Video – Martin Tower implosion….

CDI carries out implosion of former steel company HQ.

Martin Tower, the former headquarters of Bethlehem Steel, has been imploded in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Bethlehem Steel was once America’s second-largest steelmaker, providing ships and armaments to the US military during World War II and helping to build the Empire State Building and Golden Gate Bridge.

The company went out of business in 2001, and its former headquarters had stood vacant since then.

Video – Dehaco at Bauma 2019…

Dutch attachment and dust suppression specialist on parade.

There was just so much to see at Bauma 2019 that we are STILL working our way through the resulting video edits.

The latest to roll out of our video department is a look around the stand of Dutch dust suppression and attachment specialist Dehaco, which is represented in the UK by LDH Attachments.

Check it out:

Video – Blasted in Bedzin…

Controlled implosion fells Polish cooling tower.

A cooling tower measuring 90 metres in height has been demolished at the Lagisza Power Station in Bedzin, Poland.

Comment – Collusion probe creeps closer…

Competition & Markets Authority net closing across construction sector.

I can tell you precisely where I was when I received a tip-off that a number of UK demolition firms had allegedly been raided by anti-collusion investigators. I was at the Messe Munchen exhibition centre in Munich during the Bauma 2019 show, on my way to a press conference hosted by Caterpillar when an industry friend called me to tell me about the rumour he’d heard. The Caterpillar press conference lasted just under an hour. By the time it was over, my phone was buzzing with a number of messages, all supporting that initial rumour, some of them naming the companies supposedly involved. Some suggested that laptops and mobile phones had been seized. Some suggested that the investigation hinged upon a “whistle-blower”, possibly allied to the housebuilding sector.

At the time of writing, I have been unable to confirm the true veracity of that rumour, even though I have since heard it dozens more times. Unfortunately, a company that finds itself under the Competition & Markets Authority microscope is not likely to issue a press release celebrating this accomplishment. Although the tabloid press continually attempts to prove otherwise, “no smoke without fire” is not sufficient journalistic proof of any wrongdoing. And I am not in the business of naming names without all the facts at my disposal.

But what does lend credence to this particular rumour is the ongoing activities of the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) within other parts of the UK construction industry.

Back in March of this year, news portal The Construction Index reported that the CMA was investigating suspected anti-competitive arrangements in the supply of construction services in Great Britain which may infringe Chapter 1 of the Competition Act 1998, it said.

“This case is at an early stage and no assumption should be made that the CA98 has been infringed,” it stressed at the time. “The CMA has not reached a view as to whether there is sufficient evidence of an infringement of competition law for it to issue a statement of objections to any of the parties under investigation.”

At the time, the CMA claimed that it was expecting to present its findings by September. However, that investigation now appears to have gathered pace.

At the beginning of March, five office fit-out contractors agreed to pay fines totalling £7 million after admitting colluding in cover pricing. The five companies are Fourfront, Loop, Coriolis, ThirdWay and Oakley, which are all based in London and the Home Counties.

The companies admitted to breaking competition law at least once during the period of 2006 – 2017, in some cases on multiple occasions, following an investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA).

The whistle was blown by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), which acquired fit-out firms Bluu Solutions Limited and Bluuco Limited in 2015 and discovered what had been going on. JLL was let off a fine under the CMA’s leniency programme.

Today, Construction Index reported that Robb Simms-Davies, a former director of Bluu Solutions Ltd, Bluuco Ltd and Tetris Projects Ltd, has been disqualified as a director for five years. Trevor Hall, a former director of Cube Interior Solutions Ltd, has been disqualified for two years six months, and Oliver James Hammond, a former director of Area Sq. Ltd, has been disqualified for two years.

At the beginning of April, Building magazine reported that the CMA was investigating three major suppliers to the construction industry after provisionally finding that they had “formed a cartel to reduce competition and keep prices up”.

The three firms are Wigan-based MGF (Trench Construction Systems) Ltd (MGF), North Yorkshire-headquartered VP plc and West Yorkshire-based Mabey Hire Ltd (Mabey).
Of course, the rumour that this investigation has now extended to the demolition sector might yet prove to be just that: a rumour. And even if it is more than a rumour, there is currently no evidence that the allegations carry any weight whatsoever.

But with fines running into the millions and the potential disqualification of directors considered a suitable punishment, a successful investigation and prosecution could change the very fabric of the UK demolition industry.

I sincerely hope that this is one of those rare instances of smoke without fire.

Breaking News – Industry under investigation…

Anti-collusion investigation sets its sights on demolition.

DemolitionNews understands that the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) is currently probing as many as seven UK demolition companies as part of its ongoing investigation into suspected anti-competitive arrangements in the supply of construction services that may infringe Chapter 1 of the Competition Act 1998.

