The teardown of the Hill Residence Hall complex began in spring 2022 and remains ahead of schedule.
(SouthEast Demolition & Environmental Services photo)
In an effort to prepare the campus for future construction, crews in East Alabama are carrying out a four-phase, $7.5 million demolition at Auburn University. The teardown of the Hill Residence Hall complex began in spring 2022 and remains ahead of schedule.
"The complex was built between 1962 and 1967," said Kelly O'Neal-Young, Auburn construction project manager. "Given the age of the complex, the university determined that investing in a major renovation of the residence hall buildings would not be cost effective. The Auburn University Campus Master Plan recommends that once the halls are demolished, the site will house future academic buildings."
The job site is located in the southeastern section of campus, at the corner of Samford Avenue and Duncan Drive. A total of 11 of the complex's 14 buildings are being taken down, with the work taking place in separate stages, so as not to cause any major disruptions.
Due to the demands for student housing, Auburn University worked very closely with Student Affairs and Housing to provide adequate space during the school year of 2021/2022, summer 2022 and fall 2022. Seventy percent of the work is already finished, with phase 1 and phase 2 complete. Phase 3 starts later this month.
"The rewarding part of the Hill demolition project was the opportunity to learn a little more about the constructability of 1960 structures and underground utilities," said O'Neal-Young. "The most rewarding part is providing a new blank canvas for the future academic building that will be constructed."
O'Neal-Young praised contractor SouthEast Demolition & Environmental Services Inc., which maintains offices in both Atlanta and Auburn.
"SouthEast Demolition understands how to demolish buildings within a tight area. Due to the complexity and sensitivity of this project, we appreciate their understanding and willingness to work with Auburn University."
Prior to construction, a detailed pedestrian plan was planned, along with signage for the detour routes. O'Neal-Young and consultant LBYD worked very closely with the contractor and all parties affected by the demolition to ensure the plan was executed and maintained.
Crews have a well thought out plan regarding how to approach the demolition of the buildings that are close to occupied structures. Signage has been placed in multiple areas around the site fence to help students navigate the construction site.
According to Lana Cavassa, president of SouthEast Demolition & Environmental Services, the demolition has gone extremely well.
"The biggest challenges on this demo project have been the older utilities that were underground, and not knowing exactly where they were located because they were installed prior to GPS and other technologies that we have today."
The buildings are being brought down by heavy machinery, with a variety of equipment required to complete the work.
"It has been difficult to find large excavators, because everyone is so busy," said Cavassa. "We were able to procure a Kobelco 500 with a processor that has been invaluable at this job site. We have three Cat 300 series excavators, a mini-excavator and skid steer on site, along with a Komatsu 400. Our newest addition has been a Doosan DX350, which has performed very well. It came to us without a belly pan, but that was an easy fit and weld for our mechanic R&D Equipment."
Cavassa noted that workers have been able to recycle a large part of the debris.
"Our processor is able to break the concrete and brick down to small sizes and separate the rebar out from the concrete. The concrete and brick have been transported to yards via dump trucks, where it is later used for roadbeds and erosion control."
Crews also have been mindful of the weather during demolition.
"We have been fortunate that no hurricanes have hampered our progress, and rain has been normal. We are very aware of lighting and thunder when we are on metal machines. When those conditions are present, we are off them, waiting for the storm to move through."
As for any hiccups during demolition, "The only unexpected issues have been some contaminated soils under some old fuel tanks," said Cavassa. "We knew they were there, just not how much soil has been impacted. We have worked closely with La Bella and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management [ADEM] in removing all the contaminated soils."
Cavassa said overseeing the work has been a truly rewarding experience.
"I was very happy to get the job at Auburn, not only to be a part of its future progress, but also because it's where my son graduated. I've always loved the southern hospitality Auburn is known for. The engineer, Lee Tharp, and project manager did a terrific job of communicating with us and letting us address any issues we had with the job. I feel like we all worked together very well and produced a very smoothly run demolition job."
While the teardown will result in future progress, it does bring about a mix of emotions.
"We have had a lot of alumni come on site who want a brick as a memento of their time at Auburn," said Cavassa. "A lot of these dorms were the sorority dorms, so I'm sure there were a lot of memories made here."
O'Neal-Young actually lived in one of the dorms during her time as a student and member of Alpha Xi Delta.
"It's a bittersweet experience to be demoing the dorm that was really my home for four years, and where I spent time with my friends and sorority sisters." CEG
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