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Business Innovation of the Year: Winner

Winner: Alford Technologies – Explosives demolition using remote methods

The tragic incident at Didcot Power Station, which saw the partial collapse of the boiler house that killed four men under tonnes of debris, required an urgent response to allow the recovery operation to continue.

The situation was highly complex and challenging: with the remaining standing structure deemed to be unsafe and at risk of collapse, recovery teams could not operate on the debris pile and no people were allowed inside the exclusion zone around the structure at all, ruling out traditional demolition methods.

Alford Technologies developed a new and innovative solution to tackle the problem: explosive demolition using remote methods.

The firm’s experience in explosives engineering, mainly in military and combat settings, allowed it to develop a solution from scratch that would enable the structure to be surveyed, demolition charges to be placed and the blowdown initiated entirely using remote operated vehicles (ROVs).

To gain a full understanding of the pre-weakening that had already been carried out, Alford mounted a Faro laser scanner to a ROV designed for bomb disposal. Laser scanning usually requires a stable tripod, but the results from the ROV were excellent.

Next, the team used off-the-shelf items to carry out linear cuts, and also used off-the-shelf products in the bespoke kicking charges and the initiation system.

“The project comprised a sensitive demolition solution under the scrutiny of many stakeholders, who initially considered the task impossible”

Judges’ comment

All placement and initiation of the charges had to be completed without any human operatives approaching the structure – and the use of military ROVs to place the charges for a major demolition project like this had never been attempted before.

An additional constraint required the boiler house structure to fall away from the debris pile, so as not to complicate recovery efforts there.

Alford carried out the blowdown on the morning of 17 July, with the calculated, controlled explosive demolition working exactly according to the method devised by the team.

All charges fired in the planned sequence, with minimal adverse impacts on the local community and the environment.

Longer-term, the team firmly believes that this innovation could become a game-changer for the demolition industry, reducing the need for human interaction with unsafe structures, reducing the risk of accidents and incidents, and requiring fewer worker-hours to carry out.

Our judges said that the firm “demonstrated a very impressive approach to innovation”.

“Alford Technologies encompassed technology transfer ideas including the invention of a unique magnetic bunch connector. The project comprised a sensitive demolition solution under the scrutiny of many stakeholders, who initially considered the task impossible.

“An inspiring example of what the construction industry can achieve at its best.”

Finalists

  • AC Wilgar – Surefire Software
  • AFI – Machine Familiarisation Videos
  • Bull Products – Cygnus Wireless Alarm System
  • City Access Scaffolding – Rolling Scaffold
  • Dynasafe BACTEC – BombRisk Pro
  • Hilti (GB) – Hilti ON!Track Asset Management 
  • Klawz – Klawz Scaffolding Fitting
  • Plowman Craven – 3D tunnel scan solutions for Crossrail

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