The History of Helical Screw Piling

In 1833 Alexander Mitchell, a blind Civil Engineer from Ireland, invented the Helical Pile.  He won the Telford Medal for his creation.  The first recorded use of helical piles was in 1836 for river moorings for ships.

Helical Piles

The secure steel situated with low fitted steel plates welded around the base, resembles the shape of the small household screws used in DIY construction, and mirrors their capacity to stabilise objects through tension and compression.  The design has been shown to secure structures such as highway foundations and marine piers, replacing the concrete foundations that were previous used to anchor these engineering structures in place.  Helical Piles are installed with powerful drilling equipment that is either machine mounted hydraulic or electrically powered.  The piles are connected using steel grillage.

In 1838 the new technology was used to create foundations for Maplin Sands Lighthouse in the Thames estuary, the system consisting of 30 piles to a depth of 23 metres.  In 1863 Brighton Pier was built upon helical piles, remaining on the same foundations for 138 years.  The technique was then used intermittently for projects in the UK, the majority of which being marine-based.

ScrewFast Foundations Ltd Reintroduces Helical Piling

In 2000 ScrewFast Foundations Ltd reintroduced the technique initially used for telecommunication towers, as a solution in locations where concrete foundations were not viable.  It wasn’t long before the transport sector realised how efficient and easy to install this technique was, and the significance that this would have on other projects. It quickly became the option of preference for Network rail and the Highways Agency.

Helical Piling Today

Steel-based foundations (helical piles and driven piling) have increased in popularity and are now recognised and accepted as a preferred option for the majority of the infrastructure markets.

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Balfour Beatty Associate Highways England Osbourne Associate Kier Associate