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Avoiding Failures of Retaining Walls

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Instructor Information: Alexander Newman, P.E., F.ASCE

Course Length: 1.5 Hours

This webinar was co-sponsored by ASCE's Structural Engineering Institute and ASCE Continuing Education.

Purpose and Background

Retaining walls can be found in most properties containing buildings and structures. Ranging from small landscape stone walls to enormous soil-retaining engineering marvels, these structural elements can be constructed with a variety of materials and construction techniques. Some installations perform better than others – and some occasionally fail. This webinar provides a practical primer on the design and construction of reliable soil-retaining structures and on avoiding their failures.

The instructor explains which retaining wall designs have suffered more than their share of problems, what these problems tend to be, and how a prudent designer and builder can stay out of trouble. A number of actual failures are discussed that involve both engineered and non-engineered systems.

Based on three decades of design, construction, and forensic experience, the instructor explains which designs tend to work better than others and which common details could be improved. He shares the practical tips and details that can help avoid wall failures and discusses what can be done with the walls that have failed or suffered from distress.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn about the main causes of retaining wall failures
  • Become familiar with reliable retaining wall systems

Webinar Benefits

  • Explore the multitude of available retaining wall systems and the factors that influence their reliabilities
  • Discover a common construction detail that invites vertical cracking in unreinforced or lightly-reinforced retaining walls
  • Find out which nonstructural items can make a difference between a well-performing wall and a wall that suffers from distress
  • Examine actual cases where the retaining walls failed

Intended Audience

Structural and civil engineers, contractors and building officials seeking to learn how to avoid failures of retaining walls will benefit from this webinar.

Webinar Outline

  • Introduction
  • The available systems, their strengths and weaknesses
  • A practical overview of general design methods and design assumptions
  • Common causes of wall failures
  • Some design details that should and should not be used
  • Case studies
  • Remediation of failures
  • Conclusion