Deconstructing the Deutsche Bank Building: Demolition Work Downtown

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September 11, 2001, is a day that will live in infamy. The loss in lives in New York City alone totaled 2973. The attacks on the World Trade Center buildings wrought damage to the twin towers themselves and many surrounding buildings. One of the surrounding buildings that received considerable damage was the Deutsche Bank Building located at 130 Liberty Street, New York City.

The Deutsche Bank building stood 39 stories tall. It was designed by Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon, the same firm designed the Empire State Building. The building opened in 1974, and the building was never utilized after the 9-11 attacks.

The collapse of the twin towers tore a 24-story gash at the facade of the building. The elevated plaza located at the base of the building totally collapsed. The decision to finally demolish the building was arrived at by 2003. Demolition work was deferred for two years, and the condition of the building deteriorated further during the ensuing period.

The deconstruction work worth $80 million was awarded to Bovis Lend Lease, a large construction company. However, in the ensuing periods, the work was found to be more complicated, and Bovis and John Galt Corporation negotiated for an increase of $ 30 million.

Many events hindered the progress of the demolition work jobs. Considerable amounts of contaminants were detected in the building, notable asbestos, dioxin, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and manganese. This prompted a lengthy decontamination stage. Work began when large needle beams, which will serve as anchorage for the scaffolding to help contain the contaminants, were driven into the building.

Bone fragments were found on the roof in September 2005. Forensic experts were called on to look for more portions of human remains. By April 2006, over 700 more human bone fragments were found on the roof.

Deconstruction work was halted again in April 2007 when a 22-foot section of pipe fell 35 stories and landed on a fire station beside the building. Two firefighters were injured during this incident.

In April 2007, a fire broke out caused by workers smoking on the site. The fire took all night to extinguish, complicated by the building’s lack of a standpipe. Two firefighters lost their lives during the incident. 115 other firefighters were injured during the incident. The demolition subcontractor, John Galt Corporation, and three construction supervisors were indicted for the incident. The city work-stop order was lifted by April 2008. After many lulls and controversies, normal demolition work resumed in October, 2009.

The method of deconstruction was done foor by floor. Deconstructing this way was not the first time this was done. What makes the Deutsche Bank Building project special is that it is one of the first buildings in this area dismantled piece by piece under the wary eyes of a crowded neighborhood. In the words of Avi Schick, the chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, it is like watching the construction of a building, but in reverse.

            Deconstructing itself began after the lengthy lulls created by decontamination and the discovery of human remains in the building. During the initial phase of the deconstruction, each floor was totally removed in four days or so. Mechanical excavators are brought up to the top floor to rip off the concrete flooring. Contamination guidelines call for another worker to spray water over the destruction of concrete floors to limit the dust generated. Once the concrete floors are removed, steelworkers will torch the steel framework. Miles of wiring and insulation were also removed by a separate team before the work on the steel framework was began.

            Just like in normal construction, huge cranes are present. But this time, their roles are to haul debris from the roof level. The cranes left by January 2011, and demolition work was completed by February 28, 2011, when the demolition of the first floor and foundation was completed.

            The Vehicular Security Center and Liberty Park, which occupies its roof, now occupies the site. Negotiations for plans for the site is ongoing between civic and community leaders. Some parties favored a hotel or a residential tower while outgoing deputy mayor, Robert Lieber, favoring an office tower.  


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