Entrusting piling projects to inexperienced operators who cut costs to secure business could result in harmful consequences, warns piling specialist and contractor Gauteng Piling (GP).
“Proper piling is critical to the durability and safety of any new structure, as it provides the foundations of a structure, whether it consists of one or 20 storeys. Shortcuts, or awarding a contract purely on the lowest price, could be extremely dangerous, to say the least,” says GP executive chairperson and founder Nico Maas.
He comments that project developers need to acknowledge the importance of conveying accurate and sufficient soil information to tenderers to enable piling operators to calculate a competitive cost estimate. “If the correct information is not supplied or a proper geotechnical investigation of soil conditions is not done, then the project might be delayed, owing to the main contractor starting work on site, only to discover that piling is required.”
Moreover, since its establishment in 1996, GP has had very few failures, the majority if which were invariably caused by unexpected ground conditions. “All too frequently, clients or contractors refuse to spend the extra money to establish what lies beneath the surface of the site on which they are planning to build. If there are enormous boulders underground, for example, not even the most experienced piling operator can keep to time schedules.”
Maas notes that unforeseen rock formations might result in the costs of the piling project exceeding the budget, in addition to severely delaying the piling operator’s planned operational schedules on other sites.
Commenting that safety and health conside- rations are paramount in the industry, especially owing to the heavy equipment on site, Maas says: “GP has full-time occupational health and safety staff who conduct regular – and unexpected – site visits to ensure that safety regu- lations are adhered to. Our site managers are all fully versed in this important aspect of piling operations.”
He reiterates that the experience GP has gained over 20 years is used on a daily basis to ensure that the piles it installs will safely carry the design loads supplied by the client’s agents.
GP is working on Phase 2 of the Fourways Mall extension project – the company commenting that its expertise and good working relationship with project developer Accelerate Property Fund is partly responsible for securing the contract. GP successfully completed the foundation for the first phase of the project, providing 200 piles.
The company is using auger drills to drill piling holes for the foundation of the eight-storey extension at the project. The holes have depths of between 6 m and 10 m, depending on ground conditions. The 65 exceptionally large piles are 1 600 mm in diameter and the operation is being completed by a team of about 12 workers, including a foreman and two equipment operators.
GP currently has two rigs on site – the Williams LDH Digger and the Casagrande B110. Core barrel augers are used specifically for drilling into the difficult rock formations. While intermittent rain and unexpected ground conditions, particularly rock and boulders, have caused minimal delays, Maas expects that the project will be completed before the end of this month.
As a long-standing member of construction organisation Master Builders Association North, the company has completed more than 1 500 major piling projects in many parts of South Africa, which includes the provision of more than 500 foundation piles for the construction of Southern Africa’s largest single-phase retail centre, the multibillion-rand Mall of Africa, in Midrand.
It has also provided the foundations for other major shopping centres, such as The Grove, in Pretoria; I’langa Mall, in Mbombela; and Cresta, in Johannesburg. GP has also provided piling for the upgrade of the Kyalami Grand Prix building project and extensions to the Market Theatre complex, in Johannesburg.
Maas comments that most of the available construction work is currently retail related, adding that it seems to be one of the only economic sectors that is still turning a profit. He says that, in his 45 years of piling experience, construction work tends to stagnate during election years, but he expects GP to continue securing work despite this.