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Geocell Technology Proves Effective in Solving Soil Stabilization Challenges for Solar Farms on Underutilized Lands

photo of solar panels on solar farm with blue sky and clouds background

With the increasing demand for clean energy, there is a growing interest in repurposing underutilized lands for solar farm developments, particularly abandoned mines, capped landfills, brownfields, and other unused areas. These locations offer a unique opportunity to transform unused spaces into sources of renewable energy, and can be particularly enticing because they are often situated near established transmission infrastructure. This makes the interconnection process simpler and more cost-effective than connecting to remote greenfield sites. In addition to contributing to the shift toward sustainable energy sources, the development of solar farms on underutilized lands can create jobs, generate revenue, and bring new life to areas that have been neglected or forgotten.

However, poor soil conditions can pose significant challenges for solar farm developers. To ensure the long-term success of solar projects, factors such as erosion control, stormwater management, and site access must be carefully considered during the design and construction phases, especially when repurposing underutilized lands for solar farm developments where the site conditions may be less than ideal.

GEOWEB® Geocells: A Versatile Site Development Solution for Solar Projects

Geosynthetics, specifically geocells, can be highly effective in mitigating the challenges posed by poor soil conditions during the development of solar farms. By reinforcing the soil and providing a stable base for access roads and balance of system (BOS) components, geocells can help distribute loads evenly and prevent soil erosion. Geocells can also be used to improve stormwater management, drainage, and filtration, ensuring that the solar farm site remains stable and functional in wet conditions.

Proper planning and execution, including the use of geosynthetics, can contribute to the long-term success of solar projects, reducing maintenance costs over time and minimizing environmental impact. In this article, we will discuss two projects that utilized the GEOWEB geocells in the development of solar farms.

Building a Solar Farm Site Access Road Using GEOWEB Geocells

geocells being installed for site access road

Residents of Brandywine, Maryland, recognized the benefits of redeveloping a closed quarry site into a community solar farm. However, poor soil conditions made it extremely challenging for crews and machinery to access the site for construction and future maintenance.

The EPC contractor for the project contacted Presto Geosystems and local material supplier Colonial Construction Materials to devise a solution that would meet their needs. To support heavy equipment during the construction phase and to ensure the required bearing capacity for emergency vehicles in accordance with local and state regulations in the long term, they opted for the GEOWEB® Load Support System with a vegetated infill to construct a permeable access road leading to the solar farm.

With the on-site support of Colonial Construction Materials, crews deployed the GEOWEB geocells over a non-woven geotextile to construct a geosynthetic-reinforced foundation layer for the unpaved road. The geocells were then infilled with a mixture of on-site material, imported stone, and topsoil to build a vegetated roadway capable of supporting heavy vehicle loads.

The GEOWEB geocells afforded the EPC contractor and project owners the ability to beneficially reuse on-site material to reduce imported material volumes, thereby offering a significant savings to the overall project construction costs. Moreover, using a permeable access road instead of a paved road provided the added advantage of decreasing the overall impermeable surface area at the site, in turn reducing runoff and associated stormwater management requirements, and bringing even more savings in terms of both up-front and long-term operations and maintenenance costs.

GEOWEB Slope Protection System: Protecting Solar Developments Against Major Storm Events

The Spotsylvania Solar Farm, a massive 617 megawatt utility scale solar farm covering 6,350 acres, posed unique erosion protection challenges that required a permanent stabilization solution. A sloped area leading into one of the larger detention ponds on the site was experiencing severe erosion due to concentrated stormwater flows.

Following multiple unsuccessful attempts to stabilize the surface using conventional erosion and sediment control practices (including hydroseeding, sod/staples, turf reinforcement mats (TRMs), etc.), the contractor opted for the GEOWEB Slope Protection System, citing cost and performance as the major determining factors. The GEOWEB system cell walls allow water to flow throughout the system while holding the soil in place, preventing soil loss and gullies.

The GEOWEB system (mid-size cells, 6-inch depth) was successfully secured over the 2:1 slope utilizing TP-225 tendons (woven polyester, 5100 lb. break strength) anchored to a buried deadman pipe and fastened to the cell walls using the patented ATRA® Tendon Clips – which provide twice the pull-through strength of any other tendon-based load transfer device. The ATRA Tendon Clips lock into the GEOWEB cell wall for the most secure connection on the market, and together with the tendons, can be preassembled at the top of slope prior to expanding for fast and easy installation.

After installation, the slope was hydroseeded and covered with a straw-coconut erosion control blanket. The GEOWEB® 3D Slope Protection System provides a structurally stable environment for topsoil and sustainable vegetation through a structured network of interconnected cells. The 3D GEOWEB system confines and reinforces the vegetated upper soil layer, and over time, will facilitate root mat entanglement with cell wall perforations, even further increasing system resistance to erosive and sliding forces.

first photo shows geocells installed on slope leading down to pond. second photo shows the same area vegetated with grass

The 3D GEOWEB system at the Spotsylvania Solar farm has held up to multiple high-intensity rain events, including the remnants of Hurricane Ian, which impacted the region with heavy rain and storms in September of 2022. The system will continue to provide robust erosion protection against similar major storm events in the future, allowing the Spotsylvania Solar Farm to generate reliable power for the local community.

