Beyond the Build

Tips from the Field

The Canary’s Successor

We are ramping up for construction of the new headquarters for the Alabama Moving Image Association, the non-profit that produces Birmingham’s nationally acclaimed Sidewalk Film Festival. Their space is located within and below the recently redeveloped Pizitz building and near The Lyric Theatre and Thomas Jefferson Tower, projects we recently finished in the city’s theater district.

Perhaps the most difficult part of this project is excavating 8’ into bedrock below an existing building. Pollution, both of the noise and air variety, become a concern.

When I heard our project manager talking about their means and methods for working beneath the Pizitz Food Hall, it reminded me of  the “canary in the coal mine” carbon monoxide monitoring system used for decades by coal miners, until phased out in the early ‘80s. Canaries have been replaced with more technical monitoring. Here’s what we are doing to eliminate the exhaust fumes, control dust and keep everyone safe:

  • Construct containment around each of the excavation areas within site.
  • Place Hepa-Aire Portable Air Scrubbers, 2400 CFM to clean the air.
  • Funnel air into the sub-basement beneath our work where, after being cleaned, it will be exhausted to the atmosphere.
  • Install Omniguard Differential Pressure Recorder both inside the containment area and at the release point in the sub-basement, alerting our crews if toxic levels reach unsafe conditions.
  • Require all equipment, both inside and outside of the containment area, to have integral scrubbers or be 100% electric.
  • Work from 1 am to 10 am to minimize the disruption and vibration to the food hall above.

While there are no canaries, all will be safe in and around this construction site.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.