It is often said that collaboration is core to innovation, and that statement stands true throughout the deep foundation construction industry. In support of that notion, the GeoCoalition was formed more than a decade ago after seemingly competitor organizations realized that by working together on certain initiatives, conflicts and duplication of effort by volunteers could be avoided. One of the GeoCoalition's most important initiatives focused on Chapter 18 of the International Building Code (IBC). In 2012, members of the GeoCoalition began to review IBC 1810, which outlines the manner in which deep foundations are to be analyzed, designed, detailed and installed. The GeoCoalition determined that due to advancements in construction materials, equipment and methods, Section 1810 of the IBC needed to be updated and modernized to be more consistent with actual industry state-of-practice and formed a committee to propose updates to the International Code Council (ICC). The 1810 GeoCoalition Code Committee is comprised of 37 members those 37 participants represent PDCA's Technical Committee; DFI's Codes and Standards Committee, Augercast Committee and Helical Committee; and ADSC's Drilled Shaft Committee and Micropile Committee. Dale Biggers a vice president of Boh Bros. Construction Co. in Louisiana and chair of the PDCA Technical Committee chairs the 1810 GeoCoalition Code Committee. The committee quickly realized that updating the IBC, however, is no simple task. "You can only propose changes every three years," said Biggers. "We've worked on this for seven years, and it isn't over yet." While work began in 2012 to identify changes the committee wanted to propose to the ICC, the group first formally submitted a proposal in 2016. "We had all these wonderful changes and we were run over by a steamroller," said Biggers. "We thought we would pass everything [in 2016], and we only passed six minor changes. That was a deflation." The 1810 GeoCoalition Code Committee's changes were not rejected on merit but on writing structure. The group believed that their changes were helpful in that they shifted responsibility from the building official to the registered design professional, but the building officials wanted to have the final say. "The ICC has a certain style of how they want to write things," said Biggers. "There is a very strict structure for the wording of changes the building code officials are used to the code being written their way. And that's what we learned." Since 2016, the committee has worked diligently to revise sections of IBC 1810 in a manner that the ICC will accept. "It took us a long time," said Biggers. "We submitted [our proposal] in January, and we were still making changes the day before we presented them [in May]." Representing the 1810 GeoCoalition Code Committee, Biggers flew to Albuquerque in May with Lori Simpson of Langan Engineering and Dan Stevenson of Berkel & Company to present the changes the committee was proposing for IBC 1810. They outlined the suggestions in front of a group of 14 people, building code officials familiar with construction, plus geotechnical and structural engineers. One area on which the 1810 GeoCoalition Code Committee focused its efforts was increasing the stresses allowable on steel, as industry advancements have made higher yields on steel possible. "The changes will increase the allowable stresses on steel H-piles and pipe piles, as well as the allowable stress on concrete inside a pipe pile, and increased stress on reinforcing steel inside piles," said Biggers. "Sometimes, the load on a pile is limited by the structural strength of the pile and not the soil. So with these IBC changes, engineers will be able to use a higher load on a pile than they could previously." The ICC agreed. "The ICC in Albuquerque passed all 17 of the changes we suggested," said Biggers. "One of the changes passed 13 to 1, but the others passed by a vote of 14 to 0." Having suggested changes pass that initial group of 14 is a major accomplishment, according to Biggers, but the celebration doesn't begin just yet. The next step for the 1810 GeoCoalition Code Committee is to have the changes passed by another ICC committee in the fall a committee not necessarily comprised of engineers. "There are hundreds and hundreds of changes being proposed [to the IBC] a lot of changes aside from foundations," said Biggers. "Many of the voters at the fall ICC meeting are not really that familiar with foundations that was why it was so important to pass our 17 changes in Albuquerque." Biggers expects that since 14 people more familiar with construction, geotechnical and structural engineering have passed the suggested changes to IBC 1810, the fall ICC committee will view the changes with increased credibility. In the fall, the changes must be approved by a two-thirds margin. "One of the things that helped us is that the ICC in Albuquerque realized we were trying to make the code and the world better by bringing in experts from all areas of practice," he said. "A lot of people make proposals to the ICC to give their product an advantage over other products. The ICC reviewed and discovered the 1810 GeoCoalition was there honestly. I think this new-found trust is building a bond to make the code even stronger."
Earlier this spring, members gathered for the chapter dinner. Thanks to sponsor Linde-Griffith Construction Company, around 50 area contractors, industry associates and affiliated engineers enjoyed an evening of food, fellowship and networking at Bocelli Ristorante in Staten Island, N.Y. This was the first time this event was held at the Staten Island restaurant. The change in venue attracted some new members and guests who were treated to a presentation by Tenna co-founder, Jose Cueva, and his colleague George Heck, on the new and innovative system for asset management. The chapter gathers for a September Membership Drive and a second chapter dinner in November. See the events page at www.piledrivers.org for more information. The PDCA of the Pacific Coast Chapter raised funds for the chapter's Scholarship Fund during the 9th Annual Scholarship Shoot, which took place April 12, 2019, at Birds Landing Hunting Reserve in Birds Landing, Calif. Following a General Membership Meeting, 114 participants displayed their shotgun shooting accuracy during the half-day event that included a raffle and a BBQ lunch. Several sponsors helped make the event possible, including Pile Drivers Local 34, Pileco, the Northern California Carpenters, PJ's Rebar, Stroer & Graff, Taylor Heavy Hauling, Kiewit, Wall and Ceiling Alliance and Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. Some of the lucky participants took home raffle prizes which included a Browning BPS Hunter 20 gauge pump shotgun, a CZ 75B 9mm, a Beretta A300 12 gauge shotgun and a CZ 455 Lux 22lr. PDCA Pacific Coast thanks all who participated in this successful event. Each year, members of the PDCA Gulf Coast Chapter look forward to the second quarter dinner meeting, which takes place at the L'Auberge Casino Hotel in Baton Rouge, La. On April 25, more than 60 members gathered in the popular venue for an evening of networking and fellowship, beginning with an open bar reception. A dinner and a business meeting led by chapter president Travis Schonacher of SeaLevel Construction immediately followed. The assembly heard a program, "Innovative Use for Instrumented Pile in Design," by Travis Richards, P.E., project manager and vice president of testing at Eustis Engineering, LLC. Before attendees were released to the casino floor, they took a few moments to recognize the efforts of previous chapter leaders current vice president Kirt Jackson (Cajun Industries) presented a plaque to last year's president, Michael Kelly from Gulf South Piling. Then, current secretary Dylan Andre (Patriot Construction and Industrial) honored his immediate predecessor Daniel Sprunk of Cajun Industries. The evening's events were made possible by several valued sponsors: DeSoto Treated Materials, Inc., Tadano, Scott Equipment and Kobelco. The PDCA Gulf Coast Chapter convenes next for the third quarter dinner meeting in Biloxi (venue TBA). The chapter is also planning a professional development seminar in October and a clay shoot. Watch your inbox and future editions of PileDriver for further details. PDCA of the Gulf Coast Chapter presents to geotechnical engineers Several members from the PDCA Gulf Coast Chapter participated as exhibitors at the 43rd Southwest Geotechnical Engineers Conference, May 6 to 9 at the Hilton Capitol Center in downtown Baton Rouge, La. This initiative was a partnership between the chapter and the PDCA national office. The Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development hosted the annual event sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. PDCA members networked with engineers from throughout the southwestern U.S. and engaged with interested parties about pile driving practices from the construction perspective. Gulf Coast Chapter members who participated include Dylan Andre of Patriot Construction, Brandon Phetteplace of GRL Engineers, Scott Williams of Cajun Industries, Bennett Dulaney of Southern Earth Sciences, Greg Major of DarkHorse, Jacob Indest of Eustis Engineering, Robert Baker of Baker Pile Driving and Taylor Stiles of SeaLevel Construction.
