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Rainbow demolition…

Facade removal reveals spectrum of interior colours.

In the 70s, towers were seen as the ideal solution for low-cost social housing. In the following decades, however, many of these towers became occupied by single people and the elderly rather than the young, low income families they were initially designed for. Today, though there may be many potential solutions, the most drastic solution is often pursued: knock them down and start again.

A great example is the Rabot towers in Ghent, Belgium. In the past, these three towers accommodated about 840 residents, but the quality and safety standards in the towers are no longer suitable for living. For example, one of the buildings has only one entrance hall and lift for 190 apartments over 17 floors.

Since a total renovation and refurbishment of the towers would have been too costly, in 2009 the city and a social housing company decided to demolish the three towers and replace them with 400 new apartments in a low-density masterplan.

The demolition of the first tower is now in progress. With the removal of the facade panels we get to see behind the building’s public face, revealing the many living room interiors, where the bright walls are framed by the tight rhythm of the window frames, almost like an abstract artwork.

Read more, and see more stunning images from photographer Pieter Lozie here.

Jobs – TDS casts recruitment net…

Multiple positions vacant as Technical Demolition Services gears up.

Things must be looking up for Merseyside-based Technical Demolition Services. The company has just posted six (count them SIX) new positions vacant ads on our sister website,

Top of the heap is a Senior Estimator/Bid Manager but other jobs include:

Demolition Manager
Machine Operatives
Asbestos Strippers
General Operatives

The company reports that these positions will help drive a number of new national and international contracts.

Click the job-specific links above or visit to find out more.

Comment – How the press really works…

The unbiased press with the anti-demolition agenda.

For the past few days, the news streams and social media feeds have been filled with opinions on the decision to make the explosive demolition of five of the remaining six Red Road blocks a part of the Commonwealth Games opening.

That decision was always likely to be divisive. For all their notoriety, these blocks have been homes to thousands of families over the years; and to include their destruction in the opening to a sporting event is either a stroke of publicity genius or an inappropriate spectacle, depending upon your viewpoint.

Personally, I am firmly in the former camp. Demolition is the first step on the road to progress and renewal; and as the London 2012 Olympics proved so admirably, a major sporting event is a superb focal point for renewal and legacy creation.

This was the point I made – strongly – to a reporter from the Herald Scotland newspaper. I also explained that the demolition was a great opportunity to showcase the capabilities of one of the world’s best exponents of explosive demolition techniques. And while I wouldn’t necessarily put William Sinclair in the same category as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, no-one had an issue with the London 2012 opening ceremony being built around an engineer who changed the landscape.

Sadly, this is not what the newspapers want to hear. In amongst the cross-party political back-biting, Angry of Glasgow venting, and the sour grapes whining of a (presumably competitive) “shocked and angry” (presumably cowardly, given their desire for anonymity) demolition consultant, my positive take on the plan was pushed to the very foot of the article where it would remain unseen by all but the eagle-eyed.

As a West Ham fan, I am quite used to demotion and relegation. But today I received a call from the features editor of the Scottish Daily Mail – who had apparently misread the Herald Scotland article, and who thought I was the shocked and angry demolition consultant – asking me to write an article explaining my position. However, when I told her that (a) she had misread the piece and that (b) I was all for the inclusion of the blast in the opening ceremony, the request for an article was quickly rescinded.

It appears that – in this instance – the unbiased press is anything but.

DfD debate rages on…

Maylarch becomes latest to put weight behind Design for Deconstruction.

UK demolition contractor Maylarch has become the latest company to tie its colours to the Design for Deconstruction mast, posting an open letter to Foster & Partners design director Gerard Evenden in response to Evenden’s recent talk at the EcoBuild conference.

Maylarch managing director Nick Williamson take the opportunity to remind Evenden of the huge strides that the UK demolition industry has made in the reuse and recycling of materials and calls upon the construction industry to factor in reuse and recycling when designing a new building.

The letter makes for fascinating reading and is a perfect follow-up to our own Design for Deconstruction supplement.

Dear Gerard,

I read with interest, and agreed with some of your comments about lazy thinking from lots of building contractors around sustainability, as reported in BD Online, amongst others, although I would also add lots of clients, building product designers and architects to this list for the wider construction industry.

We in the (Saintly) Demolition industry have to deal with the consequences of this lazy thinking on a daily basis!

In everyone’s defence, I think it is partly due to construction procurement practices, there are very often issues around imagination, budgets, lead in time, availability, program, cost etc… which mean project teams don’t or can’t consider the alternatives but, this is another subject, albeit linked.

Further to your point, and of particular interest to myself is the whole life of buildings and especially the end of life or the Demolition/Enabling phase which then produces large quantities of materials for reuse and recycling within the project or construction industry and beyond.

