work sites with
limited space since less area is needed for slurry containment and treatment, and for
fabrication and handling of rebar cages.
Limitations include:
increased seepage through vertical joints;
more difficult connections for bracing members, ground anchors and attached slabs;
and
rough and irregular exposed face.

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8.5.2 Wall Construction
Bored piles for a tangent or secant pile walls are usually installed using auger type drill rigs.
Use of temporary casing may be necessary when penetrating into unstable soil strata, which
may be susceptible to squeezing or caving. A faster and more economical construction
method, however, involves rotary drilling and the use of bentonite (or polymer) slurry to
keep the drilled-hole stable and remove the excavated material to the surface by reverse
circulation (FHWA, 1988).
Figure 8-28 illustrates the typical construction sequence for tangent pile and secant pile
walls. The piles should be installed in a staggered pattern to avoid disturbing the concrete in
an adjacent pile that has not completely cured.


Figure 8-28. Construction Sequence (a) Tangent Pile and (b) Secant Pile Walls
(after Xanthakos, 1994).

For a tangent pile wall, shown in Figure 8-28a, the direction of pile installation is from the
edges of a section towards its center. This sequence prevents interference between adjacent
piles during concreting, and allows all the piles in the section to be installed along the same
alignment except possibly the center pile which may have to be displaced slightly to fit in the
remaining space and still be tangent with the two adjacent piles.
In secant pile walls (Figure 8-28b), alternate piles (numbered 1, 3, 5, etc.) are drilled and
concreted first with or without reinforcement. Reinforced piles (numbered 2, 4, 6, etc.) are
cut into these piles about one day later after the concrete in the first group has achieved its
initial set but before it becomes too hard. Sometimes, reinforcement is provided in every
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pile; however, this is generally practical only when the piles are reinforced with steel
sections. Due to the difficulty in cutting reinforcing bars, it is usually necessary to place
rebar cages only in alternate piles.
Favorable soil conditions for tangent and secant piles include soft clay and granular silty and
sandy soils. Maintaining vertical tolerances for a wall constructed in hard soils is difficult.
The wall facing may consist of reinforced shotcrete, pre-cast concrete panels, or cast-in-place
concrete. A drainage gallery may be provided behind the concrete facing to intercept and
channel any seepage that may penetrate the wall. Grouting is sometimes performed behind
the joints between piles to reduce water seepage.
8.5.3 Cost
Tangent pile walls are typically less expensive than secant pile walls simply because less
shafts are required for a given wall length. The cost of tangent pile walls up to 30 ft in height
is about $25 to $40/ft
2
of wall face and the cost of secant pile walls up to 30 ft is about $30 to
$45/ft
2
of exposed wall face.
One of the factors affecting the cost of tangent/secant pile walls is the drilling. Equipment
used for drilling should have adequate capacity to excavate a hole through soft and hard soils,
as well as, obstructions and in secant pile walls, through previously installed concrete piles.
When hard soils, or other material encountered cannot be drilled using conventional earth
augers, more costly alternative equipment has to be used.
For very competent hard soils, piles can be installed apart from each other (i.e., intermittent
pile wall). This wall type requires fewer piles for a given length than tangent or secant piles,
resulting in a smaller cost as compared to tangent and secant pile walls. The cost of an
intermittent wall (up to 30 ft in height) is about $20 to $35/ft
2
of exposed wall face.
The cost of ground anchors and a permanent wall face are additional costs that should be
included. These costs are all described in Chapter 10.
8.5.4 Construction Inspection
Construction inspection for tangent pile walls and secant pile walls is similar to that for
drilled shafts. Inspection includes verifying that drilling techniques are consistent with the
soil type and ground-water conditions at the site and that all construction tolerances are
maintained. For tangent pile walls, it is important that vertical tolerances are maintained if a
relatively watertight wall is required. The inspection responsibilities of tangent pile and
secant pile walls are summarized in Table 8-4.
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Table 8-4. Inspector Responsibilities for a Typical Tangent/Secant Pile Wall Project
CONTRACTOR SET UP
Review Plans and Specifications
Review Contractor schedule
Discuss anticipated ground conditions and potential problems with Contractor
Check overall condition of Contractors equipment
Review test results and certificates for materials (e.g., steel reinforcing, concrete)
Confirm consistency of location and positioning of each pile with Plans
PILE EXCAVATION
Observe Contractors test pile installation and confirm that drilling technique is
consistent with ground conditions
Confirm that drilling fluid is tested for density, fluid loss, viscosity, shear strength, sand
content, and pH according to Specifications
When penetrating unstable soil strata, confirm that Contractor is using temporary casing
(if required).
Confirm that upon completion of pile excavation that all loose soil and sediment is
removed to expose a firm base
Inspect pile excavation to its full length where practical and confirm no squeezing or
caving exist on the sides
Confirm that all drill holes are protected from surface water
REINFORCING
Confirm that reinforcing is free from rust and mud
Confirm that reinforcement is maintained in its correct position during concreting
For secant pile walls, confirm that overcutting of previously installed piles occurs
approximately one day after installation. Note, this will be site-specific and depends on
time required for concrete to reach minimum strengths and type of overcutting drilling
equipment used.
CONCRETING
Confirm that before placing concrete, no accumulation of drilling fluid or other
deleterious material exist at the base of the drill hole
Confirm that concrete for each pile is from the same source
Confirm that method of concrete pouring (e.g., free fall, tremie pipe, or concrete pumps)
is consistent with Specifications
Confirm that vertical tolerances are maintained as concrete is poured
To check for possible necking or loss of ground, verify the actual volume of concrete
pored for each pile consistent with calculated volume required
If required in the Specifications, observe the pile integrity test on each pile to locate
potential defects, necking, soil inclusions and to verify pile length. Report the results to
Engineer
Confirm that Engineer-rejected piles are replaced by the Contractor
WALL FACING
Confirm that wall facing is consistent with Plans and Specifications
If grouting is required, confirm consistency of grout and grouting operations behind the
joints between piles with Specifications and Plans.