The companies in question are thought to be primarily located in London and the Midlands, although the names of the firms involved has not yet been released publicly. DemolitionNews further understands that these companies have been raided and that laptop computers and mobile phones have been seized by investigators, pending further scrutiny. Although unconfirmed, rumours suggest that the investigation was triggered by the actions of a whistle-blower who claims to have evidence of industry collusion.

These investigations follow several similar probes into other sectors of the construction industry including fit-out and groundworks. Several of these investigations have already resulted in hefty fines and the disqualification of senior company directors.

More details as we get them.

Darsey blasts apprenticeship apathy…

NDTG chairman disappointed with industry engagement on Trailblazer scheme.

Newly-elected National Demolition Training Group chairman David Darsey has expressed his disappointment and frustration with the lack of commitment shown by his fellow UK demolition contractors as the pilot Trailblazer apprenticeship course is about to take place.

Government-back and Ofsted-regulated, the scheme was developed by a cohort comprising ten UK demolition contractors backed by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the National Demolition Training Group. Yet, in the midst of an ongoing and deepening skills shortage across the sector, only three of that original 10 – Keltbray, McGee and Darsey’s company Erith – have subsequently agreed to take part in the pilot scheme.

“The Trailblazer scheme is potentially the greatest contribution to demolition since the wearing of hard hats was made compulsory. Virtually every demolition contractor in the UK is finding it increasingly difficult to attract skilled staff,” he says. “We have here a scheme that will produce an ongoing stream of skilled demolition workers; a scheme that is grant-funded. It should be a no-brainer. And yet, of the 500+ demolition contractors currently active in the UK, only three have stepped up and put forward candidates to participate in this pilot scheme. I find that deeply disappointing.”

Darsey asserts that the scheme is backed by around £17,000 of grant funding and provides delegates with around 90 days’ on-the-job training over a two-year period. “Candidates that successfully complete the Trailblazer scheme will be fully-rounded demolition workers qualified as trained operatives. They will get the CPCS slinger/signaller card, they will be able to operate remotely-controlled demolition plant, be able to traffic marshal, and erect towers to PASMA standards,” he explains. “They will have the potential to go on to become managers and senior managers. But for this scheme to succeed, demolition contractors need to put forward potential candidates. Erith, Keltbray and McGee have continually demonstrated their commitment to delivering a scheme that will benefit the entire industry. We now need our fellow contractors to come on board.”

Big bang beer…

US brewery creates beer to celebrate imminent implosion.

At site level, beer and demolition don’t mix (although what demolition men and women do out of hours is their own business). But that hasn’t stopped a US brewery using an imminent implosion to ensure that its new beer really goes with a bang.

Later this week, Controlled Demolition Inc (CDI) will carry out the explosive demolition of Martin Tower in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. And locally-based Bethlehem Brew Works has released a special beer for the occasion.

According to the company, “this is a one off special beer for a really unique event. Pale malt is combined with Munich malts and an implosive amounts of fruity hops: Huell Melon, Chinook, Mandarina Bavaria, Nugget, and Calypso.” I personally have no idea what any of that means but I am sure it will prove popular with throat-bearded hipsters and craft beer enthusiasts alike.

What is likely to broaden its appeal, however, is the ingredient that gives the implosion pale ale its necessary bang. The beer is fermented with watermelon-flavoured Jolly Rancher candy and decorated with “Watermelon Pop Rocks”.

As the company says: “Like the tower coming down… this is a seriously intense experience. Enjoy the crisp sip of freshly tapped beer with the extra sensation of POPPING CANDY. This only happens once, don’t miss it!”

Comment – Sleepwalking towards disaster…

Why I believe the UK demolition industry could be heading for a fall.

I am worried. Now anyone that knows me will tell you this is perfectly normal. Worried is my default state. I worry about everything. But in this instance, I am not worried about me, my family, my friends or even my football team. I am worried about the UK demolition industry.

Now before I tell you precisely why I am worried, I have a confession to make. It is an admission that does not show me in a particularly positive light. And it probably tells you more about the nature of news journalism than is, perhaps, appropriate. But what I am about to tell you does reveal the source of my concern, fear and trepidation.

For as long as I can remember, I have kept what I refer to as a watch list of UK demolition companies that, for one reason or another, I believe to be in financial trouble.

On a very few occasions, I have added companies to that watch list based upon my own research. But generally, the companies on that list tend to have arrived there because someone else has expressed a concern about their financial wellbeing.

Now I realise that – like any industry – the demolition arena is not above the invention of scandal. I realise that some within the industry enjoy a spot of mischief-making, rumour-mongering and Fake News, often at the expense of their nearest local rival. And I also realise that such actions can be fuelled by a myriad of factors ranging from the failure to win a contract and the poaching of staff right through to a simple personality clash.

