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Commerical Innovation of the Year

Winner: Balfour Beatty – King Sheet Piling

There is no doubt that with the return of optimism to the construction industry, innovation is flourishing again.

A fiercely competitive shortlist of nine businesses wowed the judges with hugely varied examples of innovation from across the industry that included securing equipment working at height, efficient and cleaner power supplies, high-performing fire protection and carbon-negative building blocks.

But in awarding the Commercial Innovation of the Year prize to an “exceptional” sheet piling technique, the judges were united in recognising that Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK had been more than just innovative: here was a practice that could revolutionise a process largely unchanged for 120 years.

Although Balfour Beatty first identified the potential of King Sheet Piling in 2008, it wasn’t until 2013 that a UK patent was granted.

Without a prior trial, the contractor took the bold step of immediately putting the technique to the test on its M25 widening project.

“This was an exceptional example of a simple innovation really well implemented to deliver significant benefits to the client and supply chain”

Judges’ comment

The across-the-board benefits of using King Sheet Piling made it impossible to overlook as Commercial Innovation of the Year.

The system uses intermediate piles, which are shorter in length, alternating between pairs of Z section king piles, requiring between 35 per cent and 40 per cent less steel, without any reduction in performance.

Technically, the system excels. King Sheet Piling can be installed by pitch and drive, with the issue of clutch friction between sections being dramatically reduced, thereby speeding up the process.

“It was especially impressive how they were brave enough to use this innovation first on a major project and how they have gone on to ensure it is taken up across the group”

Judges’ comment

On the M25 project the system performed up to four times faster than the programmed rate; this made a major contribution to the scheme completing on time and under budget – with some £10m of savings achieved on the project.

King Sheet Piling realises safety benefits compared with traditional piling, as the speed at which piling can be completed reduces the risk of accident, while working at height is also minimised.

Sustainability improvements have been gained from cutting back the transportation and installation of the steel, as well as the huge material savings of up to 40 per cent.

The impact on local environments is lessened, too; a subcontractor working with Balfour Beatty reported that percussive driving noise was reduced by more than 50 per cent.

It has since been rolled out on projects across divisions that include Balfour Beatty Rail and Balfour Beatty Regional, but the firm wants to take the benefits of the system to the wider industry and around the world.

The judges felt that this UK innovation could truly make an impact on that global scale.

Highly Commended: The Keystone Group – Hi-Therm Sustainability Lintel

This innovation thoroughly impressed the judging panel as an example of a problem being identified, a solution being developed and its success being clearly evident.

Thermal bridging accounts for 40 per cent of heat loss in energy-efficiency assessments.

“A practical solution to a critical issue, which has achieved very impressive take up by the industry”

Judges’ comment

In view of the environmental targets set out in Building Regulations, The Keystone Group developed the Hi-Therm Sustainability Lintel, a thermal-efficient lintel that reduces carbon emissions and will help housebuilding go beyond the level of environmental performance required by 2016.

It achieves up to five times the energy efficiency of a standard steel lintel and has been specified by major housebuilders including Barratt, Kier, Redrow and Taylor Wimpey.

While delivering per unit savings for their clients, the Keystone Group is forecasting a trebling of revenue from the product in 2014.

Highly Commended: Nullifire – SC900 Intumescent Coating

The importance of fire protection cannot be overstated and Nullifire’s innovation, a patented hybrid intumescent coating for structural steel and timber, stands to make a huge impact in the market.

The company has researched technology used in parts of the Tremco-illbruck group, of which Nullifire is a part, and the SC900 Intumescent Coating makes use of technologies available in construction sealants to create an entirely new product.

“A good idea well executed with immediate market potential to reduce site costs”

Judges’ comment

This thicker intumescent can be applied within two hours and in most cases requires one coat, compared with conventional water-based versions that can require several applications over a number of days.

Nullifire has put health and safety at the centre of its new product. The intumescent coating uses no harmful additives, meeting VOC guidelines for existing coatings, and dramatically cuts the time operatives spend working at height.

For clients, this innovation reduces the time spent on fire protection without loss of performance, meaning other trades can work in the fire-protected area sooner.


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