Look up. No, look higher—look way up. If you happen to be downtown, chances are very good that you’re standing in the shadow of a tower crane.
Toronto is in the throes of a construction boom. In fact, with 189 high-rise buildings in the works, we have more towers under construction than both New York City (82 buildings) and Mexico City (88), places that each have over three times Toronto’s population. Rising hundreds of feet from the ground, or perched precariously atop nearly complete skyscrapers, these cranes punctuate our skyline. And that’s especially true in the downtown core and central waterfront—the area that stretches east from Bathurst to the DVP and south from Dupont to the lake—where 45 per cent of the GTA’s residential construction is happening. By comparison, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, and Yonge-Eglinton combine for only nine per cent of the GTA’s proposed residential builds.
Enrico “Ricky” Redigonda is the owner of Toronto Crane Service Inc., one of about a half-dozen tower-crane rental operations across the GTA. At 73, Redigonda—who has worked in the industry since 1970 and launched his rental business 26 years ago—has seen his share of building booms, but he uses words like “crazy” and “chaos” to describe the current spike in developments. “In the ’80s, there was a boom, but not like this,” he says. Wonder what exactly is going on up there? We went to great heights to get you some answers.
702 feet: Height of Canada’s tallest free-standing crane, which is currently putting the finishing touches on the 58-storey L Tower at 22 The Esplanade.
2,260: Number of followers that Robert MacFarlane has on Twitter. For the past two years, the 54-year-old has operated the tall crane on the L Tower; recently, he started snapping photos from his vantage point and posting them to @SkyJacked793.
300: The approximate number of tower cranes in Toronto. Since developers don’t need a permit before renting or erecting a tower crane, there’s no central database at City Hall tracking the exact number at work.
10.98 tonnes: The maximum lifting capacity of the Pecco 2000 crane currently atop the 49-floor Tridel tower at 300 Front St.
132 feet: The length of horizontal metal arm (or jib) on the same Pecco 2000.
246 feet: The height of a typical tower crane, measured from the jib to the base.
65,000 pounds: The approximate weight of a typical tower crane (not including the counter weights, which balance out the load).
$15,000: The monthly cost to rent a typical tower crane.
One: Number of on-the-job fatalities between 2007 and 2011.
2375 Steeles Ave.: Site of that single fatality. In October, 2011, an industrial crane collapsed, killing a 25-year-old worker at a TTC construction site at York University.
6,000: Number of apprentice hours (plus a six-week, in-class program) that a high-school graduate must log to become a certified tower-crane operator in Ontario.
3 years: Amount of time it takes for someone entering the program to be certified.
3 feet: Space between the skinny new condo being built at 210 Simcoe St. and the Bell Canada building next door. This requires something called a luffing crane, which has an arm that moves vertically (kind of like an angler’s fishing rod).
$36.64: Hourly wage for licensed crane operators.
1,150: Number of licensed tower-crane operators across Ontario, as of last May.
Less than 1: Percentage of those operators who are female.
Radio, toaster oven, espresso machine, fold-up lawn chair: Items that James Sarjeant keeps in his crane cabin, which sits on top of the crane at 210 Simcoe St.
Empty container: The other item that James Sarjeant keeps in his cabin (for when nature calls).