Case Study – Building Consultancy Reaps Rewards of Ground Preparation

By Mike Cain, R&D Tax Consultant

Our client is a leading project management and construction cost consultancy. The Company provides leadership throughout the construction cycle and invests heavily in innovative systems and technologies. Its team of professionals has built a reputation for creativity and has won many awards. These include Professional Services of the Year (winners) 2018 and 2019, Best Brownfield Infrastructure Project (winners) 2017 and Construction Magazine’s Consultant/Surveyor of the Year Award (finalists) 2017, 2018 and 2019. 

R&D Qualifying Activity
Our client undertook a project involving remediation of ground on the site of a former steelworks in preparation for a major residential development. The ground comprised a 2-metre layer of slag over layers of peat and clay. In the early stages of work on the site, the Company was prepared to invest a lot of time and money in researching and developing the best way to accelerate settlement on the complex ground to achieve a viable programme.

Comprehensive site monitoring and analysis of the ground conditions, together with an extensive testing regime, provided a significant dataset on settling and rebound rates. A standard surcharging regime was then put in place for the first plots.  This involved transferring surcharge materials used on plot A to the adjacent plot B so that fewer surcharge materials were needed, and plots could be released for development on time. However, extensive monitoring revealed that differential settlement, which has the potential to damage foundations and newly built houses, could be as much as 50mm. Further investigations were carried out into the effect of varied overlaps in the surcharge between plots as well as various thicknesses of the surcharge layer. Ongoing monitoring focused specifically on the boundaries between plots.

The process developed for systematic surcharging on a large development site meant that building plots could be released to developers quicker and with greater certainty. Rules and procedures regarding the rebound of compressed ground, building close to active surcharge and band drains, and the overlapping of surcharge materials over adjacent plots, continue to inform this development and other projects.  

R&D Reclaims detailed this project alongside two others in a claim for R&D tax relief. The other projects involved a process the Company had developed for the removal and remediation of oil sludge on the heavily contaminated site of a former oil refinery and investigations into using peat in a natural groundwater filtration system. 


The client’s claim for R&D tax relief was successful and resulted in a reduction in Corporation Tax of over £132,000.

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