Helical Pile Construction vs. Traditional Foundations

Helical Piles were first used almost 200 years ago and are generally credited to an Irish engineer Alexander Mitchell who discovered how effective they were in securing lighthouses and other structures around harbours where the ground is not stable.

Since then, technological advances have meant that the use of Helical Piles in construction has gathered pace and they’re used today in both tension and compression load applications. They are a versatile product and the installation equipment needed is minimal when compared to that needed for traditional foundations, because of this it is a far simpler process to install them in access-limited areas.

Another advantage to Helical Piles of course is that their installation is not weather-dependent; with traditional poured foundations there’s the need for not only clement weather, but also heavy equipment with a big workforce to operate it.

Because Helical Piles do not require any excavations with the ground only being disturbed minimally during their installation, there are no spoils to dispose of once the work is complete, which of course means that there is no risk of exposing contaminated soil and less cost is incurred generally. Unlike traditional foundations, Helical Piles require no curing meaning much time is saved.

Advantages of Helical Foundation Systems

  • All weather installation is possible
  • Installation in areas of limited access is possible due to the fact that they may be installed with hand-held equipment
  • No ground vibrations produced during installation
  • No need to dispose of spoils following installation
  • Simple to remove via reversal of installation process
  • No curing period needed so load tests may be immediately undertaken following installation
  • No concrete or grout needed minimising mess, waste and equipment on-site
  • Environmentally friendly; steel can be recycled unlike concrete

With the immediate advantage of speedy installation using small and basic equipment another evident plus is that of cost. When compared with traditional foundation methods, Helical Piles can cut expenditure by around 50%.

Helical Piles are the best choice in flood-prone areas due to their ability to remain stable and a speedy, waste-free installation process makes them a sensible choice for those who wish to save both time and money on their projects.

Helical Piles are the future of building as a less-invasive, more environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to traditional foundations.

Screwfast Partner with Tower Safety Systems to Introduce Innovative New Modular System

Screwfast is pleased to announce our partnership with new company Tower Safety Systems (TSS). This exciting and innovative company is behind the development of a large-scale, modular scaffolding alternative with potential for use in a variety of applications.

Designed to protect infrastructure assets during large-scale construction and maintenance projects, the TSS Safety System has been in development for over three years and this period has included input from Network Rail, Highways England, The Environment Agency and National Grid.

The geotechnical and structural engineering team behind the system have created a design where support is delivered by Helical Piles and Backstays. Loads are transferred safely and effectively via a range of patented products offering a system which is safer, faster, and cheaper than traditional foundations.

Designed to enable installation on any angle of pitch or slope, the system can also be installed on made grounds and embankments.

The system has also been designed to be ICE & WIND load compliant and can be put to use all year round withstanding any weather conditions. On bespoke projects, additional backstays are available for installation and can span distances of 100m to protect roads and highways, waterways, rail tracks, pipes or property; the system is also suitable for installation in water and in areas of high flood risk.

The system has been rigorously tested and has undergone feedback from Tier 1 contractors and Design Consultancies, in 2015 it was tested for National Grid Specification Guidance for Overhead Line Crossings and was subject to loads dropped from 15m with deflections of less than 1cm. This demonstrated compliance with DH25 and it is to our knowledge the only compliant modular product on the market.

The system can be installed and removed in 3 days, has a tower footprint of only 1.5m² per tower, a ladder and walkway system, is low impact, sustainable and recyclable. Removing 90% of the need to work at height, the health and safety benefits of the system are evident as is the cost and speed at which the system can be delivered.


  • Limited Working at Height – 90% reduction in working at height
  • Accidents – No Falling Scaffold, Tools or Fixings
  • Modular Safety – System constructed at ground level
  • Design Proven Every Time – less risk to workers and the public
  • DH 25 Compliant – Guaranteed tested and Compliant every time
  • Site Movements – significantly less site movements


  • Standardisation – Solves installation worker error
  • Fast Installation – 20m high 60m wide and 60m span installation 5 days
  • Access – Installed on any angle of Pitch or Slope
  • Installation – all year round in any season
  • Installation – Can be installed in flooded ground
  • Installation – As little as 24-hour turnaround


  • Installation – As little as 24-hour turnaround
  • Sustainable – All steel solution – long lifecycle 100% recyclable
  • Carbon Benefits – Each 20m section uses 40% less steel than Scaffold
  • Site movements – significantly less site movements
  • Cost – As much as 50% cheaper

As TSS’ installation partner, we’re pleased to be involved in this pioneering new system and to be working alongside the TSS management team which has over 120 years of infrastructure experience.

