When it comes to preventing boulders from coming crashing down the side of a cliff or sheer rock face, the two main schools of thought are prevention and reaction. Preventing pieces of rock from falling down in the first place is done by shotcreting, which is where a lattice of metal bars is placed over the rock face, which is then covered in a cement derivative to form a stable wall from which boulders won't be tempted to fall. The reactionary camp relies on fencing or plastic netting to keep falling rocks from damaging property and harming people. Which school of thought you fall into depends on your unique situation, so here are some reasons for and against each system, as well as ideas for optimizing either choice functionally or aesthetically.
Shotcreting is often thought of as a long-term solution for sheer rock faces and cliffs because it is fairly labor-intensive and a bit more expensive than fencing, but is also extremely effective. The main issue with rock faces, and what causes them to lose boulders from time to time, is that their surfaces are uneven and unpredictable. The thinking behind shotcreting, then, is that the unpredictable rock surface is enclosed so as not to allow any shards of rock to get through the impermeable concrete facade. This protective layer is not only safe, but also very aesthetically pleasing, since the resulting concrete wall can be integrated into a number of different design schemes, including being able to cover the wall in plant matter or painting it green if the site is rural.
Using fencing and netting to catch falling pieces of rock comes with its inherent risks, like the risk of a rock breaking or bouncing past the net or fence. However, this risk can be offset by a number of factors and some good planning. Fencing and netting is far cheaper and quicker to install than shotcreting, so this option is best for a short-term project like so many commuters might see on either side of a highway surrounded by sheer rock face. Additionally, there are ways to design the fencing so that the possibility of a runaway rock is diminished, like putting the fence at the end of a long, shallow, sloped area at the bottom of the hill or cliff to allow the rock to lose some of its velocity before encountering the fence.
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