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Building Demolition: Everything You Need to Know

Building demolition takes place for a variety of reasons.

An architect will often design a building with an intended lifespan of between 80 and 100 years referred to as its ‘design life’. After this time, the building might become inhabitable or dangerous to the surrounding buildings as the structure has become unstable.

Therefore, demolition is the best and safest course of action as you can break down and rebuild the structure to make it fit for purpose.

However, it’s not just a case of turning up on site with an excavator and demolishing the building. Before you can do this, you must follow a demolition process which is essential for health and safety, as well as efficiency on site.

Furthermore there are a selection of demolition methods to choose from depending on the nature and size of the job. This can be overwhelming as project managers are unsure which is most suitable. In this post we will provide you with a full guide on building demolition so that you have all of the information you need before engaging in this type of project.

Why Is Demolition Important?

Building demolition is important as once a building has reached the end of it’s ‘design life’, it is no longer structurally safe. As a result, the building will need to be demolished and reconstructed to make it structurally sound again. This involves pulling down the old building to make space for a new one.

The decision to demolish a building should not be taken lightly as it can be a time consuming and resource intensive process. However, in many scenarios it is the right thing to do as it makes space for a better, more economically aware structure.

This is particularly important for older buildings as construction methods are constantly evolving. For instance, green construction techniques are a growing trend and involve methods which are environmentally friendly. Therefore, by reconstructing a building, an architect could incorporate these eco-friendly processes into the design of the new structure.

What Are the Main Reasons for Building Demolition?

Building demolition is carried out for a variety of reasons. From maintaining health and safety standards to increasing the property's value, let’s explore these in more detail.

The Foundation is Faulty

The foundations of a building are what keep it viable. Therefore, once these become weak it can lead to several issues. As the building matures, the foundations can become brittle, the floor can become uneven, and moisture might build up in certain areas.

If you spot these issues then demolition might be a better option than renovation. Often the problems are too far gone and cannot be rectified without deconstructing large amounts of the existing structure.

The Building is Too Old

Over time, the materials used in an old structure will slowly deteriorate. As a result, this weakens the structure and makes the building unstable. Therefore, it will no longer meet industry standards as it will compromise the health and safety of any occupants.

Regardless of how a building looks from an exterior point of view, this does not reflect the quality of the interior. Some issues are not obvious but can have serious consequences if left untouched. Poor ventilation and plumbing is often unsolvable and can actually cost more money to fix than it’s worth.

Increase the Value of the Property

If you have a substantial plot of land in a good location, then demolishing your old building could be the best idea. If your building is in poor condition then this will affect how much money you can sell the land for.

Of course it is best to look at your different options, but a well maintained plot of land will be much more attractive to potential buyers than a decrepit building sitting on it. Alternatively you could pull down the existing structure and make space for new offices or apartments.

The Building is Infested With Dangerous Pests or Materials

If chemicals such as lead, mercury, or asbestos are found in a building, then a partial demolition may be necessary. Furthermore, a team of experts would need to be called in to correctly dispose of the hazardous substances.

Old and abandoned buildings are more prone to infestations such as rats and termites. This would require an exterminator which could be very costly. However in many cases the toxic chemicals and infestations have built up to a stage that they are past the point of repair. In this case, a building demolition is the best course of action.

How Long Does a Building Demolition Take?

The time it takes to demolish a building depends on the size and scale of the project. In addition, if professionals are needed to carry out any work such as the removal of asbestos, this will lengthen and complicate the process.

There are 4 main stages to building demolition which are outlined below:

Surveying the Building

Surveying involves studying the different features of the building, its structure, and the surroundings.

There are two different types of surveyors - building survey and structural survey. We have outlined these both in more detail including what’s involved in each process.

Building survey

This process covers:

  • Types of material used in construction
  • Previous usage
  • The presence of hazardous materials
  • The condition of drains and any underlying problems with water pollution and flooding
  • Shared utilities and facilities
  • The consequences of noise levels, dust, vibration, and traffic movements on the nearby area

Structural survey

This process covers:

  • Construction method
  • The fundamental conditions of basement and any underground tanks
  • The skeletal system used in the design phase
  • The condition of the building

Removal of Hazardous Materials

The presence of any hazardous materials may come to light following a demolition survey. As we’ve discussed, this includes materials such as asbestos, mercury, and lead. In this case, a team of specialists and remediation companies would need to be employed to dispose of these safely before demolition can start.

Preparation of a Demolition Plan

A demolition plan outlines the different processes involved in demolition and demonstrates how the removal works are going to take place. This plan assists project managers when planning the work and ensures all of the necessary checks have been carried out.

The different processes are:

  • The location of the building
  • Distances from surrounding buildings, roads, and schools
  • The structural support
  • The sequence of demolition and how it will be carried out (we will discuss different types of demolition methods further in this post)
  • A health and safety plan stating all of the measures in place to protect the public. This includes hoardings, covered walkways, scaffolding protection screens, and crash decks
  • Waste management plan to ensure any waste is safely disposed of
  • Programme of the demolition process

The demolition plan will then be sent to the local authority for approval. Several factors influence whether or not permission is granted including the size and type of building you wish to demolish, and where it is located.

If you’re unsure you should ask your local authority for advice about what is required prior to demolition. This prevents any legal action being taken against you once the demolition has started.

