Work on a $10 million job to repair and strengthen 2,000 ft of crumbling seawalls along the canals in the ritzy Naples area of Long Beach is about 65 percent complete and should be finished in the next couple months. The project, led by Newport Beach, CA-based Blue Iron, Inc., is highlighted by the use of a Giken silent piling machine.

"The Giken was chosen for the project because there is no noise or vibration like typical pile driving," says Chris DellAringa, Blue Iron project manager. He says these were important factors for the owners of the multi-million dollar homes that sit mere feet from the canals, and this is why the city of Long Beach went with his company and the Giken.

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DellAringa says the Giken machine is so calm you could put a glass of water next to it and the glass won't move. And I can attest to its quietness, for when I was at the project site the other day and crews were installing piles, the loudest noise around came from some guy with a leaf blower.

The diesel-powered machine works by slowly and steadily pushing piles into the ground with roughly 60,000 tons of pressure. On this job Blue Iron is installing 230, 40 ft-long piles on each side of the 1,000 ft canal area. The piles are lifted into the Giken by a crane and then driven more than 35 ft deep into the soil, which takes about 30 minutes.

Once the piles are placed against the existing seawall, all spaces will be filled with concrete and then the top of the wall will be fitted with a concrete cap. When construction is complete, the new, strengthened walls will be 2ft taller than the previous, 80-yr-old walls.

The project is the first of six phases the city has planned. Besides new steel sheet piles to strengthen the failing seawall, Phase 1 also includes a new sidewalk, trees and landscaping, and a new storm drain. Los Angeles-based Ford E.C., Inc is serving as construction manager on this phase.

To get inside the tight canal space, crews had to assemble a barge in the water and then build a crane on top of it to lift the 6,000-lbs piles.

DellAringa say Blue Iron was selected for the job because of their extensive experience with silent piling.

"We are the largest Contractor outside of Japan that does Silent piling and it is the way of the future for pile driving," he told me while I was toured the project. He says more companies aren't doing silent piling with Giken machines because it is very specialized work and the machines are very expensive, costing more than $2 million.

Another reason more firms aren't using this technique is that most owner agencies want companies that already have qualifications and at least three to five years experience with the machine, "and most companies don't have that," he says.

"So if you are going to go buy one of these (machines) and compete with us, you have to plan on meeting qualifications, and then travel all over the US to do it, because you are not going to keep the machines busy in one spot; it's too specialized."