The standard, ANSI/ASSP A10.19-2017, "Requirements for Pile Installation and Extraction Operations," is a solid resource for conducting safe operations in the installation and extraction of piles whether concrete, steel, timber, sheets, composites or synthetics. This standard establishes safety requirements for the installation and extraction of piles during construction and demolition operations and is designed to prevent injuries and illness to persons exposed to hazards associated with pile driving and extraction operations. You can purchase a copy of the standard by visiting this link: bit.ly/30pQPgS Hard copy and electronic version List Price: $110 $140 ANSI Member Price: $95 $125 PDCA can provide input to future revisions to ANSI/ASSP A10.19-2017 in areas that relate to requirements found in the new OSHA crane standard and new general technology in the pile driving industry. Individuals interested in providing comments can contact the PDCA office at 904-215-4771.
Every year in the United States, dedicated pile driving rigs, drilling rigs and cranes tip over or experience near misses due to issues involving inadequate working platforms. These preventable incidents often involve serious injuries or fatalities to operators and ground crews, and extensive damage to equipment. Despite the importance of safe, stable working platforms and the dire consequences that can result in their absence, there are currently no specific guidelines or regulations in the U.S. for the design, construction and ongoing maintenance of safe working platforms. Exacerbating the issue, due to increasing demand for bigger structures that require more intricate, deeper and larger-diameter foundations, deep foundation construction equipment has become larger, heavier and more complex in order to deliver challenging requirements. As well, less desirable sites with very poor soils are now commonly being developed. "Although this type of rig is typically stable when tracking over a firm, dry surface, if the underlying subgrade has insufficient bearing capacity, under certain adverse loading conditions, this can cause stability issues due to either deformation or even failure of the underlying subgrade material," wrote Paul A. Gildea, P.E., a senior director of Langan International and co-chair of the Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group, in the Spring 2019 edition of the ASCE News. "Even something as relatively small as a one-square-meter soft spot can be sufficient to unbalance a rig/crane and cause it to topple over." In a 2014 article for the International Association of Foundation Drilling (ADSC-IAFD)'s Foundation Drilling magazine, James Finbow, HSEQ manager at Bauer Foundations Canada, wrote, "As an industry, we are continually seeking solutions for [...] challenges and we usually step up to the plate, but we seem to have missed one key part of the equation: the working platform." However, in recent years, the topic of safe working platforms has experienced growing attention in the U.S. market. Finbow now says that he believes there has been a change in people's perception and understanding of what a working platform is and what the industry needs to do to make work sites safer. The ANSI A10.23 drilled shaft safety standard has been recently updated to include more robust language regarding working platforms; the revised standard is scheduled to be published in late-spring 2019. "Part of [the increased attention] has to do with the great outreach that the different organizations have been doing regarding working platforms," said Martin Taube, P.E., P.G., the vice president of business development with Menard USA. "But it's certainly not that it's more of an issue now, it's just that it's being discussed more. [Working platforms] have been an issue for a very long time." Contributing to the difficulty of developing these conversations about working platforms is the uniqueness of the market here. "Part of the problem in the U.S. is that [the market] is so fragmented," said Gildea. "It's like you're looking at 50 different countries, in some respects." That fragmentation can make it tough to organize a unified position when it comes to much-needed safety initiatives. However, in 2018, the ADSC-IAFD, the Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) and the Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA) came together and published a deep foundation industry consensus position on working platforms for foundation construction and related equipment in the U.S. In the consensus document, the organizations outline that they will support the general guidelines used in the UK, spearheaded in the early 2000s by the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS), the piling association in the UK. "The [consensus document] was a big step forward, in my eyes, in an agreement and understanding on this side of the Atlantic that [working platform safety] is something that we as an industry need to lead and need to do," said Finbow. "The sad part is that often, safety legislation is written in blood. That's what gets authorities to change. But now, we're getting a lot of support in the industry to drive this through [and prevent future accidents]." "It's organizations like ADSC-IAFD, DFI and PDCA that are very important in bringing together people from all over the country so that we can get some sort of consensus view on how to deal with issues," said Gildea. "Everyone appreciates that [working platform safety] is a concern, but nobody, until the last couple of years, has stepped up as a collective group rather than analyzing the problem on a micro-basis or by individual states." Working platforms what are they? Essentially, the working platform is the part of the construction site above the natural subgrade on which a rig is placed and that holds the rig level in order to start its foundation construction activity. The working platform is what prevents these large pieces of machinery from tipping over and causing catastrophic damage. The scope of the consensus position from ADSC-IAFD, DFI and PDCA is focused on ground-supported working platforms and includes not only the platform itself, but also its associated ramps/roads and access points. "The working platform is the natural or human-made ground surface or subgrade capable of safely supporting construction equipment," said Timothy Siegel, P.E., G.E., D.GE, a senior principal engineer with Dan Brown and Associates. Anywhere that a rig is driving or working from must be able to support the weight of the equipment and any bearing pressures during construction activity. "You [also] need a safe area to assemble the equipment we call that a laydown area," said Taube. "And then from the laydown area, ramps or access roads to the actual site where the work will be performed [requires an adequate platform]." "The platform must safely support any type of tracked equipment whether it be a crawler crane, a piling rig or whatever it may be under all loading conditions," said Gildea. "And the way we look at this is under extreme loading conditions; we're looking at the worst case here because the platform needs to be fully stable under all potential loading conditions for these rigs so that there is no possibility that it can collapse and the rig topple over." The duty of the platform is to provide a stable, safe environment for piling contractors and other construction trades to work on, day in and day out. The concerns According to Terry Bolsher, former chairman of FPS, approximately one-third of all accidents in the piling industry result from defects in working platforms. DFI conducted a survey of its membership in 2017 about experiences with working platforms. The results highlighted the significance of the problem. Eighty-eight percent of respondents to the survey indicated that inadequate working surfaces caused safety issues for their company, and 98 percent said that they caused operational issues for their company. Even more alarmingly, 68 percent admitted that their company had tipped a large piece of equipment due to inadequate working surfaces. "These results weren't surprising," said Taube, who along with Matthew Meyer, principal at Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, assisted DFI in creating the survey questions and gave a presentation on the results during DFI's SuperPile '17 Conference. "You can see that it's a huge issue." Inadequate working platforms have myriad issues that result in safety concerns. "The most common hazard is soft soil that is too weak to support the construction equipment," said Siegel. "The soft ground can deform or experience a shear failure beneath construction equipment and result in overturning." Gildea agrees, adding that soft ground in the upper three meters of the site's ground profile is a major site issue. "If the rig is on a platform sitting on top of soft grade, that's a recipe for disaster," he said. In addition to soft soil, steep slopes can result in failure, as can inadequately constructed ramps, or platforms that do not have enough coverage over a site. Uneven terrain, ineffectively backfilled utility trenches and poor site drainage can also be causes for concern. The size of the working platform can be a potential problem, too. "Sometimes the working surface isn't large enough," said Taube. "You might not have a working platform in the laydown area or access roads to the site. And then within the site, the working platform may be laid out only to encompass the installation point locations, not considering that some of the equipment may need to traverse out beyond the actual perimeter of the installation area." And in some cases, there is no working platform to speak of. "Another issue is that a platform isn't provided at all," said Taube. "Either contractually it's not required, or it's an oversight. There are still contractors that will go out and work without a working platform." "We're almost taking the moral high ground to get platforms in, and there will be other people who come and say, 'I can do it for cheaper,'" said Finbow. "We've let jobs go where we've been uncompetitive through the platform. But we're a lot bigger and we can take that stance." There are no official guidelines in the U.S. for the design and construction of safe working platforms, and so there is no official procedure to mitigate these potentially catastrophic risks. As employers are legally obligated to provide their employees with a workplace absent of serious hazards, according to OSHA, in addition to having a moral obligation to keep workers safe, says Finbow, it's of critical importance that the industry works to collectively resolve the concerns surrounding working platforms. "We always think about equipment, but keep in mind the safety of workers just walking across the site," said Taube. "You can have issues from very slippery surfaces whether from ice, mud or very slick clay surfaces but they pose a hazard to laborers and other personnel walking across the site, especially as they carry tools, materials or equipment." As Finbow wrote in 2014, "Equipment is expensive, and our people are priceless. We do not want to damage either." Obviously, the consequences that can result from an inadequate platform are immense, and the risks are high. "The greatest risk is toppling or overturning equipment, and that's a catastrophic event," said Taube. "It's going to certainly lead to extensive equipment damage, and quite likely lead to injury or loss of life." While injury or loss of life, along with equipment damage, are the most critical consequences, there are also secondary effects such as project delays, being removed from the project and incurring a negative safety record, which can affect a specialty contractor's ability to bid on future projects. "People may not be aware of potential quality issues associated with inadequate working platforms," said