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Decommissioning in Construction

You may have heard the saying “what goes up must come down” and this can sometimes apply to the construction industry. In some situations decommissioning of a building or a structure is needed to make way for a bigger and better one or for a completely new design. In some movies you may have seen a building decommissioned to make way for a parking lot. Most recently the Fort Steuben Bridge in Ohio, America made the world news for a perfectly executed demolition of a structure.

Watch the video here.



Decommissioning is defined as the cessation of operations and the controlled process of safely retiring a facility from service. Specific decommissioning activities are employed to ensure the safety and reduction of health risks of the general public and the environment. The most common decommissioning projects are for the removal of old and hazardous buildings and structures, dams, submarines, ships, mines, power plants and nuclear power plants.

Process

After a building or structure has received the all clear for decommissioning a few actions are required before the physical demolition can take place. Techniques for dismantling and decommissioning would vary according to the project, the size of the structure or the building and the area it resides in. Some of the process entails actions such as:
  • Decontamination – All hazardous objects, containers, structures or equipment needs to be removed from the site. Fuels need to be stored in containers and removed. Portable spill containments should be established onsite for emergencies. Some contaminated areas can be sealed off or enclosed.
  • Safety Guidelines –Employees should know all occupational health and safety guidelines, wear the correct protective clothing and accessories. Precautions should be taken to prevent inhalation of particles and for the prevention of falls if climbing is involved.
  • Noise Reduction – Earth moving and excavation equipment and machinery, explosives and cranes can become noisy and it’s best to plan decommissioning activities when it will offer the least amount of disturbance to an area.
  • Traffic Safety– Temporary roads, footpaths or road diversions are put in place to direct traffic away from the site.
  • Soil Erosion Prevention – To prevent soil erosion, activities should be avoided if heavy rainfall is expected. Steep slopes can be lined and ditches built to reduce soil particles from contaminating water ways. Areas can be mulched or re-vegetated to prevent further erosion.
  • Water System Management – Settlement ponds can be created to both catch soil particles or to catch clear uncontaminated water. Silt fences and diversion pipes can be used to minimise the volume of water to be treated.
  • Air Quality – Exhaust fumes from vehicles, dust particles and burning of solid waste can contaminate the air. Covers and enclosures can be erected and moisture content can be increased to prevent particles from becoming airborne.
  • Dismantling – Some building materials can be dismantled for re-use or even sold off as scrap for a profit.

Additional resources about decommissioning

At OObject.com you can view a slide show of decommissioned ships and submarines, it makes for interesting viewing.

Offshore-environment.com has an interesting article about the current laws concerning the decommissioning of oil and gas rigs. It also discusses the pros and cons of decommissioning offshore rigs and platforms.

Summary

Decommissioning of buildings and structures are part of the natural life-cycle of such objects. Some need to be replaced by more modern buildings, others can be transformed for different uses and some may pose a potential hazard and need to be destroyed. Various processes need to be considered and acted upon when a decommissioning project has been approved.

Decommissioning of oil rigs and offshore platforms, nuclear power plants and gas refineries has opened permanent job opportunities for demolition engineers. If as a child you were the one knocking down the brick towers instead of building them up then maybe this is the perfect career choice to follow. Decommissioning jobs are found in construction mining jobs as well as in oil and gas construction jobs.

Visit our Construction Sectors page for more information on all the sectors needed to support the resource industry.
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