Physical Modelling Of Rock Bags Under Wave Attack


  • IAN COGHLAN Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW Sydney, Australia
  • JAMES CARLEY Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW Sydney, Australia
  • DAN MESSITER Royal HaskoningDHV, Australia



Rock bag, filter unit, seawall, armour stability, wave runup


In 1987, rock bags were developed by Kyowa in Japan to protect against erosion from hydraulic processes in riverine, lake, coastal and marine environments. Since 2020, rock bags have been used as a temporary or emergency coastal protection unit for seawalls on some beaches in Australia (e.g. Wamberal Beach and Collaroy Beach). These structures have typically been built against a pre-existing dune or eroded dune scarp for protection of landward coastal assets. While a limited amount of hydraulic scale modelling has been undertaken for some rock bag applications, their behaviour in shallow water, coastal environments under wave forces had not previously been quantitively evaluated. A two‑stage physical modelling program was carried out to assess the behaviour of rock bags when used in this emerging erosion protection application.

As a result of the scale laboratory tests for shallow water seawalls constructed from rock bags, specific results were obtained for a proposed structure at Stockton Beach (Newcastle, Australia) as well as producing generic design information that could be applied at other locations. As expected, the design wave height for rock bag damage (displacement) was found to be inversely proportional to wave period. Preliminary design stability curves were developed for rock bags under monochromatic and irregular wave attack. In addition to displacement, settlement of the rock bags was observed during the modelling, and it is recommended that consideration should be given to vertical settlement over the design life of these structures. Wave runup was also found to be high; this is also an important consideration for future rock bag seawalls in either establishing the design crest level to prevent wave overtopping or adopting and managing a permissible amount of wave overtopping during a design event.




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