Sparks, a Bobcat and Man vs. Concrete – 09/17/12

Sep 17, 2012

Sparks flying in U-Haul NBC-Nabisco Detroit building showroom

That sounds like the title of a reality show. “Coming this Fall, ‘Sparks, a Bobcat and Man vs. Concrete,’ who will come out alive?” While reality shows like to claim they’re “real,” we all know they’re usually more fiction than fact. But “Sparks, a Bobcat and Man vs. Concrete” truly sums up what went on this week at U-Haul Moving and Storage of Detroit.


Fuel-oil pipe flame

Sparks were flying as we finished prepping the showroom for construction. We removed everything that was hanging on the wall in the showroom – conduit, steel, water pipes, steam pipes – anything in our way was cut off the wall. As a result, we created quite a light show.

A welder was cutting off an old fuel-oil pipe which lit up like a torch because it still had some fuel oil in it. No one was ever in any danger, but it WAS something to see.  Would have loved to have caught that one on video, but we weren’t expecting it!


Lowering bobcat into U-Haul NBC-Nabisco building showroom

Last week we had to deal with coyotes outside. This week we had to deal with a Bobcat in the showroom. Not the four-legged kind, the four-wheeled kind. We lowered a Bobcat (skip loader) into the showroom—and if you’ve ever seen one of these, they’re not small and they’re pretty heavy, so you can imagine how much “fun” that was.

Bobcat clearing pavers and debris from U-Haul NBC-Nabisco Detroit building showroom

First, we had to remove the loading dock platform and “open up” the outside wall. We brought in scaffolding and ramps which we used to create a pathway to drive the Bobcat down into the showroom.

We used the Bobcat to remove the pavers on the concrete showroom floor. This cut almost a week off of our demo schedule. The concrete floor is where the metal bracing for the showroom floor will be attached. Core samples show that the floor is 13′ thick, which is really thick. We think the room was probably the boiler room for the steam system. There were no boilers in the room when we took possession of the building, but we did find a boiler placard in the room.

Man vs. Concrete

Excavator opening up exterior wall to U-Haul NBC-Nabisco Detroit building showroom

We finished the demo of the dumbwaiter from the showroom, but it was tougher than we thought. Taking down the steel dumbwaiter went according to plan, but removing the concrete platform floor was a different story. Our original contractor had limited resources and their crew tackled the problem with a jackhammer. The decades-old concrete was winning the man vs. concrete battle; it was very hard and wasn’t going away without a fight. U-Haul project manager Tony Balcerzak called in the big dogs, K&K Concrete of Belleville, Mich., to deliver the knockout punch. K&K brought in a 30-foot excavator, which made quick work of tearing out the platform, and of opening up the exterior loading dock wall.

Column and I-beams in U-Haul NBC-Nabisco Detroit building showroom

All that’s left now are two steel beams that are bracing a column that is going to have to stay for the structural integrity of the showroom.

We still have some cleanup to do. Crews worked until late-thirty Wednesday night and worked through the weekend to be ready to begin erecting the floor this week. And that’s pretty exciting, because once we get the floor in, we’ll be a lot closer to opening the center.

More on the elevators

Draining South Elevator Sump

Detroit Elevator is making good progress on the south (switch-car) elevator. A new governor cable is on order and should be here today or tomorrow. The pit in the south elevator was full of water. We emptied it and replaced the sump pump.

The elevator crew blew a rectifier while working on the north elevator. They had two people working on the seventh floor who had to walk all the way down because they couldn’t get the elevator running. They brought in their ace troubleshooter, Dennis Hubert, who is THE GUY…with 40 years of elevator-maintenance experience with the company.

Detroit Elevator Ace Troubleshooter Dennis Hubert

Anytime something like this happens, they bring Dennis in to troubleshoot and fix the problem. He really cares about his job and loves challenges. If Dennis hears about a problem that everyone else says can’t be fixed, that’s what he wants to work on. Dennis is a U-Haul kind of guy.

We learned a bit of elevator trivia from Dennis. When elevators began to be installed in Detroit, they were numbered in succession. The elevators in our building are numbered 2050 and 2051.

Did you know that the first electric elevator was built by Werner von Siemens in 1880?

Here’s a fun idea for a game: Detroit elevator scavenger hunt. Next time you’re in an elevator, try to find its number and snap a picture. What’s the lowest you can find or have seen? Does your building have elevators with lower numbers? We’d love to know about the earliest elevator installed in Detroit!

Stay tuned. Next update 9/24.


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