Beyond 3D machine control: An integrated piling solution

Case study

Author: Reka Vasszi

The use of pile dwellings and deep foundation techniques to construct houses around the Alps date back to 5000 BC. Prehistoric settlements were built on wooden piles on the edges of lakes, rivers or wetlands. Only in Switzerland, there are 56 archaeological sites where these settlements and ancient construction techniques are exceptionally well-preserved.

Since prehistory, the technology has evolved, tools and machines for piling became larger, more efficient thanks to automation and positioning technology. Deep foundations are vital in many construction projects to strengthen the soil that will support the weight load of the building erected on top of it. When ground conditions are wet, or the project is planned above water, driven piles are crucial for the foundation of a new building.

This is when the Swiss construction company's piling expertise, Birchmeier Spezialtiefbau AG, comes in handy when working on the foundation of a new building for the water police on the shores of Lake Zürich.


Converting a boathouse to a water protection police station



The water police of Zürich ensure the 24-hour rescue service in the area, look for people and objects underwater, protect the water from oils and chemicals, manage ship stands and maintain the harbour. The existing building and boathouse built 60 years ago are to give way to a contemporary new building in 2022, where the water police and the environmental crime specialist group can work together.

The new water police station is located on a prominent lakeside with neighbouring protected historic buildings from the 1930s. Therefore, the municipality initiated an architecture competition to find the best design that matches the neighbouring historical buildings, sustainable and fits the functional requirements.

The jury was impressed by the project called "Coray" with its very clear and compact structure, including a boathouse, offices and a helicopter landing pad on top of the building. Due to the wet ground and weight load of the planned building, Birchmeier Spezialtiefbau AG was contracted to secure the deep foundation of the site.


Integrated technology is key to prepare for the job



Choosing pile foundations were ideal in the case of the new water police station. The waterside building is constructed to allow water underneath for easy access to the boats. In order to start the construction project, more than 150 piles were required to stabilise the ground.

Andreas Gassmann as foremen and Michael Fuchs as pile operator from Birchmeier Spezialtiefbau AG ensured that each pile is at the right location, at the right time.

Fuchs is working as pile operator at Birchmeier Spezialtiefbau AG for 3 years now. He is very fortunate to work on this project as he has the most comfortable seat and the best view over the lake of Zürich from his Liebherr 355 piling rig. Each morning together with Gassmann, they start with site inspection and overview of the daily tasks.

Once Fuchs aligned with the team, he turns on his Liebherr piler installed with the latest Leica iCON iRP3 3D machine control solution. For accurate positioning, he checks the connection to the correction service is on as always. The corrections are needed for precise location and are handled by the machine control panel to the entire system. After the connection is checked, he loads the latest 3D model directly from the office to the machine control panel via the cloud solution, Leica ConX.

The seamless integration of machine control technology, precise location data and easy collaboration with the office crews through the cloud makes the daily job of the on-site team easier, quicker and more efficient.


Saving 5 minutes per pile with 3D machine control



While the operator finishes his coffee in the cab, the 3D plan is loaded to the machine control solution, location data is secured, and the piler machine is ready to go. Since Fuchs is working with 3D machine control technology, he does not need an additional team member on-site to stake out and check the exact location of the piles.

"Before using machine control, we worked with a surveying firm to locate where the piles need to be driven into the ground," says Fuchs. "If the markings on the site were removed or disappeared, we had to wait again to recreate those points. With machine control, we always have an updated 3D plan on the panel that automatically guides me to the right location with centimeter accuracy."

With the use of 3D machine control, not only the location of the piles is accurate, but there is no need for rework or wait for stakeouts. Thus, Birchmeier Spezialtiefbau AG can save the costs of one person on site.

"With the 3D system, I can save at least 5 minutes per pile, which takes a lot at the end of the day with 20 piles," reports Fuchs. "But it also became more comfortable, easier and safer with machine control. Safety of the people around is very important when working with such a large machine and heavy piles. Now that I can trust in the machine control's accuracy to guide the piler to the right location, I can focus more on other aspects, such as safety with less stress."


Measure, check and verify with GNSS Smart Antenna



Swiss precision means: measure, check and verify. In the meantime, Fuchs is working with the piling machine; Gassmann double checks if each pile is in the right location with his Leica iCON gps 70 GNSS Smart Antenna according to the plans hanging on the wall in his small field office.

"My favourite product is the gps rover," says the foremen. "I have the same 3D plan on the gps controller that Fuchs has on his machine control panel. I check and verify each pile in the ground and cross the ones that are ready on the plan."

In his previous role working in building construction, he used the Leica iCON gps rovers for quick and precise stakeouts. Since the team is working with 3D machine control technology, Gassmann does not need to stake out the location of the piles for the operator anymore; they can trust in the 3D system's accuracy.

"Working with machine control means time savings and accuracy, which automatically leads to costs savings," says Gassmann. "I love both products: the gps and machine control; it helps us to get the job done right for the first time," summarises the foremen.

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