Making the Case for Using Smart Ground Anchors as Standard

Knowledge is power. And that goes for construction and civil engineering projects as much as it does for anything else. Having the data to make accurate, timely decisions is key to safe and efficient maintenance. Take the use of ground anchors, for instance. Ground anchors (also called tiebacks or earth/soil/rock anchors) are used to hold things in place. Since those ‘things’ tend to be rather large, including for instance retaining walls and wind turbines, if the anchors fail there could be significant damage and even loss of life. 

Hence, it’s important to make sure ground anchors are not only installed properly but also, once in place, properly maintained. A percentage should be monitored regularly to check there are no breaks in the tensioned steel core or variations in the load affecting the functionality and effectiveness of the anchoring system. For this reason, ground anchors should be designed to make monitoring easy. A basic control to judge how safe an anchor is can be performed with a so-called lift-off procedure. And more recently, it has become customary to put load cells on a number of control anchors, so they can be checked at any time with minimum effort.

Smart ground anchors use wireless technology

But even load cell-equipped ground anchors still need someone to go out into the field to carry out readings. Now, though, the advent of wireless technologies linked to the Internet of Things is making it possible to take things a step further. Attach a wireless data logger to a load cell and you can send information on the state of a ground anchor to anywhere in the world, as often as you like. 

A much better return on investment

In fact, an analysis by Worldsensing shows that on a per-reading basis, smart ground anchors can be 2,175 times more cost effective than the next-best option. Furthermore, the total cost of a smart ground anchor system is roughly the same, over a three-year period, as carrying out annual on-site inspections of lift-off anchors or quarterly on-site load cell readings.

Based on this, it is legitimate to ask whether smart ground anchors should not be fitted as standard in any project where there is a monitoring requirement. Being able to check load cell readings on an hourly or even minute-by-minute basis can vastly improve safety compared to annual or quarterly checks, for a comparable cost. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

  • For further information on smart ground anchors, read our e-book on Load Monitoring for Ground Anchorages.