Standout Performance

Features - Cover Story

B&B Wrecking concentrates on delivering high C&D recycling rates to stand out in a crowded market.

April 24, 2007

For Brian Baumann of Cleveland’s B&B Wrecking and Excavating, knocking things down is only part of the fun of demolition. With a 70 to 90 percent recycling rate on most recent jobs, Baumann’s company proves that there’s more to its work than an appetite for destruction.

The company of 55 employees typically manages 10 to 12 crews on the job at any given time from its single office. For public work, B&B tends to stay relatively close to home in Ohio and neighboring states, but has gone as far as Georgia, Mississippi and Kansas for private sector work.

One of the 10 Ohio jobs currently on B&B’s busy plate—the demolition of an old water treatment facility on the company’s home turf near downtown Cleveland—is a perfect example of the company’s C&D recycling efforts, says Baumann. At the 25 percent completion mark by mid-December, the job had a 90 percent recycling rate. "It’s a great site for C&D recycling," he says of the jobsite, which has generated some 15,000 cubic yards of brick and concrete in addition to steel and nonferrous metal.

A new pump station, which pumps the water for all of Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, has already been constructed, and B&B is clearing the old plant to make way for the construction of a 17 million-gallon reservoir. B&B specializes in such industrial and commercial projects. (See "Tailored Task," from the March/April 2004 issue of Construction & Demolition Recycling.) "We prefer those types of jobs because there are always a lot of recycling opportunities on these types of projects," Baumann says. "Plus, all of our equipment is geared toward recycling."

ARMED AND READY

Like many people who make a living demolishing the old to make way for the new, Baumann grew up in the demolition industry. He and his younger brother Brad represent the second generation of Baumanns in the demolition field.

Baumann spent his summers working in demolition, which prepared him for the day-to-day operations end of the business. He says his Jesuit education at Cleveland’s St. Ignatius High School and John Carroll University, where he graduated with a degree in economics, prepared him for the market-oriented nature of the C&D recycling aspect of the increasingly sophisticated demolition industry. The emphasis on recycling the materials generated by the demolition services it provides is one of the many ways B&B Wrecking helps distinguish itself in the crowded Northeast Ohio market.

B&B’s equipment fleet provides the foundation for the company’s commitment to recycling. The company owns all of its equipment, a fleet comprised of 24 excavators, 10 shears, 16 skid steers and two portable crushers, all used to demolish and then recycle the buildings B&B wrecks.

One cable crane, two skid steers and two Komatsu excavators tackled the Cleveland water treatment plant job—one affixed with a LaBounty shear for sizing steel, the other with a grapple for loading material into trucks. The site has been rich in the materials B&B typically recycles, including steel, brick and block, concrete, copper, brass and aluminum.

While the nonferrous material might be tempting to some would-be thieves with today’s sky-high prices, Baumann says this particular site comes with its own security, care of the city Water Department, which has prevented scrap theft. However, on other jobs in urban areas, Baumann says the fight against scrap theft is a "constant battle."

Theft of scrap metal isn’t the only issue facing the industry, according to Baumann. Finding reliable markets for recyclable C&D material is also a constant challenge. While concrete and brick and block can easily find market outlets as backfill onsite, like the company did at the water treatment plant demo, Baumann says finding markets for recycled drywall and carpeting can prove far more difficult.

The legislative landscape for the C&D recycling industry is changing as well, according to Baumann. "Many C&D landfill laws are beginning to cause our tip fees to rise," he says. For instance, House Bill 397 was signed into law in December 2005 and made a number of changes to the laws governing Ohio’s C&D landfills, including increasing the mandatory distance between landfills and residences.

FORWARD THINKING

Coping with regulatory changes is just part of doing business in a competitive environment, which is exactly where B&B finds itself. "Cleveland is an extremely competitive market," Baumann acknowledges, adding that there are several demolition contractors located in the same area. However, all that competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing. "This keeps everybody on their toes," Baumann says.

B&B keeps its edge by deploying some innovative attachments to use on its demolition jobs. One of these is the horseshoe—a 9,000-pound cable crane attachment that was put to work at the water treatment facility demolition. Like its name suggests, the behemoth horseshoe-shaped attachment is used in ways akin to a wrecking ball, only it is dropped on a structure from above instead of swung into it. The tool is usually only used on buildings greater than six stories that are made with I-beams. It’s a highly specialized attachment that Baumann says usually only sees action about two months out of the year. But in the right environment, it’s a useful tool that helps demolish structures in a more controlled way while still keeping the operator at a safe distance.

In addition to using some creative attachments, Baumann says the other thing that gives B&B a competitive advantage is its employees. "What sets us apart is our employees," he says. "We have a great group of people that understand demolition first and have been around it for quite some time." For instance, all of B&B’s superintendents have at least 25 years of experience in the demolition field, according to Baumann.

In a crowded business landscape, individual people can make all the difference, Baumann says, which is why he advises to "surround yourself with good, honest people and always do the right thing," to find success in the demolition industry.

Baumann plans to continue the business his father started more than 50 years ago. In fact, the company is poised to do more than just continue—B&B has purchased 33 acres in a nearby Cleveland suburb to expand its operations and create a "one-stop shop" for a new office, shop and perhaps even some concrete crushing and scrap recycling operations, according to Baumann. He says the company should be able to relocate by the end of 2007.

A lifetime in the demolition industry has taught him the value of good employees, and Baumann’s background in economics has taught him the value of balance and keeping a cool head during the industry’s ups and downs. "Never get excited about any one event and never get too depressed on the other side," he says. C&DR

The author is associate editor of Construction and Demolition Recycling and can be contacted at jgubeno@gie.net.