Basics of Retaining Wall Design

Retaining walls sit in the zone in-between structural and geotechnical engineering. The concrete stem and footing require the same considerations given for wall and slabs. Is there enough reinforcing for the bending forces? Is there enough depth for the shear forces? Are the joints detailed for force transfer? Are the bars developed at the critical sections? Are the hooks and dowels properly detailed? Yet, the forces, upon which the wall is designed, rely heavily on a structural engineer’s understanding of the geotechnical aspects on site. What earth pressure is applicable? What type of soil is being used for backfill? What are the seismic implications?

Given the intricacies of retaining wall design and the precision typically available during preliminary structural design, it is useful to have a concise reference and simple software program to evaluate a range of conditions before settling on a final design. Hugh Brooks has provided both of these items. “Basics of Retaining Wall Design” is a straightforward and succinct reference book that gives the designer one source for data and design. Brooks also provides RetainPro, a software package that follows the principles laid out in the book.

This reference simplifies the critical items in design by providing checklists and design examples for the reader to follow. While the examples are nothing more than software printouts, they provide a clearer insight in the calculations compared to an earlier retaining wall reference I reviewed in 2019.