Taube. "This is the subgrade or subbase of a structure that's going to be built on our work. We are, in some cases, turning it to muck, and that's typically not good for what we're supporting." Quality is a by-product of a safe and level working platform, says Finbow. "[With a proper working platform,] you install a higher quality product...because your equipment is level and vertical," he said. "Lastly, you're more able to reach your scheduled production levels if you get your safety right and your quality right." Learning from protocol in the UK "If we go back to the early 2000s, it was recognized that the incidents of piling rigs falling over because of poor platforms was too high," said Derek Egan, B.Eng., Ph.D., C.Eng., FICE, with Remedy Geotechnics Ltd. in the UK, in a webinar called "UK Working Platform Initiative and Calculation of Rig Bearing Pressure" presented live from DFI's SuperPile '18 Conference. "That's why FPS launched their working platform initiative." "I was a piling contractor in Ireland and the UK for many years; I owned my own piling company," said Gildea. "I was involved in the early initiatives back in the UK when we started [discussing working platforms.] What we did in the UK was a lot easier [than it will be in the U.S.], because we probably only had 15 to 20 piling companies at that stage. We had a lot of accidents and quite a few fatalities. The FPS got together and said, 'What can we do about it?' And that's how it started." In order to ensure proper working platforms on construction sites, members of FPS created a simple form for general contractors to sign that indicates there is an adequate platform built to a proper design and specification and that it will be maintained by the general contractor throughout construction activities. "We call it the Working Platform Certificate," said Egan during his 2018 webinar. "It summarizes what the project is, what part of the project [the specialty contractor] is working on [and] under what load the working platform is designed to operate. It names the designer, the designer's organization and any testing that is required. "And then the principal contractor has to sign in ink to say that they are confirming the platform has been correctly designed, correctly installed and will be correctly maintained before the piling contractor goes to the site." Egan says that an early version of the Working Platform Certificate was created in 2004 and that the initial reaction from principal contractors was less than positive. "In my experience, [...] as a subcontractor, you feel like you're down at the bottom of the food chain sometimes," said Egan in his webinar. "So how do you influence [project owners and general contractors]?" It was through FPS members collectively insisting on the form's use and refusing to enter sites without one that it became standard practice for both FPS members and non-members alike. At the same time, a group of specialists was assembled by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) at the direction of FPS to create a unified approach to working platform construction and design that defined the health and safety requirements for safe platforms. BRE published a document titled "Working platforms for tracked plant: good practice guide to the design, installation, maintenance and repair of ground-supported working platforms," also known by the title BR 470, in 2004. "Working platform safety is now written into health and safety executive guidance in the UK, but that took a long time almost 15 years," said Gildea. The Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group The Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group was initially created in 2017 after another DFI committee realized the scope of the issue. "I'm the former chair of the Ground Improvement Committee for DFI, and several years ago, we tried to take on the topic of working platforms," said Taube. "We tried to come up with some guidance [for the industry], but as we worked on the initiative, we realized that it's a much bigger topic with more relevance than just that committee's focus. This is a topic that extends basically throughout the entire construction industry." The Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group was formed to start gathering information, such as the existing documents and guidance from the industry experience in the UK, to provide to DFI members. Formally adopting the implementation of working platform certificates is a topic currently up for debate in the Working Group, says Taube. "That might be the direction we're heading in," he said. "I don't think that we're committed to adopting it in its entirety, and that's what's being hashed out now." Although there are key takeaways from the protocol that the UK industry followed that the Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group believes would be of benefit in the U.S. market. "The biggest five or six piling companies [in the UK at that time] were the first ones to say, 'We want to take the lead on this,'" said Gildea. "If you look at the $1.5-billion market in the U.S., if you take the top 10 contractors, they probably have about 70 percent of that market. And through ADSC-IAFD, DFI and PDCA, all of them are represented. If you can get the bigger companies on board to start off, it starts to filter down." He acknowledges that seeing legal enforcement in the U.S. is not the goal at this time, as it would take years of dedicated lobbying. "Initially, we're just looking for acknowledgement from the major piling contractors [of the issue]," he said. "That's our starting point: enlargement of the issue, and getting people to start implementing best practices, in a general sense." Finbow agrees. "Once the main group starts doing it, then it becomes the accepted norm," he said. It's obviously in the best interest of the piling contractor to have a safe platform, says Gildea, but specialty contractors are only a small part of the construction process. In addition to capturing the attention of North America's largest piling companies, the Working Group is hoping to convey the importance of the working platform conversation to other parties. "[The purpose of the Working Group has] developed further into more outreach outside of the [deep foundation construction] industry, like to owners," said Taube. "We realize now that we have to go beyond the specialty trade organizations and talk to general contractors, owners, possibly insurance companies, engineers, etc." It's complicated Without governing guidance on working platforms in the U.S., determining the party responsible for the design, maintenance and ongoing repair of the working platform is complicated, at best, but is of the utmost importance when it comes to resolving platform issues. Taube outlines a prospective bidding process that demonstrates the complexity of the working platform conversation. "Imagine a scenario where a general contractor has ground improvement within his scope, and let's say the ground improvement is either design-build or the ground improvement allows for several alternates," he said. "The GC is getting multiple bids, and different contractors might be approaching the job using different techniques, and each specialty subcontractor would have different equipment that they're proposing to use on the job for these different techniques." So now, says Taube, the general contractor is in a position where they have the contractual responsibility to provide a safe working platform. However, there will not be enough time prior to the bid to figure out what the working platform is, and so the GC will typically make some allowances. A specialty contractor may decide to make basic recommendations about the working platform, but they may not always have the time or ability to design the platform at bid time, either. "[At Bauer,] we have our own engineers in Calgary who can calculate bearing pressures, and we have the facilities through the FPS to use their tools to calculate bearing pressures," said Finbow. "But some companies guess, and can be fairly accurate through experience, but they don't truly know what their bearing pressure is." Further complicating matters, says Taube, is that the site will change. Even if a specialty contractor has bid documents and borings, conditions change between the time those borings are taken to the time that the work is performed, which can affect the design of the working platform. "Let's say the borings are collected in summer when the groundwater is lower, but the work is done in the springtime when the groundwater is higher and closer to the surface," said Taube. "Also, what if the work is being done in the winter and we know there's going to be a lot of snow? If you are working in wet weather or dry weather, there could be significantly different working platform design and maintenance requirements. Significant grading or cut and fill could take place between the time the project is put out to bid and the time the work is performed, making it even more difficult to properly design an adequate working platform. "It's not a simple issue at all." Outlining the responsible party "One of the problems we're grappling with at the moment is who takes responsibility for not just designing the platform, but also for the long-term maintenance of the platform," said Gildea. "Identification of the responsible entity is the crux of this issue and it must be part of the solution," said Siegel. He says that as the party with the overall site control, the owner should bear the responsibility for a proper working platform, but that in practice, it doesn't often work that way. "Ideally, it's the owner who should be responsible for ensuring a proper working platform and it should be part of the overall cost of the project," he said. "However, in reality, the very important consideration of the working platform can get obscured in the bidding process as multiple parties try to shed the liability using their contracts." As a project cost, the working platform can become a so-called bargaining chip in the bidding process. Taube says that's because working platforms are not well defined, general contractors and bidding parties are not in a position to put a lot of extra money or allowances for them. "Unfortunately, the working platform sometimes becomes part of the currency of the bid," he said. "In other words, sometimes we will say that we require a certain thickness of working platform and we might hear, 'Your competitor only needs one foot instead of two feet. Can you do it with a one-foot working platform?' Or, 'I wanted to give you the work, but these other guys are going to do it without a working platform. Can you do that?' It puts the subcontractor in a position of possibly accepting a less substantial quality or even no working platform." The consensus of the Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group, and noted in the joint position document from PDCA, ADSC-IAFD and DFI, is that the responsibility for providing a safe working platform needs to be acknowledged by controlling entities and considered an integral cost for every project. "If the responsibility, or at least some of the responsibility, was shifted to the owner, I believe that we would see better working platforms," said Taube. The party that has control of the site for the full duration is typically the most appropriate entity to have control of the working platform, says Gildea, especially concerning maintenance of the platform. "In the UK, the piling contractor provides the rig loads [to the principal contractor]," said Gildea. With that information, says Egan, the principal contractor is responsible for designing the working platform, either using in-house temporary works designers or by engaging a specialist geotechnical design firm. "The maintenance responsibility resides with the GC, who is in control of the