The use of segmental retaining walls (SRW) on large commercial and transportation projects has declined along with the slowing economy. Many producers are hoping to see larger highway projects coming soon.
This may occur, as the states begin to dispense funds from the Simulus Bill passed in February. Highways and bridges account for $27.5 billion of the spending. This measure is “the largest increase in funding of our nation's roads, bridges, and mass transit systems since the creation of the national highway system in the 1950s,” the Obama administration says.
One reason for this cautious optimism in SRW construction is that many block system licensees are introducing new systems design engineers will find competitive versus other soil retention and slope protection systems. One of these new systems is Pedallion LC, which was introduced to a national audience at the ICON Expo in February.
Pedallion is an up-and-coming segmental retaining wall block manufacturer in American Fork, Utah. The small company aspires to compete against the biggest names in retaining wall block with what it says are significant design advantages in its new product.
Each Pedallion stone measures 32x16 inches, and provides 3.5 square feet of coverage. With a thin, 3-inch face, the 95-pound stones are light enough to be placed by hand, allowing for quicker installation and lower shipping costs. Pedallion was recently shipped from Utah to a job in New York and was still cost-competitive, according to sales manager Stephen Mateer.
The large lightweight retaining wall system is also strong for its size. The stone face is made of 5000 psi concrete, with fibers and coated steel reinforcement, providing up to 14,000 pounds of tensile strength. Geomesh is mechanically attached to each stone with a patent-pending attachment system. In independent testing, the system held up to 7000 pounds of force, or more than four times what most engineers estimate a retaining wall would ever experience.
Taking it on the road
The Utah Department of Transportation recently approved Pedallion's products, and the manufacturer's licensees are poised to take on more infrastructure work across the country. “Most of the work our licensees have done so far has been commercial,” says Mateer. “Now they are mostly bidding on large infrastructure jobs.”
Mateer has a theory about why pre-cast SRW products are popular: They look better. New, wet pour precast stone offers the landscape architect more design, textures, and color options. Wet cast retaining walls can give the look of natural stone in almost any shade or blend of color (see below). Pedallion's stone is available in a flat, chiseled stone or smaller stone look with eight mold textures to create a varied pattern. Color is added with concrete stain or paint.
As his company secures more licensees, Mateer predicts more DOT approvals. To prepare, Pedallion is developing new production equipment and is building plants for licensees to operate. “The market is soft right now, but we're not going to sit back and wait until it gets better,” says Mateer. “We're developing a quicker, more efficient production process that reduces the overhead cost of each block.” With a mold turnaround time of 14 hours, the automated production equipment can produce 1600 blocks per day.