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Construction by Helicopter: Installing Rooftop Tech in the Urban Jungle

By Kevin Bell, Vice President Operations at Skanska USA

Construction by Helicopter: Installing Rooftop Tech in the Urban JungleKevin Bell, Vice President Operations at Skanska USA

The design was audacious: two giant LED screens perched atop a city skyscraper showcasing the transformation of an iconic Atlanta office building into a modern workplace destination and community hub. The renovation of 100 Peachtree – upgrading the building’s amenities, creating new outdoor gathering spaces, an interactive conference center, a tenant lounge, collaboration spaces, an upgraded fitness center, and renovating the building’s grand lobby, was an ambitious project for building owner Zeller Realty Group (ZRG) to undertake. But the crowning detail was a plan to utilize its rooftop real estate for digital community programming, connecting it to the adjacent Woodruff Park, Fairlie-Poplar neighborhood, and the city.

The screens needed to be big enough to be seen across the city, so designers settled on two 174-foot wide and 20-foot high LED panels—one facing Peachtree and the other toward Forsyth. The signs were built locally by Duluth’s Formetco and Douglasville’s DeNyse Sign Companies and made to fit the building perfectly.

But in a tight urban landscape like Atlanta, maneuvering such large equipment up to the rooftop is no easy task. For the two most critical steps, the construction team from Skanska brought in a dual-engine Sikorsky S-64 Aircrane “Flying Crane” helicopter that offers a combination of strength, precision, and versatility. It has a rated lift capacity up to 25,000 pounds (11,340 kg) – equivalent to the weight of five fully loaded pickup trucks.

The first helicopter task was hoisting the 160-ton steel structural supports up to the roof deck. Breaking the job into 40 “lifts” of steel, each weighing approximately 8,000 pounds – equivalent to the weight of two compact cars – the helicopter was able to safely maneuver all of the materials up to their designated spots. A week later, once crews securely attached the support structure to the building, the helicopter flew through the skies a second time carrying the giant screens for attachment.

For the two most critical steps, the construction team from Skanska brought in a dual-engine Sikorsky S-64 Aircrane “Flying Crane” helicopter that offers a combination of strength, precision, and versatility

The signs are not glorified billboards; they’re strictly non-revenue generating. Instead, they’ll display the logo for Georgia’s Own Credit Union, headquartered in the building, along with a range of community installations—digital art exhibits and programming for the neighborhood.

They are a preview of a larger effort underway in Atlanta to use digital tools to promote local culture and bring the community together. Efforts are underway to establish the new Atlanta Arts & Entertainment District (AAED) to fuse new outdoor media, local art, and advertising and funds cultural and public space programming in the city’s core.

ZRG pushed to connect 100 Peachtree to its neighborhood in other ways as well, hiring a community engagement manager to coordinate on dynamic tenant events, community programming, and partnerships with community organizations throughout Downtown. The building earned Silver Wired Certifications for its advanced digital infrastructure, resiliency, and readiness to adopt future technology. Complimentary Wi-Fi provided by 100 Peachtree and Georgia’s Own in Woodruff Park creates an easy, accessible experience for the neighborhood and employees who decide to take their work outside.

Skanska has been building in Atlanta since 1905, growing with the city and shaping its landscape. Though the range of projects they’ve worked on spans every size and sector, this was a unique experience. Drawing on cutting edge technology both for the installation process and for the screens they installed, the construction team drew on a combination of experience and ingenuity to devise a workable plan. Coordinating the implementation to get all of the pieces in place at the right time and successfully contending with the weather and logistical challenges made the project’s success even more satisfying.

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