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GE Awards 2017: Winners announced

ge awards trophy

Winners of the 2017 Ground Engineering Awards were announced on 5 July. Find out who won what and why.

Welcome to the award winners’ special issue for the 2017 Ground Engineering Awards.

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Smith said that this year’s winners clearly demonstrated how the sector is delivering ever greater innovation, more value engineering and developing new technology

The successful teams, projects and initiatives were presented with their trophies at a gala ceremony – the GE Awards’ first evening event – held in London on 5 July. But here we add more insight into who won what and why the judges selected them. 

This year’s winners clearly demonstrate how the sector is delivering ever greater innovation, more value engineering and developing new technology to ensure geotechnics continues to have a huge impact on the UK and international construction market. Entries this year really showed how the ground engineering industry is working with its clients on geotechnical assets to focus on proactive approaches that ensure resilience and move away from reactive repairs following catastrophic events.

Having reviewed all the entries for this year’s awards, it is not hard to see why so many of our judges spent considerable time deliberating over our shortlist at the written submission stage and then deciding on our winners following the live judging event earlier this summer.

Every entry clearly demonstrated how the geotechnics industry has continued to push forward engineering excellence to benefit clients and society as a whole.

Congratulations to all of our winners and I hope you enjoy reading more about their award-winning work.

Claire Smith
Editor, Ground Engineering


Award for Technical Excellence

Sponsored by:


Winner: Ferrovial Laing O’Rourke Joint Venture – Northern Line Extension

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Construction of the Northern Line Extension called for the Ferrovial Laing O’Rourke joint venture to construct two underground junctions – known as step plate junctions – around existing tunnels. Conventional hand excavated methods were considered high risk and would have created a larger junction than necessary so the joint venture developed an alternative approach.

The design reduced the length of the step plate junction from 100m to 61m, minimising the risk of subsidence, and maximising the use of mechanised excavation and sprayed concrete linings in place of conventional hand digging and timber supports. 

The project was singled out for generating “persuasive improvements” in health and safety, project cost and reducing the scope of works. All of which was done on a site adjacent to a live running London Underground tunnel.

Highly Commended: OGI Groundwater Specialists – Seaforth Passage widening, Port of Liverpool 

Widening the Seaforth Passage from 40m to 60m will enable larger vessels to use the Port of Liverpool. Part of the work included extending a 3m diameter siphon between a storm drainage system and an existing outfall. The judges praised OGI’s solution for its elegance, describing it as “simple and effective”.

Award for Technical Innovation

Sponsored by:

fugro logo

Winner: Concrete Canvas – CC Hydro

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The product is essentially concrete on a roll and has quickly gained acceptance from major geotechnical asset owners for providing rapid remediation. The product is said to be a cost-effective alternative to poured, precast or sprayed concrete. Concrete Canvas says development of the product is a result of its collaborative and formalised system for adopting new research projects and a reinvestment of 20% of annual overheads in research and development. The judges singled out CC Hydro for being an “innovative product with a rapidly expanding market and wide range of applications”.

Highly Commended: Geon Energy – Geon deep geothermal single well technology

Geon Energy, a joint venture between Geothermal Engineering and Arup, has said that it is committed to the development of innovative solutions to reduce cost and minimise risk to the provision of deep geothermal energy in the UK. The partnership has combined off the shelf materials with smart technology to develop its single well design, which is currently being trialled in a 2.5km deep well in Cornwall. Geon said that the trials accurately predicted performance and installation costs. Judges were impressed with this innovation’s potential as a renewable energy for sustainable heating solutions.

Consulting Firm of the Year

Sponsored by:


Winner: Campbell Reith

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The judges felt that Campbell Reith ticked all the boxes to take the coveted title of Consultant of the Year. Ground engineering is one of the fastest growing disciplines within the firm, with staff numbers increasing faster than any other part of the company. The geotechnical team also contributed almost 20% of the company’s revenues in 2016, which were up over 30% on the previous year.

An example of how the geotechnical team has grown is its appointment as the London Borough of Camden’s independent basement impact assessment auditor following a Europewide tender process. London’s booming housing market resulted in the volume of work undertaken by Campbell Reith being twice that anticipated, with over 250 audits completed in under two years.

The team presented some excellent examples of collaboration and client satisfaction, said the judges, and it demonstrated good use of peer reviews and industry collaboration to greatly bene t its clients. This positive feedback was evidenced by repeat and extended work. As well as client satisfaction, strong community engagement was evident in the rm’s work with the London Borough of Camden.

