Impact of climate change on flooding in the UK

Storm Ciara had barely blown over the UK in early February before Storm Dennis was announced, bringing another weekend of wet and windy weather to much of the country.

This might feel like a pattern in recent years, when crisp, cold, snowy winter days have been relatively few compared to blustery weather and prolonged downpours.

And we could be set to see weather events like Storm Ciara and the Beast from the East become more commonplace, based on a major study published in the journal Nature in 2019.

Flooding on the rise in Europe

The research pulled together data for thousands of rivers across Europe from academic sources including the University of Bath and the University of Liverpool.

It found flooding due to burst riverbanks has increased in northern Europe in the past 50 years, while decreasing in southern Europe.

For those working in engineering and construction in the UK, this trend is unavoidable, with the potential to cause significant disruption if you’re not well prepared.

Dr Thomas Kjeldsen of the University of Bath said: “Incorporating the evidence of increasing flood risk into engineering design and general flood management would ensure we are better prepared for future changes.”

Dr Neil Macdonald from Liverpool University’s Department of Geography & Planning added: “Flood management must adapt to the realities of our changing climate and associated flood risk over the coming decades.”

How to adapt?

One simple way to do this on building sites at relatively low cost is through the use of timber bog mats, which can quickly and easily cover over wet and muddy ground.

Stacking bog mats in an H-formation, similar to laying railway lines over sleepers, can raise walkways and temporary roads above the level of waterlogged land, allowing work to proceed uninterrupted.

At Timbermat we’ve been supplying bog mats for sale and hire for many years, including for use on marshland, beaches and other tidal locations.

Timber bog mats are relatively cheap, with little to no impact on site insurance costs, and are manufactured from completely sustainable timber – minimising their environmental impact.

Responsible forestry can even have benefits for the environment, as trees are a natural store of carbon, making timber mats an all-round positive solution to the future challenges of climate change and increased risk of flooding on construction sites across the UK.

How bog mats are helping save the environment

Bog mats are a versatile way to protect delicate land against damage during heavy works, excavations and demolitions, but these ground protection mats also help to protect the wider environment in a very real sense.

During use, they provide a physical barrier against any unexpected spills, for example oil, fuel spills or other potentially harmful fluids that can be cleaned up more easily from ground protection mats than from the exposed ground surface.

Timber mats are a sustainable resource, manufactured from several species of European hardwood and tropical hardwood that can be replenished through careful forestry and responsible stewardship.

And because producing or importing these woods into the UK is governed by strict regulations, you can always feel confident that any bog mats for hire or for sale from Timbermat will not contribute towards deforestation anywhere in the world.

In fact, farming timber for the purposes of producing new timber mats has a positive impact on the number of trees in the world, because sustainable practices mean there are always new trees being planted to create timber stocks for the future.

End-of-life timber mats

It’s not only during their manufacture that bog mats can have beneficial effects on the environment; their disposal can also help to close that loop even further.

Again, because timber is a natural product, it can be recycled in many different ways, and will biodegrade much faster than artificial materials like plastic bog mats.

By opting for durable tropical hardwood mats, you can get many years of good service life out of the bog mats you buy, so there should be no environmental impact at all for as long as you keep them in good condition.

Likewise when you hire bog mats from Timbermat, you are helping to reuse a resource many times before its disposal – we only supply timber mats that are still in good condition, but equally we only retire worn mats when it’s necessary to do so.

This balance is a best of both worlds solution, ensuring that our bog mats for hire also have a long service life, and are disposed of in an appropriate way when they are no longer in usable condition.

What to do if your construction site is flooded

Tis the season for severe weather warnings and if you’re facing the threat of heavy rain or you’ve been issued with an Environment Agency flood alert, be ready with bog mats.

Bog mats offer you several ways to contend with flooding, depending on how deep the water is expected to get.

Even shallow floods can contain health risks and when water drains away, that can leave your ground surface unsafe for direct contact.

 

Laying timber mats over it can allow access for remedial work to begin and so that you can clean up any surface residues so full access can be regained.

Ground protection mats also prevent waterlogged earth from being deeply rutted or churned up by chunky vehicle tyres or plant equipment caterpillar tracks.

If you are able to take action ahead of any flooding, you could construct an elevated platform using bog mats to lift materials well clear of the expected height of the flood water.

