April 16, 2010
FOCUS | Demolition & environmental engineering
Cheeseman’s Concrete Removal tackles demolition on overpass project
When demolition contracts specify tight spaces and finesse, large diesel excavators may not fit the bill. In British Columbia, Cheeseman’s Concrete Removal of Richmond offers a niche demolition service using pint-sized remote-controlled demolition units that pack a wallop.
Owner Balfour Cheeseman was recently selected to provide concrete demolition services to widen the Highway 99 overpass in Richmond over the Shell Road exit between Seattle and Vancouver.
“The highway is being widened to provide two additional bus lanes,” says Cheeseman. “On this particular job I’m using a Brokk 180, a medium range demolition robot, to carve out the expansion joints and to trim back the sides of the bridge to the girders. This machine will go head-to-head with a backhoe, but it’s a lot more precise. If there’s any limitation, it’s that they’re a lot lighter than a larger excavator, so they don’t have quite the same weight resistance when they dig into the concrete.”
Cheeseman guides the two-tonne demolition robot using a remote control outfitted with left and right joysticks, raising and lowering controls and an emergency shut-off. He stands nearby as the machine gently trims away the edges of the bridge, exposing structural steel. He then turns his attention to the expansion joints, carefully removing the metal core of the joint.
“They used a jackhammer on the northbound section of the Port Mann Bridge over the Fraser River near Surrey,” says Cheeseman. “But the concrete around the girder was badly spalled, so they banned mechanical hammers on the southbound part of the contract.”
Cheeseman finished the job with his robot excavator and caught the eye of the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation. “When they issued the tenders for the Highway 99 overpass, they specified the use of the Brokk 180 for concrete demolition,” says Cheeseman. “Three general contractors were bidding on the first contract and I was getting calls from all of them. They weren’t really familiar with this piece of equipment and I was only too happy to supply my own.”
Cheeseman worked on the bridge in two separate contracts, the first on the northbound section for Seismic 2000 Construction Ltd., and on the southbound for Western Versatile Construction Corp.
The company has been in business for 11 years and now owns three of the Swedish-built Brokk units.
“In many cases, I’m called because larger equipment can’t get into a very tight space,” he says. “If we’re working indoors, the units run entirely on electricity, so there are no fumes.”
He’s currently working on a project at Golden Boy Foods in Burnaby, where diesel fumes are prohibited. The contract includes chipping 16 inches of concrete from 5000 square feet of floor, and knocking out an interior wall 32 feet high and 60 feet long. “The wall took about three or four hours,” says Cheeseman. “There are people working in the building because it’s an operating warehouse. If you had exhaust fumes in there, they’d be up in the rafters.”
One of Cheeseman’s favourite jobs was working on Vancouver’s Golden Ears Bridge in 2005. “When they fill the water cells in the bridge piers with concrete, they overfill them because, when the concrete settles, the top few feet of a deep pour are usually of poorer quality. The robot units are outfitted with anchor points so the equipment was just lowered by crane into the cells from above. I went down into the cells with the demo robot and chipped each of the cells in 48 piers down to the 10-foot mark.”
Cheeseman says he occasionally helps out friends on home demolition jobs. “I’ve always bragged that I could ring a doorbell with this unit,” he says. “A few months ago, when I helped a friend take out his front doorstep, I actually let the machine ring the doorbell for me when I called him to come out.”
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