World in motion

How state-of-the-art sensors from itmsoil monitor construction projects worldwide.

Harrods, the Ritz Hotel and the Victoria Palace Theatre are among the iconic buildings that have been monitored for stability by the UK company itmsoil during major construction projects.

And whole streets too are fitted with the company’s instrumentation to register the tiniest of movements as work progresses. itmsoil designs, manufactures and installs state-of-the-art instruments that are able to operate in the most challenging conditions, whether that’s in busy railway tunnels, mines or buried under thousands of tonnes of concrete in dams.

The instruments are also used to monitor coastal erosion, detect impending landslides and monitor earthworks and excavations. Their value lies in the warning they give of a problem arising long before a full-scale crisis can develop.

There are tragic examples of the devastation that can be caused when things do go wrong, such as the collapse of the Nichol Highway in Singapore, which runs from the airport into the city, or the collapse of a building into an underground station being built in Shanghai.

When the national archive building in Cologne collapsed, five people were killed and priceless documents lost. A big tunnel collapse during construction of the Heathrow Express Rail Link in 1994 took months to clear up. Accidents such as these mean many projects would not now be allowed to get underway without monitoring equipment being used.

In Brazil, where there have been significant tunnel collapses over the past five or six years, itmsoil’s business development director Jon Scott has been invited to give a keynote talk at a conference in Sao Paolo on how to monitor tunnelling and underground space.

The Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro metro systems are being extended and there are plans for a high-speed rail link between the two cities so a huge amount of work is coming up there.

While safety and insurance top the list of benefits of installing monitoring sensors, they are also used to offer third party assurance and for asset maintenance.

Network Rail, for example, uses them to monitor assets such as bridges and earth structures.

Monitoring data is also used in drilling construction to determine the rate of advance. itmsoil sensors are being used in New York as the Second Avenue subway is built and during reconstruction of the World Trade Centre area.

They are also used in metro systems in San Francisco, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The company is involved in monitoring the project to raise the height of the Roseires Dam on the Nile in Sudan and its instrumentation is used in other dams in Pakistan, Morocco, Iran, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Greece.

Closer to home, cracks in Bell Harry, the main tower of Canterbury Cathedral, damaged during the Second World War, are being monitored to see whether they are moving. Seasonal changes have been observed.

Hooley Cutting through the North Downs on the London to Brighton railway is monitored and so are railway bridges hit by oversized vehicles.

The performance of a winching tower for the deepest mine in the country, the Boulby Potash Mine in Cleveland, is monitored as are cracks in the lining of a tunnel in the mouth of the River Tees where pipes carry chemicals from one side of the river to the other.

The company is active on road construction projects too. It monitored nearly the whole of the M25, the Birmingham northern relief road and the M40.

The company, which has its headquarters in Uckfield, East Sussex, and a Major London Projects office in Holborn, also has offices in France, Germany, the USA and Australia, as well as 40 distributors across the world. It is constantly innovating and has the expertise to build bespoke instrumentation for the most complex projects.

It works closely with academics as it develops new technology and has welcomed the publication of a book which sheds new light on their field of expertise.

Dr Richard Bassett worked extensively with itmsoil to produce A Guide to Field Instrumentation in Geotechnics, which is intended to assist major contractors, consulting engineers and construction project designers and be a textbook for anyone studying geotechnics at MSc level or in a professional environment.

Chris Rasmussen, research and development director at itmsoil, who wrote the foreword for the book, said he was pleased that there was now a concise guide, written by an engineer for engineers, detailing why, how and where instruments should be used.

If you would like to know more about itmsoil and the way it could help on your construction project, please contact business development director Jon Scott on 01825 765044. The company address is itmsoil, Bell Lane, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 1QL.

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Picture: Andreas Praefcke

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