HS2 Ltd has revealed a new vacuum excavation technique for piling which could have massive benefits for the wider construction industry.
Developed by specialist contractors, the new technique is better for the environment, safer for workers and reduces construction noise, which is hugely important for projects like HS2 where construction is taking place within communities and near operational businesses.
The zero trim pile technique involves sucking out excess concrete while still wet using a new vacuum excavator method.
Traditionally in piling, concrete is overpoured and then workers have to break out the excess concrete. This can cause health problems, such as hand-arm vibration syndrome, hearing loss and silicosis. By negating this, the new approach is safer for workers, also reducing the work hours involved in complex piling work.
While vacuum excavation technology is not new, using it in this way marks a step change, and initial trials have proved overwhelmingly successful.
Lee Piper, Site Superintendent for HS2 contractor Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture (SCS JV) identified the opportunity and worked with a colleague, Deon Louw from Cementation Skanska, to develop the new approach. Hercules Site Services were keen to develop the technology, and provided a machine for use on real life piles on site in the Euston Approaches. Materials excavated were then sent off for lab testing and reports.
“I have worked in the construction sector for over 20 years and the same piling techniques have been used throughout. Working with colleagues I saw an opportunity to try a new approach and was supported by HS2.
“This technique could be transformational for the construction sector, reducing the health risk that results from breaking piles. The additional benefits of noise reduction, time and carbon savings mean the technique should be attractive to the whole sector going forward.”
The zero trim technique is currently being used on HS2 worksites near Euston and will extend to other sites across London where SCS JV are working. The extracted concrete is retained and is being reused in construction elsewhere. Keeping the excess material on site and reusing it will reduce lorry movements to and from sites.
Discussions are taking place with other HS2 contractors to see how the technique can be used further across the route.
“At the site near Euston, we estimate (this technique) will save 60,000 man hours, have a significant positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our staff and reduce noise for nearby residents, as well as removing carbon from the construction process. Delivering this across the route could have a major impact on the HS2 project.”
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