Goody Demolition is in the process of dismantling the former Colonial Mutual Life headquarters located on the waterfront in Chatham, Kent, and has brought in its high-reach Volvo EC300E to head-up the process.
Built in the 1990’s at a cost of around £35m, Colonial House in Quayside, Chatham, has been empty for the last few years awaiting its fate. The red-brick fronted three-storey building, its basement and associated car parking is currently being redeveloped by Persimmon Homes, to provide a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments, plus three and four-bedroom homes, within the Colonial Wharf waterfront development.
Site clearance and demolition is well underway, and being handled by Aylesham, Kent-based specialist and NFDC member, Goody Demolition. But it’s been far from straightforward as the 32-week project has thrown up some interesting challenges along the way, as site manager and high-reach machine operator, Paul Hougham, explains:
“The building is a heavily reinforced concrete structure with an outer brick skin and a steel roof,” he says. “And given the amount of steel buried within the concrete, it was probably engineered to withstand an earthquake.”
The on-site team have been so surprised by the amount of steelwork within, that a friendly sweepstake is taking place among the Goody team. Best estimates of what the building is likely to yield are already in excess of 4,000 tonnes of steel.
“This is one of those buildings that was never going to fall down, nor come apart easily,” he says. “And this job is a meticulous and methodical process of dismantling that demands decent fire-power.”
That fire-power comes in two key components. The first part of the process is high-reach demolition using a Volvo EC300E excavator equipped with a Kokurek three-piece boom. With a main boom of 7.8m, an intermediate 2.15m section and a 6.25m-long demolition stick, it affords a generous working envelope with a forward reach of 12m and a working height of 21 metres.
The second element is a Volvo EC480E excavator working at ground level and equipped with a hydraulic breaker. The EC480E is tasked with dismantling wall and floor sections that have been brought down by the firm’s high-reaching EC300E.
“The height of the building is no problem to our EC300E,” explains Paul. “But with the base machine being a 30-tonner, it does limit the size of attachment. The high working envelope dictates that we can only use a breaker or a concrete cracker from a 20-tonne excavator, so we’re working with smaller sections, but it does mean pieces are much more manageable.”
He says that the heavier EC480E makes light work of separating concrete from steel, allowing sorting to take place with 21-tonne excavators equipped with grabs.
Goody Demolition’s four-year old, EC300E was converted by high-reach specialist Kokurek Excavators when new. It is the demolition firm’s first high-reach Volvo excavator, and features a hydraulic tilting cab and Kokurek’s modular joint system.
With hydraulic locking pins and a cradle to store the high-reach front-end when not in use, it takes less than 10 minutes says Mr Hougham, to swap between the standard boom and three-piece high-reach configuration.
“It really is a versatile piece of kit,” he says. “And when the standard boom is fitted, the EC300E benefits from a really generous working envelope – having a straight boom instead of a curved boom really does give us much more, and this boosts productivity.”
While this is only the second demolition project where the firm has applied its high-reach machine, both jobs have been long-term contracts, tying up equipment for many months at a time.
“We couldn’t take on such complex projects without such a specialist excavator conversion,” he says. “It lets us provide our clients with a complete demolition package, managed by experienced leaders using highly trained operators with the latest plant and equipment.”
Established over 50 years ago, Goody Demolition specialises in demolition, asbestos removal and remediation across London and the south East. It has grown significantly over the past 15 years under the directorship of Gary Venner, and currently operates with a fleet of over 22 excavators and a workforce of around 75.
The firm has a number of Volvo excavators in its fleet and has praise for the service and support available from GB dealer SMT GB.
“When Goody Demolition was first bought by its current owners, there was a Volvo in the business, and that’s proved to be a good introduction to a well-built range of excavators,” he says. “And we’ve added more Volvo’s ever since.”
With 3,500 hours under its belt, the EC300E has so far proved itself a sound investment for the firm. Reliability, comfort and performance have never been questioned by its operator.
“It’s a heavy enough machine and is well-suited to this type of demolition work,” he adds. “And having a tilting cab does make long days at the controls a much more comfortable experience.”
Using the high-reach machine and working from the top, Paul Hougham is systematically lowering the building by weakening the floors and their supporting pillars. This lets the team lower sections of floor on a layer-by-layer basis, until concrete slabs are within reach of the more powerful, heavier EC480E.
The impressive reach also lets the EC300E stand back at a safe distance, which keeps the machine and its operator in a safer environment.
“We’ve tried a nibbler, but the density of steel within the concrete is doing such a good job of holding it all up, that the only way to make initial progress is with a hydraulic breaker,” he says. “But there’s plenty to go at as we bring the layers down.”
Concrete is being crushed on-site and used for bunding and fill material, with steel being sorted and cut, ready for disposal.
The waterfront building also occupies a jetty, and this is to be cleared, leaving the jetty as a viewing plaza within the redevelopment. And once the main structure of the building has been taken down, the firm will also need to dismantle the basement.
“Being close to the waterfront, we could also face a few challenges with water management, as the project moves forward,” he says. “Demolition is one of few jobs where material content and dismantling is an unknown process – you don’t know what you’re going to really find, until you get stuck in.”
Though the firm’s skill, precision and professionalism is helping it to make light work of this building with its many external elevations, and complex diversity of roof structures.
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