Large Refrigerator Plant Comes Down

By Aram Kalousdian, Editor and D.J. Diblasi, Director of Marketing for Bierlein | September 28, 2010

Demolition of a large refrigerator plant in Greenville began in April 2007 and the work is expected to be completed in the spring. In addition to the demolition work, the project included asbestos and lead abatement, asset recovery, metal and wood recycling, as well as site remediation at the 1.7-million-square-foot plant. Bierlein, of Midland, is the demolition contractor for the project.

Bierlein expects to recycle 15,000 tons of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap, as well as recycling 200,000 board feet of 100-year-old southern pine lumber. Bierlein expects to recycle more than 97 percent of the plant, leaving a small amount of debris to be placed in a landfill.

The plant site was chosen by Frank Gibson in 1877 because of cabinet-making skills of the Danish craftsmen who had settled in the area during the mid-1800s, and the overabundance of available ash, a hardwood used because of the performance in extreme temperatures and humidity. Since the plant's establishment, finished products evolved from wooden iceboxes to bomber wings and aluminum gliders during World War II, and eventually to the modern refrigerators sold today under the names of Frigidaire, Kenmore, White-Westinghouse, Gibson, and Kelvinator. Once demolition is completed, the site will be landscaped and redeveloped for future use.

Bierlein is using 12 Cat excavators, including 320s, 330s, 345s, and 375s. The attachments that Bierlein is using include buckets, grapples, hydraulic hammers, shears, and magnets.

"The biggest challenge has been the 17 different types of construction in this complex. So, maintaining the stability of the remaining structure as we progress with demolition has been a challenge. Also, the segregation of demolition debris from recyclable materials was challenging, due to the various types of construction," Patrick Wurtzel, vice president of Operations for Bierlein, said.

"The original structure was solid wood. We had some buildings that were solid concrete, and there was a combination of pre-fabricated steel buildings, steel and concrete, wood and concrete, and just about any combination that you could imagine."

Wurtzel said that the different types of structures have affected the manner in which they have been demolished.

"It affected the manner in which we demolished the buildings as we progressed through the buildings. Some types of structures are extremely difficult to demolish, and with others we have to be careful that the building doesn't collapse prior to the time that we want it to. So, some types of buildings are difficult to demolish, and others nearly fall down by themselves. There are some safety issues that we have to address as we progress through the different types of construction," Wurtzel said. He explained that the attachments can be quickly and easily switched on the Cat machines.

"All of our Cat excavators are equipped with quick connect couplers so the operator can switch from a bucket to a grapple to a shear without leaving his or her seat. As they progress through the demolition, the operator, along with input from the project manager, decides what type of tool is best for the type of building that's being demolished," Wurtzel said. Wurtzel explained that an impact roller, built by Impact Roller Technology, is being used on the foundation of the complex.

"This is a roller that actually breaks the concrete into pieces 6 inches in diameter and smaller, prior to removing the concrete. That significantly decreases the amount of time that's necessary for removing the slab. The slab that we're working on is over 30 acres, so there is a huge amount of concrete that needs to be removed," Wurtzel said. The impact roller is also known as a thumper. Bierlein is pulling the impact roller with a 175-horsepower John Deere four-wheel-drive tractor.


Project: Demolition of a refrigerator plant in Greenville

Contractor: Bierlein, of Midland