Society (Key) Tower

Society (Key) Tower
Location: Cleveland, OH

From the base to the tallest tip, Society (Key) Tower in Cleveland, Ohio reaches 947 feet. The 57-foot skyscraper was the tallest structure between Manhattan and Chicago when it was built and the largest project Whitacre Engineering had ever accepted. The massive structure, which was designed by Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire, took 1,300 tons of rebar and 1.4 million square feet of mesh to complete.

The magnitude of the job was a new challenge for our company and Mohawk Rebar, who placed the rebar. We relied on the expertise of Estimator Bob Long to keep costs reasonable. He provided a quote that modified the original architectural plans and created a 20% savings. The changes, which created greater efficiencies, were approved and allowed Whitacre Engineering to move forward within budget and receive the contract from Baker Concrete.

Once the project was underway, complexities besides budgetary issues took over. John Baltzly, the Detailer, recalled how the intricate structure fit together like a puzzle. The lobby area alone was 26-feet tall and required an exact template for dowel placement. Four core columns rose up from the foundation’s center, each measuring 4-foot by 8-foot and using 120 number 11 rebars. As columns around the structure’s edge neared the top, they bent inwards, creating continual adjustments to the architectural plans.

“Each time the engineers changed the plans, I had 40-50 drawings to update,” Baltzly explained. The technology at the time lacked automatic updates, so each individual drawing had to be reworked and a new bill of materials created, which took several weeks to complete. Even with the project’s aggressive timeline, Mr. Baltzly successfully updated each plan and kept construction on schedule.

The skyscraper’s height and extreme weather conditions were also a constant threat to our team and the ironworkers from Mohawk Rebar. Jim Herstine (aka “Shorty”), who was Mohawk’s general foreman, was one of the main heroes at the job site. He ventured up more than 800 feet each day in the site’s rickety elevator to oversee construction. Shorty and his ironworkers had to combat high winds and iced-over metal decks, all while working hundreds of feet over Cleveland’s Public Square. Their work was deemed so dangerous that other construction crews were not permitted to work below them in order to prevent any injuries. Whitacre Engineering had to create different shifts to accommodate each crew’s deadlines.

Despite the project’s many challenges, we were able to communicate with the engineers, Baker Concrete and Mohawk Rebar to overcome all obstacles that arose. When the building opened in 1991, just 14 short months after construction began, everyone was extremely proud of the major undertaking. The project was a risky venture that turned into a great victory for all involved. Society (Key) Tower is still the tallest building in Ohio and remains a landmark in Cleveland that offers 1.5 million square feet of office space.

Industrial Building Construction