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Sheet Piling in the UK
Sheet Piling Contractor in the UK tells its History | 1992 -2017 |
Rewind to 1992

From the very beginning, Aarsleff offered sheet piling as an additional service to its driven precast piling capabilities, in fact, steel sheet piling retaining walls and circular and rectangular cofferdams were our speciality. In chronological order, the following projects have been dug out from our dusty archives and old negatives – and of course good internet searching skills – to capture our work in sheets from 1992 to 2017.


In 1992, Aarsleff installed 72 No. sheet piles of 4 m – 11 m and extracted 45 No. sheet piles from an existing cofferdam at Waterloo International. Upon reading through archived correspondence between Aarsleff and the main client, we found out that we lost 10 hours of work time due to a “bomb scare”.


Two years later in 94’ we worked on the Newark Sewage Treatment Works. We used a combination of a pitching crane and our fixed leader rigs to install the 1280 m2 of sheet piles.


In 1999, we constructed our first cofferdam using the Halt Lock pile clutch sealing system for a 1M wastewater project in Greater Manchester. The Halt Lock system was developed by Dutch groundworks contractor Hei & Grondwerken. We installed 120 pairs of Larssen LX32 sheet piles between 7.3 m and 9 m long to facilitate the 57 m long, 12.5 m wide watertight cofferdam. The middle joint of each pair was welded in the factory and then fitted with one Halt Lock clutch. The first 40 pairs of piles were driven using an ICE 815 vibrator. This installed the critical first pair through stiff clay and 300mm into the underlying sandstone. The remaining piles were driven using a Junttan HHK6a hydraulically accelerated impact hammer. This proved twice as productive in installing the sheet piles. Original production rates were predicted at 10 to 15 pairs per day but in fact, up to 28 per day were achieved.

In the same year, we knocked several weeks off the Cardiff Waste Water Treatment Plant job by driving a long and narrow onshore and offshore steel sheet cofferdam. This was a notable project for us as we had two different types of piling rigs on site simultaneously working in opposite directions from the shoreline, demonstrating that co-operation and good planning were the key to fast and relatively trouble-free projects.


In 2002, we worked on a vast multi-level sport, leisure and retail complex called Xscape in Castleford, Yorkshire. Aside from the 1600 No. driven precast concrete piles we installed, we used our fourth rig on site to install 70 No. 8.5 m Larssen LX20 steel sheet piles for the cofferdam to support the excavation for the ice wall.


Closer to head office, in 2005, we installed a cantilevered steel sheet piled retaining wall for a £25 million housing development on the River Witham in Lincoln. Working in the shadow of the city’s cathedral, we used a remotely controlled silent hydraulic pile driver to push 150 No. Larssen PU25 piles into the riverbed. The piles were up to 10 m long and were topped off with a concrete capping beam. The retaining wall was constructed to support the riverbank in front of a crumbling masonry wall.


In Esher Surrey, we completed piling for the foundations and underground basement car park of an apartment clock next to Sandown race course in 2006. We used our Banut 700 to install 220 No. Larssen steel sheet and 128 No. precast piles.


Finally, just seven years ago, in 2010, we also worked on the construction of a £110 million Port Talbot Peripheral Distributor Road, which links junction 38 of the M4 motorway at Margam and junction 41 at Baglan, South Wales. The new road assisted in providing access to industrial and commercial developments in the Dock area and meant that the local Port Talbot traffic could be reduced. Aarsleff supplied, handled, pitched and installed 240no steel sheet PU16 and PU15 “U” section piles between 8m and 10m long. We used our Banut 500 self-erecting leader rig with a 5t drop hammer for the installation of the sheet piles.

In addition to the above, we also installed H-section and tubular steel bearing piles for various structures, such as bridge piers and abutments, motorway sign gantries and river barrages.

Talking about our departure from the sheets market, Aarsleff’s Managing Director Chris Primett commented:

“We installed sheets with our hydraulic self-erecting piling rigs. This meant that we were essentially less competitive than other players, and couldn’t fully commit to the sheet piling market. In 2010, we pulled out from offering sheet piling.”

