The reinforced soil retaining walls have become very common because of their versatility as compared to the conventional concrete retaining walls. Although these walls are in existence for about 40 years, their design is based on many conservative assumptions. In the absence of much prior experience, these empirical procedures were developed with sufficiently large factors of safety. A rational understanding of the behavior of these walls will lead to better designs and more reliability. In this regard, this paper first highlights the assumptions made in the current design procedures of reinforced soil retaining walls. A 6 m high retaining wall is designed using the current design procedures to determine the length and vertical spacing of reinforcement layers. The behavior of such wall is analyzed using the finite element method to assess the validity of the assumptions made in the design of these walls. The finite element analyses have been performed using a program developed by the authors. The elastic-plastic nature of the soil and the limited strength of the reinforcement materials are simulated during the analyses. The results from these analyses are discussed in the light of many assumptions made during the design of these walls.


The reinforced soil retaining walls have been in existence for over 30 years. Their performance has been studied in detail by many researchers in the past to understand their behavior and develop appropriate design methods. These studies have included laboratory studies (Bathurst et al 1987, Wu et al 1992), field monitoring (Won et al 1994, Snowdon et al 1998) and finite element based simulations (Rajagopal and Bathurst 1992, 94 and 95, Ho and Rowe 1996 etc). For the design purposes, the reinforced soil retaining walls are into two parts i.e backfill and infill soils.

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