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POST INSTALLATION
Verify pay quantities

8.6 JET GROUTED WALLS
8.6.1 General
Jet-grouted walls commonly use cement for grout. A variation of these walls is the lime
column wall wherein lime or lime-cement mix is used in a dry or liquid form to stabilize the
soil.
Jet grouting consists of injecting high pressure fluids into the ground through horizontal
nozzles to segregate the soil and mix it with a cementing agent. Segregation of the soil is
achieved by the high energy of the jet fluid(s) which may consist of the cementing agent or
another cutting fluid. Jet grouting is basically an erosion/replacement process which
removes a portion of the soil particles and replaces them with a mixture of soil and grout that
has high strength and low permeability when hardened.
The jet grouted elements, which make up the wall, are typically either overlapping
cylindrical columns or, in some applications, panel elements. Cylindrical column elements
are the most common and are formed by rotation of the high pressure fluid jets. Panel
elements are formed by allowing the jet to remain stationary, thus cutting and mixing planar
jet grouted elements.
Figure 8-29 shows various grout column layouts used in construction of jet-grouted walls.
The column layout is governed by the intended use of the wall as well as stability
considerations. For example, in cases where water tightness is the main concern, as in the
case of cutoff walls, then multiple rows of overlapping columns should be used. Multiple
rows are also required if the wall is to be designed as a gravity structure. Figure 8-30
illustrates jet-grouted wall applications for excavation, underpinning, settlement control, and
water control.
The advantages of jet-grouting include:
jet grouting can be used with a wider range of soil types than any other grouting
technique, however, it is not suitable for highly plastic clays (see Figure 8-31).

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Figure 8-29. Grout Columns Layouts on Jet-grouted Walls.

since large diameter columns can be created from relatively small boreholes, local
obstructions such as timber piles or large boulders can be bypassed or encapsulated
into jet-grouted soil mass;
jet grouting can be conducted from any suitable access point, and can be terminated at
any elevation, providing treatment only in the target zones; and
jet-grouting can be performed vertically or (sub)horizontally, above or below the
water table.
The limitations of jet-grouting include:
it is an operator-sensitive construction process, which requires specialized skills and
an experienced labor force;
it requires specialized mechanical equipment subject to high maintenance costs;
due to the high pressure used, there is a possibility of ground heave or lateral
movements which may damage adjacent utilities and underground structures;

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Figure 8-30. Jet-grouted Wall Applications for Excavation Support, Underpinning,
Settlement Control, and Water Control.

