Going Out On Top

Monday, October 1, 2012

Topping-out ceremony marks a milestone for the Heart and Vascular Center.

On May 2, community members joined Augusta Health to celebrate an important milestone in the construction of the Heart and Vascular Center: They attended a topping-out ceremony, during which the building's structural steel frame was finalized.

Workers hang an Augusta Health flag from a steel beam for the ceremony

To prepare for this important occasion, all Augusta Health employees received emails, flyers and announcements inviting them to "be a part of the Heart," says Kathleen Heatwole, PhD, vice president of planning and development. This meant that staff members could sign their names to some of the last steel beams that would be placed in the Heart and Vascular Center, immortalizing themselves within the structure of the new addition.

Two 30-foot steel beams were placed outside the hospital for a month so physicians, nurses, staff members, patients and members of the public could sign them or scrawl messages. Several shorter, more portable, 4-foot beams were taken to all of Augusta Health's outlying offices, so every Augusta Health employee would have the chance to be included in the project.

"Those beams were filled with names and nice little notes," Heatwole says. "It was really special."

What is a topping-out ceremony?

A topping-out ceremony is traditionally held to mark the completion of the construction of a building's frame, when the final, highest steel beam is set in place. In the case of the Heart and Vascular Center—a four-story, 67,500-square-foot addition to the hospital—a 30-foot steel beam was placed by crane at the building's pinnacle during the ceremony.

A special ceremony

On the day of the event, about 100 people gathered in a tent set up just outside the construction site. Board chairman John Peterson and CEO Mary N. Mannix, FACHE, addressed the audience, which included U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte. Local, city and county representatives were also present, as were hospital board members, representatives from the architectural firm that designed the building, and members of the construction firm spearheading the project.

Many of the physicians who will be working within the completed addition attended the topping-out ceremony as well, including some of the cardiologists, vascular surgeons and critical-care pulmonologists who will be on staff.

After the speakers shared their thoughts about the significance of the occasion, everyone turned to watch as construction workers placed the final beam at the building's highest point.

Good-luck charms

During traditional topping-out ceremonies, a tree or leafy branch and flags or banners are often placed on the final beam that will be added to the structure for good luck. The Heart and Vascular Center's final beam was adorned with a tree, an American flag and a red Augusta Health banner that slowly unfurled as the beam was lifted into the air.