In addition to its strong growth now, the firm has a clear view of how to deliver further growth.

Contractor of the Year

Sponsored by:


Winner: MJ Rooney Construction

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MJ Rooney Construction repeated its sustained growth of the last three years to maintain a year on year growth average of 20%. is was in part delivered by the rm’s largest ever geotechnical project – valued at £1.2M – for three double storey basements at Hereford Square in London.

The firm’s growth has been impressive over the last two years, according to the judges. Staff development has been well planned and training – including the design of a bespoke waterproofing course is commendable.

Development of modelling technology is clearly having a beneficial effect on site, and encourages collaborative working in the organisation. This effort was rewarded when the company was held out as a best practice exemplar by the Health and Safety Executive.

“It’s great to see the company’s commitment to industry bodies, maintaining a presence on steering groups and trade associations,” they added.

Highly Commended: Keltbray Piling

Keltbray recently recorded its seventh successive year of revenue growth with sales of £60M, which it believes is a direct result of its philosophy of collaboration. The judges praised Keltbray for its “excellent performance” over the past year in terms of profitability, growth of business and recruitment. They also said its focus on innovation was “impressive” and recognised its high levels of workforce engagement, enhanced by its community engagement and staff development.

International Project of the Year

Sponsored by:

bam ritchies

Winner: Cementation Skanska – European Spallation Source, Sweden

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Foundations for the new European Union-funded European Spallation Source research centre called for Cementation Skanska to deliver nuclear-grade precision and ensure the foundations were earthquake resistant. 

The judges were impressed with how Cementation worked as part of a collaborative team to develop the piled foundation solution and overcome the thick glacial till and variable bedrock depth. The requirements were “demanding” and “non-yielding”, the judges said.

To isolate the upper section of the piles from seismically induced ground movements, bespoke steel twin-wall liners were used.

The specialist foundation design saved eight months from the critical path of the project.

Highly Commended: City of Rotterdam – Historic railway bridge foundation adaptation

Flood mitigation on the river Waal near Nijmegen in the Netherlands required the City of Rotterdam to construct an extra river channel alongside the main river course. But this new channel undercut three shallow rail bridge foundations, and a solution was needed to prevent subsidence of the bridge so the rail line could remain operational during construction. The 19th century rail bridge was protected by constructing rigid boxes formed by diaphragm walls around the foundations to maintain soil stresses. The judges commended this “clever and sustainable solution”.

Rising Star Award

sponsored by:

bachy soletanche

Winner: Aliki Kokkinou, Aecom

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Aecom assistant geotechnical engineer Aliki Kokkinou’s natural aptitude for mathematics and physics, combined with the fact that both her parents are engineers, led her towards a career in construction.

“I was fascinated with the idea of a profession that involves problem solving, designing and building structures of different scales, from buildings to bridges and tunnels,” she says.

Kokkinou studied civil engineering at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the University of Florence before doing a Masters in soil mechanics at Imperial College London.

Since joining Aecom she has worked on a wide range of geotechnical projects in London, including the Greenwich Peninsula and Thames Tideway Tunnel. She has also collaborated on a technical paper for a Crossrail competition on the behaviour of a diaphragm wall at Paddington Station.

Aecom principal geotechnical engineer Mitesh Chandegra says: “Aliki continually promotes a positive culture of lessons learned and knowledge transfer by producing and sharing numerous technical notes that she produces in her own time, following delivery of these and other projects.”

The judges said Kokkinou “impressed them with her passion and commitment to continue to recruit and retain the most able for the industry, particularly given the significant increase in tuition fees and the differential between salaries in geotechnics and financial institutions.”


Sustainability Award

Sponsored by:


Winner: Ramboll Skanska – Bermondsey Dive Under 

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The £77M Bermondsey Dive Under – part of the Thameslink development programme – aims to untangle 11 rail tracks elevated on Victorian masonry arch viaduct structures on the eastern approach to London Bridge railway station.

The project undertaken by Skanska and Ramboll called for major demolition work and construction of nine new structures with an overall length of 1.4km to create a grade-separated junction.

Skanska and Ramboll worked to minimise import and export of material from the site to reduce costs and programme time while boosting sustainability. is included reusing brick demolition waste as a fill; reusing brick arch foundations; and reducing pile numbers through use of an innovative layout and reuse of site-won material for earthworks.

Judges hailed the “knowledgeable and enthusiastic presenters” who were able to “demonstrate that sustainability was at the core of the project throughout, from inception to completion”.

“Theirs was a detailed and quantified demonstration of sustainability benefits, including significant innovations such as cost reduction from reduced piling and pile depth and reduced material movement and impact.”

