RVA spotlight – meet Mark Taylor

RVA spotlight - meet Mark Taylor

Name and role: Mark Taylor, engineering & consultancy director

How long have you been with RVA Group?

15 years, although it seems like a lifetime (in a good way!) Previously the longest I had been in a post was six years.  This was because when I was young, I was told that if you stay in a role for less than two years you are not giving your all to the position, and over five years means you are no longer learning.  With RVA, the amount of impact I can make has resulted in such a long tenure.

Describe your career journey before that?

I graduated as a civil engineer from Newcastle, and it was around this time that desktop computers were starting to appear! I immediately enrolled on a full-time, post graduate diploma in business and IT, to learn more about this new tool – and business in general.  In fact, after this, my first job was with the Tees & Hartlepool Port Authority in their IT department.  This was probably my proudest application – not because it was my first, but because I was successful against 50 other candidates, all of whom had IT degrees. It was only six months into this role that the government-funded TDC made money available to the Port Authority, and I was moved to their design office to take up a role of civil/project Engineer. 

After five years, I left to join P. C. Richardson’s (specialist access contractor – steeplejacks) as a project engineer/manager.  It was during these four years that I became involved in nuclear decommissioning, which eventually saw me leaving to join Atkins Nuclear at Whitehaven.  

My six years at Atkins covered the decommissioning of legacy nuclear assets across the UK – including a role within a BNFL project team as a responsible civil, structural, and architectural engineer on the Ponds Retrieval Project at Sellafield.  I finished my time at Atkins as group head of Atkins Nuclear North. It was from here that I was asked to join RVA.

What did you want to be, when you were younger?

I never really had an ideal career aspiration.  In school, I applied to be a pilot for the RAF, but my eyesight was not good enough. In truth, when I studied civil engineering at university, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be, but I was interested in buildings and structures.  It was a family friend who suggested this route as it opened up more opportunities after graduating. 

And what do you think is the key skill you need to be a successful engineering and consultancy director?

To be able to understand and manage clients’ requirements, communicate clearly with them, and tailor services to provide fit-for-purpose advice and deliverables that are accurate and presented correctly. 

What’s your biggest RVA achievement to date?

Developing RVA Engineering Solutions Limited – the client-facing consultancy side of the business – to become the professional, reputable, quality-defined organisation that it is today. We have clear products, services and deliverables, and a continued bright future ahead. 

And the most memorable thing you’ve learnt during your career?

Be honest with the people you are dealing with and yourself – respect is built from that.

Describe your dream project.

A ‘cradle to grave’ demolition project. From inputting into the facility’s design, to updating the financial provisions, providing initial guidance and options studies for closure, planning (including budgeting) in preparing for closure, assistance in decommissioning, overseeing the demolition and remediation, and exploring potential new uses for the land. This would be a long project – I agree – and not many could be achieved in my working life span, if the operating phase is successful.

RVA Group is celebrating 30 years in business, with a truly global reputation for decommissioning excellence. Why do you think the company has earned such a stand-out position in industry?

Integrity. RVA’s philosophy of delivering world class decommissioning projects, executed in the right way (HSE excellence without compromise), while providing clients with confidence in this and financial best practice, is core to our existence.

Of all the sectors RVA operates in, which is the most exciting right now?

For me it’s not a ‘sector’, it is location.  There are fewer and fewer large-scale demolition projects in the UK, and we are on the cusp of the UK demolition industry looking further afield for work. Yet RVA has had a truly international presence for some time, having executed projects in wider Europe, the US, the middle and far east, along with the rest of the Americas.   It is an exciting time as we continue to expand into existing and new overseas territories.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give to an organisation preparing for a decommissioning project?

It is NEVER too early to start planning. Ideally, decommissioning should be discussed and budgeted for, during the facility’s original design.  There are so many aspects to understand and agree on to ensure financial success, and most importantly Health, Safety and Environmental excellence, that planning for decommissioning should be ingrained into business decisions from the outset – certainly well before a facility is due to close.

What makes you tick outside of work?

