As a relatively new technology in the construction industry, two decades of research and practical applications authenticate the many benefits of using vacuum excavation on site work when building structures, platforms and even roads and walkways. Of particular interest to us here at Capstone Structures are findings from a study and research into practical applications initiated by the New York Department of Transportation. The end result of a five year study effectively found a variety of ways in which a vacuum truck could save time and money for any construction project where site work is an initial step prior to building.
Although the actual study on best practices as outlined by the Common Ground Alliance pertained to building roadways and public thoroughfares, it was readily evident how vacuum excavation would translate well to any project where there is any amount of excavating during site work, especially prior to the laying of concrete. Multiple benefits were realized, but ultimately those very benefits saved time and money, totaling a much lower cost to the end consumer, corporate or private.
Why a Brief Synopsis of the NY DOT Vacuum Excavation Research Project?
Although this particular project took place on the opposite coast, practical applications are not far removed from those we use here in Washington State. A brief synopsis of their study on how one single vacuum truck can ultimately save hundreds of manpower hours, major underground repairs and tens of thousands of dollars should speak well for the vacuum excavation work we are doing here in Central Washington. Their hard work, calculations and documentation of this vacuum excavation work with the vacuum truck of their choosing was a major boon to the industry and concrete construction companies like Capstone Structures have now saved their own clients copious amounts of money which they can, in turn, invest further into their respective companies.
What Exactly Is Vacuum Excavation?
The best way to explain this newer excavation technology is to explain some of the benefits. In traditional ways of digging to prepare a site for laying concrete, there were too many instances where underground utilities weren’t located quite as they were mapped out and so the heavy equipment not only dug up dirt and rock but oftentimes underground wires and pipes as well, costing a huge amount of money on time lost from the job, manpower to find and correct breakages and of course delay which resulted in projects going well over time estimates. This was all at a cost to contractors as well as to clients who contracted the work.
So then, think of vacuum excavation as a way in which a huge vacuum truck with a vacuum hose that is about one foot in diameter begins to suck up dirt and rock from a hole to see what lies beneath. Not only will a vacuum truck be seeking out underground utilities but many times getting down to the required depth for the pouring of base concrete. Liken this to sweeping your office with a broom as opposed to a vacuum cleaner with an oversized hose. Can you see how much time and effort that would save? And, in business, you understand that time and labor are money which you definitely need to save if you are in business to make a profit.
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A Look at the Technology of a Vacuum Truck
As explained above, a vacuum truck for use in vacuum excavation is much like a giant vacuum cleaner. It sucks up earth which has been loosened, either to see what lies beneath the surface as in the case of underground utilities, or to suck dirt up to the level where the foundation of a building is to be laid. One of the many benefits, in fact probably the biggest advantage of using suction excavation, is the way in which earth can be dug up with little to no damage to utilities lying below the surface.
The hose on a vacuum truck usually has ‘teeth’ that aid in breaking up ground to be vacuumed and also the process may be aided by hydro or air jets to further loosen earth which has hardened over time with heat and pressure. The person operating the hose will often halt for a few moments to clear larger pieces which get snagged in those jagged teeth before beginning again. Even so, the process is much faster, easier and safer than traditional methods of excavation which equates to a huge saving all the way around.
Comparisons between Air and Hydro Vacuum Excavation
Oddly, the pros of each result in the cons of the other, making them complementary to any large job. For example, a hydro vacuum truck is going to be much larger and heavier than an air vacuum truck that can generate as much air as possible with the attached compressor. The major benefit of water over air is that it is much more powerful due to the weight and force behind water but that weight and force along with the size of the truck can be a disadvantage on some jobs, based on the site. Here is where a lighter-weight air vacuum truck would be a benefit as well as in winter months when water freezes too quickly.
Water excavation, although more powerful, is the slower of the two but still much faster than traditional digging. However, hydro has a plus side in that it can work in any type of soil whatsoever and is much quicker than air evacuation in harder soils. Also, the ‘spoils’ of hydro evacuation are much harder to dispose of than air vacuum truck spoils because any earth brought up is dry and can be easily relocated to use as leveling or fill. Hydro spoils are effectively nothing more than mud, which you can see wouldn’t work well in either of those two cases.
Why Many Concrete Contractors Prefer Air Vacuum Excavation
A hydro excavator would obviously be limited by an available water supply but because of the compressor on an air truck, there is no limit to where they can be used. Also, air vacuum evacuation will not damage trees or underground utilities because the pressure is lessor than hydro. The one thing which air is slower to handle is clay, for which hydro would be preferable but in the absence of a sufficient source of water, an air vacuum truck will work perfectly well, just a little slower than a hydro truck. Either way, both air and hydro excavation are far superior to traditional digging because of the speed at which they can get a job done without causing damage in the process.
Capstone Structures understands that any foundation you need laid or concrete structures you need built are only going to be as cost effective as the construction is in terms of time and quality. We work to ensure that any vacuum excavation projects we contract will be as cost effective for you as we can humanly make them. Your loss is our loss and your gain is one more feather in our cap. We are proud of our use of this innovative technology to ensure best practices in excavation as well as a way to get the job done at the lowest cost possible. Looking to finally complete a project on time and on (or under!) budget? Our team is happy to show you how.