January, 2003 by William Turley
Those not as familiar with current demolition practices probably conceive of demolished buildings as large piles of rubble and debris that will soon head to a landfill.
Not that many years ago, this simplified summary may have been true more often than not. But contractors continue to expand the range of recyclable materials they harvest from demolition sites and continue to work with subcontractors and equipment manufacturers to develop more efficient and thorough on-site recycling techniques.
Two recent projects on opposite coasts of the U.S. demonstrate how demolition contractors, scrap processors and other vendors and suppliers work together to profitably recycle metals, concrete, wood and other materials at demolition sites.
Thus, the rubble piles observed by passing onlookers are not buried and forgotten, but rather continue their useful lives after being processed.
TUESDAY’S GONE. It was the last Tuesday the old Tuesday Club building in downtown Sacramento, Calif., was going to see. The four-story building, which had served for years as a place for state legislators, staff and lobbyists to meet after work, had to be demolished to make way for the expansion of the Sutter Medical Center across the street.
The structure’s 11,000-square-foot footprint was being replaced by a new medical office building, part of Sutter’s $385 million, contiguous campus expansion plan.
The Tuesday Club, part of the 147-year-old Ebner hotel building, had four stories of wood stick construction and contained a 30-tbot-high first floor that housed a theater/meeting room with a raised stage, wood floor and balcony seating.
A basement lounge had a tunnel connecting it with a separate street entrance, “like something you would see in a movie about the Chicago Mob,” says Rodd Palin, president, Two Rivers Demolition, Sacramento.
Two Rivers won the demolition bid for $70,850. Of course, with a building that old, asbestos abatement was needed. Allied Environmental removed all the plaster from the interior walls.
“After the asbestos abatement was completed, what remained was primarily wood, except for the built-up roofing and some concrete,” says Palin. “We decided to remove the roofing by hand, then grind as much of the building as possible.”
Things are never that easy, of course. Just a few feet from the Tuesday Club was an historic Catholic church with stained glass windows imported from Rome and insured for $5 million. “We were charged with the responsibility of providing protection for these windows and assurances to the church personnel to satisfy them that all necessary precautions were being taken to prevent any damage to the windows,” says Palin. Two Rivers installed scaffolding with wood attached as a barrier along the entire church wall, and screwed plywood to the outside window frames to protect the precious glass.
RECOVERING RESOURCES. The next problem was what to do with the project’s waste. Two Rivers does not own a landfill and wanted to avoid that option as much as possible.
The original bid estimate provided for 52 high-side, end-dump loads of building debris to be sent to Sacramento County’s Kiefer Road landfill. But Wheelabrator Industries’ cogeneration plant in Martell, Calif., committed to taking in ground wood chips for $8 per bone-dry ton FOB.
The chips, sized to 3 inches, were processed by a Peterson Pacific 3400 horizontal wood grinder. “After grinding and selling the wood, we sent only five loads to the landfill,” says Palin.
The 314 tons of wood sent to Wheelabrator had a relatively high level of moisture content, 21.39 percent, probably in light of dust control measures. Two Rivers only received credit for 247 bone-dry tons.
But according to Wheelabrator, each bone-dry ton of material burned generates approximately one megawatt-hour of electricity. One megawatt-hour of electricity is enough energy to power the average 2850-square-foot home for one month.
A variety of equipment preformed the demolition work, including a Caterpillar 330 Excavator with thumb and bucket; Case 9050 excavator with grapple; Hyundai 320-lc-3 excavator with thumb; Case 85XT skid steer; and a Caterpillar 973 track loader with Peterson demolition bucket.
Other materials recovered at the site included 84 tons of metals sent to a Schnitzer Steel Products facility in Rancho Cordova, Calif., and more than 1,000 tons of concrete and masonry that were crushed on site by a Pegson 428 track-mounted impact crusher and used as backfill material.
Palin also reports that Two Rivers benefited from a harvest of century-old red bricks. “On this job, we cleaned and palletized 37,500 bricks and sold them to the City of Sacramento for 92 cents each,” he remarks.
“The diversion of 314 gross tons of soft debris and 84 tons of metal saved us $15,468 in tracking and landfill disposal fees,” says Palin. That was 22 percent of the entire contract amount.
The financial success, combined with public relations value of the recycling, convinced Sutter Medical to award a $80,437 demolition contract to Two Rivers for the three-story medical Arts Building a block away.
EAST COAST STORY. Steel is king at the ISP Environmental Services chemical plant demolition in Linden, N.J., not far from the Newark airport. More than 5,000 tons of metal, most of it ferrous, has been reclaimed at the 144-acre site in the heart of the famous “tank farms of Linden.”
The heavily industrial site is being cleared as part of a “brownfields” project near Grasselli Point. ISP itself is directing the remediation, clean up, demolition mad related activities at its site.
As Dave McNichol, program manager, waste and remediation, for ISP explains it, the company has the knowledge to handle the job. “We know what was made there and what it was used for, and what will and will not be encountered.”
ISP worked with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for years to develop a remedial action work plan for the site. A steel barrier, averaging about 18- to 20-feet deep, will be placed in the ground entirely around the site to control shallow ground water.
Deeper wells will be pumped to harness water farther in the ground, with fill material capping the site before building begins. “The goal is complete groundwater control integrated with brownfields development,” McNichol says.
Cleveland Wrecking of Covina, Calif., is the demolition contractor for the job. While Cleveland has one excavator and manager on site, because of other commitments and a shortage of equipment in the area, subcontractor J&L Management of Macomb, Mich., will demolish and process material from the site.
Twenty-two buildings are on the level site next to a waterway and on top of filled-in marshland. These are mostly steel and brick structures that run as high as 75-feet tall, built on 30-foot pilings. Controlled Demolition Inc. (CDI), Phoenix, Md., imploded three buildings and a water tower in February.
“The steel on these buildings is so thick and heavy that there was no possible way to get a shear up there and take it down safely,” says Eric Saunders, principal, J&L Management. “That is why we had to implode them.”
Both the ferrous and nonferrous metals being recovered are the property of J&L, which must process it before sending it off to a scrap dealer. Philip Kennedy, principal, J&L, says the plate and structural steel spec for the metal is 5 feet or less. “It’s a mill grade, rather than foundry grade,” he says. He adds that J&L is trying to process the metal as far as possible because it is worth more, but time constraints are limiting.
SOLVING PROBLEMS. J&L’s headquarters are a long way from the large petroleum and chemical tanks of Linden, N.J., making personnel issues a concern. J&L has brought four of its own operators to run the demolition excavators and has hired three local operators to fill out the crew. The four company operators operate the more difficult equipment, while the others perform material handling chores.
Besides processing the large amount of metal at the site, J&L is pulverizing the concrete and passing over it with the magnet to remove the metal. The concrete is staying on site to help raise the entire grade by 6 inches. Cleveland Wrecking is sending most of the other building debris to a New Jersey landfill.
The demolition job is scheduled for completion by April 1, 2004.
The author is associate publisher of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine and executive director of the Construction Materials Recycling Association. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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