HS2 reveals new vacuum excavation technique for piling

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piling vacuum excavation

HS2 has unveiled a new vacuum excavation technique for piling which is better for the environment, safer for workers and reduces construction noise

Lee Piper, working for HS2 contractor Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture (SCS JV), identified the opportunity to test a new piling technique and worked with a colleague, Deon Louw from Cementation Skanska, to develop the pioneering new approach.

The “zero trim pile technique” involves sucking out excess concrete whilst still wet using a new vacuum excavator technique.

Traditionally in piling, concrete is over poured and then workers have to break out the excess concrete. This can cause a lot of health problems, including hand-arm vibration syndrome, hearing loss and silicosis. By removing the need to break out excess concrete, this new approach is safer for workers, and also reduces the man-hours involved in complex piling work.

Whilst vacuum excavation technology is not new, using it in this way in the construction sector marks a step change, and initial trials have proved successful.

Hercules Site Services, a company from Cirencester, were keen to develop the technology, and provided a machine for use on site in the Euston Approaches, for use on real life piles.

‘Transformational for the construction sector’

Lee Piper, site superintendent for Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture, said: “I have worked in the construction sector for over 20 years, and the same piling techniques have been used throughout that time. Working with colleagues I saw an opportunity to try a new approach and was supported to do so 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 for the whole sector to use going forward.”

Deon Louw, project director at Cementation Skanska, added: “This piling innovation has been developed as a result of a fantastically collaborative approach. This included trials with Hercules Site Services to perfect the vacuuming technique, together with extensive onsite testing to validate the integrity of the piles constructed using this new approach.

“We’ll be installing around 2,000 piles over the next three years in the Euston area. This zero trim innovation will bring amazing benefits in terms of reduced carbon, noise reduction and safer ways of working for our site teams.

“The potential health impacts associated with concrete breakdown are well known, so to be able to mitigate these risks from the outset is great for our people.

“Longer-term, we’ll be looking to see how we can use this innovation on future projects. It really does have the potential to be a game-changer for our industry.”

The zero trim technique is currently being used on HS2 worksites near Euston and will extend to other sites across London where SCS JV is working.

Discussions are also taking place with other HS2 contractors to see how it can be used further across the route.

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