Renovation crew orchestrates helicopter lift
Standing on a downtown street in 18-degree weather and buffeted by 75 mph wind, Steve Wagner, Director of Engineering at Mechanical Engineering and Construction Corporation (MEC2), marveled as a heavy-lift helicopter executed a critical phase of a renovation project.
MEC2 was part of the project team contracted to install new chillers at 100 Light Street. A crane would not be able to deliver the equipment to the roof of the 37-story office tower, so the building’s owner, Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT), arranged to have a heavy-lift helicopter place the 50-ton condensing unit and two 400-ton chillers.
“The logistics of pulling off that operation in a downtown core were amazing. It took easily six months to plan,” Wagner said.
An array of organizations – including Baltimore City, Baltimore City Police, the Downtown Partnership, adjacent property owners, project contractors and the helicopter operator, Erickson – arranged to shut down several blocks around 100 Light Street early one Sunday morning in late January. Flags, free-standing signs, patio furniture and anything else that would get blown around by the 75 mph winds generated by the helicopter’s blades had to be removed or secured. Other than construction professionals outfitted with specialty PPE, no one could be spotted within that “sterile zone” at the time of the lift or the helicopter pilot would have to abort the operation. Consequently, police officers and construction crew members had to block the paths of joggers, drivers and people heading for the adjacent Starbucks.
Then within the span of 40 minutes, the helicopter completed three precise picks, moving each piece of equipment from the staging area at Pratt and Light to the rooftop.
“The most surprising thing to me was the sheer size of that helicopter and the ease of the helicopter lifting those huge chillers,” Wagner said. “It was a spectacular operation to be part of.”
While the helicopter lift was the most public and dramatic aspect of completing the chilled water expansion at 100 Light, it wasn’t the only extraordinary feat that occurred within the project.
“This was not a typical job at all,” said Dave Jaques, President of Partner Contracting. “We work with COPT often and one day they called and said, we need you to pour a slab up on the 37th floor of 100 Light Street for some chillers we are going to helicopter in. It was one of those calls where you shake your head and think, I really wasn’t ready for that call today. But it was a great opportunity.”
Working together with the concrete contractor, Jaques began figuring out how to create the two eight-foot by 20-foot slabs.
“As you can imagine, getting concrete up to the 37th floor of a building isn’t exactly an easy task,” he said. “We brought in a couple of truckloads of concrete bags, a couple of mixers and started bringing concrete bags up to the 37th floor where we could mix it, pour it and finish it. Of course, the elevators only go to the 36th floor so we had to carry everything by hand up to the 37th. It was wild. It must have been at least a ton of material.
A crew of 10 people, however, completed the task in two days.