Homrich and Detroit's COBO Center

23 May 2013

Homrich deployed a 43 m Hitachi ZX800 high reach to ensure safe, controlled demolition

Homrich deployed a 43 m Hitachi ZX800 high reach to ensure safe, controlled demolition

The COBO Center, in the heart of downtown Detroit, MI has provided the backdrop for many rock and roll legends, was home to professional basketball for nearly two decades and has been visited by every single US President since it was constructed in 1960. The 220,000 m2 (2.4 ft2 million) centre is also the home to the North American International Auto Show, one of the largest automotive shows in the world.

The massive complex is comprised of exhibition, banquet and meeting space, in addition to a 12,000 seat arena. The last major renovation for the facility was in 1989 and due to the surge of development in the downtown area of the city, COBO officials made the decision to initiate a US$300 million revitalisation project in order to be ready for the future.

A major component of the renovation project includes the COBO Arena, which lies within the centre of the complex, precariously surrounded on all sides. The renovation called for selective demolition of the arena’s interior and exterior in order to make room for the planned new use as a premiere, two-story banquet and event centre. Homrich, Inc. was awarded the contract and methodically took on this challenge in order to make way for future development, while at the same time preserving the structural integrity upon which the future will be built.

Careful planning

The initial work was performed within the arena area, starting with the removal of all of the concrete ramps and seating structures. This process demanded the use of critical engineering, in order to sequence the
removal of each interior structure in a manner to create free-span space without compromising the building’s structural integrity.

Due to the demanding project schedule and the fact that the full scope of work was still undetermined at the start of demolition, Homrich found it crucial to stay flexible in order to adapt to these challenges. This necessitated much flexibility from the company’s multiple crews and required exemplary collaboration with the project engineers and the other trades in order to deliver on time performance and a safe environment.

Another formidable task was the large amount of selective aerial demolition. This included the torch-aided sectioning of nearly 200 m2 (2,153 ft2) of aerial catwalks at a height of nearly 30 meters, which were then rigged and safely lowered to ground level with a crane. A 43 m (140 ft) Hitachi ZX800 high-reach machine was used to accurately remove selective structural components in the ceiling and upper wall structure at heights exceeding 30 m (98 ft). This approach offered both the necessary surgical precision the project demanded and allowed Homrich to avoid exposing workers to unsafe conditions, especially at extreme heights.

The company additionally created, through selective demolition, a 4 story atrium directly adjacent to the arena and within the operating convention centre. This work took place with zero interruption during multiple exhibitions, including the North American International Auto Show that alone had 770,932 people in attendance. In fact, this project was closely surrounded on all sides by structures that could not cease operating during the demolition, including Detroit’s monorail system.

Numerous efforts were necessary to minimise the impact of major demolition work that was taking place in such close proximity to operating structures and large numbers of people. Stringent safety measures, dust control and noise reduction served as the primary focuses. However, the biggest reduction in impact came from constant communication and the scheduling of high-impact activities around COBO’s event schedule. This naturally hindered Homrich’s aggressive schedule but served as a necessary work tool when impact was at its highest.

Accident free

The confined space and adjacent structures, in addition to the aggressive schedule and ever-evolving work plan would have made this project highly susceptible to accidents for any of the multiple trades collaborating on this project. Homrich therefore employed and communicated a site specific safety programme tailored to the unique challenges this project presented, including full time safety oversight and the enforcement of alternating exclusion zones to keep workers clear of hazards related to the unique structural and aerial work.

As a result, this precise planning and the ability to adapt to multiple delays and changes to the project’s scheduled tasks, meant that there were no major injuries during this project and that the project was completed safely, on time, within budget and to the satisfaction of the client. Work on the project began in November 2011 and was completed in July 2012, and during this time some 25,000 tonnes of demolition debris was generated, with a recycling rate of 95%
being achieved.

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