From the ground up

Since entering the UK market, Aarsleff Ground Engineering Ltd has become one of the country’s leading driven piling, sheet piling and ground engineering contractors

When it was first established in 1991, Aarsleff Ground Engineering operated out of portable buildings and a rented shed in Fordham, Cambridgeshire, before settling two years later in its present-day home in Balderton, Newark. From these humble beginnings, the company, which is a subsidiary of Per Aarsleff A/S, one of Denmark’s leading civil engineering contractors, has grown to include two factories, the second of which opened in 2017 in Tuxford to manufacturer its precast concrete ground beam system, a staff of approximately 130 people and a turnover of around £30 million per year.

“The company has grown tremendously since it moved to Newark,” begins Jody Parkin, Operations Director at Aarsleff Ground Engineering. “Driven piling remains at the heart of Aarsleff, and having 27 years of experience in the UK in this field provides us with a steady base to build upon, however where we once concentrated very much on the housing market we have since diversified the number of products and services we offer. We have broadened our horizons with restricted access piling, focused on how we can provide a competitive edge by offering add-ons such as ground beam and purchased tailored plant to reduce client’s costs in other ways. Where we have an edge on commercial projects is the speed and volume at which we can cast and install piles, and frequently throughout the summer months we are installing up to 25,000 linear metres per week.”

As a way of further diversifying the business, Aarsleff embarked on an ambitious growth strategy during 2016, one which saw it acquire a local specialist geotechnical company, allowing it to offer a comprehensive ground package solution to its clients comprising of ground anchors, soil nails, mini piles, SFA, drilling and grouting. In the same year, the company also built up its sheet piling and in-house design department, allowing it to offer a wide range of retaining solutions. A year later, Aarsleff established an alliance in Scotland with Northern Piling to identify key opportunities in that market, while in 2018 Kevin Hague was appointed Managing Director as part of restructure to drive forward the company’s new business model.

“Aarsleff is a company that truly works and collaborates across different disciplines and departments, making the most of our knowledge resources,” Jody continues. “Over the past 12 months we have proven ourselves able to deliver technically challenging projects completely in-house, and we have found that having control and a comfortable awareness of design and technical processes, and requirements of our projects, enables us to control risks, seize opportunities and ultimately deliver a high standard performance to our valued clients.”

Specialist plant
Vital to the performance of the company is its core fleet of 13 driven piling rigs, coupled with its access to the largest fleet of rigs in Europe. “Our Banut Rigs are smaller, more specialist rigs that allow us to access sites that others may not,” Jody states, detailing the aforementioned fleet. “We designed two of these rigs especially for the housing market, incorporating a significantly lower bearing pressure and lighter hammers to suit the section sizes, however we do also use these for larger sections where necessary. In fact, we currently have one inside a building driving 300mm sections on rubber tracks to avoid damaging the existing concrete floor. Our rigs are used for drilling, grouting, and anchor works, but as is well known, there are so many combinations and variations of projects that require specialist plant, and we try and cater to all scenarios.

“We are also always looking at how we can renew and update our plant, and have a good track record for trialling different machines, for successfully reducing the overall age of our fleet and for making the most of inter-company transfers. This latter point is one of the great advantages of being part of a wider organisation, in that we can frequently discuss capacity and operations with our colleagues in Denmark, Poland, Germany and Sweden, and take advantage of a massive inter-transferrable fleet and labour force to suit our demands.”

Impressive projects
In December 2016, the company was proud to have completed its largest ever piling project to date on behalf of homeware giant The Range’s new ‘mega-shed’ distribution centre in Avonmouth, Bristol. The project, awarded by McLaren Construction on behalf of developer Stoford Properties Limited, saw Aarsleff install over 15,000 precast piles, the majority of which were 250mm section DPC, with the remainder being 300mm piles.

Other case studies of the company’s successes include its awarding of the Rochdale Riverside contract to provide a multidiscipline ground engineering solution package for a new retail and leisure park, on behalf of Willmott Dixon. Originally specified as a (Continuous Flight Auger) CFA and ‘Sheet Piling Scheme’, the company was able to convert much of the project into precast piles, with the addition of ground anchors and a ‘King Post Wall’. “We installed a 152lin/m King Post Wall for a new two-storey car park, with retaining heights of up to 4.7m,” Jody details. “For another area, we needed to engineer a solution allowing us to pile adjacent to a running metro station, whilst keeping things cost effective, resulting in a combination of 43No CFA piles and 16 anchor piles to a depth of 17m. For the rest of the site, we installed 302 precast concrete piles.

“It is somewhat unusual to have a mixed piled solution for a foundation, and generally contractors try to avoid it due to the potential issue arising from differential settlements. Despite this, Aarsleff was able to deliver a four-phased groundworks package, far exceeding the projects’ original requirements. We avoided subletting any of the work, allowing us to optimise project delivery, while taking full responsibility for its successful completion.”

Aarsleff puts its growth down to its most important resource, and that is its people. “We are committed to the training and development of our entire workforce so that they are able to gain the necessary skills to reach their full potential. With current skills shortages in the construction sector, particularly in the geotechnical area, finding and training new talent has become more important than ever. We take pride in the fact that Aarsleff plays an active part in changing the perception of the civil engineering industry and deliver regular CPD seminars across the UK.”

Passion for progress
The large projects awarded to, and completed by, the company over the last few years represents proof of Aarsleff’s competitive qualities and its ability to deliver a timely, quality project. In order to build upon this, the company is taking a ‘slow and steady’ approach. “We are a very different business to that which we were three years ago, both in capacity and desire,” Jody explains. “We still see our core business as being precast piling, however our other services have proven to be just as important, running hand-in-hand with our primary activities.

“We are fortunate in that we have a strong team of innovative engineers and inspired people who make working at Aarsleff a pleasure, as well as an exciting prospect. Nevertheless, we are constantly learning, scrutinising our projects on a weekly basis to identify ways to improve, and with much more to offer as a business we are in enviable position of being able to look forward to the beginning of each new day with the same passion as the one before it.”

Aarsleff Ground Engineering Ltd
Services: Ground engineering services