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October 22, 2018
Jackhammers are the ever-present soundtrack of life in downtown Seattle, a city witnessing an explosive construction boom. The building frenzy began half a decade ago, adding density and transforming the skyline with a legion of new high-rise apartments, hotels, and office buildings.
A Downtown Seattle Association report affirms that the record-breaking surge in development surpasses anything seen before in Washington state. About 334,000 square meters (3.6 million square feet) of office space and 5,700 new homes opened last year in downtown Seattle, with an additional 3,600 apartments scheduled for completion this year.
The hotel segment, too, is booming like never before. More than 600 new hotel rooms mushroomed in the city center last year, and this year is set to be even bigger with the opening of Seattle’s largest hotel, the Hyatt Regency, which will add a whopping 1,260 new rooms at Eighth and Howell later this year.
While the construction peak is great news for the economy, it can mean headaches for neighbors and commuters, who are subjected to blocked streets and sidewalks, nerve-grating noise and various other disruptions. Mindful to preserve good community relations, innovative general contractors like Sellen Construction are constantly looking for ways to increase construction speed and efficiencies without sacrificing quality or safety.
Need for speed
At a size of 136,567 square meters (1.47 million square feet) in total, the 45-story, convention-focused Hyatt Regency is one of the biggest megastructures to ever spring up in the city of Seattle.
“It is by far the largest hotel ever built by Sellen. Everything is on a grander scale – more supersized, if you will, including three of the largest ballrooms in the city. It’s being precast on site, which is not something you see every day in Seattle, where most buildings are curtain-wall structures,” explains Mike Ryberg, senior superintendent at Sellen Construction.
“With a massive, fast-paced project like this, you need efficiency getting manpower and materials into the building,” he says.
KONE technology is helping to improve efficiency. The Seattle Hyatt marks the very first project in the USA to utilize the KONE JumpLift™ solution, which offers unprecedented convenience while also minimizing disruption to the surrounding neighborhood.
KONE Jumplift™ is a self-climbing elevator system installed inside the building’s permanent shaft during the construction phase. It progressively ‘jumps’ up the shaft as the building gets taller.
“Having two fully functional elevators inside the building six to eight months before they would normally be ready helps to increase efficiency.
The materials go up externally on the main hoist, while craftspeople use the two KONE JumpLifts, which move at four times the speed of the hoist,” explains KONE Executive Project Manager Daniel Whitlock.
The math is a no-brainer. If a project has 700 workers on site able to move 3.6 meters per second (700 feet per minute) as opposed to 0.9 meters per second (175 feet per minute) on the exterior hoist, the KONE JumpLift technology can be considered the worksite equivalent of switching to hyperdrive.
That’s not all. The solution enhances occupational safety, speed and convenience in numerous other ways as well.
“With the men moving inside the building, they’re protected from the elements, which is good for morale. And the hotel has been delighted to have the chance to bring in televisions and furniture much sooner than normal, helping them get ready for customers faster,” notes Whitlock.
People visiting the development also benefit as they can be taken up safely in an ordinary elevator instead of being hauled up on the exterior hoist.
Extensive advance preparations were made for the American debut of the KONE JumpLift, including in-depth training to make sure the teams had the skills to perform the jobs safely and efficiently. “We had our installer team visit Finland and assemble the lift in a factory, which gave them valuable assembly knowledge,” says Whitlock.
With Seattle being one of the fastest-growing downtown districts in the USA, the Hyatt Regency is a towering showcase demonstrating how the KONE JumpLift can benefit other developers and general contractors in the region. For Sellen Construction, it has increased efficiency and reduced disruption in the crane-crowded downtown area.
“Although KONE JumpLift has been used elsewhere in the world, it’s totally new to the USA. We’re hoping it will change how people assemble buildings over here,” says Whitlock.
“KONE has been very good at collaborating and thinking outside the box. They have been an integral partner in figuring out creative ways I have never seen before in the industry. I would definitely use the KONE JumpLift again, and I have been bringing in project managers from other jobs in the region to show them what it can do,” concludes Ryberg.