Technical News

Exclusively for Allan Block Design Professionals

June 2021

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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

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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 6/22, 6/29, 7/17

AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Thursday 6/24, 7/1, 8/19

SRW Inspectors Presentation
Tuesday 7/13

Segmental Retaining Wall Design
Thursday 7/8

SRW Architectural Presentation
Thursday 7/15

AB Fence and Installation
Tuesday 7/6

Water Management and AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Thursday 6/17, 8/12

Complex Composite Structures (CCS) and AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Tuesday 7/20

No-Fines Concrete and AB Walls
Thursday 7/22

Terraces and Global Stability in AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Tuesday 7/27

Above Wall Considerations in AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Thursday 7/29

Seismic Consideration in AB Walls
Tuesday 8/3

Submittals and AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Thursday 8/5

3D Modeling and AB Walls 3D+Terraces
Tuesday 8/10

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Inspiring Project Ideas















In this Issue:

Case Study: Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

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The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is a Michigan state sponsored long-term care facility located next to the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The facility has been serving Michigan’s veterans since 1885, going back to the time of the Civil War. Due to the age and state of the existing structures, the site needed new facilities and with more up-to-date amenities. To accomplish this, they needed more buildable land.

The current landscape featureing sloping hills and large portions of the 90-acre lot are covered with wooded areas. The retaining walls themselves would step up into three tiers, creating a great overlooking view of the local community and the addition of much-needed usable land. Tower Pinkster, the architectural firm for the project, specifically chose the AB Fieldstone Collection to meet this aesthetic look to blend into the 90-acre wooden landscape. The location of the walls resulted in a terraced structure, reaching heights of 16 ft (4.9 m).

See the Full Project Case Study

Grand Rapids Veterans Home

Due to the size and multi-tier aspect of the project, an engineering firm with high standards and expertise was selected for the project. Josh Host, along with the other engineers at Holland Engineering, was that firm. With the multiple curves and tiers within the structure, Josh and his team, with the use of the Allan Block Best Practices and AB Engineering Manual, were able to design a stunning new landmark that will stand for years to come.

The design of this wall was only half of the battle. Construction of the project fell to Brad Pastoor and his team of Allan Block Certified Contractors from Twin Lake Nurseries. With their hands-on training experience and AB certification, Brad and his team were able to construct the 3-teired structure in no time. A special “Thank You” to Randy Vreeman and the rest of the Consumer Concrete Product team for following this project from conception and always providing quality products.

Finally, Allan Block would like to recognize both prior and current service member for the freedoms they provide and the sacrifices they have made. Our veterans are what make America great.

See the Full Project Case Study

Tools: AB Walls – Executing Terraces Properly

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Most engineers and architects understand that a global stability analysis will dictate the design of a hillside. This hillside will be influenced by the slope, soils and even structures like an Allan Block retaining wall. Until recently, retaining walls that were configured in a terraced application were handled as surcharges, but that really did not give the design professionals the true loads acting on the geogrid. AB Walls has been configured to use the Limit Equilibrium Method (LEM) that incorporates the same type of analysis found in global stability to determine these internal loads and allows the designing engineer to make an informed decision on the grids being used and the stability of the structure.

One key element is that using AB Walls is only part 1 of the design. Yes, this gives us a better understanding of the internal loads for the retaining wall structure, but this does not eliminate the need to analyze the site for overall global stability. Part 2 of the design is to conduct the global stability analysis and AB Walls can assist by exporting the geometry into ReSSA, by ADAMA Engineering.

Since LEM is based on geotech concepts, it has been accepted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), AASHTO, and the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) as a viable alternative for traditional SRW internal design calculations. Download the FHWA published LEM manual (FHWA –HIF-17-004) or the Allan Block Engineering Manual to see a complete discussion on Limit Equilibrium. Allan Block’s “Always Better” attitude is one reason why we have incorporated this more precise analytical method directly in our design software AB Walls 3D+Terraces.

How AB Walls 3D+Terraces Makes Terrace Design Simpler

AB Walls 3D+Terrace allows you, based off your elevation view, to design a terrace wall that fits your specific site requirements. Using the program you can:

  • Choose the number of tiers in the terraced wall
  • Specify the height of each tier
  • Dictate the spacing and surcharges between the tiers
  • Use LEM to more accurately calculate your internal safety factors
  • Use multiple soil types for each tier of your wall

If you are interested in learning more about AB Walls 3D+Terraces, Allan Block offers a free tutorial on terrace design. Call or email us to schedule a tutorial.

Designing Terraced Walls Terrifically

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Terraced walls are a great way to break up taller walls while adding a unique aesthetic and more space. While terraced retaining walls offer much on the side of looks, they are often designed without taking best practices into consideration. By following the guidelines we’ve defined in the Allan Block Best Practices Document, you can easily start designing retaining walls that are sure to last a lifetime. Below are a few points to consider when designing a terraced retaining wall:

  • Multiple Walls vs. Terraced Structure – There are instances when terraced walls are considered independent from each other and do not influence the walls above or below them. As a general guideline, if the walls are spaced out a minimum of twice the height of the lower wall, the walls can be considered independent. If they are closer together, it is necessary to design the walls as one terraced structure.
  • Grid Lengths – Best Practices advises designing terraced walls with grid lengths equal to at least 60% of the total terraced height and no more than two-course spacing. This ensures that the structure is properly reinforced. It is also advised that the top layer of grid on each terrace extends to a minimum of 4 ft. (1.2 m) past the toe of the wall above.
  • Compaction – Compaction is even more important for terraced applications and needs to be emphasized on foundation soils of upper walls. By giving special attention to the compaction of foundation soils, settlement will be kept to a minimum.
  • Drainage – Water management is key when it comes to designing terraced walls to last a lifetime. To avoid hydrostatic pressure and possible water buildup, all terraces should be designed in a way that routes water away from the wall structure. At no point should drainage from the upper tiers be channeled into the drainage of the lower tiers.
  • Global Stability – A necessary component in any wall design is a full global stability analysis of the entire structure. For more information, see the AB Engineering Manual or contact the AB Engineering Department.

