2022: A year in demolition quotes part one
By Leila Steed28 December 2022
In 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic forced most industries to grind to a halt, and sent the world’s economies into a period of unprecedented financial borrowing.
Although the demolition industry and the wider construction sector were among those that continued to function throughout 2020 and into 2021 (albeit it in a limited capacity), they also experienced some of the greatest upheaval and the biggest challenges.
However, the embracing of these challenges meant that 2022 gave rise to new innovations, commitments to limiting our environmental impact, and fresh perspectives on employee working conditions and wellbeing.
In this two-part article, D&Ri sums up the most important, most interesting and most useful insights of 2022 with quotes from two industry leaders for each month of the past year.
January 2022: A new year, a new perspective
In an interview discussing how the pandemic was encouraging women to enter the demolition and construction industries, Keltbray’s sustainability director highlighted the benefits of flexible working. Read the full article here.
“I would argue that the pandemic is a golden opportunity to re-balance the construction industry.
“In the past construction companies have not always approached jobs with flexibility in mind. We haven’t questioned whether it is necessary to have every member of a team on site for ten hours a day.
“Covid has proved that some people can work remotely.”
—Holly Price, Group Sustainability Director at Keltbray and former president, National Federation of Demolition Contractors, United Kingdom.
The impact of nearly two years of lockdowns emphasized the importance of protecting the environment like never before, and fuelled a shift contractors’ in priorities.
As UK-based contractor Rye Group demonstrates, things like switching to diesel alternative fuels which, although expensive in the short term, is priceless when it comes to safeguarding the environment. Read our full interview with Rye Group’s operations director here.
“Crucially, however, the demolition industry itself needs to take on the responsibility of making this kind of bold change [using Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil fuels].
“Current government interventions aren’t quite enough. As such, it is for us to update our standards and take proactive steps towards a better future for our planet.”
—Ben Griffiths, safety, health, environment and operations director, Rye Group, United Kingdom.
February 2022: New innovations
When it came to preparing the live demo area for its annual demolition convention, the US National Demolition Association (NDA) convention committee used an innovative site clearance solution... It employed “The Goat Guy”. Read the full interview here.
“The site is just a big open field full of weeds. So, this gentleman will bring approximately 400 head of goat, and take about four weeks to clean the site.
“As demolition people we sometimes get criticised for not being friendly to the environment. But the goats will chew the weeds right down below the surface, we will get a clean site, and it saves me thousands of dollars on my budget. All we supply is potable water for the goats to drink.”
—Scott Laird, Chair, Convention Committee, National Demolition Association, USA.
Also in February, Liebherr-France’s director spoke about more conventional innovations, reminding us that contractors and manufacturers alike will need to employ more than one solution to reduce their carbon footprint.
“As a manufacturer we have to anticipate how demand is supposed to move in the future.
“Everyone is working at reducing their own carbon footprint, and so are our customers in the demolition business.
“We are aware that there is not one solution, there is a range of solutions, and that is why we are developing new technologies – hydrogen engines, technology with fuel cells, battery electric and fully plugged-in electric machines.”
—Christophe Sanchez, managing director, Liebherr-France.
March 2022: Planning for the future
Addressing the lack of skilled workers remains an enormous challenge for the demolition industry, and the construction sector at large.
Talking with D&Ri earlier this year, Cawarden’s managing director said that dispelling old beliefs about the sector is key to improving recruitment.
“I think a lot of people, particularly younger people, see demolition as a dirty, horrible business with low pay, and it’s our job to tell them that’s not the case anymore.
“Our machine drivers are earning more than the schoolteachers who told them they were never going to be any use for anything.”
—William Crooks, managing director, Cawarden, United Kingdom.
While 2022 initially brought about a hope that things may soon return to, at the very least, “a new normal”, Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine in late February rocked the world.
The world-wide condemnation of Russia’s actions led many to think - and hope, that the conflict would be short-lived.
Although that has proved not to be the case, speaking of the war in Ukraine in March 2022, demolition expert David Sinclair said the organised nature of the Ukraine government would benefit the country when post-war requirements are assessed.
