Mike Ambler’s office has the best view in Boise — a total panorama of the Treasure Valley.
It’s small, but the air conditioning is great.
His commute is a 310-foot climb up a ladder to the top of the crane at the Gardner Co.’s City Center Plaza project in Downtown Boise. Then back down at the end of the day.
The big drawback is that there’s no bathroom. Ambler has his own system for dealing with nature’s call.
A window looks straight down from Ambler’s feet in the crane’s cab. If the glass is obscured by dirt or rain, he can open it and feel the open air.
I climbed the crane Monday. The trip is a little bit of a workout. What surprised me most is that my arms got more tired than my legs. I never realized how much arm muscle went into climbing a ladder, especially a really, really tall ladder. Maybe that means I’m doing it wrong.
Climbing down was a lot easier, of course.
The height of the crane didn’t really bother me, and the ladder is enclosed in a safety cage.
Then again, there wasn’t much wind, so the tower wasn’t swaying too much. And I wasn’t out on the jib — the 181-foot arm that raises and lowers the cable that moves beams and other materials around the job site. Every so often, somebody at ESI, the contractor that’s building City Center Plaza, has to go out on the jib to grease the bearings. Workers don’t exactly line up for that job, project manager David Bowar said.
I was impressed by the agility and skill of the workers in the building loading and unloading beams from the end of the crane’s cable. When they can, they load two or three beams at a time to reduce the number of crane trips.
They’re in constant radio contact with Ambler, telling him to lower and raise the cable and move the jib. They move around the structure of the building confidently. Yes, they wear safety harnesses, but I didn’t see any of them stumble, let alone fall.
The crane is taller than the one used to build the Eighth & Main building, a Gardner Co. project that ESI oversaw that’s twice as tall as City Center Plaza will be. The crane tower is as tall as allowed without being anchored to a solid structure, Bowar said. The jib actually swings over the top of the U.S. Bank building as it moves things around. That’s something to witness from above.
If 310 feet weren’t enough to clear the building, Bowar said, ESI probably would have had to bring in two cranes with shorter jibs to do the job of this one. That would’ve cost more money.