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RVA spotlight – meet Philip Whiting

Philip Whiting, RVA Group

Name and role:

Philip Whiting, demolition and decommissioning consultant. 

How long have you been with RVA Group?

Since January 2020.

Describe your career journey before that?

I have worked for five demolition companies – part owning two of them – in Canada and Australia, so I have a vast amount of discipline-specific knowledge.

I’m also a chartered project management surveyor and a chartered construction manager, so have adopted many different roles on a variety of global projects, before joining RVA – mainly focusing on the commercial side of demolition and construction.

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

A racing car driver.

And what do you think is the key skill you need to be a successful demolition and decommissioning consultant?

It’s multi-faceted, so strategic communication and time management skills are critical to successfully managing the technical requirements of the role.

What’s your biggest RVA achievement to date?

Delivering an asset retirement obligation report for a major piece of infrastructure that is critical to the UK’s energy security.

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

That trust is more important than knowledge and contacts.

Describe your dream project

De-orbiting the International Space Station, maximising material salvage and minimising debris.

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 the CDM regulations created a significant market for the Principal Designer role, and we our engineering skill-set – not to mention supply chain independence – filled that gap, entirely. Also, client organisations generally don’t have the specific skill-sets required to manage demolition and decommissioning projects, so we are a much relied upon resource.

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

It’s a tie between oil refineries and coal fired power stations, because of the significance of the decarbonisation agenda.

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

Strategically, keep your objectives fixed – involve all internal and external stakeholders from the outset, define their expectations, manage them and then keep decision making within the project team. Tactically, be open to opportunities to enhance the project outcome, and flexible enough to incorporate them.

What makes you tick outside of work?

Nature, remote places, water.

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

Acapulco, as I would love to see the La Quebrada cliff divers. On December 12 – the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe – freestyle cliff divers perform the “Ocean of Fire” when the sea is lit with gasoline, making a circle of flames which the diver aims for, from a height of 40 metres.

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

Esteemed.

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Which sectors will shape the future of demolition?

RVA Group

Recently, RVA’s MD Richard Vann spoke to Demolition & Recycling International about the sectors that will shape the future of the demolition industry. If you missed the article, catch it in full, here…

The demolition industry – as a collective – has a rich and varied ‘CV’, as, of course, many different buildings and structures have had to be cleared over the years. From MDUs (multi dwelling units) condemned as building standards and lifestyle expectations have evolved, to sites left redundant when operators have been squeezed by mounting economic pressures, the nature of demolition works – and the catalysts for these projects – has been complex and wide-ranging.

It’s unlikely that this will change. Although the sectors we find ourselves invited to work in looks set to further develop.

Over the last 30 years, RVA’s work as an independent consultant has focused primarily on the decommissioning, decontamination, dismantling and demolition of large-scale processing facilities in heavy industries. Operators in the inherently hazardous worlds of petrochemical, pharmaceutical and energy, for example, have had many reasons to engage the demolition profession.

As plants have reached the end of their useful life – whether due to legislative, efficiency, innovatory or economic factors – they have had to be cleared safely, cost-effectively and with minimal environmental impact. Some operators have drawn their entire business to a close inline, some have invested in and erected more modern plant on the same footprint, and in certain instances, processors have sold assets for re-erection overseas.

It’s been an interesting three decades, with project specifics differing from one assignment to the next. This variety will continue, for certain – with factors such as the age of plant, historic maintenance regimes, supply chain influences, operator resource and so much more, influencing how multifaceted projects will take shape. However, the same fundamental trends – innovation, obsoletion, economics, legislation and societal pressures – will continue to shape future demand for demolition engineering, albeit perhaps in more unfamiliar sectors.

The decarbonisation agenda

There is now an unparalleled level of conversation surrounding sustainability and climate change, not least as a result of COP26 in Glasgow, last November. Globally, there is a markedly greater push towards ‘net zero’ – a step-change to ensure the amount of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere is no more than the amount taken out. And, while there is still a long way to go – not least become some environmentalists argue this alone won’t address the climate emergency – there can be no denying the fact that the decarbonisation agenda is rising.

Consequently, oil refineries and coal-fired power stations, for example, are just some of the facilities that will be increasingly phased out in favour of cleaner, renewable technologies – and understandably so.

