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New Civil Engineer's favourite... Cranes

New Civil Engineer editor Antony Oliver

To every young child cranes have come to symbolise building and construction. Visually it is easy to see why. But their significance to the construction process goes way beyond the simple visual excitement of these iconic and powerful machines. 

The fact is that cranes, in their multitude of guises, really have dramatically changed the way that we are able to construct.

They have enabled bigger loads to be lifted and manoeuvred to a greater height and from greater reach. They have enable loads to be lifted that weren’t previously liftable. And they have enabled structures to be built faster, cheaper and in greater safety.

This ability to lift and manoeuvre has literally changed the skyline of cities forever. For not only do their skeletal forms litter the view but they have been critical in enabling ever taller buildings to be constructed.

And although lifting machines have been around for centuries, it is the modern power driven mechanical crane that has really advanced the industry. In short the whole construction process has been made more efficient, with materials delivered direct to the workface and larger structures assembled using fewer larger components.

Meanwhile the modern mobile crane, now ubiquitous on site, has changed the way that we plan and execute construction. It has removed the need for much temporary work and made the “sky-hooks” dream an everyday reality.

But it is not just about buildability. Improvements in cranes on site have also made a major contribution to safety, health and welfare, saving the back-breaking task of manual handling and enabling the safe handling of heavy loads around site.

The development of crane technology, enabling greater loads to be lifted, faster and to greater height, will continue to push forward design and construction efficiencies and innovations such as prefabrication and just in time deliveries.

Cranes must therefore be considered as more than simply a utilitarian tool. They are clearly one of the industry’s greatest advances.

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