Industry Event

Concrete Forum: Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Solutions


22 February 2024


City Hall, Kamal Chunchie Way, London, E16 1ZE)



The Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) is bringing together the foremost industry experts on cement and concrete to share our collective insight on what needs to change in the industry.

Taking place on 22nd February 2024 at City Hall, London, Concrete Forum: Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Solutions aims to collaborate and share ideas to make a better future with concrete suppliers, consultants, clients and contractors.

Ground engineering presents unique challenges for the use of concrete. Typically, we consume 5% of the volume sold for UK concrete suppliers, so our needs are significant if niche. Our requirements are specific and the on-site challenges different to other areas of construction. How concrete behaves in the ground is not widely understood outside of our membership and we need to bridge this gap in understanding.

At the same time geotechnical contractors find themselves at the tip of the spear when it comes to construction’s great mission to decarbonise. Our projects are currently incredibly carbon intensive in the service of meeting the needs of society. Our need is to transition into a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable industry – together with wider construction.

This conference shall look at where the innovation is coming from, give a considered view on what cement technology is likely to dominate and inform the supply-chain what is needed from it for it to be fit for use in foundations.

Who should attend? Any party wishing to better understand the present and future of concrete, its constituents and sustainability developments from the concrete industry including;

  • Clients aiming to reduce the carbon impact of their developments.
  • Consultants and specifiers looking to understand on-site challenges.
  • Geotechnical & structural designers needing to understand what’s coming and what it means for their work and its performance.
  • Contractors seeking integration with concrete suppliers.
  • Concrete suppliers with thoughts to share on smoothing the supply chain and innovations to discuss.


This event is sponsored by Mudtech. Mudtech offer great products and services for tunnelling, drilling, mechanised excavation, soil separation, brownfield remediation and dewatering. We have supplied slurry processing, ground conditioning, and grouting resources for major international tunnelling, microtunnelling, and drilling works since 1987. Our systems save money and time everywhere they are used – with full respect for the environment.




FPS Members are entitled to two free tickets, and FPS Associate Members are entitled to one free ticket. Additional tickets will be charged at:

  • FPS Members: £114 (incl VAT)
  • Non-Members: £192 (incl VAT)


TO REGISTER YOUR ATTENDANCE PLEASE CLICK HERE. Registration closes on Wednesday 7th February 2024.



Keynote: Sustainability by Design

John Chick, Business Leader – Geotechnical at Expanded Geotechnical

Sustainability by design is critical to achieving true sustainability reductions. Depending on sources cement manufacture and concrete products worldwide account for 8-10% of global carbon emissions. Alternative products and innovations in concrete will have a major impact for good.
These innovations including the use of recycled aggregates are not all widely accepted as specifiers are lagging behind the materials market. The manufacturers are innovating faster than clients can or want to.
This has to change and this conference is one small step towards publicising the benefits to be gained from the new products available and for us to understand the future for these products including their long term availability and carbon and cost impact.


Keynote: Lower Carbon Concrete, Today and Tomorrow

Paul Astle, Decarbonisation Lead at Ramboll
With an ever-increasing focus on the embodied carbon of construction, the impacts of concrete use have never been under more scrutiny. But there are things that can be done today to make better use and lower the embodied carbon of this incredibly important material.  There are also a huge range of new innovations in a variety of concrete technologies which may unlock lower carbon concrete for the future. Paul’s presentation will explore what is happening today and tomorrow in the field of lower carbon concrete.


The EFFC/DFI Guide to Tremie Concrete for Deep Foundations

Chris Harnan, Managing Director at Ceecom Geotech

The Second Edition of the Guide was based on examples of good practice from specialists within the Task Group, backed up by research and evaluation carried out by high-ranked academics from Europe and North America. Following extensive testing of mixes being used on site, the practical tests that best determine the workability and stability of fresh tremie concrete were established. The Task Group was then able to present detailed recommendations on how to design, specify, and test tremie concrete.
Five years after publication, the recommendations have been well accepted as a practical addition to existing standards. In North America, a number of regulatory bodies have included many of the recommendations into their Standards. New testing methods have not, however, been widely adopted in UK and Europe.
The Task Group is therefore adopting a two-tier approach: i) work to get the recommendations incorporated into the new European Concrete Standard (EN 206), and ii) revise the Guide (Third Edition) to allow easier acceptance by all stakeholders.