site," said Gildea. "The piling contractor will flag any issues on site and the GC will maintain them." According to Finbow, he believes that inspection responsibilities should fall to the specialty contractor. "We're using the platform with our rigs... my view is, if I'm going to put a rig on there, I'm going to make sure that it's okay. I think it's very clear," he said. "We build platform inspection into our own site management reporting back to the person(s) responsible for the maintenance of the platform's current condition. I would hope that everybody does that to make sure that the rig is safe and isn't going to implicate the safety of their people." "It's a complicated issue and it's not something that everyone agrees on," said Taube. How to start improving Since there are no regulations or guidance specific to the U.S. market at this time, piling contractors must rely on other sources to dictate best practices when it comes to safer working platforms. For contractors interested in learning how they can improve today, members of the Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group recommend reviewing the BR 470 document as a crucial first step. "It's got very good, practical recommendations for the construction and maintenance of platforms, and also good guidelines on designing platforms," said Gildea. "[Reviewing that document] would be the first [step] for anyone in the U.S. If you apply the general recommendations in there, you're taking a step up from where you would be otherwise." Due to copyright, BR 470 is not available through ADSC-IAFD, DFI or PDCA, but a digital copy can be purchased for £45 (just under US$60) from BRE by visiting www.brebookshop.com and searching "BR 470." "Review the BRE document and become familiarized with that, and another good tool would be the [Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group], which is open to the public," said Taube. "We definitely encourage participation and having discussions with other specialty contractors. Those are the first steps." "Take the knowledge that's out there because there is knowledge out there now," said Finbow. "The knowledge pool is growing week by week. Join [organizations like ADSC-IAFD, DFI or PDCA] and benefit from that pool of knowledge. Don't stand alone; we're much more powerful as a group." The Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group is looking to improve safety across the construction industry, and believes that, collectively, specialty contractors can make a difference by insisting on proper working platforms and refusing to compromise on safety. "Safety is a responsibility, morally, of all of us," said Finbow. "Be bold. Stand up for what's right and what you know is right and needed to protect your workers," said Taube. "Don't sacrifice your standards in order to win work. It can be very tempting to say, 'Hey, the other guys can do it without a working platform, so that's what we're gonna do.' It can be a race to the bottom in terms of working platform safety." t Your participation is needed in order to improve working platform safety across the industry. PDCA members interested in joining the Working Platforms Industry-Wide Working Group should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to get involved.
For pile driving contractors, hiring the right staff members can lay the foundation for a successful business. Contractors look to hire employees with a diverse set of skills, which can make the process of finding new employees long and arduous. It's a prospect that can lead some companies to ask, "Where do we even begin?" Hays is a recruiting company with a worldwide presence. The company, which has been in the industry for over 50 years, is spread over 33 countries, employing 10,000 people. Last year, the company placed 77,000 people into permanent jobs and 244,000 people into temporary roles. Hays originally entered the U.S. market in 2009 and then acquired veteran staffing firm Veredus in 2014. Today, the company operates as Hays and has 12 office located across the U.S. The company has divisions that specialize in construction and often works directly with the pile driving industry. "Within our company, we have many specialists who only recruit in certain areas. I look after the civil construction transit and marine areas," said Greg Belpomme, a principal consultant with Hays. "Obviously, within the marine areas there's a great deal of foundation and pile work. We also have another division here that solely looks after the foundation and excavation portions of civil construction. We do significant work for heavy general civil contractors. My colleagues and I specifically look after different parts of the divisions including marine, transit and a subdivision with a focus on the excavation side in the northeast corridor of the U.S." Belpomme says that Hays can help pile driving contractors hire a range of employees: project managers, estimators, superintendents, health and safety representatives and cost controllers. Hays is often hired by employers that bid on public agency roles, such as jobs for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey or the United States Army Corps of Engineers. This means that Hays puts a lot of work into recruiting top notch estimators. "We get a lot of estimation requests, from junior estimators right up to chief estimators," said Belpomme. "Anyone can bid on a project and win, but it doesn't mean you're going to make money. We place the people that are able to bid on projects and ensure those bids are feasible. That's huge for us." Hays also receives many requests to hire project managers or superintendents, employees who have a firm knowledge of driving piles, and are able to enter the field and get the job done. The employees also must be able to ensure the project is done safely and to scope. Creating careers Although every hire is different, Belpomme said some of the key similarities with the clients they deal with is that they're looking for seasoned employees who want to make a significant and lasting career move. "Companies tend not to use us for hiring graduates as that area isn't a pain point for them," said Belpomme. "For instance, I tend to focus on superintendents, project managers, safety engineers and managers, all the way up to the vice president of operations or director level. We find people that oftentimes don't want to be found; we bring them in by being ambassadors for the company we represent. "Most of the contractors we work for are looking to hire permanent staff. While we do have temporary staffing solutions where we can find employees for two- to three-month projects, the majority of our clients hire for succession; they don't want to hire someone who's here today and gone tomorrow." A recruiting process that many people are familiar with is where a job posting is published online and companies hope that qualified employees will see the posting and apply. As Belpomme explains, Hays goes beyond this standard practice and that's one of the factors that makes the company stand out. He says the process starts by meeting with a client and entering into a contractual agreement to be its staffing partner. "We almost become an ambassador of that company," he said. "A lot of our clients like to think of us as their internal recruiters, just sitting externally." After the relationship between Hays and the company begins, Belpomme says Hays begins its headhunting services in "a pretty niche way." The company develops a hiring plan by talking with key figures in its client's organization such as the president or owner. This plan includes examining the specific companies who might be their competitors as long as these companies aren't also clients of Hays. Then, Hays turns its attention to finding prospective employees through its vast network. "We will meet and interview every single candidate, reference check every single candidate and then take those candidates to our clients and arrange for them to meet; we guide them through the entire process," said Belpomme. "If our client is focused on project managers with piling experience, for example, we can compile a list of clients and send a newsletter to our client that highlights the skills of those employees, without naming them at this point. As the process progresses, we then go to resume reviews, shortlisting, and help our clients with interview prep so they can ask questions that will help find the right person for them." Finding the right person takes time Belpomme said the time period for finding the right candidate can vary greatly depending on the job. Some recruitments can take a couple weeks while certain specialist roles can take months to fill. One of the factors that affects the process can be the employees themselves. "We've had cases where we've been speaking to a candidate for two years who isn't quite ready to move, but when that particular company says, 'We're looking,' you just know culturally that the candidate is the right person for the job," said Belpomme. "Some of these skilled employees are sceptical. We help to boost awareness of the company we're recruiting for." He adds that most job placements are fairly seamless. If a job takes longer to fill, companies are usually fine with that because they'd rather have the right person than a person who will leave or be detrimental to the organization. A lot of people engage in counteroffers when it comes to hiring, so Hays' support isn't just on finding employees but may also include the entire counter-offer process. One of the tools that Hays frequently utilizes in its recruitment process is LinkedIn. If you're registered on the business and employment-oriented social networking platform, you may already follow Hays; the company is one of the top 20 most followed companies along with the likes of Pepsi and Nike. "We're seen as the recruiter of choice, which is a great way to have a vast reach," said Belpomme. "If we're looking for a pile driver in New York, the ideal candidate could be all the way out in Kansas or Canada on a business project, and they'll be able to see the job opportunity due to our reach. We actually are partners with LinkedIn in terms of having it built into our database, which is a great tool for us." Belpomme says Hays is aware that the pile driving industry is a complex one. The company felt that becoming a member of the Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA) and networking with members would help it gain a better knowledge of the industry. Belpomme noted that while Hays may be specialists in its field, the company knows it can always benefit from different perspectives. Hays is looking forward to continually working alongside the industry. "Our business is not just about providing staffing solutions, but also building relationships," said Belpomme. "There's people that have been in the pile driving industry for 30 to 50 years. We decided to become a member of PDCA because the best way for us to be able to understand and facilitate those people is to network directly with them. We can always learn more from other people and it's great being part of an organization that helps to spread awareness through educational materials. It helps to unite people that are all doing similar things. That's one of the best ways everyone can work together and assist one another. That was the main driving factor for why we joined the PDCA." Moving forward, Belpomme says Hays hopes to continue being the go-to company for anything market or hiring related. The company also has some exciting new initiatives planned. "We're looking to do industry-specific webinars or dial-in sessions featuring presentations by senior professionals within the industry who can share some insight into some of the challenges that they're facing to keep being successful," said Belpomme. "It's a way for companies to bounce ideas off each other."