These are only a few of the Best Practices design considerations when working with terraced retaining walls. Additionally, all of these considerations are built into our FREE design software, AB Walls 3D+Terraces. To learn more about how to design retaining wall structures, visit the Best Practices for Segmental Retaining Wall Design page on our website or reach out to our engineering department by emailing By using these guidelines as a starting point for your designs, you can be sure that your walls will last a lifetime.

AB Fieldstone® Collection – A Natural and Green Way to Build

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Who doesn’t love the look of natural stone? Who loves lifting natural stone? Natural stone is heavy, difficult to maneuver, labor intensive, and requires a lot of cutting to create the look you want. AB Fieldstone Collection is our lightweight, two-piece system that has the look and feel of natural stone without the inconvenience. It has the same durability as our AB Collection, but is Green, Natural, and Friendly.


  • AB Fieldstone is an Eco-Friendly mortarless concrete retaining wall system.
  • AB Fieldstone anchor units are made of recycled materials without sacrificing the beautiful appearance of the facing unit.
  • Due to the efficient manufacturing process, there is very little waste when producing the AB Fieldstone product.
  • Helps with soil erosion and water management.
  • Made of concrete which does not contain toxic materials that are sometimes found in treated timber or other materials.


  • AB Fieldstone comes as close as you can get to matching the raw beauty and feel of natural stone.


  • AB Fieldstone is a lighter two-piece system which makes it easy to handle.
  • It follows the same installation practices as our AB Collection.
  • AB Fieldstone has built in corners and height control, so every facing unit is the same exact height.
  • It can be used to build both retaining walls and parapet walls , all with one product line.

Installing AB Fieldstone’s two-piece system is quick and easy, perfect for either residential or commercial projects. The facing units come in 2 sizes – 8x12 and 8x24. The anchoring units also come in 2 sizes, 12 in (300 mm) deep and 24 in (600 mm) deep, compatible with both facing unit sizes.


There are many different faces of fieldstone, with four different styles to choose from: Heritage, Colonial, Sierra, Cascade. Check your local producer to see what colors and styles are available.

Fieldstone Series Fieldstone Serie

To learn more information on AB Fieldstone and installation basics, please visit our Fieldstone Catalog or call us at (800) 899-5309.

Contractor Talk – Curves (Layout and Install)

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Curves are fundamental to the retaining wall industry. We always recommend using curves for projects in place of corners/angles for multiple reasons. A few benefits include:

  • Structurally stronger- Redistribution of concentrated forces
  • Minimizing cutting on a job site, silicia dust control
  • Faster and easier installation

Allan Block retaining wall products can easily handle curves by simply knocking off the back wings for tighter outside curves, up to a 4 ft (1.2 m) radius. This allows us to eliminate the need for cutting and keep the project moving at a quick pace. However, for taller projects, it is very important to know how to handle grid installation when it comes to inside and outside curves.

Inside Curves

For inside curves, we are focused on eliminating gaps between grid layers. However, with inside curves, we must also avoid overlapping the grids. To solve this, we will begin adding grid layers at each course along the curves.

  • Lay out the primary grid around the curve ensuring it is butting against the back of the block lips.
  • Mark on the block where there are gaps in the grid.
  • On the next course of blocks, place additional grid layers at the center of gap marks of primary grid layers to provide complete coverage

Outside Curves

For outside curves, we also want to avoid overlap between grid layers. To solve this, we will simply place additional fill between the overlapping layers.


Inside Curves

Outside Curves
  • Lay out grid along the curve ensuring it is butting against the back of the block lips
  • Lift overlapping grid sections and place fill material to provide separation between layers
  • Ensure 3 in (75mm) minimum of fill between layers

For more information regarding retaining wall and grid installation, check out our Residential and Commercial Installation Manuals, or reach out to our engineering department at or 800-899-5309 ext.3.

Engineer Spotlight: John Butler

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This quarter, we are highlighting John Butler with JB Drafting & Design in Paso Robles, CA. John is one of the top retaining wall designers in California, and we are proud to have him work with Allan Block regularly.

JB Logo

John started his business in 1999 when he was 19 years old after attending High Tech Institute of Arizona for Architectural Drafting and Architectural CAD/CADD. John’s engineering knowledge is self-taught from engineering code books and working closely with J.K. Engineering on a wide variety of structural calculations while in the process to getting his Professional Engineering License.

John was introduced to segmental retaining wall design from his local AB representative, Erik Geil with Air Vol Block, when he was shown our AB Walls Design Software. John has been using the software for over 15 years, and it has made designing retaining walls so easy, especially with the constant advancements and new features to the program. He appreciates the services available within the software, such as tutorials, Mathcad hand calculations to back up design results, and the abundance of information on the Allan Block website.

John provided a piece of advice to any engineer or designer who wants to start designing segmental retaining walls: “Go look at how they are installed/built.” John takes any new engineer on his team to a jobsite as soon as he can to show them the importance of Best Practices, wall setback, a level base course and how grids are installed so they have practical knowledge of retaining walls instead of just theoretical. When you get a chance, get to a site and see how they are installed.

We want to thank John for his dedication to detail and quality designs that ensure the longevity of the retaining walls.

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