Aug 20, 2015
Fencing and railing placed at the top of retaining walls are critical to safety and are required by code in 48 states to prevent people from falling. Railing failures are a common challenge when placed near retaining walls and it can be tough to ensure these safety barriers meet building codes and are secure over time.
The Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Grand Rapids, MI needed to ensure the fencing planned along retaining walls throughout its 20-acre campus would be safe now and in the future. Retaining walls were used on the campus to stabilize grade changes near an outdoor amphitheater, to stabilize a walkway between an irrigation pond and a ball field, and to fortify a steep slope between the park and a residential neighborhood. Engineers needed to ensure fencing along these walls would meet code and keep visitors safe for years to come. Placing a three-foot buffer zone between the fencing and the walls (a technique used in the past to meet code) would waste valuable space and was not always possible.
The Landscape Architecture & site planning firm of RJM Design Inc. with their Civil Engineering consultant Driesenga & Associates Inc. turned to the Sleeve-It Rail Integration System from Strata to meet the fencing challenges. Sleeve-it is a patented fence-post anchoring system that integrates stable fence footings into the support structure of retaining walls during construction. Landscape contractor Twin Lakes Nursery installed the Sleeve-it units as part of the retaining wall construction, maximizing time-efficiency and shortening construction time.
At the center’s amphitheater, a 4’ high black chain link fence was anchored with Sleeve-it above a 15’ tall x 300’ long vegetated retaining wall constructed of galvanized welded wire forms.
In another area of the site, a block retaining wall would separate an irrigation pond and a baseball field. A 100’ black vinyl-clad chain link fence anchored with Sleeve-it units was installed at the top of the wall to provide a safe walkway protecting pedestrians and ball players.
The same type of fencing was also placed above a large 12’-15’ high block retaining wall, which reinforced a steep slope between the community center and a residential neighborhood. Again, the fencing was stabilized with Sleeve-it rail stabilization units spaced every 8-10 feet.
Thanks to good engineering and Sleeve-it, fencing throughout the community center is code compliant, providing long-term safety for the community and peace of mind for engineers, wall designers and community center managers.
Rigorous laboratory and field-testing have proven that the Sleeve-it system’s design ensures load transfer from fence structures to reinforced soil and away from the face of segmental retaining walls.
“I don’t know of another system that will ensure code compliant fencing with a retaining wall. It’s a great solution to solve safety issues and keep fencing from interfering with modular block retaining walls,” says Craig Newhouse of RJM Design.