Retaining Wall Failure - San Antonio TX

Wall Failures
By Joseph W. Kowalski, P.E.
Jan 26, 2010 - 1:07:03 PM

Retaining Wall Failure in San Antonio, Texas

This past Sunday (January 24, 2010) a large retaining wall failed in a San Antonio, Texas subdivision.   Initially 80 homes were evacuated when crevices up to 15 feet deep appeared after the 1000-foot long retaining wall failed.

Wall failure
Notice the wall did not topple, but moved laterally.
There are conflicting reports about whether or not the retaining wall was engineered.  It was determined that repairs to the wall had been done in the past, but no details were offered.

Aerial view
Magnitude of damage can be seen from above.
At RetainingWallExpert.com, we offer information in an attempt to prevent retaining wall failures like this from occurring.  We have been asked our informal opinion regarding this wall failure but will refrain from doing so because we do not have sufficient information about the soils, the wall design, the utilities behind the wall, or the engineering of the structures.

Scarps in backyard
Photo clearly shows deep scarps (cracks).
In light of this failure, I'd like to remind developers, home builders, wall builders and home owners that SOIL is a construction material.  Just like wood, steel and concrete, soil has strength and compressibility characteristics that need to be studied and tested and understood prior to (and during) construction.  Soil is a complex mixture of air, water, and soil particles.  Soil behaves very differently under different loading conditions and water contents.  Soil even changes volume when water content changes.  A registered Professional (Geotechnical) Engineer should be an important element of your professional design team.

Some references include: San-Antonio Express News and www.kens5.com.



Scarp (cracks) visible
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.


Scarp (cracks) visible
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.


Scarp (cracks) visible
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.


Scarp (cracks) visible
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.


View from bottom
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.


Scarp (cracks) visible
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.


Scarp (cracks) visible
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.


View from below
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.


Scarp (cracks) visible
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.


Scarp (cracks) visible
Aerial view from news report (www.mySA.com) showing cracks, indicating slope and wall failure.