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«A Design Guide for Earth Retaining Structures Hugh Brooks Civil & Structural Engineer John P. Nielsen Civil & Geotechnical Engineer Basics of ...»

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Basics of

Retaining Wall Design

10 th Edition

A Design Guide for Earth Retaining Structures

Hugh Brooks

Civil & Structural Engineer

John P. Nielsen

Civil & Geotechnical Engineer

Basics of

Retaining Wall Design 10 th Edition

A Design Guide for Earth Retaining Structures

About the authors...

Contents at a glance: APPENDIX

HUGH BROOKS has been a consulting

1. About Retaining Walls; Terminology A. Summary of Design Equations structural engineer for over 40 years

2. Design Procedure Overview with Code References and is a licensed civil and structural

3. Soil Mechanics Simplified B. Uniform System for engineer in California. He has managed

4. Building Codes and Retaining Walls Classification of Soils (USCS) Retain Pro Software for over fifteen

5. Forces on Retaining Walls C. Masonry Design Data years and has authored four

6. Earthquake (Seismic) Design D. Development and Lap Lengths engineering and construction related

7. Soil Bearing and Stability E. Sample Construction Notes books. He writes and resides in

8. Designing the Cantilever Wall Stem F. Conversion Factors Newport Beach, California.

9. Footing Design G. Reinforcing Bar Basics

10. Pier and Pile Foundations and US / Metric Conversions JOHN P. NIELSEN, Ph.D, is a licensed

11. Counterfort Retaining Walls H. Reference Bibliography civil and geotechnical engineer in

12. Cantilevered Tilt-Up Walls I. Notations and Symbols

–  –  –


Publishing Since 1992 Newport Beach, California www.hbap.com Note !!

This document contains only selected pages from the full document.

The intent is to give you an idea of the content, quality, and illustrations of the full book.

Thank you for taking look inside!

Basics of Retaining Wall Design


Why This Book?

The User

Why It Was Written?

Scope of This Book


1.  About Retaining Walls

Evolution of Retaining Structures

A Definition

Types of Earth Retaining Structures

What The Terms Mean

Retaining Wall Terminology

2.  Design Procedure Overview

Design Criteria Checklist

Establish the Design Criteria

Basic Design Principals for Cantilevered Walls

Step-by-Step Design of a Cantilevered Retaining Wall

Design of a Restrained Retaining Wall

3.  Soil Mechanics Simplified

A Soil Primer

When is a Foundation Investigation Required?

The Foundation Investigation Report

The Soil Wedge Theory

Explanation of Terms

Angle of internal friction

Soil Bearing Values

Hugh’s Pickle Jar Test

The Precision Illusion

4.  Building Codes and Retaining Walls

What Building Code(s) Apply To My Project?

Building Codes

Referenced Codes - Publications

5.  Forces and Loads On Retaining Walls

Determining Loads and Forces

Lateral Earth Pressures

The Coulomb Formula

The Rankine Formula

Surcharge Loads

Wind Loads

Water Table Conditions

Detention Ponds/Flood Walls

Cascading Walls

Vertical Loads

Lateral Impact Loading

Page ivTABLE OF CONTENTSBasics of Retaining Wall Design

6.  Earthquake (Seismic) Design

Earthquakes – An Overview

When is Seismic Design Required for Retaining Walls?

Seismic Design Background

Mononobe-Okabe Equation

Seismic for Stem Self-weight

7.  Designing The Cantilever Wall Stem

Basics of Stem Design

Dowels from Footing into the Stem

Horizontal Temperature and Shrinkage Reinforcing

Key at Stem-Footing Interface

Masonry Stem Design

Concrete Stem Design

8.  Soil Bearing and Stability – Cantilevered Walls

Tabulate Overturning and Resisting Moments

Proportioning Pointers

Overturning Moments

Resisting Moments

Vertical Component of Active Pressure From a Sloped Backfil

Determining Soil Bearing Pressure

Soil Bearing Capacity

Overturning Stability

Sliding Resistance

Footing Keys

Deflection (Tilt) of Walls

Global Stability

9.  Footing Design

Basics of Footing Design

Embedment of Stem Reinforcing Into Footing

Toe Design

Heel Design

Minimum Cover for Footing Reinforcing

Horizontal Temperature and Shrinkage Reinforcing

10. Pier and Pile Foundations

Piles, Piers, and Caissons

When to Use Piles or Piers?

