Technical News

Exclusively for Allan Block Design Professionals

December 2020

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ABU Online

Our Design Professional ABU Online events were created to help you with your retaining wall needs. Our local production and sales partners will be happy to schedule in person training on any topics you see below (call us if you are looking for those individuals) but feel free to use these to help with immediate needs.

training opportunities

Signup for our Webinars

All eligible for 0.1 CEU/1.0 PDH
60 minute sessions

Held at:
8AM, 11AM, 1PM or 4PM CDT
on the date listed

Best Practices for SRW Design
Tuesday 1/12, Tuesday 3/2

AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Thursday 1/14, Thursday 3/4

SRW Inspectors Presentation
Tuesday 1/26

Segmental Retaining Wall Design
Thursday 1/21

SRW Architectural Presentation
Thursday 1/28

AB Fence and Installation
Tuesday 1/19

Water Management and AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Thursday 2/25

Complex Composite Structures (CCS) and AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Tuesday 2/2

No-Fines Concrete and AB Walls
Thursday 12/17 and Thursday 2/4

Terraces and Global Stability in AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Tuesday 2/9

Above Wall Considerations in AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Thursday 2/11

Seismic Consideration in AB Walls
Tuesday 2/16

Submittals and AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Thursday 2/18

3D Modeling and AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Tuesday 2/23

Go To Webinar


Once registered for an ABU Online event, you will receive an email notification with a calendar invite attached. Simply open that calendar invite and save it to your calendar for easy access in the future. In addition, you should receive 2-3 email reminders about the event.

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Inspiring Project Ideas


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In this Issue:

Case Study: AB Fence - Eliminating Sound, Adding Security

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Developments and housing communities have been at the forefront of residential construction for over half a century. No housing community is without obstacles when it comes to construction and maintenance. One notable area of concern is reducing noise from nearby roadways into these communities. AB Fence not only provides a solution to this issue that can be applied to a wide variety of cases, but can also be a solution for other problems.

Providing solutions is one of the most important aspects that an Allan Block product offers. In the case of our AB Fence System, the problems that need solving are usually to control unsavory sound and visuals. This was the case for Evergreen Community Association (ECA) built in 1980 in Woodbury, MN, but they had additional concerns about cost and maintenance. Previously, the community featured a 6 ft (1.8 m) tall cedar fence built in 1985. Not only was the cedar fence no longer adequate for sound abatement, but its aesthetics and maintenance also became a concern for the ECA as years of neglect had taken a toll on the structure.

AB Fence Ashlar Blend Pattern with Step Ups

During their search for a remedy, the ECA found that AB Fence was the most cost-effective solution on a per year basis, as AB Fence was projected to last 40 years on their site and required little to no upkeep after installation. Most importantly, it would reduce noise twice as effectively as vinyl or wooden alternatives. The ECA worked with a local contractor, Sierra Exteriors, to get an AB Fence System in an Ashlar Blend pattern 8 ft (2.4 m) tall installed in the same place that the original cedar fence was. AB Fence provided an elegant solution to their issues, both in design and in appearance. Check out the full case study.

Resolving issues is important for not only existing housing but also for new developments. Lennar Homes, in the southwest region of Minneapolis, found that roadway expansions and increasing traffic noise had led to the need for sound abatement. Working with Designing Nature, their local Allan Block Certified Contractor, it was determined that the use of the AB Fence would meet the criteria for sound and aesthetics Lennar Homes was looking for. The speed and efficiency of completing the project was a high priority. Because of this, the use of an unreinforced leveling pad was chosen at the base, which is not a standard method, but did minimize the installation time. With the location of the piles and panels carefully determined, the AB Fence was completed in no time, and the project went so smoothly that Lennar Homes decided to install AB Fence at its other location right down the road.

After the completion of the second AB Fence system, Lennar wanted additional noise reduction for the residents. Designing Nature, working with Duffy Engineering, checked the calculations and determined that an additional 2.6 ft (0.8 m) were able to be added to the top of the AB Fence without the need to redesign the posts. With the additional height added to the top of their AB Fence, Lennar Homes is now able to provide an aesthetic, quiet environment for its residents. Check out the full case study.

Sound barrier for residential

Whether being adjustable for design changes or providing cost effective solutions, AB Fence can be useful for a wide variety of site conditions. Here at Allan Block we are excited to help you find your solution to your next sound abatement project.

Contractor Talk: Allan Block Fence – Water Management

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As with a typical retaining wall, water is one factor we like to keep away from our AB Fence System both during and after installation. Water Management is important to consider, as water can lead to many issues on projects, such as improper compaction during installation and differential settlement after installation.

During the design process, it is important to analyze the project site to acquire a proper understanding of how water will be handled and how its movement will be directed.

  • The final fence design should ensure water is always routed away from the system
    • Berms and swales can be incorporated into the design to assist in water management
  • An opening in the AB Fence panel(s) may be necessary to allow for water to move under the fence if it is not possible to route water away from the fence system
    • Maximum of one opening per panel
    • Opening will be within the lowest exposed course of blocks and therefore the lower bond beam of the fence panel

The panel opening can be accomplished easily during installation with the use of a half-height panel block unit and a 4 in. (100 mm) high temporary spacer. The combined height of the half-height AB Fence Lite Panel Block and the spacer should be equivalent to a standard AB Fence Panel Block. As this opening will be in the lower bond beam, it is important to specify that shorter stirrups are installed in both cores of the AB Fence Lite Panel Block when grouting the bond beam. Once the bond beam has fully cured, the spacer can then be removed. The rest of the bond beam and panel installation proceeds as normal.

