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Compact Equipment Gets Contractor Out of Tight Spot

Mon January 30, 2006 - Midwest Edition
Ryan Johnson



For anyone traveling through Des Moines, IA, these days, the sight of cranes, dozers and loaders, to name a few, is not uncommon.

Since 2001 there has been an explosion of construction activity, both road construction, and new building construction and renovation downtown.

A great example of a major exterior renovation project is the Des Moines Federal Building, which for the past three years has been undergoing restoration.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Heartland Division is in charge of coordinating these efforts.

The nearly 30-year-old Federal Building consists of 390,000 sq. ft. (36,232 sq m), serves as the offices for 40 Federal agencies, and is occupied by 800 employees. GSA has completed the coordination of exterior work to the building and now is working to beautify the grounds surrounding the facility.

Beginning in mid-May, Brown’s Dirt Work was hired as a subcontractor to demolish some of the existing concrete around the building and prepare the soil for new sod and foliage.

According to owner Matt Brown, the $100,000 landscaping project included installing new pavers around the existing walkway outside the building, removing the old sod and replacing it with new dirt and grass, plus the addition of some shrubs.

The result would be an attractive design surrounding all four sides of the newly renovated building, with its attractive glass windows from the second to tenth floor.

What is particularly interesting about this project is the equipment selected to complete the job.

You might think that the contractor would simply bring a backhoe loader to the site with its bucket and backhoe attachments.

The problem with that and other machines like it is its size.

“There was not enough room to bring my backhoe on this site,” Brown says.

Brown owns much larger equipment that he uses for some of his other endeavors, including plumbing projects.

Instead Brown relied on his small fleet of compact equipment — a Bobcat 341 excavator, T300 compact track loader and S250 skid-steer loader — to perform the demolition applications and grading. His crew also used a utility vehicle to transport the supplies and tools necessary to install the pavers.

Brown began the project on May 16, 2005, and it was scheduled to be completed by June 3, 2005, a period of just three weeks during a traditionally wet part of the Iowa spring.

Some wet weather moved into Des Moines during the first week of work and caused minor delays.

But Brown says his Bobcat T300 compact track loader enabled the crew to work one morning while it started to rain. The T300’s rubber-track undercarriage continued to work in the mud until the downpour simply became too much.

After a day of drenching rains, Brown and his crew returned to the project to continue removing the old concrete that surrounded the building, as well as grading the soil where new sod would be placed.

Working in tandem, the compact excavator with a grapple bucket lifted the broken pieces of concrete and placed them in the bucket of the loader.

The machines were able to accomplish this task quicker than a single machine, such as a backhoe loader.

The compact equipment Brown used suited the project well.

Because of a lack of space surrounding the building, Brown and his crew kept their small inventory of machines and supplies directly behind the structure.

With the narrow frame of the loaders and excavator, Brown was able to drive his equipment around either side of the building comfortably, gaining access to all areas.

An added benefit of using the loaders as attachment carriers on this project was the ability to change attachments as needed, from the concrete breaker, to bucket, to pallet forks, and so forth.

Brown stored all of his pavers on pallets near the trailer behind the building. These were easily transported to the jobsite with his T300 and pallet fork attachment.

When asked why he was using three pieces of equipment on this site, Brown described the benefits of each of his machines.

“The Bobcat S250 is good for moving dirt in open areas, whereas the T300 (compact track loader) is great for grading and loading,” Brown says. “I use the T300 about 80 percent of the time.”

Brown credited the high percentage of use due to the machine’s rubber undercarriage and its digging and pushing performance.

Brown isn’t just the owner, he’s the company’s primary equipment operator.

Unlike some larger companies where an owner is supervising the activity, Brown enjoys using his company’s equipment on his jobsites.