Those Who Build the Buildings

Those Who Build the Buildings

Commercial Rockfall Protection Systems: A Beginner's Guide

Ashley Hart

Rockfall, the falling, bouncing, rolling, or sliding of rocks and rock fragments down mountain slopes, is a common natural hazard that threatens roads, train tracks, trails, structures, and even lives worldwide. When dealing with rockfall, there are many factors to consider. These considerations include the average size and weight of the rocks, the size and weight of the unstable surface, the angle and configuration of the slope, and the physical and mechanical properties of the soil. With lives at stake and so many factors to consider, it's no wonder that a robust array of commercial rockfall products and solutions have been developed to combat this dangerous phenomenon. There are three main categories of commercial rockfall protection systems: nets, barriers, and catchments. Each features various subcategories. With so many choices, it's easy for analysis paralysis to set in when deciding which option to choose for your next construction project. To help you make the right decision, here is a beginner's guide to commercial rockfall protection systems.


The first category is wire mesh net systems, also known as drapery. The nets are typically made of high-tensile steel that is draped over the slope. The subtypes include standard draped mesh nets and anchored mesh nets. Standard draped mesh nets are used on gentle slopes where they are draped over the ground to control the flow of rocks and debris. Anchored mesh nets are used on steeper slopes where additional reinforcement is necessary to keep them in place. These nets are secured with steel nails and anchors that are driven into the soil. Due to their ability to conform to any slope, wire mesh net systems are very versatile and low maintenance. However, they also have minor disadvantages. Wire mesh nets are limited to areas with smaller rocks and may form hard-to-reach pockets of debris that need to be cleaned out.


The second category is barrier systems. These barriers, which can be made out of a variety of materials, are placed at the bottom of a slope to catch rocks and debris. The subcategories include earthen barriers, concrete barriers, structural walls, flexible barriers, and attenuators. Earthen barriers are made of natural soil and rocks or mechanically stabilized earth and blend in well with their surroundings. Concrete barriers and structural walls are made out of various forms of concrete, and flexible barriers and attenuators are made of high-tensile steel wire mesh netting. All barriers are capable of withstanding the significant impact associated with larger rocks. Due to catching rocks and debris at the bottom of a slope, barrier catchment areas are relatively easy to clean. The recurring maintenance associated with removing the collected rocks and debris is the sole disadvantage of barrier systems.


As you can see, there are several categories of commercial rockfall protection systems, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Now that you've read the beginner's guide, you should have a clearer picture of which commercial rockfall protection system will work best for you.


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