New York City is for many people the city, vibrant and rich in culture, known for its diverse communities, always moving. Even with its dense population and ubiquitous skyscrapers, the city is famed for green spaces, from the 843-acre Central Park to small, hidden gardens that provide a retreat from busyness. A new and unique green space is being constructed in Hudson River Park, on the west side of Manhattan, where the former commercial waterfront is gaining new life. The project has been controversial and rife with delay, but is now underway and expected to be completed by Summer 2021. Weeks Marine, Inc., a PDCA member based in Cranford, N.J., is involved in the project. Preparation for construction: A long process Rick Palmer, vice president at Weeks Marine, says the construction of Pier55 in the Hudson River Park has been the "most interesting and challenging project" in his 30-year career. He has worked on job sites around the world, but none have required as high a degree of precision or encompassed the range of conditions found at Pier55. Funded by billionaire couple Barry Diller and Diane von Fürstenberg, the Pier55 development initially met with opposition from a local organization concerned with the project's selection and approval process. After multiple lawsuits, a construction stop and sustained opposition after a restart, the continuing conflicts led Diller and von Fürstenberg to reluctantly withdraw their support, shutting down the project in mid-September 2017. Work on site was halted and Weeks demobilized their barges after two weeks on the project. High-level intervention by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo brought life back to the project a few weeks later. Governor Cuomo brokered an agreement with the opposing parties and convinced Diller to renew his commitment to the project at the end of October 2017. Weeks and the other engineers, contractors and fabricators dusted off their plans and rebooted. On May 1, 2018, a year after they had originally planned to start work, the Weeks Marine crew was back on site. The Hudson River Park Trust, a partnership between New York State and City responsible for the four-mile park along the west side of Manhattan, is governed by the Hudson River Park Act, which mandates that the park will encourage, promote and expand public access to the Hudson River, as well as protect and conserve the critical marine habitat within the park. That mandate guided the design of the new Pier55, as well as the earlier demolition of its two neighboring piers, Pier 54 and Pier 56, which had both fallen into a state of disrepair. The wood piles supporting the Pier 54 and 56 structures were left in place to provide a sheltered habitat for aquatic life. The Pier55 footprint overlaps portions of those pile fields; the handful of old timber piles that conflicted with the new pile locations were extracted using an ICE® 44-50 hydraulic vibratory hammer with a timber pile clamp with the Weeks 574 barge-mounted crane. Concrete debris from the two piers was also removed from the river bed using a clam shell bucket on the same crane. The demolition and debris-removal work took two weeks to complete. Ultra-precise pile driving in challenging conditions Over a span of just 300 feet the width of the new Pier55 the driving depth increases dramatically. At the east side of that 300-foot width, concrete piles 93 feet long will support the new structure. At the west side, piles more than 260 feet in length are required. The mica-schist bedrock into which the piles are being driven drops off from east to west at a 45° to 60° angle. Bedrock elevations were confirmed during a week-and-a-half-long indicator probe pile program completed using a two-piece HP 18x204 steel probe, the Weeks 574 crane barge and an ICE® 110C vibratory hammer. At 35 locations, the Weeks team drove the pile to rock, splicing the upper probe segment on at each location as the rock depth increased. The next phase comprised three weeks of precise probing to a depth of 75 feet at each of the 267 locations where the concrete piles were to be driven. The Weeks 526 derrick crane barge with its hanging fixed lead system was outfitted with an ICE® 66-80 vibratory hammer and a 130-foot-long, 36-inch-diameter steel pipe for this job. Because each pile is required to be within three inches of its planned location, the company needed to find any obstructions that would deflect or block the piles. In two locations, the probe would not advance, and the pier design was modified before production pile driving began to allow the piles to be relocated. Throughout the probing work, Weeks Marine tested an innovative lead-mounted GPS and laser survey system, which they then utilized during the production pile driving to ensure adherence to specifications. Probe locations were double checked in real-time by a conventional land-based total station, as well. With this phase completed, the company removed the probe pile equipment from the crane and mounted a Junttan HHK25S hydraulic hammer into the leads. This "very large" Finnish hammer, a new one for the company last year, "is the only one in the U.S. right now," according to Palmer. The piles and the pots While this changeover was being done, the company installed four 24-inch square concrete piles made by Jersey Precast in Hamilton, N.J. (of a total six on the project; the other two will be driven this summer). With the Junttan hammer ready to go in the last week of June 2018, the team began the installation of 164 prestressed concrete 36-inch-diameter cylinder piles, work that lasted into the first weeks of October, completed before the end of the six-month in-water construction season. (Time-of-year restrictions require that all pile driving be completed between May 1 and October 31.) The balance of the piles another 103 are being installed this summer. Starting on the east side of the site, where about 80 feet of organic material directly overlays the bedrock, Weeks experienced "the quickest drive times I've ever seen," said Palmer. For many of the initial piles, 30 blows or less from the hammer were all that was required to fully seat the piles into the schist, the piles having settled to within inches of the rock due to their self weight and the deadweight of the hammer. In fact, a concern for the early piles was they could be damaged by overdriving, so the refusal threshold was closely monitored and adhered to by Weeks and third-party inspectors. Moving west along the width of the new pier, the loose material overlays clay and further still, to sand under the clay before rock is reached. Consequently, piles take longer to drive as the team moves further west, because of both the different material layers and the increased depth. Palmer expects that some piles this year may require more than a thousand hammer blows each. Further, because of the deeper driving conditions on the west side, most of the piles will require steel stingers to extend the length of the pile. Depending on the load and conditions, a steel tip or plate is attached to the bottom of each pile. The pile designs, which include both hollow and solid concrete sections, with steel rock tips and three sizes of HP 18 stingers, require 10 separate tip types to cover all of the possibilities. The tips were manufactured by Macuch Steel Products in Augusta, Ga. "Almost every pile is unique and tracked by its final location in the plan," said Palmer. The concrete piles, fabricated by Coastal Precast Systems in Chesapeake, Va., are cast monolithically in steel forms, then transferred to Weeks' transport barges on the Elizabeth River. "We tow the loaded barges up to our marine yard in Jersey City, N.J. about six miles south of the Pier55 project site," said Palmer. "Then, due to the limited water depth at the Pier55 site, we transload the piles onto smaller, shallower barges 10 piles at a time to bring them to the project for installation." The piles are cut off after driving using a Mactech Offshore 48-inch wire saw, which results in "a very smooth, flat finish," said Palmer. The saw is "very good," says Palmer. "This was our first experience with it, and we're sold on it." About half of the piles will support precast concrete "pots," each one unique, that are being cast as individual "petals" and "column heads" by Fort Miller Corporation in Greenwich, N.Y. The individual precast elements are trucked to the Port of Coeymans on the Hudson River, where Weeks Marine and P&M Brick erect and weld the pieces together to form the pots. Once assembled, they are loaded into Weeks Marine hopper barges and towed down the river to the Pier55 site. The Weeks 526 crane barge, with the fixed lead system removed, is used to pick and install the pots on the piles. The pots, the piles that support them and additional pier piles in the two to three rows closest to the outer pier edges are cast using a white concrete mix, per the design by architects Heatherwick Studios of London, England. "This means," said Palmer, "we have two colors of piles to keep separate, and we must handle the white piles carefully to ensure that we don't mark or damage them during installation." The team is using non-marking synthetic slings on the upper portion of the white piles to prevent scuffing and chipping, and they mark pile depths/lengths, which are typically painted directly on the pile surface, on removable tape that is taken off once the piles have been driven. Weeks Marine anticipates finishing the pile driving in late summer this year, after constructing the first 50 percent of the pier's concrete deck over the past winter and spring. By the spring of 2020, the deck work will be complete, and the entire pier structure will be turned over to the follow-on contractors who will complete the park structures and landscaping. Palmer says the undulating surfaces the pots create, both above and below the pier, are "very artistic and truly unique. This is an exceptional project we are thrilled to be a part of."