Design Criteria

Pile Design Example

11. Counterfort Retaining Walls



Design Overview

Designing the Wall

Designing the Heel

Designing the Toe

Designing the Counterfort


Page vTABLE OF CONTENTSBasics of Retaining Wall Design

12. Cantilevered Tilt-Up Walls


Construction Sequence

Design Procedure

Free-standing Walls

Erecting the Panels

13. Wood Retaining Walls

14. Gravity Walls


Design procedure

15. Gabion and Multi-Wythe Large Walls



Foundation Pressures

Seismic Design

Gabion Walls Using Mechanically Stabilized Earth

16. Segmental Retaining Walls (SRWs)


Gravity Wall Design

Check Lateral Soil Pressures

The Coulomb Equation

Check Inter-Block Shear

Check Sliding

Check Overturning

Check Soil Bearing Pressure

Soil Bearing Capacity

Seismic Design

Gravity Walls

Geogrid Wall Design

Construction Sequence

About Geogrids

Gather Design Criteria

Select Masonry Units

Determine Lateral Soil Pressures

Select Geogrid

Determine Geogrid Embedment

Determine Depth of Reinforced Soil (total base width)

Check Overturning

CheckSliding at Lowest Geogrid Layer

Check Sliding at Base

Check Soil Bearing Pressure

Soil Bearing Capacity

Seismic Design

Building Codes & Standards

Getting Help

17. Swimming Pool Wall Design

Page viTABLE OF CONTENTSBasics of Retaining Wall Design

18. Pilaster Masonry Walls


Filler Wall Design

Pilaster Design

Footing Design

19. Restrained (Non-YIielding) Walls


Dual Function Walls

At Rest Active Soil Pressure

Seismic Force on Non-Yielding (Restrained) Walls

20. Sheet Pile Walls


Design Procedure


21.  Soldier Beam Walls


Design Procedures

22. Why Retaining Walls Fail and Cost - Effective Fixes

23. Construction Topics and Caveats

Horizontal Control Joints





The Geotechnical Investigation

Forensic Investigations

24. Retaining Wall Design Examples


A. Summary of Design Equations with Code References

B. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)

C. Masonry Design Data

D. Development and Lap Lengths

E. Sample Construction Notes

F. Conversion Factors

G. Reinforcing Bar and US/Metric Conversions

H. Reference Bibliography

I. Notations & Symbols

J. Glossary


–  –  –

This book is intended to cover and explain design practices and building code requirements for the design of earth retaining structures. It is for both the practicing engineer who has become a bit rusty on this complex subject, and for the engineering student who has already acquired a basic knowledge of statics, soil mechanics, and the design of simple masonry and concrete structures. Design review agencies will also find it a useful reference.

Why It Was Written

The design of retaining walls is not an every-day design task. During my many years of providing technical support for Retain Pro software it became increasingly apparent that many engineers infrequently design retaining walls and need some brushing-up, particularly on code requirements. It is also for the civil/structural engineering student to supplement other texts with current design practices and building code requirements.

Although there is a considerable amount of technical information available, it is widely scattered in numerous textbooks and technical papers on soil mechanics, foundation engineering, concrete design, masonry design, and in all sorts of related topics. Despite the many references, a single volume on retaining wall design for the professional practitioner and civil engineering student could not be found.

Hence this attempt to condense, simplify and compile information from many sources, including my own experience, into this book. Hopefully, it will ease your comfort level when designing retaining walls and give you a good overview of the process. For those who want to dig deeper into particular topics a comprehensive bibliography is attached in Appendix H.

Scope of This Book

This book treats design practices for most types of earth retaining structures: conventional cantilevered retaining walls: restrained (basement) walls, gravity walls, and segmental retaining walls both gravity and with geogrids. Other topics include sheet pile walls, tilt-up retaining walls, soldier pile walls, gabion walls, counterfort walls, pilaster walls and walls with pile or pier foundations. A review of basic soil mechanics is also included in this book and the appendix offers useful information including a glossary of terminlogy.

We’ll welcome your feedback. You can contact us at hbrooks@hbapublications.com.

–  –  –

This tenth edition, like its predecessors, become necessary because building codes change – seismic design requirements for example – and as we receive suggestions for topics to be added or expanded. To respond, successive editions have been updated, corrections made and additional materials added. All design examples have been reviewed, corrections made where needed and explanations added. A glossary of terminology has been added to this edition.

Another effort for this edition was to explain many of the topics in more detail so it will be helpful to the engineering student who may be using it as a text. We believe civil engineering students can benefit by learning building code requirements and design practices used by experienced engineers.

This series of editions began in 1996 as a modest companion manual to accompany my work developing Retain Pro software. In successive editions it has grown from 93 pages to 250 in this tenth edition, with many thousands of copies in print.

My objective in each edition was to cover basic design principles and practices in a concise, readable, manner. This book is not an in-depth treatment of the design of retaining structures. Earth retaining structures and soil mechanics are far too complex a subject to treat in a single concise volume. There are dozens of foundation engineering texts and countless technical papers available for review, and of course there is the Internet. However, finding what you need is time consuming; hence this compendium. The challenge was to decide what to put in and what to leave out and to put in the most helpful things a designer – and an advanced engineering student -- need to know to design most types of earth retaining structures. Surely there will be omissions and errors, but the intent is that you will find this book helpful in your practice.

We express appreciation to the many of you who have offered valuable suggestions, corrected errors, read portions of the draft, and faxed informative articles and excerpts from technical papers. My thanks to each of you. We will all benefit from your input.

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