Topping out is a significant milestone in the construction of a new building. It typically commemorates the placement of the final steel beam of the project and has a long history in the construction industry. The tradition is thought to date back to 700 A.D. in Scandinavia. The Scandinavians topped out their completed structures with sheathes of grain for the god Odin’s horse. Odin, in return, would bestow good luck on the structure and its inhabitants.1

Interestingly, the tradition was thought to have been brought to the United States by a group of Norwegian ironworkers in 1898, but a similar tradition was already practiced here by Native Americans who topped off buildings with evergreens to honor the forest spirits.

The Empire State Building was such a significant and tall structure that the team actually had 3 separate topping out ceremonies, one at the sidewalk level where the Governor placed a time capsule, one where the steelworkers raised a flag 1,048 feet above the city when the frame was completed, and another when the last piece of steel was placed on the tower of the building.2

At Browne the topping out of a construction project is our way of celebrating a significant milestone in the project, a job well done, and the many people and organizations that have come together to help ensure the project will be completed with high standards for quality, efficiency, and safety. It’s a moment for bringing the team together to acknowledge the hard work, collaboration, and the hope for the future of the building and its importance to the community.

Browne is a registered engineering and construction services firm in the State of Ohio and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, overseeing the planning, design, and construction of projects from beginning to end. To talk with us about your next project call 513-931-0900 or email We look forward to working with you.

(1) Why is there a Christmas tree on top of that steel building? by Bruce Brown, CEO, RHINO Steel Building Systems, Inc.
(2) The Hoary Tradition of Topping-0ut. by Matthew Wald The New York Times