Spie Fondations: Spearheading Complex Geotechnical Projects Across Europe and Beyond

Deep & dynamic

Spie Fondations is a subsidiary of Spie Batignolles, the fourth largest French construction group. With an overall turnover greater than €2.2 billion, and over 8000 employees spanning France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, UAE and Qatar, the organisation is well positioned to deliver a powerful blow

We began operating in France over 55 years ago in pylon foundations and became part of the Spie Batignolles group in 1982. The construction business underwent an LMBO (Leverage Management Buyout) in 2003 and Spie Fondations has successfully diversified into larger geotechnical projects, today boasting an annual turnover of £150 million,” says Adrian Mercer, UK business development manager. As one of Europe’s largest specialist foundation contractors, Spie Fondations employs a workforce of 400, with a speciality in large basements, shafts and deep foundations. In the construction of these underground structures, it uses an array of specialist techniques including diaphragm walls using mechanical grabs, hydraulic grabs, and rock cutters, secant and contiguous piled walls using shotcrete and anchors. Other specialist applications include rotary bored piles up to Spie Issue 111 b2.5m diameter as well as mini piling and steel tube piles, which can be driven in single lengths of up to 24m, using hammers, vibrators or screwed methods. Grouting, by means of permeation, compaction, compensation, fissure or jet grouting is a service that has increasingly provided work for the business throughout its history.

The expert in specialist foundations works within France and internationally, operating its own specialist equipment, boasting a comprehensive expertise in all the processes and technologies required to create complex foundation structures. Suited to a broad spectrum of applications across a full range of infrastructure and civil engineering works, a major portion of the business is still today within the overhead line market. Working in partnership with the likes of RTE (on behalf of EDF) in France, and for the Energy Alliance within the UK, the business has established relationships with major players and successfully undertaken numerous high profiled works. Recognised for its technical expertise in design and construction, as well as cost saving techniques, the company and its technologies continue to greatly benefit its clients.

“We specialise in big holes in the ground, forming deep basements and deep shafts for a broad spectrum of applications. We are currently tendering for works on Thames Tideway Tunnel for the construction of numerous shafts required for storm water storage, eliminating surge into the Thames,” announces Adrian. The multi-disciplined contractor has a fully integrated in-house design capability as well as employing a team dedicated to developing and maintaining equipment. With a proactive and innovative approach to problem solving, it has the ability and resources to manage the whole process from initial feasibility studies through to construction.

“We are particularly interested in collaboration and partnerships and believe early contractor involvement can bring real benefits to geotechnical projects,” Adrian points out. Recent major projects in the UK include a 3500sq m grouted plug in Greenwich. The Greenwich Square development is part of a £250 million regeneration project to create 645 homes, leisure facilities and community services on the site of a former hospital. The business was also involved in the Stepney Green project for Crossrail, where it formed a 50m deep diaphragm wall which enabled construction of one of the largest mined caverns ever constructed in Europe using the tunnelling technique of sprayed concrete lining.

“Our technical expertise combined with a broad base of resources from the teams that deliver the work, from a technical and project management perspective to those actually doing the works on site, are strengths that our clients have come to rely on. We also have a very large plant yard and tool kit that includes an advanced CFA piling rig that makes us the only contractor in the UK that is able to go down to 41m at diameters of up to 1.2m,”Spie Issue 111 c highlights Adrian. Furthermore, Spie Fondations’ CFA system has been designed with a hydraulic bung that ensures the integrity of concrete in the pile shaft as the auger is being withdrawn. Such advanced developments are attributable to the R&D drive within the company, targeting the development and improvement of technology.

Benefitting from the financial backing of the larger group, Spie Fondations is able to secure its position within larger projects, working with consortiums and partners hand-in-hand to bring the best to projects. For the last ten years the company has been working on the CASTOR project where annually it carries out jet grouting on the RER lines of the Paris metro that extend out of central Paris. “Over the years there has been some settlement on the lines resulting in bumpiness and this is part of a long-term improvement to overcome this effect. We are also using the project as leverage to become involved in some of the newer lines that are planned,” says Adrian.

In other projects, the company has been working in the Middle East on the Guggenheim Museum, as well as the Abu Dhabi STEP Project where it completed a diaphragm wall and a grouted cut-off wall down to 100m. Commenting Adrian adds: “We are also involved in the new Qatar Metro in Doha on the Gold Line, adding to the business in that region which is particularly strong. We see the UK is also a very healthy market and as tender prices harden we are becoming progressively busier. There is a phenomenally demanding time ahead with foundations for HS2, Thames Tideway, and Crossrail 2 to name just some of the projects. With so many major contracts on the horizon we are forecasting quite significant growth for the business.”

Market research indeed forecasts 50 per cent growth of infrastructure works for foundations up to 2018. “It is a great opportunity for Spie Fondations to tap into as big infrastructure projects complement our capability, and it is becoming obvious that there is going to be a shortage of businesses able to undertake these works. As such, we are already targeting work on the HS2 link. As we push forward, our focus on the period ahead is to continue to tap into those major infrastructure projects, and with our wide range of techniques we are well placed to aspire to those large-scale projects,” concludes Adrian

Spie Fondations

Services: Specialist foundation works contractor