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New hollow pile design promises benefits, says Balfour Beatty

City University London has patented a new hollow tubular concrete pile design that it claims could improve foundation sustainability and allow for easier site redevelopment.

The university has joined forces with Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering to test the SuRe Pile on a construction site in Wembley. It was built alongside a full size solid pile of the same depth and outer diameter and both were loaded to 1,000t. The result showed the performance of the SuRe Pile was comparable with that of the conventional pile.

According to the university, the pile’s hollow central cavity has a number of benefits including a reduction in the concrete required to form the pile and the ability to lower testing equipment into the pile ahead of site redevelopment to test the integrity, and enable reuse. It has also been suggested that the cavity could be used for building services such as storage of groundwater or installation of ground source heat pumps.

“The legacy of concrete piles in densely packed cities such as London is becoming a real problem — it can take two days and £30,000 to remove an old pile on a redevelopment site,” said City University senior lecturer in civil engineering Andrew McNamara who developed the pile with his colleagues. “Our aim is to ensure that future generations don’t have to face this issue, by enabling the construction industry to build more adaptable foundations today.”

City University London is now seeking more industrial partners — including piling contractors, consulting engineers, architects and property developers — to take the idea forward, through further testing and commercial deployment.

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