One of Omaha, Nebraska’s oldest buildings was demolished this summer near the site of the new Salvation Army Renaissance Village. A small army of skid-steer loaders worked floor by floor to demolish a nine-story structure, while a team of excavator and loader operators managed debris at ground level—sometimes from as close as 30 feet to a nearby building.

More recently known as the Lied Renaissance Center, the building was formerly the Methodist Midtown Hospital and was reportedly more than 110 years old before its demolition. An article in Omaha’s The World-Herald reported Methodist Midtown Hospital was sold to the Salvation Army for $1 in 1990.

Razing the building was part of the process to finalize the nearby Salvation Army Renaissance Village, a $23.3 million center with approximately 70,000 square feet. The new facility opened in December 2016 and is located near the intersection of North 36th Street and Cuming Street in Omaha.

Peitzmeier Demolition, a local demolition contractor, won the bid and started work in mid-March 2017. Superintendent Ben Ruthven says the project was bigger than the company’s typical job site. “Just the scale of it … everything was bigger,” Ruthven says. “We had to reach higher and move faster. It was a huge challenge for us. It was the first time doing one this size with this many stories. We like challenges and we’re always willing to try new projects. It was a really neat building once we got it opened up.”

On solid footing

Prior to starting demolition at the site, representatives from Peitzmeier Demolition partnered with InfraStructure LLC – an Omaha-based structural engineering consulting firm – to verify the structure was capable of supporting skid-steer loaders working inside the building. Ruthven says the engineering firm conducted static load tests and verified that it was okay to put skid-steer loaders on the floors to perform the demolition. They provided definitive guidelines about how close the machines could work and where they could work.

Once it was deemed safe to place the loaders on the floors, Peitzmeier Demolition lifted the skid-steer loaders to each floor using an Xtreme MFG 1254 telehandler, and crews went to work gutting everything nonstructural inside the vacant building. Ruthven says the interior demolition debris was a mix of plaster, clay tile, masonry walls, drywall and stud walls. Skid-steer loader operators worked six days a week, 10 hours per day to clear a floor each week.

Bobcat S70 skid-steer loaders—the smallest loaders and just 36 inches wide with a bucket—led the way. “They were zipping in and getting the trash out of the way before the larger Bobcat S590 skid-steer loaders came through and tore down the bigger stuff,” Ruthven says.

Each loader was paired with a bucket and industrial grapple, and the demolition debris was pushed to one of two trash chutes. One chute dumped the demolition debris outside where it landed at ground level. From there, a Doosan crawler excavator and a Bobcat T650 compact track loader, purchased from Bobcat of Omaha, sorted the waste and filled trucks with the interior debris. The second chute carried material down to a central location in the interior of the building, where a Bobcat S595 skid-steer loader was waiting. It emptied the bottom of the chute, pushed materials and carried them outside to be sorted and discarded.

Working inside, even during daytime hours, presented lighting challenges for the skid-steer operators. “Lighting on our skid-steer loaders is huge because once we got inside the building, the power was cut, so we relied on the machine lighting to provide the light for our work,” he says.

Safety is paramount for Peitzmeier Demolition, as is uptime protection for the machines, according to the firm.

“Backup alarms were pretty important too, just so we could hear where other loaders were while we were working,” Ruthven says. “And reversing cooling fans is a big deal for the type of work we do. We reverse the fan to remove dust that builds up near the radiators.”

Sorting recyclables

According to Ruthven, 80 percent of the interior demolition debris was recycled. “All the metal and rock debris was recycled,” Ruthven says, “so the only thing that went to the landfill was trash and wood debris. We sorted the debris on-site as we completed our teardown. We used machines and laborers to sort materials into piles and keep it separated.”

Two Doosan crawler excavators situated just outside of the structure sorted and loaded demolition debris. Both were reduced tail swing models—a DX140LCR and DX235LCR —and Ruthven says they were well suited for this type of work. “With our reduced tail swing excavators, we can work next to a building or next to a truck without worrying about swinging the machine and hitting something,” he says. “Especially when we start a job. There’s so much stuff on the site.”

Each Doosan excavator was equipped with a quick coupler, making it easy for Ruthven and his operators to quickly switch between attachments.

His operators typically pair a bucket with a hydraulic clamp to efficiently sort, lift and place demolition debris. At other times excavator operators switched to a hydraulic breaker. “Depending on what we’re doing, we could be swapping out six times a day,” Ruthven says.

It took approximately 10 weeks to remove the interior materials. Once Peitzmeier Demolition cleared every floor, employees worked with an abatement company to remove asbestos from the building. That provided clearance for Ruthven to bring in an ultra-high-reach demolition excavator with a specialty attachment to start bringing the building down from the top.

Ruthven estimated it took between four and six weeks to demolish the entire structure.

Going ultra-high

Ruthven rented a specialty demolition excavator with a 90-foot boom to perform the final phase of demolition. He says his employees operated the excavator starting at the top and working the building down, until they got it to a manageable height for the Doosan crawler excavators. They then tore down the remaining portion. “We worked from the top down, taking small bites and kind of crushing everything as we worked floor to floor,” he says.

One of the project’s many challenges was that the old building was comprised of three different structures built in three different periods. Ruthven says one section had concrete columns and a concrete beam structure; another section had steel beams and columns with a concrete floor; and a third section had steel beams and columns with metal backing and concrete floors. He estimated the company recycled between 90 and 95 percent of the steel, concrete and brick. Trucks loaded the material at the site and transported it to local yards where it was unloaded for recycling purposes.

Once the physical structure was removed, Peitzmeier Demolition employees graded the area that will eventually be a new parking lot adjacent to the Salvation Army Renaissance Village.

Matching the right equipment—from ultra-compact skid-steer loaders to an ultra-high-reach demolition excavator—to each phase of the project allowed Peitzmeier Demolition to successfully complete the project.

The author is senior public relations supervisor, Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa. The article was provided on behalf of Doosan Construction Equipment, West Fargo, North Dakota.