Demolition and destruction breathe life into new construction
When an aging structure is long past the possibility of refurbishment and stands in the way of new development, it’s a sign that the building must come down
So, the time had come for the neglected 11-story Montagu Hotel that was completed in downtown Houston in 1913.
One of the first high rise structures in Houston to be built entirely of concrete and steel, the Montagu (formerly the Montague Hotel and Hotel Cotton) also was notable as being the first Houston hotel to equip each guest room with a bathroom.
In January 2008, the demolition and recycling specialists at Cherry imploded the building along with four other structures, bringing the Montagu’s historical importance to a close. Dismantled but not forgotten, the Montagu’s many remnants live on.
More than 40,000 tons of masonry and 26,000 tons of concrete and steel were hauled from the downtown demolition site to be processed at one of Cherry’s recycling centers. Today, recycled concrete remnants and steel from the hotel and other buildings are most likely resting in highway roadbeds, helping Texans travel more comfortably and safely.
Similar stories of deconstruction and recycling have been repeated thousands of times over Cherry’s nearly 60 years of business in Houston. The company that began in 1952 by moving houses intact from one location to another grew up to become one of the largest recyclers in the state of Texas.
Today, Cherry is a $70 million complex organization that demolishes structures, recycles a large percentage of the materials generated and crushes large volumes of concrete and asphalt for customers throughout the Southwest.
The company operates three Houston recycling centers where it recycles more than a million tons of concrete and asphalt and thousands of tons of steel every year.
Cherry’s demolition crews provide much of the concrete and asphalt feedstock for the recycling operation by demolishing industrial, commercial and residential structures and removing infrastructure, such as highways, streets, bridges and runways. Other parts of the company then transport these materials to the recycling centers for processing.
“If it weren’t for our recycling centers, much of this debris would simply end up in landfills—taking up space and serving no purpose,” says Leonard Cherry, president of Cherry.
“When we recycle about one million tons of concrete, this reduces about 500,000 cubic yards of landfill. It also eliminates more than $5,500,000 in tipping fees, which are fees charged to dump trash at landfills and waste transfer stations,” Cherry explains.The company also operates three portable concrete crushers that allow it to crush concrete, asphalt and brick directly on demolition sites and at its customers’ operation sites. On-site recycling creates quality base material at a lower cost than that of new material, plus it lowers landfill consumption and tipping fees. Even more important, on-site crushing saves on transportation costs, lowers fuel emissions and helps reduce the need to quarry additional natural aggregate.
With a goal of increasing the amount of recyclable material from demolition jobs, Cherry carefully removes all salvageable and historic items first, then separates other trash (such as roofing material) before crushing the concrete remains. Currently, the company estimates that it can recycle from 88 to 92 percent of all materials generated from a typical industrial or commercial demolition project.
Other green working practices include the collection and recycling of cement truck residue that gets dumped into roll-off washout boxes at the end of construction workdays. Typically, this residue is dumped, but Cherry collects and recycles it, transforming this concrete waste into reusable concrete product.
Cherry is committed to its environmental business approach because it knows the recycling of concrete, asphalt and steel is profitable. “And, it’s simply the right thing to do as a socially responsible company,” Cherry adds.
Underscoring Cherry’s continuing shift into the environmental arena is the fact that 50 percent of its gross volume came from demolition in 2006; today 65 percent of its gross volume is due to recycling.
Cherry strives to reduce the environmental impact of all its operations. For example, the company owns and operates one of the largest trucking fleets in the demolition and recycling business in the Gulf Coast region. Over the last several years, the company replaced its transportation vehicles with TERP engine type vehicles that meet lower emission standards.
“Recycling is a growing industry—even in a down economy,” says Cherry President Leonard Cherry. “As the cost of securing virgin materials goes up, recycling becomes even more attractive.”