Being competitive in today’s demolition market requires innovation and a concerted effort to stay current with the latest developments in recycling and scrap handling. Hauling material to a landfill adds cost to the project, and many new jobs specify recycling goals as part of their LEED certification. Finding new and better uses for recycled materials can become a real competitive advantage when bidding any demolition project, but it does require investment in the proper tools and techniques.
Headquartered in Chicago, Brandenburg has been a leader in developing the most effective demolition techniques. As the green component of most demolition jobs increased, the company was already ahead of the curve.
“It has not really affected us because our normal business practices already exceed the requirements,” says John O’Keefe, Brandenburg’s marketing manager. “We have been recycling and noticed the advantages a long time before the term ‘green’ became popular. It’s not uncommon for us to reach an over 90% or 95% recycling rate on all materials from the site.”
The current trend toward LEED-certified projects affects how demolition contractors approach jobs. “Obviously, there are many LEED projects going on and the recycling percentages are becoming more of a requirement,” notes Dennis McGarel, sales manager, Brandenburg. “There are many advantages and we realized those before the LEED projects became popular.”
Steps Toward Successful Segregation
Recycling as much as possible also makes economic sense. “Not only are you being more environmentally friendly, financially it is a better decision for the company,” McGarel states. “You are saving disposal fees at the landfill and getting paid for the raw material that is becoming a product.
“That being said, you need to have the tools to do it,” he continues. “If you are knocking something down in a big pile, it makes segregating very difficult and time consuming.”
Material segregation is the key to recycling efforts. “The more you can segregate the material, the more you can recycle,” McGarel comments. “The attachments on our excavators in particular allow us to maximize it.” Attachments used include grapples, shears and clamping buckets.
The grapples are the most used attachment for Brandenburg, followed by magnets, processors and shears. “A magnet makes sure we get all of the metal scrap out of any debris piles before it makes it to the landfill,” says O’Keefe. A processor is necessary to separate the rebar from the concrete, and it gets the concrete closer to a finished product.
While such tools are essential, for Brandenburg, high recycling rates rely on a process that starts with hand labor. “The first step is to identify and abate hazards,” says O’Keefe. “The second step is to perform a strip-out of the structure, so that you are already segregating the material and getting rid of the general construction debris, which is basically the only thing that goes to a landfill. That entails removing drywall, flooring, ceiling tiles, lights and ballasts and windows and the glass. We are going to remove all of those items before we start doing structural demolition.”
Smaller machines such as Bobcats may also be used during the initial strip-out. “We take an engineering survey to make sure we can put those smaller machines on the floors. We use those to gut it out,” McGarel says.
Once structural demolition begins, workers are kept clear of equipment. “The safest thing we can do is keep every single human away from the operating radius of the machine,” McGarel states. “You come in with a large labor contingent in the front. When you start actually demolishing the building, your labor should consist of a flagger for the trucks and somebody taking care of the hoses to keep the dust down. There should be no operations occurring while the building itself is being demolished. It is more of a concerted effort.”