Controlling Stormwater Technique

Gabions, although an old invention, are quite popular today. They have many applications in landscape architecture and civil engineering. Going back in history, Leonardo da Vinci had created a gabion in the 16th century for military use.

Leonardo da Vinci’s gabion designs were baskets of woven twigs filled with soil that military units could use for cover. They could stop bullets, too!

The term “gabion” comes from the Italian word, Gabbione, which means “big cage.” True to their name, a gabion is nothing more than angular rocks in a stainless steel or powder coated, galvanized steel cage. The angular rocks allow water to pass through the spaces between them. Other materials, such as sand, broken chunks of concrete, and soil have been used to fill the cages, which are produced in different sizes. The most popular size is 4’L x 3’W x 3’D. They can be linked together with steel fasteners that look like a carabiner. For added strength, steel stakes can be driven through them and into the ground.

Making a Gabion

Generally, a gabion is specified for the purpose of stormwater control, stream bank stabilization, and erosion control. The geotextile fabric that lines the inside of the cage helps filter the stormwater passing through it while holding silt and debris back. When a gabion is designed to be used as retaining walls, they are not only attractive, they relieve hydrostatic pressure build-up behind the wall.

From a cost perspective, gabions are less expensive than poured concrete wall. Basically, when estimating an application, a designer must consider the material for the cage, the choice of rocks or other material for the inside of the cage, the type of geotextile, any accessories, plus use of machinery for installation.

Olivia Munoz Mickalonis is a landscape architect, consultant and speaker who is based in Atlanta. If you have questions about gabion applications, simply use the Ask the Expert feature at the bottom of this page to contaact Olivia.

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