Out of sight
08 May 2008
This year is proving to be a busy one for contractors and equipment manufacturers alike. In March ground engineering company Keller, which recently won a US $17.2 million contract to build the foundations for the 92-storey Trump Tower in Chicago, reported an +3% rise in pre-tax profits of UK£ 29.6 million (US$ 56.7 million) on worldwide sales of UK£ 595.9 million (US$ 1.14 billion), up +5% on 2003.
Chief executive Justin Atkinson, said the results meant an end to the tough times the company had experienced in 2003, when it issued a string of profit warnings.
Besides the Trump contract Keller has also won several other large contracts in the US, including a US$ 12.6 million contract to install caisson foundations for the new Goldman Sachs headquarters building in Lower Manhattan. “Our current order book represents over four months’sales, giving us a sound base from which to progress,” said Mr Atkinson.
Equipment manufacturers have been busy too. Earlier this year at the ConExpo Show in Las Vegas, US, for example, International.
Construction Equipment, Inc. (ICE USA) and International Construction Equipment BV (ICE The Netherlands) announced they have formed a joint venture (JV) for international marketing and sales.
A new company, ICE International, will be the global marketing arm of both ICE USA and ICE The Netherlands. ICE International sales personnel, based in The Netherlands and the US, will work through a world-wide network of agents and distributors to provide customer support
“Continuous improvement of our global dealer network will form the base in reaching our mutual aim, [which] is to be able offer the best solution for the customers in order to become the number one dealer of piling equipment in each country and each market.
“Both ICE The Netherlands and ICE USA will produce equipment for ICE International, whose management will source equipment from either company to provide the most profitable situation for ICE International, the distributors and agents,” said a company spokesman.
The product lines of ICE The Netherlands and ICE USA will be ‘optimised’to suit the requirements of customers in individual countries. Product development will be directed to provide a complete line of foundation construction equipment.
“In countries where ICE USA and ICE The Netherlands both have distributors, both will continue their relationship with ICE International. However, in the long term, it may be most useful to allow the most effective organisation to represent ICE.
“We also have a new dealer network in the Latin American countries and globally we've grown +25% compared to last year. Eastern Europe is very, very busy, and so is Holland, Russia and the Far East,” added the spokesman.
The company has recently supplied an ICE 46RF vibratory hammer to the Leighton Kumagai Joint Venture, the main contractor at the New MetroRail City Project. This is the inner city component of the Southern Suburbs railway that will extend from Perth to Mandurah, in Australia.
Construction, which started in February 2004, is scheduled to finish in October 2007. The work includes 700 m of twin bored underground rail tunnel, 900 m of open drive and cut, and cover tunnel sections, new underground platforms, a below ground station, roads, drainage, service relocation, railway track and airspace.
Initially work involves installation of steel sheet piling, in lengths up to 24 m, to form a box. The box will then be excavated and a TBM will be launched north under the city towards the main railway station.
Further extensive sheet pile installation will then follow to allow excavation and construction of The Esplanade Station and the cut and cover sections of the tunnel.
In order to minimise noise and vibration during the installation and subsequent extraction of the sheet piles the JV will be using an ICE 46RF vibratory hammer, a Resonance Free hammer developed in The Netherlands by ICE BV.
Middle East market
While the Asia Pacific market continues to grow the Middle East, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in particular, have seen significant growth over the last few years. Many iconic projects are now underway and there looks to be no end in sight to the imagination of the region's property developers.
In Dubai, the Mall of the Emirates, the largest covered mall outside North America, is currently under construction. Facilities will include the region's largest hypermarket, a multiplex cinema, a five-star resort and an underground car park.
The development's main attraction will be the Middle East's first indoor ski resort. It will feature one of the world's longest in-door ski slopes, equivalent in size to three football pitches.
Bauer Spezialtiefbau's Dubai subsidiary was the main contractor on two of the three foundation works packages and constructed 2500 piles ” 600, 750 and 1000 mm in diameter ” up to depths of 20 m into sandstone. Bauer heavy-duty rotary drilling rigs in various sizes were employed: a BG 9, BG 15 and two BG 25s.
In nearby Kuwait another European company enjoying considerable success is Liebherr. It recently supplied six HS 855 HD crawler cranes to Kuwaiti construction company Ahmadiah Contracting and Trading. The cranes were used for dynamic compaction work as part of the waterside Al Khiran Pearl City development.
With a projected population of 100000 people it is one of the largest developments in the area. Construction is expected to take 10 years and cover an area of about 20 km2, including artificial lagoons and beaches.
Construction of the KWD 40 million (US$ 138 million) first phase started in May 2003 with completion due in October 2006. The contract covers infrastructure for 1200 residential plots on 1.5 million m2 of land. For the compaction of the beach areas Ahmadiah chose Liebherr's HS 855 HD duty cycle crawler crane, equipped with dynamic compaction control.
The HS 855 HD is equipped with two 25 tonne winches and a powerful 544 hp (405 kW) diesel engine. A drop weight of up to 25 tonnes can be dropped from a height of 25 m with Liebherr's Litronic control running the working cycles automatically.
The first part of phase one, with an area of 1.1 million m2, was finished within six months, during which time the six Liebherr HS 855 HDs made over 950000 drops.
What has made development on this scale possible is oil. According to David Redhead, managing director of UK-based BSP International Foundations Ltd, the interesting markets “are anywhere that's producing oil. They're into what I call the ‘wouldn’t it be nice’projects.”
However, before a country can sell its oil it must extract and refine it. BSP is currently working in Iran, which Mr Redhead describes as “an interesting market to be involved with”, where it is has recently shipped two of its new generation of Rapid Impact Compactors (RIC) ” RIC9000 units ” mounted on Kobelco SK480 excavators.
The rigs are consolidating ground at the world's largest petro-chemical refinery at the southern port of Assalouyeh on Iran's Gulf coast. The US$ 1.2 billion, 20 km long refinery is being constructed on reclaimed land, protected by a boulder defense wall with fill material from 3 to 14 m deep.
Working on the Water Treatment area the RIC9000 units are compacting to depths of 6 m. From 6 to 14 m the fill material is being compacted using ‘free fall’dynamic compaction involving dropping weights from 10 to 30 tonnes from up to 25 m.
In operation, the RIC's 1.5 m diameter foot stays in contact with the ground, ensuring efficient transfer of energy to the ground at all times. Energy is imparted by dropping the weight through a relatively low height of up to 1.2 m at 40 to 60 blows per minute. According to Mr Redhead, although the energy per blow is small by comparison to conventional dynamic compaction, the rapid blow frequency amply compensates and can result in much greater total energy input per unit on site.
“With ‘normal’soil compaction methods you're dropping a large weight from a great height for deep penetration. However, very often you don't need to go too deep, particularly when working close to sensitive structures. With the RIC 9000 it's a smaller weight at a shorter drop distance, which makes it good for docks, runways, land reclamation, low rise buildings, wherever there's low loading on the ground,” said Mr Redhead.
According to Mr Redhead, the technique had found a ready market in Canada, China, West Kazakhstan and the US. He also told iC that he believed the US market is “very strong at present. The road building programme looks like coming on stream, and whoever you talk to in the US they're positive for the future.”
Nonetheless, Mr Redhead sounded a word of caution. “The recent steel price rise has had an affect on prices to customers. However, you haveto match that with trying to be as competitive as possible, so it's affected everyone. But, it's not just steel, it's also copper wire, for components, and rubber prices ” raw material prices have gone up in general, which has but a burden on all manufacturers.
“The fall in the dollar has also been of concern. The problem for manufacturers is this affects not only the US but China and Latin America too. It makes things a bit tight, you have to look to your margins and margins have been squeezed continuously,” said Mr Redhead.
Indeed most of the non-US manufacturers iC spoke to expressed concern over the falling dollar but remained optimistic as to the US market. Many, including Mait, Soilmec, Pile Co and IHC Hydrohammer pointed to seismic work on bridges along the western seaboard as being an area of expanding opportunities.
On the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, in the San Francisco Bay, for example, US-based AGRA Foundations and UK-based Seacore have been installing large diameter rock socketed cast-in-drilled-hole (CIDH) reinforced concrete piles.
The huge piles are adjacent to and incorporated in the existing bell shaped pier foundations of the bridge. The 3.8 m diameter, 69 m long CIDH piles are part of an extensive strengthening of the bridge's foundations to avoid structural failure during an earthquake.
The 8.8 km long cantilever and truss bridge, with its 327 m main span and 56.4 m high shipping clearance is supported by bell shaped concrete substructures consisting of two or four concrete shafts interconnected by concrete spandrel beams and diaphragm walls, founded on concentric rings of raking steel H beams. Without strengthening the bridge would be vulnerable in a major seismic event.
Part of the retrofit programme involves strengthening some of the foundations with 3.8 m diameter CIDH concrete piles. These incorporate special pile caps, which act as shear diaphragms to limit the lateral movement of the existing piers, and will take the shear forces transferred between them and existing foundations.
AGRA was awarded the US$ 40 million foundations subcontract, which involved installing about 640 piles of varying sizes and depths. However, due to construction constraints AGRA and Seacore used a rig share agreement to design and build a new Teredo T40-4 reverse circulation drill and shrouded full face drill bit for the project.
The Teredo T40-4, which is believed to be the biggest pile top drill in the world, is capable of drilling up to 6 m diameter. For the San Rafael project drill diameters are 2 to 4.4 m.
Positioning templates for the CIDH piles were provided by precast concrete pile caps, placed centrally between the bell shaped foundations and supported on the seabed by steel pin piles. The precast caps, anchored together with tremie concrete, perform as large diameter pilot guide holes to accommodate permanent 3.8 m diameter steel casings.
The casings, up to 60 m long, were driven by a hydraulic hammer through the pile caps and into the seabed overburden to found on the underlying bedrock and top level with the pile cap. A secondary larger diameter temporary conductor extension casing was then installed over the permanent one.
A seal and extended above water prior to mucking out the internal and cleaning the interior wall of the permanent shell.
The water was pumped from the two part casing and replaced with synthetic drilling slurry. The T40-4 drill was placed on top of the temporary casing ready for drilling the 3.35 m diameter sockets extending for a depth of 9 m from the toe of the permanent steel shell into the underlying rock.
During full-face rotary drilling the spoil slurry mixture was airlifted up the hollow drill string, using the reverse circulation technique, and discharged into a barge with a cleaning system for recycling back to the shaft. This closed loop system met the stringent environmental restrictions, which prevented any discharge into the bay.iC