spoil handling and removal may be particularly difficult if the jet-grouted soil is
contaminated;
a cost-effective method for measuring the dimensions of a large number of columns
in a routine production project does not currently exist;
jet-grouted soil strengths tend to be much more variable than concrete strength as
they are strongly influenced by the silt and clay content of the native soils and it is
difficult to predict the final strength of the jet-grouted soil during the design stage;
furthermore, if groundwater flow velocities are high, the fluid soil-grout mass may
experience local removal of the cement (bleeding) prior to its stiffening, and hence
variability in quality may be observed;

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Note: 1 mm = 0.04 in
Figure 8-31. Range of Soil Types Treatable by Chemical and Jet-Grouting
(after Welsh et al., 1986).
it requires a higher level of quality control than for other wall systems; and
there is no commonly accepted method available to engineers to design jet grouted
structures.
8.6.2 Wall Construction
8.6.2.1 Jet Grouting Procedure
The basic procedure for jet grouting is shown in Figure 8-32 and summarized below:
Drill and stabilize a hole to the required depth in the soil to be treated.
If separate drilling and grouting equipment are used, withdraw the drilling bit and
rods and insert the jet grouting monitor and special grouting rods to the bottom of the
predrilled hole. In many jet grouting systems and ground conditions, however, the
same equipment is used to drill the hole and then perform the jet grouting. In these
cases, after the hole is drilled to the required depth, a steel ball (check ball) is inserted
into the drill rods to redirect the fluid jets to the horizontal nozzles and allow jet
grouting to begin (Figure 8-33).
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Inject jet grouting fluids while slowly rotating and withdrawing the grout monitor and
rods. The grouting fluids cut the in situ soil and mix it with the grout to form a jet
grouted column. Excess soil-grout spoil is expelled out of the top of the drilled hole
by the circulating fluids.
8.6.2.2 Jet Grouting Systems
There are basically three jet grouting systems in general use: the single, double, and triple
fluid systems. A schematic representation of each system is shown in Figure 8-34. The
principal characteristics of each system are described below (Kauschinger and Welsh, 1989
and Bruce, 1994).
It is the simplest of the three systems.
It uses a grout jet to simultaneously erode the soil and mix it with the cement grout.


Figure 8-32. Jet Grouting Procedure (after Pacchiosi, 1985).

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Figure 8-33. Details of Jet Grouting Monitors (a) Single Fluid System and
(b) Triple Fluid System.
Single Fluid System
It involves only partial replacement of the soil and therefore results in the lowest
volume of spoils as compared to other systems.
It produces the smallest column diameter.
It can achieve significant compaction outside of the perimeter of the column up to a
distance of one-half a column diameter.
It is the only method used for horizontal column formation.
Double Fluid System
It uses a grout jet engulfed in compressed air. The compressed air enhances the
cutting ability of the grout jet.
The equipment is more complex and susceptible to clogging. The pathway for the air
between the inner rod (carrying the grout) and the outer rod must be kept open, or the
process will revert to a single fluid system.
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A higher degree of soil replacement and a larger column diameter than that of the
single fluid system (almost twice the size) can be created. This enhancement is due to
the following factors:
o The air acts as a buffer between the jet stream and any groundwater present,
thus permitting deeper penetration by the jet;
o The soil cut by the jet is prevented from falling back onto the jet, thus
reducing the energy lost through the turbulent action of the cut soil; and
o The cut soil is more efficiently removed from the region of jetting by the
bubbling action of the compressed air.
A potential drawback of this system is that the soil-grout mix may have a higher air
content, and therefore may have a lower strength than those of the other systems.
Triple Fluid System
Fluids are emitted from two levels. An upper water jet engulfed in compressed air is
used to excavate the soil which is then mixed with, or replaced by, a grout jet emitted
from a lower port.
It permits virtually full replacement of the jetted soil, and provides the largest column
diameter. This also results in the largest amount of spoils/cuttings.
In this system, unlike the double fluid system, the grout is not injected with air.
Hence, there is no problem with high air content in the final jet-grouted soil mass.
Fluid circulation is more efficient because each medium is carried in a separate
passageway within the rod (the grout in the central core, the water in the middle
annulus, and the air in the outer annulus). Hence, this system is the least likely of the
three systems to exert high pressures on the surrounding soils.