From a one-man contracting firm launched by Charles Blakeslee in 1844 in New Haven, Conn., Blakeslee, Arpaia, Chapman (BAC) has created an innovative and multi-faceted company that provides engineered construction services in the areas of marine construction, roads and bridges, dams, foundations and other large site structures, conduit construction for utilities, millwrighting and rigging for utilities and industries. Currently located in a shoreline town located on Long Island Sound in New Haven County, Conn., eight miles (13 km) east of New Haven, BAC has strategically located their team and marine fleet to best service its clients in a cost-effective manner. "Our clients don't have to wait for us to get mobile; we are always ready with dockage of our marine fleet in New Haven and New London," said the company's president, David Chapman. The vast number of years and tenure this experienced team brings to the industry is outstanding as their services and completed projects span the full spectrum from public to private sector work. BAC has a portfolio filled with bridges, highways and foundations for power plants, electrical substations and other buildings, and that is just the beginning. The company partners with independent engineers as well as constructs solutions with their very own in-house licensed engineering services team. With 175 years in business, it only makes sense that BAC would have created a successful organization development methodology for construction projects. This method creates the unique ability to provide sole-source responsibility and an organized approach to sequencing and methods within each construction project. This enables BAC to provide precise scheduling, fast response to estimates and alternative construction methods, and most importantly impeccable cost controls to clients. "Essentially, our success has one source people," said Chapman. "We have a great staff including project managers and engineers, and a vast field workforce of outstanding and caring team members," said Chapman. "Our employees are dedicated, loyal and committed to delivering high-quality client projects with exemplary job safety performance. I am always impressed with our team's personal interest and responsiveness to our client's requests. Our repeat client list is always growing. Throughout the company's history, a typical employee's tenure has been 20, 30 or 40 years of service. It is as true today as it was 100 years ago." When asked what BAC's great strength is, Chapman doesn't hesitate. "Resiliency," he said. "Companies, in the construction industry or other, don't get to stick around for 175 years without being resilient to the market. We have seen good times and bad, yet we survive and with a little luck we thrive. This is a testament to the people who make Blakeslee a great company." In the pile driving industry, Chapman says they are known as a company who will get the project done despite any obstacles. "We have great planning and design capabilities that allow the work to be executed in an expeditious fashion," he said. "When the unexpected happens, we have the resources to resolve issues quickly. We have very dedicated, skilled employees at all levels. This business requires a lot from those who make it an occupation. Long hours, working nights and weekends, long commutes and hard labor in lousy weather. It is not for the faint of heart." Many changes since 1844 Much has changed in the deep foundation industry over the decades. In the past 20 years alone, Chapman says there is more technology than ever before. "Some very innovative equipment is now available," said Chapman. "There are piling rigs with high frequency heads to zero resonance vibratory hammers. BAC has invested in an ABI pile driving rig that allows us to drive piles very quickly with minimal vibration or impact. The head on the rig is variable moment and allows the amount of vibration to be adjusted. We have used this machine on projects where driven pile may not have been an option otherwise." Another big change he has seen is a diversion of design and construction. "More and more projects have specifications or designs that do not clearly define what is expected, or set out confusing or contradicting design criteria," he said. "This only leads to project problems. It is becoming more important for GCs and CMs to get qualified pile driving professionals on board as early as possible for these issues to be resolved. That is one (of many things) PDCA has done. They have brought the contractors, engineers, equipment dealers and material suppliers into one group so everyone understands what everyone else needs." BAC also works very closely with PDCA's Education and Technical Committees to help train and teach the industry about the importance of working with pile driving and general foundation experts. Chapman is one of many participants working on a new PDCA educational program known as the Engineers Driven Pile Institute (EDPI), which will help train more people who may one day write these specifications. Notable projects As for the numerous projects that BAC has been involved with over the decades, Chapman says he is proud of all of them, although some have been more unique than others. "Several years ago, we completed a replacement of half a large commercial vessel pier in New London, Connecticut," he said. "The State Pier as it's known is 1,000 feet long and 200 feet wide. The center of the pier is actually an earth berm with a dock built on either side. We replaced one dock with a modern steel pile and concrete deck. The piles were 18-inch steel piles that were only partially filled with concrete. The deck consisted of concrete caps poured over the pile cap to form transverse beams. Precast slabs that were made in Virginia and floated to New London by barge were dropped in place and a concrete slab poured over the caps and planks. We developed a form support system that would be supported by the piles. The system utilized large screw jacks to quickly and accurately align and place the cap beam forms, which saved substantial time on the schedule." For another project, Chapman says they drove 90-foot-plus H-piles for a foundation for a new gas-fired electrical generation system requiring a few thousand piles in Middletown, Conn. "Piles were driven in two sections," he said. "The first section was driven with our ABI pile driving rig. A second hydraulic crane then set the second sections while pile drivers welded the splice between the two sections. Two lattice boom cranes were used with diesel hammers to drive home the piles. The ABI rig significantly outpaced the two impact driving rigs. By using this method, we were able to significantly reduce the project schedule." PDCA membership matters As a PDCA member since the early 2000s, Chapman says he is honored by membership to have been voted into the position of PDCA vice-president and president for two separate terms. "Actively participating at that level of PDCA was very rewarding," he said. "I would encourage all contractors to consider serving the association to get to know PDCA and its members better. Members who participate gain a firsthand understanding of the issues facing our industry. More importantly, you will quickly learn how your fellow contractors and suppliers are working to fix or adjust to these challenges." When asked what the main benefits are of membership, especially for a contractor as established as BAC, Chapman doesn't miss a beat. "I have been asked this question a lot and two things come to mind," he said. "First, I have learned so much about the industry. After joining, I got involved in the Technical Committee, which was as simple as calling into the committee every other week at 11:00. I was shocked to be on the phone with giants like George Goble, Garland Likins, Van Komurka, Dale Biggers and many others, and yet I was not getting billed for their time. Our project was to work as a team and revise the pile driving section of the AASHTO bridge design manual, which is the guide for designing highway bridges across the country." As part of the Technical Committee, Chapman discovered how much more there was to learn about pile driving, and how much practices vary across the country. "As time marched on, I quickly absorbed how much science and art is involved in pile driving design and construction," he said. "I feel PDCA helped BAC become a recognized leader in the Northeast pile driving industry. This is due in large part through contacts made throughout North America by being active in in the association, which gives us access to a forum of experts and training programs. Together, PDCA and its members have helped my company grow and build stronger industry bonds." Chapman is also quick to acknowledge additional benefits outside of business that he's personally experienced since becoming a part of PDCA. "The great benefit that I always mention is just how fraternal the group is," he said. "At PDCA, I have made good friends. I once called another PDCA president, Buck Darling, about how to do rock anchors. He invited me up to see a job, put me up in his house and spent the day touring. Another time, my wife and I went to New Orleans. PDCA member Dale Biggers of Boh Bros. told us exactly where to stay, and then gave me a tour of some really fascinating projects at that time when the city was recovering from Katrina. He and his wife took us to a classic New Orleans restaurant. PDCA members are not just colleagues we are good friends." What's next? As for what the future holds over the next two to five years, Chapman says that BAC is expanding to work more out of state. "For 175 years, most of our work has been in the state of Connecticut," he said. "However, we are looking at doing more work out of state and are seeking more diverse and collaborative projects." With a trained team at the ready combined with a wealth of referrals, BAC is an attractive company for many engineering firms looking for a strong pile driving partner. Chapman feels that his team is more than capable of meeting trending demands in the pile driving industry, where contractors will be required to provide more support for the final design of projects. "We feel that we have a great model to facilitate that, especially where pile driving and sheet piling are concerned," he said. "This work really needs to blend science and art, field knowledge and design experience. We have the ability to combine these aspects of deep foundations to make these types of projects successful." Chapman also sees significant potential for marine work in the not-so-distant future and anticipates that BAC will be busy in Connecticut again, as the majority of the waterfront in New Haven was built in the 1950s and '60s. "Time has taken its toll on these structures and significant work will be required to maintain or replace facilities. Much of this work will require driven pile," said Chapman. In all, he is proud of BAC's 175 years in business, and is looking forward to whatever the future will bring to the company. "The only thing we can be fairly sure of about the future is that it will probably be different than the present," said Chapman. "Blakeslee has always been able to adapt to new challenges. The only thing I know for sure about the future is that we will have a hand in building its foundation."