Fast Forward to 2017:

In just under a year, we have built up an experienced team, invested in state of the art equipment, and worked on over 30 schemes that have required steel sheet piles. We’ve breathed a new lease of life into the sheet piling arm of the business and have completely re-energised it. Our return to sheet piling was also a strategic decision by management to diversify our service offerings, giving us the expertise and range of geotechnical techniques to provide a multiple discipline foundation package to our clients. We’re certainly not just a piling company anymore as we can provide a multitude of services and techniques.

“After a brief time away from the sheet piling market, we have now invested in our own specialist sheet piling rigs and employed key members of staff with the expertise and passion to drive the business forward. With the advancements in machinery, projects that require sheet piling are no longer high risk, as they used to often be in the past.”

Since re-entering the sheet market, we can say with confidence that we are maintaining a good reputation, are financially sound, competent and most importantly, we have built up many great client relationships with the aim to secure more work from repeat customers. We can cover all aspects of driven steel piling, including temporary and permanent works involving complex slope stabilisation requirements and economic engineering solutions. We can install and extract steel sheet piles, tubular and bearing piles, ground anchors through sheet piled walls using our own modern and sustainable range of piling equipment. If noise and vibration levels generated are a potential problem, or where the project is governed by environmental constraints or tight access to the site, sheet pile installation and extraction using silent and vibration free equipment is a solution we can now offer with the Giken ECO 700S silent piler.

Plot Twist: Anchors through a Sheet Piled Wall

In March, we completed the three-phase work for a 363-bed student accommodation scheme up in the city of Durham, which included a first for Aarsleff: drilling anchors through a sheet piled wall. The contract was originally specified as a contiguous piled, reinforced concrete retaining wall solution on a site that is highly irregular in shape. Our Senior Technical Estimator Ashley Carter proposed a sheet piled solution as an alternative – not just to safe costs, but to allow excavations to be undertaken across several elevations on the site. The ground conditions also lent themselves to sheet piling as the ground consisted of made ground overlying glacial sands and gravels. Using a 70 T capacity mobile/crawler crane operating at a maximum 6m radius to unload and handle both piles and hammers, Aarsleff drove the piles a 600/900 kN high frequency Movax vibratory hammer mounted on a 25-28 T base excavator unit along with a 2400 kg/m impact hammer to install both the anchored sheet pile retaining wall and cantilever wall, the former of which was founded using Arcelor Mittal GU8N piles. A total of 313 No. piles were installed: 224 No. 5-7 m long sheets for the cantilever section and 89 No. 12 m long sheets for the anchored retaining wall. A total of 22 No. ground anchors were drilled through the top of our sheet piled retaining wall to stabilise the shell and core of the elevated eastern wing of the former hospital building.

Sheet Piling Contractor in the UK | 1992 -2017 | History Anchored Sheet Pile Wall

Sheet Piling Contractor in the UK | 1992 -2017 | History Anchored Sheet Pile Wall

Aarsleff to the Rescue: Remedial Works:

A 184-year old bridge collapsed after torrential downpour and flooding engulfed Calderdale in Halifax, during 2015’s Boxing Day’ floods. The bridge had stood over the river Calder from 1831, and had been an important river crossing for generations. It was originally part of a turnpike route used to move livestock. From the mid-19th century, it was crossed by factory workers to get from Copley to St Stephen’s Church. Until Boxing Day 2015, hundreds of people crossed the bridge every day. We began on site on the 11th May and completed just a week later. Part of a £1.2 million remedial scheme, the new bridge will consist of a steel and stone structure to reconnect the two sides of the valley. Once opened, it will provide access for pedestrians, horses and non-motorised vehicles. We drove 70 No. 10 m Arcelor PU18-1-1 steel sheets with our Movax. The project demonstrated how we could help our clients react quickly and effectively to environmental flood damage. It was an extremely sensitive scheme, and all operations were carried out with a great deal of care and attention to detail. Just 2 km downstream, Aarsleff also carried out remedial works to assist its main client in restoring a river wall collapse. We installed 20 No. temporary steel sheets driven up to 10 m depth and were back on site 3 weeks later to install the permanent 60 No. 5 m long scour protection piles. This was carried out from a carefully constructed platform on the river bed. The sheet piles were installed with our Movax over a three-day period when river levels were low enough to provide a suitable working window.

