Last year has been relatively prosperous for the US and Canadian construction industry, as indicated by the 2018 RLB Crane Index. Indeed, the crane count for the major North American cities points to a stable growth in construction activities, mainly directed to the realization of residential and mixed-use complexes, respectively accounting for the 45% and 27% of total crane count, followed by commercial works (12%).

In the US, Seattle, Los Angeles and Portland are the three cities showing the most intense vitality, with a total of 131 cranes active in 2018 against 126 in 2017. The positive trend in crane numbers is also visible in the top three East Coast cities (Washington, New York and Boston), with a total number of cranes increasing from 48 in 2017 to 60 in 2018. The growth in numbers throughout last year, together with the proposition of new urban development projects in the major cities nationwide, give a positive outlook for 2019 in spite of a tight labor market, rising interest rates, and materials tariffs.


By taking a closer look into Seattle crane’s concentration (65 cranes throughout the city), the major areas of development are South Lake Union, Capitol Hill and Downtown. Seattle’s leading sectors are mixed-use (27 cranes), residential (17), and commercial (11) constructions. Differently from many other cities, lots of tech firms in Seattle are located around the Downtown area, and their presence is fueling the realization of housings complexes close to where people work and play. Future development strategies of tech firms may have thus an impact on the construction industry in this area of the country.


Looking at the Windy City’s high number of tower cranes, it is clear that, similarly to Seattle, Chicago is also experiencing a vertical boom. Compared to last year index, the number of tower cranes in Chicago has increased from 36 to 40, mainly due to residential development (21) and mixed-used towers (2). While rental apartments continue to be the primary driver for vertical expansion, the number of educational, office, hotels, and condominiums is increasing as well.  The market for the Windy City remains optimistic even for the next year, relying on national market economic trends more than local ones. The outlook for construction in neighborhoods such as River North, West Loop, and South Loop will continue this year to benefit from education, hospitality and healthcare sectors.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a stable third position in the podium, with cranes count showing no fluctuations from January 2018. Out of 36 cranes, 22 are used for mixed-use projects. Among the new infrastructures that are behind these numbers, there are three bridges, a concourse at LAX, Luca Museum and the new Music Center’s facelift projects.

Bonus Round

The positive market trends for the construction industry in the West Coast, with Seattle dominating the vertical boom for three years in a row, still represents a small growth compared to Dubai skyrocketing numbers in building construction. Dubai has today 1,182 active cranes in the city. Among the large number of building operation, the Dubai Creek Tower construction is currently under development, aiming at the title of world tallest building once finished.


Interested in more projects? Take a look at other ENG Crane case studies of custom-built cranes here:

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