Grouting Services was founded in Auckland and the company, still Kiwi-owned and operated with 50 employees (the longest standing – 40 years) and a number of CCNZ awards under its belt, celebrated its 50th birthday this year.
After 25 years with Firth Stresscrete, Alf Little formed Grouting Services in 1971 in Auckland and concentrated on post-tensioning and grouting work.
Alf had started with Firth driving a concrete truck, but progressed into the post-tensioning side of the business and was, by the time he left, the main trouble shooter for difficult jobs. He is remembered as a no-nonsense old-school man who worked hard and played hard. He helped to develop the electric grout bowls still used today.
Five decades on, and the company’s services have progressively expanded to meet a growing demand for specialist expertise in the civil engineering and construction markets.
Grouting Services had been set up in the 1970s on the back of a very intensive bridge building programme with numerous large scale infrastructure projects. This caught the eye of Freyssinet who bought the company in 1979 and owned it until 1984, when Alf Little bought it back.
Since then, the company has only had a handful of other Kiwi directors and shareholders: Richard Tunnicliffe (1998-present), Eric Rumsey (1998-2009), Peter Adye (2004-present), and David Sharp (2006-present). Peter Ensor enjoyed a directorship and minority shareholding from 2010 to 2019, and Tom Claffey between 1984-1989.
Richard Tunnicliffe and Eric Rumsey purchased Grouting Services in 1998. Today the company directors and shareholders are; Richard Tunnicliffe, Peter Adye, and David Sharp.
During each of the five decades of its history the company has been involved in a number of innovative projects where it developed its current expertise and today has three divisions – anchoring, post-tensioning and grouting, and is the agent for Samwoo, OVM, Bluey and GroutGrippa.
Its directors still work every day on the principles that the company was founded on. They include a flat management system so clients are dealing with the decision makers at all stages of their projects. It has a strong staff welfare focus where 80 percent of its workforce have an ‘ethnic’ background (two of the directors are of Maori descent). It has a strong community spirit and has sponsored the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust since 1999. Its service mantra is ‘solution driving not problem finding’.
Fifty years of expert service has culminated in a rich history of local and national project involvement, recognised by the CCNZ. As a member of the Auckland Branch of Civil Contractors NZ, Grouting Services was judged category winners in the 2017, 2018 and 2020 Hynds Construction Awards.
Says Richard Tunnicliffe, Peter Adye and David Sharp; “Having been in business for 50 years, we are really proud of the family culture that we have created and testament to that is the very low turnover of staff that we have.
“We are equally proud that the team of 50 is committed to supporting its many clients and suppliers over the next decade and beyond, and 100 percent believes in the company tagline, ‘Retaining your business is our business’.”
Projects over five decades
In the 1980s Grouting Services (GS) did the specialist ground anchor works and was involved in the drilling of the pendulum hole for the Clyde Dam.
During construction, the adjacent rock was discovered to be micro-fractured due to an earthquake fault running underneath the dam site. Following a re-design, GS transitioned to a year of drilling blast holes with five air-track machines – drilling from 7am through to 4pm each day, then blasting at 5pm. Earth moving equipment then worked through the night to remove the rubble and create a new bench for more drilling the following day.
Once these works were completed and concrete had been placed, GS did the consolidation grouting drilling through the concrete and rock and injecting grout. The project was run by Tom Claffey, who went on to become a minority shareholder in the 1980s.
Richard Tunnicliffe, who joined in 1982, remembers working on many of the early ground anchoring projects the company carried out in Auckland. The evolution of pre-cast concrete as a competitive construction method for building walls created a demand for grouting of the panel to floor joint. To this day, GS is recognised as a specialist with grouting to these connections and now completes over 50 projects a year.
The iconic Sky Tower project in the 1990s was one of the most intensive building projects of the decade and GS was involved in the basement excavation for the building site in 1994, which included perimeter retention using 950 temporary ground anchors. The antennae mast atop the tower and the upper levels containing the restaurants and observation deck were also post-tensioned in place by GS.