Design Support & Resources for the GEOWEB System Applications

The engineering team at Presto Geosystems works closely with engineers and project planners, offering free project planning tools and on-site support. Our recommendations will deliver a technically sound, cost-effective solution based on four decades of accredited research and testing data.



A Week of Celebration and Inspiration: Engineers Week 2024

“Welcome to the Future!”: Engineers Week 2024

From February 18 to 24, 2024, the engineering community will come together to celebrate Engineers Week. This year’s theme, “Welcome to the Future!”, is a nod to the incredible advancements that have been made and a look forward to the innovations yet to come. It’s a week to celebrate, reflect, and inspire the next generation of engineers.

The Roots and Relevance of Engineers Week

Initiated in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), Engineers Week has grown into a global celebration. It acknowledges the vital role engineers play in progressing our society. The week aligns with the birthday of one of history’s great engineers, George Washington, who was also a surveyor. This connection underscores the deep roots and enduring impact of engineering in our world.

Why “Welcome to the Future!” Matters

This year’s theme emphasizes the forward-looking essence of engineering. It’s not just about honoring past achievements; it’s about shaping the future. Engineers are instrumental in developing innovative solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges, from climate change to advancing technology in renewable energy and communications. This week is an opportunity to showcase how engineering keeps us moving forward, turning today’s dreams into tomorrow’s reality.

Inspiring the Next Generation

A core aspect of Engineers Week is inspiring young people to explore engineering. With activities like Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and various educational outreach programs, Engineers Week aims to spark curiosity and passion in the minds of potential future engineers. By showcasing the diverse and impactful careers in engineering, the week helps to cultivate a more inclusive and innovative future for the profession.

Innovating for the Future: The Role of Tools in Engineering Progress

During Engineers Week 2024, with its forward-looking theme “Welcome to the Future!”, we’re reminded of the importance of innovative tools in shaping the engineering landscape. The Presto Geo P3 Project Planning Portal is one such tool, designed to support engineers in navigating the complexities of modern project planning. It reflects our commitment to facilitating collaboration and enhancing efficiency in geosynthetic engineering projects. As we celebrate this week, our gratitude goes out to the engineering community worldwide, whose dedication inspires us to develop resources like the Presto Geo P3 Portal. It’s through collective efforts and shared tools that we can look forward to a future where engineering continues to achieve new heights.

Using Geosynthetics to Stabilize Soils in a Harsh Environment

By Dhani Narejo, PE, Bruno Hay, and Bryan Wedin, PE

Mine Site Erosion Problems

One of the largest nickel mining sites in the world is located on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia. Due to the size of the mining project and the terrain of the site, significant cut-and-fill work for civil engineering structures was unavoidable.

Mine Site Erosion

FIGURE 1: A typical progression of erosion at one of the slopes.

Given the magnitude of the site, the challenge of safeguarding the structures against erosion is formidable. Inaction is not an option due to the sensitive nature of the structures, environmental concerns, and a keen desire by the owners to protect the environment. A typical example of the erosion at the site is the slope in Figure 1. Such slopes require continuous maintenance if the erosion problem is not addressed. In some cases, erosion can cause interruption in the mobility of materials and personnel at the site.

Several erosion-control measures had been successfully used at the site, including riprap and concrete. An alternate erosion control system was desired by the owner that would meet the following objectives:

  • Be cost-effective,
  • Require little or no maintenance,
  • Utilize local labor and materials,
  • Have a design life exceeding 50 years.

Soil, topography, weather

FIGURE 2: A simple representation of ultrabasic soil profile in the island.

Ultrabasic soils cover about one-third of New Caledonia, where large deposits of nickel are found. Peridotites and serpentines–the parent rocks of these soils–formed 1.5-65 million years ago during the Tertiary period.

The chemical weathering of these rocks over thousands of years and subsequent erosion have resulted in a soil formation of the general nature shown in Figure 2. Ultrabasic soils are rich in iron and magnesium, yet are deficient in nutrients to support vegetation. These soils are fragile in structure and easily erodible, especially when the dense vegetation at the surface is disturbed by fires, mining, or construction activities.

The topography of the site is generally hilly and mountainous. Slopes vary continuously from steep to gentle and from fully vegetated to barren. There are numerous water runoff features on the island. There are large areas of unstable soils and mass movement as shown in Figure 2. As a result, soil erosion is a challenging engineering problem in this region.

The weather pattern is cyclonic, with a single cyclone dumping up to 800mm (31 in.) of rain within 24 hours. Significant rainfall from at least three major events has affected the island during the past 50 years. Tropical Cyclone Anne dropped 714mm (28 in.) of rain within 24 hours in 1988. In 1969, Tropical Cyclone Colleen recorded 214mm (8 in.) of rain in 4 hours. In January 2011, Tropical Cyclone Vania brought a rainfall of 50mm (2 in.) per hour for several hours. The rainfall intensity for a 6-hour, 100-year storm is on the order of 400mm (16 in.) in this region. The annual number of cyclones can range from 2-10. Table 1 presents the 10 wettest storms recorded on the island (through 2010).

The unstable nature of the soils, together with the hilly terrain and cyclonic weather, presented unique engineering challenges for the soil erosion problems.

