When it comes to handling high-profile projects, a Baltimore-based demolition contracting firm, The Berg Corp., wrote the book. In this case, their task will center around one of the biggest, most widely read books of all time — the up-and-coming Museum of the Bible.
The Museum of the Bible, an $800 million endeavor funded primarily by Hobby Lobby’s president Steve Green, will open to the public in fall 2017 two blocks from the National Mall. The efforts to turn a 1920s refrigeration warehouse and neighboring buildings into the 430,000-square-foot display case for Green’s trove of nearly 44,000 Biblical pieces will take time — and some heavy-hitting power to kick it off.
Challenged with this multifaceted, high-profile project, Berg’s president, Zachary Gilden knew that with the proper arsenal of equipment he could successfully tackle the job, from the removal of the roof to the expansion of the basement. Berg chose the remote-controlled Brokk demolition machines for the bulk of the selective building demolition. The machines used numerous attachments, including breakers, steel cutters, buckets and drills, mounted on a three-part arm to provide smooth precision and optimal power and reach. The lightweight, compact machines pack a lot of hitting power for their size, with some machines barely 2 feet wide.
“The floor load would not allow mini-excavators, so this was really a problem that could only be solved by a robotic demolition machine,” says Gilden. “There is a dramatic amount of variance in the construction of both buildings, and both of them are extremely light loading capacity. The Brokks offered heavy-hitting power on a lightweight carriage. It was by far the most productive, cost-effective solution.”
First, the team gutted the warehouse, formerly the Washington Design Center, and neighboring Hyphen Office Building and installed steel bracing plates and rakers at perimeter and interior columns to shore the Washington Design Center. Then they were ready to tear the roof off — literally — because they needed to increase the height of the 310,000-square-foot warehouse. From there, they worked their way down the eight-story building, demolishing every other floor to give the museum more open space than the existing 12-foot-high ceilings allowed.
A crane lifted the robotic demolition tools and skid-steer loaders to the eighth floor to begin the project. The Berg team used both Atlas Copco breakers and Darda concrete cutters on the Brokk machine’s arm, which they maneuvered using a wireless remote control as they demolished their way through 5,000-square-foot sections. Skidsteer loaders quickly pushed the debris down a chute to minimize the weight on the disappearing floor. Then, the machines shifted to the sixth floor, tackling the columns and beams first. They sawed slots on the opposite sides of each interior column, added steel bracing, and then repeated the process on the other sides so the columns could be freestanding. That process repeated on each even-numbered floor, covering 65 interior columns. Once they braced the columns and shored the floor, it was back to demolishing the reinforced 8- to 10-inch-thick concrete floors.
In less than four months, The Berg Corp. completed the multifaceted demolition project which included concrete floors, concrete columns, and a concrete roof. While museum visitors likely will ponder the artifacts more than the building and how it came to be, The Berg Corp. can take pride in knowing this project is another one for the books. The Museum will be open to the public in the fall of 2017.