High-rise construction zone prepares for Irma
Developer Al Adelson figures Hurricane Irma will save him 50K.
Adelson, who’s building the 25-story Bristol tower condo on the city waterfront, was going to pay that much for a hurricane glass test. Instead, “we’ll get a real test,” he said Wednesday. “I’m looking at it as a positive.”
With a $2 billion building boom in West Palm alone, Palm Beach County horizons are lined with tower cranes, poised like fishing rods baited for wind. So with the windiest Atlantic hurricane in history angling toward South Florida, construction crews raced to batten down sites and city building department staffers fanned out to check on them.
At The Bristol, an ultra-luxury project on South Flagler Drive, crews lowered their two cranes 22 feet, from the 17th floor to near the 14th and bolted the vertical part to the building. “It’s the part that runs horizontal and spins around, that’s the risk we have,” Adelson said.
“The experts tell us it’s good to 150 miles per hour. We think we have done everything humanly possible, everything the experts told us to do.”
Adelson and his construction manager plan to ride out the storm in a hotel near the site. “This is our baby, so we’re trying to watch it as closely as we can,” he said.
The building is scheduled for completion in December 2018, and at this point stands 17 stories tall. Its glass skin has been installed up to the ninth or 10th floor, Adelson said.
“What you do is, you tie everything down that’s in the building already — all the supplies and everything, so there’s nothing that can blow away. Then we have some floors that are open and we hope the wind goes through them, with no problem. Then we have the floors that have hurricane glass.”
Though they look precarious, cranes can handle a storm, said Robert Brown, West Palm Beach building official.
The exposed area of a crane is limited because it has a skinny framework, he said. As long as the crane is not broadside to the wind, the wind load on it is reduced. Operators unlock the boom so that it can swivel like a weather vane, rotating to the direction of least resistance, he said. That’s how the cranes generally are left when not in operation, and particularly during high winds.
City Administrator Jeff Green said he typically fields a lot of calls from worried residents who see cranes moving in the wind. Cranes are supposed to move in the wind, he said.
In The Bristol’s case, lowering the cranes was a good idea because the waterfront building has no other towers to buffer it from the hurricane, Brown said.
At West Palm Beach’s old City Hall site, the storm posed a different set of risks. There, a crew is part way though demolishing the asbestos-laden building, to make way for a hotel and apartment development.
With word of the storm changing course, so did the crew from AlliedBean Demolition.
As the Category 5 storm’s trajectory shifted toward the city, demolition supervisors Billy Minton and Russell Rogers ordered up 12 trucks to the site in the heart of downtown Wednesday to haul away mounds of construction detritus. Meanwhile, the men walked each floor of the five-story building to make sure anything hazardous was cleared away.
That’s what the city building official wants at all construction sites. “We tell them that they need to make sure their sites are battened down so any spoil heaps, they have to break those down or remove them, any loose materials, they have to take them down and store them away,” Brown said.
Screens put on site fences to block views should be removed, lest they act like sails and push over the fences, he said. That’s what the crew at the old City Hall is doing. Any extra debris inside the building is being tossed down the elevator shaft.
Sand that blows off the sites and whips around downtown streets is just a fact of life in a hurricane, Brown added. The rain will put an end to it, he said.
“It’s an aggravation more than a real risk of breaking anything.”
Construction cranes tower over The Bristol along the West Palm Beach waterfront, Crews have lowered and bolted the vertical part of the cranes to the building to secure them.