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GE Awards 2014: Winners announced

The high number and quality of entries for this year’s awards underlines the fact that the UK geotechnical industry is at last in recovery and the GE Awards celebrate the projects that have been delivered during this growth period.

More than 500 people attended the 2014 GE Awards

More than 500 people attended the 2014 GE Awards

This year’s GE Awards finalists have faced tough competition as the quantity and quality of entries this year has been outstanding and the judges had a difficult job deciding on the winners. The quality, breadth and scale of the entries this year demonstrates the huge impact the ground engineering profession continues to have on the global infrastructure market.

The judging panel had a difficult job choosing between the projects, technical developments and companies entered this year but that was nothing compared to the challenge the panel faced in judging the Young Geotechnical Engineer of the Year category.

The calibre and enthusiasm of this year’s candidates shows there is some strong talent coming into our sector to ensure its future is one that will be innovative and progressive.

Congratulations to all our winners!

GE would like to extend its thanks to everyone who attended the awards and generously contributed to the charity raffle to supporting our publisher Emap in its bid to help Great Ormond Street Hospital by raising £86,000 this year to fund a  child psychologist for the next three years to help children with facial deformities gain more confidence and self-esteem. GE and GOSH are very pleased to announced that the raffle raised over £3,700 and congratualtions to BBGE’s Jane Towse who won the afternoon tea for two at the Grosvenor House Hotel.

Sustainability Award

Sponsored by:


Winner: Halton Borough Council, Ramboll UK and Celtic Technologies for the Mersey Gateway Advance Remediation Works


Remediation work ahead of the main scheme helped to de-risk the bridge construction

Construction of the £686M Mersey Gateway Bridge is about to get underway but, without a project undertaken by Ramboll and Celtic ahead of the main works, the budget and timescale for the main project could have been put at risk because of contamination issues.

In order to de-risk the main bridge scheme client Halton Borough Council chose to deal with the chlorinated solvent contamination at the former Catalyst Trade Park ahead of the main project and before the funding for the Mersey Gateway
scheme had been finalised.

The contaminated site in Widnes was previously used as an alkali works for the local soap industry and will be covered by the northern approach embankments for the new bridge.

Advancing the remediation work meant that dealing with the contamination did not need to be priced into the main contract. Halton Borough Council says the cost of pricing in the work would have been several times the cost of the £2.2M advance remediation work.

The type of contamination meant that achieving a specific target was challenging and Ramboll successfully negotiated a goal of betterment with the regulators rather than strict target values. According to Ramboll, this was a proportionate, sustainable, innovative and cutting edge approach to address geoenvironmental issues associated with heavily contaminated sites and hasn’t been used on large high profile geotechnical projects until now.

Ramboll says the pragmatic approach adopted for this project demonstrates that even when dealing with highly impacted sites,
development can still be allowed to proceed with confidence without the need for over-remediation as the approach allows a site to be delivered as “fit for purpose”.

Celtic proposed the use of two different techniques to remediate the site and as a result achieved improvements that were significantly better than expected with 17t of solvents extracted. The extracted solvents were recycled at a nearby energy from waste plant.

The judges said the project clearly demonstrated the benefits of considering all three pillars of sustainability. The panel liked the
scheme above other entries in this category because the work used a complex set of techniques and took a novel approach to a difficult remediation task.


UK Project with a Geotechnical Value of up to £1M

Winner: United Utilities for the Piethorne andWickenhall Water Treatment Works Access RoadStabilisation, Rochdale


Use of the geotechnical observational method helped to save £1M on the initial estimated costs

When the access road started to suffer from a progressive failure, there were fears that a collapse could prevent planned work on the Haweswater Aqueduct.

The design, carried out by United Utilities with ESG, Atlantic Geomatics and Eric Wright Civil Engineering to stabilise the road, was completed in time for the Haweswater work last autumn and with almost £1M of savings on initial cost estimates by avoiding the need for an anchored embedded retaining wall.

The judges said the project showed a real understanding of geotechnics and the mechanisms of failure to value engineer the work and avoid a heaving engineering solution to deliver a 50% reduction in costs.

