A massive drill towering 15 storeys in height in downtown Kelowna is going to make life a lot easier for those who live or work around the new ‘Bernard Block’ construction site.
The 52-metre drill, or auger, is new highrise construction technology that’s being used by Kelowna’s Mission Group.
“Pardon the pun, but it is pretty groundbreaking,” Mission Group executive vice-president Luke Turri told Global News.
The massive machine is called a continuous flight auger, or CFA, and it will drill 170-foot holes in the ground.
The holes are for piles that will form the deep foundations needed for the site’s two tall towers. Both are currently under construction on Bernard Avenue, at the corner of St. Paul and Bertram streets.
“This is the deepest continuous flight auger (CFA) piling that we are aware of in Canada, and almost in North America,” Turri said.
From an engineering perspective, a CFA pile is simple. The auger drills into the ground, and, as the blade retreats, the hole is then filled with concrete and rebar.
The new method has far less impact on the immediate surroundings than traditional pile driving in terms of being quieter and creating less vibration.
“Steel-driven piles are loud. They have to be driven into the ground with a diesel hammer, and so, obviously, there is some disruption,” said Turri.
For proof of that, ask anyone who’s lived next to a highrise build where steel-driven piles were used, and they’ll probably tell you it was quite a bit of disruption, actually.
“It’s like having something constantly at your ear and constantly at your feet,” said Lee Gilbert told Global News last year.
Gilbert was living close to Bernard Block where the Mission Group recently built the Bernard tower using traditional pile-driving techniques.
While the incessant noise is enough to drive anyone to their limits, the vibration can actually cause structural damage to neighbouring homes and businesses.
That’s why the Mission Group has partnered with Soletanche Bachy Canada to bring in the big auger — to be a better neighbour.
“We really didn’t think to look at this from a cost point of view,” said Turri.
“We wanted to do something beneficial for the neighbourhood and the community and look at a new way moving forward for doing piles in the Okanagan.”
The Mission Group will auger out 262 CFA-piles at the ‘Bernard Block’ urban village site over the next eight weeks.
The company says it is also considering using the new technology for all of its future highrise projects in the downtown area.