Self-erectors strengthen homebuilding sites

03 November 2020

A Potain self-erector saves time and money on two residential projects.

Self-erecting tower cranes are making a mark in the residential homebuilding market. Self-erectors can perform the jobs of several machines, reducing labor needs and increasing productivity. Contractors report building homes up to 50 percent faster using these cranes, especially in mountainous and remote locations.

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At a McCall, ID home build, the self-erector gave the homebuilding crew access to areas where other equipment wouldn’t be able to reach, which has greatly benefited workers and shortened the project’s timeline.

From a small cross-base footprint, self-erectors boast ample capacity and extensive reach to access the entire jobsite. The quick erection time and ease of operation allow operators to perform lifts and place prefabricated materials such as floor joists, wall sections and roof trusses. Radio remote control operation allows operators to be on the ground and navigate the full work area, increasing their visibility and communication with other crew members.

The impact of self-erectors in home construction can transform how companies approach projects. An example is Pinetop Custom Homes (Pinetop), a homebuilder in McCall, ID.

The company started with one Potain Igo in 2004, using it in place of a knuckleboom crane to assemble prefabricated housing developments. Today, Pinetop’s sister company, Rocky Mountain Crane, also based in McCall, operates a fleet of 25 Potain Igo and Hup self-erectors.

Faster building

The company uses the cranes to build entire homes from the bottom up, including various material handling lifts.

“We are able to build houses 50 percent faster with the self-erecting tower cranes than with other types of equipment,” said Dusty Bitton, owner of Pinetop. “They’re also easier to get to the jobsite. They have axles underneath, so you can just pull them onto the site. They’re silent from electrical operation and don’t produce exhaust fumes, and with their remote control, they really increase visibility and precision picking.”

Bitton highlighted several other benefits self-erecting cranes have over traditional machines, like telehandlers and mobile cranes. A self-erector can make lifts across the entire jobsite from a single location without being moved. Also, there are gains in manpower, as the same person can both operate and rig the load, which also improves productivity. Operators can move a load right in front of where they are standing.

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At a residential project in Stanley, ID, Pinetop selected a Potain Hup 40-30 self-erecting crane to handle all the lifting work at the remote location.

Pinetop is currently employing Potain self-erecting cranes at two home projects in Idaho — one in McCall and another in Stanley. At the McCall project, the self-erector has given the crew better access to the jobsite, shortening the timeline.

“The crane has given the crew access to hard-to-reach areas that the topography wouldn’t lend kindly to other equipment,” Bitton said. “The crane has placed timber frames, roofing materials, rafters and tongue and groove ceiling panels, saving us almost two months of construction.”

At the second project in Stanley, ID in the Sawtooth Mountains, Pinetop is using a Potain Hup 40-30 for the remote location build. The crane selection ended up being the perfect choice to build a home on top of a ridge under a tight deadline before snow starts to fall in early autumn. Due to land limitations, there is no access for any other equipment on the south side of the structure, so the crew is using the self-erector to offload materials, frame the home and reach the side of the home that isn’t accessible any other way.

“This home couldn’t be built in this location within the short timeframe we have without the use of the Hup 40-30,” Bitton said. “The word is starting to spread about how much better it is to build with self-erectors, and how much time and money they can save.”


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