For leisure – rugby, rugby, rugby and cycling.  Although too old to play anymore, I still help out with the committee of my local Rugby Club (Yarm) – who I helped found in 1997 – and I like to travel to at least two international matches a year.  I cycled a lot at school, and I have come back to it as a way to stay fit now my rugby playing days are over, doing the ETAPE Loch Ness sportive every year. 

As for sheer satisfaction, I spend as much free time as possible with my three granddaughters, who are two, five, and seven. 

If you could be given a plane ticket for anywhere, where would you choose?

I have to pick two as I can’t decide between them, and they are Cape Town and Singapore.  They are by far the best places outside the UK I have ever been to on my travels. 


Just Entrepreneurs interview with Richard Vann

RVA Group

Recently, Richard Vann, founder of RVA Group, was interviewed by Just Entrepreneurs, to talk about his career in the sector. If you missed the feature, catch it in full, here:

Overseeing the demolition of high-hazard manufacturing plants that span multi-hectare sites on almost every continent in the world, isn’t your average day job. But that has been the lifeblood of the career of Richard Vann – the founder of global decommissioning consultancy RVA Group, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month…

  • Tell us about the founder behind the brand?

With four decades’ experience in the sector, I began my demolition career with a contractor, in 1982. In 1992, I identified a market gap within the high-hazard operational sectors of power generation, and chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries. As a result, I established Richard Vann Associates which evolved into RVA Group – a specialist project management and engineering organisation providing knowledge-based support to ensure the successful delivery of decommissioning, decontamination, dismantling and demolition projects worldwide. 

Passionate about the development of skills, the sharing of knowledge, and the reputation of the demolition industry, I have spoken at dozens of international industry conferences, and was the keynote speaker at the World Demolition Summit in 2017. I have a regular column in Demolition & Recycling International magazine, and am also a fellow and past president of both the Institute of Demolition Engineers, and the Institute of Explosives Engineers. 

  • What does your business offer its target audience?

We provide a wide range of decommissioning services, ranging from costings studies, through to the design of demolition methodologies, the tendering and selection of contractors, multiple different types of surveys, environmental studies, the complete project management of multi-year assignments, and more. 

The goal is to support clients throughout the operational lifecycle of their assets, so that – when the time comes for decommissioning – they can select, develop and implement project-specific strategies that deliver optimum safety, commercial, and environmental outcomes. 

  • With all the success stories around entrepreneurship and how innovative people have to be to take the leap. How do you think you’ve innovated your sector and why?

RVA was established because I had identified what I believed was a void in the management of decommissioning works. While construction schemes were typically underpinned by robust investment and executed by carefully assembled, multi-disciplined teams, decommissioning projects undertaken throughout the latter stages of an asset’s lifecycle were usually viewed as unwelcome and nuisance events. Resources without the required training and skills – as well as dangerously restrictive timeframes and budgets – were therefore allocated to such decommissioning works. This continued to present avoidable – and at times catastrophic – risks.

This was a challenge of vast proportions. However, bringing together a team of high quality engineers and project managers – leaders in their respective disciplines – was the catalyst that started to change mindsets and completely reshape how complex projects were handled. 

Fast forward to 2022 and RVA Group has nearly 900 assignments under its belt, having worked alongside major global brands including BASF, INEOS, Engie, ConocoPhillips and GSK. We are continually working in new locations too, which shows that even in more developing parts of the world – including countries with far less stringent legislation – attitudes towards demolition are still advancing. 

  • What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far as an entrepreneur?

It isn’t always easy and unexpected hurdles will often be encountered along the way. But as an entrepreneur – and someone in a position of leadership – you have to be committed to see through what you set out to achieve, while being willing to adapt and change direction, often many times. 

  • As a business owner, do you know when to walk away from a sale?

Our unswerving priority is that everyone goes home safely, at the end of every single day. 

We’d therefore walk away from a project if the safety of our colleagues – or others – was jeopardised, and have done this on a couple of rare occasions before. If a client is willing to take dangerous risks to save a few pounds or accelerate a project schedule, we cannot and will not condone this. 

  • Any moments where you thought you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?

Challenges are par for the course of any business owner, regardless of the hazardous nature of our operations, so there have been a couple of ‘crunch time’ moments over the last three decades. 

