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Famed Film Firm’s Building 23 Razed to the Ground

Tue August 07, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

In the early morning of Sunday, July 1, 2007, the booms heard in Rochester, N.Y., could have been mistaken for an early Fourth of July celebration. But to the large crowd that gathered at Kodak Park the booms signaled the start of the implosion of the obsolete Building 23 of the Eastman Kodak Company.

According to Bianchi Industrial Services of Syracuse, N.Y., the company in charge of the project, an implosion was one way to complete a demolition. When done correctly, implosion not only allows for demolition to be faster but it also provides a safer way to complete it.

A true implosion occurs when something collapses inward because the external atmospheric pressure is greater than the internal pressure. In the demolition industry, the term implosion is used to describe the collapse of a building down to its footprint. In the case of a building implosion, it’s gravity, not atmospheric pressure that makes the building collapse.

The method of a building demolition depends on the site characteristics, owner’s requirements, and allotted timeframe. A sledgehammer may be the choice to take down a stonewall, while excavators and wrecking balls are better for leveling a three-storied building. A skyscraper is too tall for an excavator, so the use explosives would be preferred. If other buildings surround a skyscraper, then it’s probably implosion time.

According to the experts at Bianchi Industrial Services, when prepared and executed properly, implosion reduces the risk of injury due to premature collapse and it removes workers from the most dangerous building components when they are taken down. It also allows for more extensive removal of building components, which can be reused or recycled.

The 487,000-sq.-ft. (45,244 sq m) Kodak Building 23 actually consisted of four sections built with different materials, which required extensive planning and preparation to ensure that it would come down in the right way. In addition, Kodak had active buildings and utility lines close by, so precision was a must.

David Bianchi, managing partner, explained that Kodak Park is a self-contained industrial park with controls and security.

“We worked with local law enforcement and public safety officials to close off streets and protect homes or businesses located within a protected circle around the site, and nearby occupants were asked to leave the area for a few hours on the day of implosion,” said Bianchi. “We can always rely on our long history of success with previous implosions to calm any concern. ”

Precision also played a role. The size of the safety area was calculated based on the size of the building and the amount of explosives used.

More than 140 workers put in thousands of hours preparing the building for the July 1 implosion. The crew included representatives from the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 832, and the Laborers International Union, Local 435, as well as Bianchi’s specially trained team of experts.

One of the first steps in the highly engineered process was the removal of lead, glass and asbestos-containing material and specially trained and certified workers were called in to carry on those tasks. Then, key columns, reinforcement beams and load-bearing structures were cut to coordinate the collapse, and more than 2,000 holes were drilled to set the explosives that would take down the structure.

Bianchi’s explosives subcontractor — Advanced Explosive Demolition — is experienced and skilled in preparing buildings for implosion. A full-line of specially-configured excavators and debris moving equipment stood ready to move in on the site after the dust settled, knocking down outcroppings, cleaning and ensuring safety.

“Every possible scenario needed to be thought of and prepared for in a situation like Building 23. Bill [Bianchi] and his team planned for everything and had the equipment ready,” said Terry Sturgell, Cat sales representative of Milton CAT, which is Bianchi’s equipment supplier.

To the Rochester community in general, and to the Kodak family of employees in particular, the implosion was another step in Kodak’s history of innovation. To the Kodak shareholders, it meant that Kodak is on track to meet its stated goal — to complete major restructuring of traditional photographic products operations in 2007.

“Implosion of major buildings helps us to ensure that we will meet out commitment to a digitally oriented strategy,” said Christopher K. Veronda, manager of communications initiatives of Kodak Corporate Communications.

To the neighbors of Kodak Park and the people in the immediate area, it means an enriched environment.

“The building footprints will be turned over to green space, putting some park back into the area of Kodak Park manufacturing complex that was very congested and will create an attractive buffer to the neighborhood,” explained Veronda.

To local businesses, it could mean attractive expansion possibilities, because more space will be available to current or new tenants of Kodak Park.

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