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TenCate Geosynthetics wins 2007 Award of Excellence

Awards | February 1, 2008 | By:

The award is part of the 2007 International Achievement Awards presented by the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI).

Project description

This project featured the construction of a 1H:1V geosynthetic reinforced steepened slope, 242ft high at Yeager Airport in Charleston, W.Va. This hillside buildup was one part of a nearly $20 million project. The slope was constructed at the southwest end of Runway 5 to extend it approximately 500ft to meet FAA safety requirements. Engineers on the project said they believe that this is the highest green-faced (vegetated) 1H:1V slope constructed in the United States.

Runway 5 at Yeager Airport required a 500-ft extension to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety regulations. The previous runway did not include proper airplane safety and emergency stopping areas.

Yeager Airport is perched atop a mountain plateau, and the ground surface slopes steeply down around the airport, approximately 300ft to the Elk and Kanawha rivers below. Bridges, walls, and reinforced slopes were evaluated as construction options. The geosynthetic-reinforced slope option provided the most economical alternative, plus, the vegetated “green-faced” system allowed for a more aesthetically pleasing alternative, as it blends into the surrounding green hills and valleys of southwestern West Virginia.

Unique setting for airport

Yeager Airport was built atop mountainous terrain northeast of Charleston, in the post-World War II 1940s. Construction consisted of excavating 7 hilltops and the intervening surrounding valleys to create a flat site large enough for the airport. At the time, it was reported as the second-largest earth-moving project in history, behind only the Panama Canal.

Due to the mountainous conditions, the ground surface surrounding the airport’s runways slope steeply down more than 300ft to the surrounding Elk and Kanawha rivers, roadways, houses, churches, and other surrounding structures. Due to this dramatic terrain, development to meet FAA safety regulations was exceptionally difficult during construction, and some concessions were allowed.

However, the airport was required to upgrade its facilities to meet current safety requirements of the FAA.


The completed project has allowed the airport to construct the required safety areas and meet FAA requirements for the extension of Runway 5. The reinforced slope was a cost-effective solution to a challenging project.

This solution allowed for the runway to be extended safely and created the necessary area for a new emergency airplane stopping system to be installed. The vegetated face created an aesthetically pleasing structure that blends into the surrounding green hills of West Virginia. Other alternatives, including bridges or walls, would have created large structures affecting the beauty of the hills, valleys, and rivers of the Charleston area.

The construction of a geosynthetic-reinforced, green-faced (vegetated) slope, with a face angle of 45 degrees 1H:1V slope, 242ft high, is the largest structure of its kind in the United States. The use of the geosynthetic, small-aperture green mesh as the face treatment allowed for fast germination and good vegetative growth, insuring the success of the project. It also gave the slope an instant green look prior to germination of the vegetation.

Information provided from the IAA competition entry forms; Ron Bygness, editor of Geosynthetics, also contributed to this article.

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