Geosynthetics April/May 2021 - 17

Development of a new design
method for geosyntheticreinforced RPEs
By Pietro Rimoldi and Nicola Brusa

R

apid and extreme climate change is putting our planet under stress. As a
consequence, in mountain and hilly regions, infrastructure and people
are more often threatened by quick and unpredictable rockfall events. Falling
boulders can have extremely high speeds, exceeding 11 mph (5 m/s) and up to
67 mph (30 m/s); these events involve a complex pattern of movement (e.g.,
detachment, fall, rolling, sliding, bouncing) of one or more rock fragments.
Rockfall protection embankments (RPEs) have proven to be a safe
measure for protecting people, structures and infrastructure from rockfall
events (Figure 1). These mitigation measures can be done as unreinforced
or reinforced earth embankments and designed to absorb medium- to highenergy impacts (1,000-30,000 kJ). Depending on their construction, these
structures may also withstand multiple impacts.
RPEs can be constructed in various shapes and sizes to suit the site, and
with a range of internal reinforcing elements and facing materials (soil, riprap, cushion facing). They work through a combination of deformation and
internal compaction to absorb the energy imparted by falling rock blocks.
They have been used since the 1970s, and many research programs have
been executed with a focus on improving their design and ability to resist
the impact.

RPEs design
RPEs play an important protective role, but their design is based on simplistic approaches, and, even if specific and rather complex research has been
performed, the vast majority of existing structures has been designed with
basic approaches, considering dynamics only to a minor extent (Figure 2 on
page 18). In addition, there are no existing guidelines on the performance of
reinforced RPEs. Reinforced RPEs could provide further advantages, such as

Pietro Rimoldi, P.E., is an
independent geosynthetic
consultant engineer based in
Milan, Italy.
Nicola Brusa, CEng, is an
independent geosynthetic
consultant engineer at Tailor
Engineering, U.K.
All figures courtesy of the authors unless otherwise noted

www.GeosyntheticsMagazine.com

17


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Geosynthetics April/May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Geosynthetics April/May 2021

Geosynthetics April/May 2021 - Cover1
Geosynthetics April/May 2021 - Cover2
Geosynthetics April/May 2021 - 1
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Geosynthetics April/May 2021 - Cover3
Geosynthetics April/May 2021 - Cover4
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