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Platform for choice

Spotlight - The piling market is as competitive as ever, reports Margo Cole in this round-up of developments in the foundations sector.

It may have become the norm for main contractors to win jobs on something other than lowest price, but that has not fi ltered down to the way they procure their subcontractors - particularly piling specialists.

'It is almost always a question of price alone, which is shocking when you think of the significance of some foundation work, ' says Philip Ball, company development director at Systems Geotechnique. 'It should be based on something better than price.' As experts in this fi eld, piling companies want the chance to explain different options to the client and show them the range of solutions available, rather than just competing on price on a piling design supplied by a consultant. This is truer than ever since the recent introduction by the Federation of Piling Specialists of measures to ensure all piling is done from a stable platform.

Reputable piling contractors are all fully supportive of these measures, but designing, building and certifying a large platform can add considerable cost to the piling phase of a project.

'It's a jousting game, ' says Ball. 'The subcontractors don't want to include it in their price, and the main contractors don't want to because it wasn't in their original plan.' he changes particularly affect contractors using large, heavy rigs. Chris MacDonald, managing director of Mowlem Piling & Foundations, says he has tendered for jobs that would need £70,000 of site surfacing - all of which would have to be removed once the piling is finished. 'Our clients are looking for us to be as sensible as ossible, ' he says. 'Quite often, the measures outstrip what is actually needed.

'In the past, it wasn't always necessary to present options, ' he continues, 'but now, when you see how much it's going to cost at the start, and how difficult it can be to get a certifi cate for site surfacing, it's important that we can offer different solutions.' Mowlem has invested in two smaller machines to overcome the need for these large working platforms, and is also intending to operate some of its rigs from timber mats - a practice common in the rest of Europe, but one that hasn't reviously taken off in the UK. 'There is some loss of protection, ' admits MacDonald, 'but that is offset by the cheaper cost of the surfacing.

'With factors such as site rfacing in place, the more rsatile companies are going to be able to select a range of options. However, that requires a certain degree of confidence in your piling contractor - not simply going for the cheapest pile.' www. roger-bullivant. co. uk

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