Toronto Star: Destruction to construction - Dust to Dust in the Condo industry

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Wrecking and recycling
From a brewery to beer cans
Destruction to construction
By STEPHEN WEIR
SPECIAL TO THE STAR HOW IT'S BUILT

It is taking a lot of Molson's muscle to recycle Toronto's landmark lakeside suds factory.
An environmentally bent demolition company is painstakingly deconstructing the Fleet St. Molson's Brewery, turning it into powdered concrete, ingots of steel and, eventually, aluminum beer cans.
Even as the Molson building is being taken down, there are still parts of it that tower above the nearby raised Gardner Expressway. The shrinking factory is a beacon for the disappearing industrial district that once employed thousands along Toronto's eastern waterfront. The beer building and almost all other factories and warehouses in the Bathurst and Lake Shore area are being shuttered, shut down and converted into upscale housing projects.
"This puppy was over-built. There are at least 3,000 metric tons of steel in there. It was as though they were getting ready for World War Three," says Frank Provenzano as he points to a growing pile of twisted steel girders.
Provenzano is one of four brothers who own and operate ProGreen Demolition, a Concord, Ont., company that specializes in recovering recyclable materials from the buildings it tears down. (The family also owns and operates Anpro Excavating & Grading Ltd.)
The Molson site is being cleared in two phases to make room for the West Harbour City condominium development, a project dubbed "Toronto's last great downtown waterfront address."
ProGreen is in the midst of recovering almost 80 per cent of the material in what once was a city-block-long brewery. The company is saving steel girders, concrete walls, brick, aluminum window frames and copper piping. Some of the material is going to recycling companies while the rest will be reused in the construction of the large West Harbour City townhouse condo project on the Fleet St. lot just east of Fort York.
"In the bad old days of the 20th century a demolition team would come with a tall crane and a wrecking ball," notes Provenzano. "They start at ground level and quickly reduce a building like this into a mountain of unusable rubble.
"Using our new precision machinery it will take us months to bring this one down. We start at the top floor and our equipment surgically removes those parts of the building that we can reuse."
At first glance the heavy equipment that is used to reach up and pull out strips of aluminum looks prehistoric. The tongs at the end of the articulated arm of the High Reach "demolition evacuator" machine look and act like the jaws of a T-Rex. Made of heavy iron, they easily brush, bash and snip their way through a factory floor seven storeys high.
The German-made Liebherr High Reach is a strange-looking piece of heavy equipment. The engine of this 53,000-kilogram evacuator sits affixed to the top of tank-like crawlers. There is an articulated cab attached to the base that tilts up to a 30-degree angle, giving the operator a flexible line of sight into the demolition zone. The most important part of the High Reach is the three-part bendable arm that can snake its 4,400 kg iron tongs through a window and pull out huge pieces of stone and metal.
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This new generation of multi-million dollar equipment is not only versatile, but very clean and quiet, too. The site is beside a new upscale condo project (the Aquarius) and, to date, the demolition has moved forward without any complaints about noise or dust.
"The secret to our recycling is our experience and in the very strength and precision of the machinery," says Provenzano. "Once we have taken the structural steel out of the building, we have a shearing machine (which looks like a mutant steam shovel with scissors) that snaps the steel into manageable metre-long pieces."
The steel blocks, along with the recovered copper and aluminum, are trucked from the site to a number of Ontario-based recyclers. Aluminum window frames are melted down by a firm that, fittingly, will use it to make (among other things) beer cans.
ProGreen does get paid for the scrap, but the real savings for the owners of the site come from not having to pay to dump the rubble in a landfill site. "We will divert about 80 per cent of the material that was used in the Molson building," explains Provenzano, "and the savings to the builder are greater than if they used a traditional wrecker" which would haul the refuse to a dump.
All of what ProGreen pulls out of the building is reused. The thick concrete floors and walls are ripped down and then pulverized in an unused corner of the lot by a number of machines.
The concrete will be processed into coarse white particles, which will be used in the making of gravel when construction of West Harbour City begins.
ProGreen expects to be finished taking down the first phase of the Molson building by the end of June. The southeast section of the 11-storey brown brick building remains intact for now, but will come down when all the condos are sold. It is now the sales centre and has two model suites on the top floor facing Lake Ontario.
The destruction of the Molson Brewery and the construction of the West Harbour City project are being quarterbacked by The Plazacorp Group/Berkeley Development. The two companies have already teamed to build more than 3,000 condominiums in Toronto including University Plaza on University Ave. and Wellington Square in King West Village.
Construction of the first phase of West Harbour City will begin this summer and it will probably be a couple of years before the 36-storey limestone-coloured precast tower and accompanying townhouses are completed.
The complex has more than 100 floor plans ranging from full-size one-bedroom suites to two full-floor penthouses on the 35th and 36th storeys. Units in Phase 2 of West Harbour City will go on sale this summer and range in price from $250,000 to more than $1 million.
Jun. 17, 2006. 01:00 AM
CUTLINE: Top. One of the new condos
Middle: ProGreen in action
Bottom: Frank Prvenzano. Toronto Star photograph

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