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Beating the Buzzer on a Tight Deadline

Just as basketball players often need to beat the buzzer with a last second shot to win, the contractors completing the NBA’s second-largest renovation ever needed a big score for a buzzer beater of their own – completing phase I of the $192.5 million Philips Arena renovation in time for the 2017 season.

The Atlanta Hawks announced the major renovation of the Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta in June 2017. The three-phase project involves rebuilding the structure’s interior from the roofline to the baseline, as well as making major changes to the arena configuration. The result will be new amenities on every level of the arena, a tremendous amount of open, connected space, new video boards, improved sightlines and the first bar ever on an NBA playing floor.

The first phase was chiefly demolition focused, requiring, among other things, removing a six-level wall of suites on the arena’s west side to make room for many of the improvements. Not only did the phase involve demolishing almost 3,000 tons of concrete, it needed to be done in just 12 weeks to be ready for the new basketball season and upcoming concerts.

The project’s general contractor hired Atlanta, Georgia-based demolition contractor SSD Demolition and Environmental. The contractor was chosen largely due to its proposal of using innovative remote-controlled demolition machines to speed up the demolition and keep workers safe from flying concrete and fall risks. Use of the robots would also free up the general contractor’s crane to work on other parts of the project.

The contractor purchased two Brokk 160 remote-controlled demolition machines to execute their plan. SSD had rented the machines for past projects and knew that purchasing would be a worthwhile investment.

SSD used the Brokk machines for about four weeks to completely remove the suites’ walls. SSD also used the machines to complete additional architectural and structural demolition of major arena components. This included removing concrete slabs and foundations as well as modifying raker beams and stairs.

In September 2017, after 74 days of work, SSD wrapped up its portion of the project, three days ahead of schedule. In total, the contractor recycled 2,760 tons of concrete from nine arena levels.

Overall phase I construction was completed in late October — just in time for an Eagles concert and for basketball season to begin. With phase two in its infancy, the entire project is scheduled for completion during the 2018-19 basketball season, coinciding with the Hawks’ 50th anniversary in Atlanta.


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