My question is – When will reuse or recycling of the building materials in modern buildings be designed in?

Currently in the UK, whenever measured, recycling and reuse from demolition is between 95-98% and, for example, is recognised as key to achieving BREEAM excellent at a 98% rate, on projects which want to qualify as such.

This is now, working on building stock generally 40 plus years old and containing building materials typically used at the time, none of which were designed to be demolished easily.

The UK Demolition Industry has achieved this level of reuse and recycling through constant innovation by contractors and equipment manufacturers and a mixture of drivers like maintaining margins, environmental legislation, client/designers/contractors requirements….

Moving forward in time….there is some anecdotal debate and a little concern, which takes into consideration the continuous rate of innovation within the UK demolition industry, about maintaining these high levels of reuse and recycling, when we are asked to demolish current buildings, in the future.

The majority of which still, do not have reuse or recycling of the building materials, designed in!

The concern comes from the way modern building products and buildings are put together and the materials therein, Eg layers of composite panels, insulation, plastics and wooden frames, and how demolition contractors will be able to separate these materials for recycling or reuse?

If the value of these products outstrips the costs of time and labour to segregate these materials in future demolition projects, a way may be found but, as this looks very unlikely, the best outcome might be lots of materials in future buildings will be shredded and incinerated for energy recovery or land filled.

To avoid this unsustainable cul-de-sac I would suggest that not only should recycled material be used in projects and building products but also, designers and engineers and those who specify products be encouraged to come up with modular building products and techniques which meet modern requirements and, in the future, that can be reclaimed and reused in similarly simple way, for example, to how a brick laid on lime mortar 150 years ago, is reclaimed and reused today.

Nick Williamson

Atlas Copco and the dambusters…

Atlas Copco breakers go beneath the surface to demolish dams on the Cuyahoga River in Ohio

Atlas Copco Ohio dam HB 3100The final stages of returning the once-polluted Cuyahoga River in Ohio to its pre-industrial splendor included the removal of the Sheraton Mill Dam and the LeFever Dam that once provided hydroelectric power for thriving local industries. RiverReach Construction, specialists in environmental stream and wetland restoration projects, peformed the demolition task quickly and efficiently using Atlas Copco hydraulic breakers equipped with underwater kits.

For breakers, RiverReach Construction, Norton, Ohio, consulted Columbus Equipment Company, an authorized Atlas Copco distributor. The company equipped RiverReach with a heavy duty Atlas Copco HB 3100 and a much more compact Atlas Copco SB 552. An Atlas Copco XAS 185 compressor supplied a flow of compressed air to prevent water entering the percussion mechanisms of the breakers.

Demolition of the dams was directed by Greg Guello, a manager at RiverReach. The first was the 12 meter (40ft.) long, 3 meter (10ft.) high Sheraton Mill dam. It had to be approached from upstream and Guello’s solution was to set a mini-excavator, with the SB 552 breaker attached, on a modular barge and float it into place just behind the dam.

Operator Shannon Swaino began by using the SB 552 to open up “windows” and let the water flow downstream. The water level behind the dam then gradually sank. Next, Swaino entered the river with a 36-ton excavator and the powerful HB 3100. The dam came down in a day. “It was almost too easy with that big breaker,” said Swaino.

Next to be tackled was LeFever Dam – 27.4 meters (90ft.) across and nearly 4 meters (13ft.) high, with a significantly larger volume of water behind it. RiverReach was able to construct an access to the river at the start and Swaino could approach it from the downstream side, so no barge was needed and the job was completed quickly.

The removal of the dams exposed the Cuyahoga River’s white-water rapids and waterfalls, which have been hidden from the local residents for a hundred years, and received huge media coverage.

Once the demolition phase was complete, RiverReach cleaned up debris that had gathered over the years, as well as remnants of concrete and rebar. They then created protective concrete support walls for the old powerhouses, which will guard the valued historic structures from fluctuations in river flow and the debris that crashes by during high water events.

Comment – Cycle of death…

Another London cyclist death. But are we looking in the wrong place for the solution.

Somewhere, as we speak, a man is currently enduring the emotional purgatory of knowing that he was driving a Squibb Group truck that killed yet another London cyclist. And, unfortunately, the media has already categorised him as guilty.

With the notable exceptions of the Americans, Chinese and Jeremy Clarkson, the world now views anything powered by a fossil fuel as inherently evil while cyclists are seen as the Lycra-clad saviours of the planet.

The truth, however, is far less cut and dried. For one thing, a truck driver is generally the only part of the equation that has been appropriately trained and is, therefore, qualified to control his vehicle of choice. You are legally required to take a test before being allowed behind the wheel of a heavy goods vehicle of any kind. Meanwhile, anyone with a few hundred pounds to spare can buy a bike and launch themselves onto a busy road, protected by little more than a soap-dish crash helmet, the vigilance of fellow road users, and divine intervention.

