Mark Loizeaux has imploded some 2,000 structures in his four-plus decades with Controlled Demolition Inc., which was started by his late father, John. Mark has taken down cooling towers, arenas, stadiums, bridges, tall and short buildings, steel frames and concrete frames—all over the planet.
But none of his previous jobs match the implosion of the structurally ailing, 379.9-ft-tall Ocean Tower project in South Padre Island, Texas. After more than six months of intense preparation, CDI dropped that building successfully on Dec. 13, without injuries or incidents.
The topped-out, half-clad and partly furnished condominium tower was as close to a stumper as they come because it was a distressed, unstable hybrid structure. There was ongoing differential settlement between the unbonded post-tensioned concrete section at the base and the reinforced-concrete tower.
Observers say the failed structural elements looked as if they had been through an earthquake. Responsibility for the problem is the subject of litigation between the owner and the project’s geotechnical and structural engineers.
The distress meant Loizeaux could not rely on the structure’s behavior during the shoot. Beyond that, the site, surrounded by protected dunes, the Gulf of Mexico and roads, was hemmed in. Also, it was only 12 ft to the property line of a residential development.
Imagine Rodin’s “The Thinker.” That was Loizeaux on several occasions during the second half of last year, as he pondered his approach to the implosion. “A good deal of my time was spent sitting on a sand dune, a half mile away, looking at the building,” says Loizeaux. The job “was very provocative mentally,” he adds.
Loizeaux’s experience, expertise and dedication to safety led to the successful controlled demolition of a faulty Texas tower.
Loizeaux, who made eight trips to the site, says he also spoke “endlessly” with his brother and partner, Doug, about the strategy for imploding the building. Loizeaux knew he had to use delayed charges to straighten the slightly listing building, tilt it toward the Gulf and drop it into a pile of well-fractured rubble. But he says he was not sure of the specific timing of the implosion sequence until a week before the event.
“The implosion of Ocean Towers went so smoothly that it was as if we had rehearsed this several times,” says Javiar Vargas, South Padre Island’s assistant chief of police. “This was mainly due to the calm, collected manner of Mark and his experience and expertise.”
Loizeaux is not a stranger to these pages. For his expertise and other accomplishments, ENR has named Loizeaux a Newsmaker four times since 1972.