Mechanically stabilized earth is all about soil created with artificial reinforcements. This kind of soil stabilization can be used to retain bridge abutments, dikes, and all kinds of walls on unnatural slopes. Methods of mechanical stabilization have been around for thousands of years and used throughout history for supporting all kinds of structures, especially for walls. MSE is also the common acronym for mechanically stabilized earth.
MSE walls are built to help stabilize unstable slopes and retain soil so that structures like walls can stay stable in any weather conditions and under high amounts of pressure. MSE walls are also often made up of interlocking, segmental blocks or panels that can compensate for some shifting and movement. The walls can be reinforced or can be left as they are. Usually, MSE walls are reinforced to help retain original wall structures by methods of soil reinforcement and layers of geogrids.
Reinforcing structures like walls and buildings are undeniably critical, especially in areas of the world where there is seismic activity. MSE walls compared to conventional reinforcement methods, such as concrete reinforced walls are far superior because they are easier and quicker to construct. They have also been tested and proven to be equal in effectiveness to reinforced concrete walls.
There is a long history of humans using all types of materials to stabilize structures with everything from straw to branches, particularly to reinforce bricks and mud dwellings. In the 1970s, French engineer Sir Henri Vidal invented the modern forms of MSE and coined the term.
Besides MSE retaining walls, there are four other types of concrete retaining walls to help stabilize structures, and they are still used today. They are gravity walls, piling walls, cantilever walls, and anchored walls.
Gravity retaining walls- Gravity walls are all about having a high mass to resist pressure. They retain stability by leaning against the retained soil. They are always constructed with heavy materials such as stone, brick, concrete, and other weighty substances.
Piling retaining walls- Piling walls are is tight spaces and soft soil situations. They are also known as sheet piling walls. They are made out of a number of different materials including vinyl, sheets, or wood planks driven into the ground. Anchors are required for taller piling walls.
Cantilever retaining walls- Cantilever walls are made from a stem of steel with mortared masonry or concrete. The shape of this kind of walls looks like an inverted ‘T’. They cantilever loads to large footings and often have buttresses supporting them.
Anchored retaining walls- Anchored walls can be created in any style including gravity, piling, or cantilever styles. However, the anchored walls differ because they have cables or stays that are attached to the rock or soil behind the wall for additional support.
Stabilization for retaining walls is key to ensuring that the structures last and withstand serious weather conditions. Each type of wall has its own set of benefits, even though the MSE wall is the most current design update.