The day before the start of a major international assignment in Singapore, for example, the project manager called to say he couldn’t relocate from the UK. This could have brought a significantly large contract to a halt, and led to potentially irreparable reputational damage, but fortunately another colleague put their hand up to go, which led to a further three projects in the country. Our professional indemnity insurers also exited our market 24 hours before our policy was due to expire, so we had a day to find an alternative or fold all of our operations. ‘These things are sent to test us’ is how the saying goes, isn’t it. 

  • What’s the single most important decision that you made, that contributed to your business?

Probably recognising that for the successful continuation of the business, I needed to find vehicle to take the company over. That’s why, in 2017 – RVA Group’s 25th year in business – I sold the business to Prague-based EPH. In truth, very little changed operationally – and I remain MD to this day – but this marked the start of RVA’s next quarter century in business. We were able to further invest in our team, infrastructure and strategic growth plans, safe in the knowledge that there is a succession plan in place, when I finally withdraw from the company.

  • Is word of mouth working to your advantage?

Absolutely. Bad news travels fast in any industry, and in one as hazardous as demolition, adverse events could quickly lead to the complete collapse of a business. Conversely, a hard-earned reputation – especially in an environment as niche as ours – means you become seen as the ‘go to’ for specialist expertise. 

We’ve never focused on chasing projects or money, but changing hearts and minds when it comes to attitudes surrounding demolition. We’ve almost taken an ambassadorial stance, and are happy and willing to share our advice and expertise. This means word has spread, and a vast proportion of our work comes from recommendation.

  • What’s the biggest risk to your business and why?

A significant health and safety failure, which is another reason why we treat safety compliance as seriously as we do. 

  • Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. How are you combating that feeling whilst pushing forward?

I try and stay occupied with passions and interests outside of the business, to take my mind and focus away from work, even if only temporarily. For me, this has been writing and making music. Even if I’m only in the studio for a couple of hours a week, that hour is mine – I don’t have to think about the company, staff, customers (or even my wife, children or dogs!)

  • How is digitisation empowering your business?

We were early adopters of a cloud-based IT infrastructure which promotes remote working with ease. This was crucial way before COVID, as we could have colleagues working successfully across several different continents as a coordinated unit – we still need to be one team.

The very nature of our work means that sometimes we have to be physically present on a client’s site. However, some of our preparatory project work can and is conducted off-site, which keeps programmes of work progressing smoothly, avoids the expense, time and environmental burden of unnecessary travel, and allows us to draw on the right expertise wherever people may be located.  

In terms of demolition-specific technology, on-site equipment is becoming ever more sophisticated which increasingly negates the need to expose people to unnecessary heights and other risks. We are increasingly relying on drones too, which is particularly great when it comes to conducting surveys in aged or contaminated environments where the risks aren’t known until we get a clearer picture of the inside. And computer modelling means we can drive ongoing innovation when it comes to the dismantling and demolition methodologies we design. 

But we’ll never deploy tech for tech’s sake – its usage should always come back to our primary goal of ensuring the safest, most environmentally sound, and best value project outcome.


Richard Vann to bolster British Demolition Awards judging panel

Richard Vann, British Demolition Awards judge

Announced as a judge for the third ceremony running, RVA’s managing director, Richard Vann, will join industry peers on a panel for the fifth annual British Demolition Awards later this year.

Taking to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 1 September 2023, the industry-renowned event – hosted by Global News Media and Demolition Hub – seeks to celebrate the sector’s very best global engineering feats.

Delving deeper into the latest product innovations, top talents, and project successes, Richard will join fellow judges – tasked with hand-selecting the most worthy work undertaken by those who operate in, supply to, and assist in the sector.

Uniting over 500 professionals across demolition, demolition equipment, and the asbestos landscape, this year’s celebration is set to be the largest yet – with more awards categories, networking opportunities, and industry insights than ever before. 

Sharing his pride to be invited back, Richard commented: “With over 30 years of industry experience under my belt, I’ve lived and breathed the breadth and depth of challenges and opportunities that the demolition profession encounters on an ongoing basis. I am used to having an independent stance in the industry — as a consultant — and I look forward to reviewing some of the achievements that have taken place over the past 12 months. From project excellence and safety management, to up-and-coming engineers, environmental breakthroughs and more, I’m sure there will be a lot to celebrate, and recognise. 

