This time of year, it’s common to see Christmas trees. But why do you see them on top of commercial construction sites all year long? These trees are a tradition in commercial construction. But do you know where the tradition comes from, or what it means?
Topping Out Ceremonies
Prior to adding the metal panels and metal roofing, a building’s framing is completed by placing the last beam at the highest point of the building. To commemorate this accomplishment, crews have a Topping Out ceremony: a party to celebrate those who made the building possible. They hoist an evergreen tree attached to that last beam for all to see. Often an American flag is also put on the opposite end of the beam. Sometimes the last beam is painted white and signed by the members of the crew, contractor, architects, and owner. But where did this odd tradition come from?
How It Started
Immigrants to the U.S. brought the tradition with them from Europe and Scandinavia, passed down from early pagan and Christian traditions. It’s believed that as early as 700 A.D. Scandinavians began topping out structures with a fir tree to signal those nearby that it was time for the celebration to start. Others believe the tradition of an evergreen atop a structure was started to represent new birth, as the Christmas tree represents the birth of the baby Jesus. There are many tales how the tradition started, and so the specific origin is murky.
The Building Is the Gift Under The Tree
While Grand Opening festivities introduce a new building to the public, the Topping Out ceremony uniquely honors the accomplishments of the construction crew, architect, building owner and other key people who made the building possible. Reminiscent of a party at the end of an old-fashioned barn raising, a Topping Out ceremony gives credit to those who do the actual work of designing, planning, and constructing buildings.
Celebrate Your Own Metal Construction
The Topping Out ceremony is a wonderful celebration for any construction project, whether low-rise, high-rise, commercial, residential, or other. On your next construction project, take the time to celebrate what’s been accomplished and the people who made it happen with a Topping Out ceremony. It’s a little bit of Christmas that you can look up and experience year round!