This is a technique that is commonly used when working on wetlands and marshes, and involves laying timber mats in a criss-cross formation, with the lower timbers acting as a scaffold on which the top layer of bog mats can be laid.

 

By remaining relatively open between those criss-cross supports, using bog mats to build a flood platform in this way does not prevent the water from draining from the site.

And because timber mats are made of natural materials and have low intrinsic value, they can be disposed of easily and in an environmentally friendly way after use if they become contaminated from the flood water.

In every respect, using ground protection mats to prevent unnecessary damage to the earth, provide a barrier between your feet, tyres and the floodwater residue, and elevate materials to avoid them getting wet where possible, all adds up to a better construction site flood plan.

 

As we move into the new year and the wet winter and early spring months, it’s well worth considering investing in a stock of bog mats for sale so that you have them close at hand if heavy weather hits.

Sheffield festival falls foul of no ground protection mats

A park festival in Sheffield left residents outraged after a lack of ground protection mats led to the grass being churned into a deeply rutted wet and muddy quagmire.  

The event was called BassFest and was held on the Ponderosa, a designated ‘open space’ in Sheffield, although not officially a public park.  

Organisers Fire in the Park did not lay ground protection mats, so when the weather proved to be severely inclement on the day, there was nothing to prevent the field from becoming a muddy mess. 

 While this is in the true spirit of British festivals, it left a significant clean-up operation, and local residents are not amused. 

 Petition to put right the Ponderosa 

 Paddy Moloney took to Change.org to petition Sheffield City Council to restore the land to its previous even and grassy condition. 

 He wrote: “After a festival of music on the Ponderosa Sheffield, we the residents of this area are left with churned up muddy field. 

 The Ponderosa was used up to last week as a sports area for two local junior schools. This summer it has been used more by families for picnicking with their children.” 

 He added that “this all finished” due to the damage done during the event, and such use by local families and students would not recommence until the original condition was restored. 

 ‘Working on it’ 

 In an announcement following the petition, Sheffield City Council member for culture, parks and leisure Councillor Mary Lea said the authorities are working with Fire in the Park on the issue. 

 She added that “full reinstatement” is impossible until the ground is dry – and that the grass will not be reseeded until the spring. 

 Fire in the Park added: “We are fully committed to reinstating the ground and are doing everything we can to make this happen as soon as possible. 

 But with autumn-winter on the way, residents face potentially six months before grass returns to the Ponderosa, all for the sake of proactively protecting the ground in the first instance. 

 It’s a great example of why we often recommend ground protection mats for summer festivals, as you never know when the British weather will turn and clean-up can be costly and a lengthy process. 

Creative uses for bog mats

Bog mats are extremely versatile for use on all kinds of construction sites, festival fields, crane lifting platforms and so on, but the possibilities don’t end there.

Timber mats can find a lease of life in some very unusual places – here are just a few examples…

1. A base for buildings

Bog mats provide a stable base for crane lifting operations, parking vehicles on muddy fields and so on, but they can also work well as a base for buildings.

Whether that’s a cabin to serve as your site office, or something semi-permanent like a quick and easy timber base for a gazebo, all of the usual benefits of timber mats apply.

Just drop them into place, fasten them together, and you’ve got an instant hard-wearing floor that you can build all kinds of temporary to semi-permanent structures on top of.

2. Bog-dodging boardwalks

We’ve looked in the past at ways to build up the level of timber mats to create a temporary roadway above the level of boggy or marshy ground.

But why not leave them in situ as a semi-permanent pathway for future access? We have timber mats for sale so you don’t need to return them.

Durable timber mats can survive a good length of time even when exposed to the elements, and for light foot traffic this can be more budget-friendly than building a permanent boardwalk or footbridge.

3. Temporary tracks

Finally, why not turn a temporary roadway into a more permanent track layout for driving experiences?

Nobody’s suggesting you build a Formula One track out of bog mats, but there are plenty of other vehicles where a timber mat track could work perfectly well.

For example, if you want to offer tractor or digger driving experiences on your farm, a simple course laid out using timber mats could be just the thing to offer some stability and ground protection.

In this way you can help to improve safety for your customers, while also ensuring the pressure of the vehicles is distributed more evenly, leaving less clean-up if and when you decide to change the shape of the track, or remove it completely simply by lifting the mats.

