Test Tower Comes Tumbling Down

Fri July 10, 2009 - National Edition
Mary Reed

The Caterpillar 365 Ultra High Demolition machine used on the tower demolition project has 120 ft. (36.6 m) of reach, with a telescoping boom that adds an additional 18 ft. (5.5 m) for a total reach of 138 ft. (42.1 m). The attachment is a Genesis GXP200R
The Caterpillar 365 Ultra High Demolition machine used on the tower demolition project has 120 ft. (36.6 m) of reach, with a telescoping boom that adds an additional 18 ft. (5.5 m) for a total reach of 138 ft. (42.1 m). The attachment is a Genesis GXP200R



Over time, the 85 companies forming Haines & Kibblehouse Inc. (H&K) and The H&K Group Family of Companies have undertaken many complex and challenging demolition projects while serving the central and eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware areas.

However, a project overseen by Skippack, Pa.-based parent company H&K Inc. was the first requiring use of specialized long-arm track equipment to demolish a spacecraft test facility in King of Prussia, Pa.

The logistics of the task were exacerbated by the special conditions under which it was carried out.

The tower was 105 ft. (32 m) high and approximately 200 by 200 ft. (61 by 61 m), constructed of steel, with a concrete slab on grade and another a floor above. The building contained a 54 ft. (16.4 m) diameter test sphere made of stainless steel, with massive electric switchgear and chilled water and nitrogen tanks.

The tower was the only example of its kind, but its demolition was necessary because H&K’s client, Lockheed Martin Corporation, now conducts its testing at another location.

“All the projects we have undertaken are unique in their own right, and often require specialized techniques and procedures tailored to the individual job,” said Anthony E. Jeremias, PR/external affairs manager of the H&K Group. “In this case, because the test sphere was located inside a tall, narrow panel wall structure, it would have been difficult to take it down any other way than by using a Caterpillar 365 Ultra High Demolition machine [UHD].”

Kuhn Equipment Sales, headquartered in Summerville, S.C., supplied the special equipment needed for the job. “The Caterpillar 365 Ultra High Demolition we used on the tower demolition project has 120 feet of reach, with a telescoping boom that adds an additional 18 feet for a total reach of 138 feet,” said Mike Bernard of Kuhn Equipment. “The attachment is a Genesis GXP200R 5,000-pound hydraulic steel shear with 360 degree rotation.”

“The benefit of using this machine and attachment is that it allowed the operator to surgically dismantle the structure, one cut at a time,” Bernard continued. “It’s extremely precise, at quite a distance in the air.”

Kuhn Equipment had the UHD specially built for this type of demolition work, he said.

“We took a standard Caterpillar 365 excavator, shipped it to Jewell Manufacturing Inc. in Portland, Ore., and had them build the UHD boom. We also had them modify the excavator cab so that it lifts and tilts and a camera system installed, both of which give the operator a better view of the working area, and they also added a dust suppression system to keep dust down.”

Another matter impacting H&K Inc.’s handling of the job involved environmental considerations.

“The building was built in the ’60s, when lead paint was used,” H&K Group’s Jeremias said. “If we had to use torches to cut the steel, all the areas that needed cutting would have to have had the lead removed and this would further have complicated our schedule.”

Approximately seven of H&K Inc.’s workers and subcontractors were engaged on the job, which got under way after disconnecting the electric, sewer and water service lines and the chilled water and nitrogen tanks from the testing chamber. The testing chamber was then removed from the bottom slab. A Caterpillar 325 excavator with a grapple and a Case skid steer with a demolition bucket also worked on the site.

Demolition of the building began in early September, and the job was completed in eight weeks.

Subcontractors on the job included Carr and Duff Inc., of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., who carried out the electrical disconnection and Tracey Mechanical Inc., of Newtown Square, Pa., which was responsible for the chilled water work. CEG