Ipswich: Demolition business RVA has international ambitions

Richard Vann

Richard Vann - Credit: Archant

Ipswich-based RVA Group is a specialist business, successful yet hardly known outside its own area of expertise.

Now celebrating 20 years in business, RVA, which was started by Richard Vann, has a rapidly growing international reputation.

But what can you do with a disused power station, a close chemical plant or an unwanted block of high rise flats? They have to come down, of course, but safely.

Decommissioning industrial sites has become a key sector for RVA over recent years with projects currently under way in places as far apart as Singapore, Canada, Austria, the Netherlands and Malta.

Managing director Richard Vann is off to the United States shortly to explore the possibilities of setting up an overseas office there while Singapore could become a base for more projects in the Far East.

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“I spend a lot of time away from the office,” he said, “I spend a lot of time on the road visiting clients, and I can also work at home.

“I do spend a lot of time travelling, and collecting air miles. Many of our clients are international and we can pitch for working anywhere. Some of the guys working abroad can be flying twice a month.

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“We have just celebrated our 20th birthday, in November, and we are busier than ever. In the UK we are the market leader by a significant margin. We have taken on some challenging projects in Europe.”

Mr Vann had previously worked for a demolition contractor at a time when projects often went to the company which offered the cheapest price. He decided to set up on his own in 1992.

Sites like chemical plants came with potential hazards, he said, and so needed expert advice.

“There was decontamination and that sort of thing and health and safety problems and I felt there was an opportunity to provide potential clients with specialist engineering support and project management support, a bespoke service.”

So RVA provides expert project management, on site, working both with the owner and their chosen demolition contractor.

Demolition comes with hazards, of course, which have to be managed and minimised both for the contractors and RVA’s own people.

“It is inherently high risk in terms of the safety of the operatives and the safety of the general public,” said Mr Vann.

Every project is different, for some what is required is careful dismantling of the plant and equipment for re-assembly elsewhere.

For others it is about removing the buildings or clearing the site as quickly and safety as possible.

That can also mean using explosives for demolition, in appropriate cases.

“Sometimes they are the best option to take something down for its position. People can be kept a long way from it,” he said.

After building a strong reputation in this country, overseas work has followed. “It has been steady growth over the past 12 years,” he added.

“We have done a lot more work overseas in the past two years. I decided to make a concerted effort to move our service provision overseas.

“We are looking to build good links with clients and have had significant investment in technology, in website design and communications.

“We are working with clients who are often multi-national, if we work with them here, we can work with them anywhere.”

Mr Vann explained: “The nature of our work is particularly complex and a somewhat unusual skill set is required to safely manage the inherently high-hazard projects that we oversee.

“Identifying the best people is therefore not an easy task as we are looking for such highly skilled professionals in their respective fields, be it chemical, structural, mechanical, or civil engineering, for instance.

“However, there is a phenomenal amount of talent out there so now it is a case of hand-picking the industry’s finest and gradually adding the RVA sector specifics to their already highly developed skill sets.”

With a resident project management role on the five-month North American contract, RVA is set to supervise the meticulous dismantling of a complex petrochemical plant, for resale, relocation and re-assembly in Eurasia. Elsewhere other experts are on two large chemical sites in Singapore and the Netherlands to support the client to manage the dismantling of redundant assets that are intertwined with operational plant and services.

Mr Vann added: “As our reputation has grown and our relationships with multinational blue-chip clients have developed, we have steadily secured more overseas work.”

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