Scott Homrich, President of the National Demolition Association (NDA), shares his perspective on the industry, what the future looks like for demolition and how NDA is contributing to a safer workforce.
There are approximately 4,541 demolition firms within the United States that make up many different facets of demolition, including conventional demolition, dismantling, implosion and explosive demolition, C&D recycling, scrap recycling, environmental remediation, hazardous material handling, industrial recovery, facility decommissioning, excavation, land clearing and site work, specialized rigging and hauling, highway bridge work, disaster recovery, emergency response and civil engineering.
Total and selective demolition activities are estimated to generate 48 percent of industry revenue. Selective demolition is when the building’s shell is preserved, and its interior is gutted as a cost-saving strategy.
Demolition for renovation is estimated to account for 44 percent of industry revenue. Demolition for renovation is defined as the altering of one or more facilities in any way such as the stripping and removal of asbestos and hazardous heavy metals (e.g., lead) on demolition sites, as well as site decontamination and waste disposal.
Ancillary services are estimated to represent 8 percent of industry revenue. Ancillary services include recycling of salvaged materials and specialized concrete cutting services. Within this segment, recycling has held steady as the majority of this segment.
Explosive demolition, although a more spectacular aspect of the industry – used particularly for implosion – represents only 1 percent of industry activity.
We did see a stoppage of work in March and April 2020, which is having some longer-term impact, including a downturn of projects in the fourth quarter of 2020. Despite these hardships, 72 percent of our members have not reduced labor, and only 17 percent laid off or furloughed workers.
Throughout the pandemic, workflows have continued to be fulfilled, and we are seeing positive trends emerge for the coming year.
Strong Scrap Market
We are seeing a strong overseas market in ferrous metal that has the potential to put upward pressure on the U.S. market. Due to the pandemic, we see demolition contractors being more attuned to the scrap market. We saw this with the recession in 2008, but unlike in 2008 when scrap prices fell sharply, we are hopeful that the positive signs of markets abroad translate to a strong market in the U.S.
For demolition contractors, the appreciation for scrap iron in high places could lead to medium-term healthy pricing as economies rebound and try to recover from the COVID-19-related damage.
We are currently working on a materials management guidance document to prepare our members for what we see as a coming shift in the market.
According to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry, which is inclusive of demolition, added 110,000 jobs in March. With this increase in the workforce, the industry has recovered 86 percent of jobs lost during the early months of the pandemic.
This data is consistent with our own member findings. We are beginning to see signs of recovery as jobs are added and backlogs continue to grow in the second quarter of 2021.
In addition, the latest ABC Construction Confidence Index reflects that the sheer amount of money flowing into the economy from the latest stimulus package will create massive forward momentum for the remainder of 2021 and likely through 2022.
We are seeing more interest in deconstruction. While there have been some local ordinances that have been met with mixed results, owners and architects are beginning to think through the entire life cycle of a structure with disassembly and reuse in mind. If this trend continues, the market will continue to expand into the next decade.
Contractors are becoming increasingly versed in technology and using it to perform projects more safely and efficiently. Robust software platforms make project management easier, and many are now accessible via tablets and smartphones. Safety applications are being used on phones and tablets, allowing more efficient tracking of worker safety training. Equipment manufacturers are developing vibrant software to help manage equipment from remote locations.
NDA remains dedicated to moving the demolition industry forward. In 2021, we adopted a new strategic plan focused on ensuring safety and creating opportunities for advanced education across the demolition industry.
Education has been a long-time priority for NDA. In 2017, we launched a Certificate of Demolition Management program. The program consists of four courses and, since its inception, has produced 42 graduates, with more expected in 2021. The success of this program identified a need for professionals to demonstrate their knowledge and skill set through an industry certification. As part of the strategic plan, NDA is creating a Certification Board, which will lay the groundwork for NDA's new certification program and exam, set to launch in the spring of 2022.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Alliance
NDA has always been committed to safety best practices. We offer more than 70 safety talks for our community and we keep safety top of mind when developing new programs. To continue this effort, NDA is expanding our existing relationship with OSHA's Regional and Area offices to address industry health and safety issues, including the training of agency staff and providing technical expertise when appropriate. The impending partnership will be a collaborative effort to develop and disseminate materials and effective training aids that align with current regulatory information, interpretations and enforcement initiatives. In addition, during the annual review of demolition best practices, NDA hopes to expand to include power plant decommissioning and determine if any changes are needed, sharing the information with OSHA.
As the voice of the industry, NDA is looking to help develop and support the next generation of demolition leaders. As part of this effort, NDA is exploring pre-apprentice training and a workforce development program that will include training for front-line workers. The knowledge of NDA members is extensive and encompasses many areas of the industry. The development of these programs will leverage the experience of existing NDA members.
Over the next few years, these three priorities will guide the direction, programs and leadership of NDA. We believe these elements will push the industry forward and help ensure that every worker leaves their job site safe and healthy. I encourage you to visit the NDA website, demolitionassociation.com, to learn more about the demolition industry and the benefits NDA offers.