Reimagining the traditional topping out ceremony during COVID-19

Hybrid social media strategies emerge as an option for virtual topping out celebrations

Nothing symbolizes a building’s progress more than a traditional topping out ceremony. It’s the stamp of approval for a job well done. It’s the celebration of the milestones of “the build.” The last beam is autographed by workers and slowly maneuvered into place. But 2020 is the year of Coronavirus, where handshakes, large gatherings, and in-person conversations have for the time being become a thing of the past. A highly choreographed, onsite topping out ceremony becomes impractical.

From healthcare facilities to college and university expansions, essential construction projects will continue despite the pandemic. While traditional topping out ceremonies are no longer an option, through technology and the internet, and social media channels there’s a hybrid strategy emerging as an opportunity for virtual celebrations. Broadcasting digitally with a mix of pre-recorded and live segments, shared through social media networks, provide the necessary distance for a safe topping out ceremony complete with the placing of the final steel beam.

One of the first virtual topping out ceremonies in California was hosted by Sutter Santa Rosa for the expansion of their regional hospital.  “The coronavirus has changed the way we connect to each other.” We needed to rethink our topping out options,” said Sutter Santa Rosa’s regional manager for business development Shaun Ralston.  “We knew we had active social media channels but thought that joining forces with some of our construction partners would be helpful, so we reached out to those closest to the project.”

Virtual topping out ceremonies will help spread the word, not the virus

The right solution proved to be an integrated social media collaboration between Sutter Health and the project’s General Contractor HerreroBOLDT. When social media platforms were combined, engagement levels significantly increased. Pre-event announcements, livestreaming with real-time tweets, and the final post-event video gave the “virtual” topping out ceremony on the west coast some welcomed national exposure.

Virtual topping out ceremonies may never replace the impact of the “real thing,” but for now, they can make us feel one step closer to staying safe during COVID-19.

Watch the placing of the final beam at Sutter Santa Rosa’s virtual topping out ceremony: 

Author: Linda Johnson Boyle, Marketing Content Manager. 

About The Boldt Company
The Boldt Company is one of the leading construction management firms in the United States. The firm is a nationally recognized leader in Integrated Lean Project Delivery® within a variety of markets including healthcare, industrial, commercial and energy and power. Boldt is headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin and has 18 offices nationwide.