Like oil and water, large, heavy trucks and small, unprotected humans do not mix. No demolition contractor would consider allowing cyclists to roam across one of their sites. And yet local authorities, clients and even the bicycle-loving Mayor of London happily invite heavy trucks onto narrow and congested streets filled with darting cyclists.

Of course, separating trucks and cyclists would be difficult; road closures virtually impossible. And yet…

I live in Epsom, home of the Derby. Once a year, the entire town centre is re-routed in the immediate aftermath of the race to allow The Queen and her convoy of flunkies to drive the wrong way down a series of one-way streets to ensure that Her Maj is home in time to feed the corgis and to catch the Eastenders Omnibus.

The incident involving the Squibb Group truck will, of course, spark an investigation. While the authorities are deciding who was genuinely at fault, let us hope that they look beyond the tragic incident itself and consider what can genuinely be done to avoid a repeat.

Video – Beaming with pride…

Shear cuts massive concrete beam during New Zealand demolition.

Quite why a high reach excavator is working 10 feet above the ground is anyone’s guess. But there is no questioning the power of the attachment as it munches through concrete and steel to drop a massive beam section.

Comment – Glasgow Games are ideal industry showcase…

Contrary to online controversy, Safedem’s bold blast is progress in action.

The decision of the Commonwealth Games organisers and Glasgow Housing Association to make a simultaneous five tower block implosion a part of the Glasgow Games’ opening ceremony is unquestionably a bold decision. Carrying out any kind of explosive demolition brings with it a certain degree of pressure; but doing it in front of a global TV audience expected to be around the one billion mark is truly unprecedented.

Of course, this being Britain, this announcement has been seized upon in some quarters as some kind of negative. One individual on Twitter said that “the legacy of the Commonwealth Games will be all the athletes going home with asbestosis from the demolition of Red Road flats.”

However, such comments are merely the knee-jerk reaction of the ignorant and the ill-informed.

For one thing, the demolition contractor behind the unprecedented blast is Safedem and the company has been on site for well over a year now removing asbestos and just about anything else that might be considered harmful in any way.

Furthermore, this is not just some random event cooked up for the TV cameras; it is merely a continuation of an ongoing programme of demolition that has already seen two blocks brought down safely. According to Safedem’s William Sinclair: “The fact is it is business as usual for Safedem. Our job is to bring these buildings down safely and successfully. To achieve this we will be implementing our tried and tested planning and coordination procedures that have been applied with great success on two previous Red Road blow downs.”

Perhaps the most objectionable comment opposing the blast, however, was this post on Twitter: “Demolition of public housing as imperial sports spectacle – truly the worst idea in the modern history of Scotland.”

Now for one thing, the demolition was going to take place anyway, regardless of the Commonwealth Games. And, frankly, having been to Red Road several times, I find it remarkable that anyone could suggest the preservation of these formerly asbestos-ridden, cramped and crime-ridden blocks. Surely whatever replaces these blocks will be a step forward for the local community?

Of course, I take a very narrow view. My primary interest is in demolition and so I see this announcement as an ideal opportunity to showcase just what modern demolition is all about: precision planning; exemplary safety; professionalism in action; and a job well done.

And in William Sinclair, the TV cameras will have an erudite, experienced and media savvy demolition man of the modern age.

Success will always bring its detractors, particularly here in the UK. But when those blocks fall on 23 July 2014, it is likely to be a spectacle every bit as memorable as the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron.

Flats to fall in Commonwealth Games opening…

Safedem to take centre stage in Scottish sporting showcase.

Five of Glasgow’s remaining six Red Road flats will be brought down in just 15 seconds in the biggest demolition of its kind ever seen in Europe.

The event will be shown live on a 100 metre wide screen at the Celtic Park ceremony and to a huge, global TV audience.

The 30-storey structures were built in the mid 1960s. The original eight tower blocks housed about 4,000 people and were once the highest flats in Europe.

They are being demolished as part of a Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) regeneration project.

The first tower block was brought down in June 2012. The second demolition took place in May last year.

The five tower blocks will be brought down simultaneously during the opening ceremony on 23 July.

Read more here.

Video – There’s one born every minute…

Soft strip, the hard way.

There was a time when – so long as the site supervisor was absent or looking the way – site pranks and japes went largely unnoticed and unreported.

But in an age when everyone with a mobile phone also has a camera, secrecy and anonymity have fallen by the wayside. And now, even the most stupid of stunts is captured for posterity and posted for all to see.

And here is the latest in a long (and seemingly endless) line of such films, this one featuring a man who has decided to fast-track partition wall removal using hi,self as a battering ram.

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