“With this hat trick appointment to the panel, I feel privileged to be trusted with such a prestigious role too – acknowledging works of the highest calibre, on a truly global scale. I look forward to marking the occasion on the awards evening in September.”

You can discover more about the British Demolition Awards, here.


RVA spotlight – meet Mick Donkin

Meet decommissioning project manager Michael Donkin

Name and role: Michael Donkin, project manager.

How long have you been with RVA Group? 

About 3.5 years.

Describe your career journey before that? 

Professionally, I worked my way up from being a labourer, to a scaffolder, then through to project engineer and now a project manager. Underpinning that academically is a BEng in civil engineering, and I’m currently studying for an MSc in civil engineering and construction management. 

What did you want to be, when you were younger? 

A gardener – high aspirations I know! I just enjoyed watching things grow and often getting to eat something at the end of the process (especially garden peas!)

And what do you think is the key skill you need to be a successful project manager? 

Clear communication or organisational skills. In fact, I’d say both are equally key.

What’s your biggest RVA achievement to date? 

Not having any major safety issues on any of my projects to date – something that should never be taken for granted in our complex industry.

And the most memorable thing you’ve learnt during your career? 

Always be open and approachable to all members of the team.

Describe your dream project

A project where all involved – from the client, to on-site personnel, wider partners and other external stakeholders – are happy with the outcome at the end.

RVA Group is celebrating 30 years in business, with a truly global reputation for decommissioning excellence. Why do you think the company has earned such a stand-out position in industry? 

Because we set high safety standards and have a proven track record of getting the job done properly, every time.

Of all the sectors RVA operates in, which is the most exciting right now? 

To me all of them are. They each provide enough differences to keep your critical thinking and problem solving skills sharp, with new challenges every day, but they are close enough that you can apply proven methods so that clients and the wider supply chain benefit from learned experience.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give to an organisation preparing for a decommissioning project?

Get the right team involved as soon as feasible.

What makes you tick outside of work?

My young family – a two-year-old and six-month-old require all of my attention!

If you could be given a plane ticket for anywhere, where would you choose?

Somewhere quiet with no kids – just temporarily!

Which one word would you hope colleagues would use to describe you?



RVA to take centre stage at February’s NEPIC conference

NEPIC Conference RVA Group

We are very pleased to announce that Matthew Waller, RVA Group’s Operations
Director, will be speaking at the upcoming NEPIC Asset Management Conference
on 8 February, at Hardwick Hall Hotel, Sedgefield.

NEPIC is a not-for-profit organisation that supports the needs and interests of the
chemical-processing sector in the North East of England. The prestigious
membership body essentially exists to ensure industry thrives in this region – and
that there are investments, innovations and a network that will create jobs and
opportunities long into the future.

Those familiar with the work of RVA, will know that over the last 30 years our team
has managed almost 900 decontamination, decommissioning, dismantling and
demolition projects worldwide, including many amongst the process sector on
Teesside. We have worked hard to develop an unrivalled reputation among blue-
chip clients for adding value and delivering projects with safety as a ‘built-in’ and
non-negotiable performance criteria. This will therefore provide the foundation of
our seminar at the upcoming conference.

Matthew will be speaking about “Asset end of life decommissioning plans”. Whilst
the term ‘Asset Management’ is routinely focused on the optimisation of
production, the eventual decommissioning of an asset is part of its overall
lifecycle and should be considered as early as possible. Addressing the end game
early adds value in the longer-term – assuring the achievement of EHS excellence
while minimising cost.

There are several steps that will make the eventual closure of a plant safer,
cleaner and more efficient. This presentation will therefore outline a front-end
engineered approach, that will enable operators to plan and make soundly based
business decisions for whenever the time comes to decommission.

Topics Matthew will be covering include:

• Financial provisioning and feasibility studies – what will it cost and what are
my options?
• Preparing for demolition (decommissioning & isolation strategy and
implementation) – what does it look like?
• Building the team and retaining critical knowledge – who will you need?
• Decommissioning Quality Assurance – how do I achieve this?
• Unknown unknowns
• Procuring contractors – what is the supply chain like?
• Managing the process – what are the pitfalls?

