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Due for a Design Update

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In 2011, an iconic, Des Moines-based financial services company unveiled its plans to begin a massive renovation project on its downtown Des Moines highlighted-campus_webworld headquarters. Built in the early 1940s, the vision for the original campus had been to create an assembly line type space for processing insurance claims with efficiency being the top priority. But the digital revolution changed everything, and it left the company with a massive amount of dreary space that had quickly become a drain on productivity and an even bigger drain on resources as the company maintained facilities designed for a bygone era.

Encompassing as many as nine buildings, the aging campus needed a design update to emphasize collaboration over processing efficiency. Many of the tasks that were paramount for the business’s daily operations had already been automated using electronics and computers, leaving about 70 percent of the now knowledge-based workforce stuck in buildings designed for paper processing.

Primary Goal

20150617_090825The newly renovated buildings are designed to create open spaces, enabling employees to work wherever is comfortable for them, and to easily collaborate with any of the company’s 15,000 global employees or outside vendors and clients. To do this required renovating, rewiring, redecorating and installing new fixtures throughout the campus. But renovating a building from the 1940s poses some unique challenges.

Asbestos Removal

Asbestos, the versatile and once lauded material used in everything from adhesives to electrical wiring, is the carcinogenic compound that lurked in each of the nine buildings. While undisturbed asbestos poses no significant danger, and is an excellent fireproofing and soundproofing material, removing floor tiles, ceiling tiles, electrical wiring and piping insulation coated with asbestos can be extremely hazardous. The renovations that the company was undertaking required removing all of the asbestos-laden materials before upgrades could take place.20150623_163102

Teams that Worked Together

Ryan Companies was selected as the general contractor, and DCI Group was selected as the construction manager on the renovation. Being a Des Moines-based company, DCI Group looked to keep as many aspects of the project as local as feasible. But when dealing with asbestos, they needed specialists who could properly handle and dispose of the dangerous substance while maintaining the highest levels of project safety, especially because the campus and buildings were not to be closed during the renovations.

AT to Handle Abatement

20150609_150119On the recommendation of another construction firm, AT Industries was hired as the abatement specialist for the project. The Kansas City based firm that recommended AT did so on the recommendation of an oversight manager who saw AT’s methodical, well-executed, timely and unfailingly safe approach to abatement work first hand.

The buildings may have been the first west of the Mississippi to have air conditioning, but it certainly wasn’t the first to use asbestos. Asbestos could be found in almost every part of the building, including inside the walls, the fireproofing, the floor tiles, some of the pipe fittings and in the building’s unique, if antiquated, radiant heat system that once kept the building warm by heating the walls. 20150605_160431Before removing the asbestos, everything that could be salvaged or scrapped from the inside of the building without any danger was removed by a demolition contractor, leaving only the components that still contained asbestos. Now it was AT’s turn.

Each portion of the building that was to be abated had to be completely and carefully sealed off from the rest, ensuring that no asbestos was left behind and that none escaped through other means like the ventilation system. Each area had to be contained, and a negative air pressure system setup for safety. Each 20151005_103844area had special access zones set up as well, with a dirty room, a clean room and a shower so that abatement workers could safely enter and exit the area without risking exposure. With the area now sealed, AT completed the demolition that had been started by the previous contractors.

The Abatement Process

Removal of the fireproofing was one of the most important aspects of this process, and one of the most difficult. Every piece of the fireproofing for the building contained asbestos, and it had been applied in a thick layer that covered the ceiling of each floor from wall to wall. Removal required special tools and that special precautions be taken to protect those working in and around the environment.20150825_081750

To expedite the removal process, we used a proprietary tool that our team developed and crafted in house, specially for this project. The tool was built like a large scraper and fitted onto the bucket of our Bobcat construction lift, allowing us to take off large chunks of the fireproofing material at once. Because AT Abatement is part of the AT Industries family, it took advantage of the services offered by its sister company, AT Sheet Metal, and had the specially-fitted tool both designed and built in Kansas City.

DSCF0363The AT team removed the panels, walls and flooring, exposing the asbestos so that it could be properly abated. Unlike the previous demolition team though, nothing that AT removed was recycled. Everything that had been exposed to asbestos was loaded into cubic-yard boxes with a special liner, sealed, rinsed, carefully logged and labeled, and then transported for disposal at a sanitary landfill.

