Biodynamic timber sheet pile walls: vegetation retaining structure

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Abstract

Timber sheet pile walls are widely used for the protection of stream banks in different parts of the world. However, there is a tendency to create more sustainable types of stream banks not only because exploitable wood is more difficult to obtain, but also because of disturbance to the natural habitat of plants and animals due to hard embankments. In the Netherlands alone, about 2500 km of engineered timber sheet pile wall embankments exist, primarily made with tropical hardwood, besides an even much larger amount of ‘non-engineered’ small-size timber-based embankments. As an alternative, the authors propose to use a mixed timber sheet pile-vegetation system, where locally available timber can be applied in combination with natural vegetation. Unlike the usual bioengineering scheme, vegetation is not seen as an element, which could replace the timber sheet piles. Instead, a new perspective is tested, where the vegetation is included as a ‘structural’ element which can even counteract the consequences of time-dependent biological degradation of the timber sheet pile. By doing so, both long-term durability as well as reliability of the stream bank is improved. A comprehensive design strategy was developed based on well-established sub-models from the literature on plant growth, root reinforcement as well as timber damage accumulation. The timber sheet pile wall-vegetation system is illustrated in an example case study. Preliminary analysis including only the mechanical reinforcement of vegetation shows that there is a decrease in moment and shear acting on the timber sheet pile with growth of the vegetation. Consequently, the damage accumulation due to load duration effects on the timber decreases and the service life of the system increases. Thus, using vegetation in combination with highly degradable timber could possibly negate the need for using hardwood timber, or more generally, save resources that are currently used for these structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1055
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Wood and Wood Products
Volume78
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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