Photo Of The Day

Steel worker Carl Russell sits at 1,222 feet on top of a steel beam casually waving to the cameraman, who risks his life climbing into a crane to be able to make this photo. Empire State Building, 1930.

Steel worker Carl Russell sits at 1,222 feet on top of a steel beam casually waving to the cameraman, who risks his life climbing into a crane to be able to make this photo. Empire State Building, 1930.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is a marvel of engineering and architecture, and it occupies a unique place in the history of construction companies and construction management. Not only was the 1453-foot, 103-story structure built in just under 15 months, the construction company that took on the daunting job allegedly began with nothing on hand – no equipment or supplies that would be sufficient for such an enormous undertaking. How they accomplished the task is a case study in early, successful commercial construction management.

The contractors began excavation for the new building in January 1930, even before the demolition of the site’s previous occupant, the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, was complete. The Starrett Brothers had pioneered the simultaneous work of demolition and foundation-laying just a year earlier when building 40 Wall Street, an earlier competitor in the race to erect the world’s highest building. Two shifts of 300 men worked day and night, digging through the hard rock and creating the foundation.

Less than two months later, in March 1930 construction began on the steel skeleton. The frame of the skyscraper rose at the rate of four and a half stories per week, or more than a story a day. No comparable building has been built at a similar rate of speed. This accomplishment came about through effective logistics combined with a skilled, organized workforce.

The project became a model of efficiency. The contractors created various innovations that saved time, money and manpower. The 60,000 tons of steel for the framework were manufactured in Pittsburgh and transported immediately to New York via train, barge and truck. Legend has it that the steel posts and beams arrived at the site marked with their place in the framework and with the number of the derrick that would hoist them. Workers could then swing the girders into place and have them riveted as quickly as 80 hours after coming out of the furnace and off the roller.

A railway was built at the construction site to move materials quickly. Since each railway car — a cart pushed by people — held eight times more than a wheelbarrow, the materials were also moved with less effort. The steel girders could not be raised more than 30 stories at a time, so several large derricks were used to pass the girders up to the higher floors.

The Starrett Brothers managed a workforce of 3,500 men, who put in seven million man-hours including work on Sundays and holidays. The workers earned $15 a day, an excellent rate of pay in the early 1930s. The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Instead of taking 18 months as anticipated, the construction took just under fifteen. Due to reduced costs during the Depression, the final costs totaled only $24.7 million instead of the estimated $43 million.

Construction was completed on April 11, 1931, one year and 45 days after it had begun. President Herbert Hoover officially opened the building on May 1, 1931 by pressing a button in Washington, D.C. which turned on the building’s lights. The Empire State Building remained the world’s tallest skyscraper for more than 40 years, until the World Trade Center Towers were constructed in 1972.

Full Story: http://www.generalcontractor.com/resources/articles/empire-state-building.asp

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