Reduction of material use, increased production efficiency, improved quality, safety and waste reduction, noise reduction, aquifer protection and the minimisation of spoil volumes are all areas that the industry has been exploring to improve sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of ground engineering.

Now Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering (BBGE) has launched what it claims is the UK’s first driven precast pile cutting system which has the potential to reduce piling waste to zero.

The solution, which is awaiting a patent, uses diamond tipped blades which cut precast concrete piles above the ground and then utilise the trimmed section of the pile as the lead part of the next pile. All compressive strength requirements are met, while the ability to cut piles to within 100 millimetres of ground level means fewer obstructions to other trades, thus improving access to sites.

BBGE has already halved its precast piling waste from 1.6 metres per pile down to 0.8 metres per pile, and will now take this even further using the new system to enable significant cost and sustainability benefits.

A recent supermarket project in Scotland, which required 4,500 piles, saw the cutting system save up to 3,600 metres of pile waste that would have otherwise been generated.

There are also other significant environmental benefits to the system. Each metre of precast pile manufactured and delivered to site in the UK produces on average 40 to 60 kilograms of harmful carbon dioxide gases. The reduction in pile utilisation could remove around 2000 tonnes of these harmful emissions per year.

The innovation was developed, piloted and extensively tested in collaboration with Finnish suppliers Junttan, who supplied the mechanical cutter which has been fitted to two piling rigs to date.

“We are totally committed to driving down waste and improving efficiency,” said Malcolm O’Sullivan, managing director of Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering. “This new technique for precast pile cutting is a highly effective way to do this. It delivers innovation, sustainability objectives, as well as value for money.”