Working above the clouds required meticulous focus and communication between the signal men and cran

Working above the clouds required meticulous focus and communication between the signal men and crane operators.

Construction just wrapped up on 432 Park Avenue, a high-rise residential tower in the heart of Manhattan, New York. Topping out at 1,396 feet, the building is now New York City’s second tallest building (the third tallest in the U.S.), and for a short time, will be the tallest residential building in the world. After it is overtaken by new construction in the Middle East, it will still remain the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.

A 26.5-ton Potain MR 415 tower crane was one of the project’s most important tools. The extreme heights called for an electric tower crane with an excellent climbing package, high capacity, and most importantly, a fast line speed. 432 Park Avenue is the largest building ever constructed with an electric tower crane.

La Grange, N.Y.-based Roger & Sons Concrete handled the lifting work on the project. The father-and-son run company specifically chose the MR 415 after seeing it work on other high-profile projects.

As Tony Rodrigues explained, the company wanted to make use of the MR 415’s electric power and high line speeds that can hit speeds approaching 900 feet per minute.

“When you’re picking loads off of a NYC street and lifting them 700 feet or more in the air, a quick line speed and sturdy winch can really cut down on the amount of time spent on the job,” said Rodrigues. “Since the construction was scheduled around the crane’s ability to lift, this meant the entire project was completed sooner.”

The company began using the MR 415 on the project in September of 2012. At that point, the building had risen to 320 feet, with another 1,076 feet yet to be constructed. After using the crane to remove another crane that had been used at the beginning of the construction, Roger & Sons Concrete set about lifting 90 foot-long rebar beam cages and 9-ton rebar column cages that were filled with components for the building.

Rigged with 98 feet of jib, the picks weighed up to 24 tons, and many of the loads were placed at a 72-foot radius (leaving free a remaining 27 feet of the crane’s available radius). The use of rebar cages meant the company could optimize each pick, lifting several items for the construction at once, rather than in separate lifts. Typically, the crane was set up with 210 feet of tower, and it climbed up in the building with an internal climbing system as work progressed.

Near the completion of the project, the MR 415 was some 1,500 feet above the street. At that time, line speed became crucial to the success of the project. At speeds approaching 900 feet per minute, the MR 415 was able to quickly lift loads to the top of the construction.

“Line speed is where you really need performance when working at this height,” said Rodrigues. “The line speed of the MR 415 reduced a lot of time that would have been spent lifting on this project. It was important that the crane replicate the speed at which we had seen it work on other projects in the city and for us, it did deliver.”

The 215 LBR 120 winch that is fitted on the Potain MR 415 is what gives the crane impressive line speeds. When working in single fall, this hoisting unit can lift loads of 2.6 tons at speeds of 840 feet per minute. Another useful feature of the 215 LBR 120, especially on high-rise projects such as 432 Park Avenue, is its ability to accommodate up to 1,903 feet of rope on the drum.

Tricky lifts

The lifts for 432 Park Avenue were particularly tricky. The close proximity of adjacent buildings (as with all projects in New York City) was a constant challenge. And when the operator rose to 1,500 feet in the air – above the clouds – he could not see the loads he was picking from the street below. Roger & Sons Concrete relied on both careful communication and the crane’s precision control to complete the lifts.

The 215 horsepower-rated electric winch on the Potain MR 415 ensures acceleration and deceleration run smoothly. This gave the operator from Roger & Sons Concrete much closer control and more precise positioning for the project.

“Every load was a ‘critical pick’ for us on this project,” said Rodrigues. “Sometimes there were obstacles only 20- to 30-feet from where we had to lift. But our certified signal men, along with licensed crane operators, kept in constant communication, and in the end, the accuracy of the MR 415 ensured smooth, efficient operation with no errors.”

Working at such great heights, the choice to use an electric tower crane over diesel-fueled tower crane provided several benefits, Rodrigues explained.

“The electric MR 415 was great in the cold – we never had to worry about the engine not starting due to temperature and altitude,” he said. “Also, we didn’t have to lift 500 gallon aerial fueling tanks for fueling the crane or 55 gallon drums of oil for maintenance tasks, which really saved time, and ultimately, money on the project.”

Using an electric crane was also a more environmental choice, keeping with the company’s green efforts, Rodrigues added.

Roger & Sons Concrete purchased the crane from Transport Equipment Sales, a JF Lomma Company. Rodrigues said the company felt confident purchasing from Lomma because of its success with Potain tower cranes. Also, he said, the company was encouraged by the Manitowoc Crane Care service offered from Manitowoc and Lomma.

“Manitowoc’s Crane Care service is on call 24/7, and that was part of our decision to purchase the Potain MR 415,” he explained. “Down time is money and when we pick up the phone, someone has to answer and resolve the problem for us. This was our first time working with an electric tower crane and in the beginning we had some questions and other issues to resolve – Manitowoc Crane Care service walked us through and even sent someone out to make sure things went well.”

Lifting work was completed on the tower in October 2014. A topping out party included the unveiling of a 30- by 50-foot American flag on the top of the building. The finished structure towers over its Manhattan neighbors, helping to usher in the era of “supertalls,” buildings taller than the typical skyscrapers that have been constructed during the last 100 years.

The cost of the epic project totals some $1.2 billion, and the building’s penthouse – a six-bedroom, seven-bath apartment with a library – has already sold for $95 million. Among the 89-story building’s lavish amenities will be 12-foot-tall ceilings, golf training facilities, private dining rooms and private screening rooms. It’s due to open this Spring.

The building has a 90- by 90-foot footprint from base to roof. It was constructed “Chicago Style,” meaning without a façade or solid walls. The frame was built in concreted columns, to which windows were popped in. It was constructed on the former site of the famed Drake Hotel, which was demolished to make way for new development.

The building was designed by Rafael Viñoly, an Uraguayan architect, for SLCE Architects. He described the inspiration for its design as “the purest geometric form: the square.” Included are 104 condominium apartments. The main contractor on the project is Sydney, Australia-based Lend Lease.

“432 Park Avenue is by far the tallest building we’ve ever done lifting work for,” said Rodrigues. “There were days we were above the clouds. We could see for miles. The sunrises and sunsets were priceless.”

Roger & Sons Concrete was founded in 1976 by Acacio Rodrigues and his three sons, Joseph, Tony and Manny Rodrigues. It has been based in La Grange since 1998 and is still run by the family. The company began with constructing house foundations and shopping centers, and in just 38 years, made its way to working on high-profile job sites like World Trade Center Tower 4 and 432 Park Avenue. Currently, the company has another tower crane, a Potain MR 418, working on World Trade Center Tower 3.

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