New York City company creates ever-growing success with robotic demolition
The Big Apple, despite its name, is not known for extra legroom. Apartments are small and expensive, streets and subway cars are packed, and demolition contractors are continually tasked with finding new ways to do their work in the cramped urban environment.
Some companies have found ways to adapt to and excel in the limited-space environment of New York City. New York City-based concrete breaking and rental company, Breaking Solutions, has been doing so since 1994. Unlike many demolition contractors, Breaking Solutions doesn’t often use handheld breakers or mini-excavators; they turn to remote-controlled demolition robots instead. The resulting safety, productivity, and versatility has led them to expand the business to include more than 50 machines, complex projects and government contracts, and a successful rental and service business.
Breaking Solutions’ founder, John Amorosano Sr., bought his first remote-controlled demolition machine in 1994. The Brokk 250 he purchased is the most popular model in the manufacturer’s history. He operated the machine for the first time 10 years earlier while working for Break-Tech, a demolition company that helped pioneer the use of the equipment in that area.
Amorosano Sr. was a collector, though, and didn’t stop at the one machine. He regularly bought new models as they were released. Now, in the company’s second generation, his son John Amorosano Jr. continues to expand the fleet with new models. Most recently they added the diesel-powered Brokk 120D and Brokk 500 series bringing the total number of remote-controlled machines in Breaking Solutions’ fleet to 50 Brokk models, seven from Husqvarna, and the latest range of Brokk machines on order.
BUSTING INTO NEW MARKETS
The remote-controlled demolition machines’ versatility, power, and flexibility, along with the contractor’s large fleet of machines, attachments, skilled operators, mechanics, and service trucks opened the door to success in new applications. The company has a contract with a local transit authority requiring them to be on call 24/7 with a fleet of machines and operators. To avoid transit delays and liquidated damages, the contractor must be able to effectively break concrete in tight spaces on a short deadline.
“We’ve never missed a deadline. Period,” Amorosano Sr. says.
A notable project was the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel rehab completed in 2017. The 1.7-mile tunnel connects Brooklyn to Manhattan and consists of two 2-lane tubes running east and west. Breaking Solutions was hired to remove concrete in several areas of the project. The contractor’s 2-year portion included breaking about 3 miles of new trenches in the extremely hard concrete walls for fire line replacements, wall scaling for tile replacement, and the removal of curbing, bench walls, and other concrete. Project officials originally planned to use a mini-excavator to complete the trenches. Crews could complete about 8 to 10 feet per night with the method. Breaking Solutions had a better idea. The contractor used remote-controlled demolition machines to complete more than 200 feet per machine per night. Most nights consisted of six machines at once doing different phases for about 1,200 feet of concrete at a time. This dramatically accelerated the project schedule. In addition to the improved speed and productivity, Breaking Solutions was able to complete the work with a skeleton crew and minimal hand work.
BREAKING THE BANK
The robots’ flexibility in constricted spaces resulted in a niche for the company: bank vaults. Amorosano Sr. says the vaults have become another specialty for them. The equipment’s compact size and stair-climbing abilities mean the contractor can sometimes drive the machine right in without dismantling parts of the building. Other times crews disassemble the machine to fit in the building and then reassemble the machine in the work area. Amorosano Sr. says the machines make quick work of the reinforced, 18- to 36-inch-thick walls. The buildings are typically occupied so the emission-free qualities of the electric-powered machines are another significant benefit. Similarly, the company has had success with interior rock excavation, drilling into then breaking through bedrock common in New York.
A LIGHT FOOTPRINT
The robots’ light footprint, even load distribution and—with electric models—emission-free operation paved the way to other applications that would otherwise need to be done manually with hand tools. Breaking Solutions regularly works on rooftops or upper floors of buildings that would be unsafe to work on with larger, heavier equipment. In addition, Amorosano Sr. says as a result of the equipment’s light footprint, project owners sometimes allow the company to work on bridge decks. When faced with restrictions requiring that a 45-pound-maximum jackhammer be used to complete the work, Breaking Solutions conducts demonstrations to show how operators can use a demolition robot with a 500-pound hammer and do less damage than the lighter weight version.
“This works because you don’t need to have a guy pushing down on the jackhammer to use it,” Amorosano Sr. says. “The down pressure required for the tool to work makes it difficult to control and be precise, sometimes meaning rebar damage or damage to what’s supposed to be untouched concrete. With a robot and a skilled operator, we can use a light and precise touch to break through the bridge deck, basically just tickling the concrete.”
Amorosano Sr. began renting out equipment with experienced operators, which is now a significant portion of their business. Because of their expertise in the field, they are able to provide recommendations to clients for the most optimal machine and efficient solution for their project.
“A small portion of our customers’ business is 100 percent of our business,” Amorosano Sr. says. “So, us sending an operator with the machine allows our customers to relax and leave the breaking to Breaking Solutions.”
By constantly servicing their own machines in a state-of-the-art facility, the company also offers maintenance and repairs for Brokk machines not owned by the business.
Though competition in the Big Apple is fierce, the contractor’s ability to use the high-tech machinery in tight quarters and pass along significant savings to its clients has enabled the company to expand.
For more information
For more information about Breaking Solutions, visit www.breakusa.com. For more information about Brokk’s remote-controlled demolition machines and attachments, visit www.brokk.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, July 2019
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