Flying high

August 28, 2011

Sore arms have been a much-discussed topic on the work site lately. This can mostly be attributed to our latest project- raising and anchoring the ceiling panels. They are big, they are heavy, and they require a lot of work to prepare and fly. The original plan was to have the company that is manufacturing the panels to also supply us with their own installers- however, upon delivery of the ceiling panels we were curtly told, “no man can be spared right now” and were stuck trying to get the 300 lb. section off the ground ourselves. It turns out that with a little coordination and a lot of cursing we pulled it off!

A bit about the panels themselves. As can be seen in photos from previous posts the concrete ceiling of the entire space is exposed. Laced with all sorts of ducting, piping and wiring, our designer devised a way to help clear the clutter as well as maintain the feeling of space and height. We would fly 9 equally spaced panels, made up of 20 separate sections. The panels are framed in plywood and faced in a simple and warm Pine finish. They will also house much of our lighting fixtures. Once off the ground, they immediately pick up the warmness of the concrete and add a certain softness to the stark floor.

So, how did we get them off the floor? The ceiling needed to be prepped first. An entire plan, mapping the actual panel layout was laid out in tape on the floor. This was done using a series of highly accurate laser measurements. Within this map, points were laid out were the anchors would need to be drilled (we would be using ¾” threaded ready rod). From these points, we again used lasers to mark the exact anchor points in the ceiling. Much hammer drilling later, we had a matrix of support rod ready for the support the panels.

The next step was to prep the panels.  7 of the 9 panel sections are made up of two separate panels that fit together beautifully.  Each panel was squared off on the taped map on the floor, and we again used lasers to mark and drill the anchor holes it the panel frame.

Now it was time to get these brutes off the ground. Sigh. Depending on the space available for each panel, we used a hand crank lift, an accordion lift or sometimes both. Of course we would first have to lift the panels up onto the lift first, hence the sore arms. Once on the lifts and balanced, they would be hoisted upwards, where we would be waiting to make sure the anchors hit their marks. The last step is to finish off the anchor with a set of washers and nuts, not an easy feat 11 feet off the ground. We were often required to climb up into the panels to access the center anchors.

All in all it has taken about a 6 days to get these all up. In that time, I have moved from project coordinator to a hammering, drilling, lifting and cursing machine. It has been a great experience, and I almost feel lucky that we didn’t get our installers in the end!