But with the acceleration of change rising, even newer, ‘greener’ facilities – such as windfarms, Energy from Waste plants, hydrogen-powered sites, battery storage units and so on – will also reach their end of life, as innovators engineer even more efficient designs that bring about greater environmental progress. And it is the operators in these industries who will find themselves collaborating with the demolition profession, over the coming years.

When the time comes, the operational history of such sites will be different to that of the sites we work on now, of course. However, the manner with which we approach any resulting decommissioning, decontamination, dismantling or demolition projects, will remain a constant – engage with stakeholders, understand and manage the risks, plan the works with utmost respect for safety, environmental protection and budget, assemble the best-fit project team, and proceed with the execution with compliance as the very minimum benchmark standard.

The future of demolition, now

It’s a subject I’ve spoken about before, but I also predict a notable rise in the number of investment companies, land development firms, architects, designers, and construction specialists, who will seek to engage the services of the demolition industry. This may sound perplexing, given our visible role in a plant or structure’s lifecycle is usually when it has reached the end of its useful life – not when its erection is being considered.

But just like product designers are consulting recycling specialists, to increase the ease and efficiency with which materials can be recovered, reused and remanufactured when an item is disposed of, we see the same trend emerging in the built environment.

It will be far easier and safer to decommission an asset if the appropriate considerations have been made, by people with a demolition engineering skill set, at the earliest stage. Financial provisioning can be undertaken too, which mitigates the fiscal risks involved as an asset ages. I’d go so far as to say the environmental impact of the project could be better managed too.

The future of demolition is therefore dependent on the rich expertise that the industry has amassed over the decades. But the deployment of that expertise will continue to vary. Things are ever-changing, after all.

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RVA spotlight – meet Chris Long

Chris Long RVA Group

Name and role:

Senior project manager

How long have you been with RVA Group?

Eight years

Describe your career journey before that?

After completing a modern apprenticeship – alongside an Ordinary National Certificate (ONC) and Higher National Certificate (HNC) – I began my career working for a mining company as a qualified mechanical technician.

Here, I studied part time for a degree in mechanical engineering, which led me into management roles looking after critical underground mine infrastructure. As I worked my way up the ranks, I was responsible for completing large scale schemes which also exposed me to the world of project management and the CDM frameworks – having to fulfil CDM coordinator and client duty holder roles.

From that point, I ventured into the world of decommissioning and demolition, with RVA.

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

An RAF fighter pilot.

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

Be realistic and respectful.

What’s your biggest RVA achievement to date?

My recent completion of a Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

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

I have learnt many things in my career. For example, technical information is useful and very much context specific, while people present the hardest information to manage as they come with a variety of contexts and a range of bias. I have found that being a good listener – as well as being able to gauge the context and understand the pressures people are under – yields the most rewarding results.

Describe your dream project:

One where all stakeholder objectives are in alignment.

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?

As we’ve grown, we’ve continued to ensure people and the environment are the number one priority within all our operations. This creates high standards and execution plans that are realistic.

Of all the sectors RVA operates in, which is the most exciting right now? Carbon heavy industries. With the world focusing on sustainability and decarbonisation, it brings opportunities for new technologies to emerge and replace existing facilities. This brings many challenges for clients, with safety and costs being some of the harder things to manage. However, this is exactly where RVA excels.

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

Know your assets and the capabilities of your supply chain to serve the needs of the project. The earlier this is known, the more options there are with any asset retirement project.

What makes you tick outside of work?

Challenges that are physically and/or mentally tasking.

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

China.

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

Friendly.

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RVA Group’s 30th anniversary celebrations begin

RVA Group celebrates 30 years

As RVA Group nears its milestone 30th year in business, several members of the team recently gathered for a weekend of reflection, laughter, and a dash of competitive spirit.

To kick off the celebrations, 25 colleagues and their partners headed to North Yorkshire – the birthplace of RVA back in 1992. First up, was a test of skill at Hazel Bank Shooting Ground, with Mark Costin – the husband of our business administrator Anita – taking home the trophy for the most clays shot.

Next, it was on to The White Hart Hotel in the centre of Harrogate, to enjoy some outstanding food, drinks, and great company.

