Europe’s largest demolition conference

Published 16/5, 2017 at 15:35

In early March the German demolition association, Deutscher Abbruchverband, held its 23rd demolition conference at the Maritim Hotel in Berlin. This is the largest demolition event in Europe and is still growing every year. Mikael Karlsson reports.

This year there were almost 900 participants and 115 national and international exhibitors showing machinery, products and services at the 1000m² of exhibition area. 

With 17 speakers, this demolition event had an impressive mix of topics with reports from demolition sites, presentations of new technical norms, laws and regulations, and handling and recycling of hazardous waste. 

German parliamentary state secretary to the federal minister for transport and digital infrastructure, Enak Ferlemann, reviewed the present opportunities of bridge demolition in Germany, mainly in western Germany. ”In the network of the Bundesfernstraßen (federal highways) there are currently approximately 39,500 bridges, which are divided into substructures, depending on the type of construction and the bridge cross section, so that a total of approximately 51,300 substructures have to be looked after,” said Ferlemann.

If all buildings were to be lined up in length, they would make a total length of 2,255km. With a view to the traffic area, the bridges cover an area of 30.6Mm². The new building value of all bridges adds up to over €60bn.

”Within the framework of bridge modernisation, many bridges will have to be replaced for technical or economic reasons. The replacement work is necessarily connected with a dismantling or demolition of the old structure,” said Ferlemann.

As the largest annual demolition event in Europe, this conference also involves a large and growing number of international participants and exhibitors, as well as interesting site reports from other European countries.

For example, operations manager at the Italian demolition company F.lli Omini, Vittorio Omini, spoke about the spectacular scrapping of the giant cruise ship, Costa Concordia, in the port of Genoa. The Concordia capsized and sank after striking an underwater rock obstruction off Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, in 2012. 

The ship has taken one year and a half to dismantle the upper decks and demolish the hull with pontoons and barges, cranes, excavators, wheel loaders, forklifts, demolition tools and welding. Around 27,000t of metal has been demolished at the Calata Grazie Pier in the port.

Conference delegates were also informed of the experience with asbestos risks and a ban of it in Switzerland imposed in 1989. ”But the asbestos hazard has not yet been banned,” said Walter Hiltpold, responsible for building diagnostics at the Swiss environmental projects and consulting company Carbotech. ”As a result of increased exposure to asbestos in the past, we complain today about 100 deaths per year in Switzerland, which has a small population of 8.4M people.”

Still, asbestos-containing materials are always to be expected when renovating or demolishing buildings constructed before 1990, but also during maintenance and recycling of older machines and equipment. Therefore, a large number of workers in the construction and development sector are exposed to an increased risk of asbestos. The Swiss national accident Insurance fund Suva, has strengthened its prevention efforts and launched the asbestos programme in 2011 with various initiatives at different levels. 

These activities are carried out with the involvement of the affected industries and range from the preparation of risk and industry specific measures, awareness raising and training up to implementation. The next German demolition conference will also be held in Berlin on 2-3 March 2018. 


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