In an industry like construction where things seem to change and evolve every day, keeping your business current and relevant not to mention, welcoming to new clients can be tough. So, how do you do it? How do you distinguish yourself from the rest and make sure you can move with the times year to year? A great example of achieving success when it comes to staying current is James McHugh Construction Co. of Chicago, Ill. Not only have they been in business for more than 122 years, but McHugh has also built its reputation on high-quality work and focused client care. It's these and many more attributes that help keep this sought-after construction company ahead of the curve and maybe even ahead of their time. Longstanding history McHugh is a family-owned business and has been ever since its inception in 1897 by founder James D. McHugh. From the very beginning, the company established itself as a leader in general contracting with, at the time, a reputation for specialized masonry work. These days, McHugh is known for their high-quality workmanship on high-rise buildings and condos as well as one-of-a-kind structures like Chicago Navy Pier's Centennial Wheel and the historic Blackstone Hotel. But you don't stay in business for over a century by doing business in only one city. Steve Wiley is a senior vice president at McHugh and leads the Civil Construction group. "We self-perform pile driving, which consists of H-pile, pipe pile and sheet pile on infrastructure projects such as deep foundations for bridges and retaining walls. We perform railroad bridge replacement and new railroad bridge construction; when we do bridge construction, we're typically doing 100 percent of the work ourselves. With respect to our building projects we self-perform our own concrete for high-rise structures, which is a specialty of ours. (But) we are a true general contractor." While much of their work occurs within the city limits of Chicago, "we've constructed high-rise projects in a number of other cities around the country," said Wiley. "We generally follow our developer clients wherever they need us to go." Demonstrating such a commitment to their clients also demonstrates commitment to their staff, half of whom have been with the company for more than 10 years thanks to steady and interesting work. "McHugh is a family-owned business, there's a culture of it being more like a family. We value our employees, and everyone has exposure to some really cool projects," said Wiley. Playing the long game It's the interesting, one-of-a-kind projects that help maintain McHugh's success. If you consider their portfolio of work, it's easy to see why clients keep coming back and why new clients seek them out. "The Aqua tower in Chicago was built back in 2007," said Wiley. "It was designed by renowned architect Jeanne Gang and is a very unique building. Before taking over our Civil group, I was in charge of pre-construction for the company and worked on the Aqua project in a pre-construction capacity. It's a very interesting project. The most visually apparent features are the undulating balcony slabs that move in and out, creating a really unique shape to the building. Those balconies are all part of the concrete structure, which McHugh performed. They're formed edges and each one has a unique geometry. It wasn't randomly placed; it was all constructed to the specific design to achieve the stunning visual effect that it has." It's projects like Aqua that set McHugh apart from their competitors but not just because of the way the finished product looks on the skyline. McHugh is dedicated to using innovative techniques and the latest technology to ensure their clients are informed and comfortable throughout the entire construction process. "On the civil side, going back about 10 years, 3D virtual construction was an emerging technology in the building world and it really got its foothold in construction on the building side. McHugh was at the forefront of keeping pace with that emerging technology; it's one of the things we brought to civil construction, I think, a lot earlier than expected. Because we are a large, diverse construction company, keeping pace with technology like that allows us to have a lot more experiences in construction than in just the civil and pile driving world. So, we can bring in those best practices from all around the industry and, where it makes sense, utilize it to benefit civil construction and pile driving." The future is now While McHugh has many longstanding accomplishments that form the basis of their business foundation, they really do have a steady eye on the future to ensure they remain at the top of their game for as long as possible. "The one thing we know for certain is that our industry changes," said Wiley. "As the years go by, changes in the industry occur in more frequent cycles than they used to. Having the flexibility to change with those cycles and to have the foresight of leadership to always have our eyes two, three or five years down the road to try and anticipate as best we can what those changes will be so that we can react to them is critical. It's also about managing the costs of each project and the finances of the company so we're always in a good capital position to be able to ride out the cycles in the economy. The downturns are always going to be there; whenever there's a prosperous time in an industry, you can count on it going back down at some point. So, you need to ride that out and be in a good position to capitalize on the market when it goes back up again." Another aspect of longevity in business is knowing the importance of staying connected to the industry that supports you, as Wiley explains. "McHugh Construction isn't known anywhere as a piling contractor; I don't know that that's our intent. But we do think it's important to get exposure in the piling community and being a member of the PDCA helps us with that. Exposure in the piling community lets those interested in pile driving or in projects that involve pile driving know McHugh is out there and that pile driving is something we do. It allows us to collect opportunities we might not otherwise have had the opportunity to collect. [PileDriver] allows us to keep tabs on the pile driving world. It's always interesting to see what other contractors are doing, what projects are happening and what pile driving specialists are doing, and it's a good source for equipment and products, too." Providing high-quality results and continuous care for clients, a steady work environment for employees, seeking out innovation and staying connected within the community are just a few of the things James McHugh Construction Co. has done to ensure success and, ultimately, stay ahead of the curve.
