A consistent top performer in the highly competitive geotechnical engineering contracting field, Megapile is renowned for its fit-for-purpose piling and lateral support solutions. John Oliver, director and owner of Megapile, talks to IMIESA about the success factors and the culture that drive the business.Celebrating a decade of excellence in July 2022, Megapile has established a strong presence within the Durban and broader KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) region, with allied penetration nationally. In addition to the core business as a geotechnical contractor, backed by a very comprehensive plant fleet, the company also provides its services on a full design and construct basis, as well as geotechnical soil investigation. It operates in a highly specialised market with a vision of being the most efficient piling company in the Southern African region, and none of that is possible without a highly committed and competent team. Its management team has more than 100 years of combined experience in the piling and geotechnical field, and they are supported by a very talented in-field production team. From inception, Megapile’s policy has been to develop personnel in-house as they come through the ranks and most of the company’s foremen and plant operators started with baseline skills, some as general workers. Personnel at all levels are encouraged and supported with ongoing training to reach their full potential in terms of technological applications and trades. As a result, they are very confident in their abilities. At more senior levels, the company is currently developing young tertiary graduates to become future contracts managers, with an allied mentorship programme in place to grow its pool of professionally registered engineers. The latter interact with Megapile’s dedicated external panel of specialist consulting engineers. Megapile’s operating philosophy is to enable a value engineered result. The optimal approach is to work with the client at the concept phase to explore the best foundation solution. From there, detailed budgets are provided for the confirmed design and build stages, which ultimately results in the delivery and installation of the most efficient geotechnical solution.
The ‘Engine Room’The company has never accepted mediocrity and the results speak for themselves. Megapile is collectively known as the ‘Mega Team’ in all that it achieves, and this ability is driven by its ‘Engine Room’. This is an exceptional group that drives performance, quality, safety and
company culture, which is one of Megapile’s greatest differentiators in the industry. This has created a unique identity that has enabled the company to weather the cyclical nature of the construction industry, especially during the Covid-19 era, and to continue performing at a high level. Management ensures to always give the necessary recognition for exceptional performance and for any positive feedback that it receives from clients. The company aims to ensure that it is the preferred geotechnical contractor in the eyes of its current and future clients, and believes that the service it provides on its contracts is what makes that a reality.
Milestone projectsMegapile’s track record for excellence has enabled the company to secure varied and complex work within the commercial, industrial, residential and infrastructure segments. Within its home market, this has led to Megapile securing the bulk of the piling contracts within eThekwini’s prestigious Umhlanga Ridge precinct, the Umhlanga New Town Centre, and the Umhlanga Village. Prime examples here include the new Oceans Development, Gateway Extension, Liberty Office, FNB Head Office, Gateway Hospital, Herwood Sky, Coastland Hotel, Protea Hotel, Town Lodge, ABSA Head Office, Park Square, CCI Offices, Premier Hotel, and The Skye. Numerous more allied work in the greater Durban area includes the Westway Mall, Midway Mall, Galleria Shopping Centre, MSC Cold Storage Warehouse, Ballito Hills, Izinga Echo Estate, Sibaya Precinct, and Gold Coast Estate. Alongside this are a range of infrastructure projects that include work on Go!Durban Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) phases; and the Seaward Road Bridge crossing the Umhlatuzana River in Durban, which was a 2022 Fulton Awards Winner in the ‘Infrastructure less than R100 million’ category. The bridge underwent a partial collapse during heavy flooding in April 2019, requiring the emergency rehabilitation of the east abutment. Further afield, Megapile completed a complex piling job for the Redstone 100 MW Solar Thermal Power Project, situated east of Postmasburg, Northern Cape. Megapile’s scope of work entailed the installation of 11 No. 900mm diameter load test piles and 120 no. 900 mm diameter foundation piles. The latter are designed to support the 250 m solar tower, believed to be the second highest concrete structure built to date in South Africa.
Odex installation on Umhlatuzana River BridgeA key feature of the geotechnical element on the Umhlatuzana River Bridge project was the installation of Odex piling, which requires specific technical knowledge and machinery. In total, 39 no. 508 mm diameter Odex piles were installed. A percentage of the piles were at a 1:8 rake.
Odex piles are the preferred route for bridge piling in rivers where the underlying riverbed geology is composed of collapsible sands, clays and boulders. To provide the necessary foundation for the bridge piers, the piles must be socketed into medium to hard bedrock. However, drilling through the soil/boulder layers to get there poses the risk of collapse. Odex overcomes this challenge with its percussion setup, which employs a 508 mm diameter percussion hammer.The process is known as an overburden system, where the hammer drags a permanent casing down with it. The hammer has special wings that extend outwards on the way down to create the opening for the casing. Then, on extraction, the wings fold in to allow the hammer to be withdrawn. You’re left with a casing socketed into rock. Once flushed out, you insert the steel reinforcing cage, followed by concrete placement and the pile is cast.
Mechanisation upgrades for secant and sheet pilingOptimal piling results can only be achieved by employing best-in-class mechanisation techniques. For this reason, Megapile invests in world-leading equipment brands to fully maximise capabilities. A case in point is Megapile’s Bauer RG 22. It has historically been one of the company’s primary CFA piling rigs. However, the machine is designed for a far wider range of tasks, and Megapile recently decided to commission additional features to support its growth into the secant piling and sheet piling segments. Secant piles are ideal for forming watertight cut-off walls, employing overlapping non-reinforced and reinforced piles. In turn, sheet piles, designed to interlock, are intended for applications that include deep trench stabilisation for pipelines, and erosion protection structures. Megapile’s Bauer RG 22 has many unique features. These include five primary hydraulic pumps; a 22 m long mast; a double rotary drilling head; and a telescopic slide and swivel facility on the mast, allowing it to install conventional auger piles, CFA piles, and cased auger piles for secant piled walls, and drive sheet piles. The company completed its first secant piled contract in Prospecton, south of Durban, in December 2022, installing 147 no. 500 mm diameter piles for a stormwater protection wall. The RG 22’s double rotary head allows the installation of a casing rotating in one direction for cutting, with an internal auger rotating in the other direction for cleaning the inside of the casing to install the secant piles within the required tolerance. Megapile is also currently in the process of commissioning the machine’s sheet pile capability. The rig is perfectly suited for this task thanks to its 22 m long mast, which allows for the installation of any length of sheet on a fixed guide.
BRT workMegapile’s scope of works on Go!Durban’s BRT Route C1A in Newlands was extensive. The geotechnical programme commenced in 2020 with a 185 m long permanent lateral support wall. This was designed as a cantilever contiguous piled wall ranging in height from 1.5 m to 7.5 m. It required the installation of 217 piles ranging from 400 mm to 750 mm in diameter drilled into medium hard shales with a flush shotcrete finish, with associated bulk earthworks. Additional works followed in 2021 with lateral support to all cut faces on the route, as well as further bulk earthworks, gabions, channels and drainage. This entailed the construction of another contiguous piled wall with
67 no. 600 mm diameter piles, 134 rock bolts, capping beam and 486 m2 flush shotcrete. Lateral support elements comprised the installation of 960 rock bolts, 3 840 m2 of shotcrete and the reshaping of existing cut faces up to 9 m high. Drilling on faces up to 3 m was undertaken with Megapile’s Furukawa HCR 1200, Casagrande C6 and Comacchio MC 600 rigs, while all faces from 3 m up to 9 m in height were drilled using the company’s two drilling platforms, which are designed to be suspended from mobile cranes.