After the tool took the majority of the asbestos off of the ceiling, the AT Abatement team used aerial lifts and scaffolding to reach it and abated the entire ceiling again, by hand, to get a thoroughly asbestos-free area. Using hoses and water, we cut down on airborne asbestos and trapped most of it on the floor tarps, where disposal was easy. Any particles that did escape were caught by the HEPA air filtration system.

Safety is a Top Priority 20150724_094413

Everything that came into contact with asbestos was either thoroughly cleaned or properly disposed of before being allowed outside the dirty area. Equipment was all decontaminated, while clothing, like the paper suits the abatement teams wear, was destroyed daily. One of AT’s partner companies performed air sampling and testing throughout the process, ensuring that the building was a safe environment to work in before, during and after abatement. Through the entire abatement process, the top priority was always safety – for employees and the public alike.

20150624_135541In the abatement business, that means sticking to established procedures and not cutting corners. When an unexpected OSHA inspection took place during the course of this project, the AT team was never even concerned about receiving a citation, because every team member follows the procedures that keep everyone safe, every time. AT’s record on safety was a significant reason that it was brought in to abate this building.

All Asbestos Removed

AT Abatement worked section by section through the affected floors in the complex, performing demolition and abatement, and were closely followed by teams upgrading the facilities. As soon as AT finished abatement, a team immediately came to install new, asbestos-free fireproofing. Following them were teams setting up and installing new wiring, new insulation, new lighting, new paint, installing new fixtures and more.

30 Man AT Team & 10 Months Later20150910_102637

It took the daily work of AT’s 30-man team for nearly 10 months to complete the project. The clients were extremely pleased with the organization of our team and the safety procedures they continually observed.

While AT finished its portion of the project in late 2015, the overall renovation of the complex is still ongoing. The entire project may not be completed until the end of 2017, when the company is slated to open all of its newly renovated, energy-efficient and modernized facilities.

The companies that AT worked with were so impressed with the professionalism and the quality of AT’s work that they are planning to work together on additional abatement and demolition projects already in 2016.

20150826_094604 DSCF0730

University of Missouri in Columbia

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Jones Dorm Abatement & Demolition
Asbestos was once a friendly mineral with hugely useful properties for numerous applications. Its tensile strength and resistance to damage from heat, chemicals and fire, plus its soundproofing ability and low cost, made it a best friend to builders. Until we determined how much lung damage it caused, it was one of the most widely used and affordable construction materials in the world. Though it fell out of mainstream use, and was banned in many places across the developed world, many aging buildings in the US still play host to asbestos. Since it’s only dangerous when disturbed and released into the air, infrastructure upgrades are forcing owners of aging buildings to carefully remove these dangerous minerals before proceeding.

Jones dorm, pictured above, at the University of Missouri in Columbia is one such asbestos-laden facility that was still in use until this year when AT Abatement and Demolition were brought on to deconstruct the 1960s era building as part of the Dobb’s group replacement phase 1. While the asbestos in the building didn’t pose any particular risk to residents (though had the potential to make repairs much more dangerous), the out of date building was no longer meeting the needs of the students housed there, and university curators decided it was time to replace the facility. The building will be replaced by a modern residence hall that doesn’t use these dangerous materials, and is part of the final phase of the University’s overall upgrade to modern student housing. But before a new building can be built the old one must be removed.Image_002

Image_003AT Abatement
The first step for AT Abatement to prepare the building for demolition is to go through every room in the hall and donate leftover items and removable fixtures to charity. Many of the desks, chairs, bed frames and air conditioning fixtures are still in serviceable, and even good, condition – and AT believes that an important part of its mission is giving back to the community. These items will no longer be used by the college’s students, but instead of sending them to be destroyed, they will be given a new purpose helping someone in need. All in all, removal of the leftover fixtures in the building took about a week to a week and a half. Only once all of the fixtures were removed, to protect them from dangerous asbestos dust, could our team and the university’s environmental department enter the building and begin the asbestos removal process.

