Gabion baskets have been used as structures for 7,000 years, the earliest examples being Egyptian. Woven from sedge, the Egyptians filled their gabion baskets with sludge as a method of protection for the banks of the river Nile.
As time progressed a mixture of stones, earth and sticks where used by the Europeans in the Middle Ages to create gabion baskets, not only to protect the shores and banks of rivers but also in the construction of castles to fortify them.
From the mid-1800s gabion baskets were manufactured using woven steel wire and 100 years later from welded steel mesh.
The creativity of stone and steel
The relationship between stone and steel is innovation at its best when gabion baskets, filled with stone, are used to stabilise steep inclines. Soil retaining walls also benefit from gabion structures when plastic and steel mesh is built into the layers of a slope.
Gabion baskets provide an economical solution to ensuring the stability of mountain slopes, and the flexibility of Gabion retaining walls ensures that the load bearing capacity of existing walls is not compromised by soil movement. Gabion is a much more reliable solution than for example, concrete which is prone to cracking and if used on retaining walls can lead ultimately to complete deterioration of the walls. Gabion baskets filled with local stone make retaining walls more aesthetically pleasing than the concrete alternative.
Gabion structures are mainly utilised in the following areas:
1) Channel linings
2) Mass gravity retaining walls
3) Bridge abutments and culverts
4) Mechanically stabilised soil retaining walls
5) Gulley control
6) Water velocity reducing structures
7) Landscape gardening for partition walls and benches etc
Gabion baskets are used for technical, environmental and aesthetic requirements
When tackling the problems in stabilising steep slopes, aesthetics and environmental considerations are often equally as important as the technical issues. In comparison to other alternatives Gabion baskets offer numerous advantages. Gabion structures allow for planting various species of plants worked out from landscape gardeners’ plans. Within 2 years, the plants will grow over Gabion retaining walls to fit in with the aesthetic appearance of the natural environment.
The advantages of Gabion structures:
- Variety of methods for installation
- Durable and long lasting
- Aesthetic appearance to match environment
- Flexible and strong
- No frost damage to the permeable structure
- Rapid, simple and economical construction
- Materials onsite can be garnered for use
Gabion system can last for over 100 years
The mesh for Gabion baskets is manufactured from coated steel wire using zinc aluminium and sometimes a further anti-rust layer is added. The Gabion system can last for over 100 years and the products used come with a quality certificate issued by the BBA (British Board of Agrément). Naturally the longevity of the system will depend on the stone used for filling the Gabion baskets which ideally should be rocks that are frost resistant.