Deconstruction using clever material management

The demolition ball is a thing of the past. Deconstruction is what the company P & Z based in Viersen call their metier. And that can be taken literally. Brute force is no longer used if a building has to be demolished, but instead it is dismantled bit by bit.

This modern course of action makes it much easier to keep materials that can be used again by separating them directly on site for recycling. This avoids emission, that is to say less noise and dust is produced. An old line of business using modern methods – that is how P & Z has expanded and become well known. A number of spectacular contracts can be credited to the Viersen company ranging from the 101 metre high rise Sparkasse building in the centre of Hagen, the Arena in Düsseldorf, the Cologne trade fair halls to the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus in Bonn. In addition, removing a number of motorway bridges within a short time frame have been amongst other challenging assignments. Today this medium-sized company from Viersen is proud to rank at number 36 amongst the top 100 companies in this sector.    

Red is the company’s colour throughout. Paul Hermann Prangenberg and Peter Zaum founded the company in 1982, and as members of the first generation are still involved in management, although operational business lies in the hands of their sons and the third generation are already bearing responsibility. In other words, a family run company in the best tradition. The founders, one a carpenter and the other a highway construction engineer, got to know each other working together on a common project and joined forces. Their first head office was in Willich and then in 1992 the fast growing company moved to Viersen. Over the last three decades of the company’s history P & Z have understood how to maintain their position as one of the market leaders in the demolition sector. The red excavators and trucks from Viersen, all complying with the latest technical standards, can be found in action throughout Germany. In operation are 57 excavators ranging in weight from five to 140 tons, amongst which is the 3 XXL Longfront-Excavator with a working height of up to 52 metres. 20 trucks transport the rubble and 25 Sprinter minibuses carry the workforce to the demolition sites. Today P & Z have 134 employees and in addition five trainees.

Demolition, the core business, can be for a private garage or an old derelict factory and is all provided for under one roof, whether for deconstruction or blasting. Deciding factors are the current condition of the property and the requirements of the customer and local authorities. In the end there is no pile of rubble left over, but rather a “clean” area ready for a new building. This fits in well with the company slogan “We make room for the future”, and is why it has the affix in its name: Deconstruction, Land Recycling and Waste Disposal.

Bernd Zaum calls this “from beginning to end”, and that includes a lot more than one imagines, particularly since most people’s conception of demolition is generally quite naïve. Before the excavators arrive on the scene a considerable amount of engineering work is required. This covers a wide spectrum such as a survey to determine the load bearing properties of the building or the ground, co-ordination with local authorities and even a comparison with aerial photographs from world war two to check on bomb craters. During deconstruction the relevant building is gutted and virtually reverts back to being a basic shell. Materials accumulated during the process are separated for recycling and the rest is disposed of. The company has specialists who know how to deal with dangerous materials such as PCB in roofing felt or even asbestos. It is of increasing importance in deconstruction work to reduce noise and dust and to approach and inform neighbours affected at all stages of the project. P & Z does not shy away from blasting if it is cheaper and feasible. Rubble can be recycled on the spot, thereby making frequent trips by lorry between the site and the company base unnecessary. P & Z has a stake in several specialist firms such as RRG - Rheinische Recycling GmbH - who are specialists for recycling steel scrap.   

Demolishing inner-city buildings is always particularly challenging logistically. It requires obtaining a range of information such as weather reports, if a traffic diversion is required and even which trade fair is currently taking place. Through the new media many people believe they are better and more quickly informed. Since “Stuttgart 21” (the much criticised renewal of the main station in Stuttgart) the number of angry citizens who are sceptical about deconstruction or new construction has increased. As a result demolition is often seen in a negative light. P & Z take the concerns of citizens seriously. An example of how the company supports the protection of monuments and cultural sites was seen in Cologne. It was there that a wall-relief by the artist Wolfgang Göddertz was to be pulled down, but on the initiative of P & Z it was saved and a new location was found in the centre of Viersen. Nevertheless Bernd Zaum states that “Apart from Cologne Cathedral I will demolish anything”, but added, “If it is meaningful”.

Much original building fabric is no longer energy efficient and does not meet today’s requirements. With their own subsidiary and partners P & Z are moving into the future. And that means not only making room for new developments, but also taking part in the creation of completely new urban districts on onetime wasteland. 


Prangenberg & Zaum GmbH
Vorster Straße 3-9
41748 Viersen

Tel. +49 2162 /93 22-0
Fax +49 2162 / 93 22-50