During the 2000s, GS was involved in most of the large motorway infrastructure and large building projects in Auckland, including Grafton Gully Motorway (2002), University of Auckland Business School (2004), Central Motorway Junction (2005), Northern Gateway Motorway (2005), SH20 Motorway (2006), Newmarket Viaduct (2007) and the Boyle Building (2009).
During this period, GS also returned to its founding roots and actively re-engaged in post-tensioning works. Projects of note include Project Century in 2008 (50,000 square metre slab on grade D&C which at that time was the largest post-tensioned floor slab constructed in New Zealand), Eden Park South Stand (2008), and the Oriental Britomart Suspended Slab in 2009 (36,000sqm D&C) and one of the largest suspended post-tensioned slab projects undertaken in NZ.
Others were the Victory Christian Church Suspended Slab (12,000sqm D&C) where the GS scope included the full delivery of the in-situ concrete package and also the permanent anchors for the perimeter retention works.
Over the past decade GS designed, engineered and constructed a fleet of specialist drilling rigs and mast attachments to suit local conditions and applications. Between 2009 and 2013 the company also became the New Zealand agency for Samwoo, OVM, GroutGrippa, and Bluey.
As designers and constructors of multi-strand ground anchors, the company is often asked if it is possible to remove the strands from the ground to mitigate against obstructions for future developments.
Through its agency status, Grouting Services has the technology of removable compressive distributive (RCD) anchors that are removed once they become redundant. Using a method developed by Korean-based Samwoo, GS says it has already completed 75,000 metres of RCD anchors for landowners and local authorities leaving no obstructions left in the ground to conflict with future developments.
An interesting job in the past decade was the Transpower 400kV line project involving a new 400kV overhead line from Whakamaru to Auckland. Some 426 towers were built on about 300 landowners’ properties and with each tower weighing up to 60 tonnes and the height of a 15-storey building, the foundations had to be robust.
Grouting Services got the subcontract in 2011 to do the specialist foundation strengthening works that involved drilling and low pressure grouting at individual tower sites to treat tomo conditions and assist in the consolidation of the ground without the threat of hydro-fracture. A total of 25 sites were completed involving some 18 kilometres of drilling and 1600 cubic metres of injection grouting.
In 2019 GS was involved in the Auckland city Quay Street project where the drilling conditions and environmental constraints proved to be the most significant challenge to its crew in the 50 years it has been in business.
The aim of the project was to seismically strengthen the 100-year old sea wall between Auckland’s downtown area and the Waitemata Harbour. Diamond coring techniques were used to drill through the sea wall for both the inclined anchors and vertical dowels. To deal with the varying ground conditions at the base of the sea wall (including basalt wall construction, boulders, silts and clays over ECBF rock), a combination of permanent steel casing using a downhole hammer overburden drilling and conventional rotary wash drilling was used.
The entire anchoring site was located in the heart of Auckland’s downtown area and since it involved operating over the Waitemata Harbour – no drilling material or slurry could be discharged into the waters. Solutions included a bespoke drilling diversion system that took all discharge from the drill hole to be reticulated in a lamella water treatment system.
The reticulated water was either recirculated or discharged into the stormwater system after testing. The sediments were disposed of off-site.
The first years of the 2020s will always be remembered for their pandemic disruption and its impact on businesses across the country. However, in many respects it has been ‘business as usual’ for Grouting Services with anchor works on the City Rail Link project continuing through 2020 and completed during 2021. The Mangamuka Slip repair anchoring works was also completed during 2021.
GS also enjoyed its best business year in the design and construction of post-tensioned slabs on grade during 2020/2021 with a large number of slab projects completed.
Work on the Whitford Quarry stabilisation works, which started in 2019, continues and before summer the company was gearing up for the anchoring works at a school in Orewa. In addition, the panel grouting division continues to be very busy with the grouting of high-rise buildings. Two suspended slab projects were about to start last month (Foundation Precinct and Payment Express).
The 2022 year is also looking busy with over 100,000 square metres of post-tensioned slabs to design and construct. This includes the new Gib Facility slab on grade in Tauranga, The Northcote Apartment basement and suspended ground slabs, and Indigo, a 41 storey suspended post-tensioned slab in the Auckland CBD.