House Demolition

I watched the demolition of a house today. It was unequivocally awesome.

Two WVU students were sent to the hospital recently when the roof on which they were sitting collapsed. This focused a bunch of attention on the state of off-campus student housing, and as a result property inspectors are out in force; fines are being levied, and a few houses have even been condemned.

I wasn’t thinking about any of this as I walked across town this afternoon; my brain was full with stress from multiple looming projects at school, and I was in a pretty rotten and introspective mood because of it. Imagine my surprise, then, to wake up from my introversion to the sound of crashing masonry: just across the street, barely 50 feet away, a massive excavator was tearing a house apart. I walked a little further until I could find a good perch, then just watched, for almost an hour.

The first thing that struck me was the size and power of the machine they were using. I noted its model number and looked it up afterward, and what I was watching was actually a Kobelco 235SR LC Short Radius Hydraulic Excavator. You can find lots of information about it here, but what really amazed me as I was looking at it was the sheer power of the thing, especially the arm. This is what the arm did (under the skill of an obviously skilled and experienced driver): first it gripped a wall (using an opposable thumblike attachment attached to the bucket head), and then ripped it from the rest of the house. Then, the bucket obliterated everything (floors, rooms) behind where the wall was. Then, the operator used the bucket to tamp down the just-entropied materials into a ramp. Then the excavator drove onto the newly created excavator-roadway, and just by mashing the arm into the ground, raised the front of the excavator off the ground, allowing it to turn in place and start all over again.

23,200, ladies and gentlemen. From the Kobelco website, that’s the digging force, in pounds, of this arm. This means that when the arm pushes on something, it pushes on it with a force of over 11 tons. Just watching it work, it was obvious the excavator could easily flip itself over just using the downward force of the arm.

By the time I got there (at around 4:30) half the house was gone. I took these first two pictures (mmm…grainy PDA photos) at around 5 PM:


Closeup of an excavator

By 5:30, it looked like this.

Demolished house

Absolutely amazing. It was like watching my childhood Tonka truck dreams come to life. It was so cool I stayed until the house was complete rubble. A couple of other people stayed for a few minutes, but no one else stayed as long as I did. Lightweights.

The only thing that marred the whole experience was that I kept wondering if the police would stop by and tell me to move along, because even watching a public event these days feels like the kind of thing that can put one on an FBI watch list. I realize that there must be a balance between freedom and security, but the pendulum has swung too far. Hopefully it’ll swing back soon.