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Making way for buildings of tomorrow

Matcon Demolition takes delivery of the first Cat 352 UHD excavator in Western Canada

A demolition excavator demolishes a building
As the single largest development within Vancouver since the construction of Olympic Village, Oakridge Park, a nearly $5 billion development is currently underway at the site of the previously establish Oakridge Centre Mall. Mack Plovie

Established in 2002, Matcon Excavation & Shoring Ltd. (MESL) started as a privately held, family-oriented business in excavation and shoring. They have since grown to 350-plus staff and over 150 pieces of heavy equipment comprising excavators, hydraulic drills, grouting equipment, compressors, skid steers, bored pile (cassion) type drill rigs, and slope stabilization equipment. MESL and its subsidiaries (Matcon) have executed several hundred projects involving combinations of excavation, deep foundation, rock stabilization, excavation shoring, contaminated soil excavation and disposal, demolition and abatement, and contaminated water treatment.

Matcon is composed of five core businesses under one brand: Matcon Demolition Ltd. (MDL), Matcon Environmental Ltd. (MEL), Matcon Underground Utilities Ltd. (MUUL), Matcon Rock Stabilization (MRS), and parent Matcon Excavation & Shoring Ltd. (MESL). The subsidiary Matcon Demolition Ltd, which has been an active demolition contractor since 2008, has completed several complex demolition projects throughout British Columbia including industrial decommissions, large-scale commercial teardowns, and heritage retention. Some previous projects include Lougheed Mall, a $1.6 million demolition project removing an above ground parkade, as well as the Squamish Woodfibre LNG project, a joint venture between the Squamish First Nation and Matcon called NC-Matcon JV that included demolition, abatement, and site remediation of over 75 structures and features on the project.

MDL took delivery of Western Canada's first CAT 352 UHD. Mack Plovie

Clearing the way for the buildings of tomorrow

As the City of Vancouver population grows, developers are purchasing older buildings, multiple lots of single-family homes, or industrial and commercial land in order to realize their vision of new commercial developments, luxurious townhomes/condos, and high rises. As the single largest development within Vancouver since the construction of Olympic Village, Oakridge Park, a nearly $5 billion development, is currently underway at the site of the previously established Oakridge Centre mall.

The development has a 28.5-acre footprint that will soon host residential units, commercial properties, and more. The project began in 2019 when property owner QuadReal Property Group, developer Westbank Corp, and Henriquez Partners Architects set out to redevelop the Oakridge Centre site. Now closed, the Oakridge Centre site has since been nearly entirely demolished and work is well under way in constructing the new development.

That is where MDL was brought in to help. Beginning in January 2020, they were contracted by general contractor EllisDon to complete demolition of structures across the entire site totalling 40,000 cubic metres of concrete. MDL's latest project on this site with their new Cat 352 Ultra High Demolition (UHD) excavator is to demolish a seven-storey concrete office building at the corner of West 41st Avenue and Cambie Street.

In demolition, it isn't just about smashing and wrecking the building like one might gather from a Hollywood movie. In-depth project planning and engineering was undertaken by MDL. In this instance, MDL identified a red brick facade and asbestos lining on the exterior wall requiring remediation and disposal. Initially, scaffolding was set up to remove this brick facade by hand and allow for asbestos remediation of the exterior wall. Internally, the building was gutted of all materials for salvaging and recycling as appropriate. What remained was a concrete and rebar skeleton totalling 6,600 cubic metres of concrete. Sorting, salvaging, and recycling materials is a key component in demolition, as costs recovered from these materials help to offset demolition costs to the client.

Beginning on the eastern portion of the building, MDL's Cat 352 UHD excavator broke concrete and rebar one floor at a time progressing evenly into the building's core. Breaking through 1-foot-thick concrete floors and 2-foot-thick structurally reinforced beams surely put the Van-Ed Equipment supplied VUC 202 primary crusher on the business end of the machine to the test. Also commonly known in the industry as a concrete cracker, this work tool can exert in excess of 1,100 metric tons of crushing force in its throat, with a total weight of 5,400 pounds. The demolished concrete and rebar falls to the ground floor below forming a pad which the Cat 352 UHD sits atop.

During this project, one main challenge was demolishing the building adjacent to busy West 41st Ave MDL was quick to find a solution allowing for minimum interruption to traffic with public safety as a priority. In order to control any potential stray demolition debris, a large net was hung vertically from an articulating boom lift. In addition, one lane of traffic was closed so a material bin could be placed on the roadway as added protection preventing stray debris from leaving the site footprint. MDL also worked closely with their other divisions on-site when conducting demolition near excavation and shoring in the adjacent work areas, a true benefit to having Matcon working together on one site.

Demolition folk are arguably the best recyclers on earth, meticulously deconstructing buildings to salvage and recycle materials. On the Oakridge Park site, 95 percent of the material from demolition will be recycled, a testament to MDL's planning and execution of the project. The concrete will be crushed down to a 75mm product off site, and rebar will be sent to a scrapyard for recycling.

