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Friday, 7 February 2014

The Future's Green

Target Fixings has been designing solutions around its Heli Pile for the last 16 years. In this article, we discuss the environmental benefits that Heli Pile can bring over traditional concrete strip footings.

In 1998, Target Fixings' Heli Pile was introduced to the world at Civils Exhibition in Birmingham. It was introduced as a lightweight piling system, with a simple philosophy - where you can walk, it can pile.

Heli Pile makes use of various methods
to increase its load baring capacity
The shape of the aluminium-alloy Heli Pile was based on the principles learned from Target's history in manufacturing Stainless Steel helical reinforcing material now known as Bar Flex. Both products can be installed using a hammer action, and they both screw themselves into the final material for a secure fixing.

Unlike many of the alternatives in the mini-piling market, Heli Pile retains the helix through its entire length, increasing not only the skin friction against the substrate but also the mechanical connection, offering the potential for vastly increased loads per metre depth.

Over the past 16 years, the Heli Pile has been used in extremely diverse situations. The main benefit comes from the ability to gain access to areas that are usually inaccessible to piling machines. The hand-held Heli Pile driver is able to be taken through alleyways or even right through houses, causing minimal disruption.

Heli Pile has been used in and around woodland conservation areas, where traditional foundation systems could damage tree roots. This allows the piling to act below the tree roots where they may be causing damage to structures due to the potential lack of moisture in the substrate.

Heli Pile has also been used in a near-horizontal plane to strengthen retaining walls. Again, the inspiration for its use here was developed from the helical material, and specifically Cem Flex's ability to pin de-laminating masonry and rubble-filled walls. Heli Pile can be installed virtually horizontally through the face of the retaining wall, pinning the soil behind and stabilising the retaining wall in one simple solution.

As the human race continues to expand, the need for building foundations is bigger than ever before. Extra pressure has been put on companies to do their fair share of environmental work, but often this is overlooked in favour of a quicker solution. Somehow, the building industry remains relatively publicity-free with regards to its use of concrete.

The Colosseum in Rome was built from concrete and stone
and its concrete foundations are 12 metres deep
[Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Concrete first became used on a large scale in Ancient Rome and, albeit with slightly different additives, the same material is still being used today. Reports have shown that concrete now contributes to 7% of the CO2 emissions caused by human activity - the third highest industry after energy production and transportation. It is also the second-most consumed substance on Earth, second only to water, showing our disturbing dependency on the material.

Even in its early days, Heli Pile was seen as a green alternative to traditional strip footings. Not only is Heli Pile made from recycled material and is itself fully recyclable, but it also has the ability to lower the amount of concrete required in foundations.

In new builds, a trench could be dug at only 450 millimetres deep when used with Heli Pile, as opposed to 3 metres (or greater, in areas where there are trees) in traditional foundation work. In remedial works, each Heli Pile point requires less than 0.1m³ in order to stop its rotation and fix it back to the existing foundations.

But, even 0.1m³ is not concrete-free.

Heli Pile supporting an off-site built house extension
In the mid-2000s, Heli Pile started to be used in applications where using concrete was either impractical or forbidden. It's use with O2 Airwave's Telecommunication Mast proved that a bespoke base could be manufactured to provide a solid footing, without using concrete.

Later, as Target moved into designing off-site modular home extensions, the Heli Pile again provided a concrete-free foundation system that could be installed and ready to use in a matter of hours thanks to the innovative base design. Over 200 house extensions have been designed and installed by Target using this design, each requiring less than one week to install on site.

In addition to not having to fill up trenches with concrete, there is no other additional mess on site. As the trench is not being dug in the first place, there is no need to spend additional money on taking the resultant mess away from site. This means that Heli Pile is not only greener than traditional foundations, but is cost effective over a whole project.

As Target continues to innovate using its Heli Pile there is one thing that is certain. The future's bright, but it isn't orange. The future's full of environmentally friendly ideas that are practical, achievable and - most importantly - cost-effective. The future's green. Well, polished aluminium.


Heli Pile is available from Target Fixings, who are able to take on as much of your project as required. Target is able to design your solution, provide the materials or even perform the installation, offering a 10-year insurance-backed guarantee. A set of standard details is made available for those who are interested in installing Heli Pile themselves.