Sometimes it’s a big celebration. Other times it’s low-key. But in construction, it is a time-honored tradition to conduct a topping out ceremony when the last brick, steel beam or piece of concrete has been placed in a construction project.
Austin|Hitt, the joint venture team leading the Charleston International Airport terminal redevelopment, continued that tradition today when it placed the last major structural steel in the renovation project – a rooftop dome.
Topping out ceremonies are common in many places in Europe and the United States. The ceremony has roots in Scandinavian religious practices and is similar those that mark the naming and launching of ships. Ancient Scandinavians would place a tree or leafy branch on the top of a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits that had been displaced by construction.
In the Netherlands, a flag is flown at the highest point of a new building and remains there until the building’s owner provides workers with free beer. It’s considered bad taste to leave the flag up for more than two days.
Today’s airport topping out marks a milestone in the $189 million Terminal Redevelopment and Improvement Program (TRIP) at Charleston International Airport. Between now and fall 2015, the airport will expand from 10 to 15 airline gates, modernize its baggage handling systems, create a consolidated security screening checkpoint, upgrade airline check-in stations and welcome a variety of retail stores, pubs and restaurants. The new Rental Car Pavilion opened in the spring, along with three new luggage carousels in baggage claim.
The dome lifted onto the terminal roof today was adorned with the U.S. and South Carolina flags and a fir tree that will be planted on site at a later date. On the steel beams are the signatures and well wishes of construction workers and managers, Charleston County Aviation Authority employees, airline employees and others who work at the airport.
When complete the octagon-shaped glass dome will cover 1,742 square feet and stand 18 feet tall. The entire renovation project is slated to be completed in the fall of 2015.