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General Design

Retained Soil Walls are a composite result of the use of galvanized mesh interacting with soil backfill. The system is comprised of the following components: precast facing panels, galvanized mesh, joint materials, hardware and connectors. The concrete facing panels provide an aesthetic appearance while retaining the backfill material. The soil reinforcement provides the tensile strength required to mechanically stabilize the MSE mass. MSE walls perform in the same manner as a gravity wall where the lateral resistance is a function of the dead weight of the reinforced soil mass.
The design life and service life are typically rated at 75 years for permanent structures per AASHTO specifications. Critical structures will require 100 year design life and will be incorporated if necessary. Critical structures include those in which poor performance or failure would result in severe consequences.
Various site-specific project criteria should be identified prior to design of MSE Structures. The following is a list of items that will be required:
  • Project Layout: Plan view of the proposed retaining walls identifying location relative to roadways, bridges, slopes or other objects. Wall offsets from the centerline of roadway or baseline to the wall control point. Wall control point can be located at the front face of coping or front face of panel as directed. The beginning and ending wall stations should also be included. Sometimes, the retaining wall will have its own alignment.
  • Obstruction Locations: Locations and sizes of obstructions which will impose on the MSE wall structure such as inlets, light poles, signs, or other structures.
  • Obstruction Details: Any drainage, light poles, sign supports, drilled shafts or other structures should have details provided by the owner.
  • Wall Layouts: Top and bottom of wall elevations and finished grade elevations along with any embedment requirements. See figures 1 & 2 below.
  • Cross-Sectional Views: Typical cross sections at the wall locations with appropriate dimensions. Sections should represent the entirety of the different cross-sections present on the project.
  • Minimum Length of Reinforcement: Typically, the minimum reinforcement length is 0.7*Design Height for MSE walls. Longer lengths may be required if surcharge loads or weak foundation materials are present or if recommended by the Geotechnical Site Investigation.
  • External Loads: Any external loads acting on the MSE wall shall be identified and incorporated in the design. External loads may include but are not limited to the following:
    • Soil surcharge loads due to geometry
    • Surcharge loads due to traffic above wall
    • Impact loads from traffic barrier rail attached to MSE structure
    • True abutment loads from abutment footings.
  • Seismic Loads: Site classes should be determined based on site location. The acceleration coefficient will be specified by the owner, or by acceleration coefficient maps.
  • Special Loading Conditions: MSE walls built near streams and rivers shall be analyzed for the effects of hydrostatic pressures, which are typically a 3’-0” drawdown condition. The drawdown condition represents the difference in height of water between the front face of panel, and that contained within the MSE mass.
  • 100 year flood plain elevations: Buoyant analysis will be required if the MSE structure will be subject to any inundation or storm waters. Hydrostatic loadings and drawdown conditions will all need to be revealed and considered for MSE wall design. With the presence of these conditions, a granular, free-draining backfill material is typically required.
  • Select backfill properties: The properties of the select backfill material are required to determine the internal stability of the MSE wall. The following properties should be provided: density, cohesion, friction angle.
  • Existing/Embankment Material Properties: The properties of the retained embankment fill shall be provided to determine the structural stability of the MSE structure: density, cohesion, friction angle.
  • Abutment Details: Details at abutments will be required to apply all applicable loadings to the MSE walls. Important information includes: height between top of wall and top of roadway, distance between face of MSE wall and abutment backwall, drilled shaft size and location, abutment footing size and any additional horizontal loads required.
  • Global Stability: This examines the overall stability of the wall structure in combination with the retained and foundation soil.
Temporary earth wire wall structures are typically required to have a design life of 36 months or less. Sacrificial steel loss for all soil reinforcement is typically considered for this type of structure due to the absence of galvanization for soil reinforcement. Temporary Earth Wire Walls generally have a wire facing in lieu of a precast concrete panel. If any temporary structures are present, all above information may need to be provided for proper structural analysis.

MSEpro Instructions

Enter Geometry Input for the MSE Wall Elevation. This can be accomplished by entering all appropriate geometry data into the Manual Entry boxes provided.
This can also be done by selecting the “Download Template” text at the upper right corner of the geometry input section. Save the Excel template, and enter the data within the template per the instructions and definitions. Data may be entered for geometry and design, or just geometry. Once the data is entered, select the “Upload Data” button at the upper right corner of the geometry input section. This will automatically populate the geometry input section. The data can then be modified with any manual adjustments.
You should now see a general representation of your MSE Wall Elevation.
Enter Design Parameter information. This can be accomplished by entering all appropriate geometry data into the Manual Entry boxes provided
This can also be done by entering the data within the Excel Template previously downloaded per the instructions and definitions provided. Once the data is entered, select the “Upload Data” button at the upper right corner of the geometry input section. This will automatically populate the Design Parameter section. The data can then be modified with any manual adjustments
Note: In order for the backfill to be properly calculated for abutment situations, it is necessary for the variable “a” (distance from back of panels to back face of end bent) to have a value within the design parameters. Use the Design Set box in the Geometry Input table to indicate where specific Design Set parameters occur along the MSE Wall. Indicate the design set number at the column on the right-hand side of the Geometry Input Manual Entry. The program is set-up so that the design set will be applicable for the subsequent stations until another design set number is selected. Design Set labels will appear on the MSE Wall Elevation.
Make sure that the “General requirements” section is filled out appropriately. Panel size is shown in a height x length format. The leveling pad thickness is typically 0.5’. Also choose the design code and the soil reinforcement type.
Select items within the Legend to appear in the visual MSE Wall Elevation screen at the top of the page.
A plan view at the top left corner of the MSE Wall Elevation can be toggled on and off with the plan view button.
Output quantities are provided for reference.
Definitions of terms:
  • Total Area: The area from beginning to end of wall between the top of leveling pad and the top of coping for the wall.
  • Panel Area: The sum of the area of the individual panels.
  • Backfill Volume: This is based from the sum of the products of incremental areas at each panel column (excluding 2’ below the top of coping along the length of the wall) multiplied by the reinforcement lengths.
  • Panel Totals: “A” panels are center panels within a panel column, “B” panels are bottom panels within a panel column, “T” panels are top panels within a panel column, “BT” panels function as both a bottom and top panel within a panel column.
Additional projects/walls may be created in the Navigation Dashboard on the left-hand side of the app screen.
Reference other manuals for more detailed MSE info.