The Environmental Impacts of Building Demolition

May I start by saying this internship credit program was the ultimate educational experience for me. I am a firm believer that the best way to learn and effectively absorb information is with hands-on experience in the field. That being said I think that this was an incredibly beneficial program because I was able to get that dense hands-on learning experience and broaden the knowledge in my field of study as well as get credits towards my degree. For my internship I focused my efforts on studying and mitigating the effects of harmful emissions as well as the overuse of natural resources. I spent a lot of my time working on limiting the consumption of diesel fuel in large construction equipment. I also experimented with ways to limit dust emissions on a large-scale construction project. My goal at the end of this program is to limit the overall effects on the environment and save money for the company.

The demolition field revolves around the use of massive machines and equipment. Most job sites have multiple machines operating together at once. Some of these machines can weigh well over 100,000 pounds. As you would imagine it takes a lot of fuel to move something that heavy eight hours a day, five days a week, non-stop. What I want to do is find a way to limit a particular machine’s use while not damaging productivity. I was able to find that during one week’s time the machine stops working a few times a day for general maintenance or other tasks being performed around it. During the time the machine is not operating it is still running, burning fuel and emitting pollutants into the atmosphere. I came to the conclusion that if the machine ran full speed for only four full days and designated the fifth day for all of its general maintenance and for performing other necessary tasks around the machine, the demolition company could save gallons of diesel fuel each week. By saving all that fuel they are also majorly cutting back on emissions. The beauty of it is that even though the machine is shut down for a day you may only be losing one to two hours of productivity.

Another large environmental impact involved in demolition is dust and particulate emissions. Massive machines colliding with and collapsing 20 stories of concrete can produce a lot of dust. Keeping that dust to a minimum is essential to the environment as well as human health. I was in search for a cost effective way to keep those dust emissions as low as possible. After a few studies using plastics to contain the dust, I decided it wasn’t a suitable solution. The plastic was too much of an overhead cost and although it was helping with dust impacts on the environment, the used plastic created more trash that would need to be filled somewhere. I decided that water would be the ultimate solution. If the concrete was fairly saturated it wouldn’t produce dust. That worked exactly as planned; more water used to wet the concrete before demolition resulted in significantly less dust.

This was a great experience for me. The amount of knowledge and experience gained was largely beneficial towards future successes. This was a great opportunity and I am so glad I was able to help this company, cut back on environmental impacts, and further my college education all at the same time. I feel that this internship program is a very effective way, if not the most effective way of learning and working towards a future in your field of study.

By: Jake Versaci

December 24th, 2014