“Pre-pandemic, our colleagues would often find themselves working on complex decommissioning projects, sometimes all over the world,” commented RVA Group’s founder and managing director Richard Vann. “So, as a company, we’ve always made the time to come together to keep the team spirit alive.

“We’ve definitely missed that in recent times, so as we near our 30th anniversary – which we’ll mark officially in November – it seemed the perfect opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve all come, together.”

It was important that partners were invited too, believes Richard.

“We spend so much of our time at work, and the pressures of the day job mean we really do need the support of our loved ones at home,” he said. “They too have been on the RVA journey with us, so I’m delighted so many could join in the fun. There was one very important person missing for me – my wife, who stayed at home to support our son who was in the thick of his GCSEs. She has been an integral part of our progress, over the years.”

RVA Group has now successfully completed more than 850 inherently high-hazard decommissioning projects – and counting – for global brands. From the provision of front-end engineering services years before any practical decommissioning activity begins, through to the supervision of entire demolition schemes which result in full site clearances, the brand has grown to become a market leader in this niche field, on a truly worldwide basis.

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Why does a decommissioning engineer deserve a seat at the finance table? 

Decommissioning at the finance table

Recently, RVA’s MD Richard Vann spoke to Demolition & Recycling International about why a decommissioning engineer deserves a seat at the finance table. If you missed the article, catch it in full, here…

It sounds an odd statement to make, that decommissioning engineers deserve – and may desire – a seat at the finance table. They have enough to think about after all. Methodology, EHS compliance, resource planning, project scheduling – the list goes on.

So why would these professionals want to sit with accountants and finance directors? And vice versa?

Quite simply, because when it comes to the mothballing, rationalisation, or clearance of an industrial site, communication with finance stakeholders is critical.

The specific front-end engineering service that a finance decision-maker will benefit from discussing with a decommissioning specialist, is a costings study for a decontamination, dismantling or demolition job.

Admittedly one of the least ‘obvious elements of a decommissioning project, the execution of such a study is in fact one of the most crucial and sophisticated uses of engineering acumen, when it comes to securing a safe, commercially and environmentally-sound assignment outcome.

Costings information can then be used to compile sanction grade estimates, funding applications, cashflow projections, and even determine the programme and duration of works – not to mention financial milestones to support ongoing cost control when a project is underway.

When undertaking these evidenced cost assessments, direct costs such as contractor fees are also evaluated alongside wider factors including the potential plant resale value, market conditions, and the possible effect of legislative changes, for example – as well as the specifics of the site itself, of course.

Costings are also critical when undertaking longer-term liability planning for a site. In fact, such information is actually required by accounting law, to drive asset owners’ compliance with international financial provisioning standards such as FAS143 in the US and IAS 37 in Europe. These standards ensure that when the time comes to decommission a site, the owner has been reporting an accurate picture to shareholders and there are adequate funds set aside for this process, even if nothing will physically happen for a number of years.

With the tendency for assets to now change ownership perhaps more often than in the past, variations of this type of longer-term liability study can even be used by prospective purchasers and vendors, as a due diligence tool.  The information gathered gives clarity on the legacies that will remain with the site, and costs that will crystallise in the future.

Of course, such numbers need to be rigorously revisited on a periodic basis – perhaps every five years. This means that any changes to the assets, as well as waste and scrap rates, annual inflation figures, and the tightening of regulations, can all be accommodated, and the true liability of a site fully understood. A fluid and reconfigurable spreadsheet should therefore lie at the heart of any longer-term costings studies.

Interestingly, it is becoming increasingly acknowledged that dialogue between the decommissioning and finance professions should actually begin during the planning stages of a facility coming to life – in other words, before it has even been built. This information is not only essential in assessing the true cost of ownership of an asset over the full life cycle, but is also often demanded by funding institutions, landlords and other involved parties, so the true risk exposure of involvement in a project, can be assessed.

This may seem unnecessarily premature. However, at some point, possibly many years ahead, decommissioning will come around. And, as with most undertakings, the quality of inputs in the earliest stages of a decommissioning project usually dictate the level of success that can be achieved, longer term. Thinking about the end of life of an asset in such a manner, brings about indisputable environmental benefits too, not least because the desire for a circular economy – where resources are reused as much as possible – has never been greater.

