Hayes Homes

By Brian Fraley

(Originally published in Constructioneer magazine)

It was a cloudy Saturday morning late in May. That morning at 9 am, the Hayes Homes housing projects in Newark, N.J., would be dealt a fatal blow. Two 12-story buildings separated by a smokestack loomed over an otherwise graded site. Just after 8:30 am, a driving rain began to pound the pavement. Yannuzzi Estimator Jeff Forsythe inquired, "Could you have asked for better timing than 20 minutes to 9 (a.m.) on implosion day?"

Yannuzzi, a demolition and recycling outfit out of Orange, NJ, was awarded a contract - just shy of $1 million - by the Newark Housing Authority to take down the last three structures that stood on the site of Hayes Homes housing project. Although the rain provided a soggy experience for the crews from Yannuzzi; Phoenix, Md.-based Controlled Demolition Inc, (CDI), the implosion subcontractor; and dozens of onlookers, it did wonders for dust control. As the buildings crumbled to the ground following a series of loud cracks, the pounding rain extinguished the massive dust cloud in a matter of minutes.

Once the debris from the implosion has been cleared out, the site will be graded and construction will begin for a mixed income townhouse development.

"It's not just getting the building to fall down, but you want to do it in such a fashion that you can facilitate debris removal," explained Douglas K. Loizeaux, vice president of CDI.

Not to mention, there was no damage to surrounding structures. Part of the credit for this is taken by Protec Documentation Services, Rancocas, NJ, who was hired by Yannuzzi to ensure the safety of the surrounding neighborhood during the implosion and provide photo documentation. Protec pre-inspected all surrounding structures, focusing on the historic Saint Stanislaus Church. The team also installed seismographs around the site to keep a check on ground vibration and airblast levels.

The Hayes Homes complex was built on a 5.5 acre plot. At one time, ten 12-story residential high-rise buildings loomed over the site. A 140-foot-tall smoke stack, a senior center and a community center were also on site. In 1998 the Newark Housing Authority began evacuating residents and letting contracts to level the entire complex. Why? Simply because the once respectable housing complex had become what the Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUD) defines as "unviable." Translated, Hayes was unsuitable to live in. It was built back in 1954, and after 46 years, the structures had become decrepit and overrun with crime. Not to mention, the elevator and other internal systems were out of commission.

Yannuzzi had seen its share of demolition projects, but never an implosion. "All of the non-masonry material is removed from the buildings so when they come down, all we have is a recycling job," Forsythe said. But there was a lot more to it than that.
The blast plan provided a detailed layout of where the preparation work would be needed. In the case of Hayes Homes, floors one, three, six and nine were targeted. Using four Bobcat skid steer loaders with grapple buckets, crews proceeded to selectively remove portions of the non-load bearing and load bearing walls and isolate the key structural supports where explosives would be planted. An added step involved pre-weakening the stairwells and elevator shafts so they would give way properly during implosion. The team also draped geotextile fabric over certain openings in the building to hinder airborne rubble. A chain link fence was wrapped around the perimeter to block off any stray debris.

Another aspect of the project was the removal of a two-story community center / boiler house by way of conventional demolition methods. The structure, flanking the smokestack, formerly provide hot water to the entire complex. A pair of Komatsu PC400LC excavators with grapples and a Caterpiller 973 loader with a grapple bucket took part in the removal effort. The grapple on one PC400LC was switched up with a pulverizer to break down large pieces of concrete as demolition progressed. Yannuzzi removed three steel 25.000-gallon underground storage tanks as well.

"Anything that stands vertically want to fall due to gravity's effect on it," explained Loizeaux, a 25-year implosion veteran, "We really aren't blowing the structure up. We're using explosives as a catalyst."

In the days leading up to the implosion, crews used pneumatic drills to bore 1,300 holes within the reinforced concrete columns of the two structures and another 40 in the smokestack. It took 180 pounds of nitroglycerin-based dynamite to trigger the collapse.

Cleanup and recycling started after the implosion. Yannuzzi used three Komatsu PC400LC excavators with grapple, bucker and pulverizer to facilitate sort, and stockpile surplus material. An Eagle 2500 crusher was used to bring oversized material down to size. The company was granted a Class B recycling permit from the State of New Jersey to sell the useable material.

Workers "killed two birds with one stone" during the cleanup. As material was sorted, the basements of the two buildings were dug out. As this took place, crews began excavating the footings. Recycled concrete was used for backfill.

This article has been edited from its original length

  Enter your E-mail address below,
  and we'll keep you informed on site
  updates and future live events.