Very Long-Term Care of Mechanically Stabilized Earth Berms: Limiting the Liability of Future Stakeholders

by R. David Espinoza, P.E., Ph.D., (M.ASCE), Principal Geotechnical Engineer; Geosyntec Consultants, Columbia, MD,,
Jeremy W.F. Morris, P.E., Ph.D., Senior Engineer; Geosyntec Consultants, Columbia, MD,,

Serial Information: Geo-Strata —Geo Institute of ASCE, 2015, Vol. 19, Issue 2, Pg. 42-47

Document Type: Feature article


Since their development over 50 years ago, civil engineering applications of mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) berms have significantly increased. When used as a component of an asset with limited service life, such as a commercial development, bridge abutment, or highway embankment, the design life of an MSE berm typically matches that of the primary asset (e.g., 30-50 years). As the infrastructure supported by such structures is designed to be in service continuously, care of the berm is included as part of the project's overall operation and maintenance (O&M) program. Providing for the long-term integrity of berms in these applications is not addressed in this article. But when an MSE berm is used as an integral component of a structure with a post-operational life that may extend for centuries or even in perpetuity, it is appropriate to ask what provisions have been made for maintaining the long-term structural integrity and safety of the berm. This is particularly important where the successful performance of the facility depends on the stability of the MSE berm itself, for example at containment facilities for mining spoils, combustion byproducts, or municipal/industrial solid wastes.

Subject Headings: Berms | Structural safety | Municipal wastes | Highway bridges | Highway and road design | Bridge components | Bridge abutments


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