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The facility is almost complete

Spring 2014 is here at last, and in just a few months AstaZero’s facility will be up and running. At the time of writing, intensive work is underway to complete the ground works, electrical installations and housebuilding, and every day 80 people are out working on the site.

“All of the houses should be finished by 10 May, and we are aiming to be completely finished with contractor works by June,” says test site manager Björn Bjurklint.

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Blasting is completely finished and what remains is mostly asphalting the section of the Rural road track that borders Hälleredsberget and minor service roads within the area, as well as erecting the town scenery.

“Otherwise, what’s left is mostly fine tuning work, such as terracing and erecting barriers. Now that most of the asphalt is laid and we have erected all of the lamp posts, the facility looks almost finished and it’s been a real revelation for those of us that have been involved since construction began,” says mr Bjurklint.

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Environmental care in focus

Respect for the environment has permeated all ASTA AB’s work at the facility, and several compensatory measures have been carried out for benefit of the protected animals residing in the area: the moor frog, the red-throated diver, the Ortolan Bunting and the Whooper Swan. For example, the company has previously built a rampart, several transportation tunnels and two new ponds to meet the moor frogs’ need for spawning and feeding sites.

The very latest compensatory measure is the construction of a salmon ladder, i.e. a structure on or around artificial barriers to facilitate fish’s natural migration. The fish ladder enables the fish to pass around the barrier by swimming and leaping up a series of relatively low steps (hence the term “ladder”) into the waters on the other side.
The construction of a fish ladder is not easy, since the velocity of water falling over the steps has to be great enough to attract the fish to the ladder, but cannot be so great that it washes the fish back downstream or exhausts them to the point of being unable to continue their journey upriver.

The new fish ladder is now operational, and is located between the entrance to AstaZero and the Volvo Hällered entry. The barrier is an old wall that is part of an old pond construction that has been there for years, and that fish have never managed to swim past. By building three steps from existing stones, the AstaZero builders have decreased the fall height, making it possible for fish to swim all the way up to a creek located nearby.

The AstaZero site takes shape

Just over a year has passed since we started laying the foundations for the AstaZero site. Now we see where the roads go through the forest.

At this moment, 90% of all internal roads are ready to be surfaced with asphalt, but the weather will decide how much of this work gets done before winter. We’ve already started surfacing several of the site’s roadways, including the main street though town and the area where AstaZeros’ Proving Ground Center will be located. Even the High Speed Area has a first asphalt layer, though it will need two more layers before this special surface can be considered complete.

“Every layer of asphalt takes us ten working days, since the size of the High Speed Area surface is the same as a 4.5 kilometre highway. “That means we use huge amounts of asphalt, and for the ten days we spent on laying the first layer, it took 50 truckloads of asphalt every day,” relates site manager Björn Bjurklint.

Meanwhile, PEAB also cast two of the track’s three bridges, and they’ve started building the fuel station, scales, and calibration surfaces next to the workshops for the Proving Ground Center. They’ve even installed three of the four transformers, laid foundations for all the area lighting poles and started laying the power lines.

“Over the next month, PEAB Sweden will start building the workshops for the Proving Ground Center, the administrative buildings and inspection sites. And the administrative buildings will be standing by early November,” continues Mr Bjurklint.

He adds, “You can see that we’re in a new construction phase here, as the groundwork contractor starts to finish off and building construction gets going.”

Long working days

Some 60 people have lived at the site four days a week since construction work began. A campsite with twelve huts developed quickly, and with all the offices as well there are now 25 huts dotted over the site. Being able to offer accommodation at the site was necessary as many of the labourers live elsewhere in Sweden, and the working day begins at 6am and often goes on until well into the evening.

“We often work four days a week, Monday to Thursday, and a minimum working week is 46 working hours long. We often have the day off on Fridays, which is when our machine operators usually take the opportunity to service their machines,” explains Pär Tingström, PEAB’s site manager.

The people working at the site all have different jobs to do, such as blasting, excavation and boring. Information meetings involving all officers and labourers take place once a fortnight. Minutes are kept from these meetings  which are then handed out to everyone else on site.

“It’s important to let everyone know what’s happening all over the site so that people can understand just how important their own jobs are,” says Pär Tingström.

Soon time for the next work phase

PEAB has been established at the AstaZero site for seven months, and most of the basics are now in place. This means that the very biggest machines will only need to remain in place for another month or so, and then some slightly smaller machines can take over.

“The work’s entering a new phase, you could say. We’ll be doing a few more of the fine details, such as laying pipes for water, sewage and ducting and starting to tarmac certain parts of the road at the site. We’ll be able to start working on this as soon as there’s no more frost in the ground,” says Pär Tingström, PEAB’s site manager.

Much of the work at the site has focused on the high-speed area of late, where an overload had to be put in place in the areas where marshland had been excavated. The overload will be left in place here for no less than six months, and so there has been a lot of activity at the major rock excavation at Hälleredsberget, where two rock crushers are working to capacity.

To get an idea of ​​the total extent of work performed by the dump truck drivers, there are more than 1.2 million cubic meters of rock that will have to be moved, and each dump truck can only unload 12 cubic meters at a time.

This means that these trucks will have to drive numerous turns to and from the rock excavation; a driving which total mileage is equivalent to 5 times around the world!

What has been the biggest challenge posed by the work so far?

“The time aspect, of course. We’re on a tight schedule and a lot has to happen in a very short time, which means that all units have to function in an exemplary fashion the whole time. We also have extensive logistical work to do, where we have to make sure that all the spoil is moved to the right places directly so that we don’t have to waste time moving it all again,” says Pär Tingström.

In his view, the best thing about the job is the spirit of enterprise, which means that he and his team really feel they are part of everything that is going on.

“Apart from the fact that this is an exciting job to do, everyone involved in the work has an incredibly positive outlook. We can tell that everyone at ASTA thinks it’s great that we’re here and doing this building work, which makes our jobs even more fun to do.”

Study Visit from VTT

AstaZero has had several study visits since the construction of the facility began. One of the most recent was a delegation from Finnish VTT, who took the opportunity to visit AstaZero when they were in place and greeted SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in Borås.

The representatives from VTT were given a guided tour through-out  the facility, as well as a general briefing on different aspects of the ongoing work.

- We went through the construction and financing of the facility, and they all expressed great enthusiasm and amazement at how big the area is in reality, says AstaZeros CEO Pether Wallin.

Full speed ahead

At the facility, work is currently booming. Extensive blastings are being carried out in order to extract rock from the Hällered mountain, and in each of these blastings, 20 000 cubic metres of rock is being extracted, using 12 tons of explosives in each burst. At the same time, roads are dug out and filled with rubble.

- We are currently working simultaneously at between 25-40 different fronts, and almost all roads are now excavated and united, says AstaZeros building consultant Björn Bjurklint.

At the 5.7 km long Rural Road that encircles the facility, the construction team has already dug out about 4 km and filled it with rubble, and  half the City Area is also excavated.

 

- At several locations on the Multi-Lane Road and the City Area, there were 4-5 metres deep marshes that we had to dig out before we could apply the load. It has taken some time, but the Multilane Road has now been filled with rubble that will be left for a couple of months in order for all subsidence to disappear, Björn Bjurklint explains.

At the High-Speed Area,  PEAB are currently undertaking extensive blasting. This area will also be filled with rubble that will need to remain for six months, but this overload is still a few months ahead.

-Apart from our own work, Vattenfall has now begun the relocation of the power line that currently crosses the facility. This will give us full access to the entire area sometime in April this year, says Björn Bjurklint.