This ever-popular industry event will showcase cross-sector best practice to drive
forward improvements in productivity, reliability and safety.  During the day NEPIC
will also demonstrate transferable lessons from across the manufacturing
spectrum – which Production and Engineering Managers can apply to their own
operations – as well as showcasing the broad range of asset management
capabilities available within the region.

Want to hear more from Matthew? Catch up on his team spotlight, over on our
blog. To delve deeper into the conference line-up, please visit the NEPIC website .


RVA spotlight – meet Ellis Hutchinson

Ellis Hutchinson, RVA Group

Name and role: Ellis Hutchinson, senior project manager

How long have you been with RVA Group?

Almost 10 years.

Describe your career journey before that?

After graduating in 2001 with a degree in civil engineering, I spent 12 years working in the steeplejack industry. This involved inspecting, maintaining, and demolishing elevated structures for clients predominantly in the power generation and chemical manufacturing sectors.

What did you want to be, when you were younger?

A professional golfer.

And what do you think is the key skill you need to be a successful senior project manager?

The ability to prioritise your time, while also making sure that everything you do is clearly thought about and executed to the highest of standards, with a view to leading by example and ultimately gaining the respect of your colleagues.

What’s your biggest RVA achievement to date?

Being promoted to the position of RVA senior project manager in 2017.

And the most memorable thing you’ve learnt during your career?

Do not fall into the trap of thinking you know everything. Know your limitations and when you’re unsure or think something is out of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to seek advice or the thoughts of others. There is no such thing as a silly question in my opinion.

Describe your dream project

Any project that is completed on time, on budget, safely, and has been a success for all involved. I think I have already ‘lived the dream’ on a couple of occasions in my time with RVA.

RVA Group is celebrating 30 years in business, with a truly global reputation for decommissioning excellence. Why do you think the company has earned such a stand-out position in industry?

Because we demonstrate attention to detail, with a focus on client satisfaction, while maintaining the very highest of safety standards. We can achieve this thanks to our vast amount of experience and knowledge of the industry, which is only gained over time.

Of all the sectors RVA operates in, which is the most exciting right now?

The decommissioning and demolition of assets outside of the UK and the challenge of understanding and implementing international construction management, asbestos removal and demolition legislation and standards.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give to an organisation preparing for a decommissioning project?

Start preparing for decommissioning well in advance of asset closure, when those with the in-depth knowledge of the equipment, plant processes and any problem areas, are still there to consult with. 

What makes you tick outside of work?

In my free time I love to carry out home improvement projects – one of the notable ones to date is the recent construction of my garden office from which I work without the distraction of barking dogs! When I’m not doing DIY, my current pastimes are fishing from my boat, playing golf, and barbequing.

If you could be given a plane ticket for anywhere, where would you choose?

New Zealand.

Which one word would you hope colleagues would use to describe you?



SABIC reaches decade of decommissioning activity in Teesside


Petrochemical manufacturing giant SABIC and engineering consultancy RVA Group have marked a decade of decommissioning works completed together, at the operator’s Wilton and North Tees sites in Teesside.

The projects represent over 1.2 million safe hours worked on the demolition of ten plant areas spanning 54.35 hectares – the equivalent of 134 football pitches.

Acting as demolition Principal Designer, RVA Group has safely specified and project managed 19 individual contracts during that ten-year period, working with six different contractors appointed to execute the works.

Assignments have included the demolition of the two largest distillation columns in Europe – at 110m high – plus an additional 25 columns, and three chimney stacks reaching up to 125m.

One hyperbolic and ten package cooling towers have also been cleared, along with 50 furnaces, six spheres and more than 100 storage tanks. Early in the project, the team demolished a jetty on the River Tees too – a notable location and focal point of environmental consideration, as the Teesmouth National Nature reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is home to protected bird and river species.

Despite the complexity of this vast undertaking and the sheer volume of work carried out since the relationship began back in 2012, the project has remained on track and has been delivered under budget.

