Civil Engineer’s Role in Demolishing Buildings

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When demolishing a structure, engineers evaluate many facts before, during and after the project. Before the demolition, engineers must understand the impact the project will have on the environment, nearby structures and citizens. During the demolition, engineers must make sure that the workers follow all directives and that the project progresses on schedule. Once the project is complete, engineers will evaluate the completed project. Additionally, all manmade structures have an engineer who keeps the property safe for the public continuously.

Before the Walls Come Down

Before demolition work begins, civil engineers may deploy their skills in every demolition aspect from the ground up. Geotechnical engineers survey the ground and soil below and around a structure. Depending on the project, the engineer may survey an entire region. They also make sure that the earth under a foundation can support a structure in its entirety. Typically, engineers analyze structures such as building foundations, earth structures and sometimes the supporting earth under sidewalks. Geotechnical engineers also solve important problems such as ground erosion and grading issues that can hamper demolition and create ongoing problems.

Geographical surveys are not the only pre-demolition investigation that takes place before the project begins. Before demolition, structural engineers survey the building’s support structure. These engineers work with building materials such as concrete, steel and wood. Before a demolition project begins, they investigate these structural materials to make sure the building is safe to tear down. If a structure has temporary bracing, the engineer must consider how this affects the project before it begins. The structural engineer must also make sure there are no hazardous materials present that can harm workers or nearby citizens. Additionally, they must decide which demolition technique is best for the project. The engineer may decide to use excavation equipment for smaller structures. Conversely, the largest projects may call for using an implosion. This demolition method involves using powerful explosives to make large structures collapse inward. This is the most dramatic demolition technique, and it is very rarely deployed.

Another pre-demolition engineering activity is developing a plan to protect utility service lines, such as electric and gas lines. In many instances, the engineer disconnects the utilities completely. Utility engineers develop plans that keep utility lines safe from unnecessary damage. They also make sure that disconnected utility lines are safely cut and sealed off during the demolition.

In special instances, an architectural engineer must design and manage new building construction before demolition begins. This situation arises when an organization will continue to use a structure after builders complete all projects. The architectural engineer may have to consult with other engineering specialists to make sure that the new structure remains undamaged and that pedestrian traffic can safely navigate the site during demolition. All engineers must quantify the costs related to their specialties for inclusion in the overall project budget.

Once Demolition Is Underway

Once demolition begins, engineers make sure that the demolition goes as planned. The structural engineer may take surveys at regular intervals to make sure that the structure stays strong enough to support itself during demolition. The engineer will also monitor safety conditions for additional chemical hazards, such as hidden asbestos. They will also monitor for harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide and gas.

The most obvious concern for engineers is dust. When workers demolish a structure, the demolition process produces large dust clouds. Typically, there is a worker spraying high-pressure water over a work area to weigh the dust particles down; however, an engineer may decide that it is necessary to use a more sophisticated dust mitigation system.

Sometimes demolition projects call for special structural engineers. Conservation is an issue that is positively affecting all industries. Some historic buildings are only demolished partially. When this is desired, engineers try to save the original structure as much as possible. The engineers normally design a top down demolition. Demolition crews used this method regularly before the industrial age ushered in new, powerful machines that could tear a structure down easily. The method, as its name implies, begins with workers demolishing the roof structure then descending down until they reach the foundation.

Another environmentally friendly demolition practice is material recycling. Almost all metals are too valuable to simply discard in a landfill. A project can generate profit by selling demolished metal to a scrap broker. In addition to saving on landfill fees, engineers use these techniques because the government has mandated that companies decrease the debris they discard in landfills. Demolition engineers can also coordinate with construction engineers to repurpose building materials for the current project or for future projects. Pulverized concrete is often used for the sublayer that supports new concrete foundations. All engineers that remain during the demolition must make sure that workers follow the demolition plan and that the project stays on time and on budget.

After Demolition

After demolition, the engineers will survey the project to see how well the demolition experts did their jobs. Geotechnical engineers will test the soil for contaminants and density. They will also survey an area to measure the demolition project’s environmental impact. They will look for hazards that the project may have introduced to the water supply and other natural elements. Once a building is safely demolished, a new structure will take its place and one last engineer – or engineering team – will remain with the structure to make sure it remains safe for public use.

Demolishing a structure safely takes detailed planning throughout the project. Engineers use their skills to make sure that the demolition does not cause harm to the surrounding area and those nearby. They oversee the project during its life-cycle to make sure that the workers meet all deadlines and budget constraints. Engineers also conduct post demolition surveys to make sure that the workers met all project requirements. They also stay on board during the structure’s lifespan to ensure its continued integrity.

Learn More

Civil engineers play a crucial role in engineering the structural solutions of tomorrow and plan, design, construct, and operate the infrastructure essential to our modern lives. As a student in the online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program, you can enhance your quantitative decision-making skills and learn how to justify managerial decisions with data. You will also explore the capabilities of modern management technologies and discover how to successfully leverage these tools to maximize efficiencies in your projects and on your teams.