Celebrating Reinforced Soil Structures

A Historic Review from the Mid-60’s Original Concept to Today’s Design and GOOD Construction Practice Using Site-Won and Other Non-‘Standard’ Reinforced Soil Fills
  • Chaido Doulala-RigbyEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Sustainable Civil Infrastructures book series (SUCI)


The first use of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) polymeric geogrid reinforcement in civil engineering was to reinforce and construct a 2.5 m high temporary reinforced soil wall at Newmarket/Silkstone colliery in West Yorkshire, UK in 1980, just 2 years after the first polymeric geogrid was invented by Dr Mercer in 1978 in Blackburn, UK. HDPE geogrid Reinforced Soil Retaining Wall (RSRW) Systems have since been widely used around the world forming various geometries, reaching unprecedented retaining heights in excess of 60 m and serving various functions from supporting open air golf courses to airport runways.

This keynote will give a historic insight on how HDPE geogrid RSRW Systems have evolved in the past 40 years through presenting 10 different case studies, showcasing different types of non-standard reinforced fills including both site-won and purpose-made reinforced fill, the challenges they presented and the lessons learned. By describing the use of variable, non-standard reinforced fills ranging from site-won cohesive fill, to site-won chalk, to site-won mine stone waste, to locally sourced waste pulverized fuel ash, to landfill waste site-won fill, and others, it will showcase the selection criteria and applicability of these various fills depending on the performance requirements of the end structure. It will also highlight critical issues that need to be taken into consideration when using non-standard reinforced soil fills, both at design stage and during construction, such as bespoke site testing as well as contingency and remediation plans to cater for inclined weather or for when site testing does not meet the required performance.

The ultimate purpose of this Keynote is to, as the title suggests, celebrate polymeric geogrid reinforced structures and manifest how they have become established as reliable alternatives to conventional reinforced concrete structures. In many situations, the discovery of polymeric geogrids has opened up possibilities for the construction of extraordinary retaining structures that would not otherwise be feasible or would be extortionately expensive, like the 60 m high polymeric reinforced soil walls featured as alternatives to conventional concrete viaducts in Fujairah, UAE, thus allowing rapid construction and providing earth retaining solutions resulting in attractive, stable, cost effective and maintenance free structures for their 120 years design life.


Case histories Geogrids Reinforced soil Retaining walls Resilience Sustainability 



The author wishes to thank Tensar International Limited for allowing her access to the use of the company’s archives and the permission to using some previously un-seen photos. Special gratitude is expressed to Emeritus Prof. Colin Jones for all his input, peer review and advice towards this paper. The author also wishes to thank Patricia Guerra-Escobar of Geosynthetics Limited and David Woods for providing some of the case studies’ information featured in this paper. Lastly, but equally gratefully, the author wishes to thank the UK Corps of Royal Engineers for their generous assistance in enabling her obtaining permission and escorting her while visiting some of the oldest historic HDPE polymer geogrid reinforced soil blast bunds located within various Army Barracks, that can only be featured anonymously in this paper’s oral presentation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tensar International LimitedBlackburnUK

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