Consider Environmental Issues in Facility Demolition Projects

Our clients in manufacturing, pharma, chemical, and other industrial sectors have seen an uptick in facility demolition projects in recent years.  Facility consolidations, modernization, and expansions have all created business drivers for complete demo of remnant facilities, and partial decommissioning and demo in modernizing or expanding plants.

In prior decades, demo simply meant engaging a contractor to knock standing buildings down and get rid of the debris—frequently in on-facility landfills. Today, concerns over the environmental regulation of materials in debris (such as PCBs in building materials), the handling of hazardous materials that remain in the facility from previous operations, and the potential for “in the ground” environmental issues from spills at or around the facility drive much of the cost of a demo project. This has meant that, increasingly, these projects have been channeled through facility management or real estate management offices or directly through Environmental, Health and Safety departments to draw on the collected expertise in those groups regarding the environmental issues on demo and decommissioning projects.

While they are generally more capable of responding to the environmental concerns at a site, the departments charged with these projects frequently don’t have the extra staff needed to coordinate and manage the demolition.  Having worked with Fortune 500 clients on demo and decommissioning projects with all these considerations in mind, here are our recommendations for planning and handling them:

  1. Establish a clear list of priority projects so that when budget becomes available you are ready to move;
  2. Develop high-level budget estimates for each project – if external pressures to act come into play (fires or other accidents, local political pressure, M&A activity, etc.), you will be prepared to move quickly;
  3. Look to engineering or construction firms that have the experience and expertise handling environmental issues as your partner for the projects. Delays once a project is underway due to unplanned environmental issues are extremely costly, and improper or inefficient disposal of hazardous materials can mean fines or wasted costs;
  4. Consider using a partner that is experienced enough and large enough to manage the entire project, soup to nuts, so that you can streamline your internal management needs.

As with similar undertakings that involve hazardous materials, these projects require thorough planning, prioritization, and a partner fully prepared for the job at hand. Demolition and decommissioning work is becoming more frequent because companies are making key investments in their futures, and this is often a necessary part of this exciting expansion. Make sure you are prepared to support those investments, though, by planning for and implementing the best demo project execution you can.


David MacDonald Business Development Leader Environment & Remediation

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