“What happens when the war [in Ukraine] is over, hopefully very soon, is that agencies will talk to the World Bank for funding.
“I look at the television shots of what’s happening, and I try to count the number of floors quickly. And it looks to me like it’s an average of between 10 and 15 floors.
“So, 10 or 12 floors could mean high reach equipment, but for anything over that, from a safety point of view explosives may come into their own right.”
“Around Ukraine there are some prominent demolition contractors in Poland, while Germany is not far away and has a very large association whose members have good equipment and explosives experience. I’m sure other equipment manufacturers will be right there to help as well.”
—David Sinclair, Safedem, USA.
April 2022: Sustainability in demolition
In April of 2022, a law change in the UK put an end to the use of rebated red diesel or biofuels in construction machinery and equipment.
While 15 industry bodies jointly wrote to the UK government saying the change would increase fuel costs by almost 200%, equipment distributor Worsley Plant highlighted the importance of working smarter. Read the article here.
“Many of the suppliers we work with have a focus on saving time and money. We have been promoting the importance of one machine, one attachment recycling on site and eliminating transport costs for many years.
“We’re not saying we can help with all the issues that companies will face with the change to white diesel, but we can certainly go a long way to helping our customers make smart choices.”
—Sean Heron, managing director, Worsley Plant, United Kingdom.
If we were to choose one word to sum up 2022, ‘sustainability’ would be it.
Indeed, the focus on both environmental sustainability in both the short and long term saw a huge number of contractors and OEMs, including Terex brand company EvoQuip, role out new environmental strategies.
“Sustainability is a strategic priority for us and consistently at the top of our agenda.
“We see it as our responsibility to do what we can to be as sustainable a company as possible, and to help to build a world that puts sustainability at the forefront of everything we do.”
—Barry O’Hare, business line director, Evoquip, United Kingdom.
May 2022: Safety in the workplace
With greater emphasis on deconstruction, the recycling of C&D waste, and the introduction of more technologically advanced heavy equipment, keeping site workers safe has been a key focus for many in demolition this year.
This was highlighted in a podcast with Evan Mackey of US-based demolition firm Bolander.
“Safety has become a big issue obviously, and it’s becoming more and more something that people want to really focus on. At the same time, equipment has become more technical.
“The days of ‘smash and grab’ on a whole building are still there on a limited basis.
“But more buildings, especially high-rise buildings, are getting renovated or partially demolished, with retrofitting the inside and putting on big additions. It is a different scope of work for our field.”
—Evan Mackey, vice president demolition, Bolander, USA.
With the scope of demolition projects changing, the labour shortage is likely to become even more of an issue.
According to specialist contractor Winter Environmental, around half a million skilled workers will be needed in the next decade in the USA alone.
“[In the USA] we anticipate $550 billion of construction in the next 10 years. That is an average of between 300,000 and 600,000 craft workers a year we need to bring online. Where are they coming from?
“We are fighting forces from every sector in our competition for labour. If someone wants to drive a tractor trailer for Walmart, they can get US$110,000 a year.
“It is a challenge that everybody is facing whether they are in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, here in the States or in Canada.”
—Jim Graham, principal, executive vice president at Winter Environmental, USA.
June: Mid-year review
Upon his appointment as the new president of the European Demolition Association, Stefano Panseri spoke of his dedication to his new role as head of the association.
“I will do my best to serve you as European Demolition Association president. And to my family, I say you are facing a much bigger workload in the next three years!”
—Stefano Panseri, president, European Demolition Association and CEO, Despe, Italy.
Half way through 2022, Volvo Construction Equipmment’s president, Melke Jernberg, said he believed the next five years would see huge change across the construction industry, and revealed how even in the face of the unknown, sticking to your ambitions is often the right move. Read the full article here.
“Now it [electric machines] looks obvious. But at the time we had no idea of the market, of customers, volumes, prices, costs.
“We went to the board with nothing but an ambition to take the lead in this change.”