Building Demolition Expert  What They Do

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dotBuilding demolition experts use their knowledge of construction, engineering and explosives to safely bring down buildings and other structures. But blowing things up is only part of the job. These experts also dispose of demolished buildings in ways that do as little harm as possible to the environment.

dotWhile there are only a few hundred such experts across North America, industry groups say increased environmental awareness and concerns about preserving old buildings will open up new opportunities over the next five years.

Corrine Fulton, who owns a demolition company, compares environmental demolition to household recycling. In a few years, she hopes, it will become the standard. "I think deconstruction demolition is where the blue box was 10 years ago. People are just starting to tweak into it. They're just starting to recognize that some of the products, like the lumber, [are] just not available anymore."

dotThe most exciting demolition process is an implosion -- a series of blasts timed carefully so that the building collapses in on itself like a deck of cards, rather than shooting out in all directions. Demolition experts use as little explosive power as possible to get the job done. That cuts down on the amount of dust and debris flying through the air.

dotBut few demolitions involve spectacular explosions or implosions. The most common methods of demolition today are good old-fashioned wrecking balls, backhoes, front-end loaders and dump trucks.

dotBut ripping and tearing isn't the only way to get rid of a building. The growing trend is deconstruction, which involves carefully taking apart a building one piece at a time. Often, the wood and other materials are salvaged and sent to recycling companies. No matter how old or abandoned a building is, its parts could be used to construct something entirely new.

Fulton's specialty and passion is recycling and reusing. There is a lot, she says, that we waste by exploding buildings, or taking materials to the dump.

"Some of this timber that people have been smashing and throwing into the landfill for years -- it's just not available anymore," she says. The ultimate goal, she explains, is to not tear down buildings at all. "The ultimate of user-friendliness is to take the entire building and use it in its entirety."

dotA safe and successful demolition project requires a working knowledge of both construction and the law. Most communities require demolition permits, and any project involving explosives will be scrutinized by local authorities.

At a Glance

Wreck big buildings and get rid of the debris

  • Tools of the trade: wrecking balls, backhoes, front-end loaders and dump trucks
  • Deconstruction is a growing trend
  • You may need to pass a licensing exam