UAF Celebrates Construction Progress With Topping Out Ceremony

May 23, 2014

The University of Alaska Fairbanks celebrated a milestone in the construction of its new engineering building on Thursday. UAF hosted a topping out ceremony, which is a builders tradition for the placement of the last piece of structural steel.

Project superintendent Steve Kreinheder says that the tradition of topping out dates back to 700 A.D. “Back in Norway, the Vikings when they would build their huge community buildings they would put a Christmas tree up on the ridge pole and celebrate the completion that way," Kreinheder said. 

Iron workers in the United States adopted the tradition, and it remains a popular ritual. Raising the last piece of steel is always celebrated, but Kreinheder says it’s especially meaningful to raise the tree. “The tree will not be on the last piece of iron if an ironworker has lost his life on the job. So the significance of that is pretty special when the tree goes up as well."

The last piece of steel for the engineering building featured an Alaskan flag, a United States flag, and most importantly, a tree. 

Senior Project Manager Cameron Wohlford says the building is now about 25 percent complete. He says the progress is significant for the project timeline. 

“We’re in a great spot for this summer, to be done this early with the steel erection. That allows us the rest of the summer to put the exterior panels on and put the rest of the glass in and get the building fully enclosed right after semester starts in the fall," he said.

Wohlford says the university has received about 70 million of the 108 million dollars necessary to complete the project. He says about 30 million has been spent so far, but nearly the entire 70 million has been committed to the contractor or consultant. This means that construction may have to stop for a period of time. 

“So, we’ll be able to continue work through April, end of April next year. There will be a little bit of work that trickles into the summer, but beyond that we will start to demobilize the project unless funding is identified," he said.

Wohlford says the next step is enclosing the building. He said the potential work stoppage would not cause problems because the exterior of the building will be complete. “From the outside, next summer, you’ll look at the building and it’ll look like it’s complete," he said. "Unfortunately the inside won’t be complete. But it will be protected and we’ll be able to come back and build those parts of the building out at a later date.” 

The project was originally scheduled to be entirely completed in April 2015, but without full funding the current completion date is unknown.