The Cat 352 UHD excavator was outfitted with a VUC 202 primary crusher supplied by Van-Ed Equipment. Mack Plovie

New high-reach excavator in the fleet

MDL's newest fleet addition, a Cat 352 UHD excavator, is the first one of its kind in Western Canada, making the journey all the way from Caterpillar in South Carolina. For a machine this size, shipping in multiple loads is a given. The machine without the boom and stick was shipped on one lowbed, followed not far behind by the 50-foot boom and 29-foot stick. Buying Cat equipment for demolition purposes isn't a first for MDL; the company's demolition fleet already includes two Cat 336 excavators equipped with concrete crushers and shears. However, in this instance MDL needed a machine with both high reach capability and ability to be used in conventional excavator configuration.

"One of the biggest factors was availability and the fact we already have multiple Cat machines in our fleet," mentioned Jeremy Hinton, project manager and estimator for MDL. Reaching 90 feet into the sky and capable of using an 8,160-pound work tool on the business end, Cat's 352 UHD offered what MDL needed when considering a machine in the 60-ton size class.

Unlike a typical hydraulic excavator, the 352 UHD demolition excavator has variable gauge undercarriage, meaning the undercarriage width can be adjusted depending on the machine's application. For instance, where high-reach demolition requires stability, the machine sits on a wider-than-average 13-foot-wide footprint.

Modern heavy equipment is coming equipped with more and more technology, and Caterpillar's lineup of next-generation excavators certainly doesn't disappoint. With a heated and cooled operator seat, 10-inch touchscreen in the cab, 30-degree tilting cab, machine stability monitoring system when conducting demolition at height, and push button start, this 352 UHD excavator arguably offers equivalent features to that of a fancy sports car.

What is interesting to note in the cab is that, alongside the two standard travel pedals, there are two programmable foot pedals, giving the operator the option to customize their user experience by setting these pedals to control boom or stick functions. Once the 352 UHD arrived at the Finning yard in Surrey, B.C., technicians were quick to assemble, conduct pre-delivery inspection, install, and test the VUC 202 primary crusher supplied by Van-Ed Equipment. Testing of the high-reach to traditional excavator boom changeover process was also completed, and can be done in under an hour.

The Cat 352 UHD features a 10-inch touchscreen in the cab. Mack Plovie

Industry partnership leads to success

Amidst a market saturated with competing demolition companies, solid relationships with dealers are of utmost importance for a company to continue doing business and remain competitive. Whether it be parts support, machine support, or adopting and implementing technology, dealerships like Finning Canada are valuable resources to contractors. Matcon and Finning have a long history of working together throughout the Lower Mainland, with numerous pieces of Cat equipment already in their equipment fleet. The addition of another was the right step for Matcon Group of Companies to continue serving a growing customer base.

Daryl Troup, industry manager for excavation at Finning Canada, explained, "The machine purchase is just the first step in the journey for the customer. Once they put their new machine to work, the customer's priority is keeping that machine running as efficiently as possible. That is why it's equally as important to foster a strong relationship with the customer on our aftermarket side as well."

Downtime on equipment is enough to cause anyone to lose sleep, and tough applications like demolition certainly deliver challenging and harsh working conditions for heavy equipment. "Finning's support has been strong throughout the purchase and first few months of use," said Hinton. MDL also approached Finning asking for solutions to control dust and provide the operator with better visibility when operating the 352 UHD excavator. Finning responded by outfitting the machine with a third-party water spray system for controlling dust on which Troup commented, "Caterpillar engineers are aware of some of these customer requirements, so the machine had bosses and plates required for mounting the water lines and tank built in."

Finning also installed a camera system on the end of the 29-foot stick with an in-cab screen to provide additional visibility options for the operator. The VUC 202 primary crusher is also an important piece of the package, continuing to build on a more than 15-year relationship between Matcon and Van-Ed Equipment.

"We worked with their project managers and equipment division to determine the right work tool for this machine, and more specifically this project application," said Craig Stewart, general manager of Van-Ed Equipment.

As this machine is purpose-built for demolition, it is already plumbed with the necessary hydraulic circuits for various work tools and hydraulic requirements.

"Calibrating the machine for this work tool required us to work closely with both Finning technicians and Matcon. We provided the required flows for optimum performance and safe operation, and they set those accordingly," explained Stewart. With respect to calibrating the carrier for these work tools, an interesting feature of the Cat 352 UHD excavator is the ability to program individual work tool hydraulic parameters. Therefore, work tools can be swapped out, and once programmed and saved, all the operator has to do is select the appropriate setting on the 10-inch touchscreen.

In the end, even amidst the challenges of a global pandemic and stretched supply chains, Caterpillar and Finning Canada showed their commitment to the customer: MDL's new Cat 352 UHD excavator was successfully delivered and is currently demolishing the buildings of yesterday to make way for new developments.

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