1. Determine the project’s scope
Every project begins with analysis of the job specifications and site conditions. This includes contingency plans for dealing with unforeseeable factors and changing conditions. “A project bid during the summer may be delayed until the rainy fall or winter season, and that can change the site conditions and, with it, the materials and environmental controls that are required,” Ironwood’s chief operating officer, Tim Pope, says.
2. Mobilize resources
“If we are successful with the bid and win the job, then we mobilize the needed equipment to do the job,” Pope says. Ironwood owns 90 percent of its equipment fleet, and the remaining 10 percent is leased on an as-needed basis. It also maintains a list of qualified subcontractors in the regions where it works.
3. Mobilize personnel
More important than heavy equipment is the personnel required to operate it—and the safety of the personnel. “This is an extremely dangerous business, and we work hard to make sure everyone at the site is protected,” Pope says. “We want employees to take great pride in working safe. We make sure that our entire team is committed to safety first.”
If Ironwood is working as the primary contractor, the firm must make sure its subcontractors are up-to-date on safety practices and standards. “Everyone is scrutinizing your safety record,” Pope says. “Maintaining the highest safety standards and demonstrating a commitment to training and certifications through OSHA is how we differentiate ourselves from other contractors.”
4. Prepare the site for minimal environmental impact
“Regardless of the state or local jurisdiction, environmental controls are critical to any land clearing or excavation project,” Pope says. “We are charged with protecting sensitive areas.”
Of special concern are projects in or near wetlands. “What we’re seeing is the requirement for more and more matting to keep compaction of soil to a minimum,” he says. For that reason, Ironwood owns more than 7,500 solid-timber mats measuring 8’ x 14’ or 16’ that are laid down at a site where heavy machinery will operate. Silt screens and fences are usually required, too, to keep loose dirt from eroding off the site into natural bodies of water and storm-water systems.
5. Identify underground structures
Underground structures are a major concern on any land-clearing project. “We always contact local municipalities and utilities to make sure we are aware of all known structures such as underground utilities and pipelines,” Pope says.
However, there can be undocumented underground structures—such as fuel and septic tanks—especially on private property. “Sometimes the only person who knows about it is the owner or contractor that installed it 40 years ago, and we have to try and find that person,” Pope says. “We have to be very aware and cautious at all times.”
6. Clear the land
When the actual work begins, it typically starts with the deployment of hydro-ax mowers to cut down brush and small trees up to four inches in diameter. This is followed by bunchers—excavators with cutting heads—that cut, gather, and stack larger trees. A skid steer moves the trees to a location on the site where they are processed using either a grinder or a chipper.
7. Recycle the material
Ironwood’s environmental stewardship includes recycling 100 percent of the organic material removed from a site. “We try to find a market for it, whether it’s wood to be burned for fuel or mulch used for landscaping and erosion control,” Pope says. ABQ