Sometimes some indicative financial provisioning is all that a fiscal stakeholder will seek, and in these circumstances, there is typically a greater degree of tolerance surrounding the numbers. Either way, the involvement of an experienced decommissioning professional is without doubt, a value-adding move.

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The evolving role of the Principal Designer

Richard Vann, RVA Group

Recently, RVA’s MD Richard Vann spoke to Demolition & Recycling International about the evolving role of the Principal Designer (PD). If you missed the article, catch it in full, below…

While the role of the PD is familiar territory for many demolition professionals – and the clients who appoint us – for others it represents something unknown. Industrial operators who are approaching a decommissioning assignment for the first time, for example, may never have even seen these words before. So, although the position will always need to be filled – not least because it is a legal obligation – that doesn’t mean the right skill sets are recruited, every time.

Consequently, my biggest fear is that on such projects, the process to appoint a PD risks therefore becoming little more than a ‘tick box exercise’ – when in actual fact, it is critical to project success.

In the most basic of terms, the engagement of a Principal Designer is a fundamental requirement, by law, for UK decommissioning and demolition undertakings. This duty holder role is set out under the Construction Design Management (CDM) regulations, which exist to help manage health and safety on these potentially high-hazard assignments. Comparable roles exist in other regions too, including (but not limited to) ‘SiGeKo – Planning prescribed by Baustell V’ in Germany, or the requirements set out by OSHA in North America.

However, the effective fulfilment of PD – or equivalent – responsibilities, in truth extends far beyond these regulatory frameworks. In fact, the role of Principal Designer is integral to the deployment and maintenance of good practice and a secure project management structure, throughout the lifecycle of the works. The PD is therefore both an essential and key ‘recruit’ within the structure of any decommissioning team and should never be considered as something akin to a lip service appointment.

That’s because the role of a PD is to analyse what potential risks exist on a given site. Such risks may relate to the demolition discipline itself, but will also extend to include the process-specific hazards relevant to the industrial background and current operational status of the plant concerned. The PD may therefore need to enhance their own process knowledge with that of personnel from the sector, whether that be from energy, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and so on.

The Principal Designer must then understand where these multiple hazards reside and how they interact with each other. Thought must also be given to when, and in what order, the risks should be approached, who should tackle them, and how and why the process should be executed in a certain way – taking into account proven techniques, innovative new methodologies, and ever-evolving legislation. In short, this element of the PD’s role is to provide direction to help mitigate the dangers posed to personnel, surrounding stakeholders, the environment, and the overall integrity of the project. This is by no means straightforward.

In establishing a safety-first mindset and a commitment to shared EHS responsibilities throughout the entire team, the PD should also work to ensure cooperation between designers, the client, and contractor(s). An audit and validation of the capabilities of all parties should also be undertaken, relevant to the works involved, to ensure adequate provision is made for the management of safety.

In recent times, I have seen an uplift in the number of PD roles being awarded to demolition professionals – including Principal Contractors – with wider existing project responsibilities. Client perceptions surrounding a stretched supply chain may account for this – at least in part – as may an operator’s internal pressures to assemble a project team at pace, if the decommissioning schedule is delayed for any reason.

However, such pressures perhaps underpin exactly why the PD needs to have a clear and uncompromisingly independent position in the project.

This is not to say the decision to designate PD responsibilities to a contractor, for example, is unlawful, providing the appointed party can successfully fulfil every mandatory element of the duty holder role.

They may be able to effectively coordinate the level of dialogue required to maintain open levels of communication and cooperation between all designers, the Principal Contractor and other woks contractors, for example. But what happens if a contractor – who also holds the PD role – designs a lifting study? Who evaluates and checks this? When commercial pressures risk influencing decision making, who ensures best practice is maintained without cutting corners – even if unintentionally?

Nobody would ever say they wouldn’t knowingly follow best practice, of course. And the cornerstone of any successful project is a safety-first mindset, whereby the management of EHS is considered the highest priority. But the ability to maintain a fully objective view is not always easy when project stakeholders – possibly from within the same organisation – may have conflicting responsibilities and drivers.

Without a neutral PD providing project management governance, the client also has little to fall back on should issues with specifications of works arise further down the line.