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Figure 8-34. Schematic of Jet Grouting Systems (a) Single Fluid System, (b) Double Fluid
System, and (c) Triple Fluid System.
8.6.2.3 Hydrofracture Potential
In general, a jet grouting system conducts incompressible fluids and its success is contingent
on maintaining free and efficient fluid circulation. In particular, the cuttings must flow freely
from the point of injection up to the ground surface. Otherwise, pressures, up to the jetting
pressures may build up in the soil. These pressures could hydrofracture the soil and cause
severe lateral soil movement and ground heave (Kauschinger and Welsh, 1989).
8.6.2.4 Jet Grouting Equipment
A typical jet grouting set up consists of: (1) a drilling rig; (2) an automated grout mixing
plant; and (3) a grout injection plant, which consists of automatic batchers and high-pressure
pumps. In multiple fluid systems, additional pumps and an air compressor are used (Figure
8-35). Figures 8-36 through 8-39 show the jet grouting equipment in operation.
The drill rig automatically regulates rotation and withdrawal rates of a string of special drill
rods and a jet grouting monitor which is mounted at the end of the drill string. The jet
grouting monitor is a special tool through which the jet grouting fluids are passed and
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directed out of the nozzles and into the ground. Figure 8-40 shows the triple rods and the
monitor for a triple fluid jet grouting system.
Rotary drilling is most commonly used. In coarse-grained soils, which may include cobbles
and boulders, rotary percussion is more suitable. The mast length of the drilling rig is an
important consideration on construction sites with overhead obstructions.
Controlled jet grouting creates a spoil material during the erosion and mixing process. The
volume of soil-cement spoil can be predicted from the injected volumes. The spoil usually
contains significant cement content and gains strength over time. Within 12 hours, it can
typically be handled as a firm to stiff clay and can be used as a construction material or be
carried away from the site for disposal. If jet grouting is used in contaminated ground,
special handling procedures may be required.
8.6.2.5 Jet Grouting Materials
Neat, rapid setting, cement grout is typically used for jet grouting, although chemical grouts
can also be used. Grout viscosity and rigidity should be low to allow maximum penetration.
Portland Cement Types I, II or III are used. Type I is the most economical and is, therefore,
used when possible.
Water/cement ratios of 1:1 to 2:1 are commonly used. Where high strength is required, ratios
as low as 0.6:1 may be used. Potable water is normally used. Although not recommended,
salt water is sometimes allowed, provided no steel reinforcement is used.
Fly ash is sometimes added to the cement grout in ratios of cement:fly ash between 1:1 and
1:10 by weight. Where low permeability is needed, bentonite additives are often used. The
addition of 2 percent of bentonite to the grout mix can reduce shrinkage during curing. No
aggregates are added to the grout mix.
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Figure 8-35. Jet Grout Set Up.


Figure 8-36. Grout Mixing and Injection Plant.
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Figure 8-37. Drilling and Grouting Rig.











Figure 8-38. Forming a Jet-Grouted Column. Figure 8-39. Jet Grouting Monitor.
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Figure 8-40. Rods for a Triple Fluid Grouting System.
8.6.2.6 Field Trial
A field trial is considered an essential element of any jet grouting project. Its basic steps are
as follows:
Select a test site with ground conditions similar to those of the constructed project.
Design a field trial to model actual construction. In general, it is necessary to: (1)
perform the field trial with the same equipment to be used in the actual construction;
and (2) provide adequate instrumentation to study pore pressures, heave and lateral
deformation of the surrounding ground.
Construct a number of jet-grouted test columns to determine optimum combinations
of the various operational parameters and determine the column diameter and jet-
grouted soil strength that can be achieved in the field.
Evaluate the quality of the jet grouted test section. This is usually done by: (1)
excavating and exposing columns to study the wall continuity; (2) drilling inclined
cores to estimate column diameter; (3) testing the strength of the cores obtained along
the centerline and near the column perimeters; and (4) performing field permeability
tests on completed columns or a pumping test on a completed cut-off enclosure.
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8.6.3 Cost
The costs of jet grouted walls typically range from $60 to $90/ft
2
of exposed wall face.
Additional costs will be incurred if ground anchors are used.
The mobilization/demobilization cost for jet grouted walls is similar for slurry walls, which is
typically around $50,000. The cost of cement has a significant impact on the overall cost of
the jet grouted walls. Typically, cement is 40 to 45 percent of the entire jet grouted