Century-Old Features Preserved by Diamond Cutting
Demolition of a former high school campus in Salt Lake City, Utah was completed this past summer as part of a $2.5-million contract. The school district and general contractor worked with a well-studied concrete sawing and drilling contractor to preserve memorabilia from the 110-year-old building, including unique plaques, exterior features and signage, so that it could be made available to former alumni, collectors and the public
Closed in 2009, Granite High School had remained empty for several years until, in 2016, a property developer purchased 16 acres of the 27-acre site for $11.6 million for the construction of 76 single-family homes. Plans were made to raze the former school building in readiness for the new homes, but it was agreed that a series of 15 ornate features around the building—some as large as 11 feet wide and 6 feet tall—would be carefully removed and kept intact.
Traditional demolition methods with jackhammers and wrecking balls were used to bring down the century-old high school building, but these tools were unsuitable for the removal of what were old and fragile pieces of history. Instead, the general contractor for the demolition work, Reynolds Brothers Excavating of Draper, Utah, turned to CSDA member Greene’s, Inc. of Woods Cross to safely cut and remove them using diamond tools.
“We were contacted by Reynolds Brothers and asked to come up with a way of removing a set of historical concrete plaques and medallions at various locations in the building,” explained Jimmy Greene, Sales Manager for Greene’s, Inc. “The importance of maintaining the structural integrity of these items was stressed to us, so we knew that this job would require strict attention to detail from our experienced operators to make certain nothing was damaged while being cut, removed and transported.”
The use of air hammers had been considered to remove the items, but due to the age and fragility of the material this application would not have provided the necessary low level of vibration required to keep things in one piece. Hammering could have caused cracks or damaged pieces as they were being removed.
“Once we arrived at the jobsite, we walked the perimeter of the building and explained to our operators exactly what was required. It was made very clear that the items could not be replaced,” said Greene. “Communication was key, as was teamwork. We started with one of the smaller pieces first and dedicated a good amount of time to making sure the work was done well. This was a job where every guy on site needed years of experience of precision sawing or forklift techniques.”
Work at Granite High School began early in the summer as temperatures were reaching 90 to 100 degrees. Many of the plaques and other items marked for removal were positioned between 30 and 60 feet up on the walls of the school building, so operators worked from a man bucket to set up and run the equipment. As the work was being performed from an elevated position, the cutting contractor needed lightweight equipment and so used high-frequency, electric-powered tools. Equipped with the necessary PPE, including harnesses and lanyards for working from a lift, Greene’s, Inc. operators set up at the first cutting location.
The largest pieces of memorabilia cut and removed from the building were two 11-foot-wide, 6-foot-tall concrete sections that had images depicting the school’s athletic prowess on the track and on the football field etched into them. These piece consisted of three separate 6-foot-tall slabs placed together that were 3 inches thick and embedded in the brick work, so that they were flush with the surface of the wall. An operator from Greene’s used a K6500 concrete power cutter from CSDA manufacturer member Husqvarna Construction Products to cut around the concrete pieces for safe removal. These 11-foot-wide pieces were each cut and removed in 30 hours.
Similar techniques were used to remove two more plaques, which were 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall. For these pieces, and the larger 11-foot-wide plaques, the contractor used a Bosch 11311EVS demolition hammer to chip slots below the cut sections. These slots were used to hold and lower the panels securely using a forklift.
Other items cut and removed included two round concrete medallions that were 2 feet in diameter and 3 inches thick. These pieces were positioned on the walls approximately 20 feet from the ground, and each one took around 30 minutes to cut and remove with the power cutter.
Finally, the team from Greene’s, Inc. was tasked with cutting and removing items above the building’s two main entranceways that identified the school. At one location, 12 marble blocks had the name of the school etched across them. Each block was around 2 feet wide, 1.5 feet tall and 4 inches thick, and contained between two and four letters measuring 1.5 feet in height. These blocks were attached by cement to the masonry behind, and had to be carefully cut and removed one by one. The entire 12 pieces were removed by the cutting contractor in five hours. Another name plaque, a 20-foot-long, 2-foot-tall concrete piece placed during the school’s opening in 1907, was also cut and removed with diamond tools in four hours.
As the former Granite High School building was being made ready for demolition, Greene’s, Inc. performed over 200 feet of cutting to remove approximately 250 square feet of material from its walls. Each item was successfully removed without damage as required. Not only did the cutting contractor finish the work on time and under the agreed budget, but has since been awarded additional work on other projects by the general contractor.
“This job turned out great. I always trust that our operators will do what is expected of them and more. There was a little bit of pressure—we had to cut with minimal stress on some extremely fragile items that couldn’t be replaced. We were able to hand over the cut pieces to the Granite School District as planned,” concluded Greene.
Greene’s, Inc. is based in Woods Cross, Utah and has been a CSDA member for 27 years. The company has been in business since 1990, has 50 employees, 25 trucks and services the entire state of Utah. Greene’s, Inc. offers the concrete services of core drilling, wall sawing, wire sawing, flat sawing, selective demolition, epoxy injection and joint sealing.
Reynolds Brothers Excavating
Sawing and Drilling Contractor:
Woods Cross, Utah
Methods Used: Wall Sawing