Carney reaches new heights in heavy lift engineering

Mark Carney

Western Engineering News | January 18, 2013

By Heather Hughes

Hoisting a 328 tonne Skybridge 30 storeys to connect two apartment buildings in downtown Toronto is not a job for the faint of heart. It is also a job with little room for error.

Mark Carney, BESc’08 (Civil), was part of an extensive team who installed the Concord Cityplace Skybridge in June 2012 using Strand Jacks housed in the penthouse of each building. As Western Mechanical’s head lifting engineer on the project, Carney had planned for everything on the day, but it was Mother Nature who didn’t want to co-operate.

“Everything was perfect the night of the lift except for my largest fear: high winds,” Carney said. “All day the wind was high and my fears of bad wind conditions and needing to defer the lift to another day were growing. 

“There was lots of pressure to make the lift that night. The lift was designed to be executed in less than 30 km/h winds. At the planned time of lift, the wind was 31km/h.  We allowed the wind to diminish to 30km/h and began the lift.”

Located in a busy urban area and surrounded by glass, there were many challenges associated with this project. But the most concerning to Carney was managing to move equipment weighing the equivalent of more than three cars to the top of a high-rise without touching the ground or the building – all without the use of a crane or real estate.

“The first five minutes of the lift were the worst for me because of a maneuver that was planned and the wind would potentially have its more detrimental effect at this time. Needless to say I was nervous; but, once the bridge was maneuvered five minutes into the lift, I knew the next 12 hours would be easy.”

Before the bridge was even designed, Carney became involved in the project - 3.5 years prior to the lift. The input provided by Western Mechanical on a safe lift was incorporated into the design of the structure of the bridge and building.

“There is no project that our team at Western cannot handle,” Carney said. “This was not the largest lift in size we have ever done; it was not even close to the heaviest. But, it did represent a milestone in our abilities.”

Carney began working for Western Mechanical after his first year of university. This experience allowed him to see both the engineering and construction side of the company, giving him a unique perspective into what designs are easy to implement and what doesn’t work. Concurrently, he worked for Meades Engineering in Barrie to broaden his skills.

He also worked for NA Engineering in Stratford, Ont. during the summer of 2007, where he was involved in Bruce Power’s 40-year infrastructure planning report.

It was not by accident Carney took on a leadership role in Western Mechanical’s heavy lift engineering, rather it was through a natural growth of the business.

“Although the heavy lift industry is attractive by the nature of the projects, the industry found me and found Western (Mechanical),” he says.

As the scope of the industrial projects expanded, so did the company’s ability to move large equipment. This eventually led to the formation of the heaving lifting side of the company.

The Concord Cityplace Skybridge isn’t the only interesting project Carney has been involved in with Western Mechanical.

“When I was hired I remember saying in the interview, ‘I want to be challenged.’ The first project I designed was installing a 300 ton railroad bridge on a GO Transit line in five hours overnight and ensuring the first GO train was not put off schedule,” he remembers.

“I was certainly given a challenge.”

Some of the notable projects include: the removal of “Big Becky,” the world’s largest hard-rock tunnel boring machine, in Niagara Falls, Ont. and mounting a fighter jet as a monument at Downsview Airport in Toronto. He also assisted with the heavy lifting of the main power generating components for the Halton Hills Generating Station in Halton Hills, Ont.

“Every project is different from the next. It is few and far between that we see projects similar to another. It makes going to work interesting with different changes and unique solutions,” he notes.

“Obviously I would not be where I am without my engineering education,” he continues, noting the fourth-year design project and first-year design and innovation studio force students to brainstorm and find creative solutions to problems.

“It is one thing to have the skills to engineer; it is another to have the creativity to do it better.”

Check out a time-lapse video of the Concord Cityplace Skybridge lift.