College Football Stadium Sees Significant Improvements

Whitcher Builder Constructs Island Hideaway in N.H

Fri August 27, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Jennifer Hetrick


Michael Whitcher (L), president, Whitcher Builder Inc., and Norman Carpentier, general manager, Smedley Crane & Rigging.
Michael Whitcher (L), president, Whitcher Builder Inc., and Norman Carpentier, general manager, Smedley Crane & Rigging.
Michael Whitcher (L), president, Whitcher Builder Inc., and Norman Carpentier, general manager, Smedley Crane & Rigging. Working with massive equipment in a massive lake is no easy task, but the team of Smedley, Eagle West and San Marco found a way to make it work for Whitcher. The barge is spudded and chained to the island. The crane is held in place on the barge by concrete counterweights and mats are used to distribute the weight across the barge. Only 101 ft., 2 in. (30.8 m) of the crane’s jib is being used for this project. The crane’s capacity has been derated to 50 percent of its capacity to prevent any listing of the barge.

Smedley Crane & Rigging, the New England dealer of Eagle West Equipment Inc., of Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, shares a common service belief, “total lifting solutions,” and as the exclusive distributor/dealer in New England for San Marco cranes and Boscaro products it is currently in the process of living up to that belief.

Whitcher Builder Inc., Strafford, N.H., is putting up a 2,800 sq. ft. home on an island in Bow Lake, Strafford, N.H. The structure will be made almost entirely of glass, with TriCast Inc., from Somersworth, N.H., performing the steel erection for the project. Work began in April and will most likely continue into spring 2011.

Mike Whitcher, president of Whitcher Builder Inc., needed a crane that would be able to hoist a 3,000 lb. skylight, one of the focal points of the house. The beams weigh approximately 4,500 lbs. and stand 3 ft. tall. He is using a San Marco SMH 421 self-erecting tower crane that he rented from Smedley Crane & Rigging, Branford, Conn., one of the largest in Eagle West’s network of 10 dealerships covering 24 of the lower 48 states.

The small island that Whitcher is working on does not provide enough working space for the crane to do its job, so Blackdog Divers, Portsmouth, N.H., built an interlocking barge system on which to position the crane. The barge has four sections, each one measuring 10 by 30 ft. (3 by 9.1 m). The barge itself had to be shipped to Strafford in three loads and took four hours to put together. The crane was shipped in three loads but required only nine hours of set-up time, including mounting it to the barge. Once the crane/barge system was ready, a pontoon boat pushed it across the lake and into place beside the island.

The barge was then spudded and chained to the island. The crane is held in place on the barge by concrete counterweights and mats are used to distribute the weight across the barge, which can support 350,000 lbs. (158,757 kg) The SMH 421 crane has a standing weight of just 99,207 lbs. (45,000 kg) so a 3.5:1 safety factor was achieved. With the barge and crane successfully in place, the work on the house itself could begin.

Piece of cake. Or not.

“Most people wouldn’t do it because the barge moves and it’s not a steady platform – it obviously moves in the water.  You have to go very slowly and carefully.  Some companies wouldn’t allow their crane to do such a thing,” said Whitcher.

But “the team of Smedley, Eagle West and San Marco were able to find a unique solution where other crane companies would not, simply because our team took the time to do all of the engineering and specifications needed to get it done,” said Larry Armstrong, regional manager of the United States/Southwest of Eagle West Equipment Inc.

“We have our own technical solutions/engineering department working in the office and the factory. There’s a risk with stability factors with the crane on a barge, but we innovated a solution. As soon as we established a resolution to stabilizing the barge, we initialized the central factors to stabilizing the crane and put them together.  It does not matter that the foundation is floating, it matters that it is stable.  We produced the stability to secure the [San Marco] crane on the barge through our engineering.”

Norman Carpentier, general manager of Smedley Crane & Rigging, explained, “The crane has 97 foot-5 foot under hook height, 137 feet of jib and is set up with 66,141 pounds of counter weight. We are only using 101 feet, 2 inches of jib for this project.  The crane’s capacity has been derated to 50 percent of its capacity to prevent any listing of the barge. In order to put the crane on the barge we had to work with both the engineers from the barge company and from San Marco International to get approval. The crane can continue working in winds up to 35 mph and can be left in the erected position in winds up to 75 mph. The power for the crane is a generator capable of producing 480V three-phase power, so it’s totally quiet.”

In order to ensure the highest safety standards, factory trained Smedley technicians gave the crew from Whitcher Builders intense safety orientation on how to operate the crane. The crew varies from five to eight people, depending on what’s happening from day to day.

Despite the intricacies of how to secure the crane at the job site, the SMH 421 itself is “very easy, very simple to run. A child could run it. It has joystick remote control,” Whitcher said. “Smedley Crane has offered good service and we have had no problems. Setting off the barge was a hectic and chaotic day, but we got it done.”

Whitcher also is using Boscaro underhook crane accessories, such as self-dumping bins and pallet forks. Boscaro Crane accessories are also provided through Smedley Crane & Rigging and the Eagle West distribution network.

“A complicated thing executed correctly appears elegant – that’s what we’ve done,” said Gerry Wiebe, vice president of sales and business development, Eagle West Equipment Inc.

The Smedley Company was founded in 1860. The Palmer family is the current owner of Smedley, with the fourth generation of the family running the business at this time.

The original markets served by the company included general merchandise; warehousing household goods; storage and moving; and transportation and rigging. Smedley still serves those industries today, but in the past 50 years the focus has shifted to a greater concentration in the markets of heavy hauling, rigging, plant relocations, crane rentals and millwright work.

The Smedley Company features a fleet of all-terrain, rough terrain, crawler and hydraulic truck cranes ranging in capacity from 15 to 300 tons (13.6 to 272 t), as well as a modern fleet of tractor-trailers, gantries, forklifts and aerial lifts. Its customer base is upwards of 500, in a variety of markets including pharmaceutical, chemical, food, power and industrial corporations.

Whitcher Builder Inc. was originally founded as David R Whitcher Builder Inc. in the spring of 1967 and later incorporated in 1971. The company’s early work focused a great deal on the development of municipal and community related projects. Staffing increased during those years to include several project managers and field superintendents, as well as more than 20 carpenters.

As the 1980s began, Whitcher developed a solid base of both residential and commercial/community clients. In the mid-80s Whitcher’s focus became noticeably more commercial, and the company trained staff, computerized, strengthened the estimating department and became involved in several formal training programs.

By 1990, more than 75 percent of its business was commercial, with more than 60 percent of the jobs being public projects.

Over the past ten years, Whitcher Builders has risen to the top tier among building contractors and has been consistently listed as one of the top 20 construction firms within the state of New Hampshire since 1996. CEG