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How has COVID-19 affected demolition projects?

In case you missed the recent edition of Demolition and Recycling International, Richard Vann explored the rapidly changing demolition industry during the global Coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full article here…

Every time I pen some thoughts for a column, there’s always the chance, of course, that the external landscape may have changed by the time my views appear in print. Over the last few years, I’ve frequently been asked to speak about Brexit, for example, and consequently tried to cover multiple scenarios to ensure the commentary remains relevant.

Fast forward to the situation we currently find ourselves in – the global battle against Coronavirus – and the landscape has never been so fluid.

Everyone is perhaps tired of hearing the fact that we’re experiencing ‘unprecedented times’, but of course that admittedly overused phrase is incredibly true. That said, when planning for the future, savvy organisations try to anticipate various eventualities – from best to worst case. So, while we’re perhaps facing extremities of planning that some demolition firms will unsurprisingly not have encountered before, we must stick to the same underlying principles we’re used to.

I’ve always said that no two projects are ever the same in the world of demolition, and COVID-19 has not changed that. In addition to all existing EHS protocols, adherence to safe distancing regulations must be the non-negotiable baseline, of course, and continued monitoring of evolving guidance is paramount. But there are then multiple other project-specific factors to accommodate too – they have not been eradicated because of the virus.

Speaking from personal experience over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some projects adapt rapidly to a ‘new normal’ and approximately 70% of our sites have remained open as a result. Elsewhere, other works have stopped entirely, for the foreseeable future. There hasn’t been a singular method of coping with the pressures being faced.

We’re currently supporting a UK pharmaceutical client with a project in a live and operational environment, for instance, and the schedule here remains almost uninterrupted. In the first few weeks of lockdown, we continued to develop our decommissioning specifications and plans remotely, rather than on site. And, when it was absolutely necessary to physically inspect the plant, for example, the client arranged a system to visit the workface on our behalf and feed back information.

This client is considered an essential business so has kept a core production team on site, meaning visits to site could be organised relatively swiftly. We’ve maintained regular contact via video calls throughout, when not in the same physical location, so that we can continue to consult with one another, and this media-rich form of communication has worked well. We hope to have a full team back on site in the next week or two, with social distancing measures naturally in place.

Other sites closed for approximately a couple of weeks when Boris Johnson first announced the lockdown. In these instances – typically projects at the physical decontamination, dismantling or demolition phase – such ‘pauses’ provided an important opportunity to take stock and devise plans with contractors and clients. These included introducing upgraded security measures and temporary make-safe operations. With the duration of the suspension period being unknown, a range of flexible care and maintenance regimes also had to be considered.

Again, every scenario has been different. However, generally speaking, the priority has been to reduce the number of people on site to the absolute minimum, while being careful to prevent any skills gaps arising. On this note, it is important to stress that the usual project safety considerations must remain paramount – COVID-19 or no COVID-19. A proficiently skilled team is always required to carry out the work, so now is not the time to cut corners. If the work can’t be carried out safely with a condensed team, it cannot go ahead.

There are projects elsewhere that stopped completely, either for reasons such as this or because the client was more comfortable allowing schedules to be reframed. The current commodity value of scrap metal has come into play too, as well as logistical difficulties associated with moving materials.

We are now seeing positive movement on the majority of these sites though. The biggest changes have centred upon access and accommodation arrangements for staff, so that we have utmost confidence that people can shower, eat and use WCs without compromising social distancing guidance.

Given our international presence, we have had to remain abreast with slightly differing regulations from one country to the next. But this is the way we always work – whether we’re in the thick of a health crisis or not. We must be respectful of every client situation, cultural variations and so on. But whatever the local rules and customs may be, we will never put people at risk.



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RVA Group experiences continental drift

RVA Group has cemented its position as an internationally-acclaimed engineering consultancy, having secured three prestigious new projects on three different continents.

In only the last six weeks the expertise of RVA’s specialist decommissioning team has been sought by clients in Canada, Singapore and the Netherlands. These new schemes of work – on top of ongoing projects in the UK and mainland Europe – mean the firm has a healthy forward order book and is continuing to expand its team.