It is therefore a role that requires protection in some respects. It’s not the position that is the most visible to an outsider looking in, for instance – but it’s a crucial one, and this is not going to change for some time. The legal duty holder role of PD is also different to what most clients really need, which is a proficient project manager. The former naturally fits into the latter, if performed properly, whereas it is important to acknowledge that it doesn’t necessarily work in reverse.

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Overcoming the stigma surrounding safety

Stigma surrounding safety, RVA Group

In his most recent Demolition & Recycling International column, RVA’s MD Richard Vann looks at overcoming the stigma surrounding safety. If you missed the article, catch it in full below…

It can be difficult to talk about the ‘S’ word.

There are some people who think ‘the world has gone mad’ when it comes to risk assessments, site inductions, and training regimes to keep safety front of mind. Yet at the other end of the spectrum, safety standards and the weight of responsibility on some individuals’ shoulders, will literally keep them awake at night.

But whatever the attitude, and however tricky the conversations might be, we must keep talking about the topic. This is particularly important when thinking about safety incidents – some of which can be fatal. Because yes, this can be an emotive and distressing subject. However, we cannot be dismissive of the data, as the numbers aren’t merely statistics – they are lives lost and families broken.

The HSE’s report – Workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain, 2021 – for example, makes for a tough read. There were 142 employees killed in work-related accidents in 2020, with an additional 60 work-related deaths among members of the public. The report introduction states that: “Fatal injuries are thankfully rare events”. But numbers of any scale act as a prompt to remind us that a safety-first mindset is crucial, however hazardous – or not – a ‘workplace’ may first seem.

Safety is absolute after all – there is no sliding scale. Something is either safe, or it isn’t, as you don’t know the tipping point between having a near-miss  and someone being killed.

There are physical safety measures that can be taken of course, such as the wearing of PPE, the erection of handrails, and perhaps less obvious rescue measures such as how we’d get someone down if they had a heart attack when working at height.

However, the first stage in any process should be taking steps to remove or mitigate risk to the minimum practicable level. Appraising a situation and understanding the consequences of inappropriate behaviour such as ‘corner cutting’, is essential. These approaches symbolise proactive safety strategies, in which everyone has a role to play.

We should all work with the attitude that: “I want to go home tonight with ten fingers and ten toes”. Because, what if a series of workplace behaviours saw a number of seemingly minor oversights coalesce, just once – when person A did X, person B didn’t do Y, and person C presumed someone else would take care of Z – and with devastating consequences? Most major incidents are the cumulative result of a number of factors.

For similar reasons, we should cross even familiar roads and always look, regardless of whether nine times out of ten, there’s never been a passing car before. Because what if on the tenth occasion there is?

These may seem like both trivial and extreme examples to give, in the same breath. But they’re important to discuss – irrespective of the possible eye rolls – because safety is so critical.

So, mindset matters. So too, does an ongoing culture of communication and the re-evaluation of risk, by everyone involved. We’re human, after all, and when a scenario becomes habitual or comfortable, we’re scientifically proven to fall out of a certain behaviour. Familiarity breeds contempt. We therefore need to keep talking, from the ‘bottom up’, with no gaps.

Nobody would openly say: “I deliberately take risks at work”, or: “We don’t do things particularly safely on our site.” However, a continued assessment of that safety should take place, ideally steered by someone with safety management expertise, but definitely embraced by all.

And as operations become more complex – from reverse parking a car to decommissioning a petrochemical site – we should simply risk assess, mitigate, and manage the situation accordingly, relevant to the scale, type, and number of hazards at play.

In saying all of this we must remain sensible. We all have jobs to do, and in some cases the ‘health and safety gone mad’ statement is probably justified.

For example, site inductions should be relevant to the visitor, the nature of their work, and the areas they will be accessing. Asking someone visiting only the administrative area of a power station, to watch the same multi-hour safety video, or complete the same training process as someone maintaining the electricity generation equipment, is ludicrous. Yet it happens. And, in such a scenario, the plant owner’s genuine commitment to safety could actually lead to a negative outcome. It would be understandable for the visitor to glaze over, for instance, and miss the section of the induction they personally need to digest, to remain safe on site.

Finally, reactive safety strategies are also important – the investigation of an incident, root cause analysis, reporting, the evaluation of learnings, and the implementation of improvements. The world is constantly changing, and sadly it isn’t possible to predict every eventuality.

