Volvo's latest demolition machine takes on large-scale projects
For the small Dutch town of Zwolle, things are looking up, and so too are its residents. Locals, walking or cycling around the small town, will often stop and gaze upwards in amazement. Towering above them, a long, steel neck of a monstrous Volvo EC480EHR high-reach excavator appears alarmingly lifelike as it chomps away at the masonry of what was once part of Weezenlanden Hospital.
Dozens of passers-by gather to watch in fascination from behind the protective safety barrier of the demolition site. Where the brickwork is particularly tough, the crusher head chews and gnaws harder, causing a large chunk of wall to crumble to the ground, revealing the interior stairwell of the hospital.
“This is precision demolition,” observes Erik Zwerver, commercial manager of Boverhoff, one of the largest demolition companies in the country. “Everyone thinks demolition is dirty and rough, but it’s like building backward – you have to be very precise.”
Indeed, a project of this scale requires the utmost precision, carried out by a skilled operator. Aalt Witman laughs as he describes the butterflies he felt in his stomach as he prepared to start up the Volvo EC480EHR high-reach excavator for the first time.
“It was a real challenge,” he says. “The first time you look up into the clouds is awe-inspiring. You get a real flutter in your stomach – it gives you such a kick.”
The Dutchman might have 23 years of experience as an operator, but the boom he is more familiar with is just 11 m (36 feet) long, not 28 m (92 feet) like this one. Yet, after just a couple of days in the cab, Witman is confidently tearing down the 1960s building.
Definition of demolition
In place of the crumbling hospital, nearly 300 new homes will be built, making this demolition project not only one of the biggest in the Netherlands, but also the first to use Volvo CE’s new E-Series ultra-high-reach excavator.
According to Zwerver, the Volvo EC480EHR’s specifications make it ideal for this type of project. The height of the machine enables it to dismantle the hospital buildings brick by brick, and with the upcoming delivery of a multi-demolition extension boom, the working height will further increase to 31 m (102 feet).
For Witman, the top priority is staying safe and, as he puts it, returning home every night to have dinner with his family, which he says his new machine helps him to do. From inside the Volvo cab, Witman particularly likes the high visibility, as well as the extra cameras. The 30-degree tilt of the cab makes looking upwards more comfortable, and the on-board 8-inch monitor enables good communication between machine and operator. Another great feature, says Zwerver, is the total moment indicator, which flashes a warning if the machine is in danger of destabilizing.
For Boverhoff, the key selling features of the EC480EHR were not just the towering height and heavy tool weight (3.5 tonnes), but also the fact that the machine was purpose-built by Volvo CE for ease of transport. The new electro-hydraulic system, with retractable undercarriage and hydraulically removable counterweight, contribute to easy road transportation, features of particular value to the company, which often operates in urban areas.
The sky is the limit
Beyond sky-high productivity, safety and operator comfort, there were also environmental impacts for Boverhoff to consider. Before work could begin, the company had to re-home a colony of 5,000 bats that had occupied the empty hospital buildings. Additionally, because of the close proximity of the hospital to the town centre and the local community, the demolition work has to be carried out with minimal dust, noise and vibrations.
Above all, it’s the performance of the Volvo EC480EHR high-reach excavator that is most notable to Boverhoff. The company owns more than 20 crawler excavators in the 30-tonne class and higher, with more than half comprising of Volvo machines, including wheel loaders and excavators. All Volvo machines were supplied by the Volvo CE dealership, Kuiken, which has recently provided Boverhoff with its latest purchase, the EC380E excavator.
Duco Pater, regional sales manager of Kuiken, has come to Zwolle to witness the Volvo EC480EHR in action. Its jaws clamp onto the edge of a hospital window and pull down more brickwork with remarkable precision. Noting Zwerver’s steadiness, Pater marvels: “This guy knows what he’s doing.”