A crane helps move more than 300,000 sheets of drywall from the ground to a team of installers several floors up.

Photos courtesy of Eldersburg Supply Company

At the time of its grand opening on April 25, 2008, the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor Maryland was one of the largest of its kind. It was the largest hotel project on the Eastern Seaboard, and the fourth largest in the world.

The challenge of a project of this scale was to maintain the grandeur envisioned by the Gaylord Hotels Company while maintaining an ambitious construction schedule and keeping an already substantial budget from ballooning.

One of the ways in which the project was able to do this was by using contractors and subcontractors who could make the most of every manhour invested on their specific facet of the project.

One such subcontractor, faced with the task of moving more than 312,000 sheets of drywall from the ground to a team of installers, combined an effective use of a specialized Fascan crane and personnel to maintain their schedule and reduce cost overruns.


Set along the banks of the Potomac River, the massive $865 million facility boasts 2,000 luxurious guest rooms, including 110 lavish suites, and 470,000 square feet of meeting, convention and exhibit space.

National Harbor is located just minutes south of the nation’s capital in Prince George’s County, Md.

The Gaylord National covers 41 acres with a total square footage of nearly 2.5 million square feet. More than 200,000 cubic yards of dirt were moved in the course of construction, more than 180,000 cubic yards of concrete and 3,700 tons of steel were used to create the entire structure.

From the time of its groundbreaking in December 2004, the Gaylord National employed more than 1,400 workers on site each day, working a collective 11,200 work hours per day and 56,000 hours per week. The total number of man hours exceeded 2 million. Total construction time was 3 years, 4 months.


The main challenge facing drywall subcontractor Eldersburg Building Supply was the deploying of some 10 million square feet of drywall in such a way that kept up with the project schedule, minimized equipment or crew downtime, maintained safety or and avoided adding unnecessary additional personnel.

To address the main challenges, Eldersburg was able to use an 8-story articulated crane with a customized grasping fork attachment that was specially designed by Fascan International of Baltimore to deliver wallboard from truck to the entry point on the structure.

There were several challenges of this job site. Among those:

The project had a very small job site footprint: With multiple components of a complex structure happening simultaneously, large equipment was tasked with reducing its movements as much as possible in order to minimize disruption on the job site. The solution here was that the articulated crane, which uses telescoping booms powered by independent rams, made it possible to use the SE Series’ range of motion and reach to accomplish tasks.

The articulated crane also enables a single operator to maintain tighter controls over smaller degrees of movement than the traditional stick boom crane, thus making major equipment moves and adjustments less necessary.

Lastly, the wallboard crane is installed, transported and operated on the bed of a custom-engineered truck, giving the crane an added stability and making it unnecessary to account for additional pieces of equipment to deposit or retrieve the crane.

Another challenge was a tight project schedule. While the Gaylord National took more than three years to complete, the complexity of the project made that an ambitious deadline nonetheless. It was critical for each professional working on the hotel to minimize downtime. Not only did this include delays due to poor planning, but also delays due to equipment failure and technical downtime.


Just as the crane’s range of motion made it possible to keep the crane stationary during the workday, it also made it possible to move the board to the crane-via tractor-trailers-instead of moving the crane to the drywall. This meant that the wallboard was always being delivered to the installation crews within the framed portion of the Gaylord.

With the crane, workers were able to steadily move stacks of 34 sheets of drywall-a process that proved to be two to three times faster than using the “buck hoist” method, which was slower and would have introduced multiple, lengthy delays into the schedule.

In addition, certain reinforcements on the Fascan crane made mechanical failures a rarity. The crane’s fork and rotator pipe hose connection is protected by a heavy-duty high impact ABS tree guard and a steel skeleton and boom tip guard, and the crane includes the industry’s largest oversized hydraulic oil cooler, which reduces leaks and other failures.

Eldersburg Building Supply is, by industry standards, a smaller independent building supplier. The company is constantly competing against much larger suppliers with larger staffs. A large project like the Gaylord National was no exception.

The crane’s centralized operating system enables one person to control the unit, and gives them a vantage point to unload tractor-trailers of drywall without needing a full time support team. One-operator capabilities translated into a reduced personnel commitment for Eldersburg, enabling them to be competitive on the job site.

The crane ultimately unloaded the equivalent of 473 miles of drywall for the Gaylord National Hotel project, and did so in less time and using less manpower than traditional means of delivering materials to installers. W&C

Sidebar: Project details

Name: The Gaylord National Hotel

Location: National Harbor, Md.

Project Owner: Gaylord Hotels, Nashville

Related Consultants and Contractors: Eldersburg Building Supply, Eldersburg, Md. and; Fascan International, Baltimore