Sustainable Solutions

FIGURE 3: Gravel used as the infill in the geocell

The contractor, having installed liner systems at the site, maintained a long and successful relationship with the mining company and was well aware of the challenges associated with protecting the slopes from erosion in this environment.

The owner suggested the potential of geocell applications to develop a conceptual solution to the erosion problems. The solution involved covering the slopes with geocells, three-dimensional structures made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), designed to contain and stabilize infill material.

The recommended infill material consisted of a byproduct waste aggregate from the mining operation. A nonwoven, needle-punched (NW-NP) geotextile separation layer was also recommended. Figures 3 and 4 present the proposed gravel infill and the geocell, respectively.

FIGURE 4: Expanded and connected geocell sections partially infilled

The owner accepted the contractor’s proposed solution as a more cost-effective answer than previous methods. The geosynthetic solution would require little to no maintenance during the effective design life and was visually appealing. The proposed gravel infill was available as a waste material at no cost. The installation could be performed by local labor with little technical support and training by the manufacturer. However, the owner required that an independent design engineer prepare a design for the proposed solution.

The primary design considerations included:

  • Minimum thickness of the geocell,
  • Veneer stability,
  • Type of the separation geotextile,
  • Hydraulic response during a storm, and
  • Infill procedures.

Due to length constraints for this article, only the thickness and veneer stability are discussed here. Important design conditions for the site related to thickness and veneer stability included:

  • A maximum slope angle of 45 degrees,
  • A 6-hour probable maximum precipitation of 39mm (1.5 in.),
  • A Maximum slope length of 20m (65.5 ft), and
  • Presence of clay soils.

The geocell thickness was the most challenging factor during the design phase because of the long slope lengths and steep angles. As the thickness of the geocell increased, the driving force due to the infill weight increased, which led to higher anchorage requirements.

Alternatively, as the geocell thickness was decreased, more water could penetrate the clay soil, which could potentially jeopardize the effectiveness of the geocell system. After a detailed analysis, a geocell thickness of 100mm (4 in.) was selected to provide effective coverage and minimize anchorage requirements.

The anchorage requirements are explained with this veneer stability equation:

Where FS = factor of safety against veneer instability, Cr = required anchorage (kPa), h = thickness of the geocell (m), β = slope angle (degrees), δ = geotextile-subgrade friction angle (degrees).

A factor of safety of 1.4 was used, which is typical for slope stability analysis. The friction angle between the geotextile and underlaying site clay was base on GRI Report #30 (Koerner and Narejo, 2005). Figure 5 provides the relevant figure from this report. A friction angle of 28 degrees was used in the calculations. Density of gravel, γ, was 20 kN/m3. Slope angle, β, varied from 26-45 degrees. The required anchorage, Cr, depends on the slope angle β for the known or assumed values of FS, h, δ, and γ. For the β value of 45 degrees, the required anchorage is 1.2 kN/m2.

FIGURE 5: Historical data for geotextile-clay shear strength (Koerner & Narejo, 2005)

The concept is simple and is based on the soil containment function of the geocell and the separation function of the geotextile.

For geocell installations, two anchorage methods that include stakes and tendons are typically evaluated. In the design phase, galvanized No. 4 rebar provided the most cost-effective solution. The rebar spacing was determined based on actual site load tests. Fifteen locations were identified for the field load tests. The rebar intended for use was hammered into the slope and a downward pull load was applied parallel to the slope. The load was increased until either maximum load capacity was reached or the rebar broke or pulled out of the ground. Testing determined that a maximum anchorage of 100kg or 0.98kN could be used for a single rebar anchor. From this value, the spacing of the stakes was determined.


FIGURE 6: Installation of the geocell in progress

The contractor recontoured the slopes where there was significant damage caused by erosion. A 6oz. NW-NP geotextile was installed on the slope as a separation layer between the existing subgrade layer and the gravel infill material. Cellular confinement sections were installed over the geotextile.

Starting from the top of the slope, the sections were expanded down the slope and filled with waste aggregate (Figure 6). The installation was completed within the target time.


In 2011, just weeks after the completion of the first phase of the project, Tropical Cyclone Vania dropped a total of more than 600mm (24in.) of rain within a 24-hour period. The site was further affected when, within 24 hours of Vania’s impact, a magnitude-7 earthquake hit a nearby island. This was a real-life test for a geocell installation on steep slopes, some up to 45 degrees.

The slope coverage performed as designed, with little or no erosion even on the steepest of the slopes. These successes were in keeping with previous results experienced by the manufacturer’s customers around the Pacific Rim—that the cellular confinement performs consistently under wet and seismic conditions.

Project Summary

For difficult and complex site conditions, cellular confinement applications can provide powerful protection against soil erosion.

The concept is simple and is based on the soil-containment function of the geocell and the separation function of the geotextile. A thin layer of overburden soil contained within the cell is enough to protect unstable slopes. This protection is possible even on steep slopes if proper engineering procedures are followed and, most critically, provided that engineering design solutions are used only for the specific material and manufacturing characteristics of a cellular confinement material.

The engineer’s experience with the proposed design solution, that of the contractor with the site, and that of the manufacturer with previous projects in the region all contributed to the project’s success. The decision to use waste material as the infill during the design phase was crucial and limited project costs.