In 1974, International Construction Equipment, Inc. (ICE®) opened its doors and began to develop and manufacture market advanced pile driving equipment and lead systems for the deep foundation industry. As the ICE® family of products and team expanded, so did the necessity to expand operations globally. "Over the past 45 years, we have opened operations, new companies and created partnerships all over the globe while still keeping our innovative engineering and manufacturing inside of Matthews, N.C.," said Kurt Seufert, the company's CFO. "As a leader in the deep foundation industry, the ICE® family is proud to still be engineering, machining and manufacturing pile driving and drilling equipment in the USA and shipping to our global partners in all parts of the world." The ICE® team is also appreciative and humbled by its partners, distributors, branches and suppliers for the outstanding job and service they offer to the company's clients. "Every project presents our clients with its own unique job challenges. But our ICE® team is wired to grow and transition with new ideas to better help our clients manage all types of driving and drilling conditions," said Christian Cunningham, ICE® CEO. "The ICE® family difference is really the ability to overcome the toughest driving and drilling with experience, resources and talent from our highly tenured and knowledgeable field resources teams. Including myself, our team members average tenure of 20-plus years, making us very well versed in foundation equipment needs." As times change and job requirements become increasingly complex, ICE® has been there in the forefront of innovation by providing guidance not only to the client but also to the industry by expanding our team with resident experts, reviewing trends and moving with the times. Manufacturer direct difference "ICE® is different from many partners in the equipment industry as we are the original USA manufacturer, providing direct from factory sales, a full-service team and manufacturer setup assistance," said Kevin Kane, the sales manager at ICE®. "But we don't stop there we also pile on with convenient, regionally located rental fleets and services." Kane is an advocate for comprehensive education of global contractors in the art and science of pile driving equipment. He additionally serves on the PDCA Education Committee to assist the North American pile driving industry. "It has taken many years, many friends and partners and a loyal team (and not so loyal) to become the world's most recognizable, sought after and desired equipment manufacturer," said ICE®'s marketing director, Pollyanna Cunningham. "It is the innovation and conservative direction our founders have taken that enabled ICE® to become a first-class company in the global equipment manufacturing market while continuing to be rooted as a family-owned, U.S. company. We will always be the original ICE®." Equipment just released Each year, ICE® showcases to the industry new equipment that fits a majority of pile driving and drilling equipment needs and services. Specific to the pile driving market, between 2017 and 2019, ICE® released new, technologically advanced attachments, including larger excavator-mounted vibratory hammers working from the bucket circuits of an existing excavator, to a cutting-edge piling and drilling mast, which is a more substantial design than what is currently on the market. Of course, there is the large hammer market a driller's best friend and ICE® rose to the challenge with a family of large vibratory hammers: the 110C, 125C, 130C and North America's largest, the ICE® 200C. "ICE® released new versions of double-clamping solutions to best partner with the steel sheeting and rental industry to help ensure better longevity of the sheets," said Mike Gregory, ICE® regional sales and branch manager. Gregory has spent the past eight months working with the steel sheeting community to develop custom clamping systems for steel sheets. With their ears to the ground, ICE® heard concerns from crane rental partners and, as a response, in 2019 introduced a full line of crane-suspended vibration dampeners that meets all ASTM requirements. This certification makes the ICE® Dampening™ solution a one-of-a-kind unrivaled component in boom shake technology. "Innovation from our team didn't stop there," said Mike Douglas, a senior engineer at ICE®. He says that ICE® Zero Resonance™ hammers are continually evolving from dialing in frequency to no shake at start and shutdown improvements that were developed through ICE®'s test labs, team think-tanks and feedback from its loyal clients. "We take client input seriously," said Douglas. "We build many custom designs to accommodate our client's end goals with great success. Most of the projects across ICE® engineering team's desks have client detail built into them. It makes every day an exciting adventure just knowing how in-tune our engineering team is with the pile driving industry." Douglas is not only a senior team member at ICE®, he is a true advocate of educating young engineers on pile driving and hydraulics, as evidenced by all the work he does with UNC and other universities. New awareness in pile driving For many years, noise and vibration in the pile driving industry have been topics of concern to other construction segments and the general public, but pile driving contractors and engineering firms can alleviate those concerns with case studies and statistics to show that noise and vibration are not the large problems that they're touted to be. Often, solutions like bubble curtains or better explaining impact hammers are all it takes to help ease some concern. ICE® is continually working on collecting data that will help it to reduce the vibration footprint in the soils and surrounding structures through new equipment solutions. Additionally, the company partners with technical groups like PDCA, ADSC, AEM and DFI in efforts to collect, review and publish data important to pile driving contractors and engineering firms. Today, ICE® is continuing to help work on a noise and vibration data resource by participating with DFI's Driven Pile Committee and the PDCA Education and Technical Committees. "This is a new and very large project. It will take everyone to make this happen," said Pollyanna Cunningham, current chair of both the PDCA Communications Committee and DFI's Driven Pile Committee. Industry participation ICE® will continue to provide a full spectrum of high-performance equipment and seasoned service professionals to enable its customers to be versatile and productive. ICE® handles both sales and rental agreements for its products to boost efficiency and make clients more competitive in today's market. The ICE® difference is not limited to its family roots, team spirit and manufacturing facilities in the USA. "The ICE® difference is the amount of time and attention our engineering, sales and marketing and manufacturing teams give back to the pile driving and drilling industries through associations," said Christian Cunningham. "Every day, ICE® spends time helping with, on average, three or more projects for the greater good of the industry. "We feel very strongly that as we actively volunteer, the industry will thrive. The more teams and companies suppliers, engineers, contractors, etc. that participate, the stronger our industry will become. A stronger, more joint effort in our industry is a commendable reason to actively go the extra mile we all benefit."
American Pole and Timber is a Houston-based manufacturer and supplier of treated poles, pilings, timbers and industrial and commercial structural wood products. "Extended-life building materials" was a favorite phrase of the late William Plant, one of the co-founders of the business. To him, it summed up the company's products and the company's focus on helping to build structures that last. The roots of American Pole and Timber's product lines and manufacturing capabilities began in the marine and shoreline construction industry. Before brothers-in-law Plant and Dorian Benn, president, started their first company, Building Products Plus, in 1993, both had been working for a wood treating plant. While working there, it didn't take long for Plant to realize the market opportunity for specialty treated wood products in the region. Living on the Texas Gulf Coast, marine and shoreline construction was and still is a bustling industry. Building Products Plus was born from that recognition. The name American Pole and Timber was added shortly after to reach a broader national and international market and they still operate under both names. Plant and Benn founded the business on the model: Consult, Inform and Supply. Plant said in 2015, "I was frustrated with the lack of knowledge about treated wood and its specifications by builders. They would come to the suppliers with questions and if those suppliers didn't ask the right questions [in return], they wouldn't suggest the right product and the projects weren't completed as they should be." He said that asking questions and truly listening to the builders to understand their needs ensures that the company can properly meet their needs, with the correct materials for the application, to adhere to the superior standards to which he was accustomed. Focusing primarily on supplying treated wood materials for bulkheads, docks, piers, beach home foundations, marinas and other marine construction helped Building Products Plus quickly become a well-known and quickly growing company in the Texas Gulf Coast market. As time went on, they added new product lines and services such as vinyl bulkhead materials (they were the first distributors of vinyl sheet piling in Texas) and custom cutting and milling. The addition of vinyl sheet piling for bulkheads was an obvious extension of their dedication to longevity in the materials they supplied. Custom cutting and milling capabilities started as a way of fulfilling the many requests they received for value-add services such as bundle-cutting, planing rough timbers or cutting large timbers to specific lengths a task that isn't so easy in the field when you're working with a circular saw. "Custom cutting and milling" quickly began evolving with requests for custom-cut corbels and rafter tails, long arches and other complex cutting with multiple angles. Eventually, they moved into full production and assembly of structural timber components from engineered beams to massive custom timber trusses to built-to-spec industrial and commercial products for applications from pipelines to high rises. It is largely the company's culture of flexibility and willingness to serve their customers' requests for specialty products that has driven their development of new product lines. That willingness to serve specialty needs is so core to who they are that their motto even includes it with the words "...and if we don't have what you need, we'll make it." The same philosophy has also driven them into new markets including commercial construction, park and zoo construction, golf course development, industrial projects and more. "It's 'First Response,'" said Benn. "Our focus, our internal slogan is 'First Response'. That is what all our people know we are best at. We are the first to respond to inquiries, we are first to respond to special requests, we are the first to provide the best products to the market. Even internally, our people support each other with the 'First Response' attitude." The First Response slogan is, in fact, visible on signs in the company's offices, manufacturing areas and even on shirts worn by several employees. Product lines that were initially born from simply serving their clients include structural timber trusses (they make them up to 100 feet long), Gun Barrel Pilings® (structural, round wood pilings with no taper available up 22 inches in diameter and 50 feet long), equipment saddles (for storage and transportation of pressure vessels) and polymer coated wood (a polyurea coating that encapsulates wood to protect it from virtually everything). While they have branched out into other markets since their humble beginnings, marine and shoreline construction is still at the heart of their operations. Their most recent product line addition is the SnapJacket™ piling protection jacket, a low-cost option to extend the usable life of pilings that can be installed without removing the pilings. They are always on the lookout for products like SnapJacket™ that fit their focus on extended-life building materials. "The SnapJacket™ is the best product we've seen in terms of offering customers an option that extends the life of even exceptionally deteriorated pilings at a very affordable price point," said Eric Lincoln, senior VP of sales. "Even the installation is simple." American Pole and Timber became a member of the Pile Driving Contractors Association around 2015. It was an obvious choice as they had worked with its members on numerous occasions. PDCA has been a hub for those who come together for the betterment of marine contractors everywhere and support their comradery. It is an association American Pole and Timber is proud to be part of.
- Year of Participation
- Commitment and Engagement are Foundational to Organization Success
- PDCA 20192020 Officers and Directors
- Committee Chairs & Members
- Membership benefits of PDCA and its local chapters
- 2019 Piling Industry Events Guide
- Deep Foundations Dynamic Testing and Analysis Course Orlando 2019
- Industry News