Vacuum Excavation

Vacuum Excavation

Vacuum excavation is a relatively new technology which uses a high power vacuum suction system to excavate soils or other materials during site investigation or remediation programmes, construction projects or other civil engineering work. The technique uses a jet of air (delivered via an air-spade) or water (delivered via a water lance) to loosen soils, rather than heavy machinery or hand held tools.  After loosening, the soil is extracted from the sub-surface through an air vacuum hose which transports it to an on-board spoil/debris tank for later disposal or backfilling.

Geotron UK have increased their use of vacuum excavation technology over the past year and have recently taken delivery of a new Vactron LP Air 300 SDT trailer mounted unit to assist with meeting client demand for this safe excavation service in advance of drilling with our rigs. This new unit enables us to continue to meet this demand using our fully trained and competent engineers and expand our services within the wider construction industry.

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Why Use Vacuum Excavation?

Excavation by vacuum is fast becoming accepted as best practice in the field of site investigation, general construction and remediation works. It is often mandatory on fuel stations and power distribution sites and becoming the preferred practice on other sensitive, safety-aware industrial facilities such as refineries and chemical/petrochemical manufacturing, storage and distribution facilities. Using this non-destructive technology we can quickly, safely and economically excavate in all areas where conventional digging equipment like JCBs, mini-diggers and trenchers could be used, but we can also excavate in areas otherwise inaccessible to traditional machinery. Vacuum excavation can also be used as an alternative to manual hand digging, protecting site operatives by reducing manual handling and increasing the progress rate of an excavation programme.

Advantages of Vacuum Excavation over Traditional Excavation Methods

The main advantages of vacuum excavation over conventional mechanical and hand excavation techniques are as follows:

  • It allows positive visual identification of services without making physical contact with them, avoiding services strikes and vastly improving safety
  • It is faster than hand excavation
  • There is a reduction in manual handling and hard physical labour for equipment operatives reducing the risk of injury and fatigue
  • Excavation can be carried out in areas otherwise inaccessible by traditional machinery
  • There is less surface damage and often a potential to reduce the size of the excavation
  • Excavated spoil is removed from the area leaving surrounding roads/footpaths clear of debris
  • It is less expensive to reinstate/repair the surface once the excavation is complete (smaller, more precise subsurface access creation through hardstanding)
  • There is a reduction in disruption to other site traffic, personnel and surface activities

Applications

A selection of examples of situations where vacuum excavation is used as a safer more appropriate technique to traditional excavation are as follows:

  • Trial pits for subsurface infrastructure (cables, gas pipes, water mains, drainage etc.) identification/avoidance
  • Excavation around utility pipework to enable repair of service lines (gas/water/electric/fibre optic cables)
  • Excavation around tree roots to avoid damage
  • Excavation of narrow diameter post holes for fencing, street lighting, road signs etc.
  • Trial pits around building/structure foundations for investigation/repair purposes
  • Trenching to enable installation of new underground services
  • Removal of railway ballast to enable access to underlying soils/structures
  • Cleaning out of meter/valve boxes or manholes