Concrete, From Specification to Supply and All Points In Between

James Branch, Regional Technical Manager (Concrete) at Heidelberg Materials UK

This presentation will show how concrete suppliers turn the enquiries we receive into the concrete operatives received on site. It will outline the main constituents and their impact on the composition. Once the constituents are understood, so can the impact on the rheology and performance of the material be understood, and therefore the appropriateness for the application. The presentation will also highlight what we think should be added to enquiries to give the best chance of a positive outcome. This includes the information we require from you, such as placement method and any project specific requirements. James will cover a quick review of the acceptance tests concrete suppliers are asked to comply with, alongside project specific trial processes.


Cement and Concrete Solutions in the Future Low Carbon Construction Industry

Veronika Elfmarkova, Innovation Manager at Lafarge Cement (Aggregate Industries)

The talk will reflect binder in concrete, such as cement as an essential element to the infrastructure on which our society is built. Reputation suggests that the cement sector has not been technically innovative, however there has been a considerable patenting activity in recent years in the space of clinker reduction in cement and especially in comparison with other heavy industries, such as steel. Therefore, under the drive for sustainability, initiatives are emerging in the next few years to achieve further CO2e reductions in the concrete sector, but an adoption and acceptance across the value chain is needed to expand the portfolio of next-generation materials.


The Science of Concrete as a Fluid

 James Blackwell, Technical and Innovation at Martello Piling / Franki Foundations

The sheer variability of concrete mixes in terms of aggregate source, aggregate gradings and concrete mix proportions, suggests a complexity which may inhibit a scientific understanding.
Generally concrete companies have been very good and adjusting mixes to provide customers with concrete which mostly meet their requirements, but problems on site may still occur, for example, blockages in pumping, the flow of concrete between reinforcing bars, segregation, bleed, or fluid filtration preventing the installation of reinforcement cages into CFA piles. This presentation aims to simplify the understanding of concrete as a fluid, through logic and established mathematical principles. By understanding the science, modifications to concrete mixes can be better understood or predicted.


Digging Deeper; Unveiling The Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction and the Crucial Role of Piling in Ensuring Project Success.

Phil Muff, Contracts Manager at Explore Manufacturing (Part of Laing O’Rourke)

Phil will be presenting an introduction to the Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction, showcasing capabilities and focusing on how they integrate into the projects to provide benefits to the project and client. This will also include an overview of their direct delivery model utilising their sister companies, Expanded, Vetter, Select and Crown House Technology.

He will be sharing what technologies they use and how these are providing benefits in time and carbon reductions to the over project performance. Phil will also touch on their carbon reduction strategy and how this is a fine balance/challenge to our production outputs.


Sampling and Control with Changing Mixtures

Matt Oliver, General Manager at Socotec UK

In this presentation, Matt will touch on the importance of testing and sampling with changing concrete mix designs. Changing and evolving material will come with changing performance and characteristics. Therefore it is important that the correct testing is carried out at the trial stage of a new mix and that this then leads to the correct site compliance testing to ensure that a familiarity and trust can be built with all teams involved with projects.

Matt will also take the opportunity to confirm the importance of good sampling, manufacture and curing of compressive strength specimens so that confidence can be taken, not only when checking individual results but also in monitoring treads.


Panel Discussion: Contractors and Suppliers in Conversation

This round table discussion will aim to bring together both piling contractors and concrete suppliers to discuss common issues. There will be a focus on the specification and use of concrete as well as commercial considerations.

Areas discussed will include how concrete is specified, on site sampling practices and standards, reasons for inconsistencies in loads, how rig types can affect static segregation, carbon tax and picking the right batching plant.

Panel members will include Danny Bunting (Expanded), Chris O’Shea (Heidelberg Materials), Kevin Paterson, (Capital Concrete), Mark Boden (Skanska) and Paul Wiltcher (Aarsleff). The panel will be Chaired by Steve Hadley (Ground Forum Chair and Central Piling MD).



John Chick
Business Leader - Geotechnical at Expanded Geotechnical and FPS Chair

John is Business Unit Leader of Expanded Geotechnical Ltd, part of the Laing O Rourke Group.

With over 35 years of piling and ground engineering experience John has an interest in many spheres of the industry including design, operations, pricing, and sustainability. A major interest is in behavioural safety and performance and attracting new talent into the industry by selling its virtues and contribution to the environment and the economy.

Steve Hadley
Ground Forum Chair and Managing Director at Central Piling

Steve is the current Chair of the ground engineering industry umbrella group the Ground Forum and long standing MD of Central Piling. Thorough his work with the FPS and his hosting of the popular Breaking Ground podcast he continues to advocate for the use of more sustainable methods of construction and low carbon materials.

Paul Astle
Decarbonisation Lead at Ramboll

Paul is the Decarbonisation Lead for Ramboll Buildings globally. As a chartered structural engineer Paul has worked on a large variety of concrete structures, is a member of the Low Carbon Concrete Group and is a co-author of the Low Carbon Concrete Routemap.

