The small change to your SI that could save the planet

7th July 2022

Industry matters

We can no longer afford, as an industry or a society, for sustainability to be an optional extra or an afterthought. Talk of “saving the planet” is actually misleading. We need to save ourselves. Here, Francis Williams looks at how Site Investigation can play its part.

The Sustainability of Site Investigation is certainly a current topic of conversation. For those that have been to some of Ground and Waters Limited’s CPD sessions, you will know our views that one way to achieve sustainable design is for better Site Investigation.

You put rubbish into a geotechnical model, you’ll get rubbish out of it.

But this is not about that……

One of the aims of Ground and Water Limited’s Sustainability Working Group, alongside better waste management (pots/plastic/soil waste from SI), Sustainable Foundation Recommendations and a Battery Powered Fleet of Vans, was to test the ability of Site Investigations to be undertaken using Battery Powered Drilling Rigs and Diggers.

Our friends at ADP Group have bravely spoken of the fuel usage of SI over the year. Some 200,000L, 540T of CO2. They have cleverly made use of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil as a second-generation biofuel to reduced CO2 emissions by 2.5T per 1000L. Fair Play.

But I was wondering whether any Battery Powered Drilling Rigs were on the market.. anyone know?

I have been made aware of the Liebherr LB16 which is a battery powered piling rig, which I believe can do larger diameter bored and CFA piles. Has a 10hour working day apparently. I understand Sandvik produced battery powered drilling rigs for mining.

What about rotary core rigs,  cable.. I know there are handheld off battery packs. I have asked and not got much reply.

So the Sustainability Working Group thought “why not battery powered trial pitting?”

Ground and Water Limited recently undertook (and I’m going to claim it’s the first in the UK until I’m told otherwise) Trial Pitting Ground Investigation with an Electric Digger.

The first point is that the Site Investigation was completed successfully at lower emissions than it would have been with conventional equipment.. good news from wherever you’re standing.

It was quieter, too.

However, the SI was geared to the small size and power that is available. The aim was shallow soakage tests in chalk, for which the only size of electric digger available was perfectly capable. It got to 2m in the chalk happily, but deeper and dense would be a struggle. It would also likely struggle with 8 – 10, plus trial pits to dig and backfill. Although it says 8 – 10hour running time, 1 pit dug to 2m and then backfilled took 2/3rds of the battery.

With this in mind, Ground and Water Limited will target simple jobs like this with a battery powered digger. Just one little step along the Sustainability road. Please get in touch if interested in a quote.

We have already had great discussions with our client Seawards Properties about using such equipment on all sites needing over winter soakaway tests, the sort of investigation this would be ideal for. We look forward to working with partners like this to try and find more sustainable way to approach Site Investigation.

For another take on sustainability in construction: Don’t Rebuild, Refurbish – Why it isn’t that simple.

And more on general trends in the industry: Is the construction industry finally going green?


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