Industry News

Demolition isn't just big boys making a big mess

Just in time for the upcoming National Demolition Association Convention & Expo in Nashville March 21—we’ll be there at Booth 328!—we wanted to explore some popular misconceptions about the demolition industry.

Based on the news, you might think all demolition contractors do is tear down historic buildings, or clear away houses and businesses to make way for big, new sports stadiums.

Certain New Yorkers were upset that portions of the Prospect Heights neighborhood near downtown Brooklyn were demolished to make way for the 18,000-seat Barclay’s Center, the new home of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn Nets) that opened in 2012.

But in San Francisco, the opposite is happening: the site where Candlestick Park—long-time home to the Giants and 49ers—is being dismantled will include newly built shops, homes and condos.

Whichever side you’re on, it’s hard not to blame the guys with the dynamite and wrecking ball. But here are a few things that are true and not true about demolition, according to the NDA:

 

MYTH #1: Demolition contractors mostly just “blow up” buildings.

According to the NDA, implosions count for less than 1 percent of all demolition work. More than 99 percent of work in this $3.5 billion industry is handled with specialized heavy demolition equipment or skilled manual techniques.

 

MYTH #2: Demolition contractors destroy many structures that should be saved.

The NDA points out that demolition contractors actually help preservationists by preserving the facade or other architectural details on a building that needs its interior gutted to make way for modern and energy efficient conveniences. They also take care of deteriorated roads and bridges, and “tear out” unsafe industrial facilities, making our lives safer.

 

MYTH #3: Demolition contractors don’t recycle.

The demolition industry was recycling building elements and materials long before it was the “green” thing to do, says the NDA. Typical recycled materials include scrap iron, rebar, aluminum, stainless steel and copper. Concrete debris is pulverized for road sub-base and fill material, wood can be turned into building lumber or chips, and bricks are cleaned for reuse.

 

MYTH #4: Demolition contractors fill up landfills with reckless abandon.

According to the NDA, the industry is slowing down on its use of landfills in favor of recycling. The price of a landfill-bound truckload has risen from $40 to $800 in some places just over the past decade, the NDA notes, and pressures from regulators have limited landfill access.

 

MYTH #5: Demolition is an unsophisticated industry.

A working knowledge of both construction and the law is necessary for a safe demolition job, argues the NDA. Trained professionals are required to identify and remove hazardous materials—and not all demolition contractors are equal in skill or capacity.

 

MYTH #6: All demolition contractors are created equal.

The NDA points out that demolition contractors develop their specialties after making substantial investment in training and equipment, and that no one knows this better than the owner who has had the misfortune of hiring a general contractor without the proper skills.

 

Demolition specialties range from residential to bridge and highway demolition, foundation removal, selective structural demolition, interior strip-outs and environmental remediation, among others. Maybe there is more to demolition than the building turning into a big cloud of dust you see on the evening news.