The final steel beam for the new Biological Science Building was signed before being hoisted into place during the building's topping out ceremony, a traditional builder's rite, on July 20, 2016.

Dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts Andrew Martin was joined by Professor and Chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Diarmaid Ó Foighil, Professor and Chair of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Robert Denver, architects, and other attendees including members of the construction crew, in signing the beam and celebrating the milestone.

“Signing the final beam was a fun experience,” said Ó Foighil. “Completion of the new building’s steel skeleton represents the end of the first major phase of construction. Right now, they’re starting to insert glass windows in the first atrium, separating the western and central towers, and the building is on schedule for a fall 2017 completion. It’s going to be spectacular.”


A small but meaningful potted evergreen tree sat beside a waving American flag atop the crowning beam. According to folklore, the practice of topping out a new building harkens back to the ancient Scandinavian religious ceremony of placing a tree on top of new timber-frame buildings. This was believed to mollify tree-dwelling spirits displaced by a building’s construction. The rite migrated to England, Northern Europe, the Americas and is now celebrated worldwide. Nowadays, a tree or leafy branch is placed on the topmost wood or iron beam. And, as climbers and astronauts mark their peaks of adventure, ironworkers likewise signify their ascent to the top of a new building with a flag. Of course, there are other stories behind the topping out ceremony, but the Scandinavian tale appears to be the most common.

The building will house classrooms, research laboratories, offices and four museums.

Watch progress via live web cameras.

Read more in the University Record. Recently in the University Record (click on Biological Sciences Building link near the top).

Image credits: Suzanne Tainter and Robert Denver.