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Solutions for the Prevention of Soil Erosion on Construction Sites

The Environmental and Economic Impacts of Soil Erosion

Soil is an invaluable natural resource, comprising an array of nutrients that covers the Earth, like a layer of delicate skin.  Even though it seems vast and resilient, this complex ecosystem tends to deteriorate and lose essential properties due to degrading erosion processes. Soil erosion is caused by natural elements like water and wind, and often accelerated by human activity. Whatever the cause maybe, this is a devastating process that leads to irreparable environmental and economic damages.  Leaving this issue unaddressed may lead to land deterioration, air, and water pollution that can have significant adverse effects on agricultural and construction sectors. For these reasons, soil erosion has been recognized as a serious issue. Numerous professionals have invested their time and effort in devising cost-effective and sustainable solutions to reduce soil erosion.

The Principles of Successful Soil Erosion Prevention

Finding sustainable erosion control solutions for agricultural areas and construction sites is essential for preventing land degradation, sediment runoff, and r water pollution.

Efficient erosion control practices implemented on construction sites rely on firm principles to prevent harmful effects and protect the soil from erosion. Some of the essential soil erosion control principles are:

  • Improve erosion and sediment control to decrease soil deterioration and sediment production
  • Shorten construction phases to limit soil exposure to harmful natural processes as much as possible.
  • Implement perimeter and on-site erosion control practices to slow down erosive velocities and enable sediment to settle out of runoff water before leaving the construction site.
  • Focus on preventing and managing erosion at sites transected by streams or near wetlands that are more sensitive to this harmful process.
  • Monitor and maintain erosion control solutions regularly to ensure their efficiency.

Effective soil erosion control is a demanding process that can prevent the harmful effects of water and wind. It will maintain soil quality on the construction sites if executed by following these principles. Efficient erosion control practices tackle surface stabilization, decrease velocity and energy of runoff water, and reduce the need for sediment control. These are all demanding but essential tasks to be executed to prevent the harmful erosion effects in commercial areas and construction sites.

Efficient Solutions to Ensure Soil Erosion Prevention

Let’s introduce sustainable and cost-effective solutions for areas most at risk of erosion on typical construction sites, such drainage channels, steep slopes and shoreline areas. These solutions aim to provide soil stabilization and reduce the speed and energy of concentrated water flows.

Rolled Erosion Control Products (RECPs) are manufactured from a variety of natural and/or synthetic fibers, filaments and meshes, designed to provide immediate erosion protection, and in some cases, long term vegetation reinforcement.  Erosion control blankets (ECBs) are temporary RECPs that only protect soil surfaces from erosion until vegetative cover is established, and therefore are somewhat limited in effectively preventing erosion on very steep slopes and concentrated flow areas.  If vegetation established with ECBs is sparse or will not sustain the expected long-term site conditions, a permanent Turf Reinforcement Mat (TRM) may be necessary.   TRMs are RECPs made with permanent components to provide both immediate erosion protection and long-term reinforcement for the vegetation.

Turf Reinforcement Mats are permanent erosion solutions that reinforce the vegetation during and after establishment. TRMs are typically made of non-degradable nets, wire mesh, and fibers that ensure the product’s durability. Once properly installed, TRMs provide a certain level of immediate erosion protection while reinforcing vegetation once established. Most conventional TRMs don’t provide a high level of erosion protection until after vegetation establishment. However, some innovative new permanent RECPs  such as the InstaTurf ShearForce Hybrid Turf Instant Armor Products offer rock-solid soil erosion protection before, during and after vegetation establishment, to ensure effective stabilization of high flow areas from day-one of installation.

TRMs have proven through nearly 50 years of use to be cost-effective solutions for protecting many drainage channels, steep slopes, and stream/river/ and canal banks.  They are favorable solutions in areas where vegetation alone cannot resist the expected long-term erosive forces, and riprap is not desired, or too demanding and/or expensive to install.

Hybrid Turf Instant Armor Mats have recently been introduced to the market as more effective soft armor alternatives to rock riprap. These revolutionary new erosion control products utilize simulated turf to protect, grow and permanently reinforce natural vegetation. These products successfully combine the most prominent advantages of soft armor systems with the immediate protection and endurable performance of rock rip-rap.  These products, which include the ShearForce10 Hybrid-Turf Instant Armor Mat and ShearForce12 Hybrid-Turf Instant Armor Scour Mat, are much more effective for immediate, pre-vegetation erosion protection than conventional Turf Reinforcement Mats (TRMs) or High Performance Turf Reinforcement Mats (HPTRMs).  While ShearForce10 Hybrid-Turf Instant Armor Mat is ideal for permanently protecting severe slopes, channels, streambanks, and shorelines, ShearForce12 Hybrid-Turf Instant Armor Scour Mat effectively protects culvert and pipe outfalls, down chutes, and the other turbulent flow areas. Both of these soft armor erosion control products have indisputable advantages over similar soft armor and competing hard armor solutions, including:

  • 3 – 4 times the permissible unvegetated shear stress rating of conventional TRMs and HPTRMs, no waiting on vegetation growth to get rock-like erosion protection
  • Immediate erosion protection equivalent 30-inch diameter rock riprap
  • Lower installed costs than rock riprap and other hard armor.  For example, ShearForce10 Hybrid-Turf Instant Armor Mat is typically 50 to 60 % cheaper than rock riprap
  • Easier long-term maintenance than riprap, just mow over with standard equipment
  • Aesthetically-pleasing with a natural grass-like finish
  • Require no heavy equipment for installation, reducing truck and equipment traffic into and on construction sites, resulting in a much smaller carbon footprint
  • Enhance and permanently reinforce natural vegetation, which allows runoff infiltration, helps filter pollutants from runoff water and reduces thermal pollution
  • Highly UV stable, weather-resistant, and easy-to-install

ACB Systems Provide Effective “Hard” Protection From High-Velocity Flows

 While soft armor erosion control products like TRMs and the new Hybrid Turf Instant Armor Mats have proven to be effective protection in areas experiencing substantial stormwater flows like drainage ditches and channels, sometimes “hard armor” materials are necessary.  In areas that won’t sustain long-term vegetation growth, and/or are exposed to extremely high velocity, high shear stress water flows, then a tied concrete block mat (TCBM) or  articulated concrete block (ACB) system may be warranted. Tied Concrete Block Mats consist of relatively small concrete blocks attached to a geogrid and TRM or geotextile fabric backing, typically weighing around 10 lbs per square foot.  Articulated concrete block systems generally use larger, heavier blocks for even greater resistance to uplift in higher flow conditions. Since concrete block systems are generally much more expensive than TRMs or Hybrid Turf Instant Armor Mats,  combining TCBMs or ACB systems in critical, limited vegetation spots with soft armor products on the rest of the site, has proven to be a more cost-effective solution.

ACB revetment systems provide soil erosion protection in places subject to extremely high velocity concentrated water flow. These protective systems consist of fiber-reinforced concrete blocks that interlock to form a hard,  erosion-resistant surface accompanied by a geotextile underlayment for soil retention. This matrix can endure certain small changes without disrupting the entire interlocked protective structure. You can find several different types of ACB systems on the market:

  • Interlocking ACB systems
  • Cable-Tied ACB systems
  • Non-Cable-Tied ACB systems

These hard armor erosion control solutions may also be installed as open-cell systems or closed-cell systems.  As the name implies, open-cell ACB units have openings to allow for soil in-filling and vegetation growth between or through the individual blocks. On the other hand, closed-cell ACB systems are installed with blocks closely spaced with no open area for vegetation. These hard armor revetment systems also enable some infiltration and exfiltration, and thus help to alleviate flooding and water pollution. Sometimes, a highly permeable granular or synthetic drainage layer may be incorporated into an ACB system to provide pressure relief in turbulent flows or wave-attack areas.

ACB systems, as highly-protective erosion control products, can be applied in a wide range of  projects to prevent soil erosion like:

  • Extreme velocity concentrated flow areas – flumes, channels, waterways
  • Spillways, dam overtopping, and levees
  • Culvert outlets
  • Grade control structures
  • Stormwater control and infiltration 

Though highly effective, ACB and TCB systems are also much more expensive than soft armor TRMs and Hybrid Turf Instant Armor Mats, and usually require heavy machinery for site preparation and block placement.  Therefore, the use of these products is typically limited to the most severe applications. .

Conclusion

Reducing erosion is not only crucial to protecting soil but also key to maintaining the integrity of land and water. Soil erosion is a serious issue that endangers the environment by polluting air and water. Simultaneously, this land degrading process has substantial adverse economic consequences. Immediate and efficient action needs to be taken to prevent further erosion in order to conserve and protect our soil and water resources.

This article offered information on several cost-effective yet practical solutions for preventing soil erosion on construction sites. Most of these erosion control products are favorable alternatives to conventional materials  that require complex installations at higher costs. If you want to find out more about the most effective soft armor products for soil erosion control, please, visit our site. These products and practices tackle issues in various stages of soil erosion control projects, offering solutions for soil stabilization, concentrated flow velocity and energy reduction. All these solutions aim to prevent soil erosion, thus protecting the quality of our soil and water.

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