Enquiries may be directed here.


Piling Companies: Changing Building & How We Treat the Earth

Changing the Landscape of Olympic Wastelands

The remains of Olympic stadiums have received a lot of negative press.  In a 2014 Guardian article, an abandoned £7 billion Olympic venue in Athens is featured in some sobering photographs.

stadium in Ukraine

Enormous single-use structures are being built and then abandoned: the result is money invested in a massive addition to our carbon imprint.  It’s no surprise that people have made entire art installations lamenting these wastelands.  Athens Olympic Stadium was built in 2004 at the height of their economy.  Ten years later the site seats and structural foundations are rotting in the ground.  What can be done?

Olympic Ruins Athens 2004

Photo Credit : Popular Mechanics

The Changing Landscape of Building

Innovations have already begun to change the direction of building.  For the 2012 Olympics, ScrewFast provided 20,000 seats.  This included 12,0000 seats at Lee Valley, 500 seats at Eton Dorney, 500 seats at Hadleigh Farm, 2,000 seats at the BMX arena and 5,000 seats at the Water Polo Venue.  We installed 1,841 piles as well as the 20,000 seats.  All sites were installed, uninstalled and recycled when the games were finished.  Ten years from now, they will not be making an appearance in an art project on urban decay.  This is how engineering is changing the landscape of building.

How Piling Companies Are Making a Difference

Geotechnical engineering has enabled piling companies such as ScrewFast Ltd to offer a removable, recyclable alternative to concrete foundations that is cost effective and quickly installed.  Best of all, the equipment is removable and reusable.

Not only are pile foundations recyclable but the installation process is kinder to the environment.  There is no vibration.  The piling system maximises soil stabilisation and achieves best practice outcomes.  Concrete isn’t needed.

There is also virtually no waste and no need to remove excess soil on site.  This eliminates the ‘dig and dump’ mentality that has turned Olympic Arenas throughout the world into abandoned structural wastelands.

How Do Piling System Solutions Work?

Piling solutions such as helical piles are designed to suit ground conditions.  Helical piles are steel shafts with steel plates welded onto them.  They are screwed into the ground by hydraulic power drilling equipment.  They can also be connected using a steel load transfer grillage.

With helical piles, there is no need for soil displacement or concrete.  This is a major change in the direction of building that has resurfaced in the UK in since the year 2000 and has continued to gain momentum in the building industry.  The future is anyone’s guess.  Meanwhile, we are reducing our impact on the earth’s surface 20,000 recyclable seats at a time.

For more information on piling solutions, contact ScrewFast today.

ScrewFast Team assists student in gaining a 1st class dissertation!

Mark Howe Dissertation

ScrewFast were approached by an enthusiastic student, hoping to write a dissertation about The Benefits of Screw Piling.

Mark Howe, who is also a Junior Engineer at Osborne Construction joined the ScrewFast Management Team for a day where he learned about the methods and benefits of screw piling.  The team provided a number of documents, case studies and ongoing assistance where required, helping him to complete his dissertation and achieve a 1st!

We would like to congratulate Mark on his achievement and wish him every success in the future.

ScrewFast are keen to continue to support the ongoing development of the UK’s young Engineers and are extremely pleased with Mark’s achievement.


ScrewFast assists Osborne Junior Engineer to achieve top marks!

ScrewFast have assisted Mark Howe, a Junior Engineer from Osborne, a leading UK Civils contractor with his dissertation.  Mark spent time with ScrewFast researching the design, fabrication and installation of screwpiles and has been awarded a distinction for his efforts!

ScrewFast are proud to assist with Mark’s achievement and will be closely watching his future progress.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Screw Piles

You already know that screw piling is a technique for building foundations in a variety of soil types.  Here are 5 facts about it that may surprise you…

1.  Screw Piles are perhaps the most underrated foundation engineering feat of the 19th century

Original Patent Application, US3986 by Alexander Mitchell.

Original Patent Application, US3986 by Alexander Mitchell.


