An uplifting topping out ceremony for the new Dyson Cancer Centre

30 March 2022

It was a pleasure to attend the topping out ceremony for the new Dyson Cancer Centre at the Royal United Hospital, Bath marking the completion of the structure, eight months after construction began last summer.

It’s always fantastic when a project reaches this milestone, and a proud moment for the whole design and construction team seeing all our hard work and effort right there in front of us. We made sure we left our mark on the project with the obligatory signing of the concrete by Joe, the project engineer!

It was a particularly special journey to the top of the structure for the guests of honour, lifted to the roof by ‘Crane Austen’. There the last concrete was laid, completing the ceremony. 

Whether you work on site or within the supply chain, you’re familiar with the practice of ‘topping out’; when all the major partners delivering a project get together to celebrate structural completion of the project. It’s a milestone that’s often months ahead of the handover date but it’s often the ideal excuse for a press release and a photocall, with plaques, ribbon cuttings, time capsules and VIP guests making an appearance to mark the occasion.

But the actual practice of topping out pre-dates the well-oiled PR campaign; it’s actually thought to have evolved from Scandinavian folklore, when Dark Age Vikings would plant a tree on the top of a completed structure to appease their displaced ancestors.

The practice is thought to have travelled to England and, by the 14th century, it involved placing a yew tree branch onto the completed structure.

There are numerous traditions and the whole history of the practice is fascinating, not least because all the variations on the topping out theme demonstrate a desire to celebrate milestones in the construction process.