Meet Jude Hickson

“Our customers don’t ever want to go back to digging holes again.”

“Groundscrew is a type of pile foundation that is used in the same quantity and arrangement underneath a typical floor as any other type of pile would be,” says StopDigging New Zealand Managing Director, Jude Hickson. “The difference is in the installation method, which screws in with rotational force only, meaning zero impact on the ground, no displacement, no waste and no mess. It requires only two contractors with a handheld, electric-powered machine. You’d never even know they’d been there.”

StopDigging New Zealand is a perfect fit for the NZ low-rise residential market and other lightweight methodologies, Jude says, and the business is growing into increasingly challenging, consented and commercial projects. “We’re still relatively new to most construction markets, so we’ve had to spread the word about groundscrew design. The main advantages are higher productivity, being much more economical due to our system being so much faster than other comparable options, and significantly less damage to the area. We can easily overcome difficult access requirements such as steeper slopes or a rear section where you can’t bring in machinery. We also do a lot of bridging work where we are able to build over existing underground services in a minimally invasive way.”

Michele Saee Teulo

Groundscrew design is especially good for sensitive environmental or archeological areas, Jude says. “Groundscrew is a perfect solution in the kauri dieback arena where soil movement and dispersal is to be stopped totally. We’re able to construct boardwalks, huts, platforms, stairs and bridges that still allow people to get out and enjoy these areas. And, in an architectural setting, we can navigate excavation and heavy machinery restrictions around protected places like iwi burial sites.” One such recent project is the award-winning Maungawhau Boardwalk project in Mount Eden. “A requirement of the project was that no excavation or machinery could damage the maunga. We were able to meet these criteria and deliver a high-quality solution with no negative environmental impact.”

In order to grow StopDigging and take on more complex projects, Jude has invested heavily in getting 3rd-party accreditation to ensure their products and systems easily comply with all of the relevant building code. “It became apparent very quickly that in both New Zealand and Australia, the processing timescales around consent can be quite onerous. Initially, we worked with structural and geotechnical engineers to write a specification for projects requiring building consent. This was supplied as a background package of information that was then used by the program-specific architect and engineer to submit building consent applications. But because we were offering a new product in the New Zealand market, we still had building processing offices that didn’t understand the details, so we then took this a step further and got a CodeMark certification.”

The voluntary CodeMark scheme provides a robust way to show a building product or method meets or exceeds the requirements of the New Zealand Building Code. “Our CodeMark certification covers both product and method; it enables us to streamline what’s required at a building consent stage to make it easier for councils to process information. It’s essentially unchallengeable product assurance for our clients. The StopDigging branches overseas have quickly followed suit and gotten the equivalent certifications in the UK and the USA as well.”

Michele Saee Teulo

The goal, Jude says, is to provide a turnkey foundation solution. “We’re not trying to get our screws on the shelf at the local DIY store. We work directly with the industry to learn about specific project requirements and what’s needed to meet the requirements of the building code in that area. Then our team of regional partners around New Zealand will go to the site, provide a pile test to verify the load-bearing capacity of the piles on that site, and learn the site-specific parameters.”

While groundscrew design systems are a permanent solution, Jude says they can also be successfully implemented in temporary or transitional structures in ways that other foundation solutions cannot. “We have done a number of foundations for classroom buildings for the Ministry of Education, which is a perfect segment for us. A lot of older school buildings are in need of replacement and renovation; the most cost-effective solution for many of them is to bring in a prefabricated solution. In the event that this is a temporary solution during a rebuild, we can help deliver a new structure within a few weeks and then unscrew the foundation when the building is removed with no real cost to reinstate the ground. The groundscrews can then be used again or recycled.”

Sustainability is a key driver for StopDigging, Jude says, and the business is nearing completion of a formal Environmental Product Declaration. “We have undertaken some carbon emissions studies on our system and it’s quite clear that our carbon footprint is much less than any other type of pile foundation. We know that these figures are becoming increasingly important to architects and designers, and we’ll be ready with supporting documentation when requirements are put in place for carbon calculations to be reported next year. This work also aligns our solutions well with the Passive House movement, where industry professionals are looking for higher-performing, sustainable construction methodologies and products. Using groundscrew design as a companion for those kinds of projects really is a no-brainer.”

Michele Saee Teulo

The goal for 2024 is to continue spreading the word, Jude says, and let the industry know just how easy a groundscrew solution can be. “It’s challenging to introduce new products and systems into an established market, which is exactly why we got the CodeMark certification. With it, we can assure industry professionals that we have an accredited solution they can rely on with no guesswork. The message we want to send is not to be scared of something new. We’re here to offer free advice to anyone who wants it. Specifying our system should only take a five-minute conversation with me.”

To learn more and connect with Jude, visit follow StopDigging on LinkedIn or email


Bex De Prospo
Bex De Prospo