The Right Contractor — The Right Tools

By Liz Moucka | September 28, 2010

While concrete gets better with time, the technology housed within falls farther and farther behind. The Experimental Science Building at the University of Texas at Austin tells such a tale. Built in 1949, the 252,000-square-foot building had outlived its usefulness. Electrical systems could not be updated to modern technology.

Lindamood Demolition, assisted by Sisk-Robb, Inc. demolished the 7-1/2 story structure this past year in preparation for The Beck Group to begin construction of the new facility on West 24th Street between University Avenue and Speedway. The two demolition contractors have teamed on many projects. Lindamood is a demolition and implosion expert. Sisk-Robb is a specialist in interior demolition and asbestos, lead and mold abatement.


Sisk-Robb started the asbestos abatement, lead remediation, and mercury and hazardous waste cleanup in late January and finished in early June. There was 10 miles of asbestos piping, according to Rick Robb. The exterior of the building had its own problems.

"We had to peel the exterior brick because the black mastic waterproofing behind the brick contained asbestos as well," Robb added. "It was easier to peel the brick and all instead of trying to segregate it. Jake [Lindamood] hauled it to the Allied waste landfill. It was special-waste manifested."

Removing the brick from the north side of the structure proved particularly difficult. There was less than 10 feet of separation between the Science Building and the Nano Science Technology Building. Lindamood's newly purchased long-reach Norris boom proved helpful in reaching down that narrow passage.

Their New Machine

"A lot of research decided what would fit our application best," said Jake Lindamood. "I think we hit it right on the money." Jake has been working with his father, Bobby Lindamood, in the family business for several years now.

This high-reach demolition machine has a maximum reach of 120 feet. Sections of the boom can be added and removed to create configurations to reach from 90 to 120 feet. The boom can be removed and replaced with a standard boom as need dictates. The cab leans back at a 45-degree angle to allow better visibility for the operator. Also to improve visibility, the boom is outfitted with a camera and a 15-inch monitor in the cab. It has a crusher/cutter attachment to crush the concrete and cuts the rebar.

The specially made John Deere machine with a Norris high-reach front was made in Ohio and shipped to Texas in sections.

"There are maybe a dozen of these nationwide, but this is the biggest high reach demolition piece in Texas," according to Lindamood. "We buy a lot of our attachments from National Attachments in Maine, and they told us who to contact."

"We basically rebuilt the whole tractor with a lot of aftermarket features. It weighs between 200 and 210 thousand pounds."


After Sisk-Robb completed abatement, Lindamood began demolishing the building in mid-June and brought down the last wall on July 21. The proximity of the neighboring buildings dictated demolition methods. There was too little space to use a ball. This Norris variable length boom proved ideal for the tight working space.

"Because this building had a full basement, Robb would come in and crush the bottom floors to create a hole. That way, when I brought the top down, it all went into the building [basement and footprint] instead of piling up against the other building."

An excavator with a concrete crusher was used to tear down the lower levels. It was then that Lindamood newest tool really earned its way.

For over a month, Lindamood was on the job with one crew, seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. until after 9 p.m. most evenings. "We had a real tight deadline to get the building on the ground," said Lindamood. "We got it down five days ahead of schedule. We took off one Sunday and the 4th of July weekend." During cleanup, the schedule will not be as aggressive.

Even with the materials that had to be remediated, the contractors met the 90-percent recycling requirements for LEED certification. Once the asbestos was removed, Lindamood was able to recycle almost the entire building. "Our company has really gotten into LEED — grind trees, recycle concrete, separate as much as we can," said Jake.

An important step of the demolition is separating the building from the utility tunnel that houses live utility lines running from building to building.

"We're having to do some very select cutting at the service tunnel," said Joe Johnson with Texas Cutting and Coring, Inc. "The building had to be separated completely from the tunnels at each end with a clean cut."

There was a safety issue because so many students walk to class along the sidewalk less than 20 feet from the building being demolished. Challenges included minimizing dust and no water runoff. "Once we really got going into the building, the water got soaked in so there was minimal runoff." Two water trucks were on site to mist the dust floating down.

New Construction: Beck Group

The replacement Experimental Science Building will provide state-of-the-art laboratory research space to recruit and retain faculty in critical areas, such as neuroscience, computational biology, environmental sciences, pharmacy, and molecular and cellular biology — some disciplines that were not even known when the first structure was built in 1949.

The project will provide a six-level facility of about 287,000 gross square feet, housing research space for neuroscience and chemistry, as well as chemistry teaching labs. Many green building concepts are being incorporated into the design of the building.