They also said the site team made good use of the observational method to allow the scheme to be further value engineered.

Fast delivery of the work to ensure that other capital projects were not impacted or delayed was also commended.



UK Project with a Geotechnical Value of between £1M and £3M

Winner: Parsons Brinckerhoff for the Beaminster Tunnel


The work at Beaminster is believed to be the first time soil nailing has been used in Greensand

Failure of the slopes above both the north and south portals of the Beaminster Tunnel in Dorset in July 2012 meant that this key route was likely to be closed to traffic for some time.

Discovery 10 days later that one of the landslides had killed two people brought the problem to the attention of the national media.

Against this backdrop, Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) worked with Dorset County Council to devise a solution that would allow the tunnel to reopen without compromising the appearance of the area or the grade II listed tunnel portals.

PB believes the
solution led to the first use of soil nailing in greensand.

Judges described PB’s work on the Beaminster Tunnel as being excellent in terms of meeting every criteria for this category.

The judges liked the sympathetic remediation of the structure after forensic analysis, and the design which overcame challenging access issues.




UK Project with a Geotechnical Value of over £3M

Winner: Bam Ritchies working in collaborationwith Network Rail for the Hooley Cutting Stabilisation, Croydon


Judges were impressed by the work delivered at the Hooley Cutting in a very challenging environment

Advance work over the Christmas period in 2011 meant that Bam Ritchies was able to work on stabilising the 30m deep Hooley
Cutting in Surrey without impacting on rail services on this key route between Brighton and London.

The 170-year-old cutting through the upper chalk was overlain by pockets of gravel and suffered from rock falls which were putting rail users at risk, so Network Rail called in Bam Ritchies to stabilise the cutting.

Installation of a scaffold deck in the Christmas 2011 track possession allowed Bam Ritchies to carry out soil nailing, piling and wire mesh work without the need for track possessions during the second phase of work.

Judges said the Hooley Cutting work was a truly excellent geotechnical project. The work was undertaken in a very challenging
environment with care and due consideration of the impact on neighbours and the operational railway.

According to the judging panel,the variety of geotechnical measures implemented by Ritchies demonstrated a flexible approach
to the problem.


International Project of the Year Award

Winner: Witteveen+Bos for the North South Metro Line, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Judges said that it was a huge achievement to deliver the project despite the very challenging ground conditions

Construction of Amsterdam’s new Noord/Zuidlijn metro line will cut travel times between Amsterdam North and South stations by half with connections to the city’s exhibition centre and Central station.

Construction on the 9.7km route included an immersed tube tunnel as well as tunnelling through soft ground below buildings founded on wooden piles.

Judges said it was a huge achievement to deliver the project despite very challenging ground conditions and congested urban
environment. The judging panel particularly commended the use of large-scale trials to fine tune construction techniques to reduce risk and increase innovation.


Highly commended: International Levee Handbook Team

Development of the Levee Handbook has huge potential for immense benefit to a diverse range of communities around the world, according to the judges. Bringing together good practice in a single guide secured this project a high commendation.

Consulting Firm of the Year

Sponsored by:


Winner: CH2M Hill


CH2M Hill has expanded rapidly in geotechnics while delivering a range of complex projecr around the world


CH2M Hill’s decision to establish its global Tunnelling and Earth Engineering (TEE) practice in 2013 to draw together its skills from around the world and the work already being delivered by the team caught the eye of judges looking at the Consulting
Firm of the Year category.

Nonetheless, the judges said that it was very difficult to choose a winner in this category with all the entries demonstrating high standards. But it was CH2M Hill’s work on a wide range of complex projects over a large geographical area that convinced the judging panel that it should win this category.

The company is involved in some of the most prominent and significant projects in the UK at the moment, including Crossrail, HS2, Thames Tideway and the Wylfa and Hinkley nuclear schemes. Globally, the company is also having an impact with involvement in the Izmit Bay Bridge, Turkey; Kishananga Hydroelectric, India; IDRISS, Qatar; and STEP, pumping station shafts in UAE.

