Construction & Demolition Recycling (C&DR) magazine celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2019. To help commemorate our time chronicling the C&D sector, we’re taking a look back at how the demolition industry has evolved over the years by speaking with the leaders who have helped shape it.
Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition Inc. (CDI) in Phoenix, Maryland, spoke with C&DR about growing up in the business, the intricacies of implosion work and establishing a reputation that lasts.
Construction & Demolition Recycling (C&DR): Can you talk about how and when you got your start in the business?
Mark Loizeaux (ML): My father, John D. “Jack” Loizeaux felled his first structure, a brick chimney, in Virginia in 1947. Like a lot of other children in family-run businesses back before OSHA dictated that age when personnel can come onto projects under their jurisdiction, I started going out with my father on weekends and during the summer when I was 6 years old. I literally came up through the business, watching my father as he learned from his successes—and failures—in developing what became the commercial explosives demolition industry. My father’s success was recognized over the years by industry organizations both domestically and internationally. In 2000, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Demolition Association (NDA) for his commitment to gaining acceptance of the explosives demolition industry and his innovative approach toward the felling of structures.I worked my way up through the company as a laborer, then labor supervisor, project manager and vice president after studying both engineering and business in college, finally taking over the operation of CDI and The Loizeaux Group of Companies in 1976.
C&DR: How have new technologies and equipment influenced how implosion jobs are completed today?
ML: The basic tenet of explosives demolition is to use the weight and configuration of a structure, combined with gravity and the smallest quantity of explosives possible, to safely bring a structure to grade. Most structures are imploded due to the limitations of either individual contractors involved or their in-house capability to “reach” the structure from ground level to perform conventional demolition methods; conditions in the structure that make conventional demolition dangerous for a project-specific reason; tight completion schedules that require a structure to come down to grade quickly; or simply because explosives demolition can be dramatically less expensive than conventional demolition methods, particularly in high-wage-rate locations.
Gravity hasn’t changed, but the nature of structures being demolished has, with newer and more complex structural systems being demolished every year as different types of construction used in decades past “come of age” and need to be removed to make way for new development. Demolition of post-tensioned structures presents unique problems for conventional demolition, whether top-down or ground-based methods are used. CDI has developed very successful implosion methods for post-tensioned structures that, where the site lends itself to implosion, conventional demolition methods simply can’t compare to in terms of safety, speed and cost.
There have been a few innovations in the explosives industry, and some of those innovations have found their way into commercial application opportunities. The use of linear-shaped charges on steel structures is probably the clearest example of explosives innovation’s impact on demolition operations.
C&DR: How have you seen regulation change over the years?
ML: Regulations imposed here in the U.S. frequently migrate from Europe after problems have arisen in the European Union that lead regulators to decide that more regulation is better. All too often, these stem from one of the least qualified contractors in the industry whose operation leads to the problem, resulting in over-regulation of more competent contractors who never would have had the problem in the first place due to their standard practices. I am certainly in favor of regulations that enhance safety for workers and the general public, where those regulations actually result in that net effect, rather than simply increasing the cost of performance.
C&DR: How has the emphasis on safety oversight changed?
ML: There have certainly been advances in personal protection equipment and the application of said equipment that make an employee’s presence on a job site safer. There are also safety-related developments on a project-specific basis that require unique safety compliance because of the environment within which the demolition is taking place. While such advancement in worker safety oversight and safety of the public adjacent to the demolition site is worthwhile, the ever-increasing propensity for property owners to hire third-party demolition managers to mitigate or avoid their own risk associated with demolition on their properties has served to increase the cost of demolition for those types of clients. If a properly qualified demolition contractor is fully vetted for the risks associated for the project at hand, the additional layer of “demolition manager” under the guise of enforcing greater safety often serves to do nothing more than increase the cost of the project to the owner without yielding a safer operation.
C&DR: How have recycling considerations changed how you approach demo jobs and, more generally, how contractors are deriving value from materials generated on-site?
ML: Recycling of the byproducts of demolition operations is primarily undertaken to mitigate costs of demolition, in one fashion or the other. Whether soft-stripping a building to improve the utility of the remaining structural demolition debris or to derive positive cash flow from the sale of metals or equipment, everything points toward reducing the cost of legal project performance in order to win a project. If you don’t win the project, everything else is moot.
C&DR: Is it more difficult finding qualified employees today in implosion? How have your hiring practices changed, if at all?
ML: CDI has always promoted from within, bringing on personnel for work ethic, integrity or specific discipline reasons at first and then bringing them up through the ranks as they demonstrate levels of competency and performance which suggest their elevation in the company will benefit the company at large and the services we provide our clients. So, no, CDI has never had a problem finding or developing those employees we need for the position we wish to pursue in the industry at any given point in time.
C&DR: Over your years in the demolition industry, what lessons have you learned regarding what it takes to be successful?
ML: From my perspective, it is most important to protect your integrity and reputation within that industry which you care to serve. One needs to know their limitations (i.e., what you can or are capable of doing from a technical standpoint, as compared to what you should do from a risk management or commercial standpoint). Choose your clients and the projects you perform for them carefully to ensure that when you live up to the commitments you make to them, they will, in turn, live up to the commitments they have made to you.
It isn’t hard to win a project—you just have to be the low bidder. Unfortunately, the low bidder is often the wrong bidder. Win the project with the right bid, perform it honestly and faithfully, work for clients who will pay you and work hard to manage your risks to protect those profits you work so hard to earn.