But, even allowing for all this, my watch list today is at its longest for a decade. In fact, the last time my watch list was this long was when the full extent of the last recession had started to become clear. And that is just one of the reasons I am concerned.

For more than 10 years now, I have worked with the Builders’ Conference, a trade association and market intelligence provider that charts the highs and lows of the UK construction sector. If you have ever heard an episode of our Business Briefing podcast, then you will be familiar with the accuracy of their data.

Since I started working with the Builders’ Conference, I have seen average monthly contract awards totals fall from around £3 billion per month to barely topping the £1 billion per month mark at the height of the recession. I have then seen that figure grow and grow. I saw it hit and then remain at £4 billion per month for 11 months of 2018. And I have seen it top the £6 billion mark three or four times in 2019, despite the ongoing and seemingly never-ending Brexit saga.

Driven by housing and landmark projects such as HS2, the UK construction industry is doing really rather nicely.

However, it seems to be a different story here in demolition, even though the fortunes of the former almost entirely dictate the fortunes of the latter. When construction sneezes, demolition catches cold. Yet when the UK construction industry is enjoying a period of almost unprecedented stability and good health, a good many UK demolition companies are scratching around for work and some are looking rather sickly. But why?

Part of the issue might simply be one of timing. According to Neil Edwards at the Builders’ Conference, the average time between contract award and the first spade in the soil is generally around 22 weeks.

Since demolition is often the first responder on a project, that means that demolition firms are currently starting work on projects that were awarded in November and December last year. And let’s not forget that December was comparatively quiet compared to the rest of 2018.

But that is only a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. And a shift of a week or two – while inconvenient – is not going to jeopardise the financial stability of an established demolition firm.

And we also can’t lay the blame for the current situation at the door of Brexit. Yes, it has been a protracted and frustrating saga, one that has revealed more about the political classes than they would have liked; one that will be taught in schools in decades to come as the very pinnacle of mismanagement.

But against a backdrop of government intransigence and economic uncertainty, construction has continued to grow. Indeed, in the month that Brexit should have become official, the monthly total for contract wards easily surpassed the £6 billion mark to make it one of the best months on record.
Maybe the make-up of the work is an influence.

During April 2019, the housing sector accounted for roughly half of all the £6 billion of new construction contract awards recorded on the BCLive league table. So, unless your demolition firm has close ties to the housing market, then immediately you’re out of luck.

Furthermore, while upsurges in housing demand normally fuel a similar upswing in the demand for new roads, rail links, airports, bridges and utilities, spend on infrastructure is currently not keeping pace.

That is compounded by a slip in the education sector. April normally marks an annual loosening of the government purse strings for the construction of new schools and for the refurbishment and upgrading of existing ones. So far, that has failed to materialise this year.

And then, of course, there is the perennial demolition problem of companies over-extending themselves while times are good while making no provision for when times turn bad.

All too often, demolition firms find themselves with expensive equipment that spends more time in the yard than it does on site. They find themselves with more staff than they have work for them to do. And, sadly, rather too many have enjoyed the trappings of short term success that can turn quickly into a long term debt.

The cost of staff, fuel, insurance and a multitude of other business critical costs have continued to rise while the amount that a client is willing to pay for a demolition contract has remained largely unaltered.

Yet for all of this, it appears that no-one is talking about it. Well, at least they’re not talking to each other about it. Instead, they’re talking to me. They’re telling me that larger companies are being forced to take on smaller works that a year ago would have been considered beneath them. They’re telling me that they’re having to work further afield to keep men and machines moving. They’re telling me that even some of the best known and most respected contractors are now finding themselves between jobs.

I can understand the fact that no-one wants to be the first to hold up their hands and declare that they’re struggling. I know that such an admission would be perceived as a sign of potential weakness that might be exploited by a rival.

But unless the industry overcomes such concerns and actually comes clean about the true state of the UK demolition sector today, I fear that many are sleepwalking towards a disaster.

Now you know why I am worried.

Video – Despe scores at Atalanta…

Italian demolition giant carries out partial stadium demolition.

Award-winning demolition contractor Despe has carried out the partial demolition of the Stadio di Bergamo, home of Series A team, Atalanta.

And the action is captured in this new time-lapse film.

Video – Hotel demolition raises concerns…

Overnight internal collapse leads to road closures.

Construction at the Marshall Hotel lead officials to close roads in downtown Sacramento Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.

Tuesday evening debris and floors inside the building started collapsing on their own, throwing debris and dust onto the street. Pedestrians walking in the area were concerned the entire building would collapse and made the emergency calls.

The Sacramento Fire Department along with Sacramento Police decided to close the roads until building inspectors could ensure the old hotel and a steel exoskeleton designed to support exterior walls were safe. The deolition is being carried out by Two Rivers Demolition: