Earthquake response of reinforced segmental retaining walls backfilled with substantial percentage of fines

Hoe I. Ling, Dov Leshchinsky, Yoshiyuki Mohri, Jui Pin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This paper reports on the seismic performance of three geosynthetic-reinforced segmental retaining wall systems backfilled witha silty sand mixture, using a shaking table excited by 1995 Kobe earthquake loadings. The preparation of the backfill mixture and its properties, the tested wall configurations, the reinforcement layouts and instrumentations, and the observed wall performance are described. Visual observations and test results indicate that walls having 0.4-m vertical reinforcement spacing, backfilled with soil containing a large percentage of fines, performed better than those having good-quality sandy soil under otherwise identical conditions. Vertical spacing of 0.8 m with removal of interlocking facing blocks in one of the walls did not lead to global collapse under repeated applications of the Kobe earthquake loadings. Only localized shear failure behind the top block layer was observed as thetop facing blocks tended to topple. The good performance was attributable to apparent cohesion in the soil mixture stemming from soil matrix suction and true cohesion. Because this apparent cohesion is affected by the moisture content, its existence must be ensured by providing proper drainage to prevent seepage into the backfill. Considering the risk associated with the use of apparent cohesion, its exclusion from design is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)934-944
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2012


  • Earthquake
  • Geosynthetics
  • Low-Quality backfill
  • Modular block
  • Reinforced soil retaining wall
  • Seismic response
  • Silty clay


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