The materials installed on the initial phases of the slopes have already experienced dozens of heavy rainfalls and at lease one earthquake. This case history shows how geosynthetics can be engineered to solve complex problems at a significantly lower cost when compared to traditional solutions.

References: George Koerner and Dhani Narejo, “Direct Shear Database of Geosynthetic-to-Geosynthetic and Geosynthetic-to-Soil Interfaces,” Geosynthetics Research Institute, GRI Report #30, June 14, 2005.

Dhani Narejo, P.E., Principal at Care Engineering LLC in Conroe, Texas is a member of Geosynthetics Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Committee.

Bruno Hay, is Business Manager at FLI Pacifique SNC in New Caledonia.

Bryan Wedin, P.E., is Chief Civil Engineer with Presto Geosystems in Appleton, Wisconsin.

The Dangers of Breaking Specs and Bid Shopping

Written by Sam Justice, P.E.

contractors and engineers around table

Building roads, housing, and other critical infrastructure is a great responsibility taken on by engineers, architects and project owners. Ensuring that these structures are safe and reliable for years and decades is of the utmost importance at all stages of design and construction.

The Challenge of Maintaining Quality in Construction

The design team creates building plans and the associated specification that capture the essence of their vision as they work to write the guiding documents for their project. They make decisions about product types, grades, and take great pains to build into their documents citations of certifications and standards to assure only quality materials are allowed on the site.

However, product competition and budget demands are a concern seen in many projects that can challenge the specifications intended to produce the best possible structure. Substandard “or equal” substitutions can be encountered in the critical moments between design, bid awards, and construction. It is up to the specifying engineers and architects to hold their spec in all phases of the process to ensure the right materials and installation procedures are used.

The Bidding Process and Material Selection

Contractors often produce bids with the materials indicated by the project engineers, but with a critical eye on material and labor costs. Soon after the bid opening or notice of award, bid shopping for “or equal” materials is expected. Bid shopping on publicly-funded projects is disallowed by legislation in some localities, but even when formally disallowed, informally it occurs widely.

The Risks of Specification-Slide

It is common for professional engineers and architects to accept substitutions requested by contractors without full due diligence because of pressures from time constraints, cost overruns, and pressure from contractors to avoid unfamiliar products. This “specification-slide” is not intentional by the design team, but is often an explicit feature of knock-off providers who join the game with inferior products that do not exactly meet the specification, but are promoted as equals. Without intimate knowledge of a product that may be new to a professional, they may not know the factors that make difference between a genuine product and an inferior material specification.

The Importance of Accurate Material Specifications in Complex Projects

Close enough may be acceptable for some sites, but when you consider complex and critical civil works projects, the differences in design strength and performance could be the difference between success and failure. There may also be components of the complete “system” solution (e.g. connectors, load transfer devices or customized accessories) that contribute significantly to the design strength and speed of installation that all providers cannot provide. These copycat providers simply jury rig together their version or ignore appurtenances altogether yet still offer the cobbled together system as an equal.

Addressing Failures and Upholding Standards

When the “or equal” product fails during installation, or worse, during service, results can range from minor to catastrophic. Perhaps the fix is as simple as requiring the contractor to stay onsite longer to install the genuine specified material, or perhaps the consequence is as bad as roadway failing while being driven on or erosion impacting infrastructure downslope, with loss of service, repair or replacement of roads, rails, or building, or potentially direct impact to people. Contractors lose money and time, engineers or architects lose reputation, and project owners have the consequences of those failure on hand.

Pay attention to the materials and products specified, and ensure that they meet the necessary standards, with no concerning disclaimers or fine print. Deliver certainty and build with materials that can be trusted. Hold the specification to the right materials, through all stages, every time.

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Geosynthetics and PFAS: Understanding the Role of Polymer Processing Aids in Geosynthetics

Written By: Michael Dickey, P.E., Director of Presto Geosystems

Like many other industries, geosynthetics manufacturers are navigating the rapidly evolving landscape of new per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) regulations. However, in the case of geosynthetic products, an interesting and seemingly paradoxical question emerges: Is it possible that the same products that have been designed to solve complex environmental problems, and even contain pollutants, could also be a possible contributing source of PFAS?

In this article, we explore this question and discuss the historic role of polymer processing aids (PPAs) in the production of geosynthetics.

What Does Intentionally vs Unintentionally Added PFAS Mean?

Since the discovery of PFAS in the 1930s, these compounds have been widely used in manufacturing operations worldwide—both intentionally and unintentionally. In a recent article published by the American Bar Association, the concept of intentional versus unintentional use of PFAS is discussed, and in the case of the latter, the use of fluorinated PPAS used in thermoplastics processing is highlighted as a well-known unintentional PFAS source. How this concept relates to traditional geosynthetics manufacturing is discussed further below.

Eliminating Polymer Processing Aids (PPAs) from Geosynthetics

Production of geosynthetic products such as geogrids, geomembranes, and geocells commonly involves sheet extrusion of raw materials as an initial step in the manufacturing process. The raw materials typically comprise various pelletized thermoplastic materials (e.g., polyethylene, polypropylene, etc.) that have been engineered by resin suppliers and plastics compounders to incorporate ingredients for improved processability. To achieve this, additives known as polymer processing aids (PPAs) are incorporated into the raw materials. PPAs may be incorporated into the base resin materials, additives, or “master batches,” in different proprietary formulations intended to meet manufacturers’ needs. Up until recently, fluorinated PPAs, a potential source of PFAS, were the go-to standard for PPAs.

