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Atom disrupts demolition with new tech and innovative approach

Construction is an industry ripe for disruption, with new technology set to change how the sector operates in ways we can’t even foresee yet.

But it’s not just the construction of buildings that is set to change – demolition will be affected, too.

The power of new technology to carry out heavy industrial demolition in a radically new way was demonstrated last year at Didcot Power Station, when Alford Technologies oversaw the project to bring down the partially collapsed boiler house structure.

Alford drew on the expertise of robotics subcontractors and the Army, combining it with its own experience in explosives engineering and manufacturing linear cutting charges to demolish the structure successfully, entirely remotely and without putting any people in danger.

Now the company is partnering with specialist contractor AR Demolition and consulting giant Arcadis to form a new three-way collaboration – dubbed Atom – which is proposing a new method for demolishing power stations.

The approach draws on the experience Alford had at Didcot and combines it with AR’s effective demolition techniques and Arcadis’ masterplanning to deliver an enticing proposition for power generation clients: a complete turnkey solution from start to finish, with the high-risk demolition element delivered safely.

The company argues that pre-weakening can be almost eliminated – a huge change from current demolition practice, where cuts are made to structures by hand to weaken them before explosives are planted.

And, in the ultimate fail-safe, Alford has the experience of the robotics operation up its sleeve in the case of a stand-up, meaning that no-one ever has to enter a potentially unsafe structure again.

The striking thing about this is that it uses technology that has already been in use in other sectors like the military for many years, such as explosives modelling and cutting charges, to update current demolition practices.

There is great work and innovation being done now by many demolition contractors working in the UK, and there will always be room for some of the more traditional techniques in use today.

But on these high-risk, heavy industrial demolition projects, where there have recently been fatalities, why not explore whether there are different – and potentially safer – ways of carrying them out?

Alford didn’t receive much interest in its technology from the demolition sector after its work at Didcot, when it strikes me that contractors should have been biting their hand off to see if what they brought to the table could benefit them.

AR Demolition and Arcadis have recognised this, and believe that Atom can forge a new way of demolishing power stations.

Safety should always be the first thing considered in any project, whether demolition or construction.

And while the causes of the collapse at Didcot are still being investigated, anything that can make these projects safer has got to a good thing – and one that the demolition sector should embrace with open arms.

Also this week:

Murphy has appointed Will Reddaway to the newly created role of head of innovation. Mr Reddaway previously worked at Crossrail where he was involved in the project’s Innovate18 programme.

In a wide-ranging interview, Jonathan Seddon told us that his firm had spent “a lot of time” looking at offsite homes with Legal & General before eventually stepping back.

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