Skyscrapers; towering structures that seem ingrained into the landscape. Immovable, indestructible, permanent. That is of course, until they need to be demolished. How does a giant landmark go from a permanent fixture, to vanishing completely?

The Demolition Process

We’ve all seen the videos of controlled demolitions; when a giant structure seems to freefall into itself, imploding into a cloud of dust. It lasts seconds – but the whole process, from planning and planting explosives to the implosion itself, can take months.

That’s because, although it’s the first thing most people think of when they hear the word “demolition”, implosions are extremely dangerous. They’re a last resort method of demolition, when no other method will work. Skyscrapers are usually in densely packed urban areas, so getting permission to implode one is going to be difficult or impossible.

So how do you bring hundreds of feet of building down safely?

Top to Bottom or Bottom to Top?

The other way to take a building down is to painstakingly dismantle it, piece by piece, from top to bottom. It’s as laborious a process as it sounds, and takes longer to plan and execute than most methods.

It’s not even that safe. Imagine the working environment: high up and exposed, in a building gutted and defenseless to fire, with limited means of escape as sections are removed. Not ideal.

Another technique – the Daruma Otoshi method – works the opposite way around. The ground and basement levels are replaced with unfathomably powerful hydraulic jacks, which slowly move the structure down. Then, sections of each floor are removed and replaced with a hydraulic support.

Slowly but surely, the entire building is dismantled floor by floor, from the bottom. It’s a much safer and more methodical way to manually dismantle a building.

The tallest building ever taken apart manually was the 187 metre (614 feet) Singer Building in New York City, in 1968. So how exactly would the Burj Khalifa, at 830 metres (2,723 feet), be deconstructed?

Nobody knows yet.

Bringing down the Burj Khalifa would be likely to involve a very carefully planned and executed implosion. Manually taking the building apart up that high would subject workers to extreme conditions – and there aren’t enough hydraulic jacks in the world to support a building of that mass.

There are some minor neighbouring buildings, but they’d probably have to be sacrificed to bring the Burj down.

Cleaning Up the Mess

Demolition waste management is an important part of the planning process. There’s an awful lot of material to dispose of in a building.

The first phase would come before the demolition, gutting the building and salvaging valuable parts and materials intact (like copper wiring and plumbing). If the building is manually deconstructed, then the waste concrete, steel and other materials can be stored, sorted and processed on site before being gradually taken away in smaller loads.

Alternatively, all materials can be taken off site to be stored and processed, if space is an issue. Imploded buildings will come down all at once, so the cleanup can only begin once the building is down – and can take months to complete.

At Valley Trading, we operate specialist site clearance services, which can be tailored to requirements. And all the waste we recover goes to our recycling facility, where we hold an impressive recycling rate of 95%. Let’s talk about managing construction and demolition waste on your projects.

Construction Waste Management Experts

For further information across any of our construction waste management or site clearance services, please contact us today – call 01666 505800 or email us at For demolition contractors, contact our parent company Hughes and Salvidge on 0808 231 3447.