Geotechnical and material testing in the Highlands

WITH Scotland now producing 50% of its energy from renewable sources, with more investment to come – much of it in the Highlands, along with the dualling of the A9, Highland Enhancement Programme and other developments – there is a need for high quality geotechnical and materials testing in the area.
Last year Scottish-based contractor, BAM Ritchies opened a new UKAS accredited facility in Inverness to cater for demand. Led by Deputy Laboratory Manager Ian Bamford under overall direction of BAM Ritchies Laboratories Manager James Watson, the Inverness laboratory is now well established.
Initially, it primarily catered for testing from the BAM Nuttall projects of Loch Buidhe and Fyrish. However, more recently it has seen an increase in work from other customers.

Tests undertaken include:-
• Sampling of aggregates, bituminous mixtures and fresh concrete
• Particle size distribution
• Resistance to fragmentation – Los Angeles method
• Water content
• Plastic index and liquid limit
• Particle density
• Dry/density/moisture content relationship (OMC)
• Plate load test and CBR’s
• Testing hardened concrete
• Location of reinforcement (covermeter surveys) and Tensile loading

All tests are undertaken by trained and skilled technicians working to appropriate standards within the laboratory’s UKAS accreditation. The laboratory has also recently set up it’s own NVQ centre with the aim that all staff will achieve a level 3 NVQ in Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities (LATA).
Customer satisfaction is treated very seriously by BAM Ritchies and this is monitored carefully.
This Inverness laboratory is just one of the many site laboratories that BAM Ritchies has operated, not only in Scotland but also in England too. These have included Borders Railway, Luton Dunstable Guided Busway, AWE Mensa, Sellafield, Blackhillock and now one being commissioned at the proposed new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C in Somerset.
BAM Ritchies also operates depot laboratories at Kilsyth near Glasgow and Erith in Kent.
Laboratories Manager James Watson commented, “BAM Ritchies has been working in the Highlands for decades. This Inverness laboratory is a natural extension of the high quality value for money service that the organisation provides to customers. With a number of external customers choosing to have their samples tested by us, we are well placed to meet the increasing demand anticipated.”