 

Laying temporary building foundations using bog mats

Bog mats are often used to create a solid working surface on remote construction sites or where the ground is particularly prone to becoming muddy or churned up by rugged tyres and heavy footfall.

But they can actually also serve as temporary building foundations, especially for buildings that will be removed when work on the site is completed.

The same portability and versatility that makes bog mats so good for working platforms, temporary access roads and crane lifting platforms is what also makes them an excellent choice to place a cabin or even a portable bathroom on.

Some of the benefits of doing this include:

  • Ability to quickly define an area for temporary buildings to be placed on top of.
  • Create a clean and clear floor space on wet or muddy sites.
  • Create a flat, level floor on sites with uneven ground.
  • Protect the ground surface below so less remedial work is required.
  • Connect with temporary access roads for joined-up access across the site.

Simply join together the number of bog mats you need and you can create different sizes of temporary building platform – allowing you to create large staging areas for multiple cabins, or individual building stands connected by temporary roadways or pathways.

 

Why use timber mats as temporary building supports?

All of the usual benefits of timber mats are also beneficial when using them as temporary building supports.

Timber mats have low inherent value, so they’re relatively low cost compared with other ways to build temporary building foundations.

They sit on top of the ground surface and spread the pressure over a larger area, allowing even fairly large buildings to be constructed without piling or excavation work required.

Bog mats create a consistent surface by joining closely together, but retain flexibility so the ground below does not need to be dead level before they are laid.

And they are easy to re-position, so if you need your buildings to move to different areas of the site at different stages throughout the project, this can be achieved with a minimum of fuss – just use a forklift to pick up and relocate the timber mats to wherever they are needed.

 

If you require bog mats for temporary building support or just regular use contact us today. We sell or hire bog mats depending on whats right for the situation. We’d be happy to advise you.

 

The Bangkok crane fall that highlights importance of crane mats

An incident that left ten schoolgirls injured in Bangkok provides a stark reminder of the importance of crane mats and outrigger pads to create a stable lifting platform for cranes and other lifting vehicles.

In mid-June, a tower crane used in the construction of a 20-storey hotel in the Thai capital fell on to an adjacent building, the Assumption Convent School, leaving ten of its female pupils injured.

The incident was not the first problem to occur at the construction site, which had previously been the subject of complaints after contractors working there dropped debris on numerous occasions on to the school grounds.

On April 1st, a suspension order was issued, calling for an immediate halt to all construction work on the River Garden Hotel site.

But the contractors ignored this, paving the way for the collapse of the tower crane some 8-10 weeks later.

Any failure of equipment is regrettable but when innocent young people are injured in a preventable incident, this is even worse – so how can crane mats help?

 

Creating lifting platforms with crane mats

Some reports describe how the crane ‘toppled’ before raining debris on the school, much of it crashing through the roof of the gymnasium during a PE lesson.

It is essential during any lifting activity to ensure that the crane is stable, including taking into account the shift in its centre of gravity caused by the additional weight of the load it is trying to lift.

This can cause a significant movement in terms of where the pressure of the crane is exerted on the ground.

Crane mats interlock to create a consistent lifting platform, helping to spread this pressure over a larger area and dissipate those highest downward forces.

On unstable ground or where there is a possibility of hidden cavities, underground storage tanks and utility conduits, this helps to reduce the risk of breaking through and toppling the crane.

Meanwhile outrigger pads effectively increase the base area of the crane or lifting vehicle, making it less likely that the centre of gravity will move fully beyond the base and create the necessary instability for the crane to topple.

Together these measures can help to improve stability of the crane structure and of the ground on which it stands – reducing the risk of an avoidable incident like the one above occurring at all.

Can bog mats be used as bridges?

Many work sites involve challenging terrain, and where you have a ditch, gulley or river, temporary bridges and permanent bridges can be required – so can bog mats be used for this?

It really depends on how heavy the traffic over the bridge deck will be, the ground it is being constructed on, and the type of bog mats used.

Obviously the more durable the bog mats, the sturdier and longer lasting the bridge will be, and it is common to see Ekki timber mats used on bridge decks and piers alike.

Emtek heavy equipment mats are also a good option for bridging applications, including constructing heavy-duty boardwalks over marshy land for plant machinery and vehicle access.

