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Concrete Cutter Makes Headlines During Newspaper Office Renovation
The Houston Chronicle—Houston’s largest daily newspaper—realized it was underutilizing two of its prominent buildings and announced that employees from the publication’s downtown location would be moving to its larger campus approximately seven miles away in the southwest part of the city. This move placed more of the newspaper’s operations closer to two of Houston’s busiest freeways—Highway 59 and Interstate 610. A professional sawing and drilling contractor was brought in to help transform the building and complete this major renovation project.
Holes Incorporated, a CSDA member from Houston, was hired by general contractor JM Design Build of Broadview Heights, Ohio, to perform both concrete wall sawing and core drilling techniques as part of the renovation project and create a more green and open environment for Chronicle employees. Holes was tasked with making eight 11foottall by 8footwide window openings on the west side tower of the building. A series of conference rooms was planned for the spaces behind the west side tower, therefore the inclusion of two openings per floor provided each conference room with natural light and a view of the Houston skyline.
Holes Vice President Kellie Vazquez said the job scope changed from when the company first bid the job to when the work was done.
“Initially we were to cut vertical panels into the building for removal, but due to a design change the panels were turned into eight openings,” Vazquez said. “This change benefitted our scope because the creation of the eight openings provided a safer method of removal from the original plan.”
The cutting contractor performs daily on-the-job training during projects and this job was no different. Safety site supervisor and trainer Nolan O’Neil, a CSDA Certified Operator, oversaw operations and assisted wall saw operator Derrick Sarte and trainee Kenny Mangum on the job.
“As someone who is new to the industry, it was truly an eye-opening experience to witness the level of skill and workmanship that goes into this line of work,” Mangum said. “The willingness of one experienced Holes operator to pass on his knowledge to someone who had zero prior experience of wall sawing techniques helped me a great deal.”
The change to the scope of work occurred on the first day of the job, so the team from Holes devised a solid plan to safely cut and remove the openings. A project Job Safety Analysis form was created, which was followed and updated daily as the work progressed.
Due to its prominent location at the front of the Houston Chronicle building, the cutting contractor had a zero tolerance for error. Therefore, it was decided each concrete opening would be cut in two parts to successfully and safely remove the sections of concrete and leave the desired finish for the general contractor.
“We understood that windows were going to be placed in these openings so they had to be perfect,” Vazquez said. “In addition to the design change from vertical panels to eight openings, the inclusion of relief cut pieces was also a scope change. We discussed the option with the general contractor and approved pricing for the extra 64 feet of sawing. My operator and site safety supervisor decided it was the safest way to remove the openings and the surest way to avoid the concrete spalling around them.”
The team started by drilling two 6-inch-diameter cores into each specified window location for rigging holes, which would be utilized during the removal process. Two additional rigging holes were drilled into the top of each opening and used to help create a series of 8-foot-wide, 10-inch-tall relief pieces.
Next, the wall saw operator cut three sides of each opening, leaving the cuts on the right side of the concrete sections for last. Due to the height of the openings, and in preparedness for any inclement weather during the project, the right hand cut was left until crane rigging was attached to the cut concrete section ready for removal.
With three sides cut, the operator proceeded to make a relief cut 10 inches below the top cut to form the relief section in each window location. The cuts for the 8-foot-wide relief pieces were made around the previously-drilled 10-inch-diameter openings in each end. Smaller holes measuring 2 inches in diameter were created in the relief sections to attach crane rigging before each piece was removed. By removing the top 10 inches of each opening, the team from Holes was able to remove the remaining concrete sections with greater ease.
Once all the relief pieces were cut and craned out, rigging was attached to the larger 8-foot-wide, 10-foot-tall cut section to make the final right hand cut with the wall saw. After several passes the last vertical cut was complete. The operator removed the sawing equipment and track from the wall so that the removal process could commence.
As each piece was removed, a piece of plywood was securely positioned across the interior of each opening to prevent falls. This process was repeated seven more times until all the cut concrete sections were safely on the ground. Each piece weighed 13,200 pounds.
Holes Incorporated completed 368 feet of wall sawing and core drilled 46 holes in two-, six- and 10-inch diameters through the 12-inch-thick concrete walls of the Houston Chronicle building.
“Overall, the job was a success,” Vazquez said. “We encountered no issues removing the cut pieces and the customer and owner were extremely satisfied.”
Today, the renovated building is home to the entire Houston Chronicle production department and the Spanish newspaper La Voz de Houston. By successfully completing the window opening tasks, Holes Incorporated was awarded additional jobs during the building renovation.
Vazquez states the job would have been more difficult to complete without the commitment and hard work shown by operator Sarte—a hard-working team member who takes pride in his accomplishments.
“I was quite happy with myself because I knew this was a big job with many obstacles,” Sarte commented. “Everything went better than we anticipated. I really enjoy going by the Houston Chronicle building and looking at the results of our work.”
Holes Incorporated, based in Houston, Texas, has been in business since 1972 and a CSDA member company for 40 years. The company specializes in concrete wall sawing, slab sawing, core drilling, wire sawing, scanning, breaking, anchor bolt installation, demolition and load and haul. Holes Incorporated performs commercial, industrial, residential, state highway and municipality work. Holes is a CSDA Certified Company and employs CSDA Certified Operators.
JM Design Build
Sawing and Drilling Contractor:
Methods Used: Wall Sawing, Core Drilling