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Sand Mats Protect World Cultural Heritage Site Underwater
Jun 13, 2018


Prehistoric buildings are an irreplaceable source for research work. At Lake Zurich, it became clear that only if we are successful in protecting these sites in the long term will future researchers also have a chance of using new technologies to shed greater light on the history of mankind.

The archaeologists of the Canton of St. Gallen were therefore looking for ways to secure the pile dwellings over an area of 1,400m². They needed a long-term solution that would not damage delicate objects in the lake mud.

RELATED: Geosynthetic Coastal Protection in England

After numerous investigations and loading tests were conducted, SYTEC Bausysteme AG provided the solution: Terrafix® sand mats from NAUE. This geocomposite material, with its geotextile components and a sand ballast layer, could be easily placed directly from a roll over the areas to be protected. It could then be covered with 20cm of gravel in a safe manner that would preserve the underlying historical objects.


Terrafix® is a fibre-reinforced, polypropylene sand mat which is mechanically bonded over its entire surface area. The sand is entrapped between two nonwoven geotextiles and held firmly in place by the fibres.

The high specific weight of the encapsulated sand layer helps efficiently sink the large panels, enabling a fast, finely controlled installation process under water while ensuring high positional stability. Additionally, the Terrafix® sand mat has excellent filter characteristics. This geocomposite was originally developed to prevent the underwater erosion of slopes and of river, lake, and sea beds. The geocomposite was engineered for performance in turbulent flow conditions.


The sensitive project adopted the solution proposed by SYTEC and site works progressed as planned. The geosynthetic approach to preserving these essential sites for European history proved to be a highly effective long-term solution and one that was provided economically. It was not a typical project for geosynthetics, but it further showed the ease of adaptability and suitability of these materials throughout infrastructure.

For more information on the use of these sand mats in infrastructure, visit  www.geotrstgroup.com 

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