But this responsive exercise – however imperative – means an incident has already happened. So, let’s explore what more we could do to prevent them in the first place. If we don’t do what is reasonable and practicable to prevent 100,000 trapped fingers, what’s to say we won’t have 10,000 cut fingers, 1,000 broken fingers, ten amputated arms, and one fatality? Let’s keep talking.

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What’s in store for demolition in 2022?

Richard Vann, RVA Group

In his most recent Demolition & Recycling International column, RVA’s MD Richard Vann looks at what’s in store for demolition in 2022. If you missed the article, catch it in full below…

It’s difficult to pen any reflective words at the end of the year without them sounding clichéd – and this is particularly tricky on the back of a global pandemic. But, as 2021 draws to a close, I’d hope most people would agree with me in saying that this is the year when the world started to wake up again.

Q1 was still fraught with uncertainty, and at that point there was, generally, more talk of recovery than any recordable change. However, it takes time to rebuild momentum after such seismic disruption, and in the months that followed, confidence, activity and optimism was gradually restored – especially in the demolition industry.

So much so, that as we bring 2021 to a close, the competent supply chain is extremely active and, in many cases, visibly stretched. And this isn’t just because of Covid-19.

With environmental targets intensifying – not least as countries advance their commitments to ‘greener’ technologies – industries such as petrochemical, oil and gas, are changing at pace. Demand for traditional fuels is falling, and the pressures to upgrade to more sustainable plants – if not completely overhaul sites – are vast. Projects in these sectors – to name just a few – are therefore plentiful.

Mindful that reputable contractors are busy, many of the operators we’re currently working alongside are going out to tender as quickly as they can, in a bid to secure the skilled project teams they need. But this early engagement still needs to be accompanied by clear and honest dialogue regarding the ability to deliver projects, to schedule, without any reduction of standards. We don’t want to see clients lower their selection criteria, to keep a programme on track. And there is never a scenario when it is acceptable for a decommissioning, decontamination, demolition or dismantling contractor to be faced with having to compromise on EHS excellence.

So, if there was ever a time to ensure the demolition industry is not squeezed on price, it is now. Many organisations have a clearer picture of the numbers, and have planned in advance to ensure that even the most complex of projects are executed safely and with maximum respect for the environment. The cost of reputational damage is unmeasurable and unlimited, after all.

I foresee this level of demand continuing throughout 2022 and into 2023 too, as the economy continues to right itself. Hopefully some contractors will acknowledge and act on this opportunity to invest in more people and, in some instances, raise their game to be able to take on the more complex of assignments. The outlook for the profession is definitely a positive one.

This is not to say we’ve had it easy. Like most industries, demolition has had to adapt to newfound pandemic-related challenges, and the crisis is far from over. it would be naïve to say that, as a population, we have defeated Covid-19. However, on the whole, we must adapt so we can manage to live with it, and – certainly in our field – it feels as though it is just one more hazard to risk assess and deal with. That’s perhaps why established players in this industry have fared ok.

At RVA, international projects are picking up again, with clients exploring the role we can play on a full time, visiting, and even virtual basis. I’ve said many times that some of the new habits Covid-19 has brought about are welcomed, and the use of technology to facilitate data sharing, communication and relationship building – where relevant – is definitely one of those.

We’ve also recently been interviewed on our thoughts surrounding the demolition industry’s attitudes to waste management, and of course we all know how engrained the reuse and recycle mentality is within our profession. I think this is deserved acknowledgement that – decades before the likes of COP26 – we have prioritised sustainable on-site practices and the segregated recovery of even the trickiest of materials. It’s always a pleasure to report on how trailblazing the industry really is, whether this is widely acknowledged or not.

It’s perhaps wishful thinking, but I’d love to see the media buoyed with more optimistic headlines, such as this, in 2022. Doom and gloom may sell papers and drive clicks, but – away from the more professional of technical journals – it makes for bleak reading. Plus, the impact on mood and confidence is unmistakable. So, let’s celebrate everything the demolition industry has achieved, and stood for, during difficult times, and look forward to the potential that lies ahead, for those who want to rise to the challenge.

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Dismantling contractor search underway for Cypriot power station

The Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) has recommenced its international search for a contractor to undertake the turnkey demolition and dismantling works required to clear Moni Power Station.

