Hoisting the American Dream into Place

The resources involved in PCL Construction’s latest megaproject, the American Dream Meadowlands, are staggering—over 26,000 tons of structural steel, 120,000 cubic yards of concrete, 105 miles of piles, and 367 miles of conduit; enough conduit to reach Pittsburgh from the jobsite in East Rutherford, New Jersey. While to some these statistics may seem daunting, PCL’s project team relished the opportunity to overcome challenges posed by the complexity of the development. 
With a 144-foot-long main boom and a 233-foot-long
luffing boom, the VPC Max took 76 tractor-trailer
loads and five 12-hour days to set up.​ 

The Manitowoc MLC650 VPC Max had the ability to
navigate through the 250,000-square-foot Water Park.

Strength of a Lift

On a project of this magnitude, superintendent Danny Lucas needed to source a crane with heavy-lifting capabilities that could also stay mobile enough to navigate through the 250,000-square-foot Water Park. So, he turned to engineering firm, Howard Shapiro and Associates, who came up with the solution of the Manitowoc MLC650 VPC Max. Often seen on industrial projects but rarely used for buildings jobs, the VPC Max uses a sliding counterweight system called variable position counterweight (VPC) that allows it to pick at a higher capacity than a traditional crawler crane. The VPC positions the crane’s counterweight automatically, floating it out behind and adjusting it as needed. With a 144-foot-long main boom and a 233-foot-long luffing boom, the VPC Max took 76 tractor-trailer loads and five 12-hour days to set up. 

Once the team decided to move forward with the VPC Max, they were tasked with finding a way to support it. Using the ground as a base wasn’t an option owing to the native swampland and varying elevations on-site. Instead, they enlisted the help of a New York City engineering firm that consistently resolves crane difficulties. A “mat concept” was developed and implemented, which involved building a large platform for the crane to travel along. The team integrated pile caps, or thick concrete mats, that rested on concrete piles driven into the swampy ground to stabilize the foundation. Concrete piers with steel beams were then set atop the pile caps and covered with 12-foot-wide timber mats—the same type of material used for railroad tracks—along which the crane could then travel. This method provided a sturdy, level platform and allowed the crane to perform its heavy-lifting operations while sacrificing minimal laydown space. This was possible because of the crane’s VPC, which reduced ground-bearing pressure while hoisting heavy modular units into place. 

Clearing the Airspace 


While the crane was located at the complex to assist with installing modular construction​ units, an additional nine cranes were operating at any given time across the park. This created its own set of challenges. To prevent any unforeseen collisions, the team developed a site-specific overlapping procedure. Tower cranes owned the general air space, and all other cranes had to request access to the airspace and maintain full radio contact during lifting operations. By abiding by these protocols, PCL minimized risks that would be associated with having multiple heavy cranes operating on the jobsite at once. Along with the multiple of cranes operating at any given time, the team had to get special FAA approvals due to the project being on the approach to Teterboro Airport as some of the cranes entered the airspace. When finished, the American Dream will be the largest retail and entertainment complex on the east coast. A haven of this magnitude will surely make dreams come true.
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