 

How to build a bridge with bog mats

There are several ways to build a bridge with bog mats, depending on a few factors like ground quality, clearance and how even or uneven the floor level is

For most everyday applications bog mats are laid directly on to the ground, but when it is uneven this becomes impractical or even impossible.

The first option is to lay long beams in the direction of the roadway and then lay bog mats across them in an H formation – like the sleepers across railway tracks.

On very soft ground, this formation is reversed, so that the beams are laid across to spread the weight over a larger area, with bog mats laid on top in the direction of the roadway.

Again, Emtek heavy equipment mats can be used in this way, with bog mats used as pilings to support the roadway.

 

Spanning gaps with bog mats

If you need to span a substantial gap, bog mats can be used but it is important to ensure they can take the weight of anything that will pass over the bridge.

Again an H formation is typical, with load-bearing beams used to span the trench and then bog mats laid across these.

This can be particularly effective for temporary bridges as bog mats can be placed quickly and are easy to remove once work is completed, with none of the bridge structure left behind.

When and where to use bog mats

“Do I need bog mats?” is one of our most frequently asked questions from customers, and the answer is that if you think you might need bog mats, then you probably do.

The good thing about timber mats is that they’re easy to position, easy to move to a new position, and versatile for use as everything from ground protection mats, to crane platforms, to temporary roadways.

Because of this, many of our customers choose to invest in some of our timber mats for sale, so that they have a stock of them set aside for all purposes in the future.

As for the question of exactly when and where to use bog mats, the short answer is that you can use them almost anywhere at any time to give you a more solid or stable platform to work on.

Our most durable bog mats will give you years of service life under normal conditions, or alternatively we have less durable timber mats that can be used in the kind of conditions that are likely to leave them unfit for future use anyway.

Where are bog mats needed?

Some specific examples of when and where to use bog mats include:

  • Tidal areas where the ground surface is constantly shifting e.g. sand or mud banks.
  • Waterlogged ground like river estuaries, wetlands and swamps to improve stability.
  • Land with low particle density or known subsidence issues to prevent sinking.

Ground protection mats

In addition to this, ground protection mats can be used when you know or suspect that there is a void beneath the surface and want to prevent equipment from breaking through.

And crane platforms can be put together in order to spread the weight of heavy lifting vehicles above, reducing the pressure on any one point on the ground.This can be taken even further using outrigger pads to spread the weight, lower the centre of gravity and improve overall stability during lifting operations.

 

It’s unusual to find a situation where using bog mats is specifically undesirable – they’re easy and quick to use, and don’t add to your insurance risk, but can massively improve safety and speed up operations on wet or unstable land.

How piling mats help preserve heritage

Piling mats can help to allow work to continue on heritage buildings, both protecting the existing building while work is completed, while also enabling essential piling and underpinning to support any new additions to the building fabric.

A great example of this kind of approach is the London Screen Academy, a post-16 free school currently under construction at Ladbroke House in Islington.

Preserving history, promoting progression

Once completed, the new 16-19 school will teach specialist skills relating to the screen industries e.g. film and television, so students can progress into employment or higher education.

The project is being overseen by the government-owned property company LocatED, on behalf of the Department for Education, and the site itself presents numerous challenges.

For example, the original 1920s exterior is being retained for heritage reasons, while the new school is essentially built from scratch within its footprint. Adjacent public roads and party walls complicate matters further.

 

In a recent progress update, LocatED show a time lapse video of demolition work within the building as the central space is hollowed out to create new studios.

Timber mats can be seen throughout the video for a range of different applications, from creating temporary platforms for work to continue, to their use as ground protection mats on each level of the building during demolition.

In buildings such as this, piling and underpinning is often required in order to support alterations to the structure above ground – and piling mats help to allow piling rigs to be used safely.

Versatile, reliable shape and size

One of the advantages of Timbermat piling mats is that they can be taken into the building through a relatively small opening, but can be lifted and moved easily and joined to create a near-seamless working platform.

This is especially crucial in buildings with basements or cellars, or other voids below ground level, as a piling rig platform helps to spread the weight of the heavy equipment above so it does not break through any weak spots.

In this way, buildings can be renovated and significantly altered structurally, while retaining their outer facade so that the heritage of the premises remains intact, especially in historically significant locations or conservation areas.

 

Timbermat sell and rent timber mats of different sizes and wood types. If you have a delicate operation like LocatED does, get in touch with us now.

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