Steep slopes & support structures

Steep slopes are a widespread type of terrain, but the term eludes precise definition. One way of defining the term quantitatively would be to use the structural analysis requirement threshold, which would mean slopes steeper than 1:1.5. Slopes with an inclination of more than 34° would thus be classified as steep slopes.

In their natural form, steep slopes can be found not only in alpine areas, but also near water bodies and coasts. As a result of continued building development in areas where space is restricted, man-made steep embankments are important in the construction of roads, traffic routes and landfill sites, in both urban and rural areas.

If fracture or slip planes occur in such natural or man-made steep slopes due to the shear parameters of the soil being exceeded (e.g. by increasing the load), then steep slope reinforcement or a support structure will be required. In order to stabilise the slope sufficiently, tension members can be incorporated in a layered arrangement. Geosynthetics can be used as reinforcement for this type of construction, which is known as reinforced earth.

Whether slopes are reinforced or not, the erosion resistance of the topsoil must also be taken into account. If the topsoil layer is at risk of erosion, because soil particles can be washed away before the vegetation cover has established itself, for example, then temporary erosion protection can be provided using geosynthetic or natural erosion protection products.

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