Tunnel vision

Features - Cover Story

How Hayden Wrecking overcame tight space restrictions, lack of access and oppressive conditions to bring down an industrial freezer at Butterball’s Mount Olive, North Carolina, facility.

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January 8, 2019
Adam Redling
mandritoiu | Adobe Stock

Unique demolition projects often require innovate approaches to overcome on-the-job obstacles. One such project was the demolition of an industrial freezer at Butterball’s Mount Olive, North Carolina, facility.

This 95-foot tall, 26,000-square-foot processing freezer use to be instrumental to the company’s operations. However, over the years, it became inefficient to continue to operate. Although the freezer was being phased out of operation, it continued to be cooled to below freezing, costing Butterball $14,000 a month in utilities. It was also a substantial waste of space that the company and its operators had to contend with. The issue for Butterball in having the freezer removed was that it was located near the center of the plant with critical operations surrounding it and no viable access points for demolition crews.

Butterball initially consulted with ARCO Construction, St. Louis, to find a solution for removal. After preliminary plans failed to provide a viable demolition option, ARCO brought in the team from Hayden Wrecking, Washington Park, Illinois, to help craft a tailor-made approach formulated for the specific challenges of the job.

Devising a plan

Difficult demolition projects are nothing new to Hayden Wrecking. The 40-person company, which was founded as Hayden Lumber & Wrecking by William R. Hayden 73 years ago, specializes in industrial and commercial demolition work where precision is paramount.

“We do a lot of very difficult and surgical dismantling work inside of chemical plants and oil refineries. Also, as our concrete cutting and coring division grows, we are doing a lot of this as well,” Ben Hayden, who is Hayden Wrecking’s third-generation owner along with brothers Nick and Brian, as well as the company’s VP of operations, says.

Familiar with the company’s expertise from prior jobs, ARCO reached out to Hayden to develop a plan, with the project being awarded in November 2016.

“They brought us in early on in the process to discuss a safe and efficient way to complete the project. One of our dismantling managers, Lloyd Copeland, worked with ARCO’s team to develop a plan and pricing that everyone was comfortable with. Since this structure was built completely surrounded by structures added at later times, there was no direct access to the freezer without going through structures and buildings that were to remain in place. Lloyd and our team developed a plan to temporarily remove components of the buildings that were to remain so we could access our work, and ARCO developed a plan to reconstruct these components when demolition was complete.”

Hayden says that the planning process was a labor-intensive one, with executive staff making site visits and keeping in close contact with personnel from ARCO and Butterball to understand the scope of work required and devise a strategy with sufficient complexity for the obstacles at hand.

According to Hayden, it was this top-level support and collaboration on the front end that aided in laying the groundwork for a successful project.

“The amount of prep, planning and design almost took longer than it took for us to dismantle and clean up our structure,” Hayden says.

Clearing the way

Hayden says that like with most demolition jobs, “time was of the essence” to complete the removal of the Butterball freezer.

With a four-month window from the time Hayden Wrecking was awarded the contract to the scheduled completion date, Hayden wasted no time in getting to work.

Because of space limitations, Hayden needed to formulate an efficient way for materials, equipment and personnel to reach the designated work area. The team settled on creating a small access tunnel from which everything would be funneled in and out of the site.

“Once design was completed and agreed upon, we spent approximately two weeks selectively removing portions of structures to remain to essentially create a tunnel approximately 14’ by 14’ by 100’ long that became our only access for bringing manpower, equipment and materials in and out of the work area,” Hayden says.

Hayden says that building the tunnel itself wasn’t especially complicated. It was working with Butterball to limit disruption to business-critical areas that took the lion’s share of the prep work.

“The process of constructing the tunnel itself wasn’t terrible. It was defining where that tunnel was going to go so we didn’t have to remove a ton of Butterball’s equipment or remove major structural components of the building that took a lot of planning,” Hayden says. “In our ideal world, we would have constructed our tunnel 20 feet over from where we did and it would have allowed us more direct access inside and outside the building, but that would have required removing some pretty integral pieces of equipment to Butterball’s operations.”

During the tunnel’s construction, Hayden high demolition and saw cutting teams used wall saws and a Brokk 160 robot with hammer and grapple attachments to breach exterior walls and chart a path through one of the plant’s refrigeration rooms, making sure to avoid active ammonia systems that were recessed only inches away from the crew’s operations.

Due to the flash freezer’s -40 degree temperatures, high demolition torch crews had to erect partition walls to allow work areas to warm up.

While this work was taking place, Hayden teams simultaneously went about deconstructing the roof deck to allow for recycling and removal of the ammonia system in operation. They also performed steel walking torch demolition work to allow access for lifts and room for the high-reach excavator to be assembled.

Close quarters

With a tunnel in place and other obstructions removed, Hayden crews were ready to begin to make inroads tearing down the freezer.

However, taking down the 95-foot-tall structure was anything but business as usual.

“The unique challenges were safety and access—all work had to be completed within the footprint of the structure coming down, but we had zero access beyond the perimeter of the building,” Hayden says. “So we built this tunnel in order to get all the material and manpower in initially. Once we were in, we had to open up a small section of the building so we could get equipment in to make a bigger hole. And then once we had a bigger hole, we were able to bring our high-reach excavator in there.”

A Caterpillar 330D Ultra High Reach Demolition Excavator was partially disassembled to fit through the tunnel and was reassembled complete with a shear attachment at the site. Due to the tight quarters, the machine had to be disassembled and removed several times throughout the project to allow materials to be removed.

