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Best Practices for Segmental Retaining Walls Best Practices


The intent of this material is to communicate the best practices for design of Segmental Retaining Walls (SRW) as determined by Allan Block Corporation based on 25 plus years of research, design and field experience. This is not meant to be a final authority as each project has its own set of unique situations.

The local engineer of record must use their best engineering judgment to account for those situations that present themselves and provide a safe and efficient design for the customer. At no time does the contractor or local building official have the authority to override the approved plans and specifications provided from the local engineer of record.

It is the recommendation of Allan Block Corporation that the local engineer of record work for and be paid by the project owner. It has been determined that the local engineer of record should be the Project Site Civil Engineer as they are best suited to take responsibility for the design, and how it affects the site, whether they do the design in-house or use an outside consultant to do the design for the project.

The Project Site Civil Engineer has control of several of the overall aspects of the project and therefore is most able to properly handle the integration and communication required to ensure the performance of the wall complies with the needs of the site. For wall design applications that are outside of the experience level of the Project Site Civil Engineer, a wall designer with the appropriate knowledge and experience should be contracted with by the Project Site Civil Engineer. It is recommended that the wall contractor not be responsible for securing the engineering.

last updated: 1/14/2022

Chapter 4: Water Management - Alternate Drain

Alternate Drain

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Click on the topics below to view more information on the best practices for Allan Block segmental retaining wall design for residental and commercial applications.

Design Guidelines Item: The term, "owner" refers to the property owner or their designated representative.

4.1    Alternate Drain Locations

4.1   Location, type, and venting of drain pipes.

  1. When the drain pipe must be raised to accommodate outlets through the wall face.
    1. Low permeable granular soils should be used to create a shelf inside the mass, level to the height of the finished grade outside the wall to prevent water from ponding below grade. See Allan Block Design Detail – Alternate Drain, in the Allan Block Spec Book.

4.2    Heel Drain Recommendations

4.2   A heel drain should be specified for sites whenever grid is used or where migrating water from behind the mass is possible.

water management heel drain

Figure 4-1: Typical Drain with Heel Drain

  1. The purpose of the heel drain is to pick up any water that migrates from behind the retaining wall structure at the cut, and route the water away from the reinforced mass during construction and for incidental water for the life of the structure.
  2. The piping used at the back of the reinforced mass shall have a 1% minimum gradient over the length, but it is not critical for it to be positioned at the very bottom of the cut
  3. The heel drain should be vented at 100 ft (30 m) intervals along the entire length of the wall and should not be tied into the toe drain system.
  4. The pipe may be a rigid pipe with holes at the bottom or a corrugated perforated flexible pipe.
  5. For infill soils with a high percentage of sand and/or gravel the heel drain pipe does not need to be surrounded by wall rock. When working with soils containing fine grained cohesive soils having a PI of greater than 6 and LL of 30 or greater, 0.03 m³ of drainage rock is required around the pipe for each 30 cm of pipe length.