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Rockfall netting and embankments: non-invasive solutions to secure our environment

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Drapery systems can often be installed without interrupting services, whilst embankments can withstand and contain large impacts or debris flows. All without changing the nature of our environment.

Protecting our environment from rockfall means projecting and installing active or passive measures. The first act by preventing rocks detachment, the latter by capturing large rocks or boulders as they detach from the slope. Drapery systems and embankments can achieve these results in perfect harmony with the surrounding environment.

Rockfall can damage infrastructure and interrupt transport links, which also causes heavy economic losses. Sometimes, in mountain regions, tunnel galleries are built over the highways, but this is not always suitable from a cost, space, or aesthatic reasons. Rockfall netting is often selected because it is visually unobtrusive and often it can be installed above highways and infrastructure without interrupting it.

Rockfall mitigation measures can be “active” or “passive”. The first act upon the causes of the rockfall and inhibit its initiation, while the latter control a rockfall once it has occured. The rockfall protection netting acts as “drapery”, controlling the descent of a detached rock to the foot of the slope – always beind the protective curtain of rockfall netting. The technical performance of the mesh system and any anchoring systems used, is determined by the size and frequency of rockfalls or slopes stabilisation expected.

Sometimes, rockfall meshes and drapery systems are not capable of stopping rocks or debris flows and an alternative solution is required; somthing that stops a falling rock, or a debris flow from impacting the infrastructure it is protecting.

Such structures are either rockfall catch fences, debris flow barriers or in extreme cases embankments. An embankment is a passive solution, a large “bund” with steep faces positioned in the expected path of the rockfall or debris flow. They have a rhomboidal cross section and are often constructed from site-won materials (sand, soil). To strengthen the embankments and also to enable steeper faces, soil reinforcement techniques are used, using geogrids.

One of the most valuable features of embankments is that they perfectly blend with the surrounding environment. Being substantially an “extension” of the natural ground, grass and other vegetatation can cover their surface. Another proof that securing our environment does not require invasive infrastructures.

For more information, please contact us.

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