People often have a morbid fascination with watching destruction. Like a train wreck, you can’t look away. Still, I always feel guilty–and sad–about gawking at a car accident or the like. But what about controlled demolition, when something’s meant to be destroyed? Watching a team with a ton of skill in engineering, math and spatial relations drop a building so it doesn’t disturb anything around it? Now that’s what I’m talking about.
Controlled demolition, while not used very often, is often a last resort when you need to remove an old, unsafe building, retired bridge, tall chimney or just about anything stuck in the middle of an urban area that has to go neatly and without impacting anyone around it. It’s very cool to watch, sure, but also pretty darn dangerous. Spectators have been killed because they stood in the wrong part of the impact zone…or mistakes were made and debris went places the engineers didn’t expect. Most of the time, though, the demolition goes exactly as planned. Pretty mind-boggling when you think about it.
So, how does it work? Essentially, based on computerized and mathematical models, the engineers determine how, where and in what order they want the pieces of a building to fall. They then drill holes in the support beams throughout the bottom floors of the building and plant explosives in strategic spots (using as little explosive material as possible). With remote-controlled detonators, they set off the explosions at precise times to make the building fall in on itself. Seriously, who came up with this idea and made it work?
And I sure wouldn’t want to clean up the mess afterwards, but it does make for a really awesome five-second show!
Here’s a great video montage of some demolition work done in 2002. The tree at the end, which stood quietly by while a building went down just across the way, is pretty telling to just how scientific this process is. And just listen to that happy elevator music!