RVA’s managing director Richard Vann explains: “The nature of our work is particularly complex and a somewhat unusual skill set is required to safely manage the inherently high-hazard projects that we oversee. Identifying the best people is therefore not an easy task as we are looking for such highly skilled professionals in their respective fields, be it chemical, structural, mechanical, or civil engineering, for instance. However there is a phenomenal amount of talent out there so now it is a case of handpicking the industry’s finest and gradually adding the RVA sector specifics to their already highly developed skill sets.”

With a resident project management role on the five month North American contract, RVA is set to supervise the meticulous dismantling of a complex petrochemical plant, for resale, relocation and reassembly in Eurasia. Elsewhere other RVA engineering experts are on two large chemical sites in Singapore and the Netherlands to support the client to manage the dismantling of redundant assets that are intertwined with operational plant and services.

Richard continues: “Projects of this nature are the very reason that RVA was established back in 1992, and international growth has long been part of our carefully planned expansion strategy. As our reputation has grown and our relationships with multinational blue-chip clients have developed, we have steadily secured more overseas work. These three new projects represent an exceptional achievement for the company and they are a testament to the capabilities and results of our team.”

This type of work is not for the fainthearted though. “We quickly have to acclimatise ourselves to varied local requirements to ensure legislative and environmental compliance,” Richard explains. “There can sometimes be language barriers and time zones present challenges too, when we need to communicate with colleagues on the other side of the world. Indeed with the current geographical spread, we can have colleagues separated by almost a whole day”.

But all of this simply represents a new dynamic for the business, concludes Richard. “We develop knowledge-based partnerships whether we’re working in the North East of the UK, or the Far East of the world. Our aim is to develop totally safe, environmentally sound and cost-effective regimes wherever we may be, and we will devise bespoke team structures and on-site methodologies to best tackle the challenges that any project poses.”

RVA’s work continues on nine UK projects nationwide.

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RVA operations director to present at leading demolition event

RVA Group operations director Ian Wharton has been invited to deliver an educative presentation at the Institute of Demolition Engineers’ (IDE) autumn seminar in Westminster, London.

Echoing RVA Group’s mission statement, Ian’s ‘Process Plant Sector Decommissioning & Dismantling’ presentation is designed to:

• Help deliver totally safe, environmentally secure and legislatively compliant projects

• Nurture a learning event culture aligned with a zero tolerance approach to all incidents and injuries

• Encourage engineering excellence, innovation and best value for clients.

Speaking exclusively to members of the Institute on 29 September, Ian will then encourage questions from the floor, providing delegates with additional knowledge transfer opportunities.

Ian has worked with some of the world’s largest and most prestigious blue-chip organisations, in sectors including oil and gas, pharmaceutical, chemical and petrochemical, power and energy, manufacturing, local authority and housing. He is therefore an incredibly experienced and competent engineer who is well placed to offer best-practice advice for demolition professionals seeking to further develop their expertise.


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Invista (Germany)

RVA acted as project engineers and specialist demolition consulting engineers in our D&R project. They are one of the best, most professional companies we have dealt with and we would have no hesitation in recommending them.

RVA worked closely and collaboratively with our teams, paying attention to our interests and not losing focus on the overall target. We cannot recall a situation where RVA didn’t react flexibly or innovatively to adjust their work plans and resources to the benefit of our project. The team always provided us with a high quality service and fulfilled our safety, health and environmental expectations excellently.

(adjusted translation from German).

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ConocoPhillips Petroleum Company

RVA have undertaken decommissioning cost estimates for several onshore terminals…. In all cases RVA have produced satisfactory estimates and accompanying reports. Their work methods and responses to our needs have been good quality in terms of meeting our expectations. They have been flexible enough to accommodate adjustments to scope and have delivered as promised. Service: Excellent: You are responsive and keep us informed…………You are flexible and very willing to work with the client to deliver the result. Know-how: Excellent: You do have the knowledge and skills to help us in work regarding estimates and potential project management of terminals and onshore dismantling. We are confident in your ability.

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ConocoPhillips Petroleum Company

The feed back from our site personnel is that this has been an extremely successful project in both execution and the relationships built with all who came in to contact with the project team.

This outcome is a testament to the work, effort and commitment shown by all involved in the project.

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