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Table: UK soil mechanics laboratories in 1947, according to proceedings of the Second ICSMFE, Rotterdam 1948

Building Research Station1933

Road Research Laboratory1937

John Mowlem and Co. (Soil Mechanics)1939

University of Glasgow1939

Ministry of Works1942

George Wimpey and Co.1944

RH Harry Stanger1944

Scott and Wilson1944

University College, London1945

Imperial College, London1945

Cambridge University1946

King's College, London1946

Foundation years

Richard Costain, which this year also celebrates its 50th geotechnical anniversary, was another main contractor to recognise early on the significance of soils engineering. It too played an influential role in the industry's development, particularly in the international-

isation of British geotechnical expertise.

Its first move was to set up a soil mechanics department, headed by Stanley Serota, offering site investigation and laboratory testing and geotechnical consultancy services. This department soon expanded, and was responsible for numerous site investigation projects in the UK and overseas.

In 1958, the fully owned subsidiary Foundation Engineering was set up, on the back of a two year water supply survey contract in Malta which involved 40km of drilling. Overseas offices were also established in Nigeria and Australia at about the same time.

In the next 12 years, the company developed and offered a wide range of geotechnical processes such as pressure grouting, cavity grouting, dam cut-off grouting, aggregate grouting, anchoring, ground water lowering, vertical sand drains, soil stabilisation, chemical treatment, bored piles, caissons and electro-osmosis.

In the early 1960s, reverse circulation drilling techniques were developed for site investigation drilling of the London Clay for the Barbican project in the City.

Subsequent to downturn in the UK market in the early 1970s, several geotechnical processes were discontinued. The main thrust of the UK business was concentrated on site investigation and developing the specialist equipment business through the wholly owned subsidiary company Pilcon Engineering. The Wayfarer and Traveller Drilling Systems for soils and rocks were developed and manufactured, along with the Pilcon Hand Vane and Static Cone Penetrometer, and specialist soil testing and sampling equipment.

By the mid-1970s the company moved into the Middle East with offices established in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Doha, Jeddah and Kuwait. Geotechnical contracting activities such as precast piling, driven cast insitu piling, vibroflotation, vibro replacement, grouting and anchoring were developed in these areas. In the Far East, offices were also established in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Following the UK downturn in the mid-1980s, Costain suspended its UK site investigation operations, Pilcon Engineering was sold off and the CFA piling business discontinued.

At this time, former Foundation Engineering director Bob Skinner set up the independent site investigation contractor Foundation Exploration Services.

Costain then reorganised its successful overseas operations within Costain International as the Geotechnical Services Division and has since had a relatively low profile in Britain, although it still operates an office from Maidenhead. The division however continues to trade worldwide either as part of a local Costain company or as Foundation Engineering.

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