The sharing of lessons learned with other project teams was welcomed by the judges, who added: “It was clear the team took great pride in meeting and exceeding the sustainability objectives set.”

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

Winner: Cowi UK - Provost Driver Court

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Repair of ground settlement damage at a Scottish Water foul sewer pumping stations led consultant Cowi to develop a resin injection solution to relevel the building and seal off redundant pipework, with groundwater extraction used to densify the ground.

The consultant worked with main contractor Morrison, groundwater specialist WJ Groundwater and ground stabilisation contractor Uretek to carry out the work. With the pumping station located at the end of a residential cul de sac, the groundwater control had to be designed to minimise the risk of ground movement to neighbouring properties and prevent further damage to the facility itself.

The residential location also had to be central to the design of the remediation work to reduce the impact on the site’s neighbours.

“The winner devised an innovative solution to a geotechnical problem,” said the judges. The team demonstrated well how the geotechnical risks were fully understood and managed throughout the project, which impressed the judges. There was also a high level of stakeholder management, especially with local residents.

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

Sponsored by:


Winner: CH2M and Raymond Brown Construction – Pines Hotel cliff stabilisation scheme, Swanage

pines hotel, swanage feb 2016

The long term future of a cliff top hotel and a new development platform have been secured by CH2M and Raymond Brown Construction, which carried out the Pines Hotel cli stabilisation scheme in Swanage.

The hotel is set 10m back from the edge of 30m high cliffs in the Wealden Formation that have suffered from erosion and landslide failures. CH2M and Raymond Brown worked together to design and deliver a solution involving soil nails, a reinforced sprayed concrete soil nailed wall, bored pile walls, trench drains and subhorizontal drilled drains.

The design incorporates space at the foot of the cli to allow beach huts to be constructed, with the aim of off-setting the cost of the cliff stabilisation works and making them a ordable to the client.

“This was a complex technical problem underpinned by a counter intuitive innovation that would create a platform for beach huts cut into the toe of the slope,” said the judges. “This helped ensure economic mobility of  the solution.” The end result was delivered under budget within the 30 week programme for a private family owned hotel business.

UK Project with a Geotechnical Value of over £3M

Sponsored by:


Winner: Arup Geotechnics and Sir Robert McAlpine – 10 Fenchurch Avenue

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Arup Geotechnical and Sir Robert McAlpine partnered to value engineer the design of a four level basement for a new 14 storey building in the City of London. e focus on the temporary support enabled the construction programme for the secant pile wall supported basement to be shortened, while maximising access by using a single level of props measuring up to 50m in length.

The team also developed a piled raft foundation in place of a fully piled solution and reduced pile diameters in some areas to add further efficiencies to the construction process.

“This was an exceptional project with highly challenging logistics and environment,” said the judges. “A very good relationship was demonstrated between the client, contractor and designer, which helped to overcome some significant design challenges, including the continuation of a NatWest-leased building, optimised temporary works, holistic engineering and economic pile design.”

They also praised the use of monitoring data to control excavation and propping, including a clever use of reflective surfaces to control temperature influences.

Health and Safety Award

Sponsored by:

groundforce training cmyk

Winner: Structural Soils – Manual handing solutions

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Structural Soils developed bespoke handles to counter risks of back and hand injuries through the manual handing of casing equipment.

The portable plastic handles are issued in pairs to staff and can be used to lift metal casings of any diameter. The handles remove the risk of hand injuries and improve grip to reduce the risk of back injuries from heavy lifting.

The judges were impressed by the data collected on safety issues caused by manual handling of drill casings. They said accident information “clearly showed that injuries to the hands of operatives was [Structural Soils’] major area of concern”.

“They responded to the data by proactively working closely with their staff to develop a simple, practical and cost effective solution,” added the judges. “This consisted of a lifting handle that was developed through a prototype and successive refinements.”

The judges added that the use of the handles allowed several other health and safety improvements, such as an improved lifting stance.

Award for Equipment Innovation

Winner: Lankelma – Innovation in cone penetration testing


Lankelma has developed a number of equipment innovations to improve the use of cone penetration testing (CPT). These include what the company believes is the only road-rail CPT truck in the work and a new wireline CPT system, which it says is a viable alternative to traditional top-push techniques for nearshore projects with 50% higher testing rates.

Lankelma has also worked with the University of Bristol to develop a new CPT technique to improve the design of piles subjected to cyclic loading in chalk, such as those supporting wind turbines.

