Home: June - July 2006 › Screwfast Foundations Ltd - Piling on the pressure
Screwfast Foundations Ltd - Piling on the pressure
31/07/2006 | Channel:
Business Improvement, Infrastructure
ScrewFast Foundations Limited has enjoyed rapid growth and has become the preferred foundation system for many speed signs, signals, LOCs and OLE structures
ScrewFast Foundations is the acknowledged leader in the helical pile industry,” says Peter Dunn, chairman of the ScrewFast board. “This is a position we have striven to achieve and to maintain through honest appraisal of our methods and the continual research and development of our approach to design and problem solving. Quite simply, ScrewFast Foundations Limited is the benchmark against which the competition measures itself - and we are very proud of this.”
Peter, a chartered engineer and member of the Institute of Structural Engineers, and his colleague, ScrewFast\'s managing director, Duncan McGregor have patented
improvements and innovations to the original screw pile concept developed in the 1800s and have developed and researched the tension-compression aspect of such piles, which have multiple uses in resisting uplift and cyclical loadings. This has proven to be most effective on rail for trackside structures, as well as for masts for communication towers and conventional buildings.
Peter explains: “My role as chairman of the board is to promote the wider understanding of the screw pile, particularly to the industry decision makers. Contractors lead us into the rail industry but consultants, clients and “checkers” needed to understand how they work and a lot of my time is spent giving talks about the basics of screwpile design.”
The company was formed in 2000 following on from the directors\' involvement in a site investigation company and the combined structural, mechanical, geotechnical, materials, consulting and contracting experience is the basis of the company.
The earliest known uses of screw piles date back to a patent application in 1833, when Alexander Mitchell is credited with their development for supporting lighthouses in tidal basins around England, but, with the advent of steam driven piles, they were no longer economically viable and fell out of favour. It was the advent of machines such as JCB\'s with hydraulic take-off that could produce rotary power that lead to their revival - firstly as anchors in the US and later as compression piles in other countries. Duncan visited Australia in 1999 and investigated screw piles and he decided that screw piling could be reintroduced here with success.
Peter continues: “ScrewFast Foundations provides superior holding capacity to any
other foundation system based on cost, speed and minimal soil disturbance, especially in unstable soils, which has made us successful in many sectors, not just rail. Screw piles can be used in almost all situations where other types of piles are
specified. However, what is important to note is that ScrewFast Foundations are not
only used where the ground is poor but also (and mainly) where there is “good” ground. This is for reasons such as speed, no vibration and tension/compression benefits.
“Screw piles can be used in both tension and compression, but one of the things that
makes ScrewFast Foundations different is our research into reciprocal loading. This research, carried out at Transport Research Laboratory, led to a method of assessment of the frequency and magnitude of the loads in different soil types, which urged a cautious approach when alternating tension and compression are involved. As far as I am aware this research is unique and others have not learned the lessons.”
ScrewFast Foundations also has a unique arrangement in the piling industry as designers and suppliers rather than subcontractors. Customers are typically
contractors on rail, road or mast sites who have been trained and licensed to do the
installations. The enterprise will train others to install its foundations quickly and cleanly with no spoil, using simple hired machinery instead of large specialist piling equipment. This gives greater control of resources to the contractors and enables them to make best use of the enormous time and cost savings.
The company has now trained over 300 installers to fit its screw piles for numerous
applications across the UK. The number of installation teams is expanding rapidly as
more and more businesses recognise the advantages of this aspect of the ScrewFast
An awarding winning and pioneering business, ScrewFast Foundations was
awarded a Queen\'s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category in Her Majesty the Queen\'s Birthday Honours list 2005. “The company won this prestigious award for its innovative foundation system, where piles are screwed into the ground and are then fitted with steel grillages to support top structures. This is completely
environmentally friendly as no concrete is required and they also take hours to install
instead of days,” says Peter.
A new product called the Angel Pile is proving to be very popular, and will provide
an area of growth for ScrewFast Foundations, as Peter explains: “This is a set of wings that are installed on top of a single screw pile to give lateral reaction to the ground. We have installed several for both Rail and Roadside structures already
and we were able to install them quickly and with relative ease.”
Following the successful installation of an Angel Pile in York for a VMS sign, ScrewFast Foundations was approached by Faber Maunsell and the Scottish Executive to install CCTV cameras on a roads project near Gleneagles Hotel. Peter tells us more about the project: “They needed to put up eight CCTV cameras on the roads around the Gleneagles Hotel. We supplied the Angel Piles and the main contractor installed them under ScrewFast supervision in one week. It could not have been done in the time available using conventional foundations. Following this successful installation of the CCTV camera foundations, we entered the 2005 Highways Magazine Excellence Awards and were runners up in the Maintenance category.
He adds: “The opportunities for us in UK Rail at the moment are enormous. The
industry has been a little bit erratic in its attitude to our method, which is inevitable
with such an innovative product, but every scheme that comes out now seems to have us as an alternative option. We are delighted to have been asked to attend a Network Rail supplier conference to discuss how this area might progress and this really is a sign that Network Rail are acknowledging the fact that ScrewFast Foundations can help improve performance. I think that we are through the phase of convincing people about the viability and benefits of the ScrewFast piling system and acceptance is now easier than in the early days.
“Today, we are often the selected option for many contractors,” concludes Peter. “The secret of our success is hard work and innovation. It is our ability to look at challenges differently, which has seen us grow rapidly. We combine many years\' expertise with the enthusiasm of our relatively youthful, but well qualified, staff and this has lead to the development of some excellent ideas. Our culture is one of \'can-do\' in which nobody is afraid to make a suggestion and our committed team of engineers lead by Duncan McGregor has come up with several innovative ideas that have proved very popular indeed. In all my years as a consultant and a ground investigation contractor, I have never come across anything as exciting as this. It is an absolute pleasure to have the chance to be a part of the development and to tell people all about it”