Friday, 23 March 2012

Precious precious blocks..

I went to check on progress of the Dorset Towers demolition today - it's coming along nicely, tonnes and tonnes of precious imperial measure concrete blocks are being pulled down and crushed and sent for landfill. It will be all over in a couple of days.

Saving a handful of blocks for us to use has proved too tricky for the demolition company, and when you see the scale of the operation, I can kind of understand. It's a bit frustrating though, to see intact and re-usable blocks lying in a heap, just begging to be salvaged.

Meanwhile, we are concentrating on finding some from residential buildings - I have three sites on the go at present, hopefully I'll have something positive to report in the next week or so.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

It was going to be so straightforward..

You know how I said, like, 3 hours ago, that these blocks were ours for the taking?

Well, the owner of the house (rightly) checked with her insurance company about us picking up those blocks. Just to keep everything above board. BUT technically, those blocks belong to the insurance agency. And, you guessed it, they don't want to just give them to us. In order for us to drive up and load those blocks on to a truck and take them away we have to get our Project Manager to put in writing:

1. How many blocks will be removed, and
2. A site safety plan outlining the procedure for collecting the blocks and any safety measures which will be put in place during the operation.

Seriously. Do you see those blocks up there? A site-safety plan? They aren't even on the property. Sheesh .

Two steps forward, one step back.

Woman on a mission...

You say you need salvaged concrete blocks? I'll salvage them...

Since our discovery last week of the need for old blocks, Matt and I have hauled out any re-usable ones from the garden around the house:

And I am on a mission to find some from other people's houses.

I drove past this Warren & Mahoney house yesterday, spoke to the owner today, and will hopefully be collecting these beauties tomorrow:

Not sure if we will manage to salvage any from the Dorset Towers - the man I spoke to on Friday was very helpful, but the foreman today told me that they were going to grind all the blocks as they come off, so wouldn't be able to put any aside. Poo.

I'm still going to loiter around there over the next few days and see what I can get..

Friday, 16 March 2012

And so the shit begins...

Oh, it was going to be so simple! How hard can replacing a few concrete blocks be? Surely they are readily available? Aren't lots of people using concrete blocks nowadays?

So a bricklayer knocked on my door earlier this week - just wanting to check if there was any extra damage following the aftershocks we had in June 2010 and December 2010. I showed him round, he commented that there were a couple of extra cracks, but nothing significant. I casually commented that I presumed there was no issue getting replacement concrete blocks.... to which he replied - "not at all, but they are slightly smaller than these ones - they're metric now, which means they are 5mm shorter in height and length and depth, but you won't be able to tell the difference".

Ah, excuse me?

The proportions and dimensions of our entire house were based around the dimensions of the concrete block - do you see how the windows upper and lower edges align exactly with the concrete blocks? Not to mention the detail on the sloping edge of the gables. Dude, seriously? I asked him about recycling other blocks from older houses but he dismissed the idea, saying they would be too fragile. Don't worry, he re-iterated, you won't be able to tell.

So I discussed it with the project manager, who confirmed that the replacement blocks would be smaller, and suggested we could put in new windows so that they lined up. Hmmm.

Not Happy.

I phoned the three main salvage companies in Christchurch - one of which had any imperial blocks, one of them took my details and said they'd phone if any came in.

Then, I emailed an ex- Warren & Mahoney man who was more than happy to offer some advice earlier today. He categorically dismissed the idea of using metric blocks, agreeing that is would totally destroy the architectural merit of the building. His suggestions?

1. Carefully numbering the remaining blocks which still need to come down (we have to remove and replace the gables down to the level of the first floor), so that they can be replaced exactly.
2. Retrieving as many unbroken blocks as possible from around the house (many of which were intact after the main earthquake, but have subsequently been damaged by erection of scaffolding and some site clearance).
3. Find a source of recycled blocks.

I drove from the meeting straight to this place:

Found a man onsite who directed me to the name of man whose name was on the demolition company sign outside. I phoned him 20 minutes later, explained I needed about 100 of the blocks from the outside. He said he was so busy he'd forget our conversation in about an hour, but if I turn up next week when the diggers are there, he will put a pile aside for me to take away and clean up.

Let's see.