The below are examples of situations where specific permissions may be required before demolition can be carried out:

  • Conservation area - If you plan to demolish a building within a conservation area, further restrictions will apply. This will require an ‘Application for planning permission for relevant demolition in a conservation area’ unless the demolition project meets certain criteria. You can read the full details on Gov.uk.
  • Listed building - These buildings are covered by a different type of legislation and you will need to apply for listed building consent. You can find more information on Historic England.
  • Pubs/ drinking establishments - You will need to apply for full planning permission if you wish to pull down a pub or any other drinking establishment.
  • Concert halls and theatres - These buildings require full planning permission if you wish to demolish them, as well as any other type of venue where live performances can take place.
  • Unsafe/ inhabitable buildings - An application for full planning permission is required before you can demolish any building deemed as unsafe or inhabitable.
  • Outdoor statues, memorials, and monuments - The demolition of any outdoor statues, memorials, and monuments is further restricted and may require Planning Permission unless the project meets certain criteria. You can read the full details on Gov.uk.

Safety Measures

Building demolition must be carried out in a way that is carefully considered and planned to prevent danger to anyone present.

Before demolition can take place, each member of the workforce will have a site induction and toolbox talk. This allows the project manager to run through the demolition job and what is required. It is vital everyone involved understands the job at hand and knows what safety precautions they must take on site.

Furthermore, fire and emergency plans are prepared and are included within the health and safety induction. In some cases, there are hazardous materials on site which have not yet been cleared. This involves flammable liquid so it’s important all employees know how to reach safety in the event of a fire.

Measures are also put in place to minimise disruption through the course of the project which involves reducing and monitoring noise, dust, and vibration. This is important for both employees and the general public.

Throughout the demolition, all workers must wear correct PPE as this ensures they are safe and protected from any falling objects and debris.

In addition, occupational health checks are carried out on a regular basis for all demolition workers to ensure their health is not compromised in any way. This is particularly important during demolition jobs as workers can be exposed to high levels of noise and potentially dangerous particles.

What Are the Different Demolition Methods?

There are several different types of demolition methods to consider before simply tearing down a building. You need to consider the location of the building, the primary building materials, and how you plan to dispose of the debris.

Any method you choose must be safe for the demolition crew, and the people in the surrounding areas.

Let’s take a look at some different demolition methods.

Selective Demolition

This involves removing specific parts of a building. Some old buildings remain structurally intact and can stand the test of time. However, others weaken as they age and there might be some sections that are not performing as they should be.

If it is just these areas that are of concern, but the rest of the building is structurally sound, then it makes sense to only demolish these sections. That way you can start rebuilding them and improve the overall quality of the building. Selective demolition is often used in listing buildings where there are restrictions around how much of a building you can tear down.

Total Demolition

Total demolition involves pulling down an entire building or site. This usually happens when a building is no longer serving an area to make room for something more practical. For example, if a shopping centre was no longer benefiting a community, it would make sense to knock it down and build housing.

This would probably benefit the surrounding area a lot more than the unused shopping centre as it provides additional housing for the community.

Explosive Demolition

This is a highly specialised type of demolition, and involves using explosives to take down a building. This type of demolition work involves targeting the structure of a building so that it collapses in on itself.

Interior Demolition

This involves demolishing parts of the building from the inside whilst still protecting and maintaining the exterior structure. For example you could knock down partition walls and ceilings to change the internal layout.

This is a great solution if you want to create more space inside of a building or if you want to tear down some areas of concern.

Dismantling or Deconstruction

This involves preserving certain parts of a structure by carefully dismantling or deconstructing them. This enables you to recycle or reuse these parts in the future. Dismantling structures is much more labour intensive than total or explosive demolition as you have to be careful not to ruin the existing structure.

What Equipment Is Needed for a Demolition Project?

Mini excavators are used for a range of demolition projects on both small scale and large scale jobs. Excavators are very useful as they can work on a variety of tasks within one area. As a result, they are a versatile piece of machinery and will speed up the demolition process.

Another key benefit of using a mini excavator is that it can be fitted with different attachments such as rotational grapples, pulverisers, and impact breakers.

Mini excavators don’t have the same reach of large excavators but they are ideal for tight spaces. This means they can get up close in a demolition project and effectively break down large volumes of rubble. This makes short work of knocking down walls and buildings, and is best accompanied by a small site dumper.

At YardLink, we supply a range of plant and tool hire to suit the requirements of your demolition project. From excavators, to dumpers and diggers, to skips for clearing waste, we have everything you could possibly need. We take every possible factor into account to ensure you have the right machinery to complete the job at hand.

You can set up your online account in minutes, and hire all of your equipment from one central location. It’s never been so easy!

Building Demolition: Everything You Need to Know

Building demolition needs to be carefully considered and planned before you can start tearing down an entire building.

There is a process that you must follow to ensure you have obtained the correct planning permission, otherwise you can find yourself facing legal action. What’s more, following this process ensures you have chosen the correct demolition method and understand what is involved.

This is essential for the safety of everyone on site, and those working in the surrounding area. Before demolishing a building you need to be confident that this will not have a knock on effect on other buildings nearby.

So before grabbing your excavator and pulling down a structure, make sure you have read and understood the above post. This will equip you with all of the knowledge you need before engaging in this type of project.

Regardless of which demolition method you choose, having the right tools is essential. At YardLink we’ve got you covered, and supply a range of machinery to fulfil your project needs. To find out more about how our tools can benefit your next demolition project, speak to a member of our team. We would love to hear from you!

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