Costello Dismantling uses a grapple with a magnet to load its wood grinders and manufacture fuel for a biomass plant.
Brandenburg has developed a reputation among Fortune 500 customers for its safety record and capabilities.
Photo credit: Costello uses a mechanized approach that minimizes laborers on the site.
Costello Dismantling specializes in removing old mills that are mainly brick and wood construction. Attachments help the company to process the material into a reusable or resaleable product..
The use of specialized attachments allows Costello Dismantling to use a mechanized approach and achieve high recycling rates.
A material handler with a grapple and magnet attachment ensure that metal scrap doesn't get into the wood grinder.
Brandenberg owns a fleet of specialized equipment and, if needed, it can also fabricate tools.
Brandenburg uses a variety of attachments to process and sort materials on site.
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.”
Only once the building is down and materials have been segregated for shipment is a smaller group of workers brought back in to deal with non-ferrous metals.
For Brandenburg, safety comes first. “We go above and beyond the industry standards to implement the best safety program we can,” says O’Keefe. “We are the first demolition contractor to successfully complete OSHA’s Challenge Program and to be certified as a Star Member in OSHA’s prestigious Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). Besides doing the job effectively and efficiently, our other big advantages are doing it safely and the use and ownership of specialized equipment.”
Reuse On Site Cuts Costs
By using recycled aggregates on site, the costs of trucking out brick or concrete and trucking in aggregate can be eliminated. “You save those trucks running through the neighborhood,” says McGarel. “It is a huge benefit that they recognize a lot more today than they did in the past.”
Often, a processor attachment is used to sort the concrete or brick, which is then sent to a mobile crusher. “Any site that has a large amount of concrete, we bring in mobile crushers,” says O’Keefe. “At one point in time, we had what was known as the world’s largest mobile crusher. It was actually 21 truckloads to move it on the site.
“We use anything from a small mobile crusher to setting up a whole mobile crusher plant on site, depending upon how big the site is,” he indicates. “On most jobsites, the majority of the brick and concrete that we process is used and left on site to fill voids in basements and to grade the site to the final level. Obviously, there is a cost savings to do that on site and let it remain on site.”
Brandenburg is unique in that if it needs a tool that doesn’t exist, it will fabricate it internally. “We have a fabrication shop which allows us to do a lot of modifications of the machines,” says McGarel. “Some attachments we make ourselves. Extension poles, which allow us to reach a lot higher, are particularly helpful with wood buildings. We will skeletize the building. The more material we can get out of the building before we start wrecking it, the better. So we have poles on our excavators that allow us to reach up 100 ft. and take the entire shell off the outside.”
“We have even gone as far as to fabricate our own rail cars,” O’Keefe adds. “We fabricate our own trailers and boxes that we use for transportation of the material. So we are definitely unique in the industry. We don’t market anything that we fabricate as aftermarket. It is only for company usage.”
A mechanized approach
Costello Dismantling typically achieves recycling rates of 90% or higher. Dan Costello, the owner, attributes this success to staying current with the latest developments in the recycling industry.
“We are very involved on a corporate level in recycling organizations. We are a member of the National Demolition Association (NDA). I serve on the board of directors of the Construction Materials Recycling Association. We are members of the Institute of Scrap and Recycling Industries. And we are members of the environmental business council in Massachusetts and New England,” he points out. “We are constantly staying on the front line of what is happening in recycling. And we are always trying to find better and higher uses for materials that we are able to derive or harvest from the buildings that we dismantle.”
With LEED building increasing in popularity, demolition contractors play an increasingly important role in the process. “We provide a log that we maintain for every project which shows the owner of the location where all of the material went and what the recycling percentages are,” says Costello.
Every region has its own unique challenges. “In New England, we have a lot of 19th century mill buildings, primarily from the textiles and trade industry,” says Costello. “They are typically brick with timber framing. We have developed a very well-honed specialty in dismantling those types of mill buildings so that we can salvage the timber framework and the structural timber. We can take a building like that apart and recover well over 90% of the structure for reuse.”
Costello Dismantling places an emphasis on mechanization. “We try to minimize the number of man hours and the exposure of personnel to the jobsites,” says Costello. “We intentionally avoid jobs that have very high labor concentrations.”
This approach requires the right equipment. “We select our equipment very carefully so that we are able to sort and handle material mechanically,” Costello states. This includes tools such as high-boom excavators with rotating grapples, which provide precise control over dismantling and dismembering buildings.
