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The Tough Cell® Alternative: Don’t let harsh winters put your project on ice! ❄️


Winter construction presents a unique set of challenges. Harsh and unpredictable conditions can test the resilience and resourcefulness of construction teams and processes. The winter season adds complexity to any project, from costly compaction problems to logistical hurdles posed by snow and ice. But in the face of all obstacles, most contractors agree that keeping construction moving profitably in the dead of winter is
particularly advantageous.

The challenges of road building during winter months.

As we all know, every successful civil construction project starts with a strong, stable foundation. Usually, this comes down to soil compaction, which is nearly impossible to achieve during the winter when the ground is frozen. With subzero temperatures, aggregate becomes difficult to compact correctly due to:

  • frozen particles
  • difficulties maintaining moisture content of less than 3%


For traditional civil construction, heating and hoarding the ground and aggregate materials is often the best – yet expensive and time-consuming – method used to achieve proper compaction in the winter.

Traditional scenario: When subgrades containing excessive moisture freeze, the probability of foundational failure is high during spring thaw in the subsequent year. The heating and hoarding method is required to mitigate this issue but often isn’t feasible due to financial and scheduling constraints.

What makes Tough Cell® the solution of choice for road construction during winter?


Tough Cell® is an innovative geocell made from novel polymeric alloy (NPA) for paved and unpaved roads and pads, amongst other applications. This reinforcement technology is an all-season solution that thrives despite brutal winter conditions and keeps the construction process going strong. Used to reinforce permanent and temporary roads, pads, and other foundations, Tough Cell® is used to stabilize subgrades and reduce the degradation of surface layers, even without full compaction.

Tough Cell® scenario: Roads built with Tough Cell® over frozen subgrades have a high success rate due to the geocells’ elastic properties. The geocells’ 3D confinement structure allows a solid foundation to be built even when frigid temperatures prevent full compaction within the cells and the subgrade beneath. Additionally, Tough Cell® enables wider stress distribution, which reduces the pressure applied to the subgrade during the thaw cycle and prevents foundational failure come spring.

5 Tough Cell® benefits advantageous to contractors:


With quick and easy all-season installation, Tough Cell® saves on:

    • Material Costs:
      • Tough Cell® requires 50-70% less infill and can be filled with local sand and/or recycled materials while reducing the thickness of layers. This requires fewer hauling trips which lowers transportation costs.
    • Labour Costs:
      • Fewer workforce hours are spent on site prep, fill, and compaction.
      • The confinement structure of Tough Cell® allows the reinforced earthwork structure to maintain its integrity and enables roads to be built and put into operation without 100% compaction.
      • The honeycomb structure of geocells increases the strength and load support capabilities of roads and pads. Made up of perforated cells, it allows drainage and reduces rutting by up to 80%.
    • Very high tensile strength.
      • Tensile strength is the maximum stress that materials can withstand while being stretched before fracturing.
      • Tough Cell® offers the highest tensile strength of any geocell. The strength at yield is 16 to 22 kN/m for perforated Tough Cells®.
    • Very high creep resistance.
      • Tough Cell® has a tested creep (deformation) of less than 3%.
      • Plastic deformation can occur above 3%, causing expansion of the cell wall. This causes the cell to lose its compaction, leading to a loss of confinement and the potential for failure. This is a common issue with HDPE geocells that Tough Cell® technology overcomes.
    • Increases the load-bearing capacity of the road.
      • Vertical loading on Tough Cell® creates a beam effect when cells are laid and compacted with infill.
      • This distributes loads evenly and effectively over larger surface areas and decreases vertical stress so heavier loads can be supported.
    • Lower vertical stress.
      • Tough Cell® increases subgrade strength and reduces the required thickness of structural layers.
    • High durability under a range of environmental conditions.
    • These not only include intense solar radiation, high surface temperatures, and oxidation but also intense hail, frequent rain, storm runoff, and snow.
    • Effective service from -60°C to +60°
    • Tough Cell® technology can withstand an extensive range of temperatures without cellular deformation (cracking or failing).
    • Projected lifespan of 75 years.
    • High elastic stiffness guarantees long-term performance.
      Testing of Tough Cell® shows predictable stiffness at typical and extreme temperatures. As polymers tend to lose elasticity, geocells must maintain stiffness and elasticity without permanent deformation for continued performance.



    Although geocells have been on the market for quite some time, there are some fundamental differences in longevity and performance between typical HDPE geocells and Tough Cells®. The key differentiator is the polymeric material that Tough Cell® is made of. Compared to their short-term, HDPE (high-density polyethylene) soft-cell counterparts, Tough Cell® geocells are rigid cells manufactured from NPA (novel polymeric alloy) with high elastic and tensile stiffness. They are suitable for long-term applications, have low permanent deformation levels, and have an extended project lifespan.



    Tough Cell® is manufactured in several strength categories (A-D) and various sizes to meet the specific requirements of a wide range of applications. Paradox’s technical team collaborates with their clients and engineering partner Stratum Logics to perfectly meet each project’s load requirements, soil conditions, environmental factors, and budget constraints.

    Whether you’re building an all-weather road, stabilizing a slope, or constructing an industrial pad, integrating Tough Cell® into your foundation provides significant project longevity and cost savings and is THE environmentally responsible solution.

    Ready to embrace winter building more innovatively and cost-effectively?

    Excavation of dirt
    Ready to embrace winter building more innovatively and cost-effectively?