Screw Piles enabled lighthouses to be built in shallow water under challenging soil conditions.  At a time with limited engineering techniques, these lighthouses were an integral part of getting ships to harbour safely.  Screw  piles also enabled  bridges and  piers to be constructed in varying soil density, which changed the recreation patterns of society and boosted the economy. Towards the  end of the century, screw piles were also used to prevent existing foundations from sinking, such as the Town Hall in Great  Yarmouth, UK in 1882. Overall, their invention changed the face of our nation’s infrastructure, providing engineering techniques that enabled social and economic growth.


2.  Screw piles were used for building and removing foundations for the 2012 London Olympics.


This includes Lee Valley, Eton Dorney, Hadleigh Farm, BMX, and  the Water Polo Venue.  Foundations for 20,000 seats and almost  2,000 piles were installed, uninstalled and recycled (Foundations  for the Olympics Screwfast Foundations, Web. 4 Apr. 2014.)



 3.  Screw piles were used to construct Brighton Pier in 1866

West Brighton Pier

West Brighton Pier

Cast iron columns were screwed into the seabed, and  strengthened by lattices and girders.  This allowed the weight of  the promenade deck to be safely supported in the shallow water  and soft soil of Brighton Beach.


 4.     The man who invented Screw-piles was nearly blind with only four years of formal education.

Alexander Mitchell was an Irish brick manufacturer who had been losing his sight steadily since adolescence.  It is thought that the decline of his vision was a result of contracting smallpox.  By the time he was 21, he was completely blind. Despite these hurdles he married, had a successful business, and was elected to Associate membership of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1937.  He was elected a member in 1948, at which point he received the Telford Medal for his invention.


5.     Screw Piles were originally installed completely by hand, even in open sea.

Lithograph depicting screw pile installation by hand in open water.

Lithograph depicting a screw pile installation by hand in open water.


Today screw piles are drilled into the earth using powerful equipment with rotary hydraulic attachments and a torque capacity range of 5,000 to  500,000Nm.  A century ago, men on rafts would rotate the screw piles by hand. Wind and weather conditions often made this difficult for labourers, as  installation required that the screw piles be level in order to provide correct  foundation support.

Its Electrifying!

Spie ENS have appointed ScrewFast to assist them in the delivery of the Kirkby Orrell project, on behalf of Electricity North West to design, supply and install a combination of helical piles and Grip piles for 41no. wooden transmission line foundations and associated anchor stays, on the Kirkby to Orrell line.

Our works commenced on site at the end of March 2014 and are scheduled to be completed within a 9 week programme.

Foundations for the Olympics – Our Statistics

  • Lee Valley – 12,000 seats, 1067 piles to 8m. (8.5 kilometres of tube installed, uninstalled and recycled)
  • Eton Dorney – 500 seats, 61 piles
  • Hadleigh Farm – 500 seats, 190 piles
  • BMX – 2000 seats, 118 piles
  • Water Polo Venue – The building housed the pool and 5000 seats. 405 piles to average of 8.5m (3.5 kilometres of tube installed, uninstalled and recycled)

Note all sites were installed, uninstalled and recycled.

We provided foundations for 20,000 temporary seats at the Olympics.

Design Smart Motorways

ScrewFast Foundations were appointed by Costain, on behalf on the Highways Agency, to undertake the detailed design of 70 no. helical pile and Grip pile foundations for the M1 J28-31.  Structures encompassing MS4’s, MS3’s and Portal Gantries.

The scope of works also includes the production of Approval in Principle, Departure From Standard and Geotechnical Design Report Addendum documentation.  The design work got underway In December 2013 and is scheduled to be completed by July 2014.

Design Magic

Halcrow Hyder JV appoints ScrewFast to M1 J39-42 Design Smart Motorways, to complete the detailed design of helical pile and Grip pile foundations, for:

  • MS4’s
  • Superspan Gantries
  • Secondary Cabinet Platforms
  • ADS/DS Signs
  • CCTV structures

There are 86no. structures in total.

The scope of works also includes the production of Approval in Principle, Departure From Standard and Geotechnical Design Report Addendum documentation.  The design work began in May 2013 and is scheduled to be completed and approved by May 2014.

Balfour Beatty Associate Highways England Osbourne Associate Kier Associate