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EnviroVantage’s own Scott Knightly interviewed for Construction Executive Magazine

Demolition: Where Power Meets Precision
By Lauren Pinch

Demolition involves plenty of noise, big machinery and a lot of dust. But today’s demolition contractor offers more than just brawn. Being a top choice demolition contractor means having multifaceted skills in just about every aspect of jobsite preparation, from remediation and abatement to materials recycling.

“It’s not just about getting in and smashing stuff,” says Scott Knightly, president of EnviroVantage, Inc. of Epping, NH. “It’s more selective-you have to be able to do mold remediation, lead and asbestos removal, and do it quickly.”

EnviroVantage, which has performed interior demolition of 25 historic mills in the past 15 years, grew from a $5 million company to an $8 million company last year. As the founder, Knightly has pioneered procedures for the safe handling of hazardous materials like lead, and helped the state of New Hampshire write a new set of environmental regulations.

EnviroVantage concentrates on schools, historic mills, hospitals and public projects throughout New England. In these historic buildings, one of the major challenges is finding surprise elements-walls behind walls, hidden asbestos, old boilers no one knew existed, and even flocks of pigeons.

This was certainly the case when the company undertook a project at Plymouth State University to gut the large Mary Lyon Dormitory and remove lead, asbestos and mold, old plumbing and pipe systems, and a decaying chimney. During the project, crews encountered all sorts of surprises, including a 10-ton cement box full of asbestos that had to be chipped apart, hand carried from a 10 foot deep trench and removed from the building in small pieces.

“Part of the challenge is uncovering rehabs that took place in the past,” Knightly says. “Also, in the mills, you have to be extra gentle and kind to keep the exterior intact to gain historical building tax credits.”

Knightly’s crews make it possible for the next renovation team to work with a clean slate to install elements like insulation and energy-efficient windows and complete interior build-outs.

“Other crews don’t want to come in to do their work until they have a clean building, and architects want to see certification a building is clean before they design the rebuild,” Knightly says. Throughout the demolition and remediation work process, industrial hygienists are brought in to test levels of harmful agents like mercury so work can continue according to local building codes.

EnviroVantage is currently restoring a 5,800 square foot text mill and converting the space into an upscale 200-seat Common Man Restaurant and a 36 room inn with a view of the falls in Claremont, NH. The job includes asbestos abatement, sandblasting lead paint and interior demolition, with the challenge of preserving the mill’s heavy wooden timber framing system, expansive brick wall surfaces and unique granite sills and cornice molding. The restaurant and inn will open this summer.

“It’s a lot of fun to know we were wearing hazmat suites to do the initial walkthrough, and then begin to see the end result of a gorgeous granite mill on the waterfront,” Knightly says. “It takes vision and imagination.”

Having workers trained in all aspects of demolition and remediation is essential for firms in this market sector. And with owners’ emphasis on meeting green building criteria, jobsite crews also must be trained to separate and recycle all materials in the waste stream.

Schools in particular desire braggin rights about green building techniques, especially materials recycling.

At a recent project to renovate the Phelps Science Center at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH., EnviroVantage crews recycled virtually every component of the building and its contents. Teams disassembled desks and sorted wood, plastic and metal parts – along with the building’s sheetrock, cement, bricks, piping, electrical wire and window glass – to recycle or repurpose 90 percent of materials post-demolition.

In another project, EnviroVantage worked with general contractor North Branch Construction, Concord, NH, to convert a city-owned elementary school building into a 34-unit apartment building in proximity to shops and restaurants in Manchester, NH. Crews filled multiple 100-yard-long dumpsters with materials for recycling.

“Recycling is the way to get the best value out of a job, by putting all the materials to future use so nothing goes to waste,” Knightly says.