“We have really put a lot of effort into developing those techniques using mechanization vs. manpower to take the building apart,” says Costello. “By being very careful and selective in our dismantlement process, we are able to carefully separate the materials from out of the building and process them on the ground as clean, separated material.”
Costello Dismantling converts scrap steel into finished end products that are suitable to be shipped directly to mills. “That goes a step beyond what normally happens on a demolition job because of our involvement in the scrap industry,” notes Costello. “We tend to produce a higher grade product... That produces higher revenues, too. If we are able to provide higher credits against the cost of work with the value we derive from salvage and recycling, then that makes our net number more competitive and gives us an opportunity for doing more work.”
Many attachments are used to accomplish mechanized demolition, including fixed and rotating grapples, magnets and shears. In addition, the company has a LaBounty UP25 Universal Processor mounted on a new Volvo EC700 high reach excavator with a 110-ft. high boom. The UP25 has interchangeable shear, concrete cracker and pulverizer jaws. A Trevi-Benne MK 30 multi-processor with shear, concrete cracker and plate shear jaws is mounted on a Volvo EC460 with an 85-ft. high boom.
Even though the company is happy with its multi-processors, Costello is considering a change. “My philosophy had always been that by using multi-processors, you sacrificed at least one tool size in capability because of the weight of the house,” he explains. “If you had a straight shear on the end of a high boom, you could go almost one size larger and have that much more capacity.”
A multi-processor offers advantages in the right application. “We liked them very much. They are effective,” says Costello. “But we are swinging back to the sole-purpose attachments. I think you get more capability and production. We found that we didn’t change [the jaws] that often. The other side of the coin is, if you want to have the capabilities of both a steel shear and a concrete processor, you have to buy both of them. But that might not be the worst thing in the world.”
Costello Dismantling recently purchased Sennebogen material handlers. “We have a Sennebogen 825 that we use primarily for scrap handling and scrap loading,” says Costello. “We recently got a Sennebogen 821 and we have a Bateman grapple magnet on it. So it has a fixed contractor’s grapple with a built-in magnet. We bought it primarily to service a new fleet of wood grinding equipment.”
The material handlers compliment the company’s fleet of Doppstadt wood grinders, which are used to take wood that is not re-saleable as structural lumber and process it into a specified fuel-grade biomass right on demolition jobsites. “We found the Sennebogen was very good in being able to pick out any free metal and take it out of the processing stream before it goes into the grinders,” Costello comments.
The right tools for the job
Boston, MA-based Charter Environmental is a civil and environmental contractor that has worked closely with the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, traveling all over the country to perform projects at different Department of Defense installations. It also works with municipal and commercial clients.
The firm recently won an award from the NDA for a demolition project at the Prichard Stadium Sports Complex in Fort Hood, TX. The sports complex was taken down to make way for a new hospital. The project exceeded the client’s recycling goals by reusing or recycling 99.56% of the debris.
To accomplish this feat, concrete was crushed on site and stockpiled for construction of the new medical center. The stadium lighting fixtures were salvaged for use in the new stadium, and the telephone poles were reused on the Fort Hood firing range. Materials such as copper and aluminum were recycled and reclaimed. Even the asphalt parking lots were ground and recycled.
“That particular project leant itself to a high amount of recycling because of the construction materials that were used to build it,” says Stan Carter, federal program manager at Charter Environmental.
The company segregates concrete by traditional means with hydraulic impact hammers and pulverizer attachments. “So you are looking at a lot of initial sizing with hydraulic hammers to the point we get into a crushing application,” says Carter. “When we are looking at creating a reusable product, it usually goes through a multi-stage crushing process.”
Charter Environmental owns its own hydraulic hammers and pulverizer attachments. However, due to its wide geographic territory, it rents specialty equipment. “We will rent shears on an as-needed basis or we will rent machines that are fitted with the appropriate attachments,” notes Carter. “We occasionally use high reach excavators, but we don’t own any. We usually lease that out. We work all over the country, so we will engage whoever is local.”
When the company selects its tools, a good match between an attachment and carrier is most important. “We don’t have any allegiance to any particular brands,” says Carter. “It has more to do with how well it matches up with a particular piece of equipment.” Sometimes Brand A attachment might not run as well on a Komatsu as a Caterpillar or vice versa. “We consider how well the ‘shoe’ fits and then calculate the cost/benefit ratio to optimize it.”