Climbing Fragile Church Spire for Restoration

Case Study:

How to Install Netting on a 215-Foot Historical Church Spire

What was the challenge?

The Arch Street United Methodist Church on North Broad Street is a historic church built in 1870 in downtown Philadelphia. After 155 years, the stone structure proved to be crumbling and portions of the stonework were falling down. The defects were discovered during an inspection of the central spire that identified its many weak points. The church was committed to restoring the spire because its soaring presence above the city serves as a beacon to the community and a landmark of the Philadelphia skyline. The first restoration step was to secure the steeple while funds were raised for the repairs.

The crew’s safety and the steeple structure were the primary considerations when installing protective wrapping around the spire. The team evaluated several options, including hiring a crane with a hanging basket. This was not the best option due to the risk of the free-swinging basket hitting the stonework: a basket at that height is subject to instability and high winds, especially in the Philadelphia winter.

A second option was to access the spire through the roof hatch. Accessing the steeple with teams of climbers could damage the loose stonework and would be a slip risk to the team. The third option was to build scaffolding, allowing stonemasons to access the steeple. It would have cost $300,000 and irreparably damaged the historic stone façade. Scaffolding must be drilled into the stone at short intervals causing irreversible damage and driving up the restoration price.

What was the solution?

The industrial climbing team used by the engineers for the restoration project, engaged Alpha Platforms to provide a safe and cost-effective solution to their extreme height access problem.
An A-300 lift was utilized both to inspect the roof and allow the crew to install protective netting around the steeple without making contact with the building. The secured netting eliminated the risk of falling stones and debris crashing to the ground.
The service provided to the church was all-inclusive, supplying a full-time IPAF-Certified lift operator, a road closure permit, and traffic management.
The specs of our state-of-the-art A-300 lift:

What was the outcome?

Installing the netting around the steeple took just three days in February 2021. The full-time operator navigated the cage around the steeple using a 32-foot-long jib boom. The 12-foot-long basket gave the crew ample working space while still enabling access to all sides of the steeple during the netting installation.

Alpha Platforms’ highly trained crew and superior extreme height access ensured the netting was installed safely and at a reasonable cost.

All this was accomplished while the A-300 remained in the same parking spot next to the church. As if that capability wasn't incredible enough, the work was conducted during a major snowstorm through wind and sleet that did not affect the basket’s stability.

Our precise German-made lifts have become the height access method of choice for those who try them, as they combine unmatched productivity, safety, and reach.
Notable 300 Foot Boom Lift Capabilities
  • 12-foot extra large cage
  • 1,168 lbs lifting capacity for crew, equipment, and materials
  • Cage rotation 2 x 84°
  • Side reach up to 106 feet
  • Unique "under and up" or "up and over and back" access
  • Smooth controlled motions to move close to and around glass and fragile structures
  • Jib length 31’6’’
  • Parking in tight spaces 8’6’’ wide

Alpha Platforms has helped hundreds of teams like yours

Customer Testimonials
from Case Studies

Mike P.
Building restoration services family business owner

We wanted to give it a try and see what this boom truck could do. We loved the idea of a wide basket that could reach up to 30 feet and get to the brick wall over the roof. The main reason we loved the truck was how it maneuvered the boom to lower the bricks inside a dumpster, which was located behind the truck. It saved us at least one extra day of work. It all went great.

Joseph A.
Head stone mason, national cathedral

The project was performed successfully, and we were really glad to have contactless means of reaching the building, as we all know that pipe scaffold might damage the structure, in this case, very very sensitive.

Jason A.
Director of operations, family-owned regional electrical services provider

Alpha has the most efficient and leanest site setup time I’ve ever seen. My brother, who is the top climber of our group, first struggled to understand how this cage could go around the tower better than the crane - and when it did the whole 360°, he became a believer. Also, each laborer said how incredibly safe they felt - very different from the small crane basket. We were able to secure and push back the panels in place without the basket ever moving.

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