Climbing Fragile Church Spire for Restoration
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?
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.
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.
- 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
from Case Studies
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.
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.
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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