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For Immediate Release

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Topping Off New Hospital in Lawrenceville - Final Three Beams Will Be Put in Place

Milestone in Children's history as 100 guests watch the rising/placing of the final steel beams

The last steel beams of the new Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Lawrenceville were today raised and welded into place.

Children's and UPMC executives, Mayor Bob O'Connor, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, patients, board members, legislators, community leaders and more joined steelworkers today at the construction site to "top off" the steel superstructure, a significant milestone in the building project. The last three beams were raised - topping off the steel structure for what will be the new 900,000-square-foot Children's Hospital, part of a 1.5-million-square-foot new campus development.

The topping-off ceremony is a long-standing tradition of construction workers, particularly steelworkers. The three beams are more colorful than most on the building frame - because the beams display the signatures, pictures and drawings of Children's patients, families and staff; residents and children of Lawrenceville and neighboring communities; legislators and many more.

Following a short program, Children's patients joined executives to place the final signatures on the steel beam, which will have the ceremony's traditional American flag, broom and evergreen tree on top.

"We are truly excited to celebrate the topping off of the new Children's Hospital. It is a tremendous milestone in our history, and signifies a huge leap in the building project," said Roger A. Oxendale, Children's president and CEO. "As the largest building project in the Pittsburgh region, we at Children's and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are grateful to everyone who had a hand in this project. A lot of work has gone into this, and we're excited to see it become more of a reality each and every day."

The new hospital building will serve as the centerpiece of the multi-phase development project that is situated on this 10-acre campus. Patient rooms in the hospital will be private and have sleeping accommodations for parents. Other facets of the project include a major research facility, office space for faculty and staff, a new central utility facility, three new parking structures and more.

"This extraordinary medical campus will not only enable Children's to maintain its current level of excellence, but will now be housed in a world-class facility," said Greg Peaslee, senior vice president at UPMC. "All of us at UPMC, and Children's, are extremely pleased and excited about the direction of the project. We look forward to its opening in early 2009, which is just around the corner."

Topping Off Ceremony

As of 2006, a formal ceremony is often held to commemorate this milestone in the construction of a building. All tradesmen on the job usually join in the celebration as well as the supervisors, representatives of the architecture and engineering firms, the owner or representatives of the owning organization, donors and any VIPs that are invited.

The ceremony itself has no standard agenda and varies depending on building size, the general contractor and the owner. It usually takes place during lunch time and can include a catered meal. Prior to the ceremony, anyone attending is allowed to sign the last piece of steel. The height of the ceremony takes place when the piece of steel is lifted into place and secured.


When steel replaced masonry as the modern support structure for a building or bridge, a new type of trade was formed known as the iron worker. When the iron workers placed the last piece of steel, it was somewhat of a personal celebration because it marked the successful completion of their job.

At some point it became more of a group celebration for the iron workers. Over time, the celebration became more popular and other trades joined in.


Tree = Signifies a job well done, and is meant to auger well for the future inhabitants of the building.

Broom = Represents a clean sweep for safety and announces that the construction has reached the sky without serious injury or loss of life.

American Flag = Symbol of America, American tradition and patriotism.

Structure Fun Facts

Superstructure - Steel:

  • 7,260 pieces of steel
  • 11,040,897 lbs. of steel = 5,520 tons
  • 267 trucks used on site

Superstructure - Bolts:

  • 85,000 bolts
  • 70,100 lbs. of bolts = 35 tons

Superstructure - Deck (Roof and Floor):

  • 585,000 square feet
  • 1,703,000 lbs. of metal = 852 tons

New Hospital Statistics

Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,
Dean Walters, 412-692-5017 or 412-692-6956,

Last Update
March 5, 2008
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Last Update
March 5, 2008