Ahead of the Curve

Features - Feature

A demolition contractor’s investment in wood processing equipment opens doors for new end markets.

November 8, 2012
Randy Happel

Will Dellinger, chief executive and co-owner of JW Demolition, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., has always been a diehard supporter of sustainability. The company was founded in 2007, with a commitment to completing every demolition project in the most environmentally friendly way. In the demolition business since 2001 when he began tearing down and recycling materials from out-of-date textile mills, Dellinger brought on his brother-in-law, Tony Pizzo, as co-owner and company president, to help run JW Demolition in 2008. In the three years that followed, business increased by 700 percent; and JW Demolition is today viewed as one of the most progressive green demolition contractors in the country.

“I attribute our growth to experience and working hard to understand what is sustainably possible in the business of demolition,” Dellinger says. “A lot of our success can be attributed to research and making prudent equipment purchase decisions. We have worked hard to get a healthy share of the demolition market, and have been successful because people recognize our commitment to doing what’s right.”

Wrecking Ball Retires
Much of the company’s success is the result of reinvestment in the processing tools that are the backbone of their business. Last summer, JW Demolition purchased several pieces of new equipment, including a Vermeer HG6000TX horizontal grinder and four hybrid excavators; primarily because of the eco-friendly technology and efficient operation of the new machinery. At a time when many facets of the economy were still very tight and uncertain, the JW Demolition duo viewed these purchases as a no-brainer.

Wood Pellets On the Rise

A recent addition of the North American Wood Fiber Review reports the United States has surpassed Canada in the amount of wood pellets it exports, making it the largest exporter of the fuel in the world. The U.S. is forecast to increase exports of wood pellets from 1.5 million tons in 2012 to 5.7 million tons in 2015 according to the publication.

In the southern U.S, pellet export volumes rose 13 percent in the second quarter of 2012 over the previous quarter, according to the review.

Meanwhile, Atlanta-based wood pellet producer, Enova Energy Group LLC, has announced plans to build three wood pellet projects to produce renewable fuel for export to Europe.

The facilities will be built in Georgia and South Carolina. Each of the facilities are expected to produce 450,000 metric tons per year of pellets. The pellets will be exported out of Savannah, Ga., to various consumers in the European Union under long-term contracts.

Zach Steele, CEO of Enova, says, “As demand for biomass has grown in Europe, Enova is ideally situated to take advantage of the vast resources of sustainable forests being grown throughout the Piedmont Region of the southeastern U.S. to help Europe meet its demand to reduce its carbon footprint.”

“To our way of thinking, and given the opportunities we saw in our trade territory, the decision to invest in more efficient and sustainable producing equipment make solid economic sense,” Dellinger says. “We are fully equipped as a mobile recycling yard, and can process everything from the wood to the steel. That is how our company has grown; by reinvestment in equipment and training our employees.”

During a period when most construction companies were downsizing, JW Demolition was hiring and training new employees. Today, the company’s work force stands at 95 strong and growing.

According to Dellinger, commercial building demolition has changed dramatically since the days of cranes and wrecking balls. The former approach was not only highly inefficient, but resulted in producing demolished materials in a form that was often unsuitable for recycling. Equipment innovations have since changed that. Today, the implements used most often in building deconstruction are excavators and grinders which are highly efficient and productive.

Defining their operation as a mobile recycling yard offers insights into why Pizzo and Dellinger selected the HG6000TX horizontal grinder. Equipped with 24-inch double-grouser track pads, the HG6000TX grinder is capable of self-propelling into the most remote job sites. High ground clearance and sealed rollers help keep material from building up in the track system, while a wireless remote allows the grinder to be operated from up to 300 feet away. And the exclusive Vermeer SmartGrind feed system automatically controls the rate of feeding raw material based on engine rpm levels, helping increase grinding efficiency and maximize fuel usage.

Closing the Loop

The steel industry has been actively recycling for more than 150 years, in large part because it is economically advantageous. It is cheaper to recycle steel than to mine iron ore and manipulate it through the production process to form new steel. And now, with the demand for recycled wood and biomass experiencing a dramatic increase, wood processing has become a lucrative component of JW Demolition’s business.

“The Vermeer grinder was the last piece of the puzzle,” Pizzo says. “We now we have a closed loop recycling/manufacturing process for demolishing large scale facilities. Before we bought the grinder, we hauled wood waste material to landfills. With the Vermeer grinder we’re able to produce a new product that is used for boiler fuel and in commercial and residential landscape applications. The grinder has allowed us to take what previously was destined for the landfill and produce a new product that has value.”

Pizzo calculates that upwards of 97 percent of the materials produced from many commercial structures demolished by JW Demolition can now be recycled. “In addition to wood and steel, we also recycle and manufacture concrete and asphalt,” he says. “Where we used to be recycling 80 to 85 percent of the material on site, now 95 to 97 percent of a demolished structure gets recycled.”

All the asbestos-containing material removed from a structure by the company goes to a specified landfill that receives it as hazardous waste and is not recycled. Pizzo explains that asbestos still makes up a small percentage of the waste from any project.

More Sustainable

Aside from their commitment to recycling as much discarded demolition material as possible, the principals at JW Demolition have also been motivated by economics. Pizzo explains that no longer having to spend upwards of half a million dollars in landfill fees annually has made a dramatic improvement to the company’s bottom line; positive environmental impacts notwithstanding.

“Spending the amount of money we were on landfill fees — the majority being wood waste that really doesn’t need to end up in a landfill — was adversely affecting our profitability,” Pizzo says. “The added benefit is that we reduce emissions by not having to haul material up and down the road to a landfill. There comes a point when the pendulum swings and it makes economic sense to do something. We reached that point when we invested in the Vermeer grinder.”

The uniqueness of the wood waste being recycled by the company is very important. The majority is aged material with a relatively low moisture content that is well suited for biomass boilers.  

“We are manufacturing new product from what was formerly waste material,” Pizzo says. “We recycle between 4 and 5 million board feet annually. A percentage of it is not reusable, so the wood chips we manufacture from this waste goes to the biomass industry and to landscaping companies. Biomass power production is still in its infancy. It’s a green power source with great potential but still under refinement. Eventually everything is going to be recycled.”

For now, JW Demolition is keeping ahead of what Pizzo defines as the new energy curve.

“There’s a very positive refinement in energy production underway,” Pizzo says. “Better management of our natural resources is the foundation. Biomass facilities exist, but are not yet widespread. We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve. We know we can find users for the material. The greatest obstacle at this point is locating biomass energy facilities that are within geographic proximity to demolition sites that make it cost-effective to transport. As more of these facilities come online, the more cost-efficient the wood waste recycling business will become. We’re definitely heading in the right direction.”


The article was submitted by Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa, on behalf of Vermeer, Pella, Iowa.