Ashley Carter commented:

“Both these jobs were based in the same location, but awarded to us by two different contractors. The second project was awarded to us as we came as a recommendation from the first. Word-of-mouth is a powerful medium.”


UK Sheet Piling contractor Aarsleff installing a Sheet Piled Wall with its Movax Volvo, part of restoration works for the Copley Bridge in Halifax

UK Sheet Piling contractor Aarsleff installing a Sheet Piled Wall with its Movax Volvo, part of restoration works for the Copley Bridge in Halifax

The Original Vs the Remake: Burton Waters, Lincoln

Back in 2006, Aarsleff worked on installing a sheet piled cofferdam and steel retaining wall in rural Lincolnshire, on the picturesque Burton waters close to Lincoln. We employed one of our piling rigs to drive the sheet piles. Eleven years later, we returned to the same location to install the sheet piles to facilitate a new balcony for a luxury lodge holiday home. This time we returned with our Movax Volvo Rig, a significant investment in our fleet for Aarsleff’s future in sheet piling. The Movax is an extremely powerful machine that is helping us gain a considerable market share. In just two days, the 47 No. steel 4 m ArcelorMittal sheets piles were successfully installed. All operations went as per schedule and with great planning and coordination, Aarsleff’s client was very happy with the result.

Sheet Piled Cofferdam and steel retaining wall, Burton Waters, 2006

Sheet Piling contractor installing sheet piles at Lincoln Torksey Caravans Holiday Cabin, Burton Waters 2017

Sheet Piling contractor installing sheet piles at Lincoln Torksey Caravans Holiday Cabin, Burton Waters 2017

 Sheet Piling Team Starring…

We first appointed Ashley Carter as our Senior Technical Estimator specifically for the new sheet piling division. Ashley works closely with the technical, operational and management teams to position Aarsleff in the sheet piling market with vast previous experience in the industry and an enormous amount of knowledge in terms of estimating and technical capability. Chris Pantling was then appointed to be Aarsleff’s Sheet Piling Manager. Chris ensures the successful delivery of our sheet piling projects across the UK, oversees the team and liaises with his clients daily. Jim Wilson was employed as our Sheet Piling Supervisor to manage the operations and health and safety of all our live projects. Finally, John Storry joined us as Head of Sheet Piling on a consultancy basis, to complete the team. John assists in the company’s growth, utilising his amassed wealth of experience and knowledge, having held senior positions within several companies already well-established in the sheet piling sector. He supports on the practical, estimating and development level. Our skilled team works closely together every single day to strengthen our position considerably and have very quickly allowed us to capitalise on the many opportunities the sheet piling sector presents.

Pantling said:

“We are a small team. This means there is continuous communication and we can utilise our shared knowledge and expertise. It also means we are agile and can react to our customers’ requirements.”

Aarsleff Sheet Piling Team

From Left to Right: Chris Pantling – Sheet Piling Manager, James Wilson – Sheet Piling Supervisor, Ashley Carter – Senior Technical Estimator, John Storry – Head of Sheet Piling

The Sequel

Aarsleff is currently in numerous discussions to secure future sheet piling projects. Although it is important that we liaise and build a good rapport with our clients, it is equally important that we simply have the hunger and desire to succeed. The sheets team have a great deal of passion and put huge amounts of commitment into each project, whether it’s one plot or part of a multi-million-pound infrastructure scheme.

When asked where the team see the sheet piling department in 5 years’ time, Carter comments:

“The sheet piling discipline will provide an important future revenue stream for the business. We want to break into the London market, which will be much more achievable now we have invested in the Giken. London has historically rejected precast piling and so Aarsleff had very little presence there. Now, we can attack that market by offering silent, vibration free piling and subsequently increase London’s awareness of our company.”

Pantling then added:

“We have a very promising future ahead of us. We would like to be one of the major sheet piling players in the UK.”

For more information about Aarsleff Ground Engineering or to send in your enquiry, call 01636 611140 and speak to a member of our expert team today, or drop us an email 

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