Commenting on the project, RVA’s operations director Matthew Waller said: “This has been an intricate, extensive, and high-profile demolition programme – part of SABIC’s investment in ‘fit for the future’ operations. We have continued to sequentially remove redundant plant from their footprint to pave the way for their ongoing manufacturing excellence, and it has been a privilege to support them over the course of the last ten years.”

SABIC’s senior demolition manager Keiron Mulholland added: “The focus for this entire project, has been safe execution, by design. Detailed planning and expert decommissioning engineering have been the foundations for the safe delivery from start to finish – no mean feat given the inherently high-hazard nature of the works and the sheer number of hours invested into the programme.

“The team from RVA has undoubtedly played its part in helping deliver a successful project outcome. RVA’s project managers worked diligently and collaboratively with both the SABIC team and all of the Principal Contractors, to meet the project business drivers of an excellent EHS performance, within the sanctioned budget and in line with the agreed schedule – a marvellous achievement and one the RVA team should be very proud of.”

A staggering 58,500 tonnes of scrap have been salvaged for reuse or remanufacturing since the project began, with 44,000 tonnes of additional waste – including 8,750 tonnes of asbestos – managed responsibly in line with the waste hierarchy. The decade-long project has achieved a 98% recycling rate.

A four-figure-sum has also been donated to local charities during the decade, as part of an initiative recognising best practice safety observations.

Offering a concluding thought, RVA Group’s managing director Richard Vann said: “Quite often when we discuss long-term plans with a client, many factors influence whether they will ever be fully rolled out and completed, or not. Working with SABIC – a company that has remained so committed and focused to staying on track, over such a long period – has taught us a great deal about the importance of building secure relationships when navigating the good, and not so good, aspects of decommissioning project management. Thank you SABIC.”

The last of SABIC’s redundant assets on Teesside will be demolished and cleared by the end of 2023.

SABIC is one of the world’s leading petrochemical companies, operating in over 50 countries and employing more than 33,000 people worldwide. There are in excess of 380 people working for the organisation’s North-East operation – plus 400 contractors – which creates £400m for the local economy.


Decommissioning engineers expand into South America

EDP Brazil, RVA Group

Decommissioning consultancy RVA Group has completed its first assignment in South America, following a two-week financial provisioning exercise for Portugal’s largest electricity giant, EDP.

EDP is no stranger to RVA’s services, having engaged the decommissioning engineers to write the specification for the demolition of the Barreiro power station in Portugal, in 2011.

This project, in the state of Ceará in Brazil, was part of a due diligence report for the Pecém 1 Energia thermal power plant. With a total capacity of 720 megawatts, the plant produces the equivalent of half the electricity generated for the state.

Keen to secure independent expertise regarding the potential future of this 210-acre site, EDP appointed RVA to produce a detailed decommissioning costings study.

This estimating exercise does not mean that clearance of all – or even part – of the plant is imminent. Instead, RVA’s evidenced data provides EDP with costed options – underpinned by financial integrity – if or when it decides to embark on any decommissioning works moving forward.

This means the fiscal obligation of any future project, is understood and anticipated, therefore minimising the commercial risks for stakeholders.

“As with any project like this, knowledge is power,” commented RVA Group’s managing director Richard Vann. “So, the earlier that decommissioning engineers can become involved in a potential assignment, the greater the quality of any ensuing outputs.”

EDP’s director of decommissioning Bruno Travassos added: “As an organisation, we’re now empowered with information that will support us in future decision-making processes and allow us to better plan the resources and milestones required for any future decommissioning works, large or small.  Such projects are complex and have a large number of variables, so preparation is key.”


That was the year…2022

In his most recent column for Demolition & Recycling International, Richard Vann reflected on demolition in 2022. If you missed the article, catch it in full, here…

Another 12 months flew by seemingly faster than ever in 2022. I wonder why that was…

Some would argue it was because this was our first (almost) full ‘normal’ year post-Covid restrictions. We readjusted once again to a different pace of life – re-filling our personal time with social activities, continually navigating the challenges and opportunities that came with colleagues working from anywhere, and doing our best to satisfy mounting demands from customers who felt as though their worlds had been placed on hold since 2020.

