Not just blowing it all up!

Not just blowing it all up!

When you think of demolition, you might think of a massive building tumbling down in roaring flames … But there is a lot more to this niche sector within the construction industry.

Kate Bester, contracts manager at Jet Demolition, which specialises in challenging demolition projects within industrial and large commercial spaces, says that it is not uncommon for a building contractor to also undertake demolition work.

“It is up to clients to determine whether the demolition service provider is bona fide and has the appropriate tools, equipment and skill to be able to undertake large-scale demolition projects,” she notes.

She adds that, fortunately, there is a change in the industry whereby due diligence audits and assessments are being undertaken before contracts are awarded. “This is encouraging as it will result in a stronger and more accountable industry.”

There are a few common misconceptions that surround the demolition industry, she says, adding that it isn’t all about blowing up buildings.

“Demolition takes many forms, from removing an internal wall to the complete demolition and rehabilitation of a redundant mining site. A critical skill in the demolition industry is applying the appropriate method for the task at hand.

“When considering the demolition of a tall building, for example, top-down mechanical demolition and implosion are comparable, but are restricted by the environment in which the demolition is to take place. If there is sufficient space and time available, implosion might be the better option, whereas a very restricted or operational environment might result in high-reach demolition being more effective and better suited to the structure itself.”

Another misconception is that anyone can become a demolition expert. “In South Africa, it is not unusual for a contractor to be tasked with the demolition of a structure for which as-built drawings and records do not even exist,” Bester says.

“Upfront planning and preparation for such structures involves intensive analysis and in-depth examination. This often means reverse-engineering structural assessments derived from the initial investigation to best assess the primary characteristics and stability of such structures.”

The information is then used to verify whether the anticipated methods are appropriate, and to anticipate the structure’s response.

“While modelling software is available internationally that is capable of determining to some degree how a structure will react, it is very much dependent on fully detailed as-built information, which isn’t readily available. Instead, we rely on our own extensive experience with similar works and the application of very conservative safety factors.”

A third misconception is that demolition is dangerous. “In demolition, the majority of projects work from the most dangerous or difficult point of a structure towards a point of safety on the ground. Therefore, we have adopted a non-negotiable approach to safety. Our business, our reputation and our industry are based on engineering methods focused on the safety of persons.”

Bester adds that over the past 28 years, Jet Demolition has developed a comprehensive integrated safety management programme. “In its annual 2019 NOSA audit, we scored 98,14%, one of the highest achievements internationally in the commercial construction industry.”

Another misconception is that demolition is environmentally unfriendly. “We are well equipped and experienced to deliver environmentally responsible, but also practical, projects for large industrial and mining sites,” Bester says.

“We have previously demolished an extensive range of industrial, chemical and mining plants, where a wide spectrum of toxic or hazardous materials were decontaminated, treated, neutralised or disposed of.”

Jet Demolition also offers asbestos abatement, which is often associated with the demolition of older structures.

“We are registered with the Department of Labour as an asbestos contractor,” she says, “and are certified to safely remove all types of asbestos in strict accordance with the relevant regulations and standards, such as the Asbestos Regulations 155 of 2002, Environmental Laws Amendment Act 14 of 2009 and the Waste Act 59 of 2008.

“An extensive range of environmental and regulatory requirements apply to demolition projects, in addition to specific client requirements.”

Definitely not all flames and destruction.

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