When planning to build infrastructure in mountainous areas, it is important to assess avalanche hazard and implement engineered solutions that mitigate risks to life and property.
Mountainous areas are characterized by landforms that allow very limited options when developing infrastructure that may be linear, such as roadways and railways, or when developing residential areas vulnerable to avalanches. Anticipation and preparation is key. Several engineered solutions using Reinforced Earth® MSE walls exist and have proven to be very effective as part of avalanche protection applications.
Avalanche barriers, splitter walls & catching dams
Avalanches produce tremendous amounts of energy that require solutions that absorb and diffuse energy. The design of these solutions require engineering expertise backed with full-scale testing, field experience and know-how.
Terre-Armée has worked with local authorities in several locations across Europe, Latin America and Asia to develop tailored solutions. See our references for the works performed at sites in Seyðisfjörður and Ísafjörður, Iceland.
The construction of embankments faced with steel mesh are an excellent option to build avalanche barriers, splitters and catching dams with facing angles that can vary from 34° to 75°. Terre Armée offers the TerraTrel® and GeoTrel® engineered solutions. These structures are built of steel mesh facing with soil reinforcements comprised of either steel or geosynthetics.
These solutions have the advantage of being made of lightweight elements that are easily transportable and that do not require specific lifting machinery for installation. This is especially beneficial when the structures are to be built in remote mountainous areas that are not easily accessible for heavy equipment.
Barrier systems are designed on a site-to-site basis to protect infrastructure, utilities, buildings, reforestation, and lives from avalanches.
Snow nets, snow rakes and steel snow bridges are installed in the initiation zones to prevent avalanches from forming. Static defense structures, snow catchment fences/ barriers are used which effectively reduces the run-out length of an avalanche. these static defence structures help to prevent snow avalanches from starting in their first stage of occurrence.
Sheds and galleries
Avalanche protection sheds and galleries using TechSpan® precast arches, and TechBox™ precast boxes are other options that have proven to be efficient for avalanche protection applicatinos. Adjoining retaining walls built within narrow excavation limits are often designed using TechWall™ or T-Wall®.
In countries presenting areas with a high level of risk of avalanche, local authorities often develop their own processes that consist of identifying, monitoring and implementing proactive control measures. For these highly prone areas, programs are in place in which engineers purposely trigger controlled avalanches through the use of explosives, for instance. These measures that reduce the risks of uncontrolled, massive avalanches to occur, while effective, are very expensive and impact the surrounding fauna and therefore require frequent restoration and maintenance operations.
Terre Armée engineered avalanche barriers and splitter walls are more economical, in addition to being highly durable and easy to install, with little or no maintenance requirements.