There are some buildings that we take for granted because they’ve always been there, especially a unique structure like the Seattle Space Needle. It’s so iconic, that tourists seem to think it’s illegal NOT to take a picture of it when they visit Seattle. The 605 foot (184.41m) tall structure (to the tip of the antenna) houses a rotating restaurant on top and one of the best views of the city in its observation deck (520ft, 160m).
Completed in 1961, just in time for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle was actually the tallest building in the State of Washington until 1969. The entire construction process took just under 8 months.
Although it’s one of the most heavily photographed buildings in America today, very few photos of the actual construction process were ever discovered. For 50 years, historian George Gulacsik had thousands of pictures of the under construction structure stashed away in a closet and they were just recently found two years ago. Since then, the photos have been donated to the Seattle Public Library by his wife, Sally. The Library then converted the photographs to digital copies and made them all available for download online.
It’s truly incredible to have so many amazing pictures of how structures were built back in the early 60’s. Equally as amazing is how many processes look roughly the same, minus a few technological advances here and there. I can personally guarantee that there were far less smartphones on this job site than a typical one today. There’s even one picture of an excavator that looks very similar to the one an Indianapolis man has in his historical construction equipment collection.
We chose a handful of our personal favorites to share in this article, but you can check out the thousands of others in the gallery by clicking here. As you’ll see in the photos, other than hard hats, there’s virtually no safety equipment worn by the workers. Even so, there were no worker deaths during the entire project.
The first three months of the project were spent (unsurprisingly) excavating the site, pouring the foundation, constructing the core, and installing the Needle’s leg bases. The lot where the space needle was to sit was only 120 feet by 120 feet, so the foundation had to start 30 feet below grade. 467 concrete trucks were used to pour roughly 2,800 cubic yards of concrete for the foundation, which also included over 250 tons of steel rebar.
The first leg of the Space Needle was lifted into place on July 19, 1961, by Pacific Car and Foundry Derricks. Inspectors used x-ray equipment to make sure that all of the welds were properly installed at the end of the night. Most of the ironworkers on site made under $4.00 per day, which is roughly $31.74 in 2016 dollars, according to dollartimes.com. That’s an extremely small amount for the dangers of that job.
In October, the structure reached a height of 450 feet before the iconic “halo” was installed on top of the legs. Once the gas torch was installed at the Needle’s highest point on December 8, the workers installed an American flag on top and held a ceremony to commemorate the event. 6 days later, the flag was replaced with a Christmas tree by a man dressed as Santa Claus.
For more information about the construction of the Space Needle, you can even download George Gulascik’s notebook, in which he documented daily milestones of the project. That’s some serious dedication.
Concrete is an extremely strong building material, but has a notoriously weak tensile strength. In order to resist tension, bending, and shear forces, steel rebar or other reinforcement materials are added either prior to the placement or into the mix. Even with reinforcement, concrete is still extremely rigid and prone to cracking. In the event of a major earthquake, the uneven and horizontal forces can cause structures to crack and, in the worst case, cause failure.
Construction Safety is talked about constantly. There are many construction companies that take it very seriously. There are also many that don’t. All will say it’s their top priority.
So what can a city do that’s facing regular worker deaths and increases in workplace injuries? New York City has decided to require extensive safety training for all of the 185,000 construction workers in the city.
Modular building makes a lot of sense: build repetitive structures in a controlled, factory-like setting and transport to the project site and assemble. It should be a more efficient and less expensive way to construct a building, but the truth is, it’s a lot harder than it looks. There’s also no written standard for doing it.
Masonry workers, specifically brick and block masons, have been around for centuries and are one of the construction industries oldest professions. Before blocks were prefabricated and purchased, masons had to cut the material by hand before placing. Recently, robotic brick and block placing robots have threatened to take some jobs away from human masons, but that technology is still a long way away from making a huge impact on the profession
The immense technological growth the construction industry has seen in the past decade has been a refreshing change, to say the least. Fax machines, large filing cabinets, and redundant work are slowly becoming a thing of the past. More importantly, software developers are actually paying attention to the construction industry, making our lives collectively easier, while giving us more data to make better decisions. Bluebeam, maker of one of the industry’s favorite construction document software, has recently announced a wireless digital sensor specifically for under construction buildings.
Portable toilets are the setting for many pranks around a construction site, but I never thought there could be something worse than just getting stuck in one. Turns out I was extremely wrong, because a worker in New Orleans was run over by a dump truck while using the port-a-john.
Electricians are very essential to every single construction project, but it's also one of the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry, According to OSHA, electrocutions cause almost 9% of all construction related deaths, making it one of the group's Fatal Four. Generally, an electrician in the United States falls under 1 of 3 categories: apprentice, journeyman, and master, but this data compiles all of those levels into one category. It's also important to note that utility line installers are not included in this category.
At last week’s National Safety Council Congress & Expo, OSHA’s deputy director of Directorare of Enforcement Programs, Patrick Kapust, announced their 10 most frequesntly cited safety violations for their fiscal year 2017, reports the National Safety Council.
Smaller heavy construction equipment is the most likely to be stolen on a jobsite, but most of the time the thieves try to sell the equipment for money. On rare occasions, the thief just takes the machine out on the town for a joy ride and leading the police on some pretty frustrating pursuits. Early last year, a man in Florida stole a backhoe and lead police on a wild 3 hour chase as the hammer attachment drug along the asphalt throwing sparks the whole way. Just last week, police dash cam footage showed an 18 year old backing over a police cruiser, with an officer still inside, and then leading several other officers on a slow chase.
The Seattle Space Needle is not a normal building, which makes it a unique project to try to renovate. The iconic building is set to receive a $100 million renovation dubbed the Century Project that promises much better views thanks to new floor to ceiling exterior glazing. To prepare for the project, construction crews recently hoisted a 28.000 pound ring of scaffold to the tower’s Tophouse, around 400 feet in the air.