By incorporating PPAs into the raw materials, faster extrusion speeds can be achieved without increasing resin processing temperatures, thereby limiting energy consumption and reducing operating costs. Additionally, in the case of products where a smooth finish may be required, such as smooth geomembrane liners, PPAs eliminate “melt fracture,” a phenomenon caused by excessive shear stress on the molten resin that leads to undesirable roughness in the finished product.

Accordingly, with increased awareness of the potential presence of integral fluorinated PPAs in raw materials, many geosynthetics manufacturers are proactively conducting due diligence efforts of their own to identify and eliminate fluorinated PPAs from their products. This entails vetting of raw materials to ensure no product ingredients contain added PFAS from suppliers, and where necessary, adjusting product formulations to eliminate PFAS-containing ingredients.

Presto Geosystems, world-leading geocell manufacturer and inventor of the GEOWEB® Cellular Confinement System (CCS), recently conducted similar efforts, and confirms the product formulation for GEOWEB Geocells does not contain any intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and based on this understanding, GEOWEB Geocells are not expected to pose a risk of release of PFAS compounds into the environment.

Therefore, in returning to the original question, could geosynthetics be a possible contributing source of PFAS to the environment? The answer is yes…maybe. Engineers and project owners are encouraged to do their own due diligence when exploring different geosynthetics products, and when necessary, obtain a written statement from the manufacturer confirming they have conducted due diligence to confirm their products do not contain any intentionally added PFAS, and are therefore not expected to pose a risk of release of PFAS compounds into the environment.

Meet the Presto Geosystems Team: Get to Know Lauren

woman standing in front of scenic view

Meet Lauren Armstrong, the newest member at Presto Geosystems, who joined the team in August 2023. Hailing from a small town near Chicago, Lauren has had quite the career journey. She began her career in IT in downtown Chicago, later transitioning to the Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) industry, with her persistent passion for business development guiding her every step. Now at Presto Geosystems, she’s learning all about geosynthetics and facing new challenges head-on. Join Lauren as she shares insights from her past experiences, aspirations for the future, and the path that led her to Presto Geosystems.

How long have you been with Presto Geosystems?

I am pretty new to the crew—I started at Presto Geosystems in August 2023.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I have lived in a small town that is about 50 miles southwest of Chicago for my entire life. While it may not be the most exciting place in the world, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.  I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated with a degree in Marketing.

My first job out of college was in downtown Chicago at an IT company working as an Account Manager.  The idea of working in the big city was very exciting as a newly college graduate; however, I failed to realize this would mean I would have to commute a total of four hours a day getting to and from downtown. Six months after I started, I got stuck on the highway for over five hours due to a bad ice storm while attempting to make it to work. Once I was finally able to loop around, I returned home feeling so defeated. About 10 minutes after I got home, an HR manager for a company I had interviewed with that prior summer called because they had a job opening (15 minutes from my house, might I add) and asked if I would be interested. The timing of this call could not have been more impeccable. I enthusiastically responded with a “YES!” and moved on to my next journey.

For the next six years, I worked for a company that manufactures Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) wall paneling, as well as the siding and roofing for RVs and semi-trucks. For those of you that do not know what FRP is—it is the white wall panels with a bumpy texture that you typically see in restaurant kitchens, janitor closets, restrooms, etc. While here, I was able to gain experience in account management, customer service and inside sales; however, the most recent position I held while here was Lead Generation Coordinator. In this role, I would follow up on inbound leads, as well as utilize various sales tools and market research to identify potential projects where FRP could be installed. I worked with architects and contractors to get our products specified on projects, as well as assisted the sales team to help win opportunities. The role gave me great experience and helped me get to where I am today.

What led you to a career in business development and how did you come to join Presto Geosystems?

Earlier this year, I decided I was ready to embark on a new adventure in terms of my career, which is what eventually led me to joining the team at Presto Geosystems. My goal was to find a role that would allow me to use my existing skills, but would also be able to challenge me. My background in the manufacturing industry plus my prior experience with lead generation made the position at Presto very appealing to me.

There are many routes you can take with a degree in Marketing. One reason I gravitated towards a career in business development was the opportunity to work in all different aspects of the business, including sales, marketing and customer service. I enjoy the wide range of responsibilities when working in this role, as well as being able to build relationships with end-users, distributors and my fellow teammates.

Could you walk us through a typical day for you at Presto Geosystems?

Every day seems to entail something new here at Presto Geosystems, which keeps things interesting.  For example, I never thought I’d be writing a blog post, but here I am!

One of my main responsibilities is managing leads and opportunities in our CRM system. Leads are generated when someone fills out one of our webforms, requests a complimentary project evaluation, attends a webinar and more.  After I receive these leads, I then connect these customers with one of our distribution partners who will further assist with their project needs. It is also my job to respond to all general customer inquiries and technical questions, as well as assist with various administrative tasks.

What’s a skill you’d like to master?