Chris Harnan
Managing Director at Ceecom Geotech

Chris has over 46 years’ experience across UK and international markets and is Managing Director of Ceecom Consult, a geotechnical consultancy specialising in forensic engineering and expert witness work. After graduating with a 1st Class Honours Degree in Civil Engineering, Chris worked for several deep foundation contractors before becoming Managing Director of Bachy Soletanche.  Chris was Chair of the FPS between 1995-1996 and is currently the Deputy Chair of the EFFC/DFI Tremie Concrete and Support Fluids Task Groups. He also represents the EFFC on three working groups at the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC).

Chris O’Shea
National Commercial Manager at Heidelberg Materials

I joined Hanson in 2001 with a year sabbatical in 2006 throughout my time I have conducted a number of commercial roles across all our core business lines, aggregates, concrete and asphalt.  I now work in the major project and key account team, with commercial responsibility for Tier 1 contractors and developing & deploying major project strategy.

James Branch
Regional Technical Manager (Concrete) at Heidelberg Materials UK

James Branch is a Regional Technical Manager for Hanson Concrete based in London. He has worked in the concrete supply industry since 2000, having started his career as an onsite soils and materials technician. In 1997 he undertook a PhD at the University of Surrey, researching Plastic Properties of High Strength Concrete. Currently he is a technical manager in London and has been involved in a number of iconic projects over this period.

Veronika Elfmarkova
Innovation Manager at Lafarge Cement (Aggregate Industries)

Veronika is a civil and materials engineer with experience in academia and industry with a focus on decarbonisation of the cement and concrete sector. Her specialisation is research and product development in cement and cementitious materials, together with AACM, concrete and polymer technologies. She is author/co-author of several publications, technical reports or conference proceedings.

Kevin Paterson
Commercial Manager Capital Concrete

Kevin joined the industry 34 years ago as a Quality Control Technician. He has worked on projects including the Chanel Tunnel Rail Link, O2 Arena, Crossrail, Northern Line Extension, Battersea Power Station, and HS2. In his current role he helped set up a new Ready Mixed Concrete supply business which now operates from 10 Locations inside the M25.

James Blackwell
Technical and Innovation at Martello Piling / Franki Foundations

James was a Founder and Director of Martello Piling. (He is now semi-retired, but remains an employee of Martello Piling / Franki Foundations) concentrating on innovation, problem solving, creative thinking and new product development. He has been involved in the piling industry for 40 years, is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and has a wealth of practical experience and theoretical knowledge.

Philip Muff
Contracts Manager at Explore Manufacturing (Part of Laing O’Rourke)

Philip Muff, Contracts Manager, is an experienced project manager with a 17-year track record working on major projects in the residential, commercial, infrastructure, health and education sectors across the UK.

Phil currently leads the Contract Management function at Laing O’Rourke’s Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction, Europe’s largest and most advanced pre-assembly manufacturing facility.

A Fellow of the ICE, Phil has a passion for learning and engaging with innovative construction methods, as well as nurturing talent within teams and supporting junior team members to progress within their project and company roles.

Paul Wiltcher
Business Improvement Manager at Aarsleff Ground Engineering

Paul is a chartered Civil Engineer with 30 years experience in the Piling and Geotechnical industry.  He has worked on many major projects including CTRL, NLE, US Embassy and the Amsterdam Noord Zuid Lijn.  During his career Paul has held senior management and leadership roles in Cementation Skanska, Bauer Technologies, Keltbray and most recently is the Business Improvement Manager at Aarsleff Ground Engineering.

Danny Bunting
Operations Manager at Expanded Geotechnical

Danny is an Operations Manager with a proven track record of delivering major piling contracts across a range of sectors. He has worked in the piling industry for over 15 years gaining experience in a variety of piling disciplines on sites across the UK.


Mark Boden
Director at Cementation Skanska

Mark has held senior management roles with founding FPS member companies and chaired the FPS Safety committee from 2006 to 2010.  Mark was responsible for the delivery of a key foundation element of ESS Lund in the south of Sweden, which won the Ground Engineering International project of the year 2017. A Geotechnical Engineer, Mark has been involved in Piling and Ground Engineering across the UK for nearly 40 years using concrete and grouts.

Matt Oliver
General Manager at Socotec UK

Matt is the General Manager for Socotec UK, working in their southern material testing division. He has over 20 years of industry experience and has worked across multiple areas including on the ground as a Technician, to working with suppliers and contractors to establish ITP’s or embed new testing methods.