Wire mesh vs climate change
High-tensile steel wire meshes from Geobrugg (in Romanshorn, Canton of Thurgau) have been proving their worth for decades as a protective measure against rockfalls, landslides and other natural hazards. In future, the company’s products could also help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Wire-mesh fences aren’t something that would normally be considered a high-tech product, but the highly robust steel meshes manufactured by Geobrugg are a good example of how decades of development can turn a seemingly simple product into a byword for outstanding quality – and propel a Swiss manufacturer to the status of global market leader. The company’s wire-mesh nets were first used in 1951 to provide protection from avalanches, and later on to protect against rockfalls. They’ve been continuously improved ever since. In 1999, an innovative production method was introduced that allowed meshes to be manufactured using high-tensile steel wire with exceptional protective properties and corrosion resistance, which means they are able to provide protection from rockfalls, land- and mudslides and avalanches. These meshes are used for safety applications in mining and tunnel construction and on motorsport courses.
Geobrugg AG is a subsidiary of the Brugg Group, an international manufacturing group. It has been a standalone public company since 2008. Around half of its 300+ employees work in Switzerland, and it has a presence in almost 50 countries, either directly or through sales partners. Geobrugg built up an international manufacturing base from an early stage, with plants in countries including the USA, China and Japan. But Switzerland continues to play a central role in the company’s manufacturing operations and R&D activities, with numerous test facilities located in the country. The most famous is in a former quarry by Lake Walen, where Geobrugg steel meshes demonstrated that they were capable of withstanding a 25-tonne concrete block travelling at 100 km/h.
Possible measures to protect against rockfalls, landslides and other natural hazards include concrete walls, dams and shotcrete-reinforced slopes. “Our steel meshes provide the same level of protection but without the need for large quantities of concrete, which means they have a far lower carbon footprint,” explains CEO Andrea Roth. The next challenge will come from climate change: extreme weather events like heavy rain are expected to increase, while the thawing of permafrost will lead to more mudslides and rockfalls. That means demand for Geobrugg’s protective systems is likely to keep on growing.