I think it’s safe to say we all wanted to make an impact in 2022, whether that was to capitalise on any uplift in success encountered during the pandemic or begin a recovery following a difficult trading period. So, in general, businesses and their employees worked hard to make the year count. As a result, weeks quickly turned into months, and before we knew it, the year was out.

I bet a lot of people haven’t therefore found the time to reflect properly on 2022.

The economic climate

Outside of the demolition industry, and based on the economic climate generally, the ever-looming risk of recession and rising costs across the board, hit organisations and individuals hard. Considerate employers are continuing to do what they can to financially support colleagues in tackling the cost-of-living crisis – important particularly in markets where competition for talent is high – but this isn’t always easy if company revenues don’t increase in-line. From a commercial resilience point of view, well-intentioned pay rises have depleted some organisations’ reserves, so I hope they are ‘rewarded’ for their kindness with packed order books in 2023.

It’s not unusual for economic difficulties to have a marked emotional and psychological impact on people too. And in an industry such as demolition – where safety is paramount – nobody can afford for personnel to be distracted. The world of work can be motivationally difficult, given the financial backdrop many people are experiencing, so I don’t think there’s ever been a greater time to pay attention to – and speak openly about – wellbeing. Even the simplest gestures of support go a long way.


2022 was also the first time organisations have probably truly felt the real effects of Brexit. That’s because, aside from the initial few months following the UK’s EU departure, nobody then really travelled anywhere due to lockdowns.

It’s therefore certainly been a learning curve for RVA this year, as we’ve encountered new hurdles simply to operate as we used to. Visas, tax implications, plus colleagues’ locations and employment statuses, have all presented additional challenges. Some countries now insist on dealing only with an EU entity, so consequently, we have fully established a new company – RVA Europe, with all its functionality overseas. We didn’t take this decision lightly, as additional payroll management, professional fees and local compliance requirements soon add tens of thousands of pounds to operating costs. But we are not a UK-only firm, so we’ve had to accept this is just par for the course of our international business.

It’s opened up our thought process when it comes to recruitment too, and we are seeking to employ more EU residents for non-UK work, moving forwards.

Remaining competitive

All of the rising costs described here affect organisations’ competitiveness. RVA doesn’t typically win work on the basis of price – as the consultancy has always delivered on quality – however, we have still worked hard to expand our services to deliver more added value.

We’ve augmented our front-end engineering offering, for example, which now sees us involved in earlier decommissioning discussions. This means we can support clients to better understand the remaining useful life of their assets and the costings associated with this lifespan, before they even think about the decommissioning works that will follow. Our virtual decommissioning services – introduced during the pandemic – have also proven popular as 2022 unfolded, not least because people are now comfortable with remote meetings, and carbon footprint reduction is becoming a widespread priority.

On the flipside, there’s been a welcome resurgence in face-to-face meetings, where relevant. I think we missed this type of interaction during lockdown, and when we regained the freedom to choose how we conduct our business, we were reminded of the benefits of physical interaction in certain circumstances.

Ongoing innovation

Considering 2022 was the year we celebrated our 30th anniversary, it would be easy to become complacent. But to survive in any industry – let alone demolition – it’s important to keep innovating.

That’s one of the reasons we launched a new website in 2022, with a more intuitive and user-friendly navigation, detailed content, and generally more informative approach for our visitors. Increasingly complex structures now need to come down, across the world, and people are approaching the industry with ever-more diverse requirements. If we can play a part in supporting them to take on their projects safely, cost-effectively, and with maximum respect for the environment, then we’re doing our job.


RVA spotlight – Matthew Waller

Matthew Waller RVA Group

Name and role: Matthew Waller, Operations Director

How long have you been with RVA Group?

15 years in May 2023.

Describe your career journey before that?

I started out on a graduate scheme in refractory manufacturing before moving into glass manufacturing and then oil and gas and biodiesel construction projects, before joining RVA.

What did you want to be, when you were younger? 

I had always been interested in motorsport, so had wanted a career in Formula 1 – demolition engineering isn’t quite Monte Carlo, but it has taken me to Singapore!

And what do you think is the key skill you need to be a successful Operations Director?  