Image_004The Abatement Process
This process starts with sealing the building, in this particular case, two levels at a time. Using a plastic seal containment, all windows, exits and ventilation shafts are covered to stop any asbestos from escaping. Jones hall featured a common 60s era application for asbestos, using it in an adhesive to secure the tiling to the floor – reducing noise penetration and slowing any unexpected fires. It also unknowingly put students mere feet away from potentially cancer causing materials. AT Abatement’s team of 13 carefully pulls these tiles up, wearing full personal protective equipment, and prepares them for disposal using a special mastic adhesive removal chemical that destroys asbestos. Even so, all debris is destroyed to prevent accidental exposure.
Of course, in buildings as old as Jones Hall, asbestos was used for a lot more thImage_005an just coating floors and tiling, it was also used as insulation for piping (shown above), meaning that it can potentially be found anywhere and everywhere inside the walls. Making sure asbestos doesn’t escape and create a serious environmental hazard requires a lot of internal demolition. AT checks every wall for signs of asbestos and insulated pipe for signs of asbestos. Having a specialized abatement team makes this
kind of demolition work possible, we prevent environmental disasters by doing it safely.

Image_006Once we’ve located all of the asbestos, we carefully remove it and clean the area. To make sure that none of the contaminants escape, each area of the building is thoroughly cleaned after removal of the dangerous materials. This includes cleaning the plastic that wraps the floors where work is being done. The cleaning products used destroy the asbestos, and are disposed of afterward to minimize danger to workers and the public. The process must be repeated for each set of floors in the building and the ground floor. This are a total of 5 contamination zones that must be contained, abated and cleaned. When the abatement is finished AT gets a final inspection performed by a university environmental protection official. Only once all of the abatement is finished and everything has been cleaned, removed for proper disposal, and the inspector has signed off on it do we start the actual demolition process.

Jones Hall is located right near modernized student housing and directly across the street from a set of fraternity houses. While it would certainly more convenient to lace the hall with explosives and let it come crashing down on itself, it would be much less friendly to the habitability of the nearby residences. The only option for the demolition is deconstruction, from the top down.

The Demolition Process
Using the expertise of structural engineers, our demolition teams carefully plan the best way to deconstruct the building, one that is both efficient and will not cause unforeseen damage or structural collapse. It is, naturally, a top down process for this very reason. To complete the demolition, we have to use a high reach excavator that takes two to three days to set up. With it our teams can reach up to 190 feet above the ground where we will use the giant, shearing demolition processor on the end of the its long arm to deconstruct the building piece by piece and floor by floor (pictured at left).

While the deconstruction process is underway, we also do everything possible to keep down the impact on the local community. Especially with a VA hospital, university hospital and residence halls in close proximity, it’s extremely important that the dust is
kept to minimal levels. Water canons are one important feature of every demolition that helps to keep the dust to a minimum. The high reach excavator is also equipped with a water nozzle that knocks the dust down before it reaches far into the air.
During the entire demolition process, access to the site is strictly controlled to protect public safety. Usually only a small demo team is allowed in, and is carefully briefed on safety to protect all workers involved with the project. The team only works during
certain university-approved daytime hours to avoid being a nuisance to the nearby residences.

A Large Project with Focus on Safety
As our largest demolition project to date, the deconstruction of Jones Residence Hall will be a milestone for AT Industries. At 9 stories, this will be one of the tallest buildings our team has ever demolished. The entire demolition project is expected to take
around 3 months, and new construction is already underway on the back side of the building – meaning that we can actually only tear it down the old building from one side.

Through every phase of demolition, AT’s primary concern is always safety. Employees at AT are trained to constantly protect themselves, their colleagues and the public. No mandate is more important for our team, and that’s why we take such care in dealing with highly dangerous substances like asbestos. The Jones dorm demolition and deconstruction project is a perfect example of how AT Abatement and Demolition work in unison to safely remove hazardous materials and entire structures leftover from a bygone era.

Let’s Get Social
See more information about this project by follow AT Industries, our parent company, on Facebook and on Twitter @ATIndustiesinc. Use #dobbsconstruction to see the progress of the Jones dorm demolition project on Twitter.

Let's Get Social!