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MSE Retaining Wall Design, Installation & Engineering

Hillside specializes in the design and engineering of segmental retaining walls (SRW), gravity retaining walls and dry stack masonry (DSM) retaining walls. When our design team reviews a project our main goal is to ascertain which retaining system is best for that project. Often times, the best solution includes two or three different retaining wall systems.

We are very interested in your project. Do you have walls already laid out on the plan and need engineering? Let us provide the engineering services for you. Do you need help with the site design maybe trying to determine how to best retain the varying cut and fill situations on the site? We can help layout the walls to maximize site area, balance the site or design the site to include more cost effective fill walls while reducing the more expensive cut walls. Depending on the geotechnical parameters of the site, we can also design less expensive gravity cut walls where cast-in-place or shoring walls are proposed.

Hillside has designed projects for public works agencies, including County of San Diego, City of Los Angeles, City of San Diego and and City of Fullerton We have designed school/DSA projects for San Diego State University, Garfield High School and Bella Vista Elementary School - Palm Springs to name a few. Our scope ranges from multi tract development like Altair and Chapman Heights for William Lyon Homes to a single family lot like the Mills residence.


We have designed one of the tallest walls in southern California at 55’ for Vulcan Materials that supports their rock quarry dump trucks for their rock crushing operation. The San Diego Zoo parking structure and Legoland theme park Pirates Shore and Captain Cranky are a couple of our high profile projects that Hillside has designed.

The plans we provide are complete and second to none. We have designed projects from Santa Rosa to San Diego. Where is your project?

Retaining Wall Designs

What is an MSE wall?

MSE sm

Mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls work as gravity-retaining structures. These composite structures rely on the self-weight of the reinforced soil mass to resist lateral loads from earth pressure, surcharges from vehicles, earthquakes, and water pressure. MSE walls generally consist of three primary components: facing units, soil backfill, and tensile reinforcement. The compacted backfill and reinforcement, when properly designed and constructed, form a reinforced-soil mass that provides sufficient self-weight to stabilize the overall retaining structure.

The stability of the reinforcement-soil interface and the strength of the reinforcement provide the internal stability of the structure, which allows the MSE wall to act as a unit. Several parameters are needed to evaluate the internal stability of the structure, often provided by the reinforcement manufacturers. 

What is a SRW wall?

A segmental retaining wall system, a type of MSE Wall, is the use of dry-stacked columns of interlocking modular concrete units as the facing for geosynthetic reinforced soil retaining wall structures. SRW systems offer advantages to the architect, engineer and contractor. The walls are constructed with SRW units that have a wide range of aesthetically pleasing finishes and provide flexibility with respect to layout of curves, corners and terraced wall construction. The mortarless modular concrete units are easily transportable and therefore facilitate construction in difficult access locations. The mortarless construction and typically small segmental wall unit size and weight allow installation to proceed rapidly. A typical Hillside crew of three or four persons can erect 250-600 square feet of wall face per day. The economic benefit due to these features is that reinforced segmental retaining walls in excess of 4’ in height typically offer a 25 to 45% cost saving over comparable cast-in-place concrete retaining walls.

What are the basics of MSE wall design?

Earth retaining wall structures require three primary areas of design analysis: 1) lateral earth pressures, 2) foundation bearing capacity, and 3) global or overall stability. The analysis of each is based on the following engineering properties of the soil(s): angle of internal friction(f), soil cohesion (c), and the density (γ) of the soils. The Coulomb and Rankine earth pressure theories are adapted for design of MSE structures. Resources for applying these theories on SRW include the NCMA Design Manual for Segmental Retaining Walls, FHWA Design and Construction of Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls and Slopes, and AASHTO Standard Specifications for Highway Bridges.

Preferred Brands & Manufacturers

We only use the finest masonry products from the leading manufacturers.

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