Listening! We have an extremely talented team, and it is my role to support them to deliver the highest of standards when it comes to decommissioning, decontamination, dismantling and demolition projects in the UK and overseas.

Whether it’s being on hand to give some advice on a particular decommissioning solution, provide experience on a demolition methodology, or offer support on a new safety initiative, I am usually found working hard in the background – and that’s OK with me! But I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without properly listening to what the challenges or opportunities are.

What’s your biggest RVA achievement to date?

This year we’re celebrating 10 years of working with the chemical manufacturing giant SABIC. I am very proud to have been part of the team that has safely delivered 19 projects – over 895,000 hours – with an exemplary safety record in high-hazard, high-consequence environments.

And the most memorable thing you’ve learnt during your career?

During the early part of my career when studying Project Management, my mentor taught me that the most important thing was ‘definition, definition, definition’, which then ties into something which I’ve learnt which is equally critical – ‘communication is key’. 

Making sure that everyone is talking the same language is vital to project success.

Describe your dream project

  • Early RVA Group involvement

Being there at the start ensures that we can add the most value and don’t have to spend time ‘course-correcting’ to get the project pointing in the right direction.

  • Senior level buy-In

I never used to understand the relationship between senior level attitudes and behaviours vs. what is seen in the workplace, but now I see its impact all of the time.  Where a project has senior level commitment to doing the right thing – with safety being paramount – then the project will be on a sure footing.

  • Clear success criteria

Knowing clearly what the aims of a project are and what success looks like for all involved, provides clarity surrounding decision making, at every step.

  • Clear scope definition (and a robust management of change procedure)

Back to my project management study days of definition, definition, definition, you’d be amazed by how many projects don’t have a clear articulation of what they are actually trying to achieve.

  • A collaborative team

This means listening to each other, respecting others’ knowledge, accepting that there will be differing drivers and opinions at times, but knowing that it doesn’t mean there has to be conflict because of that.

With those five points covered, any project would be a dream to work on.

RVA Group is celebrating 30 years in business, with a truly global reputation for decommissioning excellence. Why do you think the company has earned such a stand-out position in industry?

We focus on safe decommissioning project execution and delighting our clients – it’s that simple.  If we achieve this, then the rest normally follows suit – you only have to look at our reference list to see that this fundamental formula works!

Of all the sectors RVA operates in, which is the most exciting right now?

Nuclear decommissioning, power-station demolition and the removal of offshore structures tend to get all the big headlines, but taking a ‘bog-standard’ chemical plant from a hazardous undocumented status to a point where our clients’ visions are safely realised, is just as exciting as anything else for me.

That’s probably because there’s no such thing as ‘bog standard’ in truth. Every asset, from a pilot plant to one producing millions-of-tonnes of output per annum, presents its own unique challenges to decommission, dismantle and demolish it safely.

What I would say is generally most exciting right now in our industry, is the opportunity that we have to move safe execution of decommissioning, dismantling and demolition projects on to the next level – with the development of new execution techniques and the implementation of robust project management which has safety ‘built-in’ at the core. I believe that we can make another step change in preventing harm to people and the environment, which is the very reason we exist.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give to an organisation preparing for a decommissioning project?

Speak to professional decommissioning engineers and demolition engineers as soon as you know that you have a project to undertake. It is never too early. Involving the right expertise, at the right time, will improve safety and reduce costs – sometimes exponentially. 

What makes you tick outside of work?

  • My children – at 5 and 7, they keep me busy when I’m not thinking about demolition engineering.
  • Whenever I do get a little time to myself, you’ll either find me reading or running. I’m fascinated by the psychology of people and how that affects us all both in and out of work. My current book is Inner Engineering by Sadhguru. My favourite ever book is difficult, but I particularly love the work of Matthew Syed, Malcolm Gladwell and Simon Sinek.

And if I’m not reading, I’ll be running (slowly).

If you could be given a plane ticket for anywhere, where would you choose?

My most favourite places in the world are remote and filled with wildlife, so I’d be happy with anywhere that ticks those boxes.

Which one word would you hope colleagues would use to describe you?

Caring – I hope my colleagues know that I care about more than just the job.