Fence layout Fence layout Fence layout

For more information on our AB Fence systems, check out or reach out to our engineering department at 800-899-5309 ext. 3 or

Easy Step Ups and Step Downs with Allan Block Fence

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With the Allan Block Fence System, concrete fence and sound barrier design has never been easier, especially when your fence panels are traversing large grade changes. The main advantage of the Allan Block Fence system is that there is no need for a continuous footing. Without a continuous footing, designing step-ups and step-downs is a breeze.

There are two possible options for stepping up or down in a fence panel. The first option is at a fence post location. This is the best option for wall settings with gradual grade change. For this method, you will want to make sure the fence base depth increases by one course before reaching the panel. You will also want to place a half-block against the fence post as a spacer. The image below shows exactly how to design for this situation.

Fence Post Step Detail

The second option is to do so between the panels, keeping aesthetic in mind. You would typically only use this option when the grade change on site is more severe. In these circumstances, you will want to make sure that any fence course that begins in the middle of a panel is grouted and tied into the bond beam above it (if stepping up/down occurs at the bottom of the fence) or below it (if stepping up/down occurs at the top of the fence). The two images below describe how to design for mid-panel step ups and step downs on both the top and bottom of your fence.

Fence Post Step Detail
Fence Post Step Detail

All of the images referenced in this article were taken from our How to Build A Fence With Step Ups or Step Downs from our AB Fence Installation manual on Be sure to read the more in-depth instructions to see how to handle other common Allan Block Fence site conditions.

AB Walls with AB CADD - Ensuring Zero Communication Issues

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For years Allan Block has provided an industry leading tool, AB Walls, to provide you an easy path to understanding what needs to be done to have a proper retaining wall design for the site conditions. However, even the best tools get upgrades. Allan Block’s Computer Aided Design and Drafting (AB CADD) will allow you, the design professional, to utilize the wall information from your site plans and create professional construction drawings for your retaining wall designs. How does this ensure contractors will understand the design requirements and lead to zero communication issues?

AB CADD example

See example output of AB Walls with AB CADD

  • A proper design is only as good as it is built. Proper communication to the contractor is critical for success. AB CADD will provide the following:
    • A 3D visual of your retaining wall
    • Incorporation of a site plan to communicate wall locations
    • Full material estimates for each wall
    • General specifications and project special consideration notes that highlight specific requirements
    • Plan, Elevation, Panel and Panel Section views that are easy to read and communicate wall conditions
    • Typical details the outline concepts for construction
    • Complete cross referencing of all specifications, notes, and details to appropriate portions of the project
  • This program can assist you to obtain permits, approvals, detailed calculations, shop drawings, and 3D drawings. This includes the ability to handle various site-specific loading conditions including alternative reinforcement like no-fines concrete. Keep in mind, this is the first ever SRW software to address terraced wall designs.
  • We know your time is extremely valuable, and this program allows you to be more productive and the support from Allan Block Corporate helps ensure you stay on the right path. The inclusion of AB CADD will streamline the design steps and provide the flexibility you are looking for as you quickly prepare the submittals and final designs. Again, saving you time and money.

This set of Construction Drawings will allow you to provide the full story of everything that a contractor or inspector needs to meet your precise design requirements on site. This tool will elevate the design standards we have in the industry and provide the most direct path to meet the requirements established by industry and Allan Block Best Practice approach to SRW design.

We are making progress for its release in early 2021. For those of you that already have AB Walls, this will be a simple update to the program the next time you use it. If you do not have a copy of AB Walls, let us know and we will be very happy to provide you a copy and show you the value this tool can bring. If you have any questions, please email Chad Julius.

Design Professional Training Syllabus Now Available

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To help you make sure your design team is up on the current state of practice for SRW Design, over the last 30 plus years we have developed a range of training opportunities. We have compiled a thorough list of what technical courses are available, and what you would expect to gain from each course. Each class lists its completion requirements for continuing education credits as well as highlighting key elements for what will be covered.

The training syllabus can be found in our Designer Resources page on the top right corner of Looking under the “Training” section, you will find the Allan Block Presentations Available to You as a Design Professional.

Key to Success

The eighteen different topics outlined can be used as subjects for lunch and learns, or attended in our weekly sessions scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The webinars begin with how to use AB Walls in general terms, followed by labs that incorporate specific design concepts.

For more information, or if you would like to schedule training, feel free to contact Don Clayton.

Rich Lovdal has Retired

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Many of you probably recognize the name Rich Lovdal with Allan Block from phone calls or project assistance over the years. We now get to congratulate him on his next chapter, Lovdal Handyman Services. Rich has always loved remodeling and building things around the home and knows that he is not getting any younger. Now was the time for him to go out on his own to rebuild Minnesota homes, one at a time.

Rich Lovdal Retired

Rich joined Allan Block on July 9th, 2001 moving from a career as a structural engineer, designing bridges, to helping us forge a path to build a proper engineering team at Allan Block. Working with Rich daily for all these years, it took a while to get him accustomed to Allan Block’s out-of-the-box approach to solving problems. He quickly learned that we were not a plug and chug company. Rich joined with us in finding new approaches to building solutions, and helping the design community to become better at creating more buildable land following our quest for Zero Wall Failures throughout our industry.

Please join us in wishing Rich all the best in the next chapter of his life, and we hope that in some of his free time he will continue to design a wall from time to time.

Rich may no longer be at Allan Block, but his experience and training live on in the rest of the team and they are always available if you have any questions or need assistance at 800-899-5309 ext. 3 or

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