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Specialists Awards winner: Ground Engineering Specialist of the Year

Giving clients a high level of confidence helped this year’s winning ground engineering specialist beat off the competition.

Winner: Keller

Entrants for the ground engineering specialist category ranged from one firm barely a year old to an engineering giant, and both ended up part of the judges’ final deliberations to find a winner.

The judges were impressed by the diversity of the entrants, but Keller stood out from the crowd, with judges highlighting the “level of confidence it gives to clients in unknown circumstances” as one of the contributing factors to its success.

Among the major construction projects the firm worked on in 2013 was the Victoria station upgrade with Bam Nuttall/Taylor Woodrow and Crossrail, where it faced complex geotechnical challenges on the C310 Thames tunnel contract between Plumstead and North Woolwich for Hochtief Murphy JV.

Keller used mini-piling, jet grouting and compensation to overcome challenges including protecting substations as tunnel boring machines navigated below them, and the safe construction of cross passages between tunnels by jet grouting and fissure grouting.

“The level of confidence it gives clients for unknown circumstances is very high and its work on technically challenging and outstanding projects is very impressive”

Judges’ comment

Judges said the “technically challenging and outstanding projects” it had worked on were impressive and highlighted the transfer of innovation within the group as another means to providing satisfaction for clients.

Keller highlighted the expertise it imports from its staff around the globe to assist on high-profile UK contracts such as C310, from geotechnical software solutions for real-time monitoring from Germany to jet grouting expertise from Austria.

It also has staff from its UK teams meet with colleagues from around the world every three months to share ideas and geotechnical solutions.

The firm has around 400 employees and offered a day’s holiday to staff if the company could complete six months without any injuries, a feat it duly achieved. It was praised by judges for “being innovative in its encouragement of health and safety”.

The company has maintained a bank of engineers over a long period of time, judges noted, which allowed Keller to offer consistency in client solutions.

It has installed solar panels at its Coventry office at a cost of £50,000, which it expects to recoup within six years.

Keller maintained operating margins of 6 per cent between 2012 and 2013 and completed 150,000 hours injury-free on the Crossrail and Victoria station upgrade projects.

Highly Commended: Deep Soil Mixing

Judges hailed Deep Soil Mixing as “one to watch” for the future due to its “international understanding of techniques applied to UK projects” to deliver complex solutions for clients.

The company was launched in August 2012 with the aim of introducing innovative deep soil mixing techniques into the industry, after its directors spotted a gap in the market.

It provides two types of deep soil mixing for geotechnical and environmental applications, including mass stabilisation and auger soil mixing.

Directors visited sites in Germany and Scandinavia to research techniques to apply to the UK market and the company has since been employed by clients including Arup and United Utilities.

It has grown to have a turnover of £750k and while the business only employs three people full-time, judges were quick to tip the firm for a bright future due to its “careful and consistent attention to providing site-specific solutions”.

Working across sectors from retail to flood defences, the company has also undertaken projects in Nigeria and works closely with academia, particularly Coventry University and Cambridge University Geotechnical Departments on research and development.

Finalists

Cuddy Group

DNS (Midlands)

Ground Construction (GCL)

O’Keefe Construction (Greenwich)

Van Elle

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