Comment – Is the US blasting sector imploding…?

Does a double-switch in demolition methods point to a wider problem?

In an industry as large – geographically, financially and influentially – as the US explosive demolition sector, two examples certainly do not constitute a trend. But when those two examples come in such rapid succession, it should give those involved pause for thought.

In the past two days, Demolition News has reported on two structures that were scheduled to be felled using explosive methods being switched to more conventional, mechanical means at the eleventh hour.

Those two examples – The Howard Johnson Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, and the Hooven & Allison stack in the City of Xenia – were unrelated and were scheduled to be blasted by separate explosive crews. The Hooven & Allison stack switch is one of timing, according to local news reports; while the last minute change at the Howard Johnson Hotel has yet to be fully explained.

Of course, it is possible that this is nothing more than a blip; a quirk of coincidence; an anomaly. But there is also the possibility that these two contracts speak to an underlying concern about the use of explosive demolition means.

The US blasting sector is the biggest in the world, and it would be difficult to argue against its claims of being the best and most advanced. However, in the past few years, it has seen two high profile projects go awry in a costly fashion: the first at Ohio Edison Mad River Power Plant; the second at Bakersfield.

Such high profile errors will unquestionably play upon the minds of clients seeking to protect their images. More importantly, such failures will have caused consternation in insurance circles. And consternation in the field of insurance has but two outcomes: an escalation in premiums; or an outright refusal to insure.

Is it possible that the US insurance sector has upgraded the risk factor associated with explosive demolition, rendering some contracts prohibitively expensive, and others totally impossible?

Two isolated examples DO NOT constitute a trend. But, in journalistic circles, there is no such thing as a coincidence either.