I don’t know if this necessarily qualifies as a skill, but one thing I’d like to be better at is being more present and living in the moment. One of my New Years resolutions was to reduce screen time, which I have been successful at this year. However, if you are looking for an actual “skill”… I would have to say waterskiing. It is an inside joke between my family, as well as something my brothers enjoy making fun of me for. I attempt it every summer, but usually just end up ingesting way too much lake water.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far during your time at the company?

The world of geosynthetics was completely foreign to me when I started at Presto a few months ago, so I feel like I am constantly learning something new every day. Overall, what I find to be the most interesting is the history of geocells.  For those that do not know, in the 1970s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering needed a confinement system for load support, and thus, the geocell was born. It is very cool to see pictures of some of the first installations that took place decades ago, as well as see how the product has evolved since then. Aside from that, it is interesting to read about all the different projects from all over the world where GEOWEB® has successfully been utilized.

When you’re not working, what are some of your favorite hobbies or activities?

Nothing makes me happier than spending time with my loved ones. One major perk of residing in a small town is living within a two-mile radius of the majority of my friends and family. I love having my parents over for dinner, hosting game nights for my friends and being able to see my niece and nephew on a regular basis.

I consider myself to be quite crafty and enjoy DIY projects. I spend more time on Pinterest than I’d like to admit. In the past few years, I have started to enjoy reading. While I may be a few years late to the game, I recently started reading the entire Harry Potter series. In the summertime, my favorite place to be is the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. I have been going there my entire life and appreciate the quality relaxation time more and more the older I get.

Though it can be heartbreaking at times, my favorite sports teams to root for are the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bears and Fighting Illini. I am well aware they are not always the best, but I am still loyal!

If you could meet anyone, past or present, who would it be?

Perhaps it’s just the times we are living in… or perhaps it is because I am a millennial… but I’m going to have to say Taylor Swift. While I may not know all her songs or be a die-hard “Swiftie” like some others, she truly just seems like the most captivating person in the world right now.  Whether she is performing her sold-out international tour, attending NFL football games, or just grabbing a bite to eat, everything she does seems to be top news nowadays. Overall, she just seems like a normal girl, despite being mega famous, and I like to think we would be good friends if she got to know me. Oh—and during this meet-up, I would kindly ask if she could spare some tickets for the next round of the Eras tour for me and some friends.

What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?

A few years ago, I visited Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah with one of my best friends. The bright orange hoodoos and rock formations are absolutely breathtaking and truly something out of this world. I love looking back at all the pictures I took from my day there because the scenery was just so incredible. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend adding it your bucket list.

I have never left the country, but am hoping to explore other continents and discover more interesting places within the next couple years.

What’s something you’re looking forward to either personally or professionally in the coming year?

Professionally – I am excited to continue learning about the world of geosynthetics and engineered soil stabilization solutions, as well as getting more familiar with all our products.

Personally – I am at the age where it seems like everyone in my life is getting married. I have weddings to attend in Utah, Florida, and Chicago all within the next year; however, I am most excited for my younger brother’s wedding in Cancun next May. I am looking forward to all the fun to come within the next year (though my bank account is not).

Advancing Rail Resilience: How Geosynthetics Help Achieve CRISI Objectives for Robust and Stable Infrastructure

train approaching on track with geoweb geocells installled

The U.S. Department of Transportation, under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, has allocated over $1.4 billion to upgrade and safeguard rail infrastructure across 35 states and the District of Columbia.

This initiative, enriched by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), focuses on ensuring more resilient, efficient, and safe rail infrastructure, mitigating the impacts of severe weather and climate change. It seeks to enhance community safety and expedite the transportation of goods and people through improved and robust rail services. The demand for these grants is significantly high, highlighting the pressing need for enhancements in rail infrastructure across the nation.

CRISI Key Takeaways:

  • Grant Allocation: Over $1.4 billion has been allocated for 70 rail projects to enhance and protect rail infrastructure.
  • CRISI Program & IIJA: The program, supercharged by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, focuses on improving rail infrastructure standards and resilience.
  • High Demand: The overwhelming requests for grants underscore the pressing need for improvements and innovations in rail infrastructure.
  • Community Impact: The projects funded are crucial for ensuring community safety and promoting efficient transportation of goods and people.

The GEOWEB® Soil Stabilization System (Geocells): A Proven Solution for Rail Infrastructure

Mainline Ballast Reinforcement

werring rail dive under

The GEOWEB Rail Ballast Stabilization System stands out as an innovative solution for addressing ballast stabilization challenges, creating a more resilient and stable layer underneath the track. The 3D geocellular system yields unparalleled performance and construction benefits, surpassing the capabilities of 2D methods like planar geogrids or Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA), especially in areas with soft subgrades.

The performance of the GEOWEB system is backed by extensive research and rigorous field testing at renowned institutions such as TTCI and Oregon State University. It has demonstrated its ability to reduce settlement and track displacement under the strain of heavy freight loads on soft subgrades, and has already been adopted for use in railway track beds by international authorities in other advanced nations, such as Network Rail in the United Kingdom, with their recent published guidance on “The Use of Geocells in the UK Railway Track Bed”. Additionally, SmartRock testing by the University of Kansas revealed significant reductions in ballast abrasion, movement, and rotation, as further evidence the life of the ballast can be extended when the right geosynthetic product is incorporated into the project design.

Bridge Approaches, Crossings, Diamonds: Ballast Reinforcement in High-Stress Areas

Areas like bridge approaches, diamonds, turn-outs, and crossings face immense stress and usually require a lot of upkeep. The GEOWEB Soil Confinement System helps lower the need for maintenance in these challenging spots. It strengthens the ballast layer, reduces movement and deflection, and cuts down on maintenance in these crucial transition zones.

GEOWEB Geocells: BABA-Approved

Earlier this year, the White House provided guidance on the Build America, Buy America (BABA) initiative. BABA specifies certain products must be manufactured in the United States to qualify for federal funding under the IIJA.

Selecting the GEOWEB System for enhanced track stabilization allows projects to achieve improved resilience and longevity, ensuring compliance with the standards set by the CRISI program, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Build America, Buy America. Presto Geosystems is ISO 9001 certified, and the GEOWEB Soil Stabilization System is 100% U.S. made. (A copy of our Certificate of Registration can be provided upon request.)

Need Assistance with Your Rail Projects?

Presto Geosystems offers free project planning support for all GEOWEB Geocells applications in rail projects. Our experienced engineers are ready to assist with project evaluations to ensure your project’s success from start to finish. If you’re dealing with challenges related to soil stabilization or looking for innovative track stabilization solutions, please reach out to us.

Request Free Project Evaluation

Addressing Microplastics: How GEOWEB® Geocells Contribute to Eco-friendly Soil Stabilization Practices

geoweb channel with no microplastics symbol

Written by: José Pablo George, M.S., CPESC-IT, International Business Manager

Microplastics, tiny plastic particles smaller than five millimeters, present a potential hazard to both wildlife and marine organisms. As revealed by a global microplastics database provided by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), plastic is the dominant type of marine debris in the ocean and the Great Lakes. These microplastics, usually originating from single-use, disposable plastics on land, are transported via rivers and wind into global circulation systems where they accumulate.

International Measures and Guidelines: A Proactive Response to Plastic Pollution

The United Nations Environment Programme´s Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee and Environment Assembly have adopted an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution to address plastic pollution throughout its life cycle. Given the array of different types of plastics, the Sea Studios Foundation, in conjunction with, the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, the WHO International Programme on Chemical Safety, and the US EPA, has published a Smart Plastics Guide. This guide outlines seven commonly used plastic types and their potential health hazards.

There are some plastics (often used for disposable packaging) that are not easily recycled and may contain harmful chemicals posing health issues. Others, such as PET and HDPE, are easily recycled, pose no known health issues, and can be used beneficially in environmental applications. Given the potentially harmful effects of microplastics on human health and the environment, it’s crucial to consider the types of plastics we use and their complete life cycle.

Geocells: An Environmentally Safe Solution for Soil Stabilization

For over four decades, the GEOWEB® Geocells, which are manufactured from premium high-density polyethylene (HDPE) resin, have been used for soil stabilization. They interact directly with soil and water systems without posing significant environmental risks. This HDPE material, free of fillers, polymer alloys, and compatibilizers, is akin to those used in environmental applications like geomembranes to prevent the spread of harmful toxins.

Third-party geosynthetic laboratories have confirmed the GEOWEB Geocells’ long-term stability against environmental factors, including weathering and oxidation. According to EN ISO 13438 analysis, they are expected to last at least 100 years in natural soil. Furthermore, even under UV radiation and accelerated weathering conditions per EN 12224, GEOWEB specimens maintain their original tensile strength, appearance, and mass.

The Danger of Microplastics in Polymer Blends

This isn’t true for all geocells, however. Some manufacturers advocate for the use of polymeric alloys containing nylon and polyester particles “dispersed in a polyethylene matrix.” Essentially, this means blending materials typically incompatible with HDPE, requiring the use of specialized chemicals, or compatibilizers, to ensure compatibility. Research indicates that such polymer blends may be a significant source of microplastics in the environment, particularly as alloys age more rapidly due to weathering. This aging process can lead to the production of microplastics as the blended components break down.

microplastics and polymer blends image

Geosynthetic Soil Stabilization: A Response to Climate Change

Well-designed geosynthetic soil stabilization systems, using high-quality, HDPE-only geocells (a “good” plastic), can help mitigate the long-term impacts of climate change. With its durability parameters, structural integrity, and system performance, the GEOWEB Geocells are an environmentally safe choice for soil stabilization and water needs. Crafted from sturdy high-density polyethylene (HDPE) since its inception, GEOWEB geocells provide the highest, longest-lasting, and most proven performance in civil applications.

geoweb geocells channel

Presto Geosystems guarantees quality and offers more than 40 years of expertise. We ensure each shipment meets or exceeds our specifications, so you can build with materials you trust. No hidden terms or concerning fine print. Just strength, from the ground up, since 1979.

See Sustainable Environmental Contributions for the GEOWEB® System.

White House Provides Clarification on Build America, Buy America (BABA)

geoweb geocells being infilled and made in usa logoThe White House recently released guidance on the Build America, Buy America (BABA) initiative, an important component within the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) from 2021. BABA stipulates that certain products must be manufactured in the U.S. to qualify for federal funding in infrastructure projects and emphasizes the use of domestically produced construction materials.

BABA Highlights:

  • Scope: The BABA guidelines apply to federally funded infrastructure projects, including those under the IIJA.
  • Material Categories: BABA focuses on three primary categories: iron and steel products, manufactured products, and construction materials. Notably, the list has been expanded to include engineered wood but excludes coatings, paint, and bricks based on feedback.
  • Made in America Criteria: To wear the “Made in America” badge, a product must be produced in the U.S., with at least 55% of the cost of its components sourced domestically.
  • Included Materials: The guidance specifically lists plastic and polymer-based products, non-ferrous materials, glass, fiber-optic cable, engineered wood, drywall and lumber.

Implications for Infrastructure Development

For manufacturers involved in infrastructure projects, these guidelines carry weight. The inclusion of polymer-based products, in particular, sheds light on the growing importance of innovative geosynthetic solutions in federal projects.

With BABA’s focus on polymer-based products, the GEOWEB® Soil Stabilization System offers a reliable solution for project stakeholders looking to utilize proven, U.S.-made geosynthetic products that align with federal directives. The upcoming weeks are crucial as these guidelines will officially come into effect 60 days after their Federal Register publication.

Ascertaining Whether a Manufacturer Meets BABA Requirements

iso ce certificationAs the industry begins navigating this new terrain, project stakeholders can conduct their own screening-level due diligence to confirm if a specific product is manufactured in the U.S. For example, one approach would be to determine if the manufacturer holds an ISO 9001 Certification, and if so, request a copy of their Certificate of Registration. The Certificate of Registration will list the address of the manufacturer’s production facility, and it will also identify which specific products are manufactured at that location.

We are pleased to share that Presto Geosystems is ISO 9001 certified, and that the GEOWEB® Soil Stabilization System is 100% U.S. made! (A copy of our Certificate of Registration can be provided upon request.)


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Ballast Stabilization Using Geocells

The Often Overlooked Importance of Junction Efficiency as a Key Design Consideration

A significant number of research studies have been carried out to investigate the benefits of using geocells in railway track bed applications. Combined with an ever-expanding list of successful projects from around the world, the benefits of using geocells in rail ballast stabilization is well-documented. Rail operators understand that durable track geometry starts with a solid foundation, and geocells have emerged as a powerful value engineering tool for reinforcing ballast and sub-ballast layers while optimizing layer thicknesses.

Many practitioners may not be aware of the critical role that geocell junctions (both mechanical and internal) play in ensuring that the installed system performs in a uniform and consistent manner. In track bed stabilization applications, non-uniform junction performance can lead to differential settlement and localized subsidence—which in turn can lead to serviceability issues, damage to the overlying structure/pavement, and a reduction in overall design life. In essence, poor junction performance can nullify all the intended benefits of a geocell system.

This article will succinctly discuss the different types of junctions present in geocell systems, failure mechanisms and test methods, and the concept of junction efficiency as a performance parameter.

Types of Geocell Junctions

There are two types of junctions present in any geocell system: internal junctions, the factory-welded seams that create the interior cells of the panel, located within the body of a geocell panel; mechanical junctions located around the perimeter of an individual panel, formed during installation when adjacent panels are connected in the field, creating mechanically joined cells along panel joints. Since a primary mechanism by which geocells provide benefit is through lateral confinement of the infill, it is vital that both types of junctions remain intact during construction and throughout the design life of a project.

Junction Performance: Failure Mechanisms, Current Test Methods

Dating back to original research performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in early geocell development, much of the focus on junction performance was limited to peel strength of these internal junctions, with less consideration for mechanical junctions or other potential modes of junction failure. International Standard ISO 13426-1, “Strength of Internal Structural Junctions – Part 1: Geocells” presents standard test methods for evaluating several possible failure mechanisms for geocell junctions, including failure in shear, peeling, and cell splitting. What is lacking in ISO 13426-1 and similar standard test methods is a way to relate these failure mechanisms to the tensile characteristics of the cell wall itself.

Geocells are comprised of single strips of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) joined together. From a structural integrity perspective, these junctions should be expected to perform at a level that is equal to or better than that of the cell wall itself to ensure uniform and consistent performance. This is where the concept of junction efficiency comes in.

What is Junction Efficiency?

Junction Efficiency is a ratio (typically presented as a percentage) accounting for all three primary modes of potential junction failure (shear, peeling, splitting), and compares measured junction strength values to the tensile properties of the perforated cell wall. Separate values must be determined for internal and mechanical junctions.

In the case of mechanical junctions, the type of connection must be specified, with laboratory samples consistent with in-field installations. If the mechanical junctions will use staples, then representative laboratory tests must incorporate all relevant aspects of the stapling method, including material (stainless steel vs. aluminum), gauge, minimum number per junction, and vertical/horizontal spacing necessary to achieve junction performance requirements. Similarly, if cable ties or two-piece connectors are the recommended connection device, then their break strength, material composition, durability, length, and assembly instructions must be specified and tested.

In the case of GEOWEB® geocells, mechanical junctions utilize Presto Geosystems’ patented ATRA® Key. ATRA Keys are simple to use and provide consistent, reliable mechanical junction performance for the life of the project. As shown in the table below, GEOWEB geocells facilitate junction efficiencies in excess of 100% for both internal and mechanical junctions, offering robust protection against the primary modes of junction failure.