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GROUND REINFORCEMENT 35 HOUSING BENEFITS


Alternative ground engineering solutions, such as those incorporating geogrids, can play a vital part in meeting the UK’s future housing needs. Jonathan Cook of Tensar explains.


country’s housing crisis. To ensure they can meet this target, it is crucial for housebuilders to maximise land use, minimise construction costs and deliver new homes as quickly as possible, while maintaining profitability.


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This essentially boils down to mitigating risk – a large proportion of which is in the ground. It is incredibly difficult to predict every possible situation arising during construction, but designing to actual ground conditions can deliver more appropriate solutions, mitigate risks and ultimately add more value. This does not necessarily mean spending more money, but requires a change of approach from traditional solutions to acceptance of ‘alter- native’ value engineered designs. Geogrids, for example, have been used on thousands of residential schemes around the world and on hundreds of projects in the UK, allowing developers to build new homes and associated infrastructure over a wide range of ground conditions, particu- larly weak and saturated soils. However, designs incorporating geogrids are sometimes viewed as ‘new’ or ‘alterna- tive’ solutions and, as a result, are sometimes rejected in favour of more tradi- tional approaches. This is despite three decades of empirical evidence and independently-verified research demon- strating how geogrids have helped improve construction efficiency, mitigate risk and reduce delays. Geogrids can be, and have been, used at every stage of a housing project. They can control differential settlement in capping layers, maximise development space by creating steep slopes, deliver thinner and better-performing temporary access roads and working platforms, and can help build long-lasting and low-maintenance perma- nent roads.


MAXIMISING DEVELOPMENT SPACE With a shortage of suitable land for housing across the UK, housebuilders need to maximise available development space. This can mean creating a level area for construction, supported by perimeter


he UK Government is committed to building hundreds of thousands of homes a year to meet the


retaining walls, or steepening slopes on the edge of the site to extend the site’s useable area.


The conventional approach is to build reinforced concrete walls, but these can be expensive to build. Those using geogrid to reinforce soil behind block, gabion or vegetated facing, however, can deliver the same level of performance (and slope heights and angles). They are also faster and more economical to construct, with the added benefit that they provide a more aesthetically-pleasing finish. Reinforced soil structures can also serve as noise and visual barriers to both homeowners and those living next to the new development.


PROVIDING SAFE WORKING AREAS Providing safe working areas is critical on any construction project, particularly on weak and variable ground. Geogrids improve the performance of granular fill used for working platforms, increasing bearing capacity so the ground can support heavy loads from cranes and other construc- tion plant.


Load-spread designs incorporating geogrids, in line with ‘BR470: Use of ‘struc- tural geosynthetic reinforcement’ – A BRE review seven years on’, backed by perform-


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ance testing, have been proven to deliver thinner platforms, shorten construction times and reduce materials use, compared with conventional approaches.


UNPAVED ACCESS ROADS & PERMANENT ROADS


Much in the same way as working platforms, geogrids can be used to mechan- ically stabilise aggregate layers of unsurfaced access roads, improving their performance and enabling them to support construction traffic.


Once homes are finished, temporary roads can form the foundations of perma- nent infrastructure, including highways


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