What can housebuilders do to recoup time and money from stalled construction sites?

As previously closed construction sites continue to gather momentum across the UK, housing developers and contractors will be looking for intelligent ways to recoup time and money after months of delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. Craig Andrews, Engineering Manager (UK & Ireland) at Wrekin Products, discusses a proven technique to improve site efficiencies through methods of value engineering, that many in the industry are not taking advantage of.  

While government guidelines in England advised that housing developments could remain open if the required social distancing measures and health and safety precautions were followed, initially, many opted to exercise caution.

Most construction sites are now operational once more but there is still the problem of the time and money that’s been lost and the challenge of how to regain ground without heightened costs. This is where value engineered geogrid solutions, which adopt an under-utilised range of products, can really make their mark, and perhaps finally gain the industry recognition they deserve.

Universal challenges faced by housebuilders

There are eight key needs that the housebuilding industry consistently works to meet – and, with the impact of coronavirus, are arguably looking to address even more urgently.

There is the primary requirement to create and maintain a safer environment, on site and across the network, reducing the impact of the construction site itself and on the surrounding network, creating a more positive relationship with the public as a result.

Any new network needs to be fit for purpose; constructed to a good condition but remaining effective throughout its whole life. There is a general drive towards less road works and therefore improved road user satisfaction, with a desire to reduce haulage and traffic management to maintain a smooth flow of traffic.

There is a global need for better environmental outcomes including the efficient use of plant, labour, and material resources. This is something that the housing sector continues to strive for but is often unable to implement to great effect, due to national (strategic road network) restricted design standards being applied to the design of local road network projects.

Finally, there is the need to deal with site variations, which includes coping with evolving design briefs due to site-specific ground conditions, while striving to achieve cost effectiveness, as well as improving productivity through time efficiencies.

How can solutions be applied to solve these industry-wide problems?

Using geogrids in value engineered solutions can have a very positive impact on these requirements, through eight broadly defined applications, which can address eight related problems, helping to make sites much more time, cost, and carbon effective.

Applications include the creation of temporary compounds for accommodation, parking and storage, working platforms for the safe use of heavy-duty tracked plant and haul roads for construction traffic. There are permanent roads for public authority adoption or private use – plus associated parking areas and recreational facilities. Geogrid derived solutions are also very valuable in the engineering of soil slopes, environmental bunds and retaining walls.

Through the intelligent adoption of geogrid solutions, common problems associated with these applications can all be resolved. The costs of aggregates and earthworks in each application can be reduced. There is scope to increase the short-term load bearing capacity, without increasing the thickness cross section. The long-term in-service capacity (structural life) of pavements can also be increased, again without increasing the thickness of a pavement.

Geogrid solutions can maintain performance when designs need to be evolved, due to much weaker soils found at the time of construction. The solutions can allow the use of marginal or recycled soils and aggregates, which can be a biproduct of brownfield regeneration. Where brownfield sites are developed, geogrid-based solutions can mitigate differential stiffness and/or settlement, cap very weak deposits, or span voids to mitigate risk due of potential collapse in the underlying soils.

In conclusion

Ultimately, geogrid solutions are an effective way of supporting the housing sector in addressing its general and site-specific needs, through applications that solve site-defined problems – they have a positive impact by reducing resources at the design stage, and also during the construction phase and the in-service periods. As such, housing developers should be taking a closer look at these solutions and the many benefits they can bring to address a wide range of on-site challenges.