Since the new TEE practice was established, the focus in Europe has been on creating geotechnical teams in Leeds and in Krakow, Poland, with geotechnical staff numbers increasing by 10% from 214 to 235.

Revenue from geotechnical staff in Europe over the last 12 months has grown 39% from £21.2M to £29.4M, which helped the company move from being ranked 10th in the 2012 GE Geotechnical Services File top consultants table to third position in
the 2013 listing.

CH2M Hill has said that formation of TEE has also boosted its position as a top geotechnical consultant globally with staff based in North America, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Australia and Latin America, as well as Europe. Globally the company has 540 geotechnical specialists in TEE following 108 staff in the US and Canada joining the practice recently.

The TEE group within CH2M Hill recorded global revenues of £54M in 2013 and is already forecasting 40% growth this year to £75M.


Contractor of the Year

Sponsored by:


Winner: Bam Ritchies


Continual growth and the range of project undertaken by Bam Ritchies ensured its win in the Contractor of the Year category

Bam Ritchies celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 with a 10% rise in turnover to £59M and has continually grown since 1999 when the company was turning over £9M. This growth in turnover has also been matched by similar increases in profitability and employee numbers.

The company has worked on a number of high-profile projects in the last 12 months, including the Hooley Cutting scheme which has won the UK Project with a Geotechnical Value of over £3M category. Other notable schemes that the company has been involved in are TAM grouting for Crossrail, treatment of old mine workings at Highbarns in Hemel Hempstead, and stabilisation of the Uphill Cutting on a rail line in Somerset.

The company has also worked on a number of overseas contracts with new projects underway in Norway, Togo and Cameroon.
Despite the expanding scale and location of its geotechnical project, ground investigation remains a core part of Bam Ritchies’ business and this sector saw a 37% rise in turnover to £11M in 2013. Work on Borders Rail, the Denny to Beauly overhead
line project and a number of wind farm schemes significantly contributed to this growth. Some of the pro ts have already been reinvested in development of a new laboratory to expand the range of tests the company can undertake.

The judges were impressed by the growth that Bam Ritchies had demonstrated in all areas of its business, which will strengthen its position in years to come and allows it to better adapt to market conditions.

According to the judging panel, the Hooley Cutting project demonstrated Ritchies’ clever implementation of proven techniques in a challenging environment on a project that was very geotechnical in its nature. The judges also identified the effort that Ritchies’ goes to in order to manage stakeholder relations and said that this work was clearly a factor in the success of the company’s work at Highbarns.


Ground Investigation Specialist of the Year

Winner: Concept


Concept’s flexible approach and range of skills impressed the judges

Concept Ground Investigation has steadily grown since it was established in 1997 and last year, increased demand led to expansion of its workforce by 60% and a rise in turnover of 150%.

Concept specialises in larger, more complex ground investigation work and is currently involved in projects for Canary Wharf Contractors as well as working on the Northern Line Extension, Bank Station Upgrade and the Sainsbury’s Nine Elms Redevelopment.

Judges said Concept’s submission demonstrated its work that straddles the boundaries between geotechnics and structural engineering to deliver outstanding results for its clients and fills a gap in the market.

According to the judging panel, Concept’s work on the Shell Building stood out in terms of the method statements prepared ahead of the work and detailed structural analysis of the impact of investigation on the post-tensioned slabs.

Judges also commended the company’s work on a major project for BskyB that called for a change in approach once on site but which was still delivered on time and within budget.








Product Equipment Innovation Award

Winner: Fugro Seacore for its Wave Walker


The innovation involved int he development of the Wave Walker ensured Fugro Seacore’s win

Fugro Seacore developed its Wave Walker platform to overcome the issues associated with moving from location to location when using selfelevating working platforms (SEWPs) on ground engineering and geotechnical survey projects. Weather conditions oft en limit the ability to move SEWPs, which can impact on both the cost and programme of projects. Ground conditions can also further limit the operation of such platforms.

The Wave Walker overcomesthese issues by being able to transfer weight from one set of legs to the other to more effectively walk between locations and allow positioning to be adjusted to cope with ground conditions.

