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DemoPro Brings Down the Big House

Wed March 15, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

It has been said that demolition professionals are, in many respects, artists in their own right. Faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, they somehow always manage to bring creativity to the forefront in order to effect a safe, successful completion of their project. And the more challenging a project appears, the more creative that demolition professional seems to get.

According to Dennis Watkins, vice president for Pittsburgh, PA-based Joseph B. Fay Company, a recent project prompted this 54-year veteran general contracting firm to deviate from the norm, not only with its demolition methods but also with the tools it generally uses.

“We won the bid to handle the interior demolition of an historic Pittsburgh structure, the Allegheny County Jail. The granite shell of the building was being retained while the entire inside was being gutted then totally renovated and updated. Our job was to demolish the five floors of more than 800 jail cells within the building while leaving the exterior shell intact. It was a challenge, but one that we had prepared for,” Watkins said.

Inside the Lockup

The interior of the jail consisted of four wings, each five stories high with approximately 200 jail cells per wing. The structure was all-steel framing with floors constructed of 1.8-meter by 2.4-meter by 20-centimeter (6 ft. by 8 ft. by 8 in.) thick sandstone slabs.

“A number of factors contributed to the manner in which we did this project,” said Watkins. “We had a tight time frame within which we had to work. Also, the space within the structure was tight which, in turn, limited the size of excavator we could use. Taking that one step further, the size of base machine, combined with the extra long boom we needed for the upper reaches of the structure, limited the weight of the processing attachment we could use. That was one of the key points in our choosing a Genesis DemoPro for this job. We knew it had the cutting power we needed yet easily met our weight limitations.”

The DemoPro concrete and steel processor processes concrete and steel — both rebar and structural — with a single jaw set, thereby eliminating the need for costly additional jaws or time-consuming jaw changeouts. In addition, the DemoPro has proven valuable at primary processing of concrete then equally productive at secondary processing of that same material, taking it down to 20-centimeters (8 in.) minus. The result is a far better on-site efficiency and productivity with- reduced capital outlay.

Life on the Outside

Watkins said the interior demolition actually started from the exterior since the first 50 feet of cells were removed by reaching through the windows from the outside.

“This was actually the only feasible way to begin the project,” he said. “Once we had some room to maneuver, we brought the machine inside. An opening was created that allowed us to flat boom the machine and walk it in; when we are done, that entry will be a doorway for the new building. That was the only access for everyone throughout the length of the project.”

Watkins said from there it was simply a matter of letting the DemoPro at the end of the 17-meter (55 ft.) long boom/stick combination eat its way down each wing. Because of its rotating capability, he added, the DemoPro was able to easily reach up and shear the 2.5-centimeter (1 in.) steel cell bars and steel framing and drop it to the area immediately below it.

“We then used a grapple to move and load out the material that had been removed and processed — usually to four- to six-foot lengths. When we completed work on one wing we simply turned and made our way through the next wing,” he said.

No Alternatives

Using the DemoPro and grapple on the jail project certainly fit within Fay Co.’s parameters for speed and efficiency. However, Watkins said, from early on they began to realize it was really the only way to get the job done.

“There were no real acceptable alternatives to the way we did this job,” he noted. “If we would have gone the traditional route and used torchers, the complications would have been many. First, we would have needed a team of no less than five men working to meet the time constraints; here, we essentially used an operator and a laborer. Second, torching presents its own set of hazards, not the least of which was dealing with the lead paint present on this job. Third, there is the issue of time. Using a crew of torchers working two shifts a day, this project would have easily taken six months. We were in and done in about three.”

It’s All About Control

Watkins also said that the DemoPro’s ability to allow controlled demolition also fit well on the jail project. “Even though this was a demolition, we still had the integrity of the exterior walls to consider. We were able to easily position the attachment, make our cut and use the DemoPro as a material handler to pass off the cut steel. It worked well in every aspect,” he concluded.

(This article appears courtesy of Genesis Equipment & Manufacturing.)

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