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Moving out

Foundations - NCE's foundations special catches up with the country's major piling projects and looks at new techniques and approaches which have taken the industry forward.

Big, exciting foundation jobs will be few and far between in the capital over next few years, experts claim. As earthworks on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and Heathrow Terminal 5 come to an end, and the next major projects - Crossrail and the London 2012 Olympic projects - are not expected to start until 2008, the larger piling specialists are worried about some lean 'in between' years.

'The London economy certainly isn't as good as it was a year ago, but work in Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester is growing strongly, ' says Arup Geotechnics director Tim Chapman.

'There aren't many high spec offices coming up in the next three to four years. The hope is for Crossrail to get going which will be about £7bn of work, much of it foundations, ' he adds.

Bachy Soletanche business development manager Chris Thomas agrees that most opportunity lie outside London.

'We're having lots of discussions with developers, but not many of the projects are moving forward.'

Putting words into action, Bachy Soletanche has opened offices in Glasgow and Birmingham to take advantage of work in those regions.

Chapman and Thomas' views reflect research carried out by research body Market & Business Development, which predicted last month that the value of UK foundations market would only increase with inflation until 2009.

On the technical front, the next few years are likely to see a tailing off in piling methods involving earth removal, as the Landfill Directive pushes up the cost of landfilling spoil.

Contaminated arisings or spoil with a naturally high chemical or mineral content will be classed 'hazardous waste' and will be particularly expensive to dispose of. 'London Clay can have a high, naturally occurring sulphate content which will need to be treated when waste acceptance criteria kick in next year, ' says Chapman.

He believes spoil-less continuous flight auger and steel sheet piling will become more common 'and we'll shy away from shifting soil away from sites'.

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