Hurstville Topping Out Ceremony and Origins of The Ancient Tradition
16 Jun, 2022

We have reached another key construction milestone as we celebrated the topping out of the last beam in the new Building D of BEYOND Hurstville. The beautiful sunny days also helped to highlight the spectacular views and locations.

The topping out ceremony is a time-honoured builder’s tradition that signifies the successful completion of the building’s highest point. It is also an opportunity to thank the people involved in this achievement. To celebrate, an evergreen is placed on top of the building, usually stays up there until the whole infrastructure is finished.

Many construction industry have heard of and/or attended one or more topping out ceremonies during their careers, but how many of us know where the tradition came from or how it got here?


The history of topping out ceremonies

The tradition of “Topping Out”, or “Topping Off” as others may call it, came from pre-Dark Age Scandinavian cultures as a symbolisation of bringing life to the building. Though the 8th century ceremony didn’t use trees – instead they attached sheaths of grain to the highest roof beam. As the custom spread in Europe, the practice of placing pine boughs and later a tree on the top of a new building were used. In cultures closely tuned to the natural environment, perhaps the folklore suggests the practice was to appease the tree dwelling spirits of their ancestors that had been displaced.

But there are competitive tales to the Scandinavian thread. One suggests that the practice started in 2700 BC, when Egyptians placed a plant on top of the country’s first stone building when it was completed to honour slaves who died during construction. Elsewhere in America, its popularity was said to be due to the Native American belief that no man-made structure should be taller than a tree; hence, topping off buildings with one was a way to get around this.

Whatever the take on this ceremony, all stories say the evergreen carries out good fortune – whether that’d be a good luck for future inhabitants, continued growth, a safe job – and marks a significant milestone in a building construction.


Topping Out Ceremonies Today

Today, the topping out ceremony is celebrated in different ways around the world. In Brazil, branches and leaves are attached to the building and the workforce would congregate, feast and dance as part of ritual known as Fiesta da Cemieira. Meanwhile, in Germany, laurels are hung around the chimney of a residence to acknowledge the ‘birth’ of a new building and to eternalise those who have died during construction. The tradition of pannenbier (literally “(roof) tile beer” in Dutch) is popular in the Netherlands and Flanders, where they hang a national, regional or city flag once the highest point of a building is reached. 

At Piety, this celebratory affair brings together our team and project partners to observe the progress made on site, complete with an evergreen tree and low-key barbecue. Yesterday, the topping out for BEYOND’s building D was a fantastic way to celebrate the hard work of everyone involved. The Hurstville team has been hitting their stride with our Senior Site Manager, Michael Petracca, runs a pretty tight ship. Together, they are steering the project on a successful journey. The team and their subcontractors have done a fantastic job to date and are looking forward to the challenges of completing the whole building.

P.S. In order to deliver homes that meet the highest standards in quality and safety, our Construction team opted a number of innovative and cutting-edge systems on the construction of Hurstville. These systems help increase speed and efficiency while minimising the project cost. Check out our videos below showing the innovative efforts of our team: