Assessing U.S. practices for waterfront steel sheet pile walls



Michael J. Garlich, S.E., P.E., Collins Engineers, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA


Hot-rolled steel sheet piling (or steel sheet piling) has a long history of successful use in a wide variety of both permanent and temporary structures, including coastal and inland port facilities. In the United States, unlike structural steel and reinforced concrete, no national design codes cover steel sheet piling design. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) manual EM 1110- 2-2504, Design of Sheet Pile Walls provides good overall design guidance; however, it is not an adopted specification.

Recently, the North American Steel Sheet Piling Association (NASSPA) undertook a study to examine common practices and design standards utilized for design of hot-rolled steel sheet piling in North America. This work included an extensive literature search on information related to steel sheet piling materials, design provisions, loading conditions, and appurtenances such as bracing and anchor design. This paper summarizes some of those results as they relate to port facilities.

Steel sheet piling is available in a variety of profiles, whose design properties are published in the various manufacturers’ catalogs. Material production and properties are covered under existing ASTM International Specifications (ASTM), which are referenced in the various design references. Material properties and data on bracing and anchorage materials are also readily available and covered by ASTM or other nationally recognized standards. Some design engineers continue to specify steel sheet piling with minimum yield strength of (Fy) of 270 Mpa, (38.5 kips per square inch (ksi)), instead of what may be considered an industry standard of 345 MPa (50 ksi), or higher. Using larger yield strengths leads to more economical designs.

For permanent structures, particularly if located in a marine environment, evaluating the potential corrosion losses and selecting appropriate protection measures, if needed, is an important component of the design process. Corrosion rate data is available in U.S. reference documents, but much of it is old, fragmented, and inconsistent. “The Euro Code 3 – Part 5: Piling” does provide good guidance, but may not be acceptable to some American owners.

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