Nurture piling providers, save money, says insider

Industry duel continues in dilemma for providers and clients

Debate over innovation was spurred by CW's recent magazine article
Debate over innovation was spurred by CW's recent magazine article

Greater efficiencies in piling will combat the artificial pricing rife among contractors and potentially save projects, according to one industry player.

But the optimization of this initial stage – and the cost savings for the overall project - can only come about if developers and main contractors draw piling providers closer into their circle.

Wider dialogue between piling providers and project chiefs will allow the latter to more accurately understand what how much piling is required for a specific project, rather than keeping this element at arm’s length – which has been to the profit of some piling suppliers.

“Before 2008, piling contractors have been taking advantage of utterly conservative piling approaches that artificially inflated their market,” one manager of a leading foundation engineering firm told ConstructionWeekOnline.com.

“Piling contractors should be solution providers,” he added, “rather than just drillers and concrete poolers. There can be fewer piles, of less depth, and not jeopardize safety.

“In the past there was no thinking, and generally piling contracts were separate from general contracting. This led to piling jobs that made a structure outrageously safe.”

But increases in techniques and cost efficiency will eventually root out the companies charging a high price and elevate the companies that can genuinely offer ‘less-is-more’.

“When the market will pick up again, I expect it to be a lot more mature and value engineering and optimization that could bring significant time and cost saving for projects. It will be less but better piling foundations. For the same amount of projects, there might be fewer piles in the future.”

Some piling contractors see things slightly differently. With a shortage of projects to tender for and fierce competition, it is a developer’s market, believes Shad Asif Khan, general manager of Keller Grunbau, a ground engineering contractor.

When a project allows no alternative products to piling that would boost optimization the supplier will typically make very little margin.

“Sixty-to seventy per cent of the cost is in materials, with very little left for drilling. In that respect, when there is a project with no alternative to piling there is very little room [for innovation],” he said.

“It has been a good time for developers. Shortlisted contractors are desperate [for the business], and the client automatically benefits.”

Both Mr Khan and the source acknowledged the denser urban landscape in Dubai, which for Keller Grunbau means more straight-forward, low-margin piling.

“Given the denser urban mesh that exists today in town, the challenge tomorrow will be the shoring and retaining structures,” said the source.

For companies such as Keller Grunbau, this inevitably means expanding into other GCC countries to keep business profitable.

 

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