The judges were impressed by the number of good innovations over a short timescale. They said they were of “real quality” and had demonstrable environmental benefits. The team demonstrated a “culture of innovation” with real evidence of meaningful outcomes.

Geoenvironmental Project of the Year

Winner: Arcadis Consulting (UK) – Portslade Beach tar seepage investigation and remediation

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Severe winter storms in 2013 and 2014 caused 500mm of sand to shift from the beach around Shoreham Port on the south coast.

Portslade Gasworks previously occupied part of the port, and as the sands shifted, tar seepage appeared on the newly exposed rock.

Shoreham Port brought in consultant Arcadis to investigate and develop a remediation solution for the problem.

Arcadis called on a solar skimming system to recover the non-aqueous phase liquid that is thought to have originated from lignite horizons under the port.

The judges praised the consultant for its immediate grasp of the client’s circumstances, along with its complete awareness of the urgency needed and natural understanding of wider stakeholders, notably regulators and residents.

They singled Arcadis out for its “deep thinking and planning” of the site investigation, which was “carried out in a timely manner with care and consideration”. They also praised the consultant for not creating further environmental damage as a result of the works”.

Application of pre-investigation non-invasive techniques was done to great effect, resulting in a well-considered investigation and development of conceptual site model, particularly under challenging natural site circumstances.

Continuous and ongoing effective engagement with stakeholders was evidenced by strong supporting quotes and accolades, alongside demonstration of value for money for a client with limited budget.

“The ultimate outcome was a fast and effective understanding of the problem at hand and the deployment of an effective and proportionate remedial solution with great satisfaction all round,” said the judges.

Ground Investigation Project of the Year of up to £500,000

Winner: Dunelm Geotechnical and Environmental – Milburngate House, Durham

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For this redevelopment of an office building and multi-storey car park on a former gasworks in Durham, Dunelm Geotechnical and Environmental carried out a ground investigation within the car park using low headroom rigs.

As well as managing the risks associated with contamination from the former use of the site, the firm used specialist casings because of the potential for shallow groundwater flooding within the basement.

Dunelm was able to undertake boreholes to a depth of 55m despite these issues.

The judges described a “passionate and enthusiastic” presentation of this challenging investigation. They said the team demonstrated pride in delivering the programme and overcoming difficult ground conditions. 

The judges were impressed with the way Dunelm worked collaboratively with consultants using detailed local knowledge and experience.

“They brought this experience and their technical skills in adapting drilling methods and equipment to the peculiar site circumstances.

“Confined spaces with high contamination risk from volatile gases were managed with careful attention to personal safety, with personal monitoring throughout drilling.”

Dunelm managed to accelerate the programme with focused additional resource to provide overall cost benefit to the client, the judges said.

Ground Investigation Project of the Year of over £500,000

Sponsored by:

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Winner: Structural Soils, Atkins, Arup and Horizon Nuclear Power – Wylfa Newydd South Site onshore ground investigation

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“A good presentation with client involvement demonstrated well – a very happy client,” is how the judges summed up  the effort by the team presenting the project at Wylfa. “The clarity and de nition of information presented in a complex subject was excellent.”

They praised the team’s complex problem solving, and mapping of faulting showed “innovative testing methods taken to a whole new level”.

The judges were particularly impressed with reference to behavioural safety initiatives, and the results from this focus.

The presentation demonstrated a comprehensive and open involvement with the community and other stakeholders to ensure understanding of the project, they added.

“Commitment is also being made to transfer knowledge to expert groups and others.”

Highly Commended: RPS Consulting Services – HS2 ground investigation

The strength of finalists compelled the judges to award RPS a high commendation for its High Speed 2 work.

“The depth and breadth of technical services” and their management and delivery really impressed the judges.

RPS demonstrated “exemplary performance” in data managing large volumes of complex information, delivered in the specific format required by the client, the judges added.

Ground Investigation Specialist of the Year Award

Winner: Geotechnical Engineering


Geotechnical Engineering delivered a 25% increase in turnover in 2016 as a result of better use of resources and more efficient approaches to its workload. e company also reports that staff numbers in all departments grew last year to match investment in capital resources.

One project that the company believes demonstrates its capabilities is its involvement in the ground investigation of the deep-seated landslide at Eden Brows for Network Rail. The company was able to use experience gained on previous slope stability projects to deliver bespoke equipment and skilled staff to fast track the work.

The judges praised the presenting team’s “enthusiasm, energy and commitment”.

The project example at Eden Brows demonstrated “strong project delivery, partnering and collaboration, as well as good relations with stakeholders and community engagement”, they added.

