There are few things in life as prestigious as being able to claim a World Record for some amazing feat, which is undoubtedly why so many people and entities are constantly ‘declaring’ them.

Well the explosive demolition industry is no different, and over the years there has always been a healthy competition for, and conflicting claims to, World Records. Occasionally these quests for recognition have been known to get a little trivial (Most people watching an implosion from a public viewing area? Largest post-tensioned, reinforced concrete structure in North America? Tallest building in the Caribbean?)

Monumental achievements in Barbados aside, recognizes the following projects as holding the current World Record in specific major categories. Please note that we have intentionally withheld the names of specific blasters and contracting companies. It is generally recognized that, price and logistics being equal, several of the industry’s top firms are capable of performing any of these projects (in fact, six different entities currently hold these records). In addition, if you’re really intent on associating these events with blasters, most can be found in other areas of this website and others if you poke around enough.

Sears Merchandise Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

This impressive structure was built by an army of 2,000 laborers in 1918 and opened to the public in 1919. For seven decades it served as the centerpiece of Northeast Philadelphia before finally succumbing to 12,000 pounds of explosives in 1994.

At 2.7 million square feet of floor space, the Sears Merchandise Center has staved off numerous illegitimate claims to this record, most notably the Hudson’s building in Detroit (2.2 million sq. ft.) and several 'large-but-hollow' structures including the Carburendum Building in Niagara Falls and the Kingdome in Seattle. Although the felling of these latter buildings presented their own unique challenges, each fell well short of the actual blasting footage necessary to compete for this record.

Hudson’s Department Store
Detroit, Michigan USA
At first, protesters objected loudly to the razing of this 26-story, 439-foot tall structure located in the heart of Detroit’s commercial district. But years of neglect and decay precluded an economically viable alternative, and the building was brought down in 1998.

Matla Nuclear Power Station Smokestack
Johannesburg, South Africa

After an interior portion of this 906-foot concrete stack collapsed during construction (killing 4 workers), blasting specialists were rushed to the scene to explosively fell the remainder of the structure. To the blaster’s surprise, the concrete was so inferior that the massive stack ‘telescoped’ straight down instead of laying out into a prepared trench as anticipated.

Nonetheless, the endeavor was a success, and has held this record since 1982.

CBC Transmission Tower
Quebec, Canada
Many industry experts feel that this blast holds several records, including World’s Most Peculiar Demolition Scenario. In April 2001, a Canadian pilot flying in a dense fog crashed his single-engine Cessna straight into a 1,217-foot tall TV transmission tower… so straight, in fact, that his plane remained stuck like a dart in the top of the tower. Demolition experts were called in to recover the wreckage by felling the structure with explosives, and set a new height record in the process.

(Note: Transmission-tower demolitions are placed in a separate category because they are not ‘free-standing.’ Support wires attached to various points on the tower remain connected to the ground throughout the demolition process, thereby maintaining an element of physical control notably dissimilar to other types of explosive demolition projects)

Interstate 80 Bridge, MP-177
Boston Mills, Ohio, USA

With the push of a button in November 2003, demolition experts detonated 138 lbs. of RDX explosive charges to drop the 2,680-foot long Ohio Turnpike Bridge spanning Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Boston Mills, Ohio.

The decision to blast all nine over-deck truss and four girder spans simultaneously was primarily based on safety, as it allowed State Police to close the adjacent heavily traveled superhighway only once.

Stelco Steel Plant
Hamilton, Ontario Canada
This 1997 blast was the centerpiece of a major plant upgrade and involved the simultaneous demolition of 20 structures including warehouses, storage sheds and smokestacks. The tricky part; all of the structures were constructed of steel, which is generally considered more difficult to work with than reinforced concrete.

Bow Valley Medical Center
Calgary, Alberta Canada

Thirteen months after the Hamilton project, a different team of explosives experts performed an equally ambitious 20-building undertaking at one of Calgary’s most historic institutions.

There were significant differences between the two events; whereas the Stelco blast involved steel structures in a remote industrial environment, Bow Valley involved taller concrete structures nestled in a dense residential neighborhood. Overall, Bow Valley seemed to take the edge in ‘difficulty’ due to the added burden of intense pre-blast publicity that eventually required the management of tens of thousands of sentimental spectators. At one point, the blast was delayed 20 minutes while several hot-air balloons violated air-space restrictions and swept in low over the complex.

The Great Buddas of Bamiyan
Central Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan

This record was ignominiously set in March 2001 when, in an attempt to destroy all religious monuments seen to compete with Islam, Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban ordered explosives experts to demolish two of the world’s largest standing Buddas. The historical statues, rising 175 and 120 feet respectively, had been hewn out of sandstone cliffs and dated back to the age of Christ.

The explosive demolition was sharply criticized by leaders around the world, and many others have since expressed grief at the loss of what the BBC called “one of Asia’s greatest archeological treasures.”

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