The judges said Fugro’s development addresses a recurring problem in a specific working environment. “It is a bold innovation that required a great deal of faith and confidence to take into production,” they said.

Highly commended: Minnovare for its Azimuth Aligner

Judges applauded Minnovare’s transfer of mining technology into the tunnelling market and said the surveying tool makes tunnel drilling a more effi cient and less risky process.

Award for Technical Excellence

Winner: Expanded Geotechnical for theCrossrail Liverpool Street Station’s Blomfield Box


Work on the Blomfield Box was delivered under budget and six weeks early

Use of a 3D flythrough to visualise the challenges faced in constructing the 322 piles for the Blomfield Box M&E shaft at
Crossrail’s Liverpool Street Station impressed the judges.

The project called for piles up to 54m in length to form a 35m deep shaft in a brownfield site with no site storage areas. Any delay would impact on the critical path for the station itself. Th e project was delivered six weeks early and £900,000
under budget.

The submission described work to reconfi gure equipment and plunge columns on the project to deal with the logistical challenges on site. Client commendations for the £7.5M piling work were described by the judges as being exceptional.
The judges also said the entry was a good example of the benefits of early contractor involvement and the efforts of Expanded to help to deliver significant cost and time savings.

Highly Commended: Halton Borough Council, Ramboll UK and Celtic Technologies for the Mersey Gateway Advance Remediation Works

The judges liked the extent of collaboration on this project and commended Celtic’s achievement of result above expectations.

Young Geotechnical Engineer of the Year

Sponsored by:


Winner: Janvi Shah, Amey


Janvi Shah, Amey

Janvi Shah won over the judging panel when she responded to a question asking her what she wanted to achieve in her career by saying: “I want to be a geotechnical pioneer.”

Shah is currently combining working as a geotechnical engineer for Amey with research for her PhD at the University of Birmingham. Her research is focused on developing a decision support framework which assesses the long-term resilience of potential geotechnical design solutions in the light of changing social, economic and environmental changes facing the transportation network.

The judging panel were impressed by Shah’s passion for geotechnics and her highly ambitious approach to her career so far. The judges said that she has a “strategic view of the industry” and her presentation demonstrated that she has “more gravitas than her age would suggest”.

The judging panel felt Shah ticked all the boxes when it came to business acumen, ambition and understanding of the geotechnics industry.

The judges concluded that Shah has: “A huge potential to influence the construction industry as a whole, not just the practices of her employer and the geotechnical sector”.

Highly Commedned: Alice Spence, Buro Happold

The judges said that Alice Spence demonstrated she had gained good experience across the board in terms of geotechnical applications, as well as locations in her work that spans projects from Southend to Doha. Her presentation to the judging panel showed she has a good understanding of the need for good relationships, even when there are issues on site, and a passion for sharing knowledge and mentoring others

Highly Commended: Chris Shaw, Atkins

The judges were impressed by the experience Chris Shaw has gained since graduating and his efforts to put something back into the industry by taking up a teaching role at Birmingham University. His publication of a technical paper that aimed to open up geotechnical engineering to a wider audience and explain design decisions to clients and end users helped to secure his highly commended award.

Editor’s Award

Winner: United Utilities for the Piethorne and Wickenhall Water Treatment Works Access Road Stabilisation, Rochdale

GE editor Claire Smith said that past winners in this category had been large, show-stopping geotechnical projects that had set
themselves aside from the rest of the industry through sheer scale and need for innovation. However, this year’s winner has not won as a result of working on a flagship scheme, but through solid delivery of geotechnical principles.
Smith said United Utilities’ work to stabilise the access road to Piethorn and Wickenhall Water Treatment Works near Rochdale made good application of the observational method to deliver the scheme in time to allow other major work to go ahead.
The design, carried out by United Utilities in conjunction with ESG, Atlantic Geomatics and Eric Wright Civil Engineering to
stabilise the access road, was completed in time for the Haweswater work last autumn and with almost £1M of savings on
the initial cost estimations by avoiding the need for an anchored embedded retaining wall.

GE would also like to thank the supporters of the GE Awards:

























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