Concrete cutting, breaking and removal inside UCLA’s Center for the Health Services (CHS) took skill and careful planning to support state-mandated seismic retrofit.

Project Details

Project Type: Concrete Cutting,Concrete Removal
Location: Los Angeles, CA
General Contractor: PCL Construction
Contact: Bill Esaki and Sam Wen

Start Date: August 2012
Finish Date: February 2015
Contract Value: $1,563,000
Contract Type: Fixed Price

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Job Highlights

  • Iconic LA Medical Center undergoing seismic retrofit
  • Demo work on ground floor, create space for enlarging building footings
  • Ground floor slabs need cutting and broken in sections at a sequence, footings then reinforced and concrete poured back first before continuing onto different areas
  • Similar condition on upper floors where shear wall openings are cut & chip out, new shear walls poured back and then continue on to different shear wall openings
  • On the roof, large openings for mechanical work were sawcut and broken in small manageable pieces before dropping to the protected floor below. A lot of safety has to be implemented for fall protection in this process
  • Complete strip-out of upper floors – FFCC performed hard demolition
  • Limited space for ingress and egress of heavy equipment
  • Work closely with PCL to ensure demo completed on-time, each phase of overall retrofit project can continue, as planned
  • Maintain usual strict safety standards to ensure zero accidents
  • Disposal of all materials must meet stringent LEED requirements
  • Work performed within active, busy hospital facility


The University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center holds an important place in the history of the fast-growing metropolis. Opened over 50 years ago, the facility was one of the first medical centers in Los Angeles to be connected with a Medical School, and is the site of many innovations – the existence of AIDS was first detected at UCLA, and the first fetal monitoring technology was rolled out there.Also of historical significance is the requirement in recent decades that buildings in California must be built, or retrofitted to withstand the jarring or shaking caused by earthquakes. That is where Fast Forward Concrete Cutting comes in. Working with prime contractor, PCL, Fast Forward was chosen to provide concrete cutting and removal work in an older section of the medical center, as part of a Seismic Retrofit. Fast Forward worked closely with PCL to schedule its crews and equipment to be available once initial asbestos abatement, and soft demolition work was completed.

The concrete cutting and removal work that the company performed took place in three different areas: the ground floor of the building, including areas where the footings where located, and also office spaces, as well as the upper floors.  Fast Forward Concrete Cutting was able to perform all the work on this project on time, and with a perfect safety record.

The original medical center buildings were built in the 1950s, and as the saying goes, were “built to last”. In order to provide access to the building footings and to allow old under floor utilities to be removed and replaced, Fast Forward cut and removed the slab on grade, utilizing flat saws, bobcats, as well as hand-held concrete breaking equipment.

On the several floors above the ground floor, hazardous materials were removed, and soft demolition – including removal of wood, ceilings, electrical and some plumbing – was performed by another firm. Once this was completed, Fast Forward’s skilled workers could begin the job of cutting and breaking concrete encasing many of the structural steel columns and beams so that seismic reinforcements could later be added.  These reinforcements included adding shear studs to the structural steel within the existing columns and beams and adding concrete shear walls between these columns and beams. In addition, part of the plan for the retrofit was to re-do heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) as well as electrical for the building. The company’s crews had to demo certain areas where old equipment had been installed, and also create new floor and wall openings where the more modern HVAC ducting and equipment could be installed. This work had to be performed on each floor, as well as on the roof.

Work in a busy medical center like UCLA requires that contractors seal off areas where offices remain open, and work during hours of the day (usually late at night, and overnight) when noise won’t disturb employees. Fast Forward crews performed hard demolition in hallways and rooms nearby, and in some cases, right next to, occupied offices. One particular space contained some very old equipment such as steam boilers, and measuring devices, and required creation of new holes in concrete walls and floors where new piping was to be installed. In order to allow the medical center to function normally, Fast Forward crews often worked shifts from late in the evening until early morning. Long experience doing this type of work, however, meant that work was performed on time, and safely.

Although Fast Forward Concrete Cutting has a heritage of doing “eco-friendly” concrete cutting and removal work – since before it was fashionable to even call it that – this job was no exception. The company ensured that nearly all of the waste product was diverted from landfill to a recycling center, as required by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (or LEED) specifications. So far Fast Forward has sent 5,000 tons of concrete to facilities to be 100% recycled.