Birmingham tower block falls to explosives

By Lindsay Gale03 September 2012

On Sunday 2 September, DSM Demolition Group used carefully placed explosive charges to bring down a derelict 18 storey block of flats that has long disfigured the skyline of the UK's second largest city, Birmingham. Normansell Tower, in the Aston region of the city, had stood empty for the last five years and its removal should please local residents.

The demolition was carried out on behalf of Birmingham City Council and according to Billy Young, contract manager for DSM Demolition: "The building was constructed using large concrete panels that were interlocked, which would make a manual or mechanical take down expensive and very time consuming. The use of explosives is a much quicker, economical and safer way of demolishing the tower block."

DSM took 30 weeks to prepare the implosions, during which time it established the limits of the necessary exclusion zone, design the collapse mechanism and blast design and source a respite centre for evacuated residents from the 80 homes that stood within 150 m (492 ft) of the footprint of the tower. In addition, road closures and traffic diversions had to be identified and implemented on the bay of the blast; a vibration prediction report had to be produced carrying out a test blast to prove the optimum amount of explosives are being used and the undertaking of dilapidation surveys of properties within the exclusion zone. Physical work on the structure itself included its pre-weakening and drilling, and the disconnection and protection of services that remained in place around the block.

An extensive liaison process included logging detailed correspondence to and from residents, attendance at public meetings, collation of information collected from questionnaires and the holding of one-to-one interviews with local residents and businesses.

The block came down in 4.5 second, with DSM expecting to take a further eight weeks to clear the 2,000 square metre (21, 527 square foot) site. At time of writing, there are no firm plans for its reuse, but it will become part of a wider redevelopment of the area.

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