Lithuanian capital company Geolift Baltic ended 2021 with a significant award – the technology used by the company in Elektrėniškės has been recognised by the UK-based international business platform Corporate LiveWire, which awarded the company as Europe’s most innovative company in the field of building stability in its Innovation and Excellence Awards 2021.
Although the company’s representatives cannot reveal the subtleties of the applied technology yet, as they are currently preparing the technical documentation of the method for the State Patent Bureau with the help of VGTU scientists. Valdas Kordušas, the founder and engineer for Geolift Baltic, emphasises the results: “Every work done can be evaluated by physical measurements and calculations, and thanks to our technology, we achieve results that would be difficult for others to compete with”.
The best in Europe
Stabilising unstable soils and foundations, stabilising buildings with geopolymer injections, and, as far as possible, lifting settled buildings back to their original position using the same principle is a technique that has been developed in Scandinavia and has spread around the world.
“We have been interested in this and other similar methods and have been researching the market since 2013. We studied in Europe and the US and experimented until we finally took an existing technology in a different direction from the market and refined it into a stand-alone product”, says the initiator, V. Korduš. “Although we officially established Geolift Baltic in 2020, we have already achieved such results that Corporate LiveWire, an organisation that monitors technological change and innovation in Europe, has taken an interest in us and invited us to apply for an international award. It is great to have been noticed and appreciated not only in Lithuania and the Baltic States but also in Europe.”
It is hoped that once the technology is patented, it will continue to be sold and franchised around the world. Currently, with the help of VGTU scientists, Geolift Baltic is standardising and formalising the already developed, tested, and successfully applied technological process.
Our innovation is particularly welcome in the USA, where we went through the first basic training and later developed it into the Geolift brand. Expansion to the US is planned for 2022-2023, said Mr Kordušas. Geolift Baltic currently operates in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland.
Technology that requires attentiveness to within seconds
There are many videos on the internet showing how geopolymer injections can be used to solve the problem of sinking, deformed floors, foundations or entire buildings. A geopolymer material is injected through small holes drilled in the floor or foundation and instantly expands and solidifies, strengthening the soil and stopping further deformation of the building and, if possible, lifting it.
However, the technology is much more complex than it may seem at first sight, emphasised Mr Korduš. The method requires a great deal of technical knowledge and experience, and the probability of an error is calculated in seconds. If too much material is injected or in the wrong place, an over-elevated building could simply collapse. Therefore, before proceeding to the injection of geopolymer materials, very careful soil investigations and engineering calculations for the whole building are carried out, and the condition of the structure is assessed. Because mistakes can be extremely painful and costly, and there is a huge amount of responsibility involved.
Raising floors without disrupting the normal routine of life
The technology, which addresses the stability of buildings by reinforcing the soil with geopolymer injections, is often a much more attractive alternative than, for example, rebuilding the entire building or carrying out constant repairs every few years, which are inevitable without addressing the real cause of the problem, i.e. unstable soil. Environmentally neutral geopolymers can be injected into the ground at any time of the day or night without the need to move equipment, furniture or displays of goods so that businesses, shops, and production do not have to stop operations.
For example, we calculated that the demolition and rebuilding of one particular problematic 8,500 square metre site would have taken two years after the ground had been cleaned up. Our method solved the building’s problems in three months, when we carried out the work in zones, mostly at night, i.e. practically without disrupting the site’s activities, which would have been simply impossible with a conventional construction method. We have completed a number of such projects. For example, we are particularly proud of the building reinforcement work carried out in an Estonian furniture factory, which did not require production to be halted, and also did not require the re-calibration of the robots, which are accurate to hundredths of a millimetre, said a Geolift Baltic engineer.
For private homes, the choice of geopolymer injection avoids the hassle of repairs and living in dust, cleaning, moving furniture or even moving into temporary accommodation.
Working with heritage buildings is already recognised
V. Kordušas notes that the stability problems of modern buildings are becoming more frequent due to building design or construction errors, and changes in nature are contributing to the problem. Groundwater is subsiding, and these processes are already affecting old buildings.
For example, the city of Riga was built, as my colleagues and I sometimes say, practically in a swamp. In the past, buildings in such places were built on oak log piles, which, as long as they are in water, are a solid, reliable foundation. But in recent years, the water table has started to fluctuate by 1.5 metres throughout our region, which is starting to affect the old buildings, said Mr Korduš, who also works in neighbouring countries.
Among the old heritage buildings rescued by Geolift Baltic are the Estonian Government Palace in the centre of Tallinn, the barn of Ilzenberg Manor in the Rokiškis district and others.
Recently, geopolymer injections have been used extensively, not only for buildings but also for transport infrastructure problems such as roads and airports.