Concrete, steel from parking garage to find new life through recycling

single-meta-cal March 16, 2022

Huntsville’s Municipal Parking Garage A is no more. Demolition crews with large machinery have torn the structure down to its foundation to make way for a new City Hall with an adjoining parking garage.

Large machinery moves pieces of concrete and steel at the site of the former parking garage. The Huntsville administrative building can be seen in the background.

Crews demolish the former Municipal Parking Garage A to make room for a new Huntsville City Hall. Materials from the garage will be recycled and reused for future applications.

Heaps of broken concrete and twisted metal have been loaded onto dump trucks and taken to the Solid Waste Disposal Authority (SWDA) of Huntsville. That’s not the end of the road for those materials, however. In the case of the concrete remnants, the road is just beginning.

“We’re recycling the concrete material,” said Ricky Wilkinson, Director of General Services for the City of Huntsville. “It will be crushed and can be used as base material for temporary roads or anywhere you might use gravel.”

A recycled idea

The idea of recycling building materials is unique and environmentally friendly, but not rare. Wilkinson said it’s become more common because recycling processes have improved.

A piece of machinery picks up remnants of the municipal parking garage under a blue sky. The Madison County Courthouse can be seen in the background.

With the parking garage demolished, it’s easier to see other downtown buildings. Site work on the new Huntsville City Hall can begin when debris from the garage is gone.

“The equipment required for breaking up concrete is more reasonably priced, so it’s more common now,” he said.

The rebar and protective guardrails from the garage will be melted down at a recycling center in Birmingham and reused in future applications. Brandon Tucker, project executive for City Hall contractor Turner Construction Company, said most structural steel is recycled.

“That’s how most metal producers in the U.S. develop their products,” he said. “Rebar in concrete may have been a car part that was melted down and used again. The steel quality is as good or better than virgin steel because it has to meet so many strength requirements.”

More importantly, the scrap isn’t taking up space in a landfill, which Tucker said is a big benefit to Huntsville residents.

“This job has more recyclable content than usual because it’s a concrete structure,” he said. “When you have materials that can’t be reused, disposal fees add up and it impacts the landfill. It’s not good for the taxpayer or the contractor.”

Looking ahead

Both Wilkinson and Tucker said the demolition project moved quickly, thanks to a prolonged period of good weather. Once the last of the concrete and metal are hauled away, sitework on the new City Hall can begin.

“Pretty soon, we’ll have a building coming out of the ground, and one that will be a lasting legacy,” Tucker said.

Construction on the new City Hall could begin to go vertical in May or June. The project is on schedule to be completed by 2024.

There’s a sense of excitement about the project among Turner Construction employees, Tucker said, because so many employees are part of the Huntsville community. Because of that connection, they’re taking pride in the project.

“We’re all local,” he said. “Our work is downtown, but on weekends you’ll find us downtown enjoying everything the community has to offer.”

Click here to learn more about Huntsville’s future City Hall.