Finding more efficient ways to tear down buildings to clear the way for new ones – all while making the most of what winds up in the recycling pile – has kept the Loewendick family busy for nearly 90 years.
Finding a New Way to Wreck
David Loewendick likes to say that demolition companies were the first recyclers.
That is, before it became fashionable to reuse and repurpose old stuff – to care for the environment – demolition companies already were doing it. He likes to tell the legend of how the Catholics in Rome hundreds of years ago stripped slabs of stone off the famed Coliseum, which was falling into disuse, in order to put the finishing touches on the Vatican.
“We have always been doing it,” says Loewendick, president of Loewendick Demolition Contractors in Columbus, Ohio. “Today, we’re just finding new ways to do it.”
Finding more efficient ways to tear down buildings to clear the way for new ones – all while making the most of what winds up in the recycling pile – has kept the Loewendick family busy for nearly 90 years. The company is one of the largest demolition contractors in central Ohio with 125 employees and more than 50 pieces of equipment. It also has a trucking and roll-off container company and its own construction and demolition landfill.
But the push to innovate and grow never ends, and Loewendick has taken the next step, purchasing a high-reach excavator from Volvo Construction Equipment. Sometimes, there are better ways to bring down a building than with a wrecking ball. Times always are changing.
“Being from that old crane and wrecking ball generation, you have to reprogram your head in how you wreck buildings,” Loewendick says. “In some cases, you don’t smash them anymore. You dissect them and surgically remove them out of the city.”
Recycling from the very beginning
The move into the high-reach world isn’t a surprising one for the Loewendick family. The company was founded in 1929 when Sylvester Garhardt, the son of German immigrants, decided it was time to build a home for his large family. It was too costly to build one the old fashioned way. So Garhardt tore down some old homes and took the recycled materials to build his house.
He never left the demolition business. Within 30 years, he was tearing down buildings to make way for the interstate highway system. By then, his sons began to enter the business. Thirty years further down the road, the company had blossomed into a $20 million company, working in surrounding states, and his grandsons – David Loewendick among them – had entered the business. Today, the fourth generation is helping lead the company.
The secret to the company’s longevity is simple.
“Give the customer what he wants at a fair price,” Loewendick says. “We operate a safe environment for our employees and our customers. We treat our employees well. We have second or third generations of employees’ families working for us today.”
The company’s landmark projects include the demolition of the International Harvester facility – a couple of million square feet of buildings on 110 acres – and numerous historically sensitive projects on the campus of Ohio State University.
“We try to take the lion’s share of the work in our trade right here at home by not traveling all over for work,” Loewendick says. “We want to stay tough in our own market. Generations’ worth of camaraderie with general contractors has really helped us. They know if it’s a tough job, they can count on us.”
Picking your hard hat off the wall
But there always are new ways to demolish buildings. Loewendick started looking for a way to more quickly, and more cleanly, demolish high rises in close-quartered urban areas, which have become hotspots for inner-city renewal projects.
He watched as other companies around the country began using high-reach excavators. Rather than using a wrecking ball or a clam bucket, which don’t give operators full control and efficiency, excavators allow operators the ability to carefully deconstruct a building. The high-reach capability ensures there are even fewer jobs that require a crane.
So Loewendick bought a Volvo EC480 with a high-reach demolition boom capable of extending 95 feet with its attachment. The company recently was using it to tear down an 11-story former apartment building near downtown Columbus. The concrete structure crumbled bit by bit under the power of the Volvo excavator.
“What it does is, with a crane wrecking ball or clam bucket, you have limited control,” Loewendick says. “With the high-reach excavator, with its 360 degree grapple and shears, you can surgically separate one wall from another without the shock of the wrecking ball and the vibrations that come with it. It makes it safer for the employees and the public.”
That’s especially true in areas where one building is being demolished just a few feet from the façade of one that’s not supposed to go anywhere.
“The Volvo excavator is so smooth you can pick your hard hat off a brick wall with the attachment without disturbing a brick. It’s that precise. It changes the way you wreck,” Loewendick says.
Not only that, but the processing attachments make sure that the debris from the building is nearly fully processed before it is loaded into a dump truck bound for recycling or the landfill. That saves time.
Operator Pete Engle was at the controls of the Volvo EC480 at Loewendick’s apartment demolition project. The cab was tilted at a 30 degree angle, giving Engle a full view of the building. He said he rarely had to throttle up the machine as the multi-processor did its work 10 stories overhead. The excavator at times has worked all day and burned barely a half a tank of fuel.
“The stability is great,” Engle says. “You don’t have to worry about where your tracks are at. It doesn’t rock.”
A single manufacturer
Loewendick says his company picked Volvo because of Volvo’s commitment to building all parts of its excavator.
“We like Volvo,” Loewendick says. “They’re soup to nuts. It’s their carriage, their design on the boom, their engine. As a pessimist in the business, if I have three different manufacturers on a machine, you got guys pointing fingers at the other guy when something goes wrong.”
Loewendick Demolition is serviced by Rudd Equipment Company and dealer representative Brian James. Rudd Equipment, headquartered in Louisville, is the authorized Volvo dealership for the state of Ohio and supports the mining and construction industries across a large portion of the Midwest.
Martin McCutcheon, branch manager for Rudd Equipment in Cleveland and Columbus, says Loewendick’s purchase of a Volvo high-reach excavator is a prime example of Loewendick’s “forward- thinking and progressive” business practices that keep it at the front of the demolition business in central Ohio.
Volvo Construction Equipment also has close ties to the demolition industry itself, being heavily involved in the National Demolition Association, where the Loewendick family has been a charter member and David Loewendick has served as president.
“It was just a natural fit,” Loewendick says.