GEOSYNTHETICS 101: UNDERSTANDING THE USES AND BENEFITS OF GEOSYNTHETICS

Author: Katerina Selezen
Publication: "The Weekly Detour" - March 30, 2016

As maintenance funds take severe cuts and material costs continue to rise, contractors are under pressure to provide enhanced performance on a more economical budget. Construction technologies and practices are progressively evolving and companies are exploring more innovative and efficient building opportunities.

Simultaneously, the impacts of climate change and population growth are collectively stretching government infrastructure budgets. The conservation of resources and energy must be implemented in all daily practices and sustainable methods are becoming obligatory in many cases. High-quality engineered geosynthetics offer solutions for any civil, environmental and geotechnical ventures as they save non-renewable resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Geosynthetic materials can be utilized for all stages of construction to strengthen infrastructure by improving road design, preserving water, controlling evaporation, limiting erosion, and enhancing the longevity, resilience and safety of structures. Most importantly, they protect the environment and promote a stronger planet by conserving energy and the earth’s resources through the production of durable and sustainable structures.

The benefits of geosynthetics are prominent in the design and construction of all types of roads, highways and yards. Threatened by lateral displacement and weakening of base course aggregate, structures deteriorate prematurely. Geogrids are the ideal option for base reinforcement and pavement optimization, both on weak and stable subgrades. They promote aggregate interlock as well as confinement, increase bearing capacity, and distribute load forces, by creating a stable foundation. Ultimately, geosynthetics improve the roadway structure, reduce maintenance cycles and increase its lifespan.

The inclusion of geotextiles in construction practices allows for each layer in the structure to function as intended and prevents mixing of the different soils. The high quality polypropylene fibres used to produce geotextiles ensure that the strong fabric is dimensionally stable and resistant to damage. The materials also retain soil particles while allowing for the free flow of water, which is excellent for filtration of soils in drainage applications. This prevents soil movement in erosion control measures, and stabilizes road and railway construction.

In paved structures, surface cracking is a common problem which leads to water infiltration, subsequently accelerating deterioration. To avoid this, there must be ample reinforcement between the leveling and surface courses. Using a grid configuration that features fiberglass strands coated with elastomeric polymer, forms a moisture barrier and stress strain absorption layer, preventing the spread of cracks and blocking water from seeping in. This increases the structure’s resistance to reflective and fatigue cracking, extending roadway lifespan and reducing associated costs.

When working on unpaved structures, aggregate layer thickness varies based on several factors, including axle loads, vehicle passes and subgrade strength. Unpaved surfaces are at risk of developing potholes and deteriorating when weak subgrades are subjected to heavy loads and intense traffic. Geosynthetic materials are an inexpensive and sustainable way to reduce aggregate and preserve the quality of unpaved surfaces, diminishing the need for frequent maintenance. Furthermore, when fewer loads of aggregate are needed, less gas is burned by haul trucks. This results in a decreased amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and helps lessen the effects of climate change.

With a wealth of environmental, economic and technical benefits, geosynthetics support a desired quality of life while decreasing the carbon footprint, making them a fundamental component for a sustainable future. Companies like Nilex Inc., which provide a full line of geosynthetic solutions, can assist builders in making the smart choice. Aside from constructing safe, resilient and long-lasting structures, by implementing state-of-the-art geosynthetic materials and design technologies, you will be engineering a response to the current environmental situation.