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Demolition FAQ

What exactly is Demolition?

Demolition is a complex set of tasks involving structural dismantlement, site clearance, environmental remediation, salvage, recycling, and industrial recovery.‚Äč

Demolition is a highly sophisticated craft which involves the use of hydraulic equipment with specialized attachments, cranes, loaders, wrecking balls and in some cases explosives.

What is in the Demolition Commodity Stream?

As most of the materials generated on a demolition project have a market value they are not considered waste. According to a recent National Demolition Association (NDA) member survey (fall 2018), on over 90 percent of projects, NDA members recycle, salvage or resuse. Typical commodities generated on a demolition project site include:
  • Concrete and other aggregate materials including brick, porcelain, etc.
  • Metals including iron, steel, copper, brass, bronze and other exotic metallic commodities
  • Insulating material
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Flooring and carpets
  • Wiring and conduit
  • Plasterboard
  • Wood
  • Soils
  • Roofing materials
  • Carpet

What is Interior Demolition?

Interior demolition is the non-structural demolishing of spaces within a structure usually in preparation for reuse and upgrading of the space. This work includes interior wall and ceiling removal, demolition of flooring and some utility services, salvage, and selective structural demolition.

What is Explosive Demolition or Implosion?

The use of explosives to implode a structure is a relatively small part of the demolition process however, it can prove very effective and time efficient. It is a highly specialized part of the demolition process requiring an in-depth knowledge of the nature of structures and the use of explosives. Contractors performing this work, often as subcontractors to a conventional demolition company who perform the site preparation and clearance work are usually licensed professionals.

What is Industrial Demolition?

Industrial demolition is the dismantlement of structures or facilities used in the production of goods. This work can be done at chemical plants, oil refineries, manufacturing facilities and the like. It often involves the environmental remediation of hazardous substances that were part of the industrial process and potentially contaminated the site. Industrial demolition can be a complex undertaking involving sophisticated engineering, specialized rigging, and complex industrial hygiene requirements.

What is a High Reach and how is it used in Demolition?

High reach units can involve the use of super long boom arms with specialized hydraulic attachments mounted on excavator platforms. These units are designed to allow access to tall structures, often 20 stories or more, and safe demolition of the building within its footprint.

What is Commercial Demolition?

Commercial demolition is the partial or complete dismantlement of commercial properties such as office buildings, shopping malls, hotels and the like.

What is Deconstruction?

Deconstruction is defined as the labor-intensive demolition of a structure in order to maximize the amount of potentially recyclable materials from the building. It often involved a considerable amount of hand demolition and sort separation in preparation for marketing the structure’s components.

How exactly are Demolition and Deconstruction Different?

Considering that conventional demolition contractors routinely recycled up to 90% of the material generated on a typical demolition site, there is little difference between the two methods of demolition save the labor-intensive nature of deconstruction.

Is Demolition a Regulated Industry?

Demolition contractors are some of the most regulated construction industry professionals. As they are working on structures that are often damaged by fire, weather, or structural deficiency, most demolition projects require permit review by local municipal building departments. As demolition contractors handle hazardous materials and toxic substances there are a host of municipal, state and federal environmental regulations that govern the industry’s operations. As demolition is a dynamic craft and contractors are dealing with a variety of structures, the industry’s health and safety regulations are very strong. Many states have their own health & safety rules and the Federal Government’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) Construction Standard (29 CFR 1926) contains a specific section on demolition operations.

Does Demolition Involve Historic Conservation?

Demolition contractors, because of their experience and knowledge of the nature of structures, often have considerable expertise in historic preservation. They understand what structural elements can be saved and how to assure that the integrity of an historic structure can be maintained.

Asbestos and Demolition

Asbestos is an insulating and sound attenuating product that is used as pipe and ceiling insulation, sprayed-on fireproofing, and a variety of other uses. It can also be contained in flooring, roofing materials and some cement products. Overexposure to asbestos can cause health problems. Asbestos abatement, the safe removal of asbestos, is a major part of the demolition process. It is highly regulated and its safe handling and disposal is a major segment of the demolition market.

This resource guide from details the dangers of asbestos removal and why asbestos abatement should be left to professionals.

What are PCBs?

PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls are an organic chemical used as an additive in transformers and capacitors in a structure’s electrical system, in rail cars, heat transfer systems and in some coating materials. The chemical is highly stable, has a low flammability and is an excellent medium to sustain an electrical field. Unfortunately PCBs, because of their complex chemical make-up are slow to breakdown in nature and can cause some health issues. Proper handling and disposal of PCB-containing oils and fluids as well as PCB-contaminated equipment is a major part of the demolition process.

What’s a Brownfield?

A Brownfield is a contaminated site, often a small manufacturing, industrial, or commercial site that has less hazardous or toxic substances than a highly contaminated site regulated under the Superfund law. These brownfields can be abandoned gas stations, dry cleaning establishments, electroplating plants, warehouses, or manufacturing sites that have small amounts of pollution that need to be remediated before demolition and reuse. The clean-up of these sites is a major segment of the demolition market.

What is a Superfund Site?

Highly contaminated sites such as Love Canal in New York, Times Beach in Missouri, the Edison Laboratory site in New Jersey are regulated under the CERCLA or Superfund law. Remediation of these sites which often contain high levels of pollution is a major part of the demolition market. The cost of these clean-ups is born by the chemical industry through a “Superfund.” Clean-up of these sites is often a multi-year endeavor and involves a sophisticated team of demolition professionals including project managers, industrial hygienists, environmental scientists & engineers and highly trained remediation specialists.

What is Environmental Stewardship?

Demolition contractors take great pride in their commitment to being good stewards of the environment. As most demolition contractors work in the towns and cities where they live, they work hard to improve the quality of life in these areas. Demolition of outdated or damage structures, environmental remediation of contaminated sites, asbestos abatement, and soil & facilities decontamination enhance economic development opportunities in these communities and help beautify a city or town.

What is the U.S. Green Building Council?

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is an organization made up of thousands of members committed to moving the building industry forward by promoting greater building efficiency. The goal of the organization is to enhance the quality of life by providing better, healthier places for people to live and work. The USGBC promotes energy efficiency, recycling of construction materials, and sustainability in the building process.

Friable and Non-friable Asbestos

One major component of the U.S. EPA’s Asbestos standard deals with the issue of whether a material contains friable or non-friable asbestos. The National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Asbestos (NESHAP) defines friability as then ability to crush or pulverize, hand pressure, to determine whether potential asbestos-containing material (ACM) can become airborne and therefore respirable when it is handled or disturbed. If a material is determined to be non-friable it may be able to be disposed of as non-asbestos containing, dependent upon individual state or municipal asbestos regulations.

This resource guide from details the dangers of asbestos removal and why asbestos abatement should be left to professionals.

What’s the difference between Demolition and Deconstruction?

As the recycling rates from both conventional demolition and what is called deconstruction are generally about the same, often close to 90% of the material on a project site, the major difference between the two processes tends to be that deconstruction is usually much more labor-intensive than conventional demolition where a considerable amount equipment and technology is used. Deconstruction involves the hand dismantlement of potential recyclables and therefore in addition to be more labor intensive can be more time consuming than convention structural demolition that utilizes heavy equipment, specialized attachments and recycling equipment. The goal of both demolition and deconstruction is the same, to maximize the amount of marketable recycled material generated on a project site.