Demolition report from an eight-storey building

13/06/2022

Article

Machine operator Richard Wallman, from the Stockholm company Destroy, has been working in the demolition sector since the mid-1990s. There have been a great many developments since then. A multitude of aids have made his work easier – everything from advances in digital technology to QuickChange from Rototilt, which he has recently started using. We explored Richard’s opinions during the course of a demolition job on the eighth floor, where the smart work tool solution is really coming into its own.

Richard has 20 years of experience operating an excavator in the demolition industry. He started out as a construction labourer in the mid-1990s, pushing a wheelbarrow, before moving on to concrete breakers, followed by Brokks and Bobcats. He switched to small excavators at the turn of the millennium, and over time has moved up through the sizes, ultimately arriving at more complex demolition jobs requiring 30-tonne machines.

“It’s a free and enjoyable profession, and the feeling you had as a kid when you found it fun to tear things down is still there,” says Richard.

We talk to Richard while he is working in Sundbyberg, one of Stockholm’s oldest suburbs, at the top of an eight-storey building. The top four floors are to be demolished and then rebuilt as apartments, and he is working his way down using a ten-tonne machine.

“This is a sensitive demolition environment, bearing in mind that the first four floors, which are made up of office space, are still bustling with activity. There has to be as little vibration as possible, so it’s important to cut the right things and to cut as little as possible at a time, to ensure that we don’t drop large sections that will cause disturbance,” he says.

Prior to a demolition job, he studies the drawings and runs through the process with his colleagues. Years of routine have made this fairly easy – he needs to know how properties are constructed, where he can apply the excavator’s power and what tools he should be using in certain situations.

“During my 20 years doing the job, the excavators have become more sensitive. There is also a lot more technology in the cab now, with computers to provide assistance, although the excavators themselves have not changed all that much,” he says.

The major change on an excavator relates to the tiltrotator and various accessories.

“A great deal has happened in this respect, which has really benefited me as a machine operator. Before, when I had to change tools, I was forced to get out of the machine and take out the hydraulic hose and a sledgehammer. Now it’s simply a case of pressing a button in the cab and it’s done.”

At the time of the interview, he has been operating Rototilt’s QuickChange for a month, and has gained a good understanding of the smart tool solution. The excavator is a Takeuchi TB290 and his company, Destroy, has recently switched to QuickChange.

“This machine works extremely well. We conducted reviews early on regarding how we wanted to have our controls, for example, which is an important detail. We want to have the same functions on all our machines, which makes things easier when you are switching between them. Since Rototilt is part of Open S, there has been a smooth transition. Hampus at Rototilt was in constant contact with us, listening to our wishes. Everything worked well right from the start when we first received the machine, because we had been thinking ahead and had conducted a dialogue in advance,” says Richard.

What is your general opinion about QuickChange?

“We often have to change tools, so this will benefit us greatly. At the moment I am demolishing a fan room, which will involve a lot of work with the grapple. However, this will be followed by the beams, when I will need steel shears, and then concrete demolition using concrete shears. I will save a great deal of time and, above all, save the tools.”

To what extent is time a factor?

“You’re always in a hurry when doing demolition work, and there is never a job where we aren’t already delayed when we arrive on site. That’s pretty much how it is. So time is of the essence. If I had to get out and change tools by hand, it would takes 5 or 6 minutes, unscrewing, cleaning and connecting – compared to 30 seconds. It adds up to a lot in the long run.”

And what do you mean when you say that you save the tools?

“If I needed to break a piece of concrete or hammer something quickly for a few seconds, then instead of switching to the hammer and making a hole, I’d rather cheat and use the bucket because it’s faster, even though I’d know that the bucket would be taking a beating. Without QuickChange, it simply takes too long to do the job properly – I mean, ten minutes of switching for a ten second job, it’s just not worth it. But now I use the right tool for the right task, because it can be accomplished so quickly, which means that we save the tools in the long run.”

Richard appreciates the fact that he works at a contracting firm that is adopting new technology and wants to be at the forefront.

“Johan, our manager, is innovative and doesn’t hesitate for a second if we say that we want to try out something new. If it doesn’t work, we try something else. He tends to come out and operate the machines himself, which I consider to be important – you don’t have the same understanding as the rest of us about these things if you just sit in the office.”

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