September 1 2010

Build a Smart(er) Slope - The Power of Modularity

SmartSlope Rear ViewSmartSlope ElevationSmartSlopeSmartSlope is an innovative vegetated modular concrete retaining wall system that uses 50% less concrete than traditional concrete unit retaining walls. The product can be used in residential and commercial applications and is especially well suited for infrastructure and waterfront installations. The simple beauty of the system is that each block is backfilled with soil and provides both structural 'retaining' as well as a cozy home for plants. The walls can retain slopes ranging from 50-70 degrees and can be stacked to create straight, curved, and angled walls.

Currently Ziger/Snead is researching SmartSlope for use in The Center for Parks and People at Auchentoroly Terrace given that the scope of the project includes restoration of a 9 acre site which was once part of Baltimore's beautiful Druid Hill Park.

Modularity has always been essential to architecture and the composition of the modules can significantly affect the sustainability of a building or system. Consider that modules imply that one unit (usually scaled so that it is easily held and manipulated by by the crafts-person) can be arranged to create fantastic variation when aggregated into complex patterns. In general, the modules are made from readily available materials, are inexpensive to manufacture, and are good at bearing loads. Another important characteristic is that modules used in architecture (Concrete Masonry Units, Bricks, Aerated Concrete, Cast Stone, Stone) are produced in significant quantities. What that means is that the embodied energy of each unit in terms of transportation, raw material gathering, production, and installation gets multiplied millions of times and so that the measured sustainability of each unit has a big influence on the system as a whole. In the case of SmartSlope the 50% reduction is concrete over traditional retaining walls might translate to a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions, less transportation cost and emissions, less weight when installing the product. Couple that with a green vegetated retaining wall in lieu of a wall of concrete and I think SmartSlope is a winner.

For more information please visit SmartSlope or take a look at the following video:

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