Promoting the Positive Side of Demolition

National Demolition Association

Jeff Lambert, Certified Association Executive (CAE) and executive director of Washington, D.C.’s National Demolition Association (NDA) wants the public to know that demolition involves a lot more than just blowing up – or imploding, to be precise – buildings.
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“We focus on promoting the depth and breadth of the demolition industry. While implosions represent the most visible face of demolition, they are only a relatively small portion of the total work of the industry,” states Lambert.

Founded in 1972 and boasting nearly six hundred member companies in the United States, Canada, and other countries, the NDA is the premier trade group of its kind in the industry. The association offers safety training, conferences, and lobbying efforts on behalf of members. It also works to raise public awareness about the multi-faceted nature of demolition work and the sector’s environmental focus.

“We promote all aspects of demolition including structural and select demolition and dismantlement, industrial recovery, and C&D (construction and demolition) recycling, specialized rigging and landfilling, insurance services and equipment manufacturing, general contracting, and architectural salvage and facilities decontamination, asbestos abatement, and nuclear clean-up. In short, the demolition process involves a wide range of products and services beyond teardown and implosions to meet the needs of clients and the community,” says Lambert.

“Implosion demolition is the most dramatic way to demolish a building. Explosives are set to destroy the building’s primary vertical support, causing the building to collapse on itself from the inside out.”

There are different categories of demolition work. Some demolition companies specialize in specific niches while others handle a variety of jobs.

“Commercial demolition is the removal of a commercial building. Building demolition applies to single family homes, apartment buildings, and large buildings in downtown areas that are part of communities and should not be affected more than necessary. Industrial demolition is the dismantlement of structures or facilities used in the production of goods. There are many types of demolition, but these are a few of the types you will see most often,” explains Lambert.

While demolition work might seem destructive, it actually has environmental as well as social and economic benefits. A demolition job typically produces a large amount of debris, much of which can be recycled, remediated, or salvaged. This debris might include wood, concrete, bricks, ceiling tiles, wiring, plasterboard, carpet, metals, and more. By focusing on re-use, viable building materials are given a second life, debris is kept out of landfill, and waste disposal costs are reduced.

Deconstruction is careful dismantlement of building components for re-use or recycling and represents a methodical, labor-intensive approach to demolition. It can sometimes literally involve taking a structure apart by hand. This is not the fastest way to do things, but with the rising popularity of green building methods, constructing and demolishing structures in as eco-friendly a manner as possible is a growing trend.

“We have seen a greater emphasis on deconstruction,” says Lambert of recent trends. “We expect this trend to continue as demand for green building certification becomes standard.”

In addition to re-using building materials, demolition companies perform another important task that is sometimes overlooked. When disasters strike, demolition teams are often called in to clear the wreckage.

“NDA members also take part in disaster response, working with local and state firefighters, police, and disaster response teams to aid in hazardous materials spills, search and rescue, and debris removal. In addition, some of our members are also actively involved in the disaster response training, working to set up disaster response drills and taking part in safety training to ensure, when a disaster strikes, they can assist to the fullest ability,” explains Lambert.

Overall business conditions within the demolition sector are good, a reflection of the strength of the construction industry. “Construction has seen an uptick, and the industry is forecast to grow past its pre-recession size. As the value of residential and non-residential construction increases, the need for demolition for new structures increases as well. We rely on data from several reports on the economic outlook over the next year. We review data from several sources including the American Institute of Architects Consensus Construction Forecast and ENR Construction Industry Confidence Index survey, to name a few,” states Lambert.

The Associated Builders and Contractors Construction backlog indicator is one of the crucial reports that demolition firms review to get a sense of market conditions.

“The most recent report shows project backlog expanded to a record 9.9 months during the second quarter of 2018, up 12.2 percent from the first quarter and 14 percent compared to the same time last year. As a result of the market, we are experiencing double the number of new members this year over this time last year. Members have experienced an increase in work in all sectors of the demolition industry,” says Lambert.

Given the sometimes dangerous nature of demolition work, safety training is central to NDA’s mission. “Hazardous materials removal requires inspections, assessments, and training. Safety training is a requirement and priority for NDA members. Additionally, professionals must have the knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to effectively run their companies,” states Lambert.

To this end, NDA provides comprehensive safety training and continuing education for field superintendents, supervisors, project managers, or anyone who wants to further their career in the sector. The NDA has online safety courses, training manuals, and a seminar-series called foundations of demolition management which consists of four seminars, totaling forty hours of in-class instruction. Participants who complete the seminars can earn a certificate of demolition management, the first certification of its kind in the industry.

“The NDA saw a need for educating those throughout the industry on best practices in some of the foundational aspects of demolition management. NDA launched the first course in the series – foundations of demolition estimating – in 2016. Foundations of demolition project management and foundations of demolition job cost tracking both debuted in 2018. We are looking forward to the launch of the final course in the program – foundations of demolition risk management – at our Demolition Rockies conference next year,” explains Lambert.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training is also offered. “As we move into 2019, on the job safety will be a primary focus of our education. Through improvements to the NDA safety app and the development of safety talks, these resources can be accessed on-the-go or at a job site,” says Lambert.

Lobbying is another important aspect of what the NDA does. From the association’s location in Washington, D.C., the NDA keeps legislators and regulators informed about demolition industry issues and works closely with OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other groups to craft construction industry policy as it relates to demolition work.

Other issues on which the NDA is working include new OSHA rules about crystalline silica exposure on worksites, “electronic recordkeeping, steel and aluminum tariffs, brownfield funding, and tax reform. Currently, our advocacy work is focused at the federal level, but we stay informed on major state developments,” continues Lambert.

The association organizes conferences and events for member companies. The NDA convention and exposition is called Demolition Rockies and takes place from March 22 to 25, 2019 in Aurora, Colorado. This convention is expected to attract contractors, engineers, business owners, processing and recycling companies, manufacturers, and others to find out what is new in demolition gear, processes, and business in general.

“In 2019, we are excited to bring back the live demolition event. Building on the success of 2018, this event will take place on Saturday, March 23 and feature a variety of equipment, including concrete saws, cutting tools, drones, robotics equipment, excavators, and demolition equipment that can be tested in real time,” states Lambert.

“At Demolition Rockies, we are also looking forward to celebrating the demolition industry. Each year at our annual banquet and gala, we celebrate excellence in demolition. Through the NDA awards, we recognize companies for their significant environmental conservation and community involvement, honor members for their leadership and commitment to NDA, and support rising professionals through a variety of scholarship. This event is always a great way to close the convention,” he adds.

The event will also mark an opportunity to award NDA’s first certificates of demolition management to people who completed the program.

Into the future, NDA plans to continue emphasizing member education. “We are focused on providing our members a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Over the next five years, we will expand education programs that will provide our members the tools necessary to complete making them the obvious choice in the bidding process. Safety and best practices in business will be a key focus,” says Lambert.

“We have plans to offer an increased array of training and education programs that enable members to increase profit margins and operate safe and efficient job sites. We will expand course offerings of foundations of demolition management and safety training by hosting more networking and training programs across the country. Iron sharpens iron. The more training and opportunities we offer members to network and share what does and does not work, the better positioned our members will be to win the next job,” he adds.

Due Diligence

The workplace is where we spend one third of our lives. Work is intricately woven into every aspect of daily living. And self-preservation in the workplace – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, can change everything about it for the better.

October 18, 2019, 8:57 PM EDT