Specialty Equipment Improves Demolition Control During Teardown of Iconic Las Vegas Steakhouse
Applying the Secret Weapon: Custom Excavator Attachment Boosts Safety, Efficiency During Smith & Wollensky Demo in Las Vegas
Las Vegas, a city renowned for mega casinos and hotels, is billed as “the entertainment capital of the world” because of its global leadership in the hospitality industry. More than 42 million visitors flocked to this southern Nevada destination last year to participate in a host of activities, ranging from recreational club hopping and gambling to attending professional conferences, trade shows or corporate meetings.
Feeding off this cultural hustle and bustle, commercial construction in the region has been on an upswing in recent years. Demolition crews are working hard to keep up with the flurry of new building, expansion and renovation activities. One such firm is Las Vegas Demolition & Environmental Service (LVD), which was selected by The Penta Building Group, a general contractor based in southern Nevada, to handle the complex demolition of the Smith & Wollensky restaurant located on Las Vegas Boulevard this past summer.
Tight Quarters Make for a Tough Demo
When considering various options to tear down the former Smith & Wollensky building, LVD co-owners Joe and Sal Catania knew special care would be needed to raze the 30,000-square-foot structure built in 1998. Two major safety concerns stood out on this street-level project: Las Vegas Boulevard’s heavy pedestrian traffic, and the building’s proximity to the south side of the Showcase Mall, which would remain fully operational throughout all phases of demolition. Only a 2-to-3-foot gap existed between the closed restaurant and the busy shopping center.
Demolition of the three-story, steel-framed building began in July 2018. The project scope included disconnecting utilities, removing OHMs (oil and hazardous materials) consisting of hydraulic oils from an elevator and freon from air conditioner units, bay-by-bay structural wrecking, and separating and processing construction debris for recycling and disposal.
The LVD crew utilized three excavators to mechanically tear down the structure and sort/load debris. In addition to its own Link-Belt 330 LX Excavator, the team rented two other Link-Belts – a 350 X3 and a 750 X4 – from Bejac Corp., a specialty equipment dealer with offices throughout Arizona, California and Nevada.
With an operating weight of roughly 160,000 pounds and 512 net horsepower, the Link-Belt 750 X4 has a maximum reach of 32 feet – a great benefit considering the Smith & Wollensky building’s 65-foot height. The machine’s advanced sensors continually monitored the type of work being performed, responding with the appropriate hydraulic pressure and enhancing power and precision across all work modes. The excavator was also outfitted with a special attachment engineered by LVD. Dubbed “The Secret Weapon,” this custom piece weighing just over 10,000 pounds helped the equipment operators more carefully control the movement of structural steel members.
A Smashing Safety Culture
Given the close quarters and substantial pedestrian presence on the Smith & Wollensky demolition project, LVD utilized spotters, concrete K-rail barriers (also known as Jersey barriers) and a scaffold covered with debris netting to protect people and nearby property. Despite the inherent challenges of working within a bustling urban environment, the $500,000 job wrapped up in August 2018 with zero safety incidents. According to the leaders of LVD, this feat was achieved due to the company’s strong safety culture.
A combination of communication, education and awareness is crucial to developing an authentic culture of safety. For example, LVD conducts “Toolbox Meetings” before work each day to increase workers’ understandings of safety policies and procedures, as well as regular safety luncheons where guest speakers present on key topics. Crew members are also empowered with stop-work authority, helping to mitigate unsafe working conditions or behaviors during an active project.
LVD’s leaders are often candid with their foremen, superintendents and laborers about safety’s overarching impact. Team members are urged to “set the industry standard” so they can work more hours, help the company secure future jobs and, most importantly, return home safely to their loved ones.
According to the National Safety Council, one characteristic of a world-class safety program is leadership. By promoting an organizational culture that places safety on par with business performance, employees tend to feel more engaged and empowered to make a difference.
“When company leaders set clear expectations for safety and continually reinforce this message, they foster a culture of safety,” says Jeff Lambert, Executive Director of the National Demolition Association. “And to help employees reach their peak potential, managers and field supervisors should be prepared to provide constructive criticism that points workers toward better solutions.”
Trust and Safety Go Hand in Hand
Trust is a key reason why LVD and Bejac have worked together on this and other projects in the Las Vegas area. One of their most recent partnerships was the $400,000 demolition of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where Bejac supplied the Link-Belt 800 LX Excavator used to tear down the visitor’s center, restrooms and entrance to a pedestrian bridge spanning Paradise Avenue.
According to an LVD representative, Bejac “does its best to provide the equipment we need, sometimes with very short notice.” This sentiment certainly illustrates Bejac’s tagline: “Ready whenever you need us. That’s the Bejac difference.”
Bejac rents, sells and maintains a variety of equipment for customers in industries such as demolition, recycling, construction and forestry. As the largest supplier of demolition equipment in the western U.S., the company carries a wide range of machinery from noteworthy brands such as Liebherr, Link-Belt, Genesis and Atlas Copco. To expedite project tasks, Bejac also provides a variety of attachments, including shears to slice through metal, pulverizers capable of simultaneously crushing concrete and cutting rebar, and hydraulic breakers to break apart buildings.
Company-wide, Bejac has about 60 percent in equipment sales and 40 percent in equipment rentals; at its newest location in Las Vegas, which opened in June 2018, about 95 percent of equipment is rented to customers.
High-quality service, whether it’s in the form of customer support or equipment maintenance, is also a major motivator for contractors to trust Bejac with their project needs. In Las Vegas, for example, Bejac has two highly trained mechanics on staff who visit customers’ job sites in large service trucks to repair machinery or provide other equipment expertise.
“As part of our support services, Bejac likes to send mechanics to the job site to be on call in case they’re needed. If something happens they can respond to the situation very quickly, which gives contractors peace of mind about keeping their projects on track,” says Bob Joyce, Bejac’s Operations Manager in Las Vegas. This effort doesn’t just reduce project downtime; it also bolsters safety for equipment operators and other crew members.
The company also boasts an extensive inventory of parts to ensure quick turnarounds on customers’ orders – often within 24 hours on frequently ordered items. Bejac also stocks a variety of remanufactured, warrantied parts built to factory specifications that can save customers up to 40 percent compared to the cost of new components.
“We’ve made a name for ourselves due to our quality customer service. From our mechanics to our customer support personnel, everyone is well-trained to assist every type of customer,” Joyce says. “I hand-picked each of the seasoned professionals at our Las Vegas dealership, who possess 90 years of combined experience. Every staff member has worked in the Las Vegas Valley for years, so we understand the needs of building and construction customers in this market – from contractors specializing in dirt work and underground utilities to demolition customers and others. We have the quality equipment lines and knowledge needed to support any project type.”