National Landmark Cathedral Restoration

Case Study:

How to Inspect and Secure Dislodged Roof Pillars at the 230+ Foot National Cathedral without Any Contact with the Building

What was the challenge?

Washington National Cathedral, the majestic gothic cathedral, is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world and the second-largest in the United States. Built over 83 years, its two west towers rise to 234 feet, and the height of the central Gloria in Excelsis Deo tower is 301 feet - the highest point in Washington, D.C. As a result of the 2011 earthquake, the cathedral sustained $34M in damage, especially to its high structures. The client hired civil engineering architects to survey the damage and develop a plan of action. They surveyed that the bottoms of decorative pillars at the top of the building became dislocated, and one of the main pillars was very unsafe. According to the quote of potential contractors, it would be very expensive to set pipe scaffolding ($100k plus) around the roof pillars.

Pipe scaffold has a high risk of wall damage because it requires drilling into the building. After the workers drill into the old natural stone, the stone would need to be repaired or replaced. With only a few providers of natural stone repair materials for historical buildings, Washington Cathedral would have waited for a long time and would have had to spend a lot. Drop scaffolding where ropes go around the roof was not an option: the ropes could damage the intricate roof with decorations.

To further complicate matters, the cathedral was built the medieval way - there was no reinforcement between roof pillar stones making its structure very fragile.

The client hired Alpha Platforms for the contactless reach offered by our truck-mounted aerial platforms that’s especially valuable to fragile or historic buildings.

What was the solution?

To preserve the delicate historic building while reducing the cost of the project, Alpha Platforms deployed the A-230, our unique contactless reach 230-foot boom lift. The project was scheduled for 3-5 days and required lifting two inspectors to survey the damage and secure dislodged pillars.
Our IPAF-certified operator arrived in the morning, quickly set up the boom lift into working position and within 10 minutes was ready to work.
The specs of our state-of-the-art A-230 lift:

What was the outcome?

Due to the 31’ jib and its maneuverability of 2 x 80 degrees, the operator was able to bring inspectors front and back 360 degrees around the pillars and inspect them from just one setup.

To the big surprise of the client, instead of 3-5 days, the Alpha team was able to finish the entire inspection on the second day before lunch.

The client was able to avoid high pipe scaffolding costs, saving multiple tens of thousands of dollars. Our national landmark, Washington Cathedral, was also spared more wall damage and preserved its original stones without having to cover them up for weeks with more scaffolding.

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 230 Foot Boom Lift Capabilities
  • 12-foot extra large cage
  • 1,322 lbs lifting capacity for crew, equipment, and materials
  • Side reach up to 115 feet
  • Jib length 31’6’’
  • Parking in tight spaces 8’6’’ wide
  • Cage rotation 2 x 80°

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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