The judges found innovations in all aspects of drilling practice and efforts to improve sampling techniques particularly impressive.

“The development and effective use of the coresight drilling monitoring system for training drillers and improving performance and standards is exemplary,” they said.

Geotechnical Team of the Year Award

Winner: McAlpine Design Group 

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The Sir Robert McAlpine Design Group is a small team but it carries out a breadth of design work on projects from schools on the Isle of Wight to power stations in the north of England.

According to the group, it approaches every project with a can-do attitude and is always looking to new techniques and concepts to provide solutions for the company’s site teams. e design group works proactively within the business to share lessons learnt and knowledge attained.

The judges were impressed with the variety, complexity and number of projects that were worked on by this team of five geotechnical engineers.

They said these projects “spoke right to the fundamentals of geotechnical engineering in all its diverse elements”.

The McAlpine team works as an independent self-supporting element within the larger organisation and has to stand on its own feet commercially.

Judges hailed a positive attitude and an ability to remain undaunted by the complexity of schemes while deriving mutual support and inspiration from colleagues.

“They frequently deliver effective solutions to problems to very short timescales, and the judges were encouraged that this kind of pure management of geotechnical risk is at the heart of their work, in an industry increasingly weighed down by process,” the judges said.

“The enthusiasm, care and desire to develop and grow the individual team members were key factors in the panel’s decision.”

Highly Commended: Aecom – Thames Tideway Tunnel Central Section

The judges felt this team stood out from the other finalists and awarded a high commendation. 

“The pride in the team’s achievements and the sense of unity and mutual support came across clearly,” said the judges, adding that they were particularly impressed by the team’s “desire to grow capability and to foster an environment of continuous development in both engineering and management capability on the project”.

Editor’s Award

Winner: United Utilities, Amey,Donegan Civil Engineering and Manchester City Council – Mancunian Way sewer collapse and remediation

uu ge geo 1m investigating adjacent collapse

“Selecting a winner for this year’s editor’s award was not an easy task,” says GE editor Claire Smith. “There were a number of shortlisted entries in our health and safety category that demonstrated simple but very effective solutions that impressed me, and I hope will drive a reduction in injuries across the industry.

“There were also a number of entries that focused on the use of emerging technology to improve the resilience of geotechnical structures, and I also hope that these continue to improve the industry’s ability to be proactive.

“However, there was one project that stood out for me and that was the work undertaken by United Utilities, Donegan Civil Engineering, Amey and Manchester City Council to repair a sewer collapse in the A57(M) Mancunian Way in Manchester.

“While it was a reactive response to a catastrophic event, it clearly demonstrated real team work in its design and delivery.

“When faced with a major collapse in the middle of a motorway, the project team came together to provide a tunnelled solution in just nine months rather than the two years normally needed for a scheme of this scale.”

The team was brought together following a 14m deep ground collapse within the carriageway of the city centre motorway on 14 August 2015.

It was the result of the failure of a 1.5m diameter sewage pipe following a brief period of heavy rainfall. Following initial stabilisation using a sheet piled cofferdam and work to ensure water supplies were maintained and sewage flows were managed, it became clear that there was no safe way to repair the existing pipe. The proposal to stabilise the collapse using grouting techniques to prevent the failure spreading further and to construct a new offline tunnel to bypass the collapse was quickly developed.

United Utilities worked with the team to fast track the work to bring the timescale for delivery down from years to months to reopen the motorway at the earliest possible opportunity. To provide certainty to the construction of the tunnel through ground conditions, that were described as “challenging”, Donegan procured a bespoke road header that minimised exposure of the tunnel face to allow partial reopening of the road.

The £6M project, of which the geotechnical work is said to have cost £900,000, was completed last summer with the road fully reopened on 15 June 2016.

The team worked around the clock to successfully deliver the work under close scrutiny from the local transport authority, the media and the public. Despite the demands of the project, the team paid considerable attention to stakeholder engagement to ensure residents, road users and local business understood the problem, the proposed solution and progress on site.

Manchester City Council executive member for the environment Kate Chappell has also praised the project team. “This has been an extremely complex engineering problem which has required considerable investment and expertise by United Utilities to resolve,” she says. “It wasn’t simply a case of filling in a hole. The damage affected a major sewer so there was no alternative but for United Utilities to carry out this complex large-scale repair deep underground, otherwise large parts of East Manchester would have been left without a functioning sewerage system.”

GE would also like to thank the following companies for supporting the GE Awards:

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groundsure master logo landscape cmyk

keller logo

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