The tender – which will close on 10 January 2022 – includes the clearance of six 30 MW steam and heavy oil-fired turbines and boiler generating units, all ancillary equipment including pipework, six chimney stacks, the turbine hall and annex, the administration building and switchyard.

RVA Group was appointed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to develop this tender package in collaboration with the EAC team, and will continue to oversee this extensive assignment when works commence.

The project to date has seen RVA’s senior project manager Ellis Hutchinson lead on dialogue with local partners, specialising in the disciplines of safety management, structural engineering and geotechnical science. The goal, as always, is to assemble an experienced team capable of navigating this vast project safely, cost-effectively and with maximum respect for the environment, while also effectively overcoming any language and regulatory challenges.

It is anticipated that the project – 20km east of Limassol – will take approximately two years to complete. Further information can be found on the EAC website.

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When to say no to a demolition assignment

In his most recent column for Demolition & Recycling International, RVA’s MD Richard Vann looks at when it’s right to say no to a demolition assignment. If you missed the article, read it in full here…

If you look at management resources such as Harvard Business Review, there is endless advice to help those of us throughout the world of commerce learn how to say one of the shortest words in the English language – no. Yet these two letters are often the toughest to utter, especially when it comes to the projects you commit to, for customers.

In some walks of business life, a simple set of guiding principles helps the decision-making process. I know an organisation in the communications sector, for example, who will only take on a piece of work for love (passion), fame (reputation), or money.

Such a clean-cut barometer makes sense on the face of it. But – and perhaps it’s because demolition assignments are largely inherently hazardous – I’d argue there should be even more deciding factors at play when it comes to the calls we make in our industry. Safety standards, resource constraints and other known or probable risks, are just some of the considerations.

For example:

  • The health and safety of the people you are responsible for – including those on site and in the surrounding area – should come before anything else. If decommissioning, decontamination, dismantling or demolition methodology is proposed which even hints at potential corner cutting, it’s not worth it. The reputational damage of an avoidable incident – not to mention the breach of duty of care, the risk of litigation and worse still risk to life – could be catastrophic. Likewise, repeated breaches and/or poor management of on-site EHS protocol should raise the same alarm bells. Knowingly putting the environmental integrity at risk is equally non-negotiable for many demolition professionals.
  • There’s a fine line between pushing your team to excel, innovate and tread beyond its comfort zone, and knowingly embarking on work that requires a defined skill-set to execute. Be clear on the expertise required to truly meet the demands of a project, and don’t be afraid to ask for help at the outset, or even when the assignment is underway – just don’t leave it too late.
  • Just as a client would undertake thorough due diligence before appointing a project team, demolition professionals throughout the supply chain should also be vigilant when committing to work – particularly if their contract is with an organisation that has rationalised their operations due to financial difficulties. This is not to suggest an asset owner would ever purposefully breach payment terms, but confidence in the client’s liquidity and ability to fund ‘best practice’ is naturally important.
  • While politics in business is dangerous territory, it is for this very reason that projects sometimes do not align with the values or morals of the demolition firm – and that’s OK. Undertaking work in locations known for political unrest could also put personnel in unnecessary danger.
  • Sometimes, the reasons for saying no – or at least renegotiating the parameters of work – exist for more practical reasons. If an overseas client was to have insisted on a regular on-site presence, over the past 18 months, for example, most firms would have struggled to commit to this. Likewise, if it isn’t possible to commit resource or arrange the supply of heavy plant to site, meaning a pre-defined, immovable project schedule will inevitably slip as a result, it would be unfair to knowingly jeopardise this.

In truth, the factors are multiple and, arguably, subjective, therefore decisions should always be made, carefully, by the team closest to the brief.

It is perhaps easier to contemplate confidently walking away from a project during ‘boom times’ when a company is established, financially resilient, and the forward order book is strong. Such a bold call is perhaps tougher to make, on the other hand, when there are mouths to feed – especially during the earlier days of a company’s journey. Then, work is often – understandably – simply seen as work, not to mention an opportunity to build a portfolio and reputation.

Ultimately, an individual’s conscience – or gut feel – has a large part to play when saying no. Sometimes, I think you just know when a project is or isn’t right. Learning to listen to that conscience, is key.

Success can be determined by the job you don’t get, rather then the ones you do.

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