Adding to the challenge of the freezer demolition were the outside conditions. High winter wind gusts and rain made it more difficult for crews to torch the upper structure of the facility or maintain structural stability while work was being completed.

Once much of the material was able to be removed from the site, Hayden says that the pace of demolition picked up until the 95-foot freezer bay was completely demoed.

The final stages involved saw and demolition crews removing the remaining walls and structures that were left over from the demolition, as well as finalizing all recycling initiatives.

Keeping it clean

In addition to the restricted access, one of the main challenges with the demolition was trying to limit the disruption to Butterball’s workers and operations. This took a coordinated effort between Hayden, Butterball and ARCO to schedule demo work in a way that didn’t impede production.

“If we didn’t have the full cooperation of the plant owners and the general contractor we worked for, we would have had to shut down the plant operations from time to time and it would have really impacted our schedule,” Hayden says. “So by working with these folks, we were able to plan out week by week, day by day, what we were doing and give a good ‘heads up’ on what areas we needed to access to work efficiently and safely with the client.”

Being a food processing plant, limiting the amount of dust and debris the project produced was also top of mind for Hayden Wrecking. Because Butterball continued its operations throughout the demo process, Hayden had to be extra cautious in its preparations.

“We had operating food-grade facilities on three sides of us, so we had to maintain an exceptional level of cleanliness,” Copeland says. “This involved some pre-demolition preparations sealing up the perimeter of the work area with a combination of a temporary construction barriers and making the appropriate disconnects in advance of the main demolition work, as well as sealing these penetrations in advance. This required us to go into the active flash freezer and do concrete removal and electrical removal in -40 degree temperatures, which was not pleasant.”

Copeland says that Hayden Wrecking relied on its high-reach excavator to shear material rather than use torch cutting methods or grinding applications to prevent slag and metal shavings from interfering with Butterball’s work area.

Copeland also says that special dust control methods had to be used on this project. Because Hayden teams were working in a freezer, they had to capture and remove the water that was used for dust control so as not to allow it to get under floor slabs and crack the foundation once frozen. They also worked to remove the ice that accumulated from the water use in an efficient manner. This was paramount, as there was the potential for bacteria-laden poultry juices inside the freezer to contaminate the site if left to thaw once the freezer was disconnected.

Refrigerator recycling

In its entirety, the Butterball project took Hayden Wrecking’s 15-man crew 5,300 man hours to complete. In the end, 90 percent of materials were recycled, with ferrous and nonferrous metal, wood, plastic, Styrofoam, roof ballast and concrete being the main materials of focus.

Efficient recycling was especially important during this project, according to Copeland, since area recycling facilities were at capacity dealing with debris from the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Maria several months earlier.

According to Copeland:

  • Prior to the main demolition work, 200 tons of roofing ballast was removed by hand to prevent comingling with roof insulation. This material was stockpiled and reused in construction applications.
  • Stripped insulation from over 100 truckloads of concrete floor slab was a major point of emphasis in Hayden’s recycling efforts. Hayden also developed a methodology to recover 19,000 cubic feet of high-density foam insulation from the facility, diverting around 50 truckloads of material from landfill and saving the customer substantial cost in the process.
  • Hayden crushed more than 1,200 tons of concrete on site. On-site crushing allowed diversion of heavy trucking from off-site public recycling facilities which were taxed from the hurricane clean-up efforts. Once this concrete was crushed, it was stockpiled and used locally for road and ditch stabilization.
  • Ferrous scrap able to be recycled consisted of 800 tons of mixed painted clips, 200 tons of No. 2 heavy shreddable, and 200 tons of mixed unprepared No. 2.
  • Nonferrous metal recovery included 20,000 lbs of electric motors, 35,000 lbs of aluminum radiators, and 40,000 lbs of copper-bearing material.
  • Roughly 10,000 4’x5’ sheets of 1.25” marine plywood was recovered from the shelving system and donated to the community for recovery efforts.
  • Hayden Wrecking worked with Goldsboro Iron and Metal, Goldsboro, North Carolina, and Geomet Corp. to develop a strategy to recycle low-recovery insulated metal panels typically relegated to the landfill. This required close coordination between on-site Hayden staff, trucking dispatch and shredder operators. The recycling of these panels presented challenges due to low load density, transient dust and debris, and operational capacity considerations with shredding facilities being faced with hurricane clean-up materials. This successful coordination led to the diversion of over 100 loads of material from the local landfill, which was operating at capacity.

A plan perfected

Hayden credits Butterball and ARCO’s willingness to trust his team and listen to their input as a major factor in helping facilitate a successful project.

“This wasn’t a project where the general contractor and the owner had a plan in place of what they wanted done and how they wanted it completed,” Hayden says. “They came to us without a plan. They said, ‘Hey, we want this building down and out of here with minimal impact. How do we do this?’ So we went into this thing with a great comfort level with the customers where we felt it was a very collaborative process. To me, it set the stage for the rest of the project.”

Hayden says that being able to complete the job on time while still achieving key recycling benchmarks can be attributed to his team’s ability to craft an efficient strategy in the face of complicated conditions.

“This project was a tremendous success with zero injuries or incidents,” Hayden says. “Our biggest takeaways were the planning and the cooperation we had with the entire project team, including Butterball and ARCO, led to a smooth project. They valued planning, communication and cooperation over the bottom dollar and allowed us to be part of the process as early as possible to establish a quality strategy for all involved